Tag Archives: afeat

Disney Wants to Reinforce Its ‘Piracy Intelligence’ Team

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/disneys-seeking-to-reinforce-its-piracy-intelligence-team-191117/

This week Disney launched its new streaming platform which immediately gained millions of subscribers.

At the same time, there was plenty of interest in ‘unauthorized’ Disney+ releases on pirate sites, particularly in the exclusive Mandalorian series.

As one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, Disney is not new to piracy. It has dealt with this issue for decades. However, now that it operates its own exclusive platform there are other factors to take into account.

How do exclusive releases impact piracy rates, for example? And what is the effect on subscriber rates? How the interplay between legal and illegal supply affects revenues can be a complex and dynamic puzzle to solve.

What is clear is that Disney has the goal to minimize piracy. While it’s not publicized much, the company has a dedicated “piracy intelligence” team that continually keeps an eye on the piracy landscape.

Just recently, a new vacancy opened up, perhaps tied to the launch of Disney+. While there are few details available, Disney describes the team as follows:

“The Piracy Intelligence team at The Walt Disney Studios is based in Burbank and provides meaningful piracy insights to inform strategies that maximize revenue for the film and TV business and minimize the piracy impact.”

Disney is currently looking for a market research and data analyst, who will be responsible for supporting a variety of “piracy intelligence initiatives” and to “measure movie and TV viewing trends across digital media platforms.”

Unfortunately, there is not much information online about the goals and accomplishments of Disney’s anti-piracy team. TorrentFreak reached out to multiple contacts at the company, but thus far we have yet to receive a response.

It’s no secret, however, that major entertainment companies keep a close eye on the pirate landscape.

The enforcement side of this is often quite visible. This is also true for Disney. The company is a member of the global anti-piracy coalition ACE, which has filed several lawsuits and chases site owners and developers as well.

However, piracy “intelligence” can also be used as a valuable market signal. That aspect would be more in line with the “market research” and “data analyst” Disney is currently looking for.

This type of piracy use wouldn’t be unique. Previously we reported how Netflix uses piracy to figure out how much they can charge in a country, as well as what content they license. Similarly, Hulu uses piracy data to see what is popular among potential viewers.

Disney may use similar signals to determine how to best position Disney+ and what content it should offer to minimize piracy, and perhaps more importantly, maximize revenue.

While I have no intention of applying for the job, one free bit of advice is to make sure that Disney+ is available everywhere in the world. Right now, many people feel left out which makes pirated Disney+ exclusives quite tempting.

But I guess the intelligence team will notice that soon enough.

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

EU Court to Decide on BitTorrent Questions in Copyright Trolling Case

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-related-eu-court-191116/

During the summer we reported on the renewed efforts of Golden Eye (International) and Mircom, companies with a track record of targeting alleged BitTorrent pirates with demands for cash settlements to make supposed lawsuits disappear.

After filing no complaints in the UK for years, the pair teamed up in an effort to squeeze the personal details of thousands of Internet users from the hands of ISP Virgin Media. Somewhat unusually given previous compliance in alleged anti-piracy matters, Virgin put up a pretty big fight.

In the end, the cases brought by Golden Eye and Mircom were proven to be so lacking in evidence that a judge in the High Court threw out the companies’ claims. Nevertheless, there are more countries than just the UK to target.

Cyprus-based Mircom (full name Mircom International Content Management & Consulting) has another case on the boil, this time against Telenet, the largest provider of cable broadband in Belgium. In common with previous cases, this one is also about the unlicensed sharing of pornographic movies using BitTorrent.

Mircom says it has thousands of IP addresses on file which can identify Telenet subscribers from which it wants to extract cash payments. However, it needs the ISP’s cooperation to match the IP addresses to those customers and the case isn’t progressing in a straightforward manner.

As a result, the Antwerp Business Court (Ondernemingsrechtbank Antwerpen) has referred several questions in the matter to the European Court of Justice. As usual, there are several controversial as well as technical points under consideration.

The first complication concerns how BitTorrent itself works. When a regular user participates in a BitTorrent swarm, small downloaded parts of a movie are then made available for upload. In this manner, everyone in a swarm can gain access to all of the necessary parts of the movie.

Anyone who obtains all of the parts (and therefore the whole movie) becomes a ‘seeder’ if he or she continues to upload to the swarm.

However, a question with three parts sent to the EU Court appears to seek clarity on whether uploading small pieces of a file, which are unusable in their own right, constitutes an infringement and if so, where the limit lies. It also deals with potential ignorance on the user’s part when it comes to seeding.

1. (a) Can the downloading of a file via a peer-to-peer network and the simultaneous provision for uploading of parts (‘pieces’) thereof (which may be very fragmentary as compared to the whole) (‘seeding’) be regarded as a communication to the public within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29, (1) even if the individual pieces as such are unusable? If so,

1. (b) is there a de minimis threshold above which the seeding of those pieces would constitute a communication to the public?

1. (c) is the fact that seeding can take place automatically (as a result of the torrent client’s settings), and thus without the user’s knowledge, relevant?

While the above matters are interesting in their own right, it’s Mircom’s position that perhaps provokes the most interest and has resulted in the next pair of questions to the European Court of Justice.

To be clear – Mircom is not a content creator. It is not a content distributor. Its entire purpose is to track down alleged infringers in order to claim cash settlements from them on the basis that its rights have been infringed. So what rights does it have?

Mircom claims to have obtained the rights to distribute, via peer-to-peer networks including BitTorrent, a large number of pornographic films produced by eight American and Canadian companies. However, despite having the right to do so, Mircom says it does not distribute any movies in this fashion.

Instead, it aims to collect money from alleged infringers, returning a proportion of this to the actual copyright holders, to whom it paid absolutely nothing for the rights to ‘distribute’ their movies via BitTorrent.

Interesting to say the least, a situation that has resulted in a second question with two parts being referred to the EUCJ;

2. (a) Can a person who is the contractual holder of the copyright (or related rights), but does not himself exploit those rights and merely claims damages from alleged infringers — and whose economic business model thus depends on the existence of piracy, not on combating it — enjoy the same rights as those conferred by Chapter II of Directive 2004/48 (2) on authors or licence holders who do exploit copyright in the normal way?

2. (b) How can the license holder in that case have suffered ‘prejudice’ (within the meaning of Article 13 of Directive 2004/48) as a result of the infringement?

A third question asks whether the specific circumstances laid out in questions 1 and 2 are relevant when assessing the correct balance between the enforcement of intellectual property rights and the right to a private life and protection of personal data.

Finally, question four deals with a particularly interesting aspect of BitTorrent swarm data monitoring and subsequent data processing in respect of the GDPR.

4. Is, in all those circumstances, the systematic registration and general further processing of the IP-addresses of a ‘swarm’ of ‘seeders’ (by the licence holder himself, and by a third party on his behalf) legitimate under the General Data Protection Regulation and specifically under Article 6(1)(f) thereof?

There are already considerable concerns that the tracking data collected and processed as part of the case in hand may not have been handled as required under the GDPR. That, on top of the conclusion that Mircom fits the ‘copyright troll’ label almost perfectly, makes this a very interesting case to follow.

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

Company That Acquired ‘Copyright Troll’ Warns ISPs & VPN Providers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/company-that-acquired-copyright-troll-warns-isps-vpn-providers-191115/

While movie and music companies have regularly filed copyright lawsuits against alleged BitTorrent pirates over the past decade and beyond, the companies operating the machinery behind the scenes are less well known.

One exception was to be found in GuardaLey, an entity that provided tracking data and business structure for numerous lawsuits, notably the massive action targeting alleged pirates of the movies The Hurt Locker and The Expendables.

While these lawsuits and others like them attracted plenty of headlines, GuardaLey itself rarely experienced much scrutiny, at least not to the extent where its complex business dealings were made available to the public.

Earlier this year the waters appeared to be muddied again when 100% of its alleged US-operations were ‘acquired’ by American Films Inc. which promised to target peer-to-peer networks in order to target “repeat infringers.”

Since then, nothing has been heard of American Films Inc, which at the time of the GuardaLey acquisition was described as a “shell company.” Now, however, the company appears to have even grander plans after another acquisition, this time of “strategic data company” Maker Data Services LLC.

“This acquisition is important because it adds to the evidence of BitTorrent related copyright infringement that American Films can provide to its clients,” says John Carty, American Films’ CEO.

“This type of forensic evidence is only available from a few sources, most of which only supply the largest industry associations.”

However, it’s the next set of claims that are likely to raise the most eyebrows, including a veiled threat to not only take powerful Internet service providers to court, but also VPN companies.

“American Films has positioned itself as the go-to data provider for independent filmmakers that want to take action against the direct infringers, Internet Service Providers, VPN Providers, and others that allow, encourage, and profit from BitTorrent copyright infringement,” a company statement reads.

According to various sources, at the time of writing American Films stock is currently changing hands at around $0.04, has one employee, but decides not to supply any financial information by way of accounts.

More information is available on Maker Data Services LLC if one visits its website, but it’s not a particularly confidence-inspiring experience, even for a one-year-old company.

“Our company has created a tool that will search the internet. Our tool is able to find any relevant data that could affect the operations of our clients, that is, the businesses we serve,” the Maker Data site reads.

“We deal mostly with real estate data and people data to ensure that Real Estate businesses have all the vital information to make sound decisions and drive their businesses forward.

“Our real estate data and analytics services will always give you the actual value of a home before buying for better decision making.”

While there might potentially be some synergies between the above and “forensic” anti-piracy activity, the claim elsewhere on the site that the company has “state-the-art software” does not extend to the bug-ridden WordPress installation powering the site.

Every page displays database errors and much of the site consists of ‘articles’ carrying little more than placeholder posts, graphics and text, presumably put there by the creators of the website.

Google “site:makerdataservices.com” for many more..

Along with the acquisition of Maker Data Services comes the appointment of a new CTO for American Films, Craig Campbell, formerly of Fidelity Investments.

His “main focus” will be “managing the build-out of BitTorrent products for copyright enforcement utilizing the combined data resources now available at American Films.”

How the business model of American Films will develop is for the future to reveal but the acquisitions announced by the company thus far only raise more questions, not provide more answers. To be brutal, it’s only the inclusion of GuardaLey’s reputation as a ‘copyright troll’ within the equation that provokes curiosity.

Litigating successful lawsuits against powerful ISPs or even VPN providers seems not only an incredibly lofty goal, but also an extremely costly and risky proposition. Part of the solution to the latter pair of roadblocks, perhaps, lies in the company’s stated aim.

“American Films seeks to create alternative investment participation vehicles that provide necessary funding to appropriate projects while offering reasonable return on investment and mitigation of business risks traditionally encountered in the film industry,” the company states.

A for-hire firewall for ‘copyright trolling’ or the next Rightscorp? Only time will tell but ISPs and VPN providers probably aren’t worried too much just yet.

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

Court Punishes Copyright ‘Troll’ Lawyer for Repeatedly Lying to The Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-punishes-copyright-troll-lawyer-for-repeatedly-lying-to-the-court-191115/

Over the past several years, independent photographers have filed more than a thousand lawsuits against companies that allegedly use their work without permission.

As many targets are mainstream media outlets, these can be seen as David vs. Goliath battles. However, the nature of these cases is described as classic copyright-trolling by many.

The driving force behind this copyright crusade is New York lawyer Richard Liebowitz, a former photographer, who explained his motives to TorrentFreak when he just got his firm started more than three years ago.

“Companies are using other people’s hard work and profiting off of it. It is important for photographers and the creative community to unite and stand up for their rights and protect their work,” Liebowitz said.

In the years that followed Liebowitz filed hundreds of new cases a year, trying to obtain settlements. While many of the photographers have a legitimate claim, the lawyer’s antics were increasingly criticized both in and outside of court.

In recent weeks, things only got worse.

In a case that was filed on behalf of photographer Jason Berger, targeting Imagina Consulting, Liebowitz failed to show up at a discovery hearing last April, without informing the court.

The lawyer later explained that this was due to a death in his family. However, since there were other issues that put the lawyer’s credibility in doubt, Judge Cathy Siebel decided to request evidence or documentation regarding who died, when, and how he was notified.

In the following months, Liebowitz explained that his grandfather had passed away on April 12, but he didn’t provide any documentation to back this up. Even after the court imposed sanctions of $100 for each business day he didn’t comply, nothing came in.

Instead of providing proof, the lawyer appeared to keep stalling, while stating that a death certificate is a personal matter.

This led some people to wonder whether Liebowitz’ grandfather had indeed passed away. Frustrated with the refusal to comply with her demands, Judge Siebel raised the sanctions to $500 per day earlier this month, criticising the lawyer for his behavior.

The order (pdf), picked up by Law360, instructed the New York lawyer to show up in court this week, to explain “why he should not be incarcerated” until he provides documented proof.

“Failure to appear as directed will subject Mr. Liebowitz to arrest by the United States Marshals Service without further notice,” Judge Siebel wrote.

It turns out that an arrest wasn’t needed as Liebowitz did show up at the hearing this week. Realizing that there may be trouble ahead, he entered the courtroom with two criminal defense lawyers at his side, for what would become a turbulent hearing.

After six months, the lawyer finally presented the death certificate the court had requested. This proved that he didn’t lie about the death of his grandfather, but he hadn’t been truthful either as this occurred three days earlier than Liebowitz said, on April 9.

Judge Siebel wasn’t happy about this, to say the least. According to The Smoking Gun, which covered the case in detail, she said that Liebowitz “chose to repeat that lie six, eight, ten times” as part of a “long-term campaign of deception.”

“I question Mr. Liebowitz’s fitness to practice,” Seibel added at one point during the hearing.

Liebowitz’s lawyer, Richard Greenberg, who has known the lawyer and his family for years, explained that his client’s misrepresentations were not “intentional” and that he “was in a daze” following the death of his grandfather.

However, Judge Seibel didn’t fall for this and countered that it would be “completely implausible” that this “haze” would have continued for months. According to her, Liebowitz intentionally lied to the court, noting that it was clearly not an honest mistake.

Greenberg also tried to get the sanctions lowered, which he said had risen to $3,700 over the past weeks. According to a letter sent to the court earlier this week, the attorney noted that Liebowitz had already paid a high price for his wrongdoing, including bad publicity.

“Richard has suffered horrible publicity as a result of being held in contempt and threatened with incarceration by this Court. And of course Richard, a young and inexperienced lawyer, is scared of the damage to his professional career as a result of his conduct and these proceedings,” Greenberg wrote.

“At the risk of appearing to minimize the seriousness of this matter, which counsel would not dare to do, counsel urges this Court to find that Richard has suffered or been penalized enough for his lapse or misconduct,” the letter (pdf) adds.

Judge Seibel didn’t seem convinced by these arguments though, and Liebowitz had to cough up for sanctions. According to Leonard French’s coverage, he paid $3,700 in court. That was $100 short according to the Judge, but she accepted it nonetheless.

The earlier contempt rulings also bring more bad news for the lawyer. He now has to disclose these to other courts as well as prospective clients, which likely doesn’t help his business.

In addition, Judge Seibel has referred the matter to the Grievance Committee, which will decide if further sanctions are appropriate, which could lead to trouble at the New York bar.

Needless to say, this is yet more bad news for the attorney. He can continue to practice law, at least for now, but everyone seems to agree that the attorney needs help and not just on the legal front.

Liebowitz’s own lawyer and family friend, Greenberg, recommended him to enroll in a CLE course to learn how to manage a small law firm. In addition, he was advised to seek psychotherapy to deal with several other issues.

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

Canadian Court Rejects Reverse Class Action Against BitTorrent Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/canadian-court-rejects-reverse-class-action-against-bittorrent-pirates-191114/

Movie studio Voltage Pictures is no stranger to suing BitTorrent users.

The company and its subsidiaries have filed numerous lawsuits against alleged pirates in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, and likely made a lot of money doing so.

Voltage and other copyright holders who initiate these cases generally rely on IP addresses as evidence. With this information in hand, they ask the courts to order Internet providers to hand over the personal details of the associated account holders, so the alleged pirates can be pursued for settlements.

In Canada, Voltage tried to get these personal details from a large group of copyright infringers by filing a reverse class-action lawsuit, which is relatively rare. The movie company argued that this is a cheaper way to target large numbers of infringers at once.

The lawsuit in question was initially filed in 2016 and dragged on for years. The case revolves around a representative defendant, Robert Salna, who provides WiFi services to tenants. Through Salna, Voltage hoped to catch a group of infringers.

As the case went on the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) took interest in the case. The group, which is connected to the University of Ottawa, eventually intervened to represent anonymous defendants.

Among other things, CIPPIC argued that the movie company failed to identify an actual infringer. It targets multiple ‘infringing’ IP-addresses, which are not unique and can be used by multiple persons at once. In addition, unprotected WiFi networks may be open to the public at large.

Since the IP-addresses are not necessarily the infringers, Voltage has no reasonable cause to file the reverse class action, CIPPIC’s submission argued.

This week the Federal Court of Canada ruled on the matter and Justice Boswell agreed with CIPPIC.

“I agree with CIPPIC’s submissions that Voltage’s pleadings do not disclose a reasonable cause of action with respect to primary infringement.  While Voltage alleges that its forensic software identified a direct infringement in [sic] Voltage’s films, Voltage has failed to identify a Direct Infringer in its amended notice of application,” he writes.

Judge Boswell also agreed with CIPPIC’s critique of the class action procedure. These piracy cases deal with multiple infringers which will all have different circumstances. Reverse class action lawsuits are less suited to this scenario.

“A class proceeding is not a preferable procedure for the just and efficient resolution of any common issues which may exist.  The proposed proceeding would require multiple individual fact-findings for each class member on almost every issue.” 

The Judge further notes that there are other preferable means for Voltage to pursue its claims. These include joinder and consolidation of individual claims.

Based on these and other conclusions, Judge Boswell dismissed Voltage’s motion to certify the case as a reverse class action. In addition, the movie company was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding, which could run to tens of thousands of dollars.

This is an important ruling as it takes a clear stand against the reverse class action strategy for this type of piracy case. And it may even go further than that. According to law professor Michael Geist, it can impact future file-sharing cases as well. 

“I think the decision does have implications that extend beyond this specific class action strategy as it calls into doubt the direct link between IP address and infringement and raises questions about whether merely using BitTorrent rises to the level of secondary infringement,” Geist tells TorrentFreak.

CIPPIC’s director David Fewer is also happy with the outcome. He tells the Globe and Mail that if the motion was accepted, it could have “seriously expanded the threat of copyright liability to anyone allowing others to use an internet connection.”

While the ruling is a clear dismissal of the reverse class action approach, there are similar file-sharing cases in Canada that have proven to be more effective. As long as this practice remains profitable, it will probably not go away.

A copy of Judge Boswell’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.

Kodi Addon & Build Repositories Shut Down Citing Legal Pressure

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-addon-build-repositories-shut-down-citing-legal-pressure-191114/

Being involved in the development of third-party Kodi addons and ‘builds’ (Kodi installations pre-customized with addons and tweaks) is a somewhat risky activity.

Providing simple access to otherwise restricted movies and TV shows attracts copyright holders, and that always has the potential to end badly. And it does, pretty regularly.

On November 1, 2019, UK-focused Kodi platform KodiUK.tv made an announcement on Twitter, stating briefly that “Something has happened this morning. Sorry!” While that could mean anything, an ominous follow-up message indicated that a statement would be released in due course “detailing the future”.

Several hours later, KodiUK.tv confirmed what fans already knew, that it had taken down its site. Why that happened remained open to question but a few hours ago the group confirmed that legal action was to blame.

“We took our website offline 10 days ago closed our repo and the builds due to legal demands against us,” KodiUK.tv announced on Twitter.

“We will say more when we can bring the site back up safely. But the builds & repo will not be back nor will we host any add-ons anymore for anyone.”

dad life kodi build

The closure is particularly bad news for anyone who used the popular DadLife Kodi build that was previously installable via the group’s repository. Whether it will find a new official home somewhere else is open to question.

But there is more bad news too. In an announcement posted a few hours ago to its Facebook page, Kodi builds and addon repository OneNation revealed that it too had shut down, again as a result of legal pressure.

“Unfortunately due to outside Legal pressures this group will close with immediate effect along with our Repository etc. We would just like to thank each and every one of you for all your support over the years,” OneNation wrote.

Noting they’d had an “absolute blast”, OneNation added they were going out with their “heads held high” having done things their way, without “robbing links from others” or accepting payment in any “shape or form”.

OneNation: another one bites the dust

OneNation went down with strict instructions for no-one to contact the team for any further information and to treat any additional information published online as “hearsay.” That means that confirming who applied the legal pressure will be reliant on word from the anti-piracy groups most likely to be have been involved.

TorrentFreak has contacted the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment and the Federation Against Copyright Theft for comment. We’ll post an update here if any confirmation or denials are received from either group.

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

Disney+ Launched and Pirates Love It, Especially Mandalorian

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/disney-launched-and-pirates-love-it-especially-mandalorian-191113/

Two years ago, when Disney announced that it would launch its own streaming service, we mused that this would keep piracy relevant.

Yes, another paid streaming service would further fragment the legitimate market. This could motivate some to keep pirating, at least part-time.

More recently research has confirmed that this is indeed a warranted concern as people have limited budgets, but money isn’t the only problem.

When Disney confirmed that the initial rollout would be limited to the United States, Canada and the Netherlands, the piracy lure only became stronger. Star Wars fans in most parts of the world currently can’t watch the highly anticipated Mandalorian series, unless they pirate.

With this in mind, we kept a close eye on the official Disney+ launch this week. There was an enormous amount of media coverage which, undoubtedly, led to a lot of legitimate subscriptions. But, at the same time, pirate sites were buzzing too.

Shortly after Disney+ opened shop the first pirated releases started to spread. First through private communities and then over at public torrent sites, cyberlockers, and not-so-legal streaming platforms. After a few hours, pirated copies of the Mandalorian were everywhere.

This doesn’t really come as a surprise. Disney+ currently uses Widevine encryption, which is similar to what other streaming services use. Downloading or ‘ripping’ these videos doesn’t appear to be too hard.

And indeed, a quick glance at various pirate sites reveals that the first Mandalorian episode, which is exclusive to Disney+, is widely available in various formats.

Over the past two days, Mandalorian has already become the most pirated TV-show, with hundreds of thousands of downloads and streams, if not more. While it is far from becoming the next “Game of Thrones,” the potential is certainly there.

The fact that Disney+ isn’t available in many countries is similar to HBO’s situation when Game of Thrones first came out. This serves as a piracy incentive. After all, people who want to watch Mandalorian in the UK, Australia, and elsewhere, have few other options than to pirate.

The limited release of Disney+ may actually breed some new pirates. Even worse, there is a chance that many of these pirates may not go legal when the streaming service officially launches in their country.

For now, Disney’s anti-piracy efforts appear to be focused elsewhere though. The company has sent takedown requests for thousands of URLs that host or link to unauthorized copies of Mandalorian. This includes notices that were sent to Google, with requests to delist these pages.

As one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, these piracy concerns shouldn’t come as a surprise to Disney. The company probably weighed the pros and cons of its actions, including the limited geographical release, as well as entering an already fragmented streaming landscape.

In today’s online streaming business, piracy is a given. Disney probably believes that running its own streaming platform will ultimately bring in more money. Piracy or not.

They may very well be right, but it will happen at the expense of others. That may include some of Disney’s competitors, but also consumers who are not willing to pirate, and those who can’t afford another subscription.

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

EU Academics Publish Recommendations to Limit Negative Impact of Article 17 on Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-academics-publish-recommendations-to-limit-negative-impact-of-article-17-191113/

Despite some of the most intense opposition seen in recent years, on March 26, 2019, the EU Parliament adopted the Copyright Directive.

The main controversy surrounded Article 17 (previously known as Article 13), which places greater restrictions on user-generated content platforms like YouTube.

Rightsholders, from the music industry in particular, welcomed the new reality. Without official licensing arrangements in place or strong efforts to obtain licensing alongside best efforts to take down infringing content and keep it down, sites like YouTube (Online Content Sharing Service Providers – OCSSP) can potentially be held liable for infringing content.

This uncertainty led many to fear for the future of fair use, with the specter of content upload platforms deploying strict automated filters that err on the side of caution in order to avoid negative legal consequences under the new law.

While the legislation has been passed at the EU level, it still has to be written into Member States’ local law. With that in mind, more than 50 EU Academics have published a set of recommendations that they believe have the potential to limit restrictions on user freedoms as a result of the new legislation.

A key recommendation is that national implementations should “fully explore” legal mechanisms for broad licensing of copyrighted content. The academics are calling for this to ensure that the preventative obligations of OCSSPs are limited in application wherever possible.

The academics hope that broad licensing can avoid situations where to avoid liability, OCSSPs would otherwise have to prove they have made “best efforts” to ensure works specified by rightsholders are rendered inaccessible or show that they have “acted expeditiously” to remove content and prevent its reupload following a request from a rightsholder.

“Otherwise, the freedom of EU citizens to participate in democratic online content creation and distribution will be encroached upon and freedom of expression and information in the online environment would be curtailed,” the academics warn.

The academics’ recommendations are focused on ensuring that non-infringing works don’t become collateral damage as OCSSPs scramble to cover their own backs and avoid liability.

For example, the preventative obligations listed above should generally not come into play when content is used for quotation, criticism, or review, or for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche. If content is removed or filtered incorrectly, however, Member States must ensure that online content-sharing service providers put in place an “effective and expeditious” complaint and redress system.

The prospect of automatic filtering at the point of upload was a hugely controversial matter before Article 17 passed but the academics believe they have identified ways to ensure that freedom of expression and access to information can be better protected.

“[W]e recommend that where preventive measures [as detailed above] are applied, especially where they lead to the filtering and blocking of uploaded content before it is made available to the public, Member States should, to the extent possible, limit their application to cases of prima facie [upon first impression] copyright infringement,” the academics write.

“In this context, a prima facie copyright infringement means the upload of protected material that is identical or equivalent to the ‘relevant and necessary information’ previously provided by the rightholders to OCSSPs, including information previously considered infringing. The concept of equivalent information should be interpreted strictly.”

The academics say that if content is removed on the basis of prima facie infringement, users are entitled to activate the complaint and redress procedure. If there is no prima facie infringement, content should not be removed until its legal status is determined.

In cases where user-uploaded content does not meet the prima facie standard but matches “relevant and necessary information” (fingerprints etc) supplied by rightsholders, OCSSPs must grant users the ability to declare that content is not infringing due to fair use-type exceptions.

“The means to provide such declaration should be concise, transparent, intelligible, and be presented to the user in an easily accessible form, using clear and plain language (e.g. a standard statement clarifying the status of the uploaded content, such as ‘This is a permissible quotation’ or ‘This is a permissible parody’),” the recommendations read.

If users don’t provide a declaration within a “reasonable” time following upload, the OCSSP (YouTube etc) should be “allowed” to remove the content, with users granted permission to activate the complaint and redress procedure.

Rightsholders who still maintain that content was removed correctly must then justify the deletion, detailing why it is a prima facie case of infringement and not covered by a fair use-type exemption, particularly the one cited by the user.

A human review should then be conducted at the OCSSP, which should not be held liable for infringement under Article 17 until the process is complete and legality determined.

Given that Article 17 has passed, there appears to be limited room to maneuver and there is a long way to go before all Member States write its terms into local law.

However, even if the above safeguarding recommendations are implemented, it’s clear that substantial resources will have to be expended to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected. As a result, platforms lacking YouTube-sized budgets will undoubtedly feel the pinch.

Safeguarding User Freedoms in Implementing Article 17 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive: Recommendations from European Academics is available here.

 

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IPTV Supplier Omniverse Agrees to Pay $50 Million in Piracy Damages

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-supplier-omniverse-agrees-to-pay-50-million-in-piracy-damages-191113/

In February, several major Hollywood studios filed a lawsuit against Omniverse One World Television.

Under the flag of anti-piracy group ACE, the companies accused Omniverse and its owner Jason DeMeo of supplying of pirate streaming channels to various IPTV services.

Omniverse sold live-streaming services to third-party distributors, such as Dragon Box and HDHomerun, which in turn offered live TV streaming packages to customers. According to ACE, the company was a pirate streaming TV supplier, offering these channels without permission from its members.

Omniverse disagreed with this characterization and countered that it did everything by the book. It relied on a deal from the licensed cable company Hovsat, which has a long-standing agreement with DirecTV to distribute a broad range of TV-channels with few restrictions.

Omniverse

As time went on, however, it transpired that the streaming provider was clearly worried about the legal threat. After several of its distributors distanced themselves from the service, Omniverse decided to wind down its business.

The streaming provider also filed a third-party complaint (pdf) against Hovsat for indemnification and breach of contract, among other things. Omniverse believed that it was properly licensed and wants Hovsat to pay the damages for any alleged infringements if that was not the case.

That there are damages became crystal clear yesterday, when ACE announced that it had obtained a consent judgment against Omniverse. Both parties have agreed to settle the matter with the streaming provider committing to pay a $50 million settlement.

“Damages are awarded in favor of Plaintiffs and against Defendants,
jointly and severally, in the total amount of fifty million dollars,” the proposed judgment reads.

The agreement also includes a permanent injunction that prevents Omniverse and its owner Jason DeMeo from operating the service and being involved in supplying or offering pirate streaming channels in any other way.

The damages amount of $50 million is a substantial figure. In the past, however, we have seen that the public figure can be substantially higher than what’s agreed in private. In any case, Omniverse may hold Hovsat accountable, as previously suggested.

Karen Thorland, Senior Vice President at the Motion Picture Association, which has a leading role in the ACE coalition, is pleased with the outcome.

“This judgment and injunction are a major win for creators, audiences, and the legitimate streaming market, which has been undermined by Omniverse and its ‘back office’ piracy infrastructure for years,” Thorland, says

Over the past years, ACE has built a steady track record of successful cases against IPTV providers and services. In addition to Omniverse, it also helped to shut down SetTV, Dragon Box, TickBox, Vader Streams, and many third-party Kodi addons.

The consent judgment and permanent injunction (pdf) have yet to be signed off by the court but since both parties are in agreement, that’s mostly a formality.

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Copyright Professors Back ISP Charter to Avoid Dangerous Piracy Liability Precedent

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-professors-back-isp-charter-to-avoid-dangerous-piracy-liability-precedent-191112/

In March several major music companies sued Charter Communications, one of the largest Internet providers in the US with 22 million subscribers.

Helped by the RIAA, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, and others accused Charter of deliberately turning a blind eye to its pirating subscribers.

Among other things, they argued that the ISP failed to terminate or otherwise take meaningful action against the accounts of repeat infringers, even though it was well aware of them. As such, it is liable for both contributory infringement and vicarious liability, the music companies claim. 

The ISP disagreed and filed a motion at a Colorado federal court, asking it to dismiss the vicarious liability claims. Charter argues that it doesn’t directly profit from copyright-infringing subscribers, nor does it have the ability to control them.

Previously, other Internet providers have been successful in getting vicarious infringement claims dropped, but Charter’s case appears to go in the other direction. Last month Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty recommended the court to deny the motion to dismiss.

According to the Judge, Charter’s “failure to stop or take other action in response to notices of infringement is a draw to current and prospective subscribers to purchase and use Defendant’s internet service to ‘pirate’ Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works.”

Charter objected to this recommendation and hopes that the court will not accept it. The company fears that this will subject the company, and pretty much all other ISPs, to a wide range of piracy liability claims.

They are not alone in this assessment. Yesterday, a group of 23 copyright law professors submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the company. According to the legal scholars from prominent institutions including Harvard and Stanford, the recommendation would set a dangerous precedent.

The copyright professors point out that, based on the complaint, it can’t be concluded that Charter enjoyed direct financial benefits from the alleged infringements, as vicarious liability prescribes.

Vicarious liability requires ISPs’ actions to serve as a “draw” to potential infringers. However, the professors argue that this isn’t the case here. Instead, the potential to use Charter to pirate should be seen as an “added benefit.”

The draw, in this case, is access to the entire Internet, with the potential to pirate being an added benefit.

“Access to this universe of content and services is the draw for subscribers, and the use by some subscribers of some portion of that service to download infringing material can only plausibly be seen as an added benefit of the service.

“This is especially true with ISPs, like Charter, because subscribers pay the same flat monthly rate for a particular level of service irrespective of whether, or how often, they infringe,” the professors add.

The Judge’s recommendation fails to properly make this distinction according to the professors. Neither does it show the necessary causal link between infringements and the financial benefit. As a result, it would expose Charter and other ISPs to “unprecedented risks of liability.”

The fact that Charter advertises “blazing-fast” speeds that allow users to download “just about anything” efficiently is not relevant either. According to the professors, these features are valued by all Internet users whether they engage in infringement or not.

“The Recommendation’s misapplication of the direct financial benefit analysis would cause considerable harm to other ISPs, consumers, and the public,” they write.

Blazing-fast

The immediate threat to ISPs is more lawsuits where dozens of millions of dollars in damages are at stake. If the recommendation stands, providers would have a hard time defending them. In addition, many would have to change their piracy policies, which could hurt consumer privacy.

In order to avoid vicarious liability claims, Charter and others would have to be more active against potential repeat infringers. This could lead to more Internet terminations and possible monitoring of legitimate users, the professors warn.

“Consumers, whether they personally engage in infringing conduct or not, could be subject to wholesale termination of their Internet access based on unproven allegations of infringement occurring at the IP address through which they connect to the Internet.

“Moreover, ISPs could be forced to engage in privacy-invasive monitoring of their subscribers’ Internet activity,” they add.

The brief explains that ISPs that don’t host any content should pass all Internet traffic along in a neutral manner. These companies should not be forced to become copyright enforcers based on mere allegations.

Based on the above, the copyright law professors urge the court not to adopt the Magistrate Judge’s recommendations. First, however, the court must decide whether it will accept the brief and add it to the record.

Given what’s at stake, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see submissions from more third-parties on this matter in the coming days.

A copy of the professors’ amicus curiae brief, which has yet to be accepted, is available here (pdf).

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‘Copyright’ Sting Targeting 15-Year-Old Backfires With Arrest Warrants & Record Sales

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-sting-targeting-15-year-old-backfires-with-arrest-warrant-big-sales-191112/

Krathong float (credit)

Loi Krathong is an annual festival celebrated in Thailand and some neighboring countries during which ‘krathong’ (decorated baskets) are floated on a river.

These beautiful items are often made by locals looking to generate relatively small sums to help support their families and in some cases fund their education. Sadly, there are others who see the creations as an opportunity to generate cash for themselves in an entirely more sinister fashion.

According to local media reports, earlier this month a 15-year-old girl known as ‘Orm’ or ‘Orn’ (we’ll settle on the former) was contacted on Facebook by a stranger who placed an order for 136 krathong floats. The order carried specific instructions for them to be adorned with faces of cartoon characters owned by Japanese company San-X.

When Orm took 30 completed floats to a local mall, at the request of a supposed “copyright agent” she was reportedly arrested by police for ‘copyright infringement’. She was told to pay a fine of 50,000 baht, around US$1,650, a figure that was later negotiated down to 5,000 baht, US$1,650, by her grandfather, a former policeman.

“After receiving the order, I made krathong baskets from 8am to 1.30am the next day so that I could fill the order, only to be arrested,” Orm said.

“Normally I do not make any basket with a copyrighted character. This customer stressed they wanted copyrighted characters. After being arrested I cried all night because I have never faced such legal action before.”

The action against the teenager provoked outcry in the community after the chief of a local police station said it had worked with the ‘copyright agent’ on the sting operation, Bangkok Post reported.

However, all was not what it seemed. TAC Consumer PLC, which represents San-X, issued a statement stating that it had not participated in the operation against the teenager and had assigned one of its lawyers to the case. But worse was to come.

After news of the scandal spread, other victims of the scam came forward, saying they too had been arrested and settled for even larger amounts having borrowed the money from family members. They identified the ‘copyright agent’ as the same man who targeted the teenager.

When news reached local TV, a reporter helped to track down the ‘copyright agent’, who was discovered to be a local motorcycle taxi driver called ‘Nan’ whose wife sells meatballs in the area.

Yesterday, as pressure mounted against local police, a commander announced that after 40 similar complaints were filed against the ‘copyright agent’, they would be seeking arrest warrants by the end of the week. While that news will be celebrated in its own right, the knock-on effect of all the publicity is doing wonders for Orm’s work.

After making 360 floats to sell during the Loy Krathong festival, people queued up to buy them. They sold out in an hour, making herself around 8,110 baht in profit, around US$267.00. She told local media she was “delighted” by the response having sold just 30 in previous years.

Half of the money will go towards her school fees and the rest will go to her family to help with household expenses.

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Hollywood Praises Australia’s Anti-Piracy Laws, But More Can Be Done

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-praises-australias-anti-piracy-laws-but-more-can-be-done-191111/

For years on end, entertainment industry insiders have regularly portrayed Australia as a piracy-ridden country.

However, after several legislative updates, the tide appears to have turned. This is the conclusion reached by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) in a recent report.

The industry group, which is largely made up of Hollywood studios, along with the recently added Netflix, continuously monitors Australia’s anti-piracy efforts. In recent years, things have been going in the right direction.

A short summary of its findings was recently reported to the US Government as part of the annual trade barriers consultation.

The MPA’s overview is generally a summary of copyright challenges and shortcomings around the world. However, Australia is one of the few exceptions when it comes to anti-piracy enforcement. In fact, the industry group is rather positive about the progress the country has made.

“Australia has developed excellent tools to fight online piracy, including effective laws allowing for no-fault injunctive relief against ISPs and ‘search engine service providers’,” the MPA writes in its report.

The report points out that in recent years piracy rates have declined significantly Down Under. Pirate site blocking and other measures have helped to boost interest in legal subscription services, including Netflix, it suggests.

The MPA is also positive about recent developments regarding takedown notices. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is currently considering the introduction of a mandatory takedown notice scheme, one that would be stricter than the DMCA-style standard which is common today.

“This would include procedures for urgent take downs (extending to pre-release or new-release films and TV shows as well as live entertainment content), as well as ‘stay down’ obligations to ensure that content already identified as infringing does not quickly re-appear,” the MPA notes.

The Hollywood-backed group supports this initiative and adds that companies who breach the new takedown standard should face “meaningful” penalties.

Aside from the positive remarks in Australia, the MPA informs the US Government that there is room for improvement as well. For example, the police could offer more help with piracy-related investigations, something that’s lacking today.

In addition, the MPA is worried about an ongoing Copyright Modernization consultation where further exceptions to copyright are being considered. This includes new definitions of fair dealing or fair use, which are seen as a threat by the industry group.

“This consultation risks undermining the current balance of IP protection in Australia that has fueled the country’s creative industries, and could create significant market uncertainty and effectively weaken Australia’s infrastructure for intellectual property protection,” the MPA states.

Closing out the list is a recommendation to propose tough anti-camcording piracy laws. While fewer illegal recordings are sourced from Australia today, the current penalties for this activity are simply not enough to act as a proper deterrent, the group says.

The last request is far from new. The same demands have appeared in previous reports, as is the case with many of the recommendations throughout the MPA’s report, which are often copied verbatim year after year.

The full overview of the MPA’s trade barrier comments to the US Trade Representative is available here (pdf).

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Sci-Hub & Libgen Blocked By Austrian ISPs Following Elsevier Complaint

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-libgen-blocked-by-austrian-isps-following-elsevier-complaint-191111/

For well over a decade, entertainment industry groups have been developing legal processes to have allegedly-infringing websites blocked at the ISP level.

The majority of these complaints have been initiated by movie and music companies but in recent years, other content distributors have sought similar blockades in order to protect their interests.

Publishing giant Elsevier has emerged as a major player with arch-rivals Sci-Hub (‘The Pirate Bay of Science’) and Libgen (Library Genesis) as its key targets. Late last week, Austrian ISP T-Mobile revealed that it had begun blocking several Sci-Hub and Libgen related domains following a supervisory procedure carried out by local telecoms regulator TKK.

The original complaint against more than two dozen domains was filed in the summer by Elsevier Ltd, Elsevier BV and Elsevier Inc. against rival ISP A1. The ISP took the decision to block the domains in July but due to concerns that blocking has the potential to breach net neutrality rules, it reported the case to TKK (Telekom-Control-Commission).

Early August, TKK launched a supervisory process and both A1 and Elsevier were asked to participate. In September, TKK informed the parties of the results of its investigation which determined that 24 of the 27 domains listed in the original blocking request (listed below) were “structurally infringing”.

In summary, the 24 domains either provided direct access to Sci-Hub or Libgen or provided proxy/mirror access to essentially the same content.

Three domains – libgen.io, lgmag.org and bookdescr.org – were determined to be either inaccessible during the process or didn’t carry content owned by Elsevier at the time. After notification from TKK, A1 confirmed that it had lifted its blocks against the three domains in question.

Following A1’s blocking of the listed domains, TKK says no end-users complained to the ISP that the blocks had been put in place or filed any official complaints with the telecoms regulator.

So, after analysis of the nature of the sites and their conduct, TKK therefore ruled (pdf) that blocking them at the ISP level would be the correct balance between the rights of Internet users and Elsevier’s rights to protect its intellectual property.

Over the border, Elsevier previously obtained a 2018 Sci-Hub-blocking order in Germany. In March 2019, several French ISPs were told to do the same after similar action. In September, a Danish court handed down a similar ruling.

The question remains, however, whether anti-piracy enforcement action alone will ever keep Sci-Hub down, particularly when universities are reconsidering their business dealings with Elsevier and making the platform more relevant than ever.

The full list of 24 domains blocked in Austria reads as follows:

gen.lib.rus.ec, sci-hub.tw, sci-hub.se, sci-hub.ren, sci-hub.be, sci-hub.shop, libgen.unblocked.win, libgen.unblocked.lc, libgen.unblocked.vet, libgen.unblocked.la, libgen.unblocked.li, libgen.unblocked.red, libgen.unblocked.tv, libgen.unblocked.cat, libgen.unblocked.uno, libgen.unblocked.ink, libgen.unblocked.at, libgen.unblocked.pro, libgen.unblocked.mx, libgen.unblocked.sh, libgen.unblocked.gdn, libgen.unblocked.pet, scihub.unblocked.lc, scihub.unblocked.vet

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Spammers Abuse Medium.com to Spread ‘Pirate’ Scams

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/spammers-use-medium-to-spread-pirate-scams-191110/

Founded in 2012 by former Twitter CEO Evan Williams, online publishing platform Medium.com swiftly became the go-to place for many authors.

The site has featured works of renowned writers, politicians, high profile activists, major companies, as well as average Joes.

Today, Medium has millions of daily visitors, making it one of the 100 most visited websites in the world. The majority of these are drawn to the compelling and informative writings, but the site has proven a draw to scammy ‘pirates’ as well.

Every week, hundreds, if not thousands of articles appear that promise people the latest pirated movies and TV-shows. Whether it’s a high-definition copy of Joker, Terminator: Dark Fate, or Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, it’s available. Supposedly.

Here’s an example of a Joker movie that was promoted this week, but there are many more.

People who click on the links are often disappointed though. They typically point to a page where people can start a stream instantly, but after a generic intro, they are required to sign up for a “free account,” that requires a credit card for ‘validation’ purposes.

Needless to say, this isn’t a good idea. Aside from the obvious copyright issues, these services don’t promise what they offer. After all, many of the pirated films they advertise are not available in high-quality formats yet.

The goal of this strategy is to have these links show up high in search results. A site like Medium has a good reputation in search engines, and as a result, the articles promoting these scams are more visible in search results than the average pirate site.

This appears to be an effective strategy, especially since Google has started to push down results from known pirate platforms.

This practice is not new either. Many other reputable sites, including Facebook, Google Maps, Change.org, Steam, and others, have been abused in a similar fashion in the past.

TorrentFreak reached out to Medium and the company informed us that it’s a free and open platform that allows anyone to share stories and ideas. However, it takes swift action after any alleged infringements are reported.

“We fully comply with the DMCA and all other relevant copyright laws,” a Medium spokesperson said, pointing to its DMCA policy.

“When we discover bad actors, both through manual and automatic detection, they are assessed in terms of our policies and rules against those behaviors, and removed from Medium.”

These types of scams aren’t a major problem for copyright holders, as it will mostly result in disappointed and frustrated pirates. However, prospective pirates who fall for them may eventually be charged for something they didn’t sign up for.

For Medium this scam practice could lead to unexpected problems as well. Google received hundreds of takedown notices for Medium.com links over the past several weeks which, in theory, makes it a candidate for a downranking penalty. Unless Google reviews sites manually before applying a penalty, of course.

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ACE Hits Two More Pirate Streaming Sites, Seizes More Openload Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ace-hits-two-more-pirate-streaming-sites-seizes-more-openload-domains-191110/

After a standing start just over two years ago, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment quickly became the most feared anti-piracy group on the planet.

Compromised of around three dozen entertainment companies, including the major Hollywood studios, Netflix and Amazon, the group now targets piracy on a global scale, sharing resources and costs to tackle infringement wherever it might be.

Last week the group took down Openload and Streamango, a dramatic and significant action by any standard. However, as documented here on several occasions (1,2,3), the anti-piracy group also shuts down smaller players with little to no fanfare. Today we can report that another two sites have joined the club.

The first, IPTVBox.plus, appears to have been a seller/reseller of IPTV services targeted at the Brazilian market. Its packages started off pretty cheaply, less than US$4.50 for around 1000 standard definition channels.

The ‘master’ package, however, offered an impressive 13,000 mixed SD, HD and ‘FullHD’ channels for around US$9.70 per month, almost double the price but still cheap by most standards.

IPTVBox.plus…..gone

Thanks to the intervention of ACE, however, the site’s domain is now in the hands of the MPA. A notice on the site informs visitors that the platform bit the dust for infringing copyright. The familiar timer then runs down to zero and diverts disappointed users to the ACE homepage for a lesson in copyright.

Finally, a dedicated streaming portal has also handed over its domain to ACE. PlanetaTVonlineHD.com first appeared online in 2015, streaming popular TV shows such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Prison Break to a fairly sizeable audience.

But now, without any official announcement from ACE, the show is clearly over for the TV show streaming platform.

Like so many other similar sites and services, its domain now redirects to the ACE anti-piracy portal. What happened between the parties may never be known but it seems fairly obvious that the group’s influence convinced the site’s operator that continuing just wasn’t worth the trouble.

Finally, over the past week ACE has been taking control of more Openload, Streamango, and StreamCherry domains. We previously reported that Openload.co, oload.cc, oload.club, oload.download, openload.pw and oloadcdn.net had been seized, but more can be added to the list. They are:

StreamCherry.com, Oload.stream, fruithosted.net, oload.win, oload.life, oload.services, oload.xyz, oload.space, oload.biz, oload.vip, oload.tv, oload.monster, oload.best, oload.press, oload.live, oload.site, oload.network, oload.website, oload.online, olpair.com, and openload.status.

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Cox and Music Companies Battle Over Piracy Evidence Ahead of Trial

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cox-and-music-companies-battle-over-piracy-evidence-ahead-of-trial-191109/

Regular Internet providers are being put under increasing pressure for not doing enough to curb copyright infringement.

Music rights company BMG got the ball rolling a few years ago when it won its piracy liability lawsuit against Cox Communications.

The ISP was ordered to pay $25 million in damages and another $8 million in legal fees. Hoping to escape this judgment, the company filed an appeal, but the case was eventually settled with Cox agreeing to pay an undisclosed but substantial settlement amount.

The landmark case signaled the start of many similar lawsuits against a variety of ISPs, several of which are still ongoing. In fact, just days after the settlement was announced, Cox was sued again, this time by a group of RIAA-affiliated music companies.

In simple terms, the crux of the case is whether Cox did enough stop pirating subscribers. While the ISP did have the policy to disconnect repeat infringers, the music companies argue that this wasn’t sufficient.

Over the past several months, both parties have conducted discovery and they are currently gearing up for a jury trial which is scheduled for December.

Most recently, both parties have presented their motions in limine, requesting the court to exclude certain testimony from being presented to the jury. This is typically material they see as irrelevant, misleading, or confusing.

One of the music companies’ motions focuses on a document (DX 74) Cox wants to present which indicates that the ISP’s own graduated response system worked pretty well.

Apparently, internal Cox research showed that 96% of subscribers stop receiving notices after the 5th warning. This was concluded in 2010 and resulted in the ISP’s belief that its “graduated response” system was effective.

The number was also brought up to the plaintiffs, as it was mentioned during the Copyright Alert System negotiations. Cox says that it chose not to join this voluntary piracy notice agreement because it already had a functional anti-piracy system in place.

The music companies don’t want this evidence to be shown to the jury. In a reply to Cox’s objections, they argue that the facts and figures in the document are a confusing mess of misleading calculations that lack data to support them.

The reply, which also rebuts other issues, is aggressively worded and redacts the 96% figure at the center of the dispute.

“The mere utterance of the so-called ‘study’ and its misleading and unsupported conclusion will lend it an air of credibility in the jury’s mind. The proverbial bell cannot be un-rung. The only adequate solution is exclusion,” the music companies write.

Cox has also submitted a variety of motions in limine. Among other things, the ISP doesn’t want the plaintiffs to present the millions of infringement notices tracking company MarkMonitor sent to Cox on behalf of other rightsholders.

The music companies disagree, however, arguing that the jury is allowed to know that potential copyright infringements are not limited to their own complaints. The other notices are also relevant to determine crucial issues such as liability, willfulness, and statutory damages, they add.

According to Cox, however, these third-party infringements notices are irrelevant to the present case and don’t prove anything.

“Plaintiffs’ attempt to litigate this case with evidence from an unrelated case concerning acts of infringement that are not at issue is inappropriate, improper, and prejudicial. Plaintiffs’ evidence of third-party infringement allegations should be excluded from trial.”

The docket is littered with back and forths on issues one party wants to exclude while being considered vital evidence by the other. This process is generally the last major clash before the trial starts.

The court has yet to rule on the various motions. When that is done the case will move forward. If all goes according to the current schedule, the verdict will be announced in a few weeks.

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RIAA Delists YouTube Rippers From Google Using Rare Anti-Circumvention Notices

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-delists-youtube-rippers-from-google-using-rare-anti-circumvention-notices-191108/

While music piracy has reduced in recent years due to the popularity of platforms such as Spotify, the major labels remain highly concerned over so-called steam-ripping services.

These sites allow users to enter a YouTube URL, for example, and then download audio from the corresponding video, mostly in MP3 format. This means that users can download music and store it on their own machines, negating the need to revisit YouTube for the same content. This, the major labels say, deprives content creators of streaming revenue.

Tackling this issue has become one of the industry’s highest anti-piracy priorities. Previously, YouTube-MP3 – the largest ripping site at the time – was shut down following legal action by the major labels. Since then, lawsuits have been filed against other platforms but the battle is far from over and recently a new strategy appears to have been deployed.

A pair of DMCA notices appeared on the Lumen Database late October, having been filed there by Google. The sender of both notices is listed as the RIAA, acting on behalf of its members including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group.

They are worded slightly differently but each target the homepages of five major YouTube-ripping sites – 2conv.com, flvto.biz, y2mate.com, yout.com, and youtubeconverter.io. Both contain the following key claim:

“To our knowledge, the URLs provide access to a service (and/or software) that circumvents YouTube’s rolling cipher, a technical protection measure, that protects our members’ works on YouTube from unauthorized copying/downloading,” the notices read.

Unlike regular DMCA takedown notices filed with Google, these notices do not appear in Google’s Transparency report. However, Google has acted on them by delisting the homepages of all five platforms from its search results. Other URLs for the platforms still appear, but their homepages are all gone.

The notices are listed on the Lumen Database in the anti-circumvention section, meaning that the RIAA-labeled complaints demand action from Google under the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, rather than demanding the takedown of URLs based on the claim they carry infringing music titles.

The ‘technical measures’ allegedly being circumvented (such as the “rolling cypher” referenced in the complaints) are those put in place by YouTube, which in turn protect the copyrighted content of the labels.

TorrentFreak contacted the RIAA yesterday, requesting comment and seeking additional information on the basis for the notices. Unfortunately, the industry group declined to make any further comment on any aspect of the complaints.

Nevertheless, the RIAA and its members are no strangers to the claim that by circumventing YouTube’s ‘technological measures’, so-called ‘ripping’ sites infringe their rights too. Two of the sites targeted in the recent notices – 2conv.com and flvto.biz – were sued by the labels in 2018. The original complaint contains the following text:

From the complaint

That circumvention (at least in respect of the labels’ works when users select them for download) may also amount to an infringement of the labels’ rights seems to be supported by comments made in the Disney vs VidAngel case.

An opinion from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stated that “[n]o person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a [copyrighted] work. Circumvention means ‘to decrypt an encrypted work.. without the authority of the copyright owner’.”

Nevertheless, it was previously argued by the EFF that stream-ripping sites are not by definition illegal since on top of the usual fair use exemptions, some creators who upload their content to online platforms grant permission for people to freely download and modify their work.

“There exists a vast and growing volume of online video that is licensed for free downloading and modification, or contains audio tracks that are not subject to copyright,” the EFF stresses.

“Moreover, many audio extractions qualify as non-infringing fair uses under copyright. Providing a service that is capable of extracting audio tracks for these lawful purposes is itself lawful, even if some users infringe.”

The anti-circumvention notices detailed above are not only relatively rare but also have an additional interesting property – they are harder to dispute than regular DMCA takedown notices.

As detailed here last year, Google told the target of a similar complaint requesting URL delisting that “There is no formal counter notification process available under US law for circumvention, so we have not reinstated these URLs.”

The pair of DMCA anti-circumvention notices can be found here 1,2 (pdf)

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Tech Companies Warn U.S. Against Harmful Copyright Laws Worldwide

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tech-companies-warn-u-s-against-harmful-copyright-laws-worldwide-191109/

In recent years many countries around the world have tightened their copyright laws to curb the threat of online piracy.

These new regulations aim to help copyright holders, often by creating new obligations and restrictions for Internet service providers that host, link to, or just pass on infringing material.

Rightsholders are happy with these developments, but many Silicon Valley giants and other tech companies see the new laws as threats. This was made clear again this week by the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and the Internet Association.

The two groups both submitted stark warnings to the US Trade Representative (USTR). The submissions were sent in response to a request for comments in preparation for the Government’s yearly report on foreign trade barriers.

The CCIA, which includes prominent members such as Amazon, Cloudflare, Facebook, and Google, lists a wide variety of threats, several of which are copyright-related.

One of the main problems is the increased copyright liability for online intermediaries. In the US, online services have strong safe harbor protections that prevent them from being held liable for users’ infringements, but in other countries, this is no longer the case, CCIA warns.

“Countries are increasingly using outdated Internet service liability laws that impose substantial penalties on intermediaries that have had no role in the development of objectionable content. These practices deter investment and market entry, impeding legitimate online services,” CCIA writes.

These countries include France, Germany, India, Italy, and Vietnam. In Australia, for example, several US platforms are excluded from liability protections, which goes against the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement, CCIA notes.

Another major point of concern is the new EU Copyright Directive, which passed earlier this year. While individual member states have yet to implement it, it’s seen as a looming threat for US companies and users alike.

“[T]he recent EU Copyright Directive poses an immediate threat to Internet services and the obligations set out in the final text depart significantly from global norms. Laws made pursuant to the Directive will deter Internet service exports into the EU market due to significant costs of compliance,” CCIA writes.

“Despite claims from EU officials, lawful user activities will be severely restricted. EU officials are claiming that the new requirements would not affect lawful user activity such as sharing memes, alluding to the exceptions and limitations on quotation, criticism, review, and parody outlined in the text.”

The Internet Association also warns against the EU Copyright Directive in its submission. According to the group, which represents tech companies including Google, Reddit, Twitter, as well as Microsoft and Spotify, Europe’s plans are out of sync with US copyright law.

“The EU’s Copyright Directive directly conflicts with U.S. law and requires a broad range of U.S. consumer and enterprise firms to install filtering technologies, pay European organizations for activities that are entirely lawful under the U.S. copyright framework, and face direct liability for third-party content,” the Internet Association writes.

Aside from the EU plans, other countries such as Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, and Ukraine are also proposing new “onerous” copyright liability proposals for Internet services. In many cases, these plans conflict with promises that were made under U.S. free trade agreements, the Internet Association writes.

“If the U.S. does not stand up for the U.S. copyright framework abroad, then U.S. innovators and exporters will suffer, and other countries will increasingly misuse copyright to limit market entry,” the group warns.

Both the CCIA and the Internet Archive urge the US Government to push back against these developments. They advise promoting strong and balanced copyright legislation, which doesn’t put US companies at risk when following US law.

While it makes sense that the US would back its owns laws and policies abroad, the comments made by both groups come at a time where changes to intermediary liability are on the agenda of local lawmakers as well.

Copyright holders see these foreign developments as inspiration, as they want increased liability for intermediaries. As such, MPAA recently asked lawmakers not to include current safe harbor language in future trade agreements.

This is also the advice of the House Judiciary Committee. While the committee isn’t taking a position on a future direction just yet, it wants to await current developments before porting current US liability exceptions into international deals.

The CCIA’s submission to the USTR is available here (pdf) and the Internet Association’s submission can be found here (pdf).

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Police Shut Down Thailand’s Most Popular Pirate Site Following Hollywood Request

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/police-shut-down-thailands-most-popular-pirate-site-following-hollywood-request-191108/

With millions of views per day, Movie2Free.com was one of the largest pirate sites on the Internet, particularly popular in south-east Asia.

In the west, the site doesn’t ring a bell with most people. In Thailand, however, it was listed among the top 15 most visited websites in the country, only beaten by Google, YouTube, and a few others.

The site’s popularity didn’t go unnoticed by Hollywood. Earlier this year the MPA listed the site in its yearly overview of notorious pirate sites, which it submitted to the US Trade Representative.

“The site provides access to an array of movie and TV content and comes replete with high-risk ads with malware,” the group wrote.

The MPA also informed local authorities about the site’s activities. This triggered a high-profile investigation by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) which led to the site’s shutdown this week, the Bangkok Post reports.

Movie2Free.com, which was founded in 2014, is reportedly owned by a 30-year-old Thai man who lives abroad. He hired an operator, a 22-year-old man from the north of Thailand, who was arrested at his house a few days ago.

“The DSI has found that the Thai man who was running the pirated movie website… was living abroad,” DSI director-general Paisit Wongmuang said, commenting on the news.

According to the DSI director “the site had used sophisticated equipment that made it hard for authorities to track it down, and had set up a server abroad.”

Interestingly, the site’s domain name is still active, now linking to what appears to a page promoting local charities.

A few days ago, however, the site was still offering access to thousands of movies. The owner generated revenue from various advertisements and reportedly earned more than $160,000 (5 million baht) per month. Whether that’s an estimate or a confirmed figure is unknown.

While no charges have been announced yet, authorities plan to hold the operator liable for copyright infringement. Potential tax violations are being investigated too, as well as a violation of the local gambling ban since the site had several gambling-related ads.

The Thai examiner further notes that Movie2fFree.com was used extensively by retailers who sell pirated DVDs. Whether the shutdown will have any effect on these sales has yet to be seen, as there are plenty of alternatives still online.

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Japan Pirate Site Traffic Collapsed 50% in Four Months, With a Little Help From Cloudflare

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/japan-pirate-site-traffic-collapsed-50-in-four-months-with-a-little-help-from-cloudflare-191108/

During April 2018, the government in Japan introduced emergency websites blocking measures, seeking assistance from ISPs to block three pirate sites – Mangamura, AniTube! and MioMio.

Just four days later, one of the sites – giant manga platform Mangamura – suddenly called it quits, shutting itself down and creating a massive gap in the piracy market.

It transpired that a criminal investigation was underway into the activities of Mangamura, which eventually led to the arrest of the site’s alleged operator in Manilla, his deportation to Japan, and subsequent arrest by authorities there.

The gigantic scale of Mangamura has never been in question. However, a report published by the Motion Picture Association now reveals its importance not only on the pirate manga market, but also on the pirate market overall in Japan.

Starting with a list of 2,600 sites, the report – covering the period July 2017 to July 2019 – homes in on the most frequently accessed piracy sites/apps targeting Japan that offer movies, TV shows, anime, and manga content. Sites focusing exclusively on music, games, and porn were ruled out, leaving a balance of 1,447 ‘pirate’ sites.

The top 10 most highly-visited sites accounted for around 50% of visits to the 1,447, with the top 100 accounting for more than 90%. All sites with more than 100,000 visits per month (624 in total) were the main focus of the report.

In respect of Mangamura, the report classifies that now-defunct platform as an ‘online reading’ site, meaning that people viewed its content using a browser. The chart below shows the dramatic rise and fall of the niche the platform operated in, plotted against other forms of ‘pirate’ consumption.

The rise and fall of Mangamura

As the image shows, in addition to ‘online reading’ sites, all other types of ‘pirate’ consumption took a big hit around the same time that Mangamura shut down.

The report notes that the government’s urging of ISP blockades against Mangamura, Anitube, and MioMio “greatly affected the number of visits to other piracy sites”, resulting in an overall decrease in traffic. However, it appears that all three shut down before they could be blocked.

Nevertheless, the overall effect on the pirate markets detailed in the study appears to be significant, due to the shutdown of those major manga platforms and the government’s anti-piracy stance.

According to the report, in March 2018 the total number of monthly visits to the sample 624 sites was measured at 640 million. A month later, monthly visits had collapsed to just over 400 million. By June 2018, traffic had reduced further still, to a low of 320 million visits per month.

Since June 2018, there has only been a modest increase in traffic to the sample sites. Noting that overall levels of infringement are “still large”, the report states that current visits have increased by just 20 million, to an estimated 340 million per month.

Finally, no piracy report seems complete these days without Cloudflare getting a mention, and this one is no different.

While those who carried out the study were able to identify the ultimate hosting locations of 39% of the 624 pirate sites (top three hosting countries were the United States 9%, Japan 6%, and Netherlands 5%), 61% couldn’t be geolocated. Of these, 86% were ‘hidden’ behind Cloudflare’s services.

The interesting twist, however, is that in response to a request from Japanese publishers, it was Cloudflare that handed over information which allowed investigators to identify the operator of Mangamura, which ultimately led to his arrest and previously, the shutdown of the site.

The full report, ‘Study Benchmarking and Tracking Online Film & TV Piracy in Japan’, is available here (pdf)

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