All posts by Andy

Rightscorp Bleeds Another Million, Borrows $200K From Customer BMG

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-bleeds-another-million-borrows-200k-from-customer-bmg-170819/

Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp is one of the many companies trying to turn Internet piracy into profit. The company has a somewhat novel approach but has difficulty balancing the books.

Essentially, Rightscorp operates like other so-called copyright-trolling operations, in that it monitors alleged offenders on BitTorrent networks, tracks them to their ISPs, then attempts to extract a cash settlement. Rightscorp does this by sending DMCA notices with settlement agreements attached, in the hope that at-this-point-anonymous Internet users break cover in panic. This can lead to a $20 or $30 ‘fine’ or in some cases dozens of multiples of that.

But despite settling hundreds of thousands of these cases, profit has thus far proven elusive, with the company hemorrhaging millions in losses. The company has just filed its results for the first half of 2017 and they contain more bad news.

In the six months ended June 2017, revenues obtained from copyright settlements reached just $138,514, that’s 35% down on the $214,326 generated in the same period last year. However, the company did manage to book $148,332 in “consulting revenue” in the first half of this year, a business area that generated no revenue in 2016.

Overall then, total revenue for the six month period was $286,846 – up from $214,326 last year. While that’s a better picture in its own right, Rightscorp has a lot of costs attached to its business.

After paying out $69,257 to copyright holders and absorbing $1,190,696 in general and administrative costs, among other things, the company’s total operating expenses topped out at $1,296,127 for the first six months of the year.

To make a long story short, the company made a net loss of $1,068,422, which was more than the $995,265 loss it made last year and despite improved revenues. The company ended June with just $1,725 in cash.

“These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued,” the company’s latest statement reads.

This hanging-by-a-thread narrative has followed Rightscorp for the past few years but there’s information in the latest accounts which indicates how bad things were at the start of the year.

In January 2016, Rightscorp and several copyright holders, including Hollywood studio Warner Bros, agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over intimidating robo-calls that were made to alleged infringers. The defendants agreed to set aside $450,000 to cover the costs, and it appears that Rightscorp was liable for at least $200,000 of that.

Rightscorp hasn’t exactly been flush with cash, so it was interesting to read that its main consumer piracy settlement client, music publisher BMG, actually stepped in to pay off the class-action settlement.

“At December 31, 2016, the Company had accrued $200,000 related to the settlement of a class action complaint. On January 7, 2017, BMG Rights Management (US) LLC (“BMG”) advanced the Company $200,000, which was used to pay off the settlement. The advance from BMG is to be applied to future billings from the Company to BMG for consulting services,” Rightscorp’s filing reads.

With Rightscorp’s future BMG revenue now being gobbled up by what appears to be loan repayments, it becomes difficult to see how the anti-piracy outfit can make enough money to pay off the $200,000 debt. However, its filing notes that on July 21, 2017, the company issued “an aggregate of 10,000,000 shares of common stock to an investor for a purchase price of $200,000.” While that amount matches the BMG debt, the filing doesn’t reveal who the investor is.

The filing also reveals that on July 31, Rightscorp entered into two agreements to provide services “to a holder of multiple copyrights.” The copyright holder isn’t named, but the deal reveals that it’s in Rightscorp’s best interests to get immediate payment from people to whom it sends cash settlement demands.

“[Rightscorp] will receive 50% of all gross proceeds of any settlement revenue received by the Client from pre-lawsuit ‘advisory notices,’ and 37.5% of all gross proceeds received by the Client from ‘final warning’ notices sent immediately prior to a lawsuit,” the filing notes.

Also of interest is that Rightscorp has offered not to work with any of the copyright holders’ direct competitors, providing certain thresholds are met – $10,000 revenue in the first month to $100,000 after 12 months. But there’s more to the deal.

Rightscorp will also provide a number of services to this client including detecting and verifying copyright works on P2P networks, providing information about infringers, plus reporting, litigation support, and copyright protection advisory services.

For this, Rightscorp will earn $10,000 for the first three months, rising to $85,000 per month after 16 months, valuable revenue for a company fighting for its life.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Porn Producer Says He’ll Prove That AMC TV Exec is a BitTorrent Pirate

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/porn-producer-says-hell-prove-that-amc-tv-exec-is-a-bittorrent-pirate-170818/

When people are found sharing copyrighted pornographic content online in the United States, there’s always a chance that an angry studio will attempt to track down the perpertrator in pursuit of a cash settlement.

That’s what adult studio Flava Works did recently, after finding its content being shared without permission on a number of gay-focused torrent sites. It’s now clear that their target was Marc Juris, President & General Manager of AMC-owned WE tv. Until this week, however, that information was secret.

As detailed in our report yesterday, Flava Works contacted Juris with an offer of around $97,000 to settle the case before trial. And, crucially, before Juris was publicly named in a lawsuit. If Juris decided not to pay, that amount would increase significantly, Flava Works CEO Phillip Bleicher told him at the time.

Not only did Juris not pay, he actually went on the offensive, filing a ‘John Doe’ complaint in a California district court which accused Flava Works of extortion and blackmail. It’s possible that Juris felt that this would cause Flava Works to back off but in fact, it had quite the opposite effect.

In a complaint filed this week in an Illinois district court, Flava Works named Juris and accused him of a broad range of copyright infringement offenses.

The complaint alleges that Juris was a signed-up member of Flava Works’ network of websites, from where he downloaded pornographic content as his subscription allowed. However, it’s claimed that Juris then uploaded this material elsewhere, in breach of copyright law.

“Defendant downloaded copyrighted videos of Flava Works as part of his paid memberships and, in violation of the terms and conditions of the paid sites, posted and distributed the aforesaid videos on other websites, including websites with peer to peer sharing and torrents technology,” the complaint reads.

“As a result of Defendant’ conduct, third parties were able to download the copyrighted videos, without permission of Flava Works.”

In addition to demanding injunctions against Juris, Flava Works asks the court for a judgment in its favor amounting to a cool $1.2m, more than twelve times the amount it was initially prepared to settle for. It’s a huge amount, but according to CEO Phillip Bleicher, it’s what his company is owed, despite Juris being a former customer.

“Juris was a member of various Flava Works websites at various times dating back to 2006. He is no longer a member and his login info has been blocked by us to prevent him from re-joining,” Bleicher informs TF.

“We allow full downloads, although each download a person performs, it tags the video with a hidden code that identifies who the user was that downloaded it and their IP info and date / time.”

We asked Bleicher how he can be sure that the content downloaded from Flava Works and re-uploaded elsewhere was actually uploaded by Juris. Fine details weren’t provided but he’s insistent that the company’s evidence holds up.

“We identified him directly, this was done by cross referencing all his IP logins with Flava Works, his email addresses he used and his usernames. We can confirm that he is/was a member of Gay-Torrents.org and Gayheaven.org. We also believe (we will find out in discovery) that he is a member of a Russian file sharing site called GayTorrent.Ru,” he says.

While the technicalities of who downloaded and shared what will be something for the court to decide, there’s still Juris’ allegations that Bleicher used extortion-like practices to get him to settle and used his relative fame against him. Bleicher says that’s not how things played out.

“[Juris] hired an attorney and they agreed to settle out of court. But then we saw him still accessing the file sharing sites (one site shows a user’s last login) and we were waiting on the settlement agreement to be drafted up by his attorney,” he explains.

“When he kept pushing the date of when we would see an agreement back we gave him a final deadline and said that after this date we would sue [him] and with all lawsuits – we make a press release.”

Bleicher says at this point Juris replaced his legal team and hired lawyer Mark Geragos, who Bleicher says tried to “bully” him, warning him of potential criminal offenses.

“Your threats in the last couple months to ‘expose’ Mr. Juris knowing he is a high profile individual, i.e., today you threatened to issue a press release, to induce him into wiring you close to $100,000 is outright extortion and subject to criminal prosecution,” Geragos wrote.

“I suggest you direct your attention to various statutes which specifically criminalize your conduct in the various jurisdictions where you have threatened suit.”

Interestingly, Geragos then went on to suggest that the lawsuit may ultimately backfire, since going public might affect Flava Works’ reputation in the gay market.

“With respect to Mr. Juris, your actions have been nothing but extortion and we reject your attempts and will vigorously pursue all available remedies against you,” Geragos’ email reads.

“We intend to use the platform you have provided to raise awareness in the LGBTQ community of this new form of digital extortion that you promote.”

But Bleicher, it seems, is up for a fight.

“Marc knows what he did and enjoyed downloading our videos and sharing them and those of videos of other studios, but now he has been caught,” he told the lawyer.

“This is the kind of case I would like to take all the way to trial, win or lose. It shows
people that want to steal our copyrighted videos that we aggressively protect our intellectual property.”

But to the tune of $1.2m? Apparently so.

“We could get up to $150,000 per infringement – we have solid proof of eight full videos – not to mention we have caught [Juris] downloading many other studios’ videos too – I think – but not sure – the number was over 75,” Bleicher told TF.

It’s quite rare for this kind of dispute to play out in public, especially considering Juris’ profile and occupation. Only time will tell if this will ultimately end in a settlement, but Bleicher and Juris seemed determined at this stage to stand by their ground and fight this out in court.

Complaint (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

“Public Figure” Threatened With Exposure Over Gay Piracy ‘Fine’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/public-figure-threatened-with-exposure-over-gay-piracy-fine-170817/

Flava Works is an Illinois-based company specializing in adult material featuring black and Latino men. It operates an aggressive anti-piracy strategy which has resulted in some large damages claims in the past.

Now, however, the company has found itself targeted by a lawsuit filed by one of its alleged victims. Filed in a California district court by an unnamed individual, it accuses Flava Works of shocking behavior relating to a claim of alleged piracy.

According to the lawsuit, ‘John Doe’ received a letter in early June from Flava Works CEO Phillip Bleicher, accusing him of Internet piracy. Titled “Settlement Demand and Cease and Desist”, the letter got straight to the point.

“Flava Works is aware that you have been ‘pirating’ the content from its website(s) for your own personal financial benefit,” the letter read.

[Update: ‘John Doe’ has now been identified as Marc Juris, President & General Manager of AMC-owned WE tv. All references to John Doe below refer to Juris. See note at footer]

As is often the case with such claims, Flava Works offered to settle with John Doe for a cash fee. However, instead of the few hundred or thousand dollars usually seen in such cases, the initial settlement amount was an astronomical $97,000. But that wasn’t all.

According to John Doe, Bleicher warned that unless the money was paid in ten days, Flava Works “would initiate litigation against [John Doe], publically accusing him of being a consumer and pirate of copyrighted gay adult entertainment.”

Amping up the pressure, Bleicher then warned that after the ten-day deadline had passed, the settlement amount of $97,000 would be withdrawn and replaced with a new amount – $525,000.

The lawsuit alleges that Bleicher followed up with more emails in which he indicated that there was still time to settle the matter “one on one” since the case hadn’t been assigned to an attorney. However, he warned John Doe that time was running out and that public exposure via a lawsuit would be the next step.

While these kinds of tactics are nothing new in copyright infringement cases, the amounts of money involved are huge, indicating something special at play. Indeed, it transpires that John Doe is a public figure in the entertainment industry and the suggestion is that Flava Works’ assessment of his “wealth and profile” means he can pay these large sums.

According to the suit, on July 6, 2017, Bleicher sent another email to John Doe which “alluded to [his] high-profile status and to the potential publicity that a lawsuit would bring.” The email went as far as threatening an imminent Flava Works press release, announcing that a public figure, who would be named, was being sued for pirating gay adult content.

Flava Works alleges that John Doe uploaded its videos to various BitTorrent sites and forums, but John Doe vigorously denies the accusations, noting that the ‘evidence’ presented by Flava Works fails to back up its claims.

“The materials do not reveal or expose infringement of any sort. [Flava Works’] real purpose in sending this ‘proof’ was to demonstrate just how humiliating it would be to defend against Flava Works’ scurrilous charges,” John Doe’s lawsuit notes.

“[Flava Works’] materials consist largely of screen shots of extremely graphic images of pornography, which [Flava Works] implies that [John Doe] has viewed — but which are completely irrelevant given that they are not Flava Works content. Nevertheless, Bleicher assured [John Doe] that these materials would all be included in a publicly filed lawsuit if he refused to accede to [Flava Works’] payment demands.”

From his lawsuit (pdf) it’s clear that John Doe is in no mood to pay Flava Works large sums of cash and he’s aggressively on the attack, describing the company’s demands as “criminal extortion.”

He concludes with a request for a declaration that he has not infringed Flava Works’ copyrights, while demanding attorneys’ fees and further relief to be determined by the court.

The big question now is whether Flava Works will follow through with its threats to exposure the entertainer, or whether it will drift back into the shadows to fight another day. Definitely one to watch.

Update: Flava Works has now followed through on its threat to sue Juris. A complaint filed iat an Illinois court accuses the TV executive of uploading Flava Works titles to several gay-focused torrent sites in breach of copyright. It demands $1.2m in damages.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Showtime Seeks Injunction to Stop Mayweather v McGregor Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/showtime-seeks-injunction-to-stop-mayweather-v-mcgregor-piracy-170816/

It’s the fight that few believed would become reality but on August 26, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will duke it out with UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor.

Despite being labeled a freak show by boxing purists, it is set to become the biggest combat sports event of all time. Mayweather, undefeated in his professional career, will face brash Irishman McGregor, who has gained a reputation for accepting fights with anyone – as long as there’s a lot of money involved. Big money is definitely the theme of the Mayweather bout.

Dubbed “The Money Fight”, some predict it could pull in a billion dollars, with McGregor pocketing $100m and Mayweather almost certainly more. Many of those lucky enough to gain entrance on the night will have spent thousands on their tickets but for the millions watching around the world….iiiiiiiit’s Showtimmme….with hefty PPV prices attached.

Of course, not everyone will be handing over $89.95 to $99.99 to watch the event officially on Showtime. Large numbers will turn to the many hundreds of websites set to stream the fight for free online, which has the potential to reduce revenues for all involved. With that in mind, Showtime Networks has filed a lawsuit in California which attempts to preemptively tackle this piracy threat.

The suit targets a number of John Does said to be behind a network of dozens of sites planning to stream the fight online for free. Defendant 1, using the alias “Kopa Mayweather”, is allegedly the operator of LiveStreamHDQ, a site that Showtime has grappled with previously.

“Plaintiff has had extensive experience trying to prevent live streaming websites from engaging in the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of Plaintiff’s copyrighted works in the past,” the lawsuit reads.

“In addition to bringing litigation, this experience includes sending cease and desist demands to LiveStreamHDQ in response to its unauthorized live streaming of the record-breaking fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.”

Showtime says that LiveStreamHDQ is involved in the operations of at least 41 other sites that have been set up to specifically target people seeking to watch the fight without paying. Each site uses a .US ccTLD domain name.

Sample of the sites targeted by the lawsuit

Showtime informs the court that the registrant email and IP addresses of the domains overlap, which provides further proof that they’re all part of the same operation. The TV network also highlights various statements on the sites in question which demonstrate intent to show the fight without permission, including the highly dubious “Watch From Here Mayweather vs Mcgregor Live with 4k Display.”

In addition, the lawsuit is highly critical of efforts by the sites’ operator(s) to stuff the pages with fight-related keywords in order to draw in as much search engine traffic as they can.

“Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have engaged in such keyword stuffing as a form of search engine optimization in an effort to attract as much web traffic as possible in the form of Internet users searching for a way to access a live stream of the Fight,” it reads.

While site operators are expected to engage in such behavior, Showtime says that these SEO efforts have been particularly successful, obtaining high-ranking positions in major search engines for the would-be pirate sites.

For instance, Showtime says that a Google search for “Mayweather McGregor Live” results in four of the target websites appearing in the first 100 results, i.e the first 10 pages. Interestingly, however, to get that result searchers would need to put the search in quotes as shown above, since a plain search fails to turn anything up in hundreds of results.

At this stage, the important thing to note is that none of the sites are currently carrying links to the fight, because the fight is yet to happen. Nevertheless, Showtime is convinced that come fight night, all of the target websites will be populated with pirate links, accessible for free or after paying a fee. This needs to be stopped, it argues.

“Defendants’ anticipated unlawful distribution will impair the marketability and profitability of the Coverage, and interfere with Plaintiff’s own authorized distribution of the Coverage, because Defendants will provide consumers with an opportunity to view the Coverage in its entirety for free, rather than paying for the Coverage provided through Plaintiff’s authorized channels.

“This is especially true where, as here, the work at issue is live coverage of a one-time live sporting event whose outcome is unknown,” the network writes.

Showtime informs the court that it made efforts to contact the sites in question but had just a single response from an individual who claimed to be sports blogger who doesn’t offer streaming services. The undertone is one of disbelief.

In closing, Showtime demands a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction, prohibiting the defendants from making the fight available in any way, and/or “forming new entities” in order to circumvent any subsequent court order. Compensation for suspected damages is also requested.

Showtime previously applied for and obtained a similar injunction to cover the (hugely disappointing) Mayweather v Pacquiao fight in 2015. In that case, websites were ordered to be taken down on the day before the fight.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

BREIN is Taking Infamous ‘Piracy’ Hosting Provider Ecatel to Court

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-is-taking-infamous-piracy-hosting-provider-ecatel-to-court-170815/

A regular website can be easily hosted in most countries of the world but when the nature of the project begins to step on toes, opportunities begin to reduce. Openly hosting The Pirate Bay, for example, is something few providers want to get involved with.

There are, however, providers out there who specialize in hosting services that others won’t touch. They develop a reputation of turning a blind eye to their customers’ activities, only reacting when a crisis looms on the horizon. Despite the problems, there are a few that are surprisingly resilient.

One such host is Netherlands-based Ecatel, which has hit the headlines many times over the years for allegedly having customers involved in warez, torrents, and streaming, not to mention spam and malware. For hosting the former group, it’s now in the crosshairs of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.

According to an application for a witness hearing filed with The Court of the Hague by BREIN, Ecatel has repeatedly hosted websites dealing in infringing content over recent years. While this is nothing particularly out of the ordinary, BREIN claims that complaints filed against the sites were dealt with slowly by Ecatel or not at all.

Ecatel Ltd is a company incorporated in the UK with servers in the Netherlands but since 2015, another hosting company called Novogara has appeared in tandem. Court documents suggest that Novogara is associated with Ecatel, something that was confirmed early 2016 in an email sent out by Ecatel itself.

“We’d like to inform you that all services of Ecatel Ltd are taken over by a new brand called Novogara Ltd with immediate effect. The take-over includes Ecatel and all her subsidiaries,” the email read.

Muddying the waters a little more, in 2015 Ecatel’s IP addresses were apparently taken over by Quasi Networks Ltd, a Seychelles-based company whose business is described locally as being conducted entirely overseas.

“Stichting BREIN has found several websites in the network of Quasi Networks with obviously infringing content. Quasi Networks, however, does not respond structurally to requests for closing those websites. This involves unlawful acts against the parties associated with the BREIN Foundation,” a ruling from the Court reads.

As a result, BREIN wants a witness hearing with three defendants connected to the Ecatel/Novgara/Quasi group of companies in order to establish the relationship between the businesses, where their servers are, and who is behind Quasi Networks.

“Stichting BREIN is interested in this information in order to be able to judge who it can appeal to and whether it is useful to start a legal procedure,” the Court adds.

Two of the defendants failed to lodge a defense against BREIN’s application but one objected to the request for a hearing. He said that since Quasi Networks, Ecatel and Novogara are all incorporated outside the Netherlands, a trial must also be conducted abroad and therefore a Dutch judge would not have jurisdiction.

He also argued that BREIN would use the witness hearing as a “fishing expedition” in order to gather information it currently does not have, in order to formulate some kind of case against the defendants, in one way or another.

In a decision published this week, The Court of the Hague rejected that argument, noting that the basis for the claim is copyright infringement through Netherlands-hosted websites. Furthermore, the majority of the witnesses are resident in the district of The Hague. It also underlined the importance of a hearing.

“The request for holding a preliminary witness hearing opens an independent petition procedure, which does not address the eligibility of any claim that may be lodged. An investigation must be made by the judge who has to deal with and decide the main case – if it comes.

“The court points out that a preliminary witness hearing is now (partly) necessary to clarify whether and to what extent a claim has any chance of success,” the decision reads.

According to documents published by Companies House in the UK, Ecatel Ltd ceased to exist this morning, having been dissolved at the request of its directors.

The hearing of the witnesses is set to take place on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 9.30 in the Palace of Justice at Prince Claus 60 in The Hague.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Game of Thrones Pirates Arrested For Leaking Episode Early

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/game-of-thrones-pirates-arrested-for-leaking-episode-early-170814/

Over the past several years, Game of Thrones has become synonymous with fantastic drama and story telling on the one hand, and Internet piracy on the other. It’s the most pirated TV show in history, hands down.

With the new season well underway, another GoT drama began to unfold early August when the then-unaired episode “The Spoils of War” began to circulate on various file-sharing and streaming sites. The leak only trumped the official release by a few days, but that didn’t stop people downloading in droves.

As previously reported, the leaked episode stated that it was “For Internal Viewing Only” at the top of the screen and on the bottom right sported a “Star India Pvt Ltd” watermark. The company commented shortly after.

“We take this breach very seriously and have immediately initiated forensic investigations at our and the technology partner’s end to swiftly determine the cause. This is a grave issue and we are taking appropriate legal remedial action,” a spokesperson said.

Now, just ten days later, that investigation has already netted its first victims. Four people have reportedly been arrested in India for leaking the episode before it aired.

“We investigated the case and have arrested four individuals for unauthorized publication of the fourth episode from season seven,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Akbar Pathan told AFP.

The report indicates that a complaint was filed by a Mumbai-based company that was responsible for storing and processing the TV episodes for an app. It has been named locally as Prime Focus Technologies, which markets itself as a Netflix “Preferred Vendor”.

It’s claimed that at least some of the men had access to login credentials for Game of Thrones episodes which were then abused for the purposes of leaking.

Local media identified the men as Bhaskar Joshi, Alok Sharma and Abhishek Ghadiyal, who were employed by Prime Focus, and Mohamad Suhail, a former employee, who was responsible for leaking the episode onto the Internet.

All of the men were based in Bangalore and were interrogated “throughout the night” at their workplace on August 11. Star India welcomed the arrests and thanked the authorities for their swift action.

“We are deeply grateful to the police for their swift and prompt action. We believe that valuable intellectual property is a critical part of the development of the creative industry and strict enforcement of the law is essential to protecting it,” the company said in a statement.

“We at Star India and Novi Digital Entertainment Private Limited stand committed and ready to help the law enforcement agencies with any technical assistance and help they may require in taking the investigation to its logical conclusion.”

The men will be held in custody until August 21 while investigations continue.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

New Premier League Blocking Disrupts Pirate IPTV Providers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-premier-league-blocking-disrupts-pirate-iptv-providers-170814/

Top tier football in the UK is handled by the English Premier League (EPL) and broadcasting partners Sky and BT Sport. All face considerable problems with Internet piracy, through free web or Kodi-based streaming and premium IPTV feeds.

To mitigate the threat, earlier this year the Premier League obtained a unique High Court injunction which required ISPs such as Sky, BT, and Virgin to block ‘pirate’ football streams in real-time.

Although the success of the program was initially up for debate, the EPL reported it was able to block 5,000 server IP addresses that were streaming its content. When that temporary injunction ran out, the EPL went back to court for a new one, valid for the season that began this past weekend. There are signs the EPL may have upped its game.

As soon as the matches began on Saturday, issues were reported at several of the more prominent IPTV providers. Within minutes of the match streams going live, subscribers to affected services were met with black screens, causing anger and frustration. While some clearly knew that action was on the cards, relatively few had an effective plan in place.

One provider, which targets subscribers in the UK, scrambled to obtain new domain names, thinking that the existing domains had been placed on some kind of Premier League blacklist. While that may have indeed been the case, making a service more obscure in that sense was never going to outwit the systems deployed by the anti-piracy outfits involved.

Indeed, the provider in question was subjected to much chaos over both Saturday and Sunday, since it’s clear that large numbers of subscribers had absolutely no idea what was going on. Even if they understood that the EPL was blocking, the change of domain flat-footed the rest. The subsequent customer service chaos was not a pretty sight but would’ve been a pleasure for the EPL to behold.

An interesting side effect of this EPL action is that even if IPTV subscribers don’t care about football, many were affected this past weekend anyway.

TF is aware of at least three services (there are probably many more) that couldn’t service their UK customers with any other channels whatsoever while the Premier League games were being aired. This suggests that the IP addresses hit by the EPL and blocked by local ISPs belonged to the same servers carrying the rest of the content offered by the IPTV providers.

When the High Court handed down its original injunction it accepted that some non-Premier League content could be blocked at the same time but since that “consists almost exclusively of [infringing] commercial broadcast content such as other sports, films, and television programs,” there was little concern over collateral damage.

So the big question now is what can IPTV providers and/or subscribers do to tackle the threat?

The first interesting thing to note is not all of the big providers were affected this past weekend, so for many customers the matches passed by as normal. It isn’t clear whether EPL simply didn’t have all of the providers on the list or whether steps were taken to mitigate the threat, but that was certainly the case in a handful of cases.

Information passed to TF shows that at least a small number of providers were not only waiting for the EPL action but actually had a backup plan in place. This appears to have resulted in a minimum of disruption for their customers, something that will prove of interest to the many frustrated subscribers looking for a new service this morning.

While the past few days have been somewhat chaotic, other issues have been muddying the waters somewhat.

TF has learned that at least two, maybe three suppliers, were subjected to DDoS attacks around the time the matches were due to air. It seems unlikely that the EPL has been given permission to carry out such an attack but since the High Court injunction is secret in every way that describes its anti-piracy methods, that will remain a suspicion. In the meantime, rival IPTV services remain possible suspects.

Also, a major IPTV stream ‘wholesaler’ is reported to have had technical issues on Saturday, which affected its ability to serve lower-tier providers. Whether that was also linked to the Premier League action is unknown and TF couldn’t find any source willing to talk about the provider in any detail.

So, sports fans who rely on IPTV for their fix are wondering how things will pan out later this week. If this last weekend is anything to go by, disruption is guaranteed, but it will be less of a surprise given the problems of the last few days. While some don’t foresee huge problems, several providers are already advising customers that VPNs will be necessary.

An IPTV provider suggesting the use of VPNs

While a VPN will indeed solve the problem in most cases, for many subscribers that will amount to an additional expense, not to mention more time spent learning about VPNs, what they can do, and how they can be setup on the hardware they’re using for IPTV.

For users on Android devices running IPTV apps or Kodi-type setups, VPNs are both easy to install and use. However, Mag Box STB users cannot run a VPN directly on the device, meaning that they’ll need either a home router that can run a VPN or a smaller ‘travel’ type router with OpenVPN capabilities to use as a go-between.

Either way, costs are beginning to creep up, if IPTV providers can’t deal with the EPL’s blocking efforts. That makes the new cheaper football packages offered by various providers that little bit more attractive. But that was probably the plan all along.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Controlling Millions of Potential Internet Pirates Won’t Be Easy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/controlling-millions-of-potential-internet-pirates-wont-be-easy-170813/

For several decades the basic shape of the piracy market hasn’t changed much. At the top of the chain there has always been a relatively small number of suppliers. At the bottom, the sprawling masses keen to consume whatever content these suppliers make available, while sharing it with everyone else.

This model held in the days of tapes and CDs and transferred nicely to the P2P file-sharing era. For nearly two decades people have been waiting for those with the latest content to dump it onto file-sharing networks. After grabbing it for themselves, people share that content with others.

For many years, the majority of the latest music, movies, and TV shows appeared online having been obtained by, and then leaked from, ‘The Scene’. However, with the rise of BitTorrent and an increase in computer skills demonstrated by the public, so-called ‘P2P release groups’ began flexing their muscles, in some cases slicing the top of the piracy pyramid.

With lower barriers to entry, P2P releasers can be almost anyone who happens to stumble across some new content. That being said, people still need the skill to package up that content and make it visible online, on torrent sites for example, without getting caught.

For most people that’s prohibitively complex, so it’s no surprise that Average Joe, perhaps comforted by the air of legitimacy, has taken to uploading music and movies to sites like YouTube instead. These days that’s nothing out of the ordinary and perhaps a little boring by piracy standards, but people still have the capacity to surprise.

This week a man from the United States, without a care in the world, obtained a login for a STARZ press portal, accessed the final three episodes of ‘Power’, and then streamed them on Facebook using nothing but a phone and an Internet connection.

From the beginning, the whole thing was ridiculous, comical even. The man in question, whose name and personal details TF obtained in a matter of minutes, revealed how he got the logins and even recorded his own face during one of the uploaded videos.

He really, really couldn’t have cared any less but he definitely should have. After news broke of the leaks, STARZ went public confirming the breach and promising to do something about it.

“The final three episodes of Power’s fourth season were leaked online due to a breach of the press screening room,” Starz said in a statement. “Starz has begun forensic investigations and will take legal action against the responsible parties.”

At this point, we should consider the magnitude of what this guy did. While we all laugh at his useless camera skills, the fact remains that he unlawfully distributed copyright works online, in advance of their commercial release. In the United States, that is a criminal offense, one that can result in a prison sentence of several years.

It would be really sad if the guy in question was made an example of since his videos suggest he hadn’t considered the consequences. After all, this wasn’t some hi-tech piracy group, just a regular guy with a login and a phone, and intent always counts for something. Nevertheless, the situation this week nicely highlights how new technology affects piracy.

In the past, the process of putting an unreleased movie or TV show online could only be tackled by people with expertise in several areas. These days a similar effect is possible with almost no skill and no effort. Joe Public, pre-release TV/movie/sports pirate, using nothing but a phone, a Facebook account, and an urge?

That’s the reality today and we won’t have to wait too long for a large scale demonstration of what can happen when millions of people with access to these ubiquitous tools have an urge to share.

In a little over two weeks’ time, boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr fights UFC lightweight champion, Conor McGregor. It’s set to be the richest combat sports event in history, not to mention one of the most expensive for PPV buyers. That means it’s going to be pirated to hell and back, in every way possible. It’s going to be massive.

Of course, there will be high-quality paid IPTV productions available, more grainy ‘Kodi’ streams, hundreds of web portals, and even some streaming torrents, for those that way inclined. But there will also be Average Joes in their hundreds, who will point their phones at Showtime’s PPV with the intent of live streaming the biggest show on earth to their friends, family, and the Internet. For free.

Quite how this will be combatted remains to be seen but it’s fair to say that this is a problem that’s only going to get bigger. In ten years time – in five years time – many millions of people will have the ability to become pirate releasers on a whim, despite knowing nothing about the occupation.

Like ‘Power’ guy, the majority won’t be very good at it. Equally, some will turn it into an art form. But whatever happens, tackling millions of potential pirates definitely won’t be easy for copyright holders. Twenty years in, it seems the battle for control has only just begun.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Piracy Narrative Isn’t About Ethics Anymore, It’s About “Danger”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-narrative-isnt-about-ethics-anymore-its-about-danger-170812/

Over the years there have been almost endless attempts to stop people from accessing copyright-infringing content online. Campaigns have come and gone and almost two decades later the battle is still ongoing.

Early on, when panic enveloped the music industry, the campaigns centered around people getting sued. Grabbing music online for free could be costly, the industry warned, while parading the heads of a few victims on pikes for the world to see.

Periodically, however, the aim has been to appeal to the public’s better nature. The idea is that people essentially want to do the ‘right thing’, so once they understand that largely hard-working Americans are losing their livelihoods, people will stop downloading from The Pirate Bay. For some, this probably had the desired effect but millions of people are still getting their fixes for free, so the job isn’t finished yet.

In more recent years, notably since the MPAA and RIAA had their eyes blacked in the wake of SOPA, the tone has shifted. In addition to educating the public, torrent and streaming sites are increasingly being painted as enemies of the public they claim to serve.

Several studies, largely carried out on behalf of the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), have claimed that pirate sites are hotbeds of malware, baiting consumers in with tasty pirate booty only to offload trojans, viruses, and God-knows-what. These reports have been ostensibly published as independent public interest documents but this week an advisor to the DCA suggested a deeper interest for the industry.

Hemanshu Nigam is a former federal prosecutor, ex-Chief Security Officer for News Corp and Fox Interactive Media, and former VP Worldwide Internet Enforcement at the MPAA. In an interview with Deadline this week, he spoke about alleged links between pirate sites and malware distributors. He also indicated that warning people about the dangers of pirate sites has become Hollywood’s latest anti-piracy strategy.

“The industry narrative has changed. When I was at the MPAA, we would tell people that stealing content is wrong and young people would say, yeah, whatever, you guys make a lot of money, too bad,” he told the publication.

“It has gone from an ethical discussion to a dangerous one. Now, your parents’ bank account can be raided, your teenage daughter can be spied on in her bedroom and extorted with the footage, or your computer can be locked up along with everything in it and held for ransom.”

Nigam’s stance isn’t really a surprise since he’s currently working for the Digital Citizens Alliance as an advisor. In turn, the Alliance is at least partly financed by the MPAA. There’s no suggestion whatsoever that Nigam is involved in any propaganda effort, but recent signs suggest that the DCA’s work in malware awareness is more about directing people away from pirate sites than protecting them from the alleged dangers within.

That being said and despite the bias, it’s still worth giving experts like Nigam an opportunity to speak. Largely thanks to industry efforts with brands, pirate sites are increasingly being forced to display lower-tier ads, which can be problematic. On top, some sites’ policies mean they don’t deserve any visitors at all.

In the Deadline piece, however, Nigam alleges that hackers have previously reached out to pirate websites offering $200 to $5000 per day “depending on the size of the pirate website” to have the site infect users with malware. If true, that’s a serious situation and people who would ordinarily use ‘pirate’ sites would definitely appreciate the details.

For example, to which sites did hackers make this offer and, crucially, which sites turned down the offer and which ones accepted?

It’s important to remember that pirates are just another type of consumer and they would boycott sites in a heartbeat if they discovered they’d been paid to infect them with malware. But, as usual, the claims are extremely light in detail. Instead, there’s simply a blanket warning to stay away from all unauthorized sites, which isn’t particularly helpful.

In some cases, of course, operational security will prevent some details coming to light but without these, people who don’t get infected on a ‘pirate’ site (the vast majority) simply won’t believe the allegations. As the author of the Deadline piece pointed out, it’s a bit like Reefer Madness all over again.

The point here is that without hard independent evidence to back up these claims, with reports listing sites alongside the malware they’ve supposed to have spread and when, few people will respond to perceived scaremongering. Free content trumps a few distant worries almost every time, whether that involves malware or the threat of a lawsuit.

It’ll be up to the DCA and their MPAA paymasters to consider whether the approach is working but thus far, not even having government heavyweights on board has helped.

Earlier this year the DCA launched a video campaign, enrolling 15 attorney generals to publish their own anti-piracy PSAs on YouTube. Thus far, interest has been minimal, to say the least.

At the time of writing the 15 PSAs have 3,986 views in total, with 2,441 of those contributed by a single video contributed by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. Despite the relative success, even that got slammed with 2 upvotes and 127 downvotes.

A few of the other videos have a couple of hundred views each but more than half have less than 70. Perhaps most worryingly for the DCA, apart from the Schimel PSA, none have any upvotes at all, only down. It’s unclear who the viewers were but it seems reasonable to conclude they weren’t entertained.

The bottom line is nobody likes malware or having their banking details stolen but yet again, people who claim to have the public interest at heart aren’t actually making a difference on the ground. It could be argued that groups advocating online safety should be publishing guides on how to stay protected on the Internet period, not merely advising people to stay away from certain sites.

But of course, that wouldn’t achieve the goals of the MPAA Digital Citizens Alliance.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

DMCA Used to Remove Ad Server URL From Easylist Ad Blocklist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dmca-used-to-remove-ad-server-url-from-easylist-ad-blocklist-170811/

The default business model on the Internet is “free” for consumers. Users largely expect websites to load without paying a dime but of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To this end, millions of websites are funded by advertising revenue.

Sensible sites ensure that any advertising displayed is unobtrusive to the visitor but lots seem to think that bombarding users with endless ads, popups, and other hindrances is the best way to do business. As a result, ad blockers are now deployed by millions of people online.

In order to function, ad-blocking tools – such as uBlock Origin or Adblock – utilize lists of advertising domains compiled by third parties. One of the most popular is Easylist, which is distributed by authors fanboy, MonztA, Famlam, and Khrinunder, under dual Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike and GNU General Public Licenses.

With the freedom afforded by those licenses, copyright tends not to figure high on the agenda for Easylist. However, a legal problem that has just raised its head is causing serious concern among those in the ad-blocking community.

Two days ago a somewhat unusual commit appeared in the Easylist repo on Github. As shown in the image below, a domain URL previously added to Easylist had been removed following a DMCA takedown notice filed with Github.

Domain text taken down by DMCA?

The DMCA notice in question has not yet been published but it’s clear that it targets the domain ‘functionalclam.com’. A user called ‘ameshkov’ helpfully points out a post by a new Github user called ‘DMCAHelper’ which coincided with the start of the takedown process more than three weeks ago.

A domain in a list circumvents copyright controls?

Aside from the curious claims of a URL “circumventing copyright access controls” (domains themselves cannot be copyrighted), the big questions are (i) who filed the complaint and (ii) who operates Functionalclam.com? The domain WHOIS is hidden but according to a helpful sleuth on Github, it’s operated by anti ad-blocking company Admiral.

Ad-blocking means money down the drain….

If that is indeed the case, we have the intriguing prospect of a startup attempting to protect its business model by using a novel interpretation of copyright law to have a domain name removed from a list. How this will pan out is unclear but a notice recently published on Functionalclam.com suggests the route the company wishes to take.

“This domain is used by digital publishers to control access to copyrighted content in accordance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and understand how visitors are accessing their copyrighted content,” the notice begins.

Combined with the comments by DMCAHelper on Github, this statement suggests that the complainants believe that interference with the ad display process (ads themselves could be the “copyrighted content” in question) represents a breach of section 1201 of the DMCA.

If it does, that could have huge consequences for online advertising but we will need to see the original DMCA notice to have a clearer idea of what this is all about. Thus far, Github hasn’t published it but already interest is growing. A representative from the EFF has already contacted the Easylist team, so this battle could heat up pretty quickly.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Internet Archive Blocked in 2,650 Site Anti-Piracy Sweep

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/internet-archive-blocked-in-2650-site-anti-piracy-sweep-170810/

Reports of sites becoming mysteriously inaccessible in India have been a regular occurance over the past several years. In many cases, sites simply stop functioning, leaving users wondering whether sites are actually down or whether there’s a technical issue.

Due to their increasing prevalence, fingers are often pointed at so-called ‘John Doe’ orders, which are handed down by the court to prevent Internet piracy. Often sweeping in nature (and in some cases pre-emptive rather than preventative), these injunctions have been known to block access to both file-sharing platforms and innocent bystanders.

Earlier this week (and again for no apparent reason), the world renowned Internet Archive was rendered inaccessible to millions of users in India. The platform, which is considered by many to be one of the Internet’s most valued resources, hosts more than 15 petabytes of data, a figure which grows on a daily basis. Yet despite numerous requests for information, none was forthcoming from authorities.

The ‘blocked’ message seen by users accessing Archive.org

Quoted by local news outlet Medianama, Chris Butler, Office Manager at the Internet Archive, said that their attempts to contact the Indian Department of Telecom (DoT) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) had proven fruitless.

Noting that site had previously been blocked in India, Butler said they were no clearer on the reasons why the same kind of action had seemingly been taken this week.

“We have no information about why a block would have been implemented,” he said. “Obviously, we are disappointed and concerned by this situation and are very eager to understand why it’s happening and see full access restored to archive.org.”

Now, however, the mystery has been solved. The BBC says a local government agency provided a copy of a court order obtained by two Bollywood production companies who are attempting to slow down piracy of their films in India.

Issued by a local judge, the sweeping order compels local ISPs to block access to 2,650 mainly file-sharing websites, including The Pirate Bay, RARBG, the revived KickassTorrents, and hundreds of other ‘usual suspects’. However, it also includes the URL for the Internet Archive, hence the problems with accessibility this week.

The injunction, which appears to be another John Doe order as previously suspected, was granted by the High Court of the Judicature at Madras on August 2, 2017. Two film productions companies – Prakash Jah Productions and Red Chillies Entertainment – obtained the order to protect their films Lipstick Under My Burkha and Jab Harry Met Sejal.

While India-based visitors to blocked resources are often greeted with a message saying that domains have been blocked at the orders of the Department of Telecommunications, these pages never give a reason why.

This always leads to confusion, with news outlets having to pressure local government agencies to discover the reason behind the blockades. In the interests of transparency, providing a link to a copy of a relevant court order would probably benefit all involved.

A few hours ago, the Internet Archive published a statement questioning the process undertaken before the court order was handed down.

“Is the Court aware of and did it consider the fact that the Internet Archive has a well-established and standard procedure for rights holders to submit take down requests and processes them expeditiously?” the platform said.

“We find several instances of take down requests submitted for one of the plaintiffs, Red Chillies Entertainments, throughout the past year, each of which were processed and responded to promptly.

“After a preliminary review, we find no instance of our having been contacted by anyone at all about these films. Is there a specific claim that someone posted these films to archive.org? If so, we’d be eager to address it directly with the claimant.”

But while the Internet Archive appears to be the highest profile collateral damage following the ISP blocks, it isn’t the only victim. Now that the court orders have become available (1,2), it’s clear that other non-pirate entities have also been affected including news site WN.com, website hosting service Weebly, and French ISP Free.fr.

Also, in a sign that sites aren’t being checked to see if they host the movies in question, one of the orders demands that former torrent index BitSnoop is blocked. The site shut down earlier this year. The same is true for Shaanig.org.

This is not the first time that the Internet Archive has been blocked in India. In 2014/2015, Archive.org was rendered inaccessible after it was accused of hosting extremist material. In common with Google, the site copies and stores huge amounts of data, much of it in automated processes. This can leave it exposed to these kinds of accusations.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Man Leaks New ‘Power’ Episodes Online, Records His Own Face

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/man-leaks-new-power-episodes-online-records-his-own-face-170809/

With the whole world going crazy for Game of Thrones, another TV series has been turning some serious numbers. Produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, crime drama ‘Power’ has been pulling in around eight million viewers per episode.

After premiering in June 2014, Power is now seven episodes into season four, which is set to reach its climax on August 27. But somewhat typically for the Internet these days, fans won’t necessarily have to wait another three weeks to find out what happens. During the past few hours, the final three episodes of ‘Power’ leaked online.

While that’s something in itself, this leak is possibly the most bizarre to take place in the history of piracy. Having been tipped off that screener episodes were available online, TF went looking for evidence. We found it, but it wasn’t what we expected.

The leaks consist of the three episodes (one complete, the other two missing a few minutes) being played back on an iPhone. A white one. With a broken screen.

Power leaks: Broken iPhone edition

The off-center nature of the image above isn’t typical though and most of the time the main picture is both central and well-defined, with surprisingly clear audio. It’s certainly not going to win any prizes for quality but for the extremely impatient it offers some kind of relief.

The big question, of course, is how these episodes happened to find their way onto that battered iPhone in the first place. Incredibly, the videos themselves provide the answers, with the thoughtful ‘cammer’ explaining in several voice-overs how he gained access to one of STARZ hottest properties.

“This is like the special, this is only for the people that work at STARZ that watch this shit. My man sent me the whole log-in shit. I had to pay that n******r though,” he said.

The log-in referenced by the leaker appears to unlock press access to unreleased content on mediaroom.starz.com. That page has been taken down since, quite possibly due to the leak. Thanks to the video though, we can see how the portal looked on the leaker’s phone.

Unreleased ‘Power’ episodes on the STARZ portal

“That’s the whole series bitch, but I can’t log out though, so I can’t send it to you. The man says don’t log out. So i’m gonna watch these last two episodes and then spoil it for y’all,” the ‘cammer’ said over one of the episodes.

The original claim that theses were screener copies holds up. Throughout all three episodes, an occasional message appears across the bottom of the screen, declaring that the episodes are “for screening purposes only.”

Screener copies, for your eyes only

If the whole situation isn’t bizarre enough so far, the episodes contain quite a bit of complaining from the ‘cammer’, mainly due to his arm aching from holding up the recording phone for such a long time.

Why he didn’t simply place it down on the table isn’t clear. He managed it with the playback phone, which is seen leaning against a large water container throughout, something the ‘cammer’ believes is pretty badass.

“You see, I got my shit propped up like a G,” he said, placing the phone against the water bottle. “Next episode, definitely not holdin’ this shit, so you n*****s gotta relax.”

If this whole scenario isn’t crazy enough, the ‘cammer’ polishes off his virtuoso performance by turning the ‘cam’ phone around and recording his own face for several seconds. To save his embarrassment we won’t publish an image here but needless to say, he is extremely easy to identify, as is his Facebook page, where the content seems to have first appeared.

While there’s clearly no criminal mastermind behind these leaks, dumping unreleased TV shows online can result in a hefty jail sentence, no matter how poorly it’s done. The gentleman involved should hope that STARZ and the FBI are prepared to see the funny side. Fingers crossed….

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Foxtel Targets 128 Torrent & Streaming Domains For Blocking Down Under

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/foxtel-targets-128-torrent-streaming-domains-for-blocking-down-under-170808/

In 2015, Australia passed controversial legislation which allows ‘pirate’ sites located on servers overseas to be blocked at the ISP level.

“These offshore sites are not operated by noble spirits fighting for the freedom of the internet, they are run by criminals who profit from stealing other people’s creative endeavors,” commented then Foxtel chief executive Richard Freudenstein.

Before, during and after its introduction, Foxtel has positioned itself as a keen supporter of the resulting Section 115a of the Copyright Act. And in December 2016, with the law firmly in place, it celebrated success after obtaining a blocking injunction against The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound and isoHunt.

In May, Foxtel filed a new application, demanding that almost 50 local ISPs block what was believed to be a significant number of ‘pirate’ sites not covered by last year’s order.

Today the broadcasting giant was back in Federal Court, Sydney, to have this second application heard under Section 115a. It was revealed that the application contains 128 domains, each linked to movie and TV piracy.

According to ComputerWorld, the key sites targeted are as follows: YesMovies, Vumoo, LosMovies, CartoonHD, Putlocker, Watch Series 1, Watch Series 2, Project Free TV 1, Project Free TV 2, Watch Episodes, Watch Episode Series, Watch TV Series, The Dare Telly, Putlocker9.is, Putlocker9.to, Torlock and 1337x.

The Foxtel application targets both torrent and streaming sites but given the sample above, it seems that the latter is currently receiving the most attention. Streaming sites are appearing at a rapid rate and can even be automated to some extent, so this battle could become extremely drawn out.

Indeed, Justice Burley, who presided over the case this morning, described the website-blocking process (which necessarily includes targeting mirrors, proxies and replacement domains) as akin to “whack-a-mole”.

“Foxtel sees utility in orders of this nature,” counsel for Foxtel commented in response. “It’s important to block these sites.”

In presenting its application, Foxtel conducted live demonstrations of Yes Movies, Watch Series, 1337x, and Putlocker. It focused on the Australian prison drama series Wentworth, which has been running on Foxtel since 2013, but also featured tests of Game of Thrones.

Justice Burley told the court that since he’s a fan of the series, a spoiler-free piracy presentation would be appreciated. If the hearing had taken place a few days earlier, spoilers may have been possible. Last week, the latest episode of the show leaked onto the Internet from an Indian source before its official release.

Justice Burley’s decision will be handed down at a later date, but it’s unlikely there will be any serious problems with Foxtel’s application. After objecting to many aspects of blocking applications in the past, Australia’s ISPs no longer appear during these hearings. They are now paid AU$50 per domain blocked by companies such as Foxtel and play little more than a technical role in the process.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Hotspot Shield VPN Reported to FTC For Alleged Privacy Breaches

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hotspot-shield-vpn-reported-to-ftc-for-alleged-privacy-breaches-170807/

With online privacy becoming an increasingly hot topic, large numbers of companies are offering products which claim to stop third-parties from snooping on users’ Internet activities.

At the forefront are Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which push consumer traffic through encrypted tunnels and remote servers to hide activity from ISPs while offering varying levels of anonymity.

Claims made by VPN companies are often scrutinized by privacy advocates but if a complaint filed this morning by the Center for Democracy and Technology
(CDT) gains momentum, there could be a government investigation into one of the most popular.

Developed by AnchorFree, Inc. and initially released more than nine years ago, the Hotspot Shield application allows users to connect to a VPN service. According to its makers, it’s been downloaded 75 million times and provides “anonymous web surfing with complete privacy.” That claim, however, is now under the spotlight.

In a complaint filed this morning with the Federal Trade Commission, CDT notes that Hotspot Shield makes “strong claims” about the privacy and security of its data collection and sharing practices, including that it “never logs or stores user data.” Crucially, the company also claims never to track or sell its customers’ information, adding that security and privacy are “guaranteed.”

Countering, CDT says that Hotspot Shield engages in logging practices that contradict its claims, noting that it collects information to “identify [a user’s] general location, improve the Service, or optimize advertisements displayed through the Service.”

The complaint says that IP addresses and unique device identifiers are regularly
collected by Hotspot Shield but the service gets around this issue by classing neither sets of data as personal information.

CDT says it used Carnegie Mellon University’s Mobile App Compliance System to gain insight into Hotspot Shield’s functionality and found problems with privacy.

“CMU’s analysis of Hotspot Shield’s Android application permissions found undisclosed data sharing practices with third party advertising networks,” the group notes.

“While an ad-supported VPN may be beneficial in certain instances, it should not be paired with a product or service that tells users that it ensures anonymity, privacy, and security.”

CDT also says that Hotspot Shield tries to cover its back with a disclaimer that the company “may not provide a virtual IP Address for every web site you may visit and third-party web sites may receive your original IP Address when you are visiting those web sites.” But this runs counter to the stated aim of the service, CDT writes.

Accusing Hotspot Shield of unfair and deceptive trade practices, CDT calls on the Commission to conduct an investigation into its data collection and sharing practices.

Hotspot Shield is yet to respond to the complaint or accusations but in a 2014 blog post, welcomed the FTC’s involvement in online security issues.

Full complaint here, courtesy Ars

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Lawyer Says He Was Deceived Into BitTorrent Copyright Trolling Scheme

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/lawyer-says-he-was-deceived-into-bittorrent-copyright-trolling-scheme-170807/

For more than a decade, companies around the world have been trying to turn piracy into profit. For many this has meant the development of “copyright trolling” schemes, in which alleged pirates are monitored online and then pressured into cash settlements.

The shadowy nature of this global business means that its true scale will never be known but due to the controversial activities of some of the larger players, it’s occasionally possible to take a peek inside their operations. One such opportunity has just raised its head.

According to a lawsuit filed in California, James Davis is an attorney licensed in Oregon and California. Until two years ago, he was largely focused on immigration law. However, during March 2015, Davis says he was approached by an old classmate with an opportunity to get involved in a new line of business.

That classmate was Oregon lawyer Carl Crowell, who over the past several years has been deeply involved in copyright-trolling cases, including a deluge of Dallas Buyers Club and London Has Fallen litigation. He envisioned a place for Davis in the business.

Davis seemed to find the proposals attractive and became seriously involved in the operation, filing 58 cases on behalf of the companies involved. In common with similar cases, the lawsuits were brought in the name of the entities behind each copyrighted work, such as Dallas Buyers Club, LLC and LHF Productions, Inc.

In time, however, things started to go wrong. Davis claims that he discovered that Crowell, in connection with and on behalf of the other named defendants, “misrepresented the true nature of the Copyright Litigation Campaign, including the ownership of the works at issue and the role of the various third-parties involved in the litigation.”

Davis says that Crowell and the other defendants (which include the infamous Germany-based troll outfit Guardaley) made false representations to secure his participation, while holding back other information that might have made him think twice about becoming involved.

“Crowell and other Defendants withheld numerous material facts that were known to Crowell and the knowledge of which would have cast doubt on the value and ethical propriety of the Copyright Litigation Campaign for Mr. Davis,” the lawsuit reads.

Davis goes on to allege serious misconduct, including that representations regarding ownership of various entities were false and used to deceive him into participating in the scheme.

As time went on, Davis said he had increasing doubts about the operation. Then, in August 2016 as a result of a case underway in California, he began asking questions which resulted in him uncovering additional facts. These undermined both the representations of the people he was working for and his own belief in the “value and ethical propriety of the Copyright Litigation Campaign,” the lawsuit claims.

Davis said this spurred him on to “aggressively seek further information” from Crowell and other people involved in the scheme, including details of its structure and underlying support. He says all he received were “limited responses, excuses, and delays.”

The case was later dismissed by mutual agreement of the parties involved but of course, Davis’ concerns about the underlying case didn’t come to the forefront until the filing of his suit against Crowell and the others.

Davis says that following a meeting in Santa Monica with several of the main players behind the litigation campaign, he decided its legal and factual basis were unsound. He later told Crowell and Guardaley that he was withdrawing from their project.

As the result of the misrepresentations made to him, Davis is now suing the defendants on a number of counts, detailed below.

“Defendants’ business practices are unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent. Davis has suffered monetary damage as a direct result of the unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent business practices set forth herein,” the lawsuit reads.

Requesting a trial by jury, Davis is seeking actual damages, statutory damages, punitive or treble damages “in the amount of no less than $300,000.”

While a payment of that not insignificant amount would clearly satisfy Davis, the prospect of a trial in which the Guardaley operation is laid bare would be preferable when the interests of its thousands of previous targets are considered.

Only time will tell how things will pan out but like the vast majority of troll cases, this one too seems destined to be settled in private, to ensure the settlement machine keeps going.

Note: The case was originally filed in June, only to be voluntarily dismissed. It has now been refiled in state court.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Seller of ‘Fully Loaded’ Kodi Boxes Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/seller-of-fully-loaded-kodi-boxes-pleads-guilty-to-money-laundering-170806/

In June 2015, police and Trading Standards officers in the UK carried out raids on sellers of Android boxes configured to receive unauthorized content. One seller, operating from GeekyKit.com, told customers that his physical shops would be shutting down.

“As you may be aware we were visited yesterday by Sky [television] in conjunction with Trading Standards. Whilst we continue to investigate our position the stores will remain closed and support will remain suspended. Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused,” he explained.

Julian Allen was arrested after raids at ‘Geeky Kit’ premises in Billingham and Middlesbrough in the north of England. One of the locations is pictured below.

Despite the seriously incriminating storefront claims, Allen insisted that his businesses couldn’t be held responsible for copyrighted TV shows, movies and sports received by customers on boxes his company supplied.

“We do not control the content that is accessible on the internet via the product that we sell. We are currently working with Trading Standards to ensure that we can sell our products whilst adhering to UK copyright laws,” he said.

This January, Allen appeared before Teesside Crown Court charged with laundering £135,173, money said to have been generated via the sale of pre-loaded set-top boxes and premium packages over a 30-month period.

Allen was expected to appear for a week-long trial scheduled to start this Monday but that was scrapped after the 40-year-old pleaded guilty to using or acquiring criminal property.

According to Gazette Live, a proceeds of crime hearing has been scheduled for next year. In the meantime, Allen was granted unconditional bail until sentencing on October 20, where he faces a potential jail sentence.

“I don’t know what the sentence will be until all the matters are known,” the judge said.

Ever since a European Court of Justice ruling earlier this year that found that selling “fully-loaded” streaming boxes are illegal, people in a similar position to Allen have seen their cases take a turn for the worse.

One such case, involving Middlesbrough shopkeeper Brian Thompson, appears to be progressing under different legislation, however. Thompson stands accused of two offenses under section 296ZB of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, which deals with devices and services designed to circumvent technological measures.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

ESET Tries to Scare People Away From Using Torrents

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eset-tries-to-scare-people-away-from-using-torrents-170805/

Any company in the security game can be expected to play up threats among its customer base in order to get sales.

Sellers of CCTV equipment, for example, would have us believe that criminals don’t want to be photographed and will often go elsewhere in the face of that. Car alarm companies warn us that since X thousand cars are stolen every minute, an expensive Immobilizer is an anti-theft must.

Of course, they’re absolutely right to point these things out. People want to know about these offline risks since they affect our quality of life. The same can be said of those that occur in the online world too.

We ARE all at risk of horrible malware that will trash our computers and steal our banking information so we should all be running adequate protection. That being said, how many times do our anti-virus programs actually trap a piece of nasty-ware in a year? Once? Twice? Ten times? Almost never?

The truth is we all need to be informed but it should be done in a measured way. That’s why an article just published by security firm ESET on the subject of torrents strikes a couple of bad chords, particularly with people who like torrents. It’s titled “Why you should view torrents as a threat” and predictably proceeds to outline why.

“Despite their popularity among users, torrents are very risky ‘business’,” it begins.

“Apart from the obvious legal trouble you could face for violating the copyright of musicians, filmmakers or software developers, there are security issues linked to downloading them that could put you or your computer in the crosshairs of the black hats.”

Aside from the use of the phrase “very risky” (‘some risk’ is a better description), there’s probably very little to complain about in this opening shot. However, things soon go downhill.

“Merely downloading the newest version of BitTorrent clients – software necessary for any user who wants to download or seed files from this ‘ecosystem’ – could infect your machine and irreversibly damage your files,” ESET writes.

Following that scary statement, some readers will have already vowed never to use a torrent again and moved on without reading any more, but the details are really important.

To support its claim, ESET points to two incidents in 2016 (which to its great credit the company actually discovered) which involved the Transmission torrent client. Both involved deliberate third-party infection and in the latter hackers attacked Transmission’s servers and embedded malware in its OSX client before distribution to the public.

No doubt these were both miserable incidents (to which the Transmission team quickly responded) but to characterize this as a torrent client problem seems somewhat unfair.

People intent on spreading viruses and malware do not discriminate and will happily infect ANY piece of computer software they can. Sadly, many non-technical people reading the ESET post won’t read beyond the claim that installing torrent clients can “infect your machine and irreversibly damage your files.”

That’s a huge disservice to the hundreds of millions of torrent client installations that have taken place over a decade and a half and were absolutely trouble free. On a similar basis, we could argue that installing Windows is the main initial problem for people getting viruses from the Internet. It’s true but it’s also not the full picture.

Finally, the piece goes on to detail other incidents over the years where torrents have been found to contain malware. The several cases highlighted by ESET are both real and pretty unpleasant for victims but the important thing to note here is torrent users are no different to any other online user, no matter how they use the Internet.

People who download files from the Internet, from ALL untrusted sources, are putting themselves at risk of getting a virus or other malware. Whether that content is obtained from a website or a P2P network, the risks are ever-present and only a foolish person would do so without decent security software (such as ESET’s) protecting them.

The take home point here is to be aware of security risks and put them into perspective. It’s hard to put a percentage on these things but of the hundreds of millions of torrent and torrent client downloads that have taken place since their inception 15 years ago, the overwhelming majority have been absolutely fine.

Security situations do arise and we need to be aware of them, but presenting things in a way that spreads unnecessary concern in a particular sector isn’t necessary to sell products.

The AV-TEST Institute registers around 390,000 new malicious programs every day that don’t involve torrents, plenty for any anti-virus firm to deal with.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

TV Box Seller Emails Sky TV Bosses With ‘Pirate’ Offer, Gets Sued for $1m

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tv-box-seller-emails-sky-tv-bosses-with-pirate-offer-gets-sued-for-1m-170804/

After relatively quiet treatment in the media, last year press in New Zealand began reporting on the booming ‘pirate’ set-top box business sweeping the world.

Often based around legal Kodi software boosted with third-party addons, the devices are known for providing free movies, TV shows, and sports.

Last November, ‘My Box NZ’ owner Krish Reddy, who said he would take on Sky in its own backyard with his custom streaming boxes, hit the headlines. The 27-year-old told NZHerald that “it seemed like a great idea so we decided to do it ourselves.”

The boxes offered some local free-to-air channels but also the all-important premium offerings from Sky, including Sky Movies and Sky Sports, an expensive proposition for an official subscriber.

“Why pay $80 minimum per month for Sky when for one payment you can have it free for good?” Reddy’s advertising said.

Reddy was confident in the abilities of his product but was also confident he wasn’t breaking the law.

“I don’t see why [Sky] would contact me but if they do contact me and … if there’s something of theirs that they feel I’ve unlawfully taken then yeah … but as it stands I don’t [have any concerns],” he told the Herald.

As things moved on, Reddy’s business really took off. He admitted to having sold 8,000 of the devices and then April this year, Sky appeared to ruh out of patience. In a letter from its lawyers, the pay TV company said Reddy’s devices breached copyright law and the Fair Trading Act. Reddy responded by calling the TV giant “a playground bully” and denied again that he was breaking the law.

“From a legal perspective, what we do is completely within the law. We advertise Sky television channels being available through our website and social media platforms as these are available via streams which you can find through My Box,” he said.

“The content is already available, I’m not going out there and bringing the content so how am I infringing the copyright… the content is already there, if someone uses the box to search for the content, that’s what it is.”

Stuff reports that the initial compensation demand from Sky against Reddy’s company My Box runs to NZD$1.4m (US$1m), an amount that could “rise by millions” by the time a judgment is reached.

“They have given us until September 24 to respond. We are not going to sit and take it,” Reddy told the publication. “How many people can say they went up against a multimillion dollar giant like Sky?”

And it seems that Reddy is absolutely determined to fight back. Earlier this year he said that his father always encouraged him as a child to seek out the big guy for a fight, something that is now playing out with one of the world’s biggest broadcasters.

“[Sky’s] point of view is they own copyright and I’m destroying the market by giving people content for free. To me it is business; I have got something that is new … that’s competition,” he said.

In Europe, where these kinds of cases have already been tested at the highest level, comments like these would be extremely ill-advised and enough to give any defending lawyer a high temperature, but Reddy really doesn’t seem to care.

In fact, a bulk email he sent out to 50,000 people advertising his product as “being better than Sky”, actually found the inboxes of 50 Sky TV staff and directors. He believes this triggered the legal action from the company.

While Reddy was on Sky’s radar long before the mailshot, the blatancy of his advertising and its targets won’t have helped his case one bit. Sky, for its part, is determined to get a ruling against a large player and Reddy seems the perfect catch.

“Anyone selling these boxes are within our sights. You have got to go after the big fish first,” said Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way.

No case like this has ever gone to court in New Zealand so it could be important for setting the ground rules on several aspects of copyright law, including the making available right.

In addition to prosecutions, Way told Stuff that it could also be possible to introduce site-blocking laws such as those already in place in Australia and the UK. These would aim to render Kodi-powered devices less effective at providing copyrighted content from unauthorized sources.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Piracy Brings a New Young Audience to Def Leppard, Guitarist Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-brings-a-new-young-audience-to-def-leppard-guitarist-says-170803/

For decades the debate over piracy has raged, with bands and their recording industry paymasters on one side and large swathes of the public on the other. Throughout, however, there have been those prepared to recognize that things aren’t necessarily black and white.

Over the years, many people have argued that access to free music has helped them broaden their musical horizons, dabbling in new genres and discovering new bands. This, they argue, would have been a prohibitively expensive proposition if purchases were forced on a trial and error basis.

Of course, many labels and bands believe that piracy amounts to theft, but some are prepared to put their heads above the parapet with an opinion that doesn’t necessarily tow the party line.

Formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England, rock band Def Leppard have sold more than 100 million records worldwide and have two RIAA diamond certificated albums to their name. But unlike Metallica who have sold a total of 116 million records and were famous for destroying Napster, Def Leppard’s attitude to piracy is entirely more friendly.

In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell has been describing why he believes piracy has its upsides, particularly for enduring bands that are still trying to broaden their horizons.

“The way the band works is quite extraordinary. In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fueled by younger people coming to the shows,” Campbell said.

“We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”

Def Leppard celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, and the fact that they’re still releasing music and attracting a new audience is a real achievement for a band whose original fans only had access to vinyl and cassette tapes. But Campbell says the band isn’t negatively affected by new technology, nor people using it to obtain their content for free.

“You know, people bemoan the fact that you can’t sell records anymore, but for a band like Def Leppard at least, there is a silver lining in the fact that our music is reaching a whole new audience, and that audience is excited to hear it, and they’re coming to the shows. It’s been fantastic,” he said.

While packing out events is every band’s dream, Campbell believes that the enthusiasm these fresh fans bring to the shows is actually helping the band to improve.

“There’s a whole new energy around Leppard, in fact. I think we’re playing better than we ever have. Which you’d like to think anyway. They always say that musicians, unlike athletes, you’re supposed to get better.

“I’m not sure that anyone other than the band really notices, but I notice it and I know that the other guys do too. When I play ‘Rock of Ages’ for the 3,000,000 time, it’s not the song that excites me, it’s the energy from the audience. That’s what really lifts our performance. When you’ve got a more youthful audience coming to your shows, it only goes in one direction,” he concludes.

The thought of hundreds or even thousands of enthusiastic young pirates energizing an aging Def Leppard to the band’s delight is a real novelty. However, with so many channels for music consumption available today, are these new followers necessarily pirates?

One only has to visit Def Leppard’s official YouTube channel to see that despite being born in the late fifties and early sixties, the band are still regularly posting new content to keep fans up to date. So, given the consumption habits of young people these days, YouTube seems a more likely driver of new fans than torrents, for example.

That being said, Def Leppard are still humming along nicely on The Pirate Bay. The site lists a couple of hundred torrents, some uploaded more recently, some many years ago, including full albums, videos, and even entire discographies.

Arrr, we be Def Leppaaaaaard

Interestingly, Campbell hasn’t changed his public opinion on piracy for more than a decade. Back in 2007 he was saying similar things, and in 2011 he admitted that there were plenty of “kids out there” with the entire Def Leppard collection on their iPods.

“I am pretty sure they didn’t all pay for it. But, maybe those same kids will buy a ticket and come to a concert,” he said.

“We do not expect to sell a lot of records, we are just thankful to have people listening to our music. That is more important than having people pay for it. It will monetize itself later down the line.”

With sites like YouTube perhaps driving more traffic to bands like Def Leppard than pure piracy these days (and even diverting people away from piracy itself), it’s interesting to note that there’s still controversy around people getting paid for music.

With torrent sites slowly dropping off the record labels’ hitlists, one is much more likely to hear them criticizing YouTube itself for not giving the industry a fair deal.

Still, bands like Def Leppard seem happy, so it’s not all bad news.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Dutch Film Distributor to Target BitTorrent Users For Cash ‘Fines’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dutch-film-distributor-to-target-bittorrent-users-for-cash-fines-170802/

For many carefree years, Dutch Internet users were allowed to download copyrighted content, provided it was for their own personal use. In 2014, however, the European Court of Justice ruled that the country’s “piracy levy” to compensate rightsholders was unlawful. An immediate downloading ban followed.

That action took place more than three years ago but as recently reported by Dutch anti-piracy BREIN, the country still has an appetite for unauthorized content consumption. Some of that takes place with the assistance of torrent sites but for the most part, file-sharers have had little to worry about.

That could all be about to change with the news that local film distributor Dutch Filmworks (DFW) has announced its intention to monitor torrent site users and collect data on their online activities. The news comes via the Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens), which needs to be formally advised in order for the data collection to go ahead.

DFW’s plans are outlined in a detailed application (Dutch, pdf) dated July 2017. It explains that DFW wishes to combat “the unlawful dissemination of copyright protected works” in order to protect their own interests, and this involves collecting data on Dutch individuals without their knowledge or permission.

“DFW intends to collect data from people who exchange files over the Internet through BitTorrent networks. The data processing consists of capturing proof of exchange of files via IP addresses for the purpose of researching involvement of these users in the distribution or reproduction of copyrighted works,” it reads.

DFW will employ an external German-based tracking company to monitor alleged pirates which will “automatically participate in swarms in which works from DFW are being shared.” Data collected from non-Dutch users will be stripped and discarded but information about local pirates will be retained and processed for further action.

However, in order for DFW to connect an IP address with an individual, the company will have to approach Internet service providers to obtain subscriber information including names and addresses. DFW says that if ISPs won’t cooperate voluntarily, it will be forced to take its case to court. Given past experience, that will probably have to happen.

In March 2016, anti-piracy outfit BREIN obtained permission from the Dutch Data Protection Authority to collect similar data on alleged BitTorrent users, aiming to change attitudes among pirates with fines and legal action.

Several ISPs, most prominently Ziggo, announced that they would not voluntarily cooperate with BREIN and that personal information would only be handed over if BREIN took them to court. It’s logical to presume that Dutch Filmworks will receive the same treatment.

Should the company be successful, however, it has had detailed a stepped plan. First, the alleged pirate will receive a warning and DFW will aim to reach “an amicable settlement” for the breach. If one cannot be reached, further legal action could be taken, up to and including prosecution and claims for damages.

The whole scheme certainly sounds like a classic “copyright trolling” operation in the making but only time will tell which end of the spectrum this project will fall. When asked by NU.nl whether DFW would actually be seeking cash from alleged pirates, it declined to comment.

“This is the first step in this process. We’re going to see what we’re going to do after 25 August,” a spokesperson said.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.