All posts by Andy

YesPornPlease Restricts Access as PayPal & Cloudflare Are Asked to Unmask Operators

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/yespornplease-restricts-access-as-paypal-cloudflare-asked-to-unmask-operators-200329/

In September 2019, MG Premium went to court in the United States requesting a DMCA subpoena against Cloudflare.

Alleging mass infringement, the adult giant wanted the CDN company to hand over the personal details of the people behind ‘tube’ site YesPornPlease and partner platform VShare.io.

With 100 million visitors in January 2020 alone, YesPornPlease is a huge player in the space. It reportedly carries huge volumes of MG Premium content, including videos published under the Reality Kings, Brazzers, MOFOS, Babes.com, and Twistys brands.

Progress on the earlier subpoena is unknown but in February, MG Premium filed a full-blown lawsuit in a Washington court potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the wake of that legal action both YesPornPlease and VShare went offline. At the time it appeared that the sites may not return but the situation was temporary. Now, however, visitors to the platform are being greeted by a strange ‘welcome’ page.

“Our website is banned in your country,” the greeting claims. “Please use Tor Browser, VPN or if you don’t have any get this for free.”

The “this for free” is a VPN called VPN4Test and the suggestion is that it can unlock the site. However, there are a number of confusing aspects to the message and the recommendation.

Aside from countries where porn may be illegal in general, we’re not aware that YesPornPlease is ‘banned’ in any country it was previously accessible from. That tends to suggest that the website hasn’t been banned by any authority and it’s the site’s operators that have put measures in place at their end to ensure access is hindered.

Furthermore, after extended testing with various VPNs and Tor, on what grounds access is granted by the site remains unclear. For example, in some cases UK IP addresses are allowed through yet VPN IP addresses in the same country are blocked. The same is true for those located in other regions, US and mainland Europe, for example.

After cycling through a dozen or so Tor IP addresses, access was granted roughly 50% of the time, which will please users of the site. However, people shouldn’t be streaming lots of unnecessary videos using Tor – it isn’t designed for it, especially in the volumes required to service a massive adult video site.

That leads to the question of whether one of the main aims of the blocking is to drive traffic to the promoted VPN. While it is reportedly free to use, it should come with all the usual warnings that other free VPNs carry – in a nutshell, free is rarely free and there are probably strings attached.

Nevertheless, VPN4Test is doing well out of the referrals. From very little traffic at all in December 2019, the service is now clocking up more than 1.5 million visits per month. Meanwhile, MG Premium is pressing ahead with its legal action.

It’s clear from its numerous filings that the main challenge the company faces is positively identifying the people who run the defendant sites. In a motion for early discovery, the adult giant says that can only be achieved with the assistance of several US-based companies that are doing or have done business with the site.

“Plaintiff seeks a Court order allowing it to serve discovery demands on PayPal, Inc.; Domain Protection Services; Name.com, Inc.; Cloudflare, Inc.; Namecheap.com; Tucows Domains, Inc.; Internet Security Research Group; and, Comodo, Inc. for identifying information of their customers, the Defendants in this case,” the filing reads.

According to MG, Domain Protection Services in Colorado anonymizes the YesPornPlease domain, while Name.com and Cloudflare provide registrar and DNS services. Vshare uses Namecheap and Cloudflare, with the latter being used by both sites to serve content in the United States. It’s further alleged that the affiliate program operated by VShare pays out through PayPal while using an SSL certificate from New Jersey-based Comodo, Inc.

MG says that its representatives contacted all of the companies with requests for cooperation but without exception they either “ignored requests for information or previously instructed that information will only be produced upon subpoena.”

“Plaintiff is aware of no available information that would identify the infringing users, other than information maintained by the domain privacy service, registrar service and
other service providers,” the motion for early discovery notes.

“Due to the nature of on-line transactions which in this case includes in certain instances of the crypto currency Bitcoin, Plaintiff has no way of determining Defendants’ identities except through immediate discovery, and follow-up discovery.”

As a result, MG requests that the court issues an order allowing it to serve subpoenas on the companies listed above, compelling them to turn over “all information pertinent to the identity of the owners, operators, and principals operating the YesPornPlease.com, VShare.io, and ezcgwym5xp7ty.com websites, domain names, and relevant accounts for each.”

The motion for early discovery can be found here (pdf)

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

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

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-refuses-to-process-dmca-counternotice-for-creepy-bugs-cartoon-200328/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bad-boys-for-life-leads-wave-of-early-movie-releases-flooding-pirate-sites-200327/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-chief-pirated-content-is-now-harder-to-find-in-search-engines-200326/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMD Uses DMCA to Mitigate Massive GPU Source Code Leak

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/amd-uses-dmca-to-mitigate-massive-gpu-source-code-leak-200325/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nintendo Shuts Down Kickstarter Campaign For Violating Animal Crossing Copyrights

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/nintendo-shuts-down-kickstarter-campaign-for-violating-animal-crossing-copyrights-200324/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube Cartoon Featuring Creepy Bugs Bunny Copyright Claimed By Warner Bros.

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-cartoon-featuring-creepy-bugs-bunny-copyright-claimed-by-warner-bros-200323/

Despite racking up to close to 67 million views on its popular YouTube account, MeatCanyon’s cartoons are not yet mainstream fodder.

Thanks to the actions of a copyright holder, however, more publicity is certainly on the horizon.

Many of MeatCanyon’s cartoons are extremely dark, featuring a creepy Ronald McDonald and Jimmy Fallon as a previously-masked character in Scooby-Doo, to give just two examples. But when Patreon-funded MeatCanyon released a two-minute cartoon entitled ‘Wabbit Time’ recently, the end result was a copyright strike on its YouTube account.

The parody cartoon is dark — super dark — and features a character that looks broadly like Bugs Bunny but is both predatory, washed-out, and a shadow of his usual self.

With horrible teeth, drooping teats and a foul mouth, this is clearly not the Bugs everyone is used to, despite sharing the same name. Following his opening line (“What’s up Doc?” which is trademarked but not copyrighted) he attempts to do something awful to a man resembling Elmer Fudd, which reinforces the disconnect from the original ten times over.

Reading between the lines, this was all too much for Warner Bros. As can be seen in the image below, the company filed a copyright complaint with YouTube and had the video taken down.

“Warner brothers just copyright claimed my wabbit season vid….so it’s removed and now I have a strike on my channel….but why [YouTube?],” MeatCanyon wrote on Twitter before the weekend.

With Warner claiming its rights had been infringed and YouTube effectively agreeing, it was the end of the road for the Wabbit Season video.

“It is unfortunate that Youtube decided to side with Warner Brothers. Deleting my video, and giving my channel a strike. I worked very hard on that video and its honestly pretty sad to see it go. There was a lot of people who really enjoyed that video, and it at least makes me happy to know that so many people out there will miss it being on this channel,” MeatCanyon wrote.

But the channel wasn’t done just yet.

In a new cartoon uploaded yesterday titled ‘RIP Wabbit Season’, numerous grotesque characters mourn the ‘death’ of the sinister Bugs Bunny while raising a pretty dark question: Why would Warner claim a video depicting Bugs Bunny as a “struggling rapist” as their own?

The truth, of course, is that Warner didn’t claim the video as its own but claimed copyright infringement instead. There’s little doubt that the cartoon is intended as a parody but that intent in itself doesn’t provide absolute protection under US law.

Should MeatCanyon choose to take the matter further, the intricacies of fair use would need to be examined by a court, including (but not limited to) whether Wabbit Season represented a comedic commentary relating to the original work that necessarily required copying its elements.

There’s also the matter of whether the new work has a detrimental effect on the market (or potential market) for the original work(s). No one could reasonably argue that MeatCanyon’s variant represents direct market competition for Warner’s version but the nature of the former could potentially cast the latter in a different light, at least in some eyes.

These are complex and potentially massively expensive matters to definitively conclude (a reference list of ‘fair use’ case outcomes can be found here) so it seems likely that MeatCanyon will accept the strike and move on. TorrentFreak reached out to MeatCanyon for comment but at the time of publication, we were yet to hear back.

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

ACE Coalition Seizes Four More ‘Pirate’ IPTV Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ace-coalition-seizes-four-more-pirate-iptv-domains-200322/

The Alliance for Creativity Entertainment (ACE) is the largest anti-piracy coalition in history. It pools the resources of all the major Hollywood studios plus Netflix, Amazon and dozens of other companies to tackle piracy on a global scale.

ACE has made many announcements over the past couple of years celebrating successful conclusions to multiple operations. Most relate to closures of file-hosting services, IPTV providers and other platforms involved in the unlicensed streaming of movies and TV shows.

However, for reasons best known to the coalition, not all of its investigations are publicized. Many fly under the radar until visitors to once-active websites find themselves being directed to the ACE anti-piracy portal when they expected to find a ‘pirate’ platform.

According to information obtained by TorrentFreak, four new domains have recently begun redirecting to ACE. The first, ausmediastreaming.com.au, comes as no surprise. In early March, ACE revealed that it had secured the closure of the IPTV supplier following a cease-and-desist order.

“The closure of Aus Media Streaming is the latest in a series of victories that can protect Australian creators and ensure that legal services can continue to thrive,” said Karyn Temple, Senior Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel of the Motion Picture Association.

The second fresh domain under ACE/MPA control is watchmoviesfree.com.au. When it was online, the site asked prospective customers whether they wanted to watch “Every single movie, TV show, sporting event, documentary, kids TV and movie ever made, free?”

Concluding that the answer must be “Of course you do”, the site then went on to offer Android-based set-top devices named Octo-Ninja and Ninja-Quad. It’s unclear what was in those devices but either a pre-loaded setup and/or a subscription-based IPTV service seems likely. Before it was taken down, the domain offered an Australian telephone number for people to get in touch.

EmpireTV.ca is the third domain. According to its now disappeared website and Facebook pages, it claimed to be the “top streaming service in Canada”, offering over 5,000 channels plus on-demand movies, TV shows, PPV and more from $9.99 per month.

Various packages were made available by the site, varying in price according to subscription length and levels of content available. The site was previously targeted in a DMCA complaint after supplying German football content without permission. It also had a detailed disclaimer that clearly didn’t cut much ice with ACE.

“We have no association with any of the IP channels shown or any of these products. TV channels and video content of the services are being provided without any liability from us regarding copyrights,” it began.

“Per our knowledge all channels provided by the server sellers abide by all relevant countries copyright laws and any copyright issues must be taken up directly with the server owners. EMPIRETV.CA does not take any liability as to what is aired on the servers and EMPIRETV.CA have NO control over the servers or streams.”

With EmpireTV.ca now redirecting to the ACE portal, the fourth domain to be placed under the anti-piracy group’s control (or more accurately, that of the MPA) is ZeddIPTV.com. Little is known about this supplier but given that it was previously offered via classified listings in Australia, it may have been focused on that region.

Although nothing has been officially confirmed by ACE in respect of ‘seizing’ any of these domains, it seems likely that following pressure from the anti-piracy group, domains were handed over as part of a settlement. ACE has shuttered close to three dozen operations to date but publicized just a few.

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

The Invisible Man, Emma, and The Hunt Hit Pirate Sites After Rushed VOD Releases

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-invisible-man-emma-and-the-hunt-hit-pirate-sites-after-rushed-vod-releases-200321/

For the major Hollywood studios and industry body the MPA, theatrical windows have always been something to vigorously protect.

Supporting the big screen experience and the massive infrastructure behind it is a top priority for the industry overall, not to mention a crucial revenue stream.

Slowly but surely, however, theatrical windows have shortened due to various pressures but nevertheless, day and date cinema and VOD releases have remained a distant prospect for major titles. Then coronavirus happened.

In common with hundreds of business sectors and individuals around the world, the spread of the virus is having a profound effect on cinemas. As preventative measures are put in place, revenues are reportedly down to the lowest levels in twenty-five years. On the other hand, services that can be accessed at home – Netflix for example – are enjoying a boom in usage.

In an effort to cushion the blow, earlier this week Universal Pictures announced that it would be releasing some of its newest movies, that are technically still in their theatrical windows, on digital platforms for rental. As a result, The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma all went on sale Friday at around the $20 mark.

How well these movies will be received and in what volumes consumed remains to be seen but within hours of them appearing on official platforms, the inevitable happened. At the time of writing, all are available for free downloading and streaming on dozens of pirate sites.

Currently available in both 1080p and 720p, The Invisible Man is now being downloaded and streamed by huge numbers of pirates and is currently the most popular of the trio. At this point, most copies are so-called ‘web-rips’ meaning they have been captured from streaming service streams rather than downloaded.

Obtained via the same method, available in the same qualities, and in second place in popularity terms, is horror/thriller movie The Hunt. Emma sits in a distant third place, with mainly lower quality rips and substantially lower levels of consumption.

The big question remains whether this illicit consumption will have a measurable effect on the success of these movies and those that may follow under the ’emergency’ release policy implemented by Universal. Most years big movies have to compete with leaked screener copies so this type of availability isn’t new but it is unprecedented for the content not to have come from ‘leaked’ sources.

If nothing else, the studios now find themselves in the middle of an experiment. Will VOD sales soar as a result of these early releases and if they do, will it be possible to replicate in a more stable environment later on?

Already beleaguered cinema chains will certainly have plenty to say in the months to come and could find themselves in the middle of yet another crisis, beyond what they’re experiencing today.

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

Doom Eternal Debacle May Have Dismantled Denuvo DRM on Debut Day

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/doom-eternal-debacle-may-have-dismantled-denuvo-drm-on-debut-day-1200320/

Originally penciled in for a November 2019 launch, Doom Eternal suffered delays. Id Software and publisher Bethesda said that this was to ensure that the game lived up to the hype.

A few hours ago, in regions that had already ticked over to March 20 (Australia, for example), people began downloading the game from official sources.

Given that the game was already revealed to be using the infamous anti-tamper technology Denuvo, no one really expected a fast ‘pirate’ release. However, a user on Reddit quickly dropped a bombshell.

The player revealed that after paying for and downloading the official Bethesda.net version’s game files, he opened up the main folder and spied the main executable – a 368MB file named DOOMEternalx64vk.exe. However, a secondary folder (located in Doom Eternal\original\) contained a second much smaller .exe file (67MB) with exactly the same name.

What followed is barely believable. According to now numerous reports, it is possible to replace the .exe file in the ‘original’ folder with the main executable and the game still runs. The theory is that the smaller file is the source .exe without Denuvo, while the highly-bloated version is the one ‘infected’ with Denuvo.

This appears to suggest that someone in the supply chain managed to place a DRM-free executable in the purchased game, put it in a folder clearly marked as ‘original’, then served it up for one of the first-ever purchasers to stumble across, apparently with minimum effort. This has led to jokes that the developers have effectively cracked their own game.

As a result, copies of the game are now being shared online and a number of people are reportedly playing the game with no issues. Initially, there was talk that the game crashed after level 3 but that appears to have been driver-related with an update fixing the problem. A Bethesda account is reportedly needed but a solution to that is already being shared on a Russian forum popular with game pirates.

There is still some work to be done before the pirate release appears in the mainstream (repacker ‘Fitgirl’ lists it as ‘coming soon’) but it seems pretty likely that will be today, the day the game was released. Denuvo didn’t even need to be cracked or disabled to make this happen which is unsettling some, who feel it might be some sort of cunning stunt to give pirates a time-limited demo or something similar.

Time will tell…

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

‘Hacked’ Netflix MENA Twitter Account Asks For Movie Torrent Recommendations

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-mena-twitter-hacked-asks-for-movie-torrent-recommendations-200319/

Twitter account hacks are pretty common events, especially for targets that are high profile.

In January, for example, more than a dozen NFL teams temporarily lost control of their accounts. The group behind these breaches previously targeted the accounts of Marvel, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and Netflix.

But while most of these hacks are very obviously what they seem, others can be more ambiguous. Last night, the Netflix Twitter account for the MENA region suddenly started behaving oddly. Down went the familiar ‘N’ logo, only to be replaced by pirate-themed artwork, a pinned tweet containing a GIF of a man rocking back and forth in his car, and a message suggesting a hack.

From here, things got even more bizarre. In a tweet around 45 mins later, the supposedly ‘hijacked’ account reached out to its 735,000 followers with a request for them to suggest movies available on BitTorrent.

Google’s attempt at translating falls short but the consensus is that the Arabic text reads “Give us movie recommendations we can torrent”.

Given that Netflix is part of Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the global anti-piracy coalition dedicated to taking down anything related to piracy, this tweet seemed to support the notion that the account had indeed been hacked.

So, this morning, with the pirate artwork removed and the Netflix logo reinstated, it was no surprise to read that Netflix MENA had regained control of the account after the earlier shenanigans.

“We apologize for the previous tweets,” the company said. “We returned to the account and the actor is being held accountable.”

Somewhat bizarrely, however, none of the earlier tweets posted by the ‘hacker’ were removed. In fact, the Netflix apology was accompanied by a hashtag relating to the hit satirical cartoon series ‘Masameer’ and Masameer: The Movie, which is available to stream…..exclusively on Netflix.

As seen in the tweet below, Netflix MENA also embedded a video featuring two of the characters in the show, one of whom (at least according to our horribly rudimentary Arabic skills) appears to be issuing a forced apology for what happened to the Twitter account yesterday.

We invite any Arabic speakers to write in with a (much) better translation to put us out of our misery but as far as we can tell, the apology read out by the character appears to blame sleep (perhaps a lack of) for the “unfortunate events” on Netflix’s Twitter account. There’s also a suggestion that the problems can be resolved “outside court”.

All things considered, this entire situation is pretty bizarre but if the idea was to draw attention to the new movie, that has been achieved. If it was really a hack, however, then the hacker has probably done Netflix a favor. That might explain why none of ‘his’ tweets have been deleted….

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

Popcorn Time Isn’t “Back From The Dead” But the New Version is Borked

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-isnt-back-because-it-never-went-away-but-new-version-is-borked-200318/

Six years ago, the application known as Popcorn Time did something no other BitTorrent-based tool had ever managed to achieve.

Rejecting bland text-based interfaces and the need to scour multiple torrent sites, Popcorn Time presented content in a beautiful Netflix-style interface. This simplicity resulted in soaring popularity and attention from copyright holders, who did whatever they could to take it down.

However, since the original code was open source, new forks sprang up creating yet another new game of whack-a-mole. A few years ago, Popcorn Time went offline but yesterday was resurrected from the dead with a great new version. At least according to multiple news reports today, none of which are true.

While it’s had its ups and downs over the years, Popcorn Time never went away. Yet this morning it was declared as being “back from the dead”, just in time to entertain people “during the coronavirus pandemic.” This narrative was repeated by several tech publications with at least one claiming that the new version works as well as previous ones. That isn’t true either.

What actually happened was that the people behind one fork of Popcorn Time (considered by some to be the official successor to the original software) published version 0.4 of their variant, announcing the release on Twitter.

Unfortunately for them, the backlash was almost immediate. Users of the software gathering on the official sub-Reddit (/r/popcorntime) listed complaint after complaint, starting with a degraded user interface, traversing sundry other weird issues, and ending with reportedly aggressive VPN marketing.

“This latest update is ridiculous. The whole thing is now borked. It doesn’t work anymore, consumes three times more resources and CPU (to the point my computer hangs) just to pretend it’s loading a show,” one user wrote.

“[A]nd to make things worse, instead of proper information about seeds, download speed and things you need to know whether a torrent is working or not, it just display ads for the shit VPN.”

Only adding to the misery are reports from many users that their previous settings and favorites have been deleted, all accompanied by random software crashes, issues with subtitles, and much more.

When or if these problems will be fixed is anyone’s guess but the current advice is to either don’t upgrade at all or if it’s too late for that, uninstall and go back to the previous version which doesn’t have any of the issues mentioned above and works as it’s always done.

At least as far as this fork goes, version 0.4 is the first update since March 26, 2016, almost four years ago. The reason for the development hiatus isn’t clear but to return with an update that is causing so many issues only adds to the confusion. As a result, people are asking whether this is even the same dev team but given the secrecy that surrounds Popcorn Time forks in general, proving that one way or another isn’t really feasible.

This particular fork has experienced other issues recently too. Early November 2019, the domain registrar handling the PopcornTime.sh domain issued an order to the registry to disable the domain’s DNS access. A little under a week later the domain was functioning again but in January 2020 was disabled after the registrar received a fake legal complaint.

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

Cyber Police Raid Advertising Agency For Working With Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/cyber-police-raid-advertising-agency-for-working-with-pirate-sites-200317/

There are some exceptions but most pirate sites exist due to their ability to make money.

While breaking even is enough for some, many operate on a for-profit basis, generating revenue for their owners as any business might.

In the majority of cases, funding comes from advertising and there is a considerable effort around the world to prevent brands from appearing on pirate sites, thus depriving them of revenue. In Ukraine, however, matters have just escalated to a level not seen before.

The government reports that officers from its cyber police unit in conjunction with the National Police have carried out raids on an advertising agency in Ukraine. The currently unnamed company reportedly helped finance pirate sites by placing advertising on them, police say.

“The cyber police have revealed the creation and functioning of a number of online cinemas in Ukraine. The sites provided users with access to a library of films and series, without the proper permission of the copyright holders. In doing so, they violated their copyrights and related rights and caused considerable material damage,” a statement reads.

“The basis for the profits of such online theaters was advertising. In particular, the sites of these online cinemas featured links to advertising agencies that provided relevant online advertising services. In addition, the most well-known advertisements of well-known international brands were discovered. Thus, the agencies funded the illegal activities of online cinemas.”

Images and a video released by Ukrainian authorities show masked and armed officers entering and searching what appears to be a modern office space in the capital Kiev. Employees of the agencies, whose faces are blurred out to protect their identities, can be seen sitting on bean bags and chairs while the searches are carried out. They are later herded out of the building.

The Ukraine government reports that the advertising and related payments were carried out using an “international platform” ranked among the top three in the market by audience reach. Revenue generated was disbursed via e-wallets using a range of payment systems.

“Law enforcement officers found that the offices of the advertising agency were located in the center of Kiev with a staff of about 50 people. Workers are advertising on pirated resources and transferring money to online wallet administrators’ wallets,” the government adds.

During the raid, police seized servers, computer equipment, documentation, plus other records connected to the alleged criminal offenses. An unspecified amount of cash was also seized on the basis it was obtained from illegal activities.

An aggravating factor, the government says, is that the companies were involved in placing advertising for illegal online gambling platforms on the pirate sites. Lottery games aside, online gambling was outlawed in Ukraine back in 2009.

As the investigation continues, police warn that those found guilty of breaches of copyright law could face prison sentences of between three and six years, with the possibility of additional restrictions that can prevent those convicted from occupying certain positions or engaging in specified activities.

In a separate announcement this morning, police revealed the completion of a pre-trial investigation into the activities of a 30-year-old man said to have operated more than two dozen pirate video sites.

“The person involved administrated the websites and gave Internet users access to watch and copy movies without the permission of the copyright holder,” the statement reads.

“The income of the suspect was paid for by advertising that was placed on his online resources. The material damage caused to the rights holders, represented in Ukraine by the Ukrainian Anti-Piracy Association, is about four million hryvnias (US$150,000).”

Having appeared on the United States Trade Representatives’ Priority Watch List again last year, authorities in Ukraine are acutely aware of the need to show they are taking action against piracy.

“It should be noted that Ukraine has been included in the list of countries that violate intellectual property rights and harm the economic interests of the rights holders. Therefore, the cyber police are making every effort to minimize the use of pirated content within the state,” the government concludes.

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

As Police Investigate Share-Online Operators, Uploaders & Users Could Be Next

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/as-police-investigate-share-online-operators-uploaders-users-could-be-next-200316/

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, over many years Germany became disproportionately linked to many file-hosting, streaming, and other piracy platforms. As a result, anti-piracy investigations have regularly turned into full-blown police operations, often across borders.

Last October, Share-Online.biz, at the time Germany’s largest file-hosting site, found itself in the crosshairs of law enforcement agencies. With up to 10 million users per month and close to three-quarters of visitors hailing from Germany, the site went from thriving to finished after police shut down the site following an investigation by local anti-piracy outfit GVU.

GVU first filed a criminal complaint in 2017 and had to wait more than two years to take down Share-Online but the job isn’t done yet. Authorities seized huge volumes of digital data when the site was taken down last year and it will have to be carefully examined and evaluated as part of the prosecution against the site’s operators.

The state of that analysis became apparent when German publication Tarnkappe spoke with local cybercrime police (ZAC NRW) on Friday. A spokesperson revealed that the investigation is still in progress with charges and/or a trial somewhere off in the distance. The scale of the work ahead appears considerable.

“The evaluation of the seized data is still ongoing and will probably take some time. Data in the three-digit terabyte range was seized. The evaluation is accordingly extremely complex,” the spokesperson said.

That huge volumes of data were scooped up during the raids is hardly a surprise given the size of the platform. The big question is what will be done with the evidence uncovered and who will be targeted as a result.

At the time of the raid, three people were placed under investigation aged 40, 48, and 54. It’s unclear whether these are the suspected operators of Share-Online but according to police, prosecutions could go beyond those at the top.

“Our investigations are currently directed against the operators of the platform,” the spokesperson said.

“If identification is possible, subsequent investigations against the uploaders and possibly also against downloaders are realistic scenarios. For reasons of capacity, we will certainly proceed in a layered manner in the investigations and, in due course, may initially focus on the top uploaders.”

In any anti-piracy investigation, this explanation makes perfect sense. Targeting those at the very top is standard procedure and given that many of the top uploaders are likely to have generated a considerable financial return from the content they provided, they are logical targets.

However, when it comes to regular customers (i.e those who simply downloaded content) the prospect of lots of prosecutions seems slim. Share-Online had millions of users so while the potential to pick out a handful of particularly egregious individuals for further action is possible, one has to conclude that the vast majority will be overlooked, if only due to a lack of resources.

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

‘Pirate’ iTunes Download Site and Three Others Targeted By the RIAA

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-itunes-download-site-and-three-others-targeted-by-the-riaa-200315/

Despite the fact that most modern music is readily available for free on ad-supported platforms such as YouTube and Spotify, a thriving market for pirated content remains.

While streaming is convenient and mostly cheap, part of the lure of pirate sites is that music can be downloaded to users’ machines, to be played back whenever they like, with or without an Internet connection and associated costs.

The threat from unlicensed sources is actively countered by groups such as the RIAA, which is regularly seen targeting so-called YouTube-downloader sites via legal action and DMCA anti-circumvention notices. However, there are also efforts to identify the people behind these sites and the weapon of choice in that respect appears to be the DMCA subpoena.

The latest, filed by the RIAA at a district court in Columbia, targets a handful of unlicensed music platforms, all of which use or have used the services of Cloudflare. The theory is that the CDN company holds information on the operators of these sites so if the RIAA can gain access to that too, something can be done to disrupt their activities.

“We have learned that your service is hosting the below-referenced websites on its network,” the RIAA’s latest subpoena to Cloudflare reads.

“These websites are offering recording s which are owned by one or more of our member companies and have not been authorized for this kind os use, including without limitation that referenced at the URLs below. We have a good faith belief that this activity is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”

The first unlicensed site targeted by the RIAA is iPlusFree.org, a music download site that appears to specialize in tracks culled from iTunes.

iPlusFree isn’t a particularly big platform when compared to some of the most popular YouTube-ripping sites and if anything its traffic has been reducing over the past several months. However, at least a quarter of the site’s traffic comes from the United States so the RIAA appears keen to unmask its operators for offering tracks by prominent artists without permission.

They include The Other Side (SZA & Justin Timberlake), Rare by Selena Gomez, and A Boogie wit da Hoodie by Artist 2.0.

The three other sites listed in the DMCA subpoena do not appear particularly popular in the United States. However, the RIAA will be concerned by their popularity in South America, Brazil in particular, where the trio are thriving.

From virtually no traffic at all six months ago, Asmelhores.net (Portuguese: ‘The Best’) is now enjoying more than 360,000 visits per month, with 97% of users hailing from Brazil.
Baixarcdscompletos.net (Portuguese: ‘Download Complete CDs’), the second most-trafficked site in the list with 340,000 visits per month, is also big in Brazil with a similar percentage of traffic.

With more than 218,000 visits per month according to SimilarWeb, Xandaodownload.net is also dominated by traffic from the same region. Unlike the others, however, the site also offers non-musical content including movies, TV shows, software and games.

This trio are accused of offering unlicensed copies of tracks from Red Hot Chili Peppers (Scar Tissue), Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana), Sexx Dreams (Lady Gaga), Daydream (Maria Carey), plus several others.

“As is stated in the attached subpoena, you are required to disclose to the RIAA information sufficient to identify the infringers,” the letter to Cloudflare reads. “This would include the individuals’ names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account history.”

The subpoena was signed off by a court clerk in the District of Columbia three days after it was filed, with two of those days covered by a weekend. It requires Cloudflare to hand over the personal details requested by the music industry group by 17:00 on March 13, 2020.

Whether Cloudflare holds any useful information will remain to be seen. All four sites are operational at the time of writing.

The RIAA’s subpoena to Cloudflare can be obtained here (pdf)

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

Serious Copyright Infringers Face Up to Six Years in Prison Under New Swedish Law

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/serious-copyright-infringers-face-up-to-six-years-in-prison-under-new-swedish-law-200314/

For more than a decade, rightsholders and anti-piracy groups in Sweden have criticized the scale of the penalties available for courts to hand down in cases of serious copyright infringement.

Perhaps the most famous case, involving the people behind The Pirate Bay, ended with defendants Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström originally receiving eight, ten and four months in prison. As things stand the absolute maximum sentence is two years. The government now wants to challenge the status quo with changes to the law that will see the most egregious infringers jailed for much longer.

The amendments, which began with a 2017 investigation and cover many aspects of intellectual property including patents and trademarks, were first tabled more than two years ago. According to an announcement by the Swedish government, they have now been passed to the Law Council for consideration.

“There has been significant social development since the penalties for intellectual property infringement took their present form,” the government writes in its submission.

“The meaning of intellectual property rights has increased substantially at the same time as large-scale and industrially-operated infringement operations. This has serious consequences for society as a whole.

“It is therefore important that criminal law is designed so that this type of crime can be met with penalties commensurate with the seriousness of the offense. Therefore, in the Law Council’s remit, it is proposed that the penalties for the most serious cases of intellectual property infringement are sharpened and special penalties for intentional serious crimes are introduced in all intellectual property laws.”

To this end and in addition to regular fines, the proposals envision a two-tiered approach.

Less serious copyright infringement offenses will still be punishable by up to two years in prison (‘copyright infringement’) but should a crime be considered serious (‘gross copyright infringement’), the government wants to set a minimum of six months detention. This category of offenders, who will have shown an intent to commit large scale crime, face up to six years’ imprisonment.

To determine whether an intellectual property infringement is gross or serious, the government says that particular consideration must be given to whether the crime was preceded by special planning, part of a crime that was organized and/or extensive, or was of a “particularly dangerous nature.”

As previously reported, the government also looked at whether amendments would be required to more easily seize all kinds of property in response to infringement, including intangible assets such as domain names. This was most likely a nod towards the Pirate Bay case which dragged on for several years before the state was able to take over the thepiratebay.se domain.

In the event, the final proposals note that changes to confiscation standards can be omitted since developments in case law have rendered them unnecessary.

“There should be no new provisions introduced in intellectual property laws on the seizure of property which can reasonably be believed to be subject to confiscation. There is also no need for changes in the law regarding the handling of domain names that have been forfeited,” the proposals read.

“In case law, it has been found that the right to a domain name used as a means of committing copyright infringement constitutes such property that may be forfeited under the provisions of the Copyright Act. Also in relation to the general rules on the use of [infringement tools] in Chapter 36 of the Criminal Code it has been found in practice that any form of property can be forfeited.”

After consideration by the Law Council, the legislative amendments (pdf, Swedish) are proposed to enter into force on September 1, 2020.

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Spotify Hits Windows Software That Downloads Tracks & Removes DRM

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spotify-hits-windows-software-that-downloads-tracks-removes-drm-200313/

With more than 271 million users across 79 markets, Spotify is the most popular music streaming service in the world.

Its 50 million song library is accessed by 124 million paying subscribers, who gain additional features such as an ad-free experience and the ability to download tracks to their own devices for offline listening. These tracks are encrypted so can’t be used outside the Spotify software, at least by conventional means.

One tool that turns this business model on its head is Windows-based application XSpotify. The tool has gained popularity for a number of reasons, not least its ability to remove DRM from the tracks stored in Spotify’s extensive library and permanently download them for keeping on users’ machines.

XSpotify has been quietly growing its userbase, offering track downloads from both free Spotify accounts (in 160 kb/s, 32-bit, 44100 Hz .ogg) and premium accounts (in 320 kb/s, 32-bit, 44100 Hz .ogg) while pulling down metadata such as artist, title, and album covers. Considering the above and its ability to block ads, it’s no surprise that Spotify eventually took legal action to tackle the spread of the tool.

This week, Washington-based law firm Perkins Coie LLP sent a broad takedown notice to Github, where XSpotify was available for download, citing breaches of the DMCA by the app and its developer.

“Copyrighted files on Spotify’s services are protected by encryption. Spotify uses a key to decrypt the copyrighted files so legitimate users can listen to the copyrighted files through the Spotify services. Spotify’s encryption system prevents users from listening to copyrighted works without Spotify’s decryption key,” the notice reads.

“XSpotify states that it is a ‘DRM bypass’ that allows users to ‘Download all songs directly from Spotify servers.’ XSpotify’s technology circumvents Spotify’s encryption by stealing the Spotify key and using it in a way Spotify prohibits, namely, enabling users to access encrypted copyrighted content without authorization.

“By providing technology that circumvents Spotify’s access controls, XSpotify violates 17 U.S.C. §§ 1201(a)(2),” the law firm writes.

The section of US law cited by Spotify’s attorneys is clear. Among other things, it states that no person shall offer any technology to the public that is “primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.”

In addition to removing the main XSpotify repository, Github was also ordered to delete almost 130 others that carried forks of the popular tool. At the time of writing, every repository reported by Spotify as infringing has been removed. Of course, XSpotify is still available for download from other locations but whether its developer will continue his work after this warning shot is yet to be seen.

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

Red Dead Redemption: Damned Enhancement Modder Counters Take-Two Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/red-dead-redemption-damned-enhancement-modder-counters-take-two-lawsuit-200312/

Last August, calls for Take Two Interactive’s Red Dead Redemption (RDR1) to land on PC appeared they might be answered by the developer behind the ‘Red Dead Redemption: Damned Enhancement Project’.

The supposed plan of ‘DamnedDev’ (real name Johnathan Wyckoff) was to modify the Xbox360 and PS3 versions of RDR1 and bring the game to the PC while improving the game with better graphics and additional features. In September 2019, however, Wyckoff revealed that he was being “bullied” by a corporation. A lawsuit filed at a New York court in December revealed that Take-Two was taking action to bring the project to an end.

Citing breaches of its intellectual property rights (direct and contributory copyright infringement) and user licensing agreements, Take-Two said that it had repeatedly asked Wyckoff to cease and desist but when the project continued, it had no other choice than to take legal action. It did so on two grounds.

Firstly, the lawsuit targeted the RDRII Project, which reportedly aimed to add the RDR1 game map to RDR2. It went on to make claims about the Damned Enhancement Project, which would reportedly enable users to play RDR1 on PC, where it isn’t officially available, “thereby destroying the market for an official, updated version from Take-Two, and creating competition for Take-Two’s PC-version of RDR2.”

The case has been rolling on for several months now and this week Wyckoff filed an answer to Take-Two’s lawsuit along with a series of counterclaims.

Describing himself as an “enthusiastic player” and modifier of Take-Two videogames, Wyckoff first provides a short background on what modding is all about, such as improving game graphics or changing features. He claims that this activity is accepted by gaming companies which typically publish a ‘mod policy’ to explain what type of mods are allowed. He believes that he acted within the boundaries set out in the Rockstar/Take-Two policy.

“Defendant believes it was acting in accordance with the Plaintiff’s published policy on ‘PC Single-Player Mods’ which says that ‘Take-Two has agreed that it generally will not take legal action against third-party projects involving Rockstar’s PC games that are single-player, non-commercial, and respect the intellectual property (IP) rights of third parties,” Wyckoff’s answer reads, referencing the document below.

From here, Wyckoff refutes many of Take-Two’s allegations, including that his RDR2 mod “did not contain maps” from the original RDR1 game and that the publisher’s description of the mod appeared to describe a previous mod he developed (RDRV) “that was abandoned in 2017 at the request of the Plaintiff.”

As the above ‘mod policy’ lays out, to meet the criteria any mod must be non-commercial. In its lawsuit, Take-Two implied that donations solicited by Wyckoff were used to create the “infringing programs” which were then used to “drive followers” to his social media and streaming accounts. Wyckoff sees things differently.

“Defendant asserts that it is a hobbyist and worked on the project without expecting or soliciting compensation for the mod,” he writes. “Defendant denies receiving any compensation for its mod projects.”

In its lawsuit, Take-Two wrote that it had hoped to settle the dispute with Wyckoff without resorting to the courts. However, the company claims that rather than ending his activities, Wyckoff suggested that the project might get “leaked” by him or others. In his answer, Wyckoff admits to discussions with Take-Two but denies that he ever threatened to leak the project online. In any event, he says he’s in no position to do so.

“Defendant no longer has access to the mod project files and does not intend to redevelop them,” he writes. “Defendant will not restart work on the now-lost mod files and has expressly agreed to same,” he adds, noting that all claims that Take-Two has been injured in any way are also refuted, not least since the mods were never released.

In conclusion, Wyckoff says that since everything he did was within the parameters of Take-Two’s ‘mod policy’, all copyright infringement claims should be rejected and the court should issue a declaration to that effect or, in the alternative, determine that Wyckoff is an innocent infringer.

Finally, he points to the fact that Take-Two’s ‘user agreement’ contains a clause that compels parties in dispute to enter into an arbitration process (that Take-Two must pay for) to settle their differences. Wyckoff wants that to happen.

Wyckoff’s answer, affirmative defenses and counterclaims can be found here (pdf)

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

Japanese Government Approves New Bill to Criminalize Manga Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/japanese-government-approves-new-bill-to-criminalize-manga-piracy-200311/

Since 2012, downloading unlicensed music and movies from the Internet in Japan has been prohibited under the country’s Copyright Act and in theory punishable by up to two years in prison.

Limitations of the law meant that downloading manga and other literary works wasn’t covered by the legislation, something which drew the ire of the publishing sector. In response, early last year the Cultural Affairs Agency proposed an expansion of the law to cover all copyrighted content but things didn’t go smoothly.

Due to the breadth of the proposals, some feared that even private copying of images, for example, could be rendered illegal and punishable by a potential prison sentence. In an abrupt turnaround, however, the planned copyright amendments were shelved by the government after being rattled by protests over the implications.

After months of deliberations, the government has just approved a new bill that aims to address the concerns of copyright holders and those averse to the more draconian aspects of the original proposals.

The draft legislation criminalizes the downloading of unlicensed manga, magazines and academic publications from the Internet. The penalties will be brought into line for those already in place for music and movies with a maximum two-year prison sentence and/or a fine of two million yen (US$19,118). The most severe penalties will be reserved for egregious and repeat offenders.

In a step back from earlier proposals, Internet users will be allowed to download some image-based and academic content for limited private use in order not to stifle the flow of information and education, provided that activity does not impact copyright holders. Where the precise boundaries lie is currently unclear, however.

The government has provided some examples, such as the use of a single frame from a much larger manga publication or saving a single image from a social media site that was uploaded without permission. In the near future, to clear up any uncertainty, it will offer advisories to the public to ensure that people understand what they can and can’t do with copyrighted content to keep within the new law.

“We struck the right balance between securing effective measures against piracy and avoiding people from being discouraged in efforts to collect information,” Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiuda told a press conference, as per Mainichi.

One aspect that is perfectly clear is the outlawing of so-called “leech” sites. These platforms, known in the West as linking or indexing sites, do not carry any copyrighted content themselves but provide hyperlinks to infringing material hosted elsewhere.

Operating such a service in Japan will become punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of five million yen (US$47,780). The latest estimates suggest that there may be up 200 of these “leech” sites in the country, a figure the government is hoping to reduce.

The new copyright legislation regarding the downloading of literary works is expected to come into force on January 1, 2021. However, operators of linking sites will have less time to adjust, with the new penalties applying from October 1, 2020.

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

Viral Marketing Firm is Pirating Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video & HBO Go

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/viral-marketing-firm-is-pirating-netflix-disney-prime-video-hbo-go-200310/

The legal online movie and TV show streaming landscape has expanded rapidly in recent years but has now developed its own issues.

From having no platforms just a few years ago, there are now many with each attempting to create space for their own exclusive offerings. As a result, consumers must now subscribe to them all at great expense to get everything they desire, something that most wallets are averse to.

At least ostensibly, this is the problem being addressed by AllTheStreams.fm, a self-proclaimed ‘pirate radio’ video site. At the time of writing it is streaming shows from Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, HBO Now, Prime Video and Showtime, all for free.

When we tuned in we were greeted by The Office from Netflix and The Mandalorian from Disney+.

Of course, the latest Disney shows being streamed online for free isn’t something one should ever expect. The AllTheStreams ‘manifesto’ is curious too.

“Netflix has all the Netflix stuff, Disney has all the Disney stuff, and never the twain shall meet. Let’s change that, however briefly,” it reads.

“Whenever media becomes inaccessible, piracy thrives again – from the 1960’s BBC 1-hour limit on pop music, to the iTunes store mp3 tyranny of the 00s. Today, All The Streams comes in response to the fragmentation and walled-garden paradigm that has risen to prominence for online video streaming services.”

The people behind AllTheStreams say they don’t care about several things, including but perhaps not limited to user-utility, scalability and terms of service. “All The Streams is made to revel in platform independence, and to demonstrate how even the most lo-fi hacks can be the equal of giants. We’re going to play anything and everything we feel like,” the manifesto continues.

“We’re going to make a frankensteinian playlist of media that none of these streaming platforms could ever recommend to you because it would cost them the profits of their exclusively-owned content. Sit back and enjoy the ride: like all pirate media offerings, we’re doing this for you.”

Given the tone, one could be forgiven for thinking that AllTheStreams.fm had just redirected to the PR department of The Pirate Bay, which is bizarrely half the way there. While The Pirate Bay has nothing to do with this site, the people behind it are a PR department of sorts.

In the bottom right-hand corner of the site are five fairly familiar letters – MSCHF. Said quickly we hear ‘mischief’, something that the company of the same name has caused plenty of.

MSCHF is a marketing company that claims to run on “structured chaos“. It previously developed a browser add-on that disguised Netflix viewing as a conference call, launched an Internet restaurant that transformed corporate perks into a tool to attack corporations, and sold Air Max 97s with ‘Holy Water’ in the sole.

So what’s this latest campaign all about? TorrentFreak spoke with CEO Gabriel Whaley who didn’t give away too much but pretty much admitted that the campaign is infringing copyrights.

“We don’t have any permissions to be running this whatsoever. But once one network shuts us down, five stand in their place!” he said.

That sounds a little bit like the pirate mantra (shut down one site, another five will appear) completely turned on its head, which is another curiosity. We put it to Whaley that if AllTheStreams doesn’t have permission to stream The Mandalorian online to the masses for free, then it’s possible that the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment could be paying a visit quite soon.

We received no response to that thought but given MSCHF’s record, of engaging in over-the-top stunts to gain exposure, the legal aspect must have at least crossed the company’s mind. We asked if a calculation had been done to balance the potential marketing exposure against potential legal fees and what the endgame might be, but that didn’t help much either.

“Haha,” Whaley added. “MSCHF’s only endgame is the endgame itself.”

It’s almost impossible to work out what MSCHF is trying to achieve here. Maybe they have some kind of plan to bring all streaming services under one roof at a fair price and if so, that would be impressive, if brutally obvious. Given their history, however, it’s more likely they’re hoping to sell out a new line of exclusive sports clothing for cats made entirely of cheese.

If the company is looking for exposure, which it most certainly is, it has the right recipe here. Perhaps Disney will supply the crackers. Or the lawyers.

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