Tag Archives: Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment

Pirate Site-Blocking? Music Biz Wants App Blocking Too

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-blocking-music-biz-wants-app-blocking-too-180415/

In some way, shape or form, Internet piracy has always been carried out through some kind of application. Whether that’s a peer-to-peer client utilizing BitTorrent or eD2K, or a Usenet or FTP tool taking things back to their roots, software has always played a crucial role.

Of course, the nature of the Internet beast means that software usage is unavoidable but in recent years piracy has swung more towards the regular web browser, meaning that sites and services offering pirated content are largely easy to locate, identify and block, if authorities so choose.

As revealed this week by the MPA, thousands of platforms around the world are now targeted for blocking, with 1,800 sites and 5,300 domains blocked in Europe alone.

However, as the Kodi phenomenon has shown, web-based content doesn’t always have to be accessed via a standard web browser. Clever but potentially illegal addons and third-party apps are able to scrape web-based resources and present links to content on a wide range of devices, from mobile phones and tablets to set-top boxes.

While it’s still possible to block the resources upon which these addons rely, the scattered nature of the content makes the process much more difficult. One can’t simply block a whole platform because a few movies are illegally hosted there and even Google has found itself hosting thousands of infringing titles, a situation that’s ruthlessly exploited by addon and app developers alike.

Needless to say, the situation hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment has spent the last year (1,2,3) targeting many people involved in the addon and app scene, hoping they’ll take their tools and run, rather than further develop a rapidly evolving piracy ecosystem.

Over in Russia, a country that will happily block hundreds or millions of IP addresses if it suits them, the topic of infringing apps was raised this week. It happened during the International Strategic Forum on Intellectual Property, a gathering of 500 experts from more than 30 countries. There were strong calls for yet more tools and measures to deal with films and music being made available via ‘pirate’ apps.

The forum heard that in response to widespread website blocking, people behind pirate sites have begun creating applications for mobile devices to achieve the same ends – the provision of illegal content. This, key players in the music industry say, means that the law needs to be further tightened to tackle the rising threat.

“Consumption of content is now going into the mobile sector and due to this we plan to prevent mass migration of ‘pirates’ to the mobile sector,” said Leonid Agronov, general director of the National Federation of the Music Industry.

The same concerns were echoed by Alexander Blinov, CEO of Warner Music Russia. According to TASS, the powerful industry player said that while recent revenues had been positively affected by site-blocking, it’s now time to start taking more action against apps.

“I agree with all speakers that we can not stop at what has been achieved so far. The music industry has a fight against illegal content in mobile applications on the agenda,” Blinov said.

And if Blinov is to be believed, music in Russia is doing particularly well at the moment. Attributing successes to efforts by parliament, the Ministry of Communications, and copyright holders, Blinov said the local music market has doubled in the past two years.

“We are now in the top three fastest growing markets in the world, behind only China and South Korea,” Blinov said.

While some apps can work in the same manner as a basic web interface, others rely on more complex mechanisms, ‘scraping’ content from diverse sources that can be easily and readily changed if mitigation measures kick in. It will be very interesting to see how Russia deals with this threat and whether it will opt for highly technical solutions or the nuclear options demonstrated recently.

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

Police Assisted By MPAA Shut Down Pirate TV Box Sellers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-assisted-by-mpaa-shut-down-pirate-tv-box-sellers-180404/

Piracy configured set-top boxes are the next big thing, today. Millions have been sold around the world and anti-piracy groups are scrambling to rein them in.

Many strategies are being tested, from pressurizing developers of allegedly infringing addons to filing aggressive lawsuits against sites such as TVAddons, a Kodi addon repository now facing civil action in both the United States and Canada.

Also under fire are companies that sell set-top boxes that come ready configured for piracy. Both Tickbox TV and Dragon Media Inc are being sued by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) in the US. At this stage, neither case looks promising for the defendants.

However, civil action isn’t the only way to deal with defendants in the United States, as a man and woman team from Tampa, Florida, have just discovered after being arrested by local police.

Mickael Cantrell and Nancy Major were allegedly the brains behind NBEETV, a company promising to supply set-top boxes that deliver “every movie, every tv show that’s ever been made, plus live sports with no blackouts” with “no monthly fees ever.”

As similar cases have shown, this kind of marketing spiel rarely ends well for defendants but the people behind NBEE TV (also known as FreeTVForLife Inc.) were either oblivious or simply didn’t care about the consequences.

A company press release dated April 2017 advertising the company’s NBPro 3+ box and tracked down by TF this week reveals the extent of the boasts.

“NBPRO 3+ is a TV box that offers instant access to watch every episode of any TV show without paying any monthly bill. One just must attach the loaded box to his TV and stream whatever they want, with no commercials,” the company wrote.

But while “Free TV for Life” was the slogan, that wasn’t the reality at the outset.

NBEETV’s Kodi-powered Android boxes were hellishly expensive with the NBPRO 1, NBPRO 3, NBPRO 5 costing $199.00, $279.00 and $359.00 respectively. This, however, was presented as a bargain alongside a claim that the “average [monthly] cable bill across the country is approximately $198.00” per month.

On top of the base product, NBEETV offered an 800 number for customer support and from their physical premises, they ran “training classes every Tuesday and Thursdays at 11:00” for people to better understand their products.

The location of that building isn’t mentioned in local media but a WHOIS on the company’s FreeTVForLife domain yields a confirmed address. It’s one that’s also been complained about in the past by an unhappy customer.

“Free TV for LIFE [redacted]..(next to K-Mart) Hudson, Fl.. 34667. We bought the Little black box costing $277.00. The pictures were not clear,” Rita S. wrote.

“The screen froze up on us all the time, even after hooking straight into the router. When we took the unit back they kept $80 of our money….were very rude, using the ************* word and we will not get the remainder of our money for 14-28 days according to the employee at the store. Buyers beware and I am telling everyone!!!”

While this customer was clearly unhappy, NBEETV claimed to be a “movement which is spreading across the country.” Unfortunately, that movement reached the eyes of the police, who didn’t think that the content being offered on the devices should have been presented for free.

“We saw [the boxes] had Black Panther, The Shape Of Water, Jumanji was on there as well,” said Detective Darren Hill.

“This is someone blatantly on the side of the road just selling them, with signage, a store front; advertising on the internet with a website.”

Detective Hill worked on the case with the MPAA but even from TorrentFreak’s limited investigations this week, the couple were incredibly easy to identify.

Aside from providing accurate and non-hidden address data in WHOIS records, Mickael Cantrell (also known as Michael Cantrell) put in his real name too. The listed email address is also easily traced back to a company called Nanny Bees Corporation which was operated by Cantrell and partner Nancy Major, who was also arrested in the NBEETV case.

Unfortunately for the couple, the blundering didn’t stop there. Their company YouTube channel, which is packed with tutorials, is also in Cantrell’s real name. Indeed, the photograph supplied to YouTube even matches the mugshot published by ABC Action News.

The publication reports that the Sheriff’s Office found the couple with around 50 ‘pirate’ boxes. The store operated by the couple has also been shutdown.

Finally, another curious aspect of NBEETV’s self-promotion comes via a blog post/press release dated August 2017 in which Cantrell suddenly ups the ante by becoming Michael W. Cantrell, Ph. D alongside some bold and unusual claims.

“Dr. Cantrell unleashes his latest innovation, a Smart TV Box that literally updates every ten minutes. Not only does the content (what you can view) but the whole platform updates automatically. If the Company changes an icon you receive the change in real time,” the release reads.

“Thanks to the Overlay Processor that Dr. Cantrell created, this processor named B-D.A.D (Binary Data Acceleration Dump) which enhances an Android unit’s operating power 5 times than the original bench test, has set a new industry standard around the world.”

Sounds epic….perhaps it powered the following video clip.

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

Trump Promises Copyright Crackdown as DoJ Takes Aim at Streaming Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/trump-promises-copyright-crackdown-as-doj-takes-aim-at-streaming-pirates-180308/

For the past several years most of the world has been waking up to the streaming piracy phenomenon, with pre-configured set-top boxes making inroads into millions of homes.

While other countries, notably the UK, arrested many individuals while warning of a grave and looming danger, complaints from the United States remained relatively low-key. It was almost as if the stampede towards convenient yet illegal streaming had caught the MPAA and friends by surprise.

In October 2017, things quickly began to change. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment sued Georgia-based Tickbox TV, a company selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes. In January 2018, the same anti-piracy group targeted Dragon Media, a company in the same line of business.

With this growing type of piracy now firmly on the radar, momentum seems to be building. Yesterday, a panel discussion on the challenges associated with piracy from streaming media boxes took place on Capitol Hill.

Hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), ‘Unboxing the Piracy Threat of Streaming Media Boxes’ went ahead with some big name speakers in attendance, not least Neil Fried, Senior Vice President, Federal Advocacy and Regulatory Affairs at the MPAA.

ITIF and various industry groups tweeted many interesting comments throughout the event. Kevin Madigan from Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property told the panel that torrent-based content “is becoming obsolete” in an on-demand digital environment that’s switching to streaming-based piracy.

While there’s certainly a transition taking place, 150 million worldwide torrent users would probably argue against the term “obsolete”. Nevertheless, the same terms used to describe torrent sites are now being used to describe players in the streaming field.

“There’s a criminal enterprise going on here that’s stealing content and making a profit,” Fried told those in attendance.

“The piracy activity out there is bad, it’s hurting a lot of economic activity & creators aren’t being compensated for their work,” he added.

Tom Galvin, Executive Director at the Digital Citizens Alliance, was also on the panel. Unsurprisingly, given the organization’s focus on the supposed dangers of piracy, Galvin took the opportunity to underline that position.

“If you go down the piracy road, those boxes aren’t following proper security protocols, there are many malware risks,” he said. It’s a position shared by Fried, who told the panel that “video piracy is the leading source of malware.”

Similar claims were made recently on Safer Internet Day but the facts don’t seem to back up the scare stories. Still, with the “Piracy is Dangerous” strategy already out in the open, the claims aren’t really unexpected.

What might also not come as a surprise is that ACE’s lawsuits against Tickbox and Dragon Media could be just a warm-up for bigger things to come. In the tweet embedded below, Fried can be seen holding a hexagonal-shaped streaming box, warning that the Department of Justice is now looking for candidates for criminal action.

What form this action will take when it arrives isn’t clear but when the DoJ hits targets on home soil, it tends to cherry-pick the most blatant of infringers in order to set an example with reasonably cut-and-dried cases.

Of course, every case can be argued but with hundreds of so-called “Kodi box” sellers active all over the United States, many of them clearly breaking the law as they, in turn, invite their customers to break the law, picking a sitting duck shouldn’t be too difficult.

And then, of course, we come to President Trump. Not usually that vocal on matters of intellectual property and piracy, yesterday – perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not – he suddenly delivered one of his “something is coming” tweets.

Given Trump’s tendency to focus on problems overseas causing issues for companies back home, a comment by Kevin Madigan during the panel yesterday immediately comes to mind.

“To combat piracy abroad, USTR needs to work with the creative industries to improve enforcement and target the source of pirated material,” Madigan said.

Interesting times and much turmoil in the streaming world ahead, it seems.

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

ACE Warns Kodi Addon Developer to Sign Settlement Agreement, Or Else

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ace-warns-kodi-addon-developer-to-sign-settlement-agreement-or-else-180306/

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a coalition of 30 companies that reads like a who’s who of the global entertainment market.

All of the major Hollywood studios are members, plus Amazon, Netflix, BBC, Hulu, and Village Roadshow, to name a few.

ACE was launched last year to present a united front against online infringement and since then has been involved in various anti-piracy actions.

ACE has made the third-party Kodi addon scene one of its early priorities, targeting developers with home visits and lengthy letters demanding that they cease and desist their activities. This has led to several pulling back from the scene but in some instances, this doesn’t appear to have been enough for ACE.

The letters received by the developers also include a requirement for them to sign a settlement agreement which binds them to a particular course of future behavior set out by ACE. It’s unclear how many developers have signed but TorrentFreak is aware that several have not.

One of those is JSergio123 who last November announced he would be discontinuing development of several Kodi addons after being targeted by ACE.

“Sorry to say but I am stopping all development of the urlresolver, metahandler, and my other addons,” he said.

JSergio123’s reluctance to sign an agreement with ACE hasn’t gone unnoticed by the anti-piracy group. In a letter dated March 5, 2018 and signed by Kelly Klaus of US-based lawfirm Munger, Tolles & Olson, the developer is reminded of what transpired last year and what is expected of him moving forward.

“I understand that ACE counsel have discussed with you various of your “Addon” software applications and related software and services, including URLResolver (collectively, the “[redacted] Addons”) and other actions you have undertaken to induce and contribute to the mass infringement of the ACE members’ copyrighted works,” Klaus writes.

“I also understand that ACE counsel have provided you with a proposed settlement agreement, pursuant to which you would end your infringing activities and provide cooperation and other consideration in exchange for ACE agreeing not to pursue legal action against you arising out of your infringing activities. To date, you have not signed the settlement agreement.”

JSergio123’s precise reasons for not signing the settlement agreement aren’t being made public. However, TorrentFreak understands that some of the terms presented to addon developers last year have caused considerable concern. In some cases they are difficult to meet, not to mention unpalatable to the people involved.

They include promises to ensure that specified addons and indeed any developed in the future can no longer infringe copyright. For those that scrape third-party sources, this could prove impossible to absolutely guarantee. This could effectively put developers out of the addon game – legitimate or otherwise – for good.

TF is also informed that ACE demanded a high-level of cooperation, including that the developers should supply what amounts to a full confession, detailing all the projects they’ve been involved in, past and present.

Furthermore, the ACE agreement reportedly requires developers to inform on their colleagues by providing personal information such as identities and contact details. There’s also a requirement to indicate whether and how developers been making money from their activities.

The new letter from ACE, which is shown below after being published by JSergio, refers to a “most recent draft of the settlement agreement that ACE members would be willing to sign.”

Whether this contains any amendments from the settlement agreements sent out last year isn’t clear but Mr Klaus, who is a veteran of several large infringement lawsuits in the US, says that JSergio should take the offer seriously.

“I strongly urge you to consider the gravity of this situation and sign the agreement,” the lawyer concludes.

ACE Letter (credit: JSergio123)


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

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

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

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

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

The letter: shut down – or else

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

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

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

Noobs and Nerds – gone

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

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

An apparently unconcerned Teverz….

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

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

Another target in Canada

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

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

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

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

For SpinzTV it’s all over…

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

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

Tickbox Must Remove Pirate Streaming Addons From Sold Devices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tickbox-remove-pirate-streaming-addons-180214/

Online streaming piracy is on the rise and many people now use dedicated media players to watch content through their regular TVs.

This is a thorn in the side of various movie companies, who have launched a broad range of initiatives to curb this trend.

One of these initiatives is the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies.

Last year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company Tickbox TV, which sells Kodi-powered set-top boxes that stream a variety of popular media.

ACE sees these devices as nothing more than pirate tools so the coalition asked the court for an injunction to prevent Tickbox from facilitating copyright infringement, demanding that it removes all pirate add-ons from previously sold devices.

Last month, a California federal court issued an initial injunction, ordering Tickbox to keep pirate addons out of its box and halt all piracy-inducing advertisements going forward. In addition, the court directed both parties to come up with a proper solution for devices that were already sold.

The movie companies wanted Tickbox to remove infringing addons from previously sold devices, but the device seller refused this initially, equating it to hacking.

This week, both parties were able to reach an ‘agreement’ on the issue. They drafted an updated preliminary injunction which replaces the previous order and will be in effect for the remainder of the lawsuit.

The new injunction prevents Tickbox from linking to any “build,” “theme,” “app,” or “addon” that can be indirectly used to transmit copyright-infringing material. Web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox are specifically excluded.

In addition, Tickbox must also release a new software updater that will remove any infringing software from previously sold devices.

“TickBox shall issue an update to the TickBox launcher software to be automatically downloaded and installed onto any previously distributed TickBox TV device and to be launched when such device connects to the internet,” the injunction reads.

“Upon being launched, the update will delete the Subject [infringing] Software downloaded onto the device prior to the update, or otherwise cause the TickBox TV device to be unable to access any Subject Software downloaded onto or accessed via that device prior to the update.”

All tiles that link to copyright-infringing software from the box’s home screen also have to be stripped. Going forward, only tiles to the Google Play Store or to Kodi within the Google Play Store are allowed.

In addition, the agreement also allows ACE to report newly discovered infringing apps or addons to Tickbox, which the company will then have to remove within 24-hours, weekends excluded.

“This ruling sets an important precedent and reduces the threat from piracy devices to the legal market for creative content and a vibrant creative economy that supports millions of workers around the world,” ACE spokesperson Zoe Thorogood says, commenting on the news.

The new injunction is good news for the movie companies, but many Tickbox customers will not appreciate the forced changes. That said, the legal battle is far from over. The main question, whether Tickbox contributed to the alleged copyright infringements, has yet to be answered.

Ultimately, this case is likely to result in a landmark decision, determining what sellers of streaming boxes can and cannot do in the United States.

A copy of the new Tickbox injunction is available here (pdf).

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

Court Orders Tickbox to Keep Pirate Streaming Addons Out

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-tickbox-to-keep-pirate-streaming-addons-out-180131/

Kodi-powered set-top boxes are a great way to to stream video content to a TV, but sellers who ship these devices with unauthorized add-ons give them a bad reputation.

According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership comprised of Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors.

Last year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells Kodi-powered set-top boxes that stream a variety of popular media.

According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright-infringing content and being advertised as such. The coalition, therefore, asked the court for an injunction to prevent Tickbox from facilitating copyright infringement by removing all pirate add-ons from previously sold devices.

This week US District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald issued a preliminary injunction, which largely sides with the movie companies. According to the Judge, there is sufficient reason to believe that Tickbox can be held liable for inducing copyright infringement.

One of the claims is that Tickbox promoted its service for piracy purposes, and according to the Judge the movie companies provided enough evidence to make this likely. This includes various advertising messages the box seller used.

“There is ample evidence that, at least prior to Plaintiffs’commencement of this action, TickBox explicitly advertised the Device as a means to accessing unauthorized versions of copyrighted audiovisual content,” Judge Fitzgerald writes.

In its defense, Tickbox argued that it merely offered a computer which users can then configure to their liking. However, the Judge points out that the company went further, as it actively directed its users to install certain themes (builds) to watch movies, TV and sports.

“Thus, the fact that the Device is just a ‘computer’ that can be used for infringing and noninfringing purposes does not insulate TickBox from liability if [..] the Device is actually used for infringing purposes and TickBox encourages such use.”

Taking these and several other factors into account, the Court ruled that a preliminary injunction is warranted at this stage. After the lawsuit was filed, Tickbox already voluntarily removed much of the inducing advertisements and addons, and this will remain so.

The preliminary injunction compels TickBox to the current version of the user interface, without easy access to pirate add-ons. The devices should no longer contain links to any of the themes and addons that the movie companies have flagged as copyright infringing.

Tickbox had argued that a broad injunction could shut down its business, but the court counters this. Customers will still be able to use the box for legitimate purposes. If they are no longer interested it suggests that piracy was the main draw.

“[A]n injunction of this scope will not ‘shut down Defendant’s business’ as TickBox contends. In the event that such an injunction does shut TickBox down, that will be indicative not of an unjustifiably burdensome injunction, but of a nonviable business model,” Judge Fitzgerald writes.

The preliminary injunction is not final yet as there are several questions still unanswered.

It’s unclear, for example, if and how Tickbox should remove addons from previously sold devices. The Court, therefore, instructs both parties to attempt to reach agreement on these outstanding issues, to include them in an updated injunction.

The above findings are preliminary and apply specifically to the injunction request and the case itself will continue. However, the Court’s early opinion suggests that Tickbox has plenty of work ahead to prove its innocence.

A copy of the preliminary injunction is available here (pdf), and Judge Fitzgerald’s findings can be found here (pdf).

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

Tickbox Clearly Promotes and Facilitates Piracy, Hollywood Tells Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tickbox-clearly-promotes-and-facilitates-piracy-hollywood-tells-court-180115/

The rising popularity of piracy streaming boxes has turned into Hollywood’s main piracy concern in recent months.

While the hardware and media players such as Kodi are not a problem, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons turn them into fully-fledged piracy machines.

According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership comprised of Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors.

Last year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The Tickbox devices use the Kodi media player and comes with instructions on how to add various add-ons.

According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright-infringing content. The coalition, therefore, asked the court for a permanent injunction to remove all infringing add-ons from previously sold devices.

Tickbox maintained its innocence, however. The company informed the court that its box is a simple computer like any other, which is perfectly legal.

According to Tickbox, they don’t have anything to do with the infringing “Themes” that users can select on their device. These themes feature several addons that link to infringing content.

This explanation doesn’t sit well with the movie companies, which submitted a reply to the court late last week. They claim that Tickbox is deliberately downplaying their own role, as they are the ones who decided to make these themes accessible through their boxes.

“TickBox falsely claims that the presence of these ‘Themes’ on TickBox devices ‘have nothing to do with Defendant’,” ACE’s reply reads.

“To the contrary, TickBox intentionally chooses which ‘Themes’ to include on its ‘Select your Theme’ menu for the TickBox TV interface, and TickBox pushes out automatic software updates to its customers’ TickBox TV devices.”

The movie companies also dispute Tickbox’s argument that they don’t induce copyright infringement because their device is “simply a small computer” that has many legitimate uses.

This liability question isn’t about whether Tickbox stores any infringing material or runs pirate streams through their servers, they counter. It’s about the intended use and how Tickbox promotes its product.

“TickBox’s liability arises based on its advertising and promoting TickBox TV as a tool for infringing use, and from designing and including software on the device that encourages access to infringing streams from third-party sources.”

ACE notes that, unlike Tickbox claims, the current case shows a lot of parallels with previous landmark cases including Grokster and Fung [isoHunt].

The isoHunt website didn’t store and infringing material, nor was it crucial in the torrent piracy ecosystem. However, it was liable because the operator willingly facilitated copyright infringing activity. This is what Tickbox does too, according to ACE.

“TickBox ‘competes’ with legitimate services by telling customers that they can access the same content available from legitimate distributors ‘ABSOLUTELY FREE’ and that customers therefore ‘will find that you no longer need those subscriptions’.”

The movie companies therefore ask the court to issue the requested injunction. They want all existing devices to be impounded and Tickbox should, through an update, remove infringing addons from already sold devices.

Tickbox argued that this would require them to “hack into” their customers’ boxes and delete content. ACE, however, says that this is a simple update and nothing different from what the company has done in the past.

“The proposed injunction would merely obligate TickBox to make good on its halfhearted and ineffective efforts to do what it claims to have already done: remove Kodi builds with illicit addons from TickBox TV,” ACE writes.

“As demonstrated by TickBox’s own, repeated software updates since the filing of Plaintiffs’ Complaint, TickBox has the means and ability to easily and remotely change what options users see and can access on their TickBox TVs.”

After having heard the arguments from both sides, it’s now up to the California federal court to decide who’s right.

The current case should set an important precedent. In addition to Tickbox, ACE also filed a similar lawsuit against Dragon Box. Clearly, the coalition is determined to get these alleged pirate devices off the market.

A copy of ACE’s reply is available here (pdf).

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

Coalition Against Piracy Launches Landmark Case Against ‘Pirate’ Android Box Sellers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/coalition-against-piracy-launches-landmark-case-against-pirate-android-box-sellers-180112/

In 2017, anti-piracy enforcement went global when companies including Disney, HBO, Netflix, Amazon and NBCUniversal formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

Soon after the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) was announced. With a focus on Asia and backed by CASBAA, CAP counts many of the same companies among its members in addition to local TV providers such as StarHub.

From the outset, CAP has shown a keen interest in tackling unlicensed streaming, particularly that taking place via illicit set-top boxes stuffed with copyright-infringing apps and add-ons. One country under CAP’s spotlight is Singapore, where relevant law is said to be fuzzy at best, insufficient at worst. Now, however, a line in the sand might not be far away.

According to a court listing discovered by Singapore’s TodayOnline, today will see the Coalition Against Piracy’s general manager Neil Kevin Gane attempt to launch a pioneering private prosecution against set-top box distributor Synnex Trading and its client and wholesale goods retailer, An-Nahl.

Gane and CAP are said to be acting on behalf of four parties, one which is TV giant StarHub, a company with a huge interest in bringing media piracy under control in the region. It’s reported that they have also named Synnex Trading director Jia Xiaofen and An-Nahl director Abdul Nagib as defendants in their private criminal case after the parties failed to reach a settlement in an earlier process.

Contacted by TodayOnline, an employee of An-Nahl said the company no longer sells the boxes. However, Synnex is reportedly still selling them for S$219 each ($164) plus additional fees for maintenance and access to VOD. The company’s Facebook page is still active with the relevant offer presented prominently.

The importance of the case cannot be understated. While StarHub and other broadcasters have successfully prosecuted cases where people unlawfully decrypted broadcast signals, the provision of unlicensed streams isn’t specifically tackled by Singapore’s legislation. It’s now a major source of piracy in the region, as it is elsewhere around the globe.

Only time will tell how the process will play out but it’s clear that CAP and its members are prepared to invest significant sums into a prosecution for a favorable outcome. CAP believes that the supply of the boxes falls under Section 136 (3A) of the Copyright Act but only time will tell.

Last December, CAP separately called on the Singapore government to not only block ‘pirate’ streaming software but also unlicensed streams from entering the country.

“Within the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the worst in terms of availability of illicit streaming devices,” said CAP General Manager Neil Gane. “They have access to hundreds of illicit broadcasts of channels and video-on-demand content.”

CAP’s 21 members want the authorities to block the software inside devices that enables piracy but it’s far from clear how that can be achieved.

Update: The four companies taking the action are confirmed as Singtel, Starhub, Fox Network, and the English Premier League

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

Netflix, Amazon and Hollywood Sue Kodi-Powered Dragon Box Over Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-amazon-and-hollywood-sue-kodi-powered-dragon-box-over-piracy-180111/

More and more people are starting to use Kodi-powered set-top boxes to stream video content to their TVs.

While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons give it a bad reputation.

In recent months these boxes have become the prime target for copyright enforcers, including the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies.

After suing Tickbox last year a group of key ACE members have now filed a similar lawsuit against Dragon Media Inc, which sells the popular Dragon Box. The complaint, filed at a California federal court, also lists the company’s owner Paul Christoforo and reseller Jeff Williams among the defendants.

According to ACE, these type of devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. That also applies to Dragon Box, they inform the court.

“Defendants market and sell ‘Dragon Box,’ a computer hardware device that Defendants urge their customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of the copyrighted motion pictures and television shows,” the complaint, picked up by HWR, reads.

The movie companies note that the defendants distribute and promote the Dragon Box as a pirate tool, using phrases such as “Watch your Favourites Anytime For FREE” and “stop paying for Netflix and Hulu.”

Dragon Box

When users follow the instructions Dragon provides they get free access to copyrighted movies, TV-shows and live content, ACE alleges. The complaint further points out that the device uses the open source Kodi player paired with pirate addons.

“The Dragon Media application provides Defendants’ customers with a customized configuration of the Kodi media player and a curated selection of the most popular addons for accessing infringing content,” the movie companies write.

“These addons are designed and maintained for the overarching purpose of scouring the Internet for illegal sources of copyrighted content and returning links to that content. When Dragon Box customers click those links, those customers receive unauthorized streams of popular motion pictures and television shows.”

One of the addons that are included with the download and installation of the Dragon software is Covenant.

This addon can be accessed through a preinstalled shortcut which is linked under the “Videos” menu. Users are then able to browse through a large library of curated content, including a separate category of movies that are still in theaters.

In theaters

According to a statement from Dragon owner Christoforo, business is going well. The company claims to have “over 250,000 customers in 50 states and 4 countries and growing” as well as “374 sellers” across the world.

With this lawsuit, however, the company’s future has suddenly become uncertain.

The movie companies ask the California District for an injunction to shut down the infringing service and impound all Dragon Box devices. In addition, they’re requesting statutory damages which can go up to several million dollars.

At the time of writing the Dragon Box website is still in on air and the company has yet to comment on the allegations.

A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf).

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

Kodi Piracy and Addon Predictions for 2018

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-piracy-and-addon-predictions-for-2018-171228/

During 2017, Kodi and its sea of third-party addons hit the headlines hundreds of times.

Streaming in this fashion became a massive deal throughout the year and eventually, copyright holders decided to take action, cracking down on groups such as TVAddons, ZemTV, and addons offered by jsergio123 and The_Alpha.

In November, the problems continued when the Ares Project, the group behind the hugely popular Ares Wizard and Kodi repository, threw in the towel after being threatened by the MPA-led anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

The combined might of Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner, Netflix, Amazon, and Sky TV was too much, leading to Ares Project leader Tekto shutting everything down.

This was a significant development. Over a two year period, Ares serviced an estimated 100 million users. After interviewing Tekto last month, today we catch up with the developer again, listening to his thoughts on how the scene might further develop in 2018 and what threats lie ahead.

TF: Could you tell us a bit about Kodi’s suitability as an unauthorized streaming platform moving forward? Is it flexible enough to deal with threats, is its current development effort sufficient, do addon developers like the way it works, and how could it be improved?

Tekto: The public awareness of Kodi and the easy ways with which it can be customised via builds and its open source nature makes it the perfect platform for Python coders. It’s easy to fork, copy, adapt and learn, and it’s good for “builders” who modify, personalize, and “brand”.

It’s also easy for users to obtain, install, and work with the plethora of wizards and addons etc, all backed by up blogs and YouTube tutorials. It’s the perfect open source platform to develop and customise to access a massive range of content. Content that may well be contentious but regardless, it is publicly available all over the web.

TF: Obviously Kodi is the big thing at the moment but other apps, such as Showbox, TerrariumTV, and similar products are carving a decent niche for themselves. Where do you see the market sitting on these kinds of products moving forward and are they a threat to Kodi’s dominance?

Tekto: The apps and other services don’t offer the same level of personalization. That’s what will keep a certain dedicated following happy with Kodi. We’ve had Plex, Streamio, Emby and so on, but none offer the flexibility of Kodi.

TF: Does Kodi have any major weaknesses that you know of? Is it under threat from other systems perhaps?

Tekto: Lets not forget we had CCcam [card sharing] for a decade and with Sky [UK TV provider] changing their encryption to end that source, a myriad of IPTV providers sprung up to replace it. All that killing the CCcam method has done, is moved people off CCcam to IPTV. It hasn’t stopped piracy or access to “premium content”, it just moved somewhere else. It probably also makes the providers more money than CCcam accounts ever did.

TF: There have been a lot of legal threats in 2017. Are third-party addon developers and their community under serious threat?

Tekto: If Kodi third-party devs “stopped”, something else would take over. All the Android apps that have sprung up (some have been around a while anyway) are already filling some gaps or giving options for those looking to stream.

Having tried some of these, I have to say for non-tech users there are two or three apps that will suit them perfectly. Others need more work and fewer invasive ads to be more successful. Will Kodi stop? No. It is evolving and finding a new path. It has to. Well, the coders have to, at least.

TF: What is your overall assessment of the various legal attacks this year?

Tekto: What is being missed by all these legal “efforts” is the removal of the sources being accessed. Whilst the sources exist, apps and Kodi add-ons will find ways to access them.

Did taking out a few Kodi devs and a wizard remove any content? Did it stop just one movie from being accessed? No. It did nothing to stop piracy. It did, however, give those receiving HUGE fees to act for the various movie and broadcasters, something to write on their “success” boards and reports.

It just upset users for a few days whilst things adapted to the new situation. The Kodi builds listed on Ares all had their own wizards anyway – so they all carried on working. All the add-ons on Ares were mostly linked to Github, so they carried on working anyway.

The takedown of guys working on the URL resolver for Covenant didn’t work at all. The code still works and if you add, let’s say, Real Debrid, it won’t ever stop working, even Exodus still works! Let’s add to this that Covenant was then forked five or six times and re-marketed.

I’d say it probably increased “acts of copyright infringement” or at least access to “copyright infringing material”. TV Addons immediately took over development of the “URL resolver”, so it will be maintained and fixes for it released.

The URL resolver module uses regex – regular expressions to emulate a web browser (for the most part). Let that sink in; A URL resolver is a way to bypass a web browser, as most of the content is hosted on “publicly accessible” websites, that still remain publicly available with or without Covenant or whatever the forks are called.

TF: Sp there isn’t a Doomsday scenario?

Tekto: If the Kodi third-party scene is somehow stopped – all Wizards, builds, etc were all stopped this very second – there would be a dozen new apps for Android in weeks. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of websites you could switch to, to watch the same content. ACE, MPA etc need to wake up to that fact.

TF: One of the big deals this year, as far as the legal position goes, has been the clarification of “communication to the public” following cases at the European level featuring [pirate box seller] Filmspeler and The Pirate Bay. How do you think this will affect the addon and build scenes moving forward?

Tekto: I’ve long believed that Kodi wizards and scraper addons operated in a way that wasn’t illegal, in that they never provided content, never actually handled the copyright protected files themselves.

It still remains my belief that the recent efforts to use the Ziggo [Pirate Bay] ruling concerning “communicating to the public” is directly linked to torrents or at the very least actually providing content itself. It may be legal “saber rattling” – however standing your ground in the face of a well-funded legal behemoth is beyond hobbyists.

TF: An addon developer I spoke with recently said that fellow addon developers will need to be smarter in future, perhaps by developing addons that aren’t so obviously infringing and are more general in their functionality. Do you feel this is a route they’re likely to take and will it make any difference? How do you think a more ‘underground’ scene will affect the situation on the ground?

Tekto: Going Underground? Most will say grab a VPN and you’re safe – take note that a VPN isn’t enough. They may not get your logs, but they will get your payment info, or the times you are online tagged against another log etc. Anything like PayPal, Gmail, AdSense, etc is 100% out too – they will give people up in a heartbeat. People will have to avoid Facebook, Twitter and so on, as again, they will also link back to the “real you”.

I expect more will move to Tor as a first level of hiding their identities. Hosting via Tor-only sites might be a way to avoid some obvious methods of tracing people. Add-on devs could access Github and release code without ever having to reveal who they are.

Let’s not get into the whole “freedom of speech” etc scenario, however. It should mean that any developer should realistically make much greater efforts to hide their identities.

TF: Thank you for your time, Tekto. Any final messages for the readers?

Tekto: Yes, our Ares Wizard has returned. It’s a mainentance tool now.

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

Hollywood and Netflix Ask Court to Seize Tickbox Streaming Devices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-and-netflix-ask-court-to-seize-tickbox-streaming-devices-171209/

More and more people are starting to use Kodi-powered set-top boxes to stream video content to their TVs.

While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons give it a bad reputation.

According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors.

Earlier this year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The Tickbox devices use the Kodi media player and come with instructions on how to add various add-ons.

According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. “TickBox promotes and distributes TickBox TV for infringing use, and that is exactly the result of its use,” they told court this week.

After the complaint was filed in October, Tickbox made some cosmetic changes to the site, removing some allegedly inducing language. The streaming devices are still for sale, however, but not for long if it’s up to the media giants.

This week ACE submitted a request for a preliminary injunction to the court, hoping to stop Tickbox’s sales activities.

“TickBox is intentionally inducing infringement, pure and simple. Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court enter a preliminary injunction that requires TickBox to halt its flagrantly illegal conduct immediately,” they write in their application.

The companies explain that that since Tickbox is causing irreparable harm, all existing devices should be impounded.

“[A]ll TickBox TV devices in the possession of TickBox and all of its officers, directors, agents, servants, and employees, and all persons in active concert or participation or in privity with any of them are to be impounded and shall be retained by Defendant until further order of the Court,” the proposed order reads.

In addition, Tickbox should push out a software update which remove all infringing add-ons from the devices that were previously sold.

“TickBox shall, via software update, remove from all distributed TickBox TV devices all Kodi ‘Themes,’ ‘Builds,’ ‘Addons,’ or any other software that facilitates the infringing public performances of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works.”

Among others, the list of allegedly infringing add-ons and themes includes Spinz, Lodi Black, Stream on Fire, Wookie, Aqua, CMM, Spanish Quasar, Paradox, Covenant, Elysium, UK Turk, Gurzil, Maverick, and Poseidon.

The filing shows that ACE is serious about its efforts to stop the sale of these type of streaming devices. Tickbox has yet to reply to the original complaint or the injunction request.

While this is the first US lawsuit of its kind, the anti-piracy conglomerate has been rather active in recent weeks. The group has successfully pressured several addon developers to quit and has been involved in enforcement actions around the globe.

A copy of the proposed preliminary injunction is available here (pdf).

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

Coalition Against Piracy Wants Singapore to Block Streaming Piracy Software

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/coalition-against-piracy-wants-singapore-to-block-streaming-piracy-software-171204/

Earlier this year, major industry players including Disney, HBO, Netflix, Amazon and NBCUniversal formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a huge coalition set to tackle piracy on a global scale.

Shortly after the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) was announced. With a focus on Asia and backed by CASBAA, CAP counts Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, Viacom International, and others among its members.

In several recent reports, CAP has homed in on the piracy situation in Singapore. Describing the phenomenon as “rampant”, the group says that around 40% of locals engage in the practice, many of them through unlicensed streaming. Now CAP, in line with its anti-streaming stance, wants the government to do more – much more.

Since a large proportion of illicit streaming takes place through set-top devices, CAP’s 21 members want the authorities to block the software inside them that enables piracy, Straits Times reports.

“Within the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the worst in terms of availability of illicit streaming devices,” said CAP General Manager Neil Gane.

“They have access to hundreds of illicit broadcasts of channels and video-on-demand content.”

There are no precise details on CAP’s demands but it is far from clear how any government could effectively block software.

Blocking access to the software package itself would prove all but impossible, so that would leave blocking the infrastructure the software uses. While that would be relatively straightforward technically, the job would be large and fast-moving, particularly when dozens of apps and addons would need to be targeted.

However, CAP is also calling on the authorities to block pirate streams from entering Singapore. The country already has legislation in place that can be used for site-blocking, so that is not out of the question. It’s notable that the English Premier League is part of the CAP coalition and following legal action taken in the UK earlier this year, now has plenty of experience in blocking streams, particularly of live broadcasts.

While that is a game of cat-and-mouse, TorrentFreak sources that have been monitoring the Premier League’s actions over the past several months report that the soccer outfit has become more effective over time. Its blocks can still be evaded but it can be hard work for those involved. That kind of expertise could prove invaluable to CAP.

“The Premier League is currently engaged in its most comprehensive global anti-piracy programme,” a spokesperson told ST. “This includes supporting our broadcast partners in South-east Asia with their efforts to prevent the sale of illicit streaming devices.”

In common with other countries around the world, the legality of using ‘pirate’ streaming boxes is somewhat unclear in Singapore. A Bloomberg report cites a local salesman who reports sales of 10 to 20 boxes on a typical weekend, rising to 300 a day during electronic fairs. He believes the devices are legal, since they don’t download full copies of programs.

While that point is yet to be argued in court (previously an Intellectual Property Office of Singapore spokesperson said that copyright owners could potentially go after viewers), it seems unlikely that those selling the devices will be allowed to continue completely unhindered. The big question is how current legislation can be successfully applied.

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

ACE and CAP Shut Down Aussie Pirate IPTV Operation

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ace-and-cap-shut-down-aussie-pirate-iptv-operation-171128/

Instead of companies like the MPAA, Amazon, Netflix, CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, CBS, Foxtel, and Village Roadshow tackling piracy completely solo, this year they teamed up to form the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

This massive collaboration of 30 companies represents a new front in the fight against piracy, with global players publicly cooperating to tackle the phenomenon in all its forms.

The same is true of CASBAA‘s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), a separate anti-piracy collective which to some extent shares the same members as ACE but with a sharp of focus on Asia.

This morning the groups announced the results of a joint investigation in Australia which targeted a large supplier of illicit IPTV devices. These small set-top boxes, which come in several forms, are often configured to receive programming from unauthorized sources. In this particular case, they came pre-loaded to play pirated movies, television shows, sports programming, plus other content.

The Melbourne-based company targeted by ACE and CAP allegedly sold these devices in Asia for many years. The company demanded AUS$400 (US$305) per IPTV unit and bundled each with a year’s subscription to pirated TV channels and on-demand movies from the US, EU, India and South East Asia markets.

In the past, companies operating in these areas have often been met with overwhelming force including criminal action, but ACE and CAP appear to have reached an agreement with the company and its owner, even going as far as keeping their names out of the press.

In return, the company has agreed to measures which will prevent people who have already invested in these boxes being able to access ACE and CAP content going forward. That is likely to result in a whole bunch of irritated customers.

“The film and television industry has made significant investments to provide audiences with access to creative content how, where, and when they want it,” says ACE spokesperson Zoe Thorogood.

“ACE and CAP members initiated this investigation as part of a comprehensive global approach to protect the legal marketplace for creative content, reduce online piracy, and bolster a creative economy that supports millions of workers. This latest action was part of a series of global actions to address the growth of illegal and unsafe piracy devices and apps.”

Neil Gane, General Manager of the CASBAA Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), also weighed in with what are now becoming industry-standard warnings of losses to content makers and supposed risks to consumers.

“These little black boxes are now beginning to dominate the piracy ecosystem, causing significant damage to all sectors of the content industry, from producers to telecommunication platforms,” Gane said.

“They also pose a risk to consumers who face a well-documented increase in exposure to malware. The surge in availability of these illicit streaming devices is an international issue that requires a coordinated effort between industry and government. This will be the first of many disruption and enforcement initiatives on which CAP, ACE, and other industry associations will be collaborating together.”

In September, TF revealed the secret agreement behind the ACE initiative, noting how the group’s founding members are required to commit $5m each annually to the project. The remaining 21 companies on the coalition’s Executive Committee put in $200,000 each.

While today’s IPTV announcement was very public, ACE has already been flexing its muscles behind the scenes. Earlier this month we reported on several cases where UK-based Kodi addon developers were approached by the anti-piracy group and warned to shut down – or else.

While all complied, each was warned not to reveal the terms of their agreement with ACE. This means that the legal basis for its threats remains shrouded in mystery. That being said, it’s likely that several European Court of Justice decisions earlier in the year played a key role.

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

Kodi Addon Dev Says “Show of Force” Will Be Met With Defiance

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-addon-dev-says-show-force-will-met-defiance-171119/

For many years, the members of the MPAA have flexed their muscles all around the globe, working to prevent people from engaging in online piracy. If the last 17 years ‘progress’ is anything to go by, it’s a war that will go on indefinitely.

With Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner on board, the MPAA has historically relied on sheer power to intimidate opponents. That has certainly worked in many large piracy cases but for many peripheral smaller-scale pirates, their presence is largely ignored.

This week, however, several players in the Kodi scene discovered that these giants – and more besides – have the ability to literally turn up at their front door. As reported Thursday, UK-based Kodi addon developer The_Alpha received a hand-delivered cease-and-desist letter from all of the above, accompanied by new faces Netflix, Amazon and Sky TV.

These companies are part of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a massive and recently-formed anti-piracy coalition comprised of 30 global entertainment brands. TorrentFreak reached out to The_Alpha for his thoughts on coming under such a dazzling spotlight but perhaps understandably he didn’t want to comment.

The leader of the Ares Project was willing to go on the record, however, after he too received a hand-delivered threat during the week. His decision was to immediately comply and shutdown but TF is informed that others might not be so willing to follow suit.

A Kodi addon developer living in the UK who spoke to us on condition of anonymity told us that most people operating in the scene expected some kind of trouble – just not on this scale.

“Did you see the [company logos] across the top of Alpha’s letter? That’s some serious shit right there. The film companies are no surprise but Amazon delivers my groceries so I don’t expect this shit from them,” he said.

When the ACE partnership was formed earlier this year, it seemed pretty clear that the main drive was towards the pooling of anti-piracy resources to be more effective and efficient. However, it can’t have escaped ACE that such a broad and powerful alliance could also have a profound psychological effect on its adversaries.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re turning up mob-handed to put the shits up people like Alpha and the rest of us,” the developer said. “It’s hardly a fair dust-up is it? What have we got to fight back with, a giro [state benefits]? It’s a show of force, ‘look how important we are’!”

Interestingly, however, the dev told us that it isn’t necessarily the size of the coalition that has him most concerned. What caught his eye was the inclusion of two influential UK-based companies in the alliance.

“Having Sly [a local derogatory nickname for Sky TV] and the Premier League on the letter makes it much more serious to me than seeing Warner or whatever,” he commented.

“I don’t get involved in footie but Sly is everywhere round here and I think it’s something the Brit dev scene might take notice of, even if most say ‘fuck it’ and carry on anyway.”

When questioned whether that’s likely, our source said that while ACE might be able to tackle some of the bigger targets like Ares Project or Colossus, they fundamentally misunderstand how the Kodi scene works.

“If you want a good example of a scattered pirate scene, I give you Kodi. They can bomb the base or whatever but nobody lives there,” he explained.

“There’s some older blokes like me who can do without the stress but a lot of younger coders, builders and YouTubers who thrive on it. They’re used to running around council estates with real-life problems. A faffy letter from some toff in a suit means literally nothing. Like I said, all they have to lose is a giro.”

Whether this is just bravado will remain to be seen, but our earlier discussions with others in the scene indicate a particular weakness in the UK, with many players vulnerable to being found after failing to hide their identities in the past. To a point, our source agrees that this is a problem.

“People are saying that Alpha was found after trying to raise some charity money related to his disabled son but I don’t know for sure and nor does anybody else. What strikes me is that none of us really thought things would get this on top here because all you ever hear about is America this, Canada that, whatever. Does this means that more of us are getting done in England? You tell me,” he said.

Only time will tell but stamping out the pirate Kodi scene is going to be hard work.

Within hours of several projects disappearing Wednesday and Thursday, YouTube and myriad blogs were being flooded with guides detailing immediate replacements. This ad-hoc network of enthusiasts makes the exchange of information happen at an alarming rate and it’s hard to see how any company – no matter how powerful – will ever be able to keep up.

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

Ares Kodi Project Calls it Quits After Hollywood Cease & Desist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ares-kodi-project-calls-it-quits-after-hollywood-cease-desist-171117/

This week has been particularly bad for those involved in the Kodi addon scene. Following cease-and-desist notices from the MPA-led anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, several addon developers and repositories shut down.

With Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner, Netflix, Amazon and Sky TV all lined up for war, the third-party developers had little choice but to quit. One of those affected was the leader of the hugely popular Ares Project, which quietly disappeared mid-week.

The Ares Wizard was an extremely popular and important piece of software which allowed people to switch Kodi builds, install third-party addons, install popular repositories, change system settings, and carry out backups. It’s installed on huge numbers of machines worldwide but it will soon fall into disrepair.

The mighty Ares Wizard in action

“[This week] I was subject to a hand-delivered notice to cease-and-desist from MPA & ACE,” Ares Project leader Tekto informs TorrentFreak.

“Given the notice, we obviously shut down the repo and wizard as requested.”

The news that Ares Project is done and never coming back will be a huge blow to the community. The project just celebrated its second birthday and has grown exponentially since it first arrived on the scene.

“Ares Project started in Oct 2015. Originally it was to be a tool to setup up the video cache on Kodi correctly. However, many ideas were thrown into the pot and it became a wee bit more; such as a wizard to install community provided builds, common addons and few other tweaks and options,” Tekto says.

“For my own part I started blogging earlier that year as part of a longer-term goal to be self-funding. I always disliked seeing begging bowls out to support ‘server’ costs, many of which were cheap £5-10 per month servers that were used to gain £100s in donations.

“The blog, via affiliate links and ads, could and would provide the funds to cover our hosting costs without resorting to begging for money every weekend.”

Intrigued by this first wave of actions by ACE in Europe, TorrentFreak asked for a copy of the MPA/ACE cease-and-desist notice but unfortunately, Tekto flat-out refused. All he would tell us is that he’d agreed not to give out any copies or screenshots and that he was adhering to that 100%.

That only leaves speculation as to what grounds the MPA/ACE cited for closing the project but to be fair, it doesn’t take much thought to find a direct comparison. Earlier this year, in the BREIN v Filmspeler case, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes amounted to illegally communicating copyrighted content to the public.

With that in mind, it doesn’t take much of a leap to see how this ruling could also apply to someone distributing “fully-loaded” Kodi software builds or addons via a website. It had previously been considered a legal gray area, of course, and it was in that space that the Ares team believed it operated. After all, it took ECJ clarification for local courts in the Netherlands to be satisfied with the legal position.

“There was never any question that what we were doing was illegal. We didn’t and never have hosted any content, we always prevented discussions about illegal paid services, and never sold any devices, pre-loaded or otherwise. That used to be enough to occupy the ‘gray’ area which meant we were safe to develop our applications. That changed in 2017 as we were to discover,” Tekto notes.

Up until this week and apparently oblivious to how the earlier ECJ ruling might affect their operation, things had been going extremely well for Ares. In mid-2016, the group moved to its own support forum that attracted 100,000 signed-up members and 300,000 visitors every month.

“This was quite an achievement in terms of viral marketing but ultimately this would become part of our downfall,” Tekto says.

“The recent innovation of the ‘basket driven’ Ares Portal system seems to have triggered the legal move to shut the project down completely. This simple system gave access to hundreds of add-ons. The system removed the need for builds, blogs and YouTubers – you just shopped on the site for addons and then installed them to your device with a simple 6 digit code.”

While Ares and Tekto still didn’t believe they were doing anything illegal (addons were linked, not hosted) it is now pretty clear to them that the previous gray area has been well and truly closed, at least as far as the MPA/ACE alliance is concerned. And with that in mind, the show is over. Done. Finished.

“We are not criminals or malicious hackers, we weren’t even careful about hiding our identities. You couldn’t meet a more ordinary bunch of folks in truth,” he says.

“There was never any question we would close our doors if what we were doing crossed any boundaries of legality. So with the notice served on us, we are closing our doors and removing all our websites and applications. It’s a sad day in many ways, but nobody wants to be facing court or a potential custodial sentence, for what is essentially a hobby.”

Finally, Tekto says that others like him might want to consider their positions carefully, before they too get a knock at the door. In the meantime, he gives thanks to the project’s supporters, who have remained loyal over the past two years.

“It just leaves me to thank our users for their support and step away from the Kodi scene,” he concludes.

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

New ‘Coalition Against Piracy’ Will Crack Down on Pirate Streaming Boxes

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/new-coalition-against-piracy-will-crack-down-on-pirate-streaming-boxes-171017/

Traditionally there have only been a handful of well-known industry groups fighting online piracy, but this appears to be changing.

Increasingly, major entertainment industry companies are teaming up in various regions to bundle their enforcement efforts against copyright infringement.

Earlier this year the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) was formed by major players including Disney, HBO, and NBCUniversal, and several of the same media giants are also involved in the newly founded Coalition Against Piracy (CAP).

CAP will coordinate anti-piracy efforts in Asia and is backed by CASBAA, Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, Astro, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, TV5MONDE, Viacom International, and others.

The coalition has hired Neil Gane as its general manager. Gane is no stranger to anti-piracy work, as he previously served as the MPAA’s regional director in Australasia and was chief of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft.

The goal of CAP will be to assist in local enforcement actions against piracy, including the disruption and dismantling of local businesses that facilitate it. Pirate streaming boxes and apps will be among the main targets.

These boxes, which often use the legal Kodi player paired with infringing add-ons, are referred to as illicit streaming devices (ISDs) by industry insiders. They have grown in popularity all around the world and Asia is no exception.

“The prevalence of ISDs across Asia is staggering. The criminals who operate the ISD networks and the pirate websites are profiting from the hard work of talented creators, seriously damaging the legitimate content ecosystem as well as exposing consumers to dangerous malware”, Gane said, quoted by Indian Television.

Gane knows the region well and started his career working for the Hong Kong Police. He sees the pirate streaming box ecosystem as a criminal network which presents a major threat to the entertainment industries.

“This is a highly organized transnational crime with criminal syndicates profiting enormously at the expense of consumers as well as content creators,” Gane noted.

The Asian creative industry is a major growth market as more and more legal content is made available. However, the growth of these legal services is threatened by pirate boxes and apps. The Coalition Against Piracy hopes to curb this.

The launch of CAP, which will be formalized at the upcoming CASBAA anti-piracy convention in November, confirms the trend of localized anti-piracy coalitions which are backed by major industry players. We can expect to hear more from these during the years to come.

Just a few days ago the founding members of the aforementioned ACE anti-piracy initiative filed their first joint lawsuit in the US which, unsurprisingly, targets a seller of streaming boxes.

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

Netflix Expands Content Protection Team to Reduce Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-expands-content-protection-team-to-reduce-piracy-171015/

There is little doubt that, in the United States and many other countries, Netflix has become the standard for watching movies on the Internet.

Despite the widespread availability, however, Netflix originals are widely pirated. Episodes from House of Cards, Narcos, and Orange is the New Black are downloaded and streamed millions of times through unauthorized platforms.

The streaming giant is obviously not happy with this situation and has ramped up its anti-piracy efforts in recent years. Since last year the company has sent out over a million takedown requests to Google alone and this volume continues to expand.

This growth coincides with an expansion of the company’s internal anti-piracy division. A new job posting shows that Netflix is expanding this team with a Copyright and Content Protection Coordinator. The ultimate goal is to reduce piracy to a fringe activity.

“The growing Global Copyright & Content Protection Group is looking to expand its team with the addition of a coordinator,” the job listing reads.

“He or she will be tasked with supporting the Netflix Global Copyright & Content Protection Group in its internal tactical take down efforts with the goal of reducing online piracy to a socially unacceptable fringe activity.”

Among other things, the new coordinator will evaluate new technological solutions to tackle piracy online.

More old-fashioned takedown efforts are also part of the job. This includes monitoring well-known content platforms, search engines and social network sites for pirated content.

“Day to day scanning of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Periscope, Google Search, Bing Search, VK, DailyMotion and all other platforms (including live platforms) used for piracy,” is listed as one of the main responsibilities.

Netflix’ Copyright and Content Protection Coordinator Job

The coordinator is further tasked with managing Facebook’s Rights Manager and YouTube’s Content-ID system, to prevent circumvention of these piracy filters. Experience with fingerprinting technologies and other anti-piracy tools will be helpful in this regard.

Netflix doesn’t do all the copyright enforcement on its own though. The company works together with other media giants in the recently launched “Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment” that is spearheaded by the MPAA.

In addition, the company also uses the takedown services of external anti-piracy outfits to target more traditional infringement sources, such as cyberlockers and piracy streaming sites. The coordinator has to keep an eye on these as well.

“Liaise with our vendors on manual takedown requests on linking sites and hosting sites and gathering data on pirate streaming sites, cyberlockers and usenet platforms.”

The above shows that Netflix is doing its best to prevent piracy from getting out of hand. It’s definitely taking the issue more seriously than a few years ago when the company didn’t have much original content.

The switch from being merely a distribution platform to becoming a major content producer and copyright holder has changed the stakes. Netflix hasn’t won the war on piracy, it’s just getting started.

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

Inside the MPAA, Netflix & Amazon Global Anti-Piracy Alliance

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/inside-the-mpaa-netflix-amazon-global-anti-piracy-alliance-170918/

The idea of collaboration in the anti-piracy arena isn’t new but an announcement this summer heralded what is destined to become the largest project the entertainment industry has ever seen.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a coalition of 30 companies that reads like a who’s who of the global entertainment market. In alphabetical order its members are:

Amazon, AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada and Bell Media, Canal+ Group, CBS Corporation, Constantin Film, Foxtel, Grupo Globo, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Millennium Media, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, SF Studios, Sky, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Star India, Studio Babelsberg, STX Entertainment, Telemundo, Televisa, Twentieth Century Fox, Univision Communications Inc., Village Roadshow, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The aim of the project is clear. Instead of each company considering its anti-piracy operations as a distinct island, ACE will bring them all together while presenting a united front to decision and lawmakers. At the core of the Alliance will be the MPAA.

“ACE, with its broad coalition of creators from around the world, is designed, specifically, to leverage the best possible resources to reduce piracy,”
outgoing MPAA chief Chris Dodd said in June.

“For decades, the MPAA has been the gold standard for antipiracy enforcement. We are proud to provide the MPAA’s worldwide antipiracy resources and the deep expertise of our antipiracy unit to support ACE and all its initiatives.”

Since then, ACE and its members have been silent on the project. Today, however, TorrentFreak can pull back the curtain, revealing how the agreement between the companies will play out, who will be in control, and how much the scheme will cost.

Power structure: Founding Members & Executive Committee Members

Netflix, Inc., Amazon Studios LLC, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios LLC, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, are the ‘Founding Members’ (Governing Board) of ACE.

These companies are granted full voting rights on ACE business, including the approval of initiatives and public policy, anti-piracy strategy, budget-related matters, plus approval of legal action. Not least, they’ll have the power to admit or expel ACE members.

All actions taken by the Governing Board (never to exceed nine members) need to be approved by consensus, with each Founding Member able to vote for or against decisions. Members are also allowed to abstain but one persistent objection will be enough to stop any matter being approved.

The second tier – ‘Executive Committee Members’ – is comprised of all the other companies in the ACE project (as listed above, minus the Governing Board). These companies will not be allowed to vote on ACE initiatives but can present ideas and strategies. They’ll also be allowed to suggest targets for law enforcement action while utilizing the MPAA’s anti-piracy resources.

Rights of all members

While all members of ACE can utilize the alliance’s resources, none are barred from simultaneously ‘going it alone’ on separate anti-piracy initiatives. None of these strategies and actions need approval from the Founding Members, provided they’re carried out in a company’s own name and at its own expense.

Information obtained by TorrentFreak indicates that the MPAA also reserves the right to carry out anti-piracy actions in its own name or on behalf of its member studios. The pattern here is different, since the MPAA’s global anti-piracy resources are the same resources being made available to the ACE alliance and for which members have paid to share.

Expansion of ACE

While ACE membership is already broad, the alliance is prepared to take on additional members, providing certain criteria are met. Crucially, any prospective additions must be owners or producers of movies and/or TV shows. The Governing Board will then vet applicants to ensure that they meet the criteria for acceptance as a new Executive Committee Members.

ACE Operations

The nine Governing Board members will meet at least four times a year, with each nominating a senior executive to serve as its representative. The MPAA’s General Counsel will take up the position of non-voting member of the Governing Board and will chair its meetings.

Matters to be discussed include formulating and developing the alliance’s ‘Global Anti-Piracy Action Plan’ and approving and developing the budget. ACE will also form an Anti-Piracy Working Group, which is scheduled to meet at least once a month.

On a daily basis, the MPAA and its staff will attend to the business of the ACE alliance. The MPAA will carry out its own work too but when presenting to outside third parties, it will clearly state which “hat” it is currently wearing.

Much deliberation has taken place over who should be the official spokesperson for ACE. Documents obtained by TF suggest that the MPAA planned to hire a consulting firm to find a person for the role, seeking a professional with international experience who had never been previously been connected with the MPAA.

They appear to have settled on Zoe Thorogood, who previously worked for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Money, money, money

Of course, the ACE program isn’t going to fund itself, so all members are required to contribute to the operation. The MPAA has opened a dedicated bank account under its control specifically for the purpose, with members contributing depending on status.

Founding/Governing Board Members will be required to commit $5m each annually. However, none of the studios that are MPAA members will have to hand over any cash, since they already fund the MPAA, whose anti-piracy resources ACE is built.

“Each Governing Board Member will contribute annual dues in an amount equal to $5 million USD. Payment of dues shall be made bi-annually in equal shares, payable at
the beginning of each six (6) month period,” the ACE agreement reads.

“The contribution of MPAA personnel, assets and resources…will constitute and be considered as full payment of each MPAA Member Studio’s Governing Board dues.”

That leaves just Netflix and Amazon paying the full amount of $5m in cash each.

From each company’s contribution, $1m will be paid into legal trust accounts allocated to each Governing Board member. If ACE-agreed litigation and legal expenses exceed that amount for the year, members will be required to top up their accounts to cover their share of the costs.

For the remaining 21 companies on the Executive Committee, annual dues are $200,000 each, to be paid in one installment at the start of the financial year – $4.2m all in. Of all dues paid by all members from both tiers, half will be used to boost anti-piracy resources, over and above what the MPAA will spend on the same during 2017.

“Fifty percent (50%) of all dues received from Global Alliance Members other than
the MPAA Member Studios…shall, as agreed by the Governing Board, be used (a) to increase the resources spent on online antipiracy over and above….the amount of MPAA’s 2017 Content Protection Department budget for online antipiracy initiatives/operations,” an internal ACE document reads.

Intellectual property

As the project moves forward, the Alliance expects to gain certain knowledge and experience. On the back of that, the MPAA hopes to grow its intellectual property portfolio.

“Absent written agreement providing otherwise, any and all data, intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, or know-how owned and/or contributed to the Global Alliance by MPAA, or developed or created by the MPAA or the Global Alliance during the Term of this Charter, shall remain and/or become the exclusive property of the MPAA,” the ACE agreement reads.

That being said, all Governing Board Members will also be granted “perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive licenses” to use the same under certain rules, even in the event they leave the ACE initiative.

Terms and extensions

Any member may withdraw from the Alliance at any point, but there will be no refunds. Additionally, any financial commitment previously made to litigation will have to be honored by the member.

The ACE agreement has an initial term of two years but Governing Board Members will meet not less than three months before it is due to expire to vote on any extension.

To be continued……

With the internal structure of ACE now revealed, all that remains is to discover the contents of the initiative’s ‘Global Anti-Piracy Action Plan’. To date, that document has proven elusive but with an operation of such magnitude, future leaks are a distinct possibility.

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