Tag Archives: afeat

Free Spotify and YouTube Users Are Now a Bigger Challenge Than Music Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/free-spotify-and-youtube-users-are-now-a-bigger-challenge-than-music-pirates-190721/

Pirate site blocking has proven to be a rather effective copyright enforcement tool in many countries.

Italy, one of the European frontrunners, has taken a particularly active approach. In recent years, thousands of domain names have been added to the nation’s pirate blocklist, following complaints from a wide range of copyright holders.

It is not just the numbers that set Italy apart, the blocking mechanism itself is unique as well. To have a website blocked, rightsholders can ask the local telecoms watchdog Agcom to issue an order, without need for a trial.

Instead of dealing with blockades in court, Agcom has the power to grant injunctions without judicial overview, which it does on a regular basis. Over the past year alone, 385 blocking orders were issued by the telecoms watchdog.

The site blocking efforts have obviously decreased traffic to the targeted sites, but according to data released by Agcom, the number of visits to all pirate sites combined has dropped too. As shown below, the number of mobile and desktop visits to pirate sites decreased more than a third (35%) between 2018 and 2019. 

The downward traffic trend is visible across all types of piracy sites but, logically, the traffic drop for the blocked sites is most pronounced. The graph below shows that the number of visitors to blocked sites tank swiftly after a new blocking order is issued. 

For example, in January 2019 2conv.com (blue line) and flv2mp3.by (green line) were blocked, and soon after, the visitor numbers went down. 

Agcom and various entertainment industry groups are happy with the overall impact. They believe that, after many years, they finally managed to get a grip on piracy.

TorrentFreak spoke to Enzo Mazza, chief at Italian music industry group FIMI, who believes that a combination of site blocking and educational campaigns has paid off.

“The first major blockade targeted the Pirate Bay in 2008 and the case was confirmed by the Supreme Court. In terms of market impact, site blocking has proven to be effective in conjunction with the increase of the legal offer,” Mazza says.

“The Agcom regulation played a great role, also in terms of education and awareness. Most of the blocked sites have a landing page, created by Agcom and shown by the ISPs, which explains visitors how to reach legal sites.”

While this is positive news for the Italian music industry, it doesn’t mean that all is well. Mazza informs us that there are bigger problems than piracy. Ironically, these problems are linked to the legal alternatives many pirates have switched to. 

“The main issue here is not piracy. It’s how to convert people from free YouTube and Spotify accounts to premium services,” Mazza says.”Italy is a country where the ‘culture of free’ is radicated and it’s not easy to drag people into a subscription model.”

Nearly 90% of Italian music consumers use YouTube to stream music, which is a problem for the industry. While these people are enjoying music legally, record labels would like to see these people converted into paying customers.

“Conversion rates are still below the global average and this is a major challenge for the industry. We are urging in particular Spotify to do more in terms of promotional campaigns in order to engage new premium customers,” Mazza says. 

So, while the website blocking efforts have helped to bring piracy rates down, this isn’t immedially resulting in much more revenue.

The next step is to convert these same people into paying subscribers. However, this should be done witch caution, as cutting the free options could simply drive people back to pirate sites. 

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

Alleged KickassTorrents Founder Continues to Fight US Extradition

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/alleged-kickasstorrents-founder-continues-to-fight-us-extradition-190720/

On July 20th, 2016, exactly three years ago today, the torrent community was in dire straits.

Polish law enforcement officers had just apprehended Artem Vaulin, the alleged founder of KickassTorrents (KAT), at a local airport.

The arrest was part of a U.S. criminal case which also listed two other men as key players. At the time, KAT was the most-used torrent site around, so the authorities couldn’t have hit a more prominent target.

The criminal case marked the end of the torrent site and the start of a lengthy legal battle for the suspected operator.

To this day, Vaulin remains in limbo. March 2017, the Warsaw District Court ruled in first instance that the alleged KickassTorrents owner can be extradited. However, more than two years have now passed and the final ruling has yet to come in. 

Vaulin is currently out on bail awaiting the final decision on the extradition request from the United States, while the other two defendants are still at large.

Over the past year, there have been no official updates. Vaulin’s defense team informed us that things haven’t really moved. In addition, a new status report filed by US Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. this week shows that there’s little progress.

“Defendant is still undergoing extradition proceedings in Poland, and the parties are not currently aware of a timetable for a resolution of those proceedings,” Lausch Jr. informed the court. 

Status update

The case’s status hearing, which was initially scheduled for last Wednesday, has now been postponed until October. It’s unclear, however, whether there will be any progress by then.

Back in 2016, the defense team submitted a motion to dismiss the entire case. Among other things, it argued that torrent files themselves are not copyrighted content. The court decided, however, that the US Government’s case is strong enough to continue.

Since that decision, more than two years ago, there hasn’t been any progress as both parties await the extradition decision. 

Meanwhile, it’s pretty clear that the original KickassTorrents is not coming back. The site’s spirit remains online, though. Several former staffers of the site relaunched a KAT spinoff late 2016, and that site is still going strong. 

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

Google Fined Again For Not Removing Banned Sites From Search Results

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-fined-again-for-not-removing-banned-sites-from-search-results-190720/

In order to control what kind of information its citizens have access to online, Russia operates an Internet ‘blacklist’.

Known locally as FGIS (Unified Register of Prohibited Information), the database contains the domains of thousands of sites containing anything from extremist material to pirated copies of movies and TV shows.

Major online technology platforms are expected to interface with FGIS to ensure they receive up-to-date information on which sites are forbidden in Russia. In the case of search engines, the database provides details on which sites should be removed from search results.

After failing to connect its systems to the FGIS and deindexing sites as required, last December Google was fined by Russian authorities. That was followed by threats from local telecoms watch Roscomnadzor early 2019 that the US-based company could be fined again for non-compliance, as well as facing a potential block itself.

In February 2019 it was reported that Google was finally playing ball and everything was running more smoothly. However, that appears not have been the case. According to an announcement published this week by Roscomnadzor, Google has been fined again.

“The company has not complied with the requirements of the law..[..]..by excluding from search results links to Internet resources with illegal information, access to which is restricted in Russia,” Roscomndazor said.

“The control event recorded that Google carries out selective filtering of search results – more than a third of the links from a single registry of prohibited information are still preserved in its search results.”

Explaining that Google has been told repeatedly of the legal requirements in Russia, the watchdog revealed that the fine handed down was 700,000 rubles – just US$11,098 – a drop in the ocean as far as Google is concerned.

Digital rights group Roscomsvoboda reports that in April 2019, Google had removed 80% of the specified banned content from its search results. However, data covering the period ending May, for which the fine was levied, showed that removal levels had fallen to 67.5%.

Last month, when Google learned that it was in line for another fine after a warning from Roscomnadzor, the company expressed surprise.

“We have not changed anything. A couple of months ago we agreed that we will not connect to the registry of banned sites and will not blindly delete anything, but consider requests to delete content, and where it meets the requirements, we remove content from the Russian service,” a spokesperson said.

“We do not understand why Roscomnadzor is talking about a new case or where they get these figures from.”

Whether Google will eventually connect to the FGIS isn’t clear. It currently receives a daily list of sites to be blocked and acts on those as it sees fit. Only time will tell whether that will be enough for Roscomndazor moving forward.

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

Stream-Rippers Successfully Counter YouTube’s Blocking Efforts

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/stream-rippers-successfully-counter-youtubes-blocking-efforts-190719/

After the music industry complained about YouTube stream-rippers for many years, the streaming service took a drastic measure last week.

As first reported here, YouTube began blocking several popular stream-ripping tools, which resulted in these sites becoming unusable.

YouTube didn’t repond to our request for comment, but it appeared to be a concerted efforts to prevent outsiders from downloading music from the platform. A big move, which generated widespread attention, all the way up to the US Congress.

House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, reportedly reached out to Google in response. Nadler is a driving force behind many copyright reform proposals and known as a staunch advocate of a more aggresive anti-piracy approach by tech companies.

According to CNET, Nadler was interested in hearing more about the blocking measures, and he’s not alone. Several music industry insiders have shown a keen interest in the developments as well, and the RIAA is cautiously optimistic following the news.

“While we do not yet know how effective these new measures are, we applaud YouTube for taking affirmative steps towards shutting down the fastest growing form of music piracy,” RIAA boss Mitch Glazier said.

YouTube, meanwhile, has yet to respond to our request for more details. CNET was more lucky, and quotes the video platform stating that “some MP3 stream ripping sites” were blocked after the platform made some changes recently.

“It’s our desire to be good partners to our content licensors as our interests are aligned on thwarting violative downloads and downloader site,” YouTube added in a statement.

While YouTube is happy to side with the music industry and the music industry is pleased with the enforcement efforts, the blocked sites are not sitting still. As is often the case when something becomes blocked online, people quickly find ways to thwart or circumvent the efforts.

And indeed, little over a week after the blocking efforts started, many of the targeted sites are able to rip MP3s from YouTube again.

Mp3-youtube.download almost instantly announced that it was working on a fix and today the site is working just fine. The same is true for Dlnowsoft.com, which was also blocked last week, as well as the massively popular Onlinevideoconverter.com, which is among the top 200 most-visited sites on the Internet.

Ripping again…

TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of a stream-ripping site who prefers to remain anonymous. He confirmed that bypassing YouTube’s block wasn’t that complicated. Simply moving the site to new IP-addresses did the trick.

“To fix the problem, we simply used other servers that are not in the range of IP-addresses blocked by YouTube,” the operator of the stream-ripping site informed us.

If YouTube is indeed serious about its efforts to take out ‘voliative’ stream-ripping sites, it will likely block the new IP-addresses as well, eventually. This will then trigger a proverbial cat and mouse game, one we know all too well from other pirate site blocking efforts.

Although it’s unlikely that YouTube can completely ban stream-ripping sites from its platform, continued blocking efforts may eventually prompt some site operators and users to give up. Whether these users will switch to legal services or other ”free’ resources, remains a question, of course.

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

Is Innovation Making Casual Pirates Less Knowledgable?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/is-innovation-making-casual-pirates-less-knowledgable-190721/

Anyone with a technically-minded older relative happy to reminisce over their particular ‘golden age’ of motoring is likely to dwell for a moment on a particular train of thought.

Cars today are oversized computers, ones that are designed to be mechanically inaccessible to the regular Joe. Unlike their predecessors, elders argue, they often require specialist tools for repairs, adding that today’s vehicles are not made like they used to be.

Whether one agrees with these points is an individual matter, but it’s difficult to argue that in the face of rising technology, regular motorists are now less likely than ever to tackle even a basic oil change, previously the most simple of maintenance tasks.

In many respects, the same can be said of today’s consumer computing environments.

Enthusiasts of yesteryear had to be well-versed in languages like MS-DOS or BASIC simply to get by, which helped them to understand a great deal more about how their machines actually worked. Today’s graphical interfaces have all but demolished those barriers to entry, meaning there are now millions of people who class clicking icons as the height of ‘programming’ expertise.

For today’s casual pirates, this could be a ticking timebomb.

This week, Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director of the MPA in Europe, published an interesting piece titled “Piracy Went from Geeky to Easy. What’s Next?”

“[W]hile the makers innovate, so do the takers,” McCoy wrote.

“In the last 15 years, piracy went from geeky to easy. Transmission technologies improved with the advent of streaming, and delivery via new apps and devices bridged the divide between the PC and the living room.

“Today’s piracy has become a very different type of organized crime: more sophisticated, tech intensive, very elusive, and massive in scale. Where will it go next? Increasingly, industry antipiracy efforts are bending the trajectory from geeky, to easy, to … broken.”

McCoy’s argument goes as follows;

Piracy was once the realm of the technically minded but as technologies developed – pirate streaming sites, Kodi add-ons, dedicated apps, IPTV – it became very easy and more accessible to the masses. However, with numerous anti-piracy initiatives underway, piracy is more easily broken.

Add-ons suddenly fail, app creators and their tools ‘mysteriously’ disappear, IPTV platforms become less reliable. In this new and somewhat dumbed-down piracy world, access can be switched off in an instant, sometimes by hitting just one component in a system.

At this point, the more seasoned pirate will argue that none of these things present a problem for them. Add-ons can be reconfigured, new sites pop up to replace the last, new app makers fill in the gaps, and so on and so forth. Which, generally speaking, is correct. However, for the less well informed, these things are much more of a headache.

Casual pirates – the friend or colleague who bought a “loaded Firestick” off Craigslist or eBay – make up a huge proportion of today’s pirating masses. And the vast majority haven’t a clue how anything really works. To cite McCoy, “95 percent of TV piracy is driven by purpose-built set-top boxes.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that 100% of these boxes are owned by tech-illiterates, far from it. However, it seems very likely that the screaming majority have little to no idea how their device works, or what to do when it all goes wrong. The ‘blame’ for this can be placed squarely at the feet of technology and plug-and-play culture.

As piracy has grown more sophisticated, partly due to evolution and partly due to anti-piracy measures, much of the brainpower has become entrenched behind the scenes. Like the people who fix modern cars using a laptop and a ‘black magic’ cable, many pirates rely completely on the wizardry of a tiny minority to get them out of a jam.

To put it another way, Joe Public’s ability to carry out the equivalent of a simple oil change is being lost, largely due to pirated content being presented to them as a sophisticated pre-cooked meal on a plate, made using a recipe that few know about or even care to understand.

To an extent, piracy has always been like this. In general terms, the brains have always been at the top while those at the bottom take what’s available. That said, today’s prevalence of “click-and-get” apps and services means that few have the motivation to learn anything technical while those that do can run into trouble.

Thanks to pirate sites and apps being downranking and removed from search results (sometimes after a lawsuit), combined with the opportunism of the malicious-minded, it’s now harder than ever for the novice to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“Try looking for alternatives on a search engine and you’re more likely than ever to get malware and clickbait sites posing as pirates. Are you feeling lucky?” McCoy asked this week.

While the more technically advanced will dismiss the above paragraph as scare tactics, McCoy’s comments can hold true for the casual user. It’s becoming a minefield out there for novices and unless people take the time to study and do their own research, bad things always have the potential to happen.

It will probably take many more years for the piracy ‘brain drain’ to show its full effects but the popularity and ease of today’s ultra-simple and feature-rich pirate apps and services could potentially end up as a positive for entertainment companies.

Will the casual pirating masses spend days, months or years learning how to do piracy the ‘old school’ way when things go pear-shaped, or dump a few dollars a month into a couple of legal services and get the headaches over and done with?

As usual, time will tell.

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

UK ISPs Stop Sending Copyright Infringement Notices

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-isps-stop-sending-copyright-infringement-notices-190719/

Every day, millions of Internet users obtain movies, music, TV shows, and other content from peer-to-peer networks, mainly BitTorrent.

The only ways to reach these users to stop or correct their behavior is via aggressive and controversial lawsuits or infringement notifications sent via ISPs. Both options are unpopular with pirates but the latter is clearly the softer option, especially when that allows rightsholders to turn a negative into a plus.

In 2014, rightsholders and several ISPs in the UK agreed terms on what would be known as VCAP – the Voluntary Copyright Alert Program.

Entertainment companies, for their part, would monitor file-sharing networks for infringement, logging pirates’ IP addresses as they went. These would be tracked back to ISPs who agreed to forward warning emails to subscriber accounts linked to the alleged piracy, without compromising customers’ privacy.

As part of the broader government-funded Creative Content UK (CCUK) initiative, the notices would be firm in tone but would also direct alleged pirates to a portal where they could learn more about why they had received the notice and where legitimate content could be obtained.

The accompanying educational program was expected to launch in the summer of 2015 but there was little immediate fanfare. By December that year, things did get on the move but a year later, no notices had yet been sent out by participating ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, Sky, and TalkTalk.

A month or so later, that position changed with an announcement that notices were imminent. Soon after, the first news of notices appearing in the wild began to emerge online. However, official updates on the number of notices being sent out failed to emerge, so it was difficult to report on the effectiveness or otherwise of the scheme.

Nevertheless, in December 2018 the government committed a further £2 million (on top of its original £3.5m investment) to the “Get it Right” anti-piracy campaign, as it had became known. The calculation was that increased sales as a result of reduced piracy would bring in additional taxes.

Most recent accounts filed by CCUK

Like the rest of the data connected to the progress of the scheme, additional sales tax figures have not been made public. However, in February 2019 there was a breakthrough of sorts.

During an anti-piracy conference in France, a director of music group BPI quietly revealed that roughly a million notices had been sent out since the launch of the program. Since the beginning of the entire campaign, piracy had apparently dropped by 26%.

How much of that claimed decrease can be attributed to the wider campaign or the infringement notices specifically still isn’t known. However, TorrentFreak can today confirm that VCAP, the Voluntary Copyright Alert Program, has come to an end.

After receiving independent information from two sources this week, we approached the coordinators of the program for official confirmation, which was provided by CCUK last night.

“Having encouraged increased awareness of the value of genuine content and of its many legally available sources, in turn resulting in reduced infringing behavior, the Get it Right campaign is now moving to its next phase,” a spokesperson for the CCUK Get it Right education campaign told TF.

“The educational emails sent by ISPs upon detection of infringing file-sharing activity have served their purpose and are ceasing, with the focus instead increasing the broader engagement with fans based around their passion for music, TV, film and all other kinds of creative content.”

TorrentFreak is informed that during the notice sending stage, ISPs sent most notifications on behalf of the MPA, with the BPI trailing quite a way behind. That would make sense since much of the infringing content shared using BitTorrent is movies and TV shows. Music is still shared via the protocol but consumer habits have changed significantly since the program began and there are now more convenient options for consumers.

The decision to terminate the notification program was taken several months ago and information suggests that there was no requirement for ISPs to send out additional notices starting July 2019 after CCUK terminated the agreement.

We understand that a new phase of the Get it Right campaign is set to begin shortly so when we have more information from official sources, we’ll provide an update. In the meantime, we’re informed by third-party sources that the future focus will be on broader advertising and social media campaigns.

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

Pirate Bay Overblocking Hits EZTV Due to Shared Cloudflare IP Address

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-overblocking-190718/

The Pirate Bay is arguably the most widely blocked website on the Internet. ISPs from all over the world have been ordered to prevent users from accessing the torrent site.

This is also the case in the Netherlands. While the issue remains pending at the Supreme Court, ISPs including Ziggo are already required to prevent users from accessing the popular torrent site.

A court ruling of 2017 required Ziggo to block both domain names and IP-addresses of The Pirate Bay and its many proxies. The list of blocked domains has grown to hundreds in recent years and the Dutch blocklist is regularly updated with new domains and IP-addresses by anti-piracy group BREIN.

Thus far, this hasn’t caused any trouble but earlier this month several torrent users noticed that Ziggo’s Pirate Bay blockade had carried over to EZTV.io, another popular torrent site. While EZTV also provides access to infringing content, it’s not covered by the court order. 

Still, EZTV users were welcomed by the following message from Ziggo when they tried to access the site.

Blocking message (translated)

As it turns out, both EZTV and The Pirate Bay use Cloudflare and the CDN company decided to put both sites on the same IP-address. As a result, Ziggo’s filters also blocked access to EZTV, which is a classic example of overblocking. 

Ziggo confirmed the error to local news site Tweakers but said that there was little it could do without an update from BREIN. 

“Despite the fact that Ziggo has repeatedly pointed out these these types of risks, the court did not sufficiently account for these types of complications. This means that even if we see or are reminded that a website is being incorrectly blocked, Ziggo is obliged to uphold the blockade, until further notice from Brein,” Ziggo noted.

The ISP said that it informed BREIN about the issue early July, but the list wasn’t immediately updated. This meant that EZTV remained blocked for at least a week. The torrent site was eventually unblocked after BREIN asked Cloudflare to put ETZV on a separate IP-address.

BREIN director Tim Kuik admits that the overblocking took place but doesn’t known why Cloudflare put the sites on the same IP-address. 

“I have no idea why EZTV became available at that IP address. Just like The Pirate Bay, they use Cloudflare and someone apparently thought it was a good idea,” Kuik told Tweakers

While BREIN helped to get EZTV unblocked again, Kuik stresses that the torrent site is illegal as well. The anti-piracy group summoned EZTV to stop its infringing activity and plans to have it blocked in the future as well, once the Pirate Bay case is finalized at the Supreme Court.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that shared Cloudflare IP-addresses has resulted on overblocking. Two years go, dozens of pirate sites were mistakenly blocked by Internet backbone provider Cogent, following a court order. Cloudflare eventually resolved the matter by putting the sites on separate IP-addresses.

At the time, Cloudflare’s General Counsel Doug Kramer told TorrentFreak that it’s important for his company to understand how different blocks operate around the world, so  it can limit coleteral damage. However, that clearly didn’t work in EZTV’s case.

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

High Court Slams Brakes on New UK Copyright-Trolling Effort

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/high-court-slams-brakes-on-new-uk-copyright-trolling-effort-190718/

Those familiar with the copyright-trolling landscape against alleged file-sharers in the UK will be familiar with the names Golden Eye (International) and Mircom.

The companies have a track record of targeting Internet subscribers in the UK (1,2,3,4) with demands for cash settlements to make supposed (but non-existent) court cases disappear.

The companies have been quiet for years but back in February attempted to resurrect their pay-up-or-else scheme at the High Court. Neither firm was presented as copyright holders in their Norwich Pharmacal order application. Instead, they aimed to represent 16 pornographic movie company partners.

The crux of the application was that ISP Virgin Media should disclose the subscriber details behind allegedly-infringing IP addresses said to have downloaded the pornographic movies. The number of addresses isn’t clear but the claim that “no more than 5000 IP addresses per fortnight” would be requested from Virgin Media (and no more than 500 letters per week would be sent to subscribers) hints at the scale.

A High Court judgment published Wednesday reveals that Virgin Media put up a considerable fight to have the order denied, which is quite a novelty considering how compliant some ISPs have been in the face of similar cases.

Douglas Campbell QC, sitting as High Court Judge, indicated that Virgin’s submissions had been very useful since the points raised by the company would probably have been raised by the subscribers, had they been a party to the proceedings.

The judgment traverses a complex web of privacy and data protection matters, including those related to the GDPR. While important considerations, little of that appears to have mattered. Ultimately, it’s evidence that the companies simply failed to get their acts together.

Submissions by Virgin pointed out that evidence presented by Mr Becker (Golden Eye) and Mr Hoffman (Mircom) fell short, to say the least. To begin, the IP address list (crucial for the application to proceed) hadn’t been presented as evidence in the application.

“Mr Hoffmann’s witness statement is dated 26th February 2018,” the Judge responded.

“In paragraph 1 he explains that Mircom seeks disclosure ‘of the names and addresses of the subscribers associated with the IP addresses listed in a spreadsheet attached as Exhibit 1’. But there was no Exhibit 1.”

A terrible start. But there were further problems too.

“In a witness statement dated 26 June 2018, Mr Wagner [solicitor for the applicants] purported to exhibit a spreadsheet marked ‘MWH1’, described as a spreadsheet setting out the IP addresses of subscribers for the period 27 February to the dates shown on the spreadsheet,” the Judge continued.

“This cannot be the same as Mr Hoffmann’s own intended Exhibit 1 since it post-dates Mr Hoffmann’s witness statement. Further this exhibit does not even set out any IP addresses, merely information including an ‘infringement ID’ which appears to be date-related.

“In any event even exhibit MWH1 is not what is sought. Mircom actually seeks the names and addresses of a spreadsheet which was sent to Virgin by email on 7 June 2019. This spreadsheet is not in evidence, nor is there any explanation of how it was produced.”

Claims by Golden Eye and Mircom that these were just “technical” issues were dismissed by the Judge, who explained the errors and omissions as “fundamental”.

Evidence provided by the applicants’ supposed “experts” was lacking too. Mircom relied on an expert technical report by a Dr Sarre which supported the claimed effectiveness of infringement tracking software called “FileWatchBT. That report was reportedly “commissioned by telephone” on April 1, 2010.

“I do not accept that I should simply assume that a 9 year old expert report remains up to date, particularly one given in the field of computer software,” the Judge commented, noting that the report also lacked the required “statement of truth” to comply with civil procedure rules.

There were also problems with Fieser’s statement, not least the claim that the software was used to identify the infringements in Exhibit 1, which of course wasn’t presented in evidence.

According to the Judge, the evidence relied upon by Golden Eye, provided by a Mr Paige, was somehow “even worse”. It certainly reads that way.

“There is no statement of truth; no clarity as to what his instructions were; his evidence refers to static IP addresses, not dynamic ones; and his evidence appears to relate to a software program called ‘Observer’,” the Judge complained.

“Yet Mr Fieser gave a statement (also unsupported by a Statement of Truth) dated 1st December 2017 in which he seemed to think the software mentioned in Mr Paige’s report was called ‘International IP Tracker’.

“Virgin also drew my attention (without comment by the Applicants) to evidence from Ms Griffin, Senior Legal Counsel of Virgin, suggesting that Mr Paige was a former detective who was arrested and dismissed after receiving a controlled substance.”

In response to these shortcomings, Golden Eye and Mircom requested permission to replace their ‘expert’ evidence. Douglas Campbell QC denied the request, noting that the defects were “fundamental”.

At this point it’s clear that the application for disclosure was already in disarray but the Judge still took time to address other points that will be of interest to readers, not least the claim by Virgin Media that the applicants were part of a “money-making scheme” or “shakedown”.

The Judge said that in order to satisfy himself that the application was genuine, he’d need to know more about how IP addresses (obtained by Golden Eye and Mircom as a result of their earlier claims) had actually been used.

It transpires that following an earlier application, Mircom wrote to 749 people demanding settlement. Just 76 admitted fault, 15 settled without admitting liability, and zero cases were taken to court. That raised questions about what happened to the tens of thousands of subscribers identified following previous orders and what their responses had been.

“This is not something which the Applicants’ current evidence addresses, nor is it information which they have offered to supply, hence this is a further reason why I refuse the applications sought,” the Judge added.

The full judgment is available here.

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

Torrent Site YTS Discussed Settlement With Movie Companies

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/torrent-site-yts-discussed-settlement-with-movie-companies-190717/

YTS is the most-visited torrent site on the Internet. With millions of visitors, it even beats the legendary Pirate Bay.

The site ‘unofficially’ took over the YTS brand when the original group threw in the towel in 2015. Since then, it has amassed a rather impressive user base. However, that growth didn’t go unnoticed by rightsholders.

A few weeks ago the site ran into legal trouble when it was sued by a group of film companies, including the makers of ‘Once Upon a Time in Venice,’ ‘Mechanic: Resurrection,’ and ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’.  In a complaint filed at a Hawaiian federal court, they accused the site’s operator of inducing massive copyright infringement.

With the legal action, the companies hope to shut the site down and recoup claimed losses. However, that’s easier said than done. In similar cases, site operators often ignored the complaints and any orders that follow them.

Surprisingly, however, a claimed representative of YTS, going by the name “Mr. Segaran,” directly reached out to the film companies’ attorney, Kerry Culpepper, after the lawsuit was filed. Apparently, the torrent site was open to resolving the matter, a new court filing reveals.

In an email conversation documented by the attorney, Mr. Segaran said he was open to discussing a settlement, but refused to provide identifying information or sign a waiver of service. The attorney replied by stating that a settlement would at least require YTS to remove all links to movies of his clients, which Mr. Segaran agreed to do.

“We have received good news, confirmation that all the titles you have sent have been permanently removed from the website and filters put in place to avoid reupping,” the YTS representative wrote to Culpepper a few weeks ago.

While this seemed like a promising start, soon after that statement all communication stopped. That’s not all, because YTS also rebranded and switched domain names, moving from YTS.am to YTS.lt.

While no official settlement has been reached, YTS did limit the accessibility of the movie companies’ films. Unlike other torrents, which can be downloaded by anyone, titles such as The Hitman’s Bodyguard are now listed as being ‘private.’

“You are trying to access private content. Please LOGIN to gain access to all YIFY content or Create a Free Account to join YTS.LT,” a message on YTS.lt reads.

The movie companies’ attorney also noticed this change. In the recent filing, he highlights the rebranding and the private listings of the torrents.

“The new website yts.lt once again apparently allows users to download torrent files of Plaintiffs’ motion pictures, but only if the user creates a YTS account and logs in,” Culpepper wrote to the court.

Culpepper suggests that people can still download the torrent when they sign in. However, when we created an account and tried to access the torrent while being signed in, it was still listed as private. This suggests that the movies in question are effectively inaccessible.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the movie companies are letting the case go. Their attorney recently asked the Court for permission to subpoena YTS’s international web host and domain registrars in order to obtain the true identities of the operator.

The Court denied this motion on July 1, citing a lack of personal jurisdiction, as its uncertain whether defendant(s) have ties to the US. To counter this, the movie companies’ attorney submitted a motion for reconsideration, which remains pending today.

In recent filings, the movie companies stress that YTS has clear ties with the US. Among other things, YTS is believed to have used the services of New York hosting company Digital Ocean.

The information about the hosting provider was shared by Cloudflare, which handed over detailed audit logs after it was subpoenaed. This, surprisingly linked YTS to many other torrent sites as well. 

“The audit logs for the YTS websites indicate that this Cloudflare account also hosted numerous other movie piracy websites such as: piratetorrents.net, limetorrents.cc, yourbittorrent.com, rarbg.to, torrentbutler.eu, piratetorrents.net, thepiratebay.se.net, torrentz.eu, 1337x.to and extratorrent.cc,” the movie companies write.

Whether all the mentioned sites have anything to do with YTS is doubtful though. TorrentFreak knows that many are or were operated by entirely different people, don’t use Cloudflare, or have been defunct for years.

It seems more likely that some of the listed sites are in no way related, especially since anyone can add a random domain to a Cloudflare account. This is sometimes done by bad actors who want to hijack domain names of other people.

The movie companies, nonetheless, will continue their legal battle and hope to unmask the real YTS operator. The same lawsuit also targets Vietnamese national Nguyen Manh, the alleged operator of YIFYMovies.is, a site that shut down shortly after the lawsuit was filed.

A copy of the motion for reconsideration, submitted on behalf of the movie companies, is available here (pdf).

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

Organized Crime Unit Orders Pirate IPTV Sellers to Cease & Desist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/organized-crime-unit-orders-pirate-iptv-sellers-to-cease-desist-190717/

Over the past couple of years, it has become abundantly clear that entertainment industry groups are taking the rise of ‘pirate’ TV boxes very seriously.

Where previously the supply of unlicensed content into living rooms mainly took place via hacked satellite and cable boxes, the latest threat is content delivered directly via the Internet.

Thousands of live channels are now readily available via cheap monthly subscriptions, modified Kodi installations, or dedicated apps, all of which are considered a threat by small and large broadcasters alike.

There are many civil strategies available for reducing the flow but in the UK, high-tier police forces are now getting involved. According to an organized crime unit based in the north of England, a wave of activity took place just this week.

The North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) is a collaboration between police forces across Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, and North Wales. During Tuesday, the unit said it contacted people involved in the supply of ‘pirate’ IPTV subscriptions (sometimes known as ‘lines’) and the sale of modified set-top boxes.

“Our disruption team have been working with GAIN (Government Agency Intelligence Network) & @FACTUK & today issued cease & desist notices in Wrexham & Blackburn to people involved in the sale of illegal IPTV subscriptions & cracked online television boxes,” the unit said in a statement.

GAIN is a multi-agency group that provides a mechanism for various agencies to work together and share information. More than four years ago it was involved in raids against several ‘pirate’ box sellers.

FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) needs little introduction, as it has been involved in similar operations against a number of entities working in the ‘pirate’ IPTV arena, whether that’s via subscription-based services or modified set-top boxes.

Early today, TorrentFreak sought comment from FACT chief Kieron Sharp on the events of yesterday. We asked about the nature of the campaign, whether it would be expanded to other areas, and requested further details on those targeted. We were also keen to know which laws are allegedly being broken.

Due to the nature of the investigation and the involvement of various police units, Sharp couldn’t immediately offer a comment but we’ll update when we receive a more detailed response.

The brief police statement does not make it clear whether those ordered to cease and desist are lower-tier players (resellers of subscriptions) or those closer to the top (IPTV providers), or a combination of both. The former seems more likely but in the absence of more detail, it’s impossible to say.

The North West Regional Organised Crime Unit has now been involved in action against illicit streaming on at least two occasions in as many months.

In June, its officers arrested the alleged operator of the Supremacy Kodi add-on repository after it was reported to the unit by FACT in association with the Premier League, Sky, BT Sport, and Virgin Media.

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

‘Repeat Copyright Infringer’ Case Against Cloudflare Can Continue, Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/repeat-copyright-infringer-case-against-cloudflare-can-continue-court-rules-190716/

Popular CDN and DDoS protection service Cloudflare has come under a lot of pressure from copyright holders in recent years.

The company offers its services to millions of sites, including some of the world’s leading pirate sites.

Many rightsholders are not happy with this. They accuse Cloudflare of facilitating copyright infringement by continuing to provide access to these platforms. At the same time, they call out the CDN service for masking the true hosting locations of these ‘bad actors’.

Cloudflare’s activities have also triggered some lawsuits. Just last week, we reported that an Italian court ordered the company to terminate the accounts of several pirate sites. In the U.S. there’s an ongoing copyright infringement case as well, which brought more bad news for the company a few days ago.

The case in question wasn’t filed by any of the major entertainment industry players, but by two manufacturers and wholesalers of wedding dresses. Not a typical “piracy” lawsuit, but it’s a copyright case that could have broad effects.

In a complaint filed at a federal court in California last year, Mon Cheri Bridals and Maggie Sottero Designs argued that even after multiple warnings, Cloudflare fails to terminate sites operated by counterfeit vendors. This makes Cloudflare liable for the associated copyright infringements, they said.

Cloudflare responded to the allegations and in April it filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The company said that the rightsholders failed to state a proper claim, as the takedown notices were not proof of infringement, among other things. In addition, the notices were not formatted properly. 

“Plaintiffs characterize their notifications as ‘credible’ without stating any facts that demonstrate their credibility. In any event, defective notifications, like those the plaintiffs sent to Cloudflare, cannot support any claim of actual knowledge,” Cloudflare argued.

According to Cloudflare, the notifications “may or may not be true”. Without a court determining whether they are accurate or not, the company says they don’t “convey actual knowledge of infringement.” As such, the company doesn’t believe it can be held liable.

District Judge Vince Chhabria disagrees, however. In an order signed a few days ago he denies the motion to dismiss. According to the Judge, the allegations and claims made by the wedding dress manufacturers are sufficient at this stage of the case.

“Cloudflare’s main argument – that contributory liability cannot be based on a defendant’s knowledge of infringing conduct and continued material contribution to it – is wrong,” Judge Chhabria writes.

“Allegations that Cloudflare knew its customer-websites displayed infringing material and continued to provide those websites with faster load times and concealed identities are sufficient to state a claim,” he adds.

Cloudflare also pointed out other deficiencies in the notices, and stressed that it’s not a hosting provider, but these comments were countered too. At this stage of the case, it’s enough to show that Cloudflare was aware of the alleged infringements, the Court notes.

“The notices allegedly sent by the plaintiffs gave Cloudflare specific information, including a link to the offending website and a link to the underlying copyrighted material, to plausibly allege that Cloudflare had actual knowledge of the infringing activity,” Judge Chhabria writes.

The denial of Cloudflare’s motion to dismiss means that the case will move forward. While the case has nothing to do with traditional pirate sites, any rulings could spill over, which means that other copyright holders will watch this case closely.

Mon Cheri Bridals and Maggie Sottero ultimately hope to recoup damages for the losses they’ve suffered as well preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to stop all infringing activity.

Cloudflare, for its part, will argue that it’s not actively participating in any infringing activity and that it merely has a role as a third-party intermediary, which is not liable for the alleged infringing activities of its customers.

A copy of District Judge Vince Chhabria’s order is available here (pdf).

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

Premier League Wins New ISP Piracy Blocking Order

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/premier-league-wins-new-isp-piracy-blocking-order-190716/

Blocking websites associated with piracy is one of the most common tools deployed against unauthorized content distribution involving movies, TV shows, and music.

However, the rising consumption of pirate sources of live TV, particularly sports, has presented broadcasters with a new challenge.

The Premier League has been attempting to solve this problem in the UK with so-called ‘dynamic’ blocking injunctions, one which allows servers to be blocked in real-time by ISPs, as matches are underway.

Earlier this month it was reported that the League had filed an application to expand this effort to Ireland. Targeting major ISPs Eircom, Sky, Virgin Media, and Vodafone, the League sought permission to have these companies quickly respond to blocking demands.

On Monday in the Commercial Court, after ISPs either supported or failed to oppose the application, the proposal was converted into Ireland’s first dynamic blocking injunction. It will aim to prevent consumers from accessing ‘pirate’ streams via IPTV services, websites, apps, and third-party Kodi addons.

Counsel for the Premier League told the Court that the bulk of those the company is seeking to block access the company’s matches via set-top boxes.

According to a report from Irish Times, the IP addresses of streaming hosts will be updated at least twice while matches are underway so that ISPs are able to prevent their subscribers from accessing the locations. Once the matches have ended, the blocking measures are supposed to stop.

There is also a nod to due process, with hosting companies being told of the existence of the order enabling them to notify their customers (the alleged infringers) that their streams will be blocked.

Targeted suppliers, almost certainly IPTV providers, are also given permission to apply to the court to have their servers unblocked, if any of their legitimate content is rendered inaccessible as a result of the injunction.

In common with the applications in the UK, the order granted in Ireland was in part based on “confidential information” that only the court and the parties involved have access to in order to prevent technical circumvention of the order.

The precise nature of that information isn’t clear but we’re informed that the blocking process is already well understood by outside parties, with providers able to take countermeasures and, if all else fails, end-users able to deploy VPNs.

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

Court Questions Whether Ebook ‘Pirate’ Site Operator Can Be Sued in Texas

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/court-questions-whether-ebook-pirate-site-operator-can-be-sued-in-texas-190715/

Back in March, Travis McCrea, the former leader of the Pirate Party of Canada, faced mounting opposition against his eBook platform, Ebook.bike.

Following in the footsteps of his similar creation TUEBL (The Ultimate eBook Library), Ebook.bike allows users to upload and download eBooks, some of which have turned out to be copyright-infringing.

Despite McCrea taking content down following copyright notices, large numbers of authors weren’t impressed, with some urging legal action. McCrea responded by inviting someone to sue.

Author John Van Stry took on the challenge by suing McCrea and alleged business partner Francisco Humberto Dias (doing business as ‘Frantech Solutions’) in a Texas court for direct, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement.

“Mr. McCrea has a long and proud history of pervasive, blatant, and egregious violations of other persons’ intellectual property rights,” the complaint read.

After the complaint was filed on March 27, 2019, the docket reports that McCrea was served on May 20. Eight days later, Van Stry requested the clerk to file an entry for default, which was actioned a day later. In June, Van Stry’s lawyers filed for a default judgment.

Claiming direct, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement in respect of 12 books written by Van Stry and allegedly distributed on eBook.bike, the author asked for $15,000 in statutory damages for each of the infringed works. He further demanded that McCrea should pay attorneys’ fees and costs.

From the proposed judgment

On Friday, Judge William C. Bryson handed down an order but it wasn’t a straightforward rubber-stamping of the proposed judgment and doesn’t lay the matter to rest. Since McCrea has chosen not to participate in proceedings thus far, the Judge writes that the Court must consider whether a default judgment can be handed down and if so, what form it would take.

To begin, the Court needed to determine whether McCrea has entered an appearance in the case. That standard was apparently met after McCrea reportedly sent a signed email indicating that he was prepared to accept email service in the case. A later email from McCrea reportedly had him threatening a countersuit for libel and proposing an offer to settle.

Email allegedly from McCrea presented to the Court

The Court also needed to determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction. While that was quickly established, the question of personal jurisdiction over McCrea appears less straightforward, which is a problem because, without that, any judgment would be void.

In his order, the Judge explains that there are two bases for personal jurisdiction – general and specific.

“General personal jurisdiction is available when the defendant’s contacts with the forum State are ‘continuous and systematic’,” the Judge notes, adding that specific personal jurisdiction “must be based on activities that arise out of or relate to the cause of action, and can exist even if the defendant’s contacts are not continuous and systematic.”

In this case, the Court found that it “plainly” does not have general jurisdiction over McCrea as the complaint offered no evidence of that. “The question, therefore, is whether this Court has specific jurisdiction over Mr. McCrea based on particular acts relating to the cause of action having a sufficient relationship with the forum to support a finding of jurisdiction.”

In summary, based on the claims and allegations in the complaint, Judge Bryson says he doesn’t have enough evidence before him to conclude that the Court has personal jurisdiction over McCrea and as such it will not be handing down a default judgment at this time.

Instead, the parties have been told to file simultaneous briefs within 14 days, each detailing whether the Court has personal jurisdiction over McCrea, considering whether the injury to the copyright holder occurred in Texas, whether that injury is sufficient enough to imply a “substantial connection” with the forum/state, and whether McCrea knew that “his acts would be felt” by Van Stry in Texas. The Judge specifically asks both parties to consider McCrea’s residence outside the United States.

All of that said and taking McCrea’s general non-participation in the process into consideration, the Court says that Van Stry’s factual claims are enough for it to find McCrea liable for copyright infringement in the 12 books. If personal jurisdiction can be established to the Court’s satisfaction, that leaves the matter of damages.

While the excerpt from the proposed judgment above shows that Van Stry is demanding $180,000 in damages, the Judge cites $150,000 in his order. However, he also writes that no documentary evidence has been submitted to the Court which would explain why the amount is appropriate.

Furthermore, Van Stry’s demands for a comprehensive injunction cause an additional complication, the Judge notes, since a copyright injunction cannot be served outside the United States and does not apply directly to conduct occurring outside the United States.

“Such an injunction, if issued, would have to be framed so that it is directed only to conduct occurring within this country, which would be narrower than the full scope of the injunctive relief sought in the complaint,” the Judge writes. And that might be tricky since the relief being sought is extensive.

Van Stry’s motion demands that McCrea should refrain from directly, contributorily or indirectly infringing his rights in the future, not only for the 12 books in the complaint but any others written by him.

On top, there’s a request for caching and proxy services, web hosts, email providers, social media platforms and payment processors currently doing business with McCrea in connection with eBook.bike or similar platforms, to stop doing so, if those sites infringe Van Stry’s rights.

A further request would require search engines to “prevent links to the Defendant’s accounts or websites, which distribute or encourage the copying and distribution of Works or other titles by the same author, from displaying in search results, and removing such links from any search index.”

All that considered and if personal jurisdiction can be established, the Court is prepared to award damages, but not immediately to the level demanded by Van Stry.

“[T]he Court would be prepared to hold that the plaintiff is entitled to a statutory award of $750 for each of the 12 works as to which he has alleged copyright infringement, for a total award of $9000, if the plaintiff were to elect to accept the statutory minimum damages award in lieu of a damages award calculated after a hearing,” the order reads.

In the absence of such an agreement, the Judge says that the Court would not be prepared to go any higher without a further hearing to determine the appropriate amount of damages. In an effort to keep costs down for both sides, the Court is prepared to hold that hearing over the phone.

The proposed motion for default judgment is available here, Judge Bryson’s order is available here (both pdf)

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

UK Pirate Site Blocking Requests Have Stopped, For Now

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-pirate-site-blocking-requests-have-stopped-for-now-190715/

Website blocking is without a doubt one of the favorite anti-piracy tools of the entertainment industries.

The UK has been a leader on this front. Since 2011, the High Court has ordered ISPs to block access to many popular pirate sites.

Over time the number of blocked URLs in the UK has grown steadily to well over 1,000. This includes many popular torrent, streaming, and direct download sites, which remain barred today.

We have covered these efforts extensively here at TorrentFreak. However, since late 2016 something appears to have changed. The movie industry’s MPA(A) and the music industry’s BPI suddenly stopped submitting new requests.

The latest regular blocking order dates back nearly three years. While the Premier League did request some “dynamic” blockades of streaming related IP-addresses more recently, there have been no new efforts targeting traditional pirate sites.

This lack of new blocking requests is striking, especially since the UK model is often used as a prime example of anti-piracy enforcement around the world. Just a few months ago, MPAA and RIAA argued that it should become part of a possible US-UK trade deal.

“Website blocking has been successful in the United Kingdom with 63 music sites being ordered to be blocked following music right holders’ initiatives. On average this produces a reduction in the use of those sites by UK users by approximately 75 percent,” the RIAA said at the time.

Despite this effectiveness, UK piracy site-blocking efforts have been rather stagnant. While older court order are sill updated with new domain names, no new sites have been targeted by the MPA(A) and BPI in years. As such, new pirate sites can flourish.

TorrentFreak reached out to the MPA and BPI for a comment on this apparent slowdown. Neither organization gave a concrete reason for the absence of recent applications.

MPA informed TorrentFreak that it will continue to use a range of different methods for its enforcement efforts around the world. That includes working with local enforcement agencies to refer criminal cases, offering consumers new and innovative ways to access content, as well as seeking court orders to block access to pirate sites.

“The MPA will continue to use this range of methods as appropriate in the UK as we do around the world. Ensuring that filmmakers everywhere are compensated for their work and that revenues can be reinvested in new productions continues to be the number one priority for the MPA,” the group said.

BPI also stressed that site-blocking remains part of its anti-piracy toolbox.

“There are a very wide range of effective and complementary tools we use to reduce music piracy – site blocking is just a part of these,” a BPI spokesperson told us.

BPI’s other tools include delisting infringing URLs from search engines, site demotion under the search engine Voluntary Code of Practice, direct litigation against sites, criminal investigations, disrupting money flows to pirate sites, anti-piracy partnerships with online platforms, and consumer education.

The music group didn’t provide any details that explain why no new blocking orders were requested in recent years. However, it suggests that other tools are more appropriate at the current time.

“The mix of techniques we use varies over time and reflects the most appropriate strategy for dealing with a given problem at a given time,” the BPI spokesperson says.

“Having obtained High Court orders to block many of the major pirate brands, over the last few years other approaches have been effective to continue the reduction in music piracy. However, website blocking remains part of the mix and we will continue to use it in appropriate cases.”

The question remains why site blocking is seen as less appropriate. Perhaps the rightsholders feel that requesting additional blockades is not worth the resources, compared to other anti-piracy initiatives.

Part of the reason may be that the blocking orders can be quite expensive. Previously, it was estimated that  an unopposed application for a section 97A blocking order is roughly £14,000 per website, while maintaining it costs an additional £3,600 per year.

With well over a hundred sites blocked, the costs are quite significant, to say the least.

While there haven’t been any new requests, the previously ordered blockades are still in place, of course. That being said, we have to note that these are not effective everywhere. When we tried to access The Pirate Bay on a Virgin connection this week, it was freely accessible.

While the notorious pirate site may still be blocked on other ISPs, workarounds are not hard to find. At the time of writing PirateProxy.ch, a TPB proxy,  is among the 150 most-visited websites in the UK.

That said, rightsholders were never under the illusion that they can prevent the most determined pirates from accessing these sites. They simply want to dissuade casual pirates, and they feel that the current site blocking efforts are doing their job.

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

Magnificent BitTorrent Speed or Half-Baked Magic Beans?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/magnificent-bittorrent-speed-or-half-baked-magic-beans-190714/

By now most people will be familiar with the news that BitTorrent Inc. recently released a new version of its dominant uTorrent client.

The claims are that this will revolutionize torrenting, with people able to earn BTT in exchange for seeding. The plan is that this will make swarms more healthy because there is more bandwidth available. This, in turn, should speed up downloads — for BTT-spending uTorrent users, at least.

The idea of a torrent client allocating bandwidth to peers via financial discrimination is contrary to the broad aims of the original BitTorrent protocol. As such it is a divisive and sensitive topic. Nevertheless, we wanted to find out more because if it does work, loyalty to tradition might be a thing of the past.

As reported during launch week, all downloaders of the new uTorrent were gifted 10 BTT to bootstrap the system. One way or another, we were determined to make this value change. However, despite extensive seeding of in-demand and low-seeded torrents alike, it stubbornly remained the same, despite the client insisting that there were plenty of BTT-enabled peers in the swarms.

Meanwhile, crypto-focused people appearing in BitTorrent CEO Justin Sun’s Twitter feed were apparently having huge success, raking in more than a dollar’s worth of BTT after seeding dozens of torrents during the first day.

This success raised a few eyebrows because one of our sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told us July 10 that after running two instances of the software, one with 6.5TB seeded and another with 1.1TB downloaded, he hadn’t made or lost a penny, with his BTT stubbornly sitting at 10 BTT. Some people just can’t catch a break, it seems.

Of course, these uploads and downloads have to be made to and from BTT-enabled peers to count, so it’s possible (although a little improbable) that not a single uTorrent user with the feature enabled entered any of the swarms being serviced by the expert torrent user mentioned above.

However, the crypto-minded Twitter user in Sun’s feed was kind enough to hand out some advice, including getting torrents from BitTorrent’s own ‘Now‘ index. That felt like a good idea since users of that resource might be more likely to be running uTorrent with BTT enabled than random torrent users elsewhere. Particularly those who prefer open-source software rather than the proprietary offering from BitTorrent.

To allow us to do some tests over a number of minutes, we needed a reasonably-sized torrent from the Now resource. We picked a 416MB file called “Live From Brixton and Beyond” since most of the other files were too small to measure beyond a few seconds.

Our aim was to find plenty of BTT-powered uTorrent users ready to boost our download speeds, spend some of our own BTT, potentially earn some BTT back, and test out exactly how much faster these downloads can go with this new system promising to change the world.

To do this we downloaded the file detailed above six times in total — three times with BitTorrent Speed enabled and three times without. Each Speed-enabled download was followed by a non-Speed transfer directly after, to ensure that the swarm conditions stayed roughly the same throughout.

Each ‘Speed’ download initiated would enable us to see the number of BTT-enabled peers in the swarm prepared to connect to us (the client provides this number), see the promised speed boost (it also provides that), then compare the promised boosts with the results of an equal number of downloads with everything turned off.

The rough images below show the following: Our download reference number at the top, BTT balance, promised Speed boost in MB/s, number of peers (we allowed this to reach a minimum of 15 before taking a screenshot) followed by the percentage Speed boost.

Underneath that are two further screenshots showing stats from the uTorrent client. The first reveals the download time elapsed with Speed turned on, the second with Speed turned off. All screenshots of transfers were taken as close to one second remaining as possible to show that no transfers were extended beyond the downloading phase, which would distort download times.

Downloads 1 and 2

As the image above shows, 24 BTT-enabled peers wanted to do business with the promise of increasing download speeds massively. However, the “download speed increase” bar is next to useless as a measurement tool (particularly when a torrent is just starting) and as the final elapsed times show, the Speed boost — if there is any at all as a result of spending BTT — is pretty small.

So, on to Downloads 3 and 4, the first with Speed, the second without. Again, it’s exactly the same file and as close to the same swarm as possible by executing both transfers immediately after the first batch.

Downloads 3 and 4

The results show that the Speed-enabled transfer took 28 seconds less than the one without, but given the promises of massive speed boosts when the torrent first started, we can conclude that the figures in the client are misleading at best. So, onto downloads 5 and 6 as quickly as possible, to ensure a consistent swarm.

Downloads 5 and 6

As the transfer stats for Download 5 show, the elapsed time (6m 16s) is remarkably consistent when compared to Download 1 (6m 14s) and Download 4 (6m 12s), a testament to the stability of the swarm. It’s worth noting that Download 4 (the fastest of the three) was a test with Speed turned off.

Importantly, we can also see that during this final test the results were reversed over the previous one, with the non-Speed Download 6 trumping the BTT-powered Download 5 by 43 seconds.

Finally, we decided to put two torrent clients into exactly the same swarm. One of the clients was uTorrent with Speed turned on, the other was a basic Deluge client. We loaded the same torrent into both and gave uTorrent a small head start, basically the time it took to move the mouse over to Deluge and trigger the start. This is what uTorrent promised as a boost;

More than 320% speed increase offered…

As the video below shows, uTorrent managed to connect to many more seeders than Deluge and the performance of each client differed quite a bit in other areas too. Crucially, however, the downloads in both clients finished within a second of each other.

It’s important to note that there are many moving parts in any torrent swarm but the bottom line here is that when a BTT-enabled uTorrent client was placed in a swarm with many other clients with the same ability, it performed no better than one without, despite lofty claims to the contrary.

Of course, we should also remind people that with Deluge (in this case) people won’t earn any BTT for seeding but we’ve already established that the figure of 10 BTT that we began with has never changed since the client was installed.

Magic beans? People should taste them themselves before making their own minds up. Maybe they’ll taste better in future….we’ll see.

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

Fake MPAA Asks Google to Remove Thousands of URLs, Including MPAA.org

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/fake-mpaa-asks-google-to-remove-thousands-of-urls-including-mpaa-org-190714/

In 2012, Google first published a Transparency Report for search-related copyright takedown notices.

This rather enlightening database allows outsiders to check what URLs copyright holders want removed from the search engine.

In recent years Google has processed more than four billion URLs. While most of these requests are legitimate, there have also been plenty of errors, mistakes, and in some instances; clear abuse.

Most of the cases we covered in the past dealt with rightsholders targeting perfectly legal content, ranging from news articles, through open-source software, to Facebook’s homepage. Over the past year, however, we’ve noticed a different but equally disturbing trend.

Among the millions of notices Google receives on a weekly basis, there are now quite a few ‘fake’ submissions. Fake, in this case, means that the submitter pretends to be or represent someone else. Someone who it clearly isn’t.

We first spotted this late last year when imposters targeted many pirate sites with suspicious takedown requests. These were presumably sent by competing pirate sites, trying to remove the competition from Google’s search results. More recently, imposters even tried to remove a Netflix listing.

Today we have another example that’s perhaps even more blatant. It involves the name of Hollywood’s very own anti-piracy group, the MPAA.

In recent weeks Google received a flood of notices claiming to be from the Hollywood group. While the MPAA is based in the U.S., the notices in question are sent on behalf of “MPAA UK” and “MPAA Member Studios DE”. 

However, none of the listings below, including “MPAA Member Studios US,” are legitimate. It appears that someone is pretending to be the MPAA, sending takedown requests for tens of thousands of URLs. 

Fake MPAA’s

Looking more closely at the takedown requests, we see a familar pattern emerge. The notices mainly target a small group of ‘pirate’ sites. For example, over 10,000 URLs of the Turkish movie streaming site Filmifullizle.tv were targeted in just one week, with most notices coming from fake MPAA’s.

Filmmodu.com, and other Turkish streaming portals such as Yabancidizi.org, Fullhdfilmizleten.org, and Filmionlineizle.tv, get the same treatment, either by a fake MPAA or another scammer.

Interestingly, these imposters are rather sloppy at times. On several occasions they put the infringing URLs in the “original works” box, labeling the MPAA’s homepage as the infringing content. Luckily for the real MPAA, Google didn’t remove it.  

Pirate MPAA?

As we have highlighted in the past, these imposters are likely to be competing pirate sites, who want to take out the competition by making their opponents’ sites unfindable in Google’s search results. A clear case of abuse. 

At the time of writing, Google has complied with several of the fake takedown requests, removing the allegedly-infringing URLs. However, the search engine does appear to be aware of the problem, and has labeled some submissions as being fake. 

The imposter situation definitely doesn’t help the credibility of the takedown process. Google has its hands full and we imagine that the MPAA isn’t happy with the misuse of its name either. 

That said, the Hollywood group certainly isn’t alone in this. Several other rightsholders and anti-piracy organizations have imposters as well, including Marvel, Warner Bros., MarkMonitor, DigiGuardians, Marketly, and many others.

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Aptoide Removes ‘Popcorn Time’ and ‘Showbox’ Apps Following Piracy Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/aptoide-removes-popcorn-time-and-showbox-apps-following-piracy-lawsuit-190713/

Aptoide is a third-party alternative to Google’s official Play Store. Among other things, it allows users to install a variety of apps on their Android devices.

The marketplace, which is operated from Portugal, recently accused Google of anti-competitive behavior after is was flagged as being insecure.

The brawl with Google is not Aptoide’s only concern though. A few weeks ago the company was sued by two movie outfits; TBV Productions and Hunter Killer Productions. These are the companies behind the movies “I Feel Pretty” and “Hunter Killer” respectively.

The movie outfits, which are not new to piracy-related lawsuits, accuse Aptoide of facilitating massive piracy. Specifically, the complaint states that the company induces, encourages and promotes the use of Popcorn Time and Showbox for blatant copyright infringement.

Popcorn Time and Showbox are free applications that allow users to stream video. They both support BitTorrent streaming and are regularly linked to piracy. This has led to legal issues for developers in the past, and the two movie companies are now expanding this to the app marketplace.

“Plaintiffs bring this action to stop the massive piracy of their motion pictures brought on by the software applications Show Box app and Popcorn Time,” the complaint reads.

The movie companies note that Aptoide marks both apps as “Trusted” which means that they are “100% safe.” While that refers to potential security issues, the Plaintiffs see it as an endorsement. 

According to Aptoide’s stats the two apps are quite popular. Popcorn Time was reportedly downloaded between 500,000 and 3 million times, while Showbox is credited with 5 to 25 million downloads. No surprise, perhaps, as both apps are described as great sources to get free movies.

The Showbox app is described as “all you’ll ever need to watch movies and tv shows for free” and “The app supports torrent downloads…” Popcorn Time’s description reads “The legendary app lets you stream and watch movies and TV shows for free…”

Showbox on Aptoide

According to the movie companies, it’s clear that Aptoide promotes the apps for infringing uses. 

“Defendant Aptoide promotes Popcorn Time and the Show Box app
overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, for purposes of infringing Copyright protected content, including Plaintiffs’,” they write. 

From the complaint

As such, the rightsholders demand statutory damages for the alleged infringing activities, which could reach $150,000 per work, as well as an injunction to stop Aptoide from offering these apps to the public. 

However, it seems that the injunction is no longer required as Aptoide has already removed the apps from its marketplace. The original Showbox and Popcorn Time URLs, which are listed in the complaint, now return an error

“We could not find the App you are looking for. Try to use the search form above to find your App,” the error reads.

Several other Popcorn Time apps were removed as well, even though they were not listed in the complaint. 

It’s not clear when the apps were removed but it happened after the lawsuit was filed. The movie companies mention that TBV Productions, Inc. tried to get the apps removed before the complaint was filed, but to no avail. 

It appears that the legal action may have motivated Aptoide to spring into action. We reached out to the company for a comment on the app removal and the lawsuit, but at the time of writing we haven’t heard back. 

While the case remains ongoing for now, Aptoide’s recent actions suggest that it’s willing to resolve the matter. However, that likely means that they will have to keep a close eye on other apps as well, because a new Showbox was just added to their repository. 

A copy of the complaint TBV Productions and Hunter Killer Productions filed against against Aptoide is available here (pdf).

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DISH Sues Hosting Company & ‘Pirate’ IPTV Customer

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dish-sues-hosting-company-pirate-iptv-customer-190713/

Broadcaster DISH Networks is emerging as one of the most litigious companies in the world when it comes to tackling unlicensed IPTV providers.

A lawsuit filed this week in a Delaware federal court has the company targeting Serverlogy Corporation and several John Does, “together doing business” as East IPTV.

The twist here is that Serverlogy Corporation is a hosting company, reportedly offering bandwidth to a client running an IPTV service, but one that failed to act following numerous copyright infringement complaints regarding its customer.

East IPTV’s website is a professional affair, giving visitors the impression that it’s a legitimate service. DISH sees things differently, however, stating that the service is guilty of direct copyright infringement due to channels licensed to DISH being illegally broadcasted via the East IPTV service.

The suit claims that the people behind East IPTV capture live DISH programming and transcode it for streaming over the Internet, shifting it to other servers operated by the company for delivery to end-users. Customers can buy a set-top box with a one-year subscription for $199.99 and additional $99.99 subscriptions for each subsequent year.

The lawsuit states that DISH has been sending infringement notices concerning East IPTV to content delivery networks (CDNs) for some time, with at least two CDNs removing DISH’s content in March and June 2018. However, the broadcaster says that East IPTV interfered with these efforts by moving their channel offerings to other providers.

Overall, 34 infringement notices demanding that East IPTV cease and desist its activities were sent by DISH between January 2017 and the date of the lawsuit. This means that East IPTV as “actual knowledge” of its infringements, DISH says.

Shifting to Serverlogy, DISH describes the company as a CDN that markets and sells hosting solutions, through which is has “knowingly contributed to, and reaped profits from, copyright infringement committed by East,” causing great harm to the broadcaster.

“Since September 11, 2018, Serverlogy has deliberately refused to take reasonable measures to stop East from using its services and servers to infringe on DISH’s copyrights —even after Serverlogy became aware of East’s specific and repeated acts of infringement,” the lawsuit reads.

“DISH and Networks sent eight notices of infringement to Serverlogy advising Serverlogy of East’s blatant and systematic use of Serverlogy’s services and servers to transmit, distribute, and publicly perform the Protected Channels to Service Users.

“Rather than work with DISH to curb this infringement, Serverlogy willfully blinded itself to East’s repeat infringement, failing to terminate them or take any action to remove or disable the infringing content.”

As a result, DISH says Serverlogy cannot rely on the DMCA’s ‘safe harbor’ provisions. Not only did it fail to take steps in response to copyright complaints, the hosting provider does not have a registered DMCA agent either. On top, it has failed to adopt and reasonably implement a repeat infringer policy, DISH says.

In summary, DISH is suing East IPTV for direct infringement and Serverlogy for contributory and vicarious infringement, while describing the hosting company’s actions as “willful, malicious, intentional, purposeful, and in disregard of and with indifference to the rights of DISH.”

Alongside, DISH demands a permanent injunction against all defendants and statutory damages of up to $150,000 per registered work infringed, plus legal fees. At the time of writing, the East IPTV website remains in operation.

The complaint filed by DISH can be downloaded here (pdf)

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Judge Denies $10K Default Judgment Against Alleged Pirate

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/judge-denies-10k-default-judgment-against-alleged-pirate-170712/

In recent years, file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.

As the most active copyright litigant in the United States, adult entertainment outfit Malibu Media has been on the frontline of these efforts in recent years..

The company, widely known for its popular “X-Art” brand, has gone after thousands of alleged offenders. Many of its targets eventually pay up and those who fail to respond can face costly default judgments.

New Jersey resident Joe Park found himself in the latter category. The man was named in a Malibu Media lawsuit last year and failed to respond. Not just to the settlement requests, but also to the lawsuit filed at the New Jersey District Court.

Without a response, the complaining party can request a default judgment. This is exactly what Malibu Media did. It submitted a motion arguing that it’s entitled to $10,500.00 in statutory damages for copyright infringement and an additional $559.99 in costs.

In many cases, courts grant default judgment requests, as there is no defense. This has allowed Malibu Media to collect dozens, if not hundreds of default judgments. However, in the present matter, U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez decided otherwise.

In an opinion released this week, Judge Vazquez denied the motion, concluding that Malibu Media isn’t entitled to anything.

The denial is based on a culmination of rulings in similar BitTorrent piracy cases. While Malibu Media portrayed the defendant as a persistent copyright infringer, the Court is far from convinced.

“The Court is not satisfied that Plaintiff has sufficiently demonstrated that the named Defendant actually committed the complained of acts of infringement,” Judge Vazquez writes.

The Court doesn’t deny that it has jurisdiction or that the defendant was properly served, as it required. However, after reviewing several relevant decisions in similar cases, it is not convinced that there is enough evidence to show that the defendant is liable.

Among other things, the opinion cites a ruling from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who previously denied a subpoena requested in a similar case filed by Strike 3. This highlighted that the IP-address evidence used in these cases is “famously flawed” and not trustworthy.

Judge Lamberth also criticized the litigation effort in general, accusing the “copyright troll” practice as a “high-tech shakedown” where courts are used “as an ATM.”

Judge Vazquez further cites last year’s Cobbler Nevada v. Gonzales case. Here, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that identifying the registered subscriber of an IP-address by itself is not enough to plausibly claim that this person is also the infringer.

“Plaintiff will have to show something more than merely tying Defendant to an IP address in order to sufficiently establish copyright infringement,” Judge Vazquez notes.

This ‘something more’ can be quite a stumbling block for these cases, as the rightsholders often have little or no evidence to tie the infringements to a person, other than an IP-address.

The Court realizes that this puts Malibu Media in a tough spot, but sees no other option than to deny the motion for a default judgment.

The ruling is significant in the sense that, without any defense arguments from the accused pirate, a court refused to grant a default judgment. While this is by no means the end of these type of lawsuits, it certainly represents another setback for the ‘copyright troll’ efforts.

A copy of U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez’s order is available here (pdf)

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Apple Needs to Tackle ‘Pirate’ Music Apps, Labels Insist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/apple-needs-to-tackle-pirate-music-apps-labels-insist-190712/

The popularity of smartphones and their accompanying software ecosystems have given rise to large volumes of applications that appear to infringe copyright.

With its side-loading ability, Android is by far the most affected platform, with apps easily installable on millions of devices granting access to unlicensed content, including music, movies, and TV shows.

However, even when apps are pre-vetted for availability on Google Play or Apple’s App Store, some rogue tools slip through the net. This situation is unacceptable to most rightsholders but given the manner in which music is often consumed these days, recording labels tend to be the most dissatisfied.

This has prompted a large coalition of music-focused industry groups, headed up by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ), to write to Apple demanding change.

In a joint request the RIAJ, the Japan Association of Music Enterprises, the Music Publishers Association of Japan, and the Federation of Music Producers Japan, to name just four, seek assurances from the US-based tech giant that it will “tighten up” its processes to prevent “unauthorized” streaming apps ending up on its platform.

According to the industry groups, “unauthorized” means any app that allows a user to stream music in “ways that fall beyond the intention of the music’s copyright and neighboring right holders.”

The groups don’t offer any specifics but it seems extremely likely that given the pressure on sites and tools that rip, source, or otherwise cull content from YouTube, these are prime candidates for Apple’s attention.

“The recent torrent of Unauthorized Music Apps flooding the industry is enabling users to listen to music for free, resulting in these app operators to gain unfair profits through advertising sales,” the groups write.

“These operators are not only committing copyright infringement, but also stealing profit from the music’s rightful copyright owners and legitimate service providers—profit that they would have otherwise gained through CD sales, downloads, and streaming.”

That CD sales are placed at the head of the list is unsurprising. Despite much of the world ditching plastic discs in favor of digital streaming, Japan still has a love affair with the format, albeit one that’s on the wane.

According to figures published by the RIAJ, 88.65 million CDs were produced in Japan during 2018, down 13 percent on the previous year. That’s compared to 52 million units sold across the entire US during 2018. In 2014, around 85% of music sales in Japan came from CDs. Around 54% of consumption now comes from streaming.

The RIAJ acknowledges that Apple removes “unlicensed apps” from its App Store in response to takedown requests. However, removed apps sometimes reappear on the platform after being disguised as new tools. As a result, the RIAJ wants to be involved in the app approval process, to ensure that rogue software doesn’t appear on the App Store.

Calling for Apple to “strengthen its review process”, the RIAJ says the US company should begin “contacting and working with RIAJ for apps suspected to be Unauthorized Music Apps” while expediting takedowns for tools that violate Apple’s own terms and conditions.

“The music industry associations and music streaming service providers will continue to discuss and engage in efforts to tighten control over Unauthorized Music Apps, strive to build an honest and fair market, and demand speedy amendment of the Copyright Act that regulates leeching sites and apps,” the RIAJ concludes.

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