Tag Archives: Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment

MPAA Now Controls at Least 3 ‘Pirate’ IPTV Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-now-controls-at-least-3-pirate-iptv-domains-190707/

Unlicensed IPTV services have been running for many years, offering thousands of otherwise premium channels to consumers for a fraction of their market price.

As recently as three years ago such services received little mainstream attention. However, the rise of piracy-focused Kodi add-ons has encouraged countless thousands of pirates to take a step up to sample the experience of a more reliable and generally higher-quality ‘pirate’ service.

This rising popularity, which is inextricably linked to large volumes of people looking to stream live content, is being met with increasing resistance by anti-piracy groups. One of the main players is the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a global anti-piracy coalition headed up by Hollywood, Netflix, Amazon, and dozens of other huge media companies.

Back in May, we reported how the domain of OneStepTV, a former ‘pirate’ IPTV provider, had been taken over by ACE and the MPAA. No official details have been made available by ACE but it seems likely there may have been some kind of cease-and-desist agreement reached with its operator. We can now report that further domains have also been scooped up.

After being registered in September 2017, TVStreamsNow.com acted as the portal to another ‘pirate’ IPTV service. Offering more than 500 channels for ‘just’ $25 per month, the service gained traction among users who perhaps didn’t realize that superior products are available for far less.

TVStreamsNow.com before the takeover

While many customers would have enjoyed the content on offer, this ‘bargain’ would eventually come to an end. A couple of months ago the service disappeared after telling customers via email that another domain would be handling their transactions in the future.

It’s unclear whether that shift ever took place but there is clear evidence that the original domain is now in the hands of ACE members. Not only does it redirect to the official ACE website, but WHOIS details also reveal the domain is now controlled by the MPAA.

Another ACE victim can be found when visiting DoozerIPTV.com. As the image below shows, the platform offered “all the content you could ever want” while “eliminating extortionate monthly bills and contractual agreements.”

DoozerIPTV – how it used to look

Unfortunately for its former operators, DoozerIPTV no longer offers these services, at least from this domain. After being registered in July 2018, last month it appears to have been taken over by the MPAA.

It currently redirects to the Alliance’s website like the other domains, along with a message that it’s no longer available “due to copyright infringement.”

Quite how many more of these takeovers have taken place isn’t clear. However, it seems likely that these three services won’t be the last to hand their domains to the MPAA following threats from the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

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

MPAA / ACE Shut Down ‘Pirate’ IPTV Service, Seize Domain

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-ace-shut-down-pirate-iptv-service-seize-domain-190517/

In 2015, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a new initiative designed to target existing and developing piracy operations on a global scale, announced its launch.

Headed up by the studios of the MPAA plus Netflix and Amazon, more than 30 international media now complete its ranks, including the likes of BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada, MGM, and Village Roadshow, to name just a few.

In addition to targeting Kodi add-ons and their developers, ACE has made unlicensed IPTV services one of its priorities. This morning we can report that the anti-piracy giant has claimed another scalp.

In the grand scheme, OneStepTV.com appears to have been a relative newcomer. Archives suggest that the service launched in 2018 and grew to offer around 600 TV channels and 20,000 pieces of VOD content (such as movies), for $25 per month or less.

No credit checks…

While many of One Step TV’s customers appeared to have enjoyed the service, a few weeks ago problems appear to have become evident to subscribers looking to renew their package.

A post on Facebook dated April 25, 2019, signaled payment processing issues, one of the most common signs that a platform might be in trouble.

“We have been subscribers for awhile now and like your service very much. We are a little confused and concerned as recently we were told that customers cannot renew their subscriptions anymore,” the post reads.

“Is your business going away, or do you anticipate fixing the payment issue in the near future? We really would like to continue doing business with you.”

A few days later, more serious issues hit the streaming service. With its payment processing suspended, the platform itself disappeared.

One Step TV — gone

One Step TV’s public social media posts don’t give any explanation for the outage but yesterday an ominous change to the service’s homepage gave the clearest indication yet of what may have transpired.

Instead of One Step TV’s sales pitch, visitors to OneStepTV.com are now presented with a message from the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment. Five seconds later the page redirects to the Alliance’s homepage.

Five seconds before redirect

While a page and redirect like this are very easy to fake (pirate sites frequently display similar pages as April Fool pranks), this one is very different. Not only does the domain redirect to the Alliance’s website as promised, changes to One Step TV’s domain records confirm that the domain has been taken over.

Seized by the MPAA

As the image above shows, the domain is now in the hands of the MPAA and has probably been that way since yesterday morning. The site itself is hosted by Amazon, a founding member of ACE.

All the pieces of the puzzle together strongly suggest that in this format at least, One Step TV is done. It’s not clear if a lawsuit is involved but as far as we can see, none have been filed recently by ACE’s lead members.

While it’s difficult to say for sure, this closure bears the hallmarks of a cease-and-desist and subsequent settlement agreement. Given ACE’s reluctance to talk about such agreements, it seems unlikely there will be a detailed public statement.

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

MPAA “Dramatically Expanding” ACE Global Anti-Piracy Coalition

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-dramatically-expanding-ace-global-anti-piracy-coalition-190507/

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the anti-piracy coalition which already counts 33 of the world's most powerful media companies among its members, is about to get even bigger. MPAA chief Charles Rivkin confirms that his group is in the process of "dramatically" expanding the global initiative.

For more than 15 years and mainly since the rise of BitTorrent-based sharing, sites and platforms offering Hollywood movies or TV shows have been wary of the MPAA.

At any moment, BitTorrent trackers and indexers could find themselves in the group’s crosshairs, targeted by full-blown lawsuits or threats that the same would follow, if infringing activity continued.

But while the threat was real, litigation has always been expensive, sometimes prohibitively so. Furthermore, video content being shared by pirates wasn’t always owned by the studios of the MPAA, allowing many sites to slip through the net.

In June 2017, the MPAA began plugging both of these loopholes with the launch of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a huge anti-piracy coalition featuring not only MPAA members, but companies like Amazon, Netflix, CBS, HBO, and the BBC.

After adding Discovery Inc. and two Viacom-owned companies back in March, ACE now has 33 members. This not only means that it’s becoming more and more difficult to run a ‘pirate’ video platform or service without treading on at least one member’s toes, but there are almost three dozen large to huge companies now sharing the financial burden of chasing down pirates.

Now, according to MPAA chief Charles Rivkin, ACE is about to become even more powerful.

In an interview with WorldScreen, Rivkin detailed some of ACE’s achievements so far, such as shutting down 123Movies and taking on TickBox and Dragon Box, companies operating in the so-called ISD (illicit streaming device) market. A case against Omniverse is still ongoing.

“We were able to win in court against pirate operators called TickBox and Dragon Box, and they represent a new threat: the internet streaming devices, the ISDs, that are basically devices that can be purchased completely legally but when loaded with illegal software, can do enormous damage to content. It’s a never-ending fight, but we’re starting to make a big difference,” he said.

“And it’s an existential threat for some of the small and medium businesses that make up the industry. I was speaking to some broadcasters in Paris who said that piracy can be as big as their entire bottom line. And the impact on entertainment companies is huge, so this is a top priority for us.”

That Rivkin mentions 123Movies (Vietnam), then Tickbox and Dragon Box (United States), followed by France (Canal+ is an ACE member), shows that the fight against piracy is going global. ACE has already targeted several Kodi-related platforms and add-ons in the UK since its inception, yet another sign that no important region is off-limits.

If there is business worth doing there, ACE either has it covered already or will have it in hand fairly soon.

“Every major market has a participating member. We’re in the process of dramatically expanding [ACE] even more. It is already the premier global effort to reduce piracy,” Rivkin added.

How this expansion will manifest itself is not yet clear, but it seems likely that ACE will continue with its strategy of ‘loud’ public litigation (such as that taken against TickBox and Dragon Box) and selective ‘quiet’ action against certain players.

Last month, ACE told TorrentFreak that it had “sought and obtained voluntary cooperation from a significant number of owners, operators, and developers of sites, add-ons, and services” that facilitate piracy.

“We will execute more planned global actions along these lines and look to continue our success protecting creators around the world,” ACE spokesperson Richard VanOrnum added.

These ‘quiet’ actions are of course intriguing.

From the limited information available to us, it seems clear that they vastly outnumber the volume of ‘loud’ actions seen thus far and mainly target products with a large audience (Kodi add-ons and builds, for example) but without the obvious commercial element of many ‘pirate’ sites and services.

However, we have received information which suggests that large platforms may not be immune from being presented with settlement agreements, which form part of the process to cease-and-desist.

This complicates reporting because documentation previously seen by TF requires those targeted not to tell anyone apart from their lawyers about the approach to shut down. In return, ACE promises not to make their identities known, meaning that details shared are kept to a minimum.

For example, last week huge IPTV service Vader shut down, stating that it had been approached by companies seeking its closure. The platform didn’t mention ACE directly but if anyone would like them to close down, ACE would be the prime candidate.

We asked ACE if the coalition was behind the closure and a spokesperson promised to send over a statement. Thus far, however, we haven’t received anything back. While a comment may yet be forthcoming, an additional document sent to TF (the veracity of which we haven’t been able to independently confirm), suggests that Vader has been given the opportunity to settle.

If that’s indeed the case, the matter could potentially disappear into the ether, as so many other services and tools have also done in recent times. Either way, we can probably expect much more of this type of action in the future, as ACE’s “drastic” expansion brings in more funds and tentacles in every corner of the world.

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

FCC Asks Amazon & eBay to Help Eliminate Pirate Media Box Sales

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fcc-asks-amazon-ebay-to-help-eliminate-pirate-media-box-sales-180530/

Over the past several years, anyone looking for a piracy-configured set-top box could do worse than search for one on Amazon or eBay.

Historically, people deploying search terms including “Kodi” or “fully-loaded” were greeted by page after page of Android-type boxes, each ready for illicit plug-and-play entertainment consumption following delivery.

Although the problem persists on both platforms, people are now much less likely to find infringing devices than they were 12 to 24 months ago. Under pressure from entertainment industry groups, both Amazon and eBay have tightened the screws on sellers of such devices. Now, however, both companies have received requests to stem sales from a completetey different direction.

In a letter to eBay CEO Devin Wenig and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first spotted by Ars, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly calls on the platforms to take action against piracy-configured boxes that fail to comply with FCC equipment authorization requirements or falsely display FCC logos, contrary to United States law.

“Disturbingly, some rogue set-top box manufacturers and distributors are exploiting the FCC’s trusted logo by fraudulently placing it on devices that have not been approved via the Commission’s equipment authorization process,” O’Rielly’s letter reads.

“Specifically, nine set-top box distributors were referred to the FCC in October for enabling the unlawful streaming of copyrighted material, seven of which displayed the FCC logo, although there was no record of such compliance.”

While O’Rielly admits that the copyright infringement aspects fall outside the jurisdiction of the FCC, he says it’s troubling that many of these devices are used to stream infringing content, “exacerbating the theft of billions of dollars in American innovation and creativity.”

As noted above, both Amazon and eBay have taken steps to reduce sales of pirate boxes on their respective platforms on copyright infringement grounds, something which is duly noted by O’Rielly. However, he points out that devices continue to be sold to members of the public who may believe that the devices are legal since they’re available for sale from legitimate companies.

“For these reasons, I am seeking your further cooperation in assisting the FCC in taking steps to eliminate the non-FCC compliant devices or devices that fraudulently bear the FCC logo,” the Commissioner writes (pdf).

“Moreover, if your company is made aware by the Commission, with supporting evidence, that a particular device is using a fraudulent FCC label or has not been appropriately certified and labeled with a valid FCC logo, I respectfully request that you commit to swiftly removing these products from your sites.”

In the event that Amazon and eBay take action under this request, O’Rielly asks both platforms to hand over information they hold on offending manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers.

Amazon was quick to respond to the FCC. In a letter published by Ars, Amazon’s Public Policy Vice President Brian Huseman assured O’Rielly that the company is not only dedicated to tackling rogue devices on copyright-infringement grounds but also when there is fraudulent use of the FCC’s logos.

Noting that Amazon is a key member of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) – a group that has been taking legal action against sellers of infringing streaming devices (ISDs) and those who make infringing addons for Kodi-type systems – Huseman says that dealing with the problem is a top priority.

“Our goal is to prevent the sale of ISDs anywhere, as we seek to protect our customers from the risks posed by these devices, in addition to our interest in protecting Amazon Studios content,” Huseman writes.

“In 2017, Amazon became the first online marketplace to prohibit the sale of streaming media players that promote or facilitate piracy. To prevent the sale of these devices, we proactively scan product listings for signs of potentially infringing products, and we also invest heavily in sophisticated, automated real-time tools to review a variety of data sources and signals to identify inauthentic goods.

“These automated tools are supplemented by human reviewers that conduct manual investigations. When we suspect infringement, we take immediate action to remove suspected listings, and we also take enforcement action against sellers’ entire accounts when appropriate.”

Huseman also reveals that since implementing a proactive policy against such devices, “tens of thousands” of listings have been blocked from Amazon. In addition, the platform has been making criminal referrals to law enforcement as well as taking civil action (1,2,3) as part of ACE.

“As noted in your letter, we would also appreciate the opportunity to collaborate further with the FCC to remove non-compliant devices that improperly use the FCC logo or falsely claim FCC certification. If any FCC non-compliant devices are identified, we seek to work with you to ensure they are not offered for sale,” Huseman concludes.

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

Hong Kong Customs Arrest Pirate Streaming Device Vendors

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hong-kong-customs-arrest-pirate-streaming-device-vendors-180529/

As Internet-capable set-top boxes pour into homes across all populated continents, authorities seem almost powerless to come up with a significant response to the growing threat.

In standard form these devices, which are often Android-based, are entirely legal. However, when configured with specialist software they become piracy powerhouses providing access to all content imaginable, often at copyright holders’ expense.

A large proportion of these devices come from Asia, China in particular, but it’s relatively rare to hear of enforcement action in that part of the world. That changed this week with an announcement from Hong Kong customs detailing a series of raids in the areas of Sham Shui Po and Wan Chai.

After conducting an in-depth investigation with the assistance of copyright holders, on May 25 and 26 Customs and Excise officers launched Operation Trojan Horse, carrying out a series of raids on four premises selling suspected piracy-configured set-top boxes.

During the operation, officers arrested seven men and one woman aged between 18 and 45. Four of them were shop owners and the other four were salespeople. Around 354 suspected ‘pirate’ boxes were seized with an estimated market value of HK$320,000 (US$40,700).

“In the past few months, the department has stepped up inspections of hotspots for TV set-top boxes,” a statement from authorities reads.

“We have discovered that some shops have sold suspected illegal set-top boxes that bypass the copyright protection measures imposed by copyright holders of pay television programs allowing people to watch pay television programs for free.”

Some of the devices seized by Hong Kong Customs

During a press conference yesterday, a representative from the Customs Copyright and Trademark Investigations (Action) Division said that in the run up to the World Cup in 2018, measures against copyright infringement will be strengthened both on and online.

The announcement was welcomed by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia’s (CASBAA) Coalition Against Piracy, which is back by industry heavyweights including Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, Astro, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, TV5MONDE, Viacom International, and others.

“We commend the great work of Hong Kong Customs in clamping down on syndicates who profit from the sale of Illicit Streaming Devices,” said General Manager Neil Gane.

“The prevalence of ISDs in Hong Kong and across South East Asia is staggering. The criminals who sell ISDs, as well as those who operate the ISD networks and 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.”

Malware warnings are very prevalent these days but it’s not something the majority of set-top box owners have a problem with. Indeed, a study carried by Sycamore Research found that pirates aren’t easily deterred by such warnings.

Nevertheless, there are definite risks for individuals selling devices when they’re configured for piracy.

Recent cases, particularly in the UK, have shown that hefty jail sentences can hit offenders while over in the United States (1,2,3), lawsuits filed by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) have the potential to end in unfavorable rulings for multiple defendants.

Although rarely reported, offenders in Hong Kong also face stiff sentences for this kind of infringement including large fines and custodial sentences of up to four years.

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

MPAA Chief Says Fighting Piracy Remains “Top Priority”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-chief-says-fighting-piracy-remains-top-priority-180425/

After several high-profile years at the helm of the movie industry’s most powerful lobbying group, last year saw the departure of Chris Dodd from the role of Chairman and CEO at the MPAA.

The former Senator, who earned more than $3.5m a year championing the causes of the major Hollywood studios since 2011, was immediately replaced by another political heavyweight.

Charles Rivkin, who took up his new role September 5, 2017, previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs in the Obama administration. With an underperforming domestic box office year behind him fortunately overshadowed by massive successes globally, this week he spoke before US movie exhibitors for the first time at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

“Globally, we hit a record high of $40.6 billion at the box office. Domestically, our $11.1 billion box office was slightly down from the 2016 record. But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade,” Rivkin said.

“But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade.”

Rivkin, who spent time as President and CEO of The Jim Henson Company, told those in attendance that he shares a deep passion for the movie industry and looks forward optimistically to the future, a future in which content is secured from those who intend on sharing it for free.

“Making sure our creative works are valued and protected is one of the most important things we can do to keep that industry heartbeat strong. At the Henson Company, and WildBrain, I learned just how much intellectual property affects everyone. Our entire business model depended on our ability to license Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the Muppets and distribute them across the globe,” Rivkin said.

“I understand, on a visceral level, how important copyright is to any creative business and in particular our country’s small and medium enterprises – which are the backbone of the American economy. As Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, I guarantee you that fighting piracy in all forms remains our top priority.”

That tackling piracy is high on the MPAA’s agenda won’t comes as a surprise but at least in terms of the numbers of headlines plastered over the media, high-profile anti-piracy action has been somewhat lacking in recent years.

With lawsuits against torrent sites seemingly a thing of the past and a faltering Megaupload case that will conclude who-knows-when, the MPAA has taken a broader view, seeking partnerships with sometimes rival content creators and distributors, each with a shared desire to curtail illicit media.

“One of the ways that we’re already doing that is through the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment – or ACE as we call it,” Rivkin said.

“This is a coalition of 30 leading global content creators, including the MPAA’s six member studios as well as Netflix, and Amazon. We work together as a powerful team to ensure our stories are seen as they were intended to be, and that their creators are rewarded for their hard work.”

Announced in June 2017, ACE has become a united anti-piracy powerhouse for a huge range of entertainment industry groups, encompassing the likes of CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, Bell Canada, CBS, Hulu, Lionsgate, Foxtel and Village Roadshow, to name a few.

The coalition was announced by former MPAA Chief Chris Dodd and now, with serious financial input from all companies involved, appears to be picking its fights carefully, focusing on the growing problem of streaming piracy centered around misuse of Kodi and similar platforms.

From threatening relatively small-time producers and distributors of third-party addons and builds (1,2,3), ACE is also attempting to make its mark among the profiteers.

The group now has several lawsuits underway in the United States against people selling piracy-enabled IPTV boxes including Tickbox, Dragon Box, and during the last week, Set TV.

With these important cases pending, Rivkin offered assurances that his organization remains committed to anti-piracy enforcement and he thanked exhibitors for their efforts to prevent people quickly running away with copies of the latest releases.

“I am grateful to all of you for recognizing what is at stake, and for working with us to protect creativity, such as fighting the use of illegal camcorders in theaters,” he said.

“Protecting our creativity isn’t only a fundamental right. It’s an economic necessity, for us and all creative economies. Film and television are among the most valuable – and most impactful – exports we have.

Thus far at least, Rivkin has a noticeably less aggressive tone on piracy than his predecessor Chris Dodd but it’s unlikely that will be mistaken for weakness among pirates, nor should it. The MPAA isn’t known for going soft on pirates and it certainly won’t be changing course anytime soon.

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