Tag Archives: Anti-Piracy

Facebook Buys Startup to Expand its Anti-Piracy Repertoire

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/facebook-buys-startup-expand-anti-piracy-repertoire-170725/

facebayIn common with other sites dealing with user-generated content, Facebook has to battle a constant stream of unauthorized copyright material.

When it comes to targeting infringement, Facebook has rolled out a few anti-piracy initiatives in recent years. The company has a “Rights Manager” tool that detects infringing material automatically and allows owners to take down or monetize this content.

The social media network is not done yet, though. Anti-piracy strategies need constant refinement and with a new acquisition, Facebook has expanded its expertise in this area.

Facebook has taken over the startup Source3, which specializes in IP recognition, IP licensing and rights administration services. The company is a known player in the copyright industry and its founders previously sold another startup, RightsFlow, to Google.

“Today, we wanted to let everyone know that we’ve decided to continue our journey with Facebook,” Source3 announced in a statement on its website.

“We’re excited to bring our IP, trademark and copyright expertise to the team at Facebook and serve their global community of two billion people, who consume content, music, videos and other IP every day.”

Commenting on the deal, a Facebook spokesperson informed Recode that they are excited to learn from Source3’s copyright expertise. No further details were released on the terms of the deal, and it’s unclear how much was paid.

Neither company has shared any concrete plans for the future, but it’s likely that the acquisition will be used to expand existing anti-piracy initiatives.

Among other things, the startup heavily focused on automated licensing tools. This could mean that Facebook might want to offer its users the option to license content from rightsholders and minimize copyright infringement in a positive way.

“Source3 can monitor and manage third-party IP and proactively establish licensing relationships with brands,” the company boasted on its website, before the acquisition.

“We also provide a range of scalable licensing tools, supported by a team of licensing veterans, to manage the licensing process from negotiation to real-time approvals to royalty reporting,” it added.

Time will tell how exactly Facebook will expand its anti-piracy efforts, but it’s clear that it remains a high priority for the social network.

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

Cloudflare Wants to Eliminate ‘Moot’ Pirate Site Blocking Threat

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-asks-court-to-vacate-moot-pirate-site-blocking-order-170724/

Representing various major record labels, the RIAA filed a lawsuit against MP3Skull in 2015.

With millions of visitors per month the MP3 download site had been one of the prime sources of pirated music for a long time.

Last year a Florida federal court sided with the RIAA, awarding the labels more than $22 million in damages. In addition, it issued a permanent injunction which allowed the RIAA to take over the site’s domain names.

Despite the multi-million dollar verdict, MP3Skull continued to operate using a variety of new domain names, which were subsequently targeted by the RIAA’s legal team. As the site refused to shut down, the RIAA eventually moved up the chain targeting CDN provider Cloudflare with the permanent injunction.

The RIAA argued that Cloudflare was operating “in active concert or participation” with the pirates. Cloudflare objected and argued that the DMCA shielded the company from the broad blocking requirements. However, the court ruled that the DMCA doesn’t apply in this case, opening the door to widespread anti-piracy filtering.

The court stressed that, before issuing an injunction against Cloudflare, it still had to be determined whether the CDN provider is “in active concert or participation” with the pirate site. However, this has yet to happen. Since MP3Skull has ceased its operations the RIAA has shown little interest in pursuing the matter any further.

Cloudflare now wants the dangerous anti-piracy filtering order to be thrown out. The company submitted a motion to vacate the order late last week, arguing that the issue is moot. In fact, it has been for a while for some of the contended domain names.

The CDN provider says it researched the domain names listed in the injunction and found that only three of the twenty domains used Cloudflare’s services at the time the RIAA asked the court to clarify its order. Some had never used CloudFlare’s services at all, they say.

“Indeed, six domains – including five of the so-called ‘Active MP3Skull Domains’ in the amended injunction – had never used Cloudflare services at all. And the remaining eleven had stopped using Cloudflare before Plaintiffs brought their motion, in some cases long before Plaintiffs filed suit,” Cloudflare writes.

“Every domain Plaintiffs identified had stopped using Cloudflare by December 2016, without any independent or affirmative action by Cloudflare. Yet Plaintiffs made no effort to inform the Court of the mootness of their ’emergency’ motion in the three months before the Court issued its Order.”

Cloudflare’s research

Making the matter even worse, several of the domain names listed in the injunction were owned by the record labels, when the RIAA tried to have Cloudflare block them.

“Moreover, Cloudflare’s investigation revealed that that Plaintiff Sony Music Entertainment itself owned seven of the twenty domains months as of the time Plaintiffs brought their motion, and Sony acquired one more domain shortly after.”

The latter is due to the seizure order, which was also granted by the court. However, according to Cloudflare, the RIAA failed to inform the court about these and several other changes.

“Plaintiffs did not inform the Court of the mootness of their motion against Cloudflare,” the company writes.

Since the RIAA was not entirely upfront, and the issue is no longer relevant, Cloudflare is now asking the court to vacate the order. This will push the looming piracy blocking obligations aside, which could otherwise come back to haunt the company in the future.

The RIAA has yet to reply to CloudFlare’s request, but they would likely want to keep the order in place. There’s always a tiny chance that MP3Skull might arise from the ashes, and they would want to be prepared should that be the case.

Cloudflare’s full motion is available here (pdf).

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

Kodi Security Risk Emerges After TVAddons Shutdown

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-security-risk-emerges-after-tvaddons-shutdown-170723/

Formerly known as XBMC, the popularity of the entirely legal Kodi media player has soared in recent years.

Controversial third-party addons that provide access to infringing content have thrust Kodi into the mainstream and the product is now a household name.

Until recently, TVAddons.ag was the leading repository for these addons. During March, the platform had 40 million unique users connected to the site’s servers, together transferring an astounding petabyte of addons and updates.

Everything was going well until news broke last month that the people behind TVAddons were being sued in a federal court in Texas. Shortly after the site went dark and hasn’t been back since.

This was initially a nuisance to the millions of Kodi devices that relied on TVAddons for their addons and updates. With the site gone, none were forthcoming. However, the scene recovered relatively quickly and for users who know what they’re doing, addons are now available from elsewhere.

That being said, something very unusual happened this week. Out of the blue, several key TVAddons domains were transferred to a Canadian law firm. TVAddons, who have effectively disappeared, made no comment. The lawyer involved, Daniel Drapeau, ignored requests for an explanation.

While that’s unusual enough, there’s a bigger issue at play here for millions of former TVAddons users who haven’t yet wiped their devices or upgraded them to work with other repositories.

Without going into huge technical detail, any user of an augmented Kodi device that relied on TVAddons domains (TVAddons.ag, Offshoregit.com) for updates can be reasonably confident that the domains their device is now accessing are not controlled by TVAddons anymore. That is not good news.

When a user installs a Kodi addon or obtains an update, the whole system is based on human trust. People are told about a trustworthy source (repository or ‘repo’) and they feel happy getting their addons and updates from it.

However, any person in control of a repo can make a Kodi addon available that can do pretty much anything. When that’s getting free movies, people tend to be happy, but when that’s making a botnet out of set-top boxes, enthusiasm tends to wane a bit.

If the penny hasn’t yet dropped, consider this.

TVAddons’ domains are now being run by a law firm which refuses to answer questions but has the power to do whatever it likes with them, within the law of course. Currently, the domains are lying dormant and aren’t doing anything nefarious, but if that position changes, millions of people will have absolutely no idea anything is wrong.

TorrentFreak spoke to Kodi Project Manager Nathan Betzen who agrees that the current security situation probably isn’t what former TVAddons users had in mind.

“These are unsandboxed Python addons. The person [in control of] the repo could do whatever they wanted. You guys wrote about the addon that created a DDoS event,” Betzen says.

“If some malware author wanted, he could easily install a watcher that reports back the user’s IP address and everything they were doing in Kodi. If the law firm is actually an anti-piracy group, that seems like the likeliest thing I can think of,” he adds.

While nothing can be ruled out, it seems more likely that the law firm in question has taken control of TVAddons’ domains in order to put them out of action, potentially as part of a settlement in the Dish Network lawsuit. However, since it refuses to answer any questions, everything is open to speculation.

Another possibility is that the domains are being held pending sale, which then raises questions over who the buyer might be and what their intentions are. The bottom line is we simply do not know and since nobody is talking, it might be prudent to consider the worst case scenario.

“If it’s just a holding group, then people [in control of the domain/repo] could do whatever they can think of. Want a few million incredibly inefficient bit mining boxes?” Betzen speculates.

While this scenario is certainly a possibility, one would at least like to think of it as unlikely. That being said, plenty of Internet security fails can be attributed to people simply hoping for the best when things go bad. That rarely works.

On the plus side, Betzen says that since Python code is usually pretty easy to read, any nefarious action could be spotted by vigilant members of the community fairly quickly. However, Martijn Kaijser from Team Kodi warns that it’s possible to ship precompiled Python code instead of the readable versions.

“You can’t even see what’s in the Python files and what they do,” he notes.

Finally, there’s a possibility that TVAddons may be considering some kind of comeback. Earlier this week a new domain – TVAddons.co – was freshly registered, just after the old domains shifted to the law firm. At this stage, however, nothing is known about the site’s plans.

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

Google Removes Torrent Sites From ‘Results Carousel’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-removes-torrent-sites-from-results-carousel-100722/

Two weeks ago we noticed a ‘handy’ feature where Google highlighted various torrent sites in its search results.

People who typed “best torrent sites” into the search box would see a reel of popular sites such as The Pirate Bay and RARBG in the results, featured with their official logos and all.

Google employees obviously didn’t curate the list themselves. They are a Google feature called the “results carousel,” which is generated based on an algorithm. Still, considering the constant criticism the search engine faces from rightsholders, it’s a sensitive topic.

The torrent site carousel

It appears that the search engine itself wasn’t very happy with the featured search results either. This week, the torrent sites were quietly banned from the search carousel feature. According to the company, it wasn’t working as intended.

“We have investigated this particular issue and determined that this results carousel wasn’t working in the intended manner, and we have now fixed the issue,” a Google spokesperson informed TorrentFreak.

Although Google carefully avoids the words copyright and piracy in its comments, it’s quite obvious what motivated this decision. The company doesn’t want to highlight any pirate sites, to avoid yet another copyright controversy.

That the intervention was triggered by “piracy” concerns is backed up by another change. While various “streaming sites” are still prominently listed in a search carousel, the pirate sites were carefully stripped from there as well.

A few days ago it still listed sites including Putlocker, Alluc, and Movie4k.to, but only legitimate streaming portals remain on the list today. That change definitely required some human intervention.

Only ‘legitimate’ streaming postals now

This isn’t the first time that Google’s “rich” search results have featured pirate sites. The same thing happened in the past when the search engine displayed pirate site ratings of movies, next to ratings from regular review sites such as IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.

Apparently, Google’s search engine algorithms need some anti-piracy fine-tuning, every now and then.

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

BREIN Takes Down 231 Pirate Sites in Six Months, But That’s Not All

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-takes-down-231-pirate-sites-in-six-months-but-thats-not-all-170722/

Over the years, the MPAA and RIAA have grabbed hundreds of headlines for their anti-piracy activities but recently their work has been more subtle. The same cannot be said of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.

BREIN is the most prominent outfit of its type in the Netherlands but it’s not uncommon for its work to be felt way beyond its geographical borders. The group’s report for the first six months of 2017 illustrates that in very clear terms.

In its ongoing efforts to reduce piracy on movies, music, TV shows, books and games, BREIN says it carried out 268 investigations during the first two quarters of 2017. That resulted in the takedown of 231 piracy-focused sites and services.

They included 45 cyberlocker linking sites, 30 streaming sites and 9 torrent platforms. The last eDonkey site in the Netherlands was among the haul after its operators reached a settlement with BREIN. The anti-piracy outfit reports that nearly all of the sites were operated anonymously so in many instances hosting providers were the ones to pull the plug, at BREIN’s request.

BREIN has also been actively tracking down people who make content available on file-sharing networks. These initial uploaders are considered to be a major part of the problem, so taking them out of the equation is another of BREIN’s goals.

In total, 14 major uploaders to torrent, streaming, and Usenet platforms were targeted by BREIN in the first six months of this year, with each given the opportunity to settle out of court or face legal action. Settlements typically involved a cash payment of between 250 and 7,500 euros but in several instances, uploaders were also required to take down the content they had uploaded.

In one interesting case, BREIN obtained an ex parte court order against a person running a “live cinema” on Facebook. He later settled with the anti-piracy group for 7,500 euros.

BREIN has also been active in a number of other areas. The group says it had almost 693,000 infringing results removed from Google search, pushing its total takedowns to more than 15.8 million. In addition, more than 2,170 listings for infringing content and devices were removed from online marketplaces and seven piracy-focused Facebook groups were taken down.

But while all of these actions have an effect locally, it is BREIN’s persistence in important legal cases that have influenced the copyright landscape across Europe.

Perhaps the most important case so far is BREIN v Filmspeler, which saw the anti-piracy group go all the way to the European Court of Justice for clarification on the law surrounding so-called “fully loaded” set-top boxes.

In a ruling earlier this year, the ECJ not only determined that selling such devices is a breach of copyright law, but also that people streaming content from an illicit source are committing an offense. Although the case began in the Netherlands, its effects will now be felt right across Europe, and that is almost completely down to BREIN.

But despite the reach of the ruling, BREIN has already been making good use of the decision locally. Not only has the operator of the Filmspeler site settled with BREIN “for a substantial amount”, but more than 200 sellers of piracy-configured set-top boxes have ceased trading since the ECJ decision. Some of the providers are the subject of further legal action.

Finally, a notable mention must go to BREIN’s determination to have The Pirate Bay blocked in the Netherlands. The battle against ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL has been ongoing for seven years and like the Filmspeler case, required the attention of the European Court of Justice. While it’s still not over yet, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will eventually rule in BREIN’s favor.

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

BREIN Wants to Speed Up Dutch Pirate Bay Blockade

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-wants-to-speed-up-dutch-pirate-bay-blockade-170720/

While website blocking has become a common occurrence in many European countries, it has proven to be a rather cumbersome and slow-moving process in the Netherlands.

Seven years ago, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN went to court to try and force local ISP Ziggo to block The Pirate Bay. Rival ISP XS4ALL later joined in on the action, which is still ongoing.

Initially, the court decided that blocking all subscribers went too far but BREIN wasn’t satisfied and took the case to a full trial, which they won.

Both Ziggo and XS4ALL filed subsequent appeals, arguing that the blockade was ineffective and denied subscribers’ free access to information, an argument which later proved successful.

The case eventually moved to the Supreme Court, which referred some questions to the European Court of Justice. The highest European court ruled that there are no legal obstacles to have a site like The Pirate Bay blocked, and now the ball is back with the Supreme Court again.

BREIN, however, has grown impatient and doesn’t want to wait until the Supreme Court comes to a final decision, which isn’t expected to happen before 2018. To speed things up, the anti-piracy group wants a new preliminary injunction at a lower court.

A new hearing on the Pirate Bay blockade is currently scheduled to take place at a court in The Hague early September, Tweakers reports.

BREIN director Tim Kuik informs TorrentFreak that the preliminary injunction will only be valid until the final verdict is handed down.

“We are requesting a preliminary injunction until the final decision in the procedural trial, now pending before the Dutch Supreme Court. After that, the final blocking decision applies,” Kuik says.

Kuik stresses that its action is supported by the recent EU Court of Justice ruling which clarified that The Pirate Bay facilitates copyright infringement, as well as an earlier ruling from 2014, which confirmed that EU Internet service providers can be required to block access to such sites.

Based on the second ruling, pirate site blockades are warranted if they make it harder for the public to access these sites. This is certainly the case here, according to Kuik, who refers to blockades in thirteen other EU countries.

In addition, the EU court stressed that blocking injunctions must be proportional, so as not to unnecessarily stop subscribers from lawfully accessing information.

Responding to the news, a Ziggo spokesman told Tweakers that BREIN is running ahead of itself. The provider is of the opinion that they have to wait for the Supreme Court to make a final decision before taking any further action.

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

Game of Thrones Pirates Being Monitored By HBO, Warnings On The Way

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-thrones-pirates-monitored-hbo-warnings-way-170719/

Earlier this week, HBO released the long-awaited seventh season of the hit series Game of Thrones.

The show has broken several piracy records over the years and, thus far, there has been plenty of interest in the latest season.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by HBO. Soon after the first episode of the new season appeared online Sunday evening, the company’s anti-piracy partner IP Echelon started sending warnings targeted at torrenting pirates.

The warnings in question include the IP-addresses of alleged BitTorrent users and ask the associated ISPs to alert their subscribers, in order to prevent further infringements.

“We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization,” the notification begins.

“HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks.”

Under US copyright law, ISPs are not obligated to forward these emails, which are sent as a DMCA notification. However, many do as a courtesy to the affected rightsholders.

Redacted infringement details from one of the notices

The warnings are not targeted at a single swarm but cover a wide variety of torrents. TorrentFreak has already seen takedown notices for the following files, but it’s likely that many more are being tracked.

  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.720p.WEB.h264-TBS[eztv].mkv
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.HDTV.x264-SVA[rarbg]
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.WEB.h264-TBS[ettv]
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.HDTV.x264-SVA[eztv].mkv
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.720p.HDTV.x264-AVS[eztv].mkv

This isn’t the first time that Game of Thrones pirates have received these kinds of warnings. Similar notices were sent out last year for pirated episodes of the sixth season, and it’s now clear that HBO is not backing down.

Although HBO stresses that copyright infringement is against the law, there are no legal strings attached for the subscribers in question. The company doesn’t know the identity of the alleged pirates, and would need to go to court to find out. This has never happened before.

Filing lawsuits against Game of Thrones fans is probably not high on HBO’s list, but the company hopes that affected subscribers will think twice before downloading future episodes after they are warned.

The DMCA notice asks ISPs to inform subscribers about the various legal alternatives that are available, to give them a push in the right direction.

“We also encourage you to inform the subscriber that HBO programming can easily be watched and streamed on many devices legally by adding HBO to the subscriber’s television package,” the notice reads.

While this type of message may have an effect on some, they only cover a small fraction of the piracy landscape. Millions of people are using pirate streaming tools and websites to watch Game of Thrones, and these views can’t be monitored.

In addition, the fact that many broadcasters worldwide suffered technical issues and outages when Game of Thrones premiered doesn’t help either. The legal options should be superior to the pirated offerings, not the other way around.

A redacted copy of one of the notices is available below.

Dear xxx Communications,

This message is sent on behalf of HOME BOX OFFICE, INC.

We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xxx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization (additional details are listed below). HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks.

As the owner of the IP address, HBO requests that xxx Communications immediately contact the subscriber who was assigned the IP address at the date and time below with the details of this notice, and take the proper steps to prevent further downloading or sharing of unauthorized content and additional infringement notices.

We also encourage you to inform the subscriber that HBO programming can easily be watched and streamed on many devices legally by adding HBO to the subscriber’s television package.

We have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted material detailed below is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. The information in this notice is accurate and we state, under penalty of perjury, that we are authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed. This letter is not a complete statement of HBO’s rights in connection with this matter, and nothing contained herein constitutes an express or implied wavier of any rights or remedies of HBO in connection with this matter, all of which are expressly reserved.

We appreciate your assistance and thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Your prompt response is requested. Any further enquiries can be directed to [email protected] Please include this message with your enquiry to ensure a quick response.

Respectfully,

Adrian Leatherland
CEO
IP-Echelon

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

Court: Warner Bros Needs Stronger Evidence Against Alleged BitTorrent Pirate

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-warner-bros-needs-stronger-evidence-against-alleged-bittorrent-pirate-170718/

Over the past decade, copyright holders have gone after hundreds of thousands of alleged pirates in Germany, demanding settlements ranging from a few hundred to thousands of euros.

The targeted account holders are often indeed the perpetrator, but false accusations are bound to happen due to the sheer volume of these cases.

This is one of the reasons why local courts are paying careful attention to the provided evidence. At the District Court of Cologne, this recently resulted in a verdict, clarifying that simply linking an IP-address to a pirated download is not good enough.

The case in question deals with a claim from the local branch of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which accused an account holder of sharing a pirated episode of the popular TV-show “Person of Interest.”

The Hollywood studio claimed 500 euros in damages from the alleged copyright infringer, as well as 168.50 euros in expenses. The defendant, however, said he was innocent, refused to pay up, and contested the claim in court, with success.

Warner’s tracking partner Ipoque had only monitored the defendant’s IP-address twice during a period of 10 minutes. This is not good enough according to the court, since IP-address misassignments regularly take place.

“The causes for a misassignment don’t have to relate to the software of the tracking company, they can also come from others. For example, the transmission of acquired data, or the ISPs assignment of collected IP addresses to connection holders. In the latter case, the Court of First Instance has seen an error rate of at least 2 – 3%,” the court writes.

In this case, the defendant argued that his ISP failed to update the IP-address assignments and that he no longer used the infringing address at the contested time.

The District Court of Cologne agreed that this was a plausible argument. Ideally, Warner should have provided a more extensive tracking record, with more IP-addresses leading to the same account holder, assuming that the assignments regularly change.

Defense attorney Christian Solmecke tells TorrentFreak that so-called “simple tracking,” where only a single IP-address is used as evidence, is simply not good enough.

“In case of simple tracking, evaluation errors are always possible. For instance, mixing up the numbers of the IP-address. The tracking parameters are technically complicated so errors may occur at various stages of the process,” Solmecke notes.

In some cases the error rates can go up to 50%, a recent verdict has shown, which means that accused file-sharers have a solid defense when they are accused based on minimal evidence.

“This is important for defendants as courts usually tend to assume that it cannot be sufficiently clarified whether filesharing did indeed occur via the Internet connection of the defendant. Simple tracking can, therefore, be seen as a good chance for defendants to win against the warning letter industry,” Solmecke adds.

While the verdict is unlikely to stop the piracy settlement industry in Germany, it may prompt rightsholders to step up their BitTorrent monitoring practices.

This doesn’t only apply to Warner Bros. Entertainment, but also to other major rightsholders including the local branches of Universal Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Music, EMI Music and Sony Music, which are all active on the anti-piracy front in Germany.

The full verdict of the District Court of Cologne is available Tarnkappe.

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

Village Roadshow Invests $1.5m in Anti-Piracy Technology Company

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/village-roadshow-invests-1-5m-in-anti-piracy-technology-company-170717/

Aussie entertainment giant Village Roadshow is front-and-center of Australia’s fight against Intenet piracy.

Co-Executive Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer Graham Burke can often be found bemoaning rampant piracy Down Under, but today it’s his equal at Village Roadshow making the headlines.

Robert G Kirby’s presence at Village Roadshow dates back to the 1980s, but now both he and the company are making a significant outside investment in patented streaming technology. It aims to help in the fight against piracy while offering benefits in other areas of innovation.

The deal centers around the Linius Video Virtualisation Engine, an intriguing system patented by Australia-based Linius Technologies that allows the content of a video stream to be heavily modified live and on-the-fly, between its source and destination.

Linius explains that in the current marketplace, video files are static and not so different from an “old can of film”. People who want to watch online content press play on their devices and a message is sent to the datacenter holding the video. It’s then streamed to the user as-is and very little can be done with it on the way.

With its system, Linius says it places a “ghost” file on the user’s device which calls the data and recompiles it on the fly on the device itself. Instead of being a complete file at all times during transit, it only becomes a video when it’s on the device.

This means that the data is “manageable and malleable,” making it possible to add, delete and splice parts to make custom content, even going as far as “inserting new business rules” and other tech innovations, including payment gateways and security features.

One of the obvious applications is granting broadcasters the ability to personalize advertising on a per-user basis, but Linius says there is also the potential to enhance search engine monetization.

The attractive part for Village Roadshow, however, appears to center around the claim that since the physical video file never appears on the device, it cannot be saved, transferred or broadcast, only watched by the person who purchased the rights to the virtual video.

The company offers few further details publicly, but Village Roadshow is clearly keen to invest, since “there’s no file to steal.”

This morning, Linius announced a $1 million private placement of ordinary shares to Village Roadshow Ltd, accompanied by a $500,000 private placement to Kirby family interests.

“We have followed the Linius story closely and are delighted to back the business with direct investment. We can see many applications for the technology across the video industry,” Robert Kirby said in a statement.

“Village Roadshow has long been a leading voice in tackling global piracy. We are particularly interested in the anti-piracy solutions that Linius is developing and are actively working together with Linius to introduce its technology to industry leaders in the hope of reducing global piracy.”

In May, Linius announced a collaboration with IBM to promote the Video Virtualisation Engine, including building onto the IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform, to IBM’s network of corporate clients.

“I feel Linius could be a game changer in the world of video, from personalized advertising to search and security,” said Anthone Withers, Head of Software as a Service, IBM.

“We’re now actively working with Linius to identify and market the technology to target customers.”

Linius Overview from Linius Technologies on Vimeo.

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

That Horrible Sinking Feeling When You See a Pirate’s Dark Future

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/that-horrible-sinking-feeling-when-you-see-a-pirates-dark-future-170716/

In the very early days of BitTorrent, making a list of decent file-sharing sites wasn’t particularly difficult. There was a list of ten or so that everyone knew, with a couple of dozen sundry others that mattered to the people who ran them and few others.

Then, out of nowhere, everything exploded. Soon it was impossible to keep up, sites appeared like mushrooms overnight and the lists got longer and longer. Today there isn’t a comprehensive list anywhere that can claim to cover them all, although some anti-piracy outfits think they’re close.

With that in mind, whenever a new and significant site or service appears seemingly out of nowhere, it’s always of interest to us at TF. With so many other pirate competitors around, how did this one manage to burst to the top so quickly? And, of course, when is it likely to do something newsworthy and how can we get in touch?

Getting information often involves asking around contacts built up over the years but everyday Internet tools also do a great job. After seeing where a site is hosted (special thanks to Cloudflare for making that more difficult), one of the early ports of call is a basic domain WHOIS. In the early days, these were often a goldmine. Today, thanks to increased security awareness, they’re much less useful.

But not always.

A couple of months ago it became apparent that a new streaming site/service was getting a lot of attention on various discussion platforms. The people who tried it said it was good, one of the best they’d seen actually. There was a lot of praise for the people behind the site too but no contact of mine had any idea who they were. That’s the idea, of course, but having this information never hurts when building the bigger picture.

So off to WHOIS we go, expecting something useless. A name was there alongside an address, but they’re often fake so there’s never much optimism at this point. Google StreetView showed the address exists but it never stood out as authentic. However, there was an email address and a reverse search showed that other domains were connected to the same person.

In the old days, nobody thought to isolate their pirate activity from their other stuff, so searches like this were usually quite useful. These days people are more savvy. Correction: some people are.

Although the same name was present on the other non-piracy related domains, the street address was different but the same on each. One of the domains also had a phone number that was confirmed real. So, armed with a name, email address and this telephone number, a Google search was formulated and a handful of results came up. One in particular stood out.

The page had been indexed by Google some time ago but the posting on the third party site had gone, probably because it became outdated. Of course, the Internet never forgets and Google Cache returned the post to its former glory. The forum post had been made by a somewhat likeable unemployed guy, clearly brilliant with computers, trying to get back on his feet with a fresh job.

I’m not entirely sure what image people have when they think of people who run pirate sites but much of the media has been bathed in the images of The Pirate Bay founders and their “screw you” approach. But this guy was polite to a fault and didn’t mind telling the forum’s users that despite his undeniable skills managing servers, he’d been battling depression and could no longer work full time.

At this juncture, you realize that while at one point you’d been trying to find out something about a swashbuckling pirate, instead you’ve actually found a real-life and perhaps vulnerable human being. And with further crucial details culled from this post (that linked to a previously uncovered domain and sundry other pieces of private information), there was little doubt this was the same guy.

Several weeks after that plea for work, the streaming site/service that prompted these searches got off the ground and as far as we know has been going full steam ahead ever since. It wouldn’t be a surprise, however, to see it disappear in a cloud of smoke.

All of the information above, when put together, leads to a proper company, run by a gentleman with the same name as the one in the domain’s WHOIS. The address for the company is fake, which offers some security, but the guy doesn’t appear to have considered that it’s possible to cross-reference with other companies incorporated in the past. In this case, the second company leads to his home address and other members of his family.

It’s a strange mixture of feelings when digging around on the Internet like this pays off. On the one hand, there’s a sense of achievement in piecing together the puzzle for research purposes. But on behalf of the guy at the other end, in this case there’s a sense of impending doom. Yes, he’s breaking the law. Yes, he should know better. But we’ve been writing about this stuff for long enough to know what might come next.

With just a few minutes of searching, there’s not much more to learn about this guy now, apart from his online alias, which is what I was hoping to find out in the beginning. In some ways i’d settle for that now – it’s not pleasant worrying about the future of people you don’t even know.

The bottom line is that i’m probably not alone in searching for this kind of information. Given the size of the operation, the attention it’s already receiving, and the content it offers and where, this same information is likely to be common knowledge at one anti-piracy group at least.

We all know it’s impossible to scrub the Internet clean but what’s most amazing in 2017 is that brilliant computer engineers have no idea how to keep themselves safe online. In this case, if it all goes bad, a criminal prosecution is likely. Upon conviction and given similar previous cases, a jail sentence is probable.

Unless this is the best decoy job ever undertaken by a careful pirate. In which case, it’s by far the best i’ve ever seen. Bravo…

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

Just How Risky is Internet Piracy in 2017?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/just-how-risky-is-internet-piracy-in-2017-170715/

The world’s largest entertainment companies in the spheres of music, movies, and gaming would jump for joy if the Internet piracy phenomenon came to a crashing halt tomorrow. (Spoiler: it won’t)

As a result, large sums of money are expended every day in an effort to keep unlawful distribution under control. Over the years there have been many strategies and several of these have involved targeting end users.

The world is a very big place and the tackling of piracy differs from region to region, but what most consumers of unauthorized media want to know is whether they’re putting themselves at risk.

The short answer is that no matter where people are, there is always some level of risk attached to obtaining and using pirate content. The long answer is more nuanced.

BitTorrent and other P2P protocols

By its very nature, using BitTorrent to access copyrighted content comes with a risk. Since downloaders are also distributors and their IP addresses are necessarily public, torrent users are extremely easy to track. In fact, with a minimum of equipment, any determined rightsholder is able spot and potentially uncover the identity of a file-sharer.

But while basic BitTorrent sharing gets a 0/10 for privacy, that’s a bit like saying that a speeding car gets 0/10 for stealth. Like the speeding car, anyone can see the pirating torrent user, but the big question is whether there’s anyone around who intends to do anything about it.

The big surprise in 2017 is that users are still statistically unlikely to face any consequences.

In the United States, for example, where copyright trolling can be a serious issue for those who get caught up in the net, the problem still only affects a tiny, tiny proportion of pirates. A one percent risk of getting snared would be overstating the risk but these are still odds that any gambler would be happy to take.

Surprisingly, pirates are also less likely to encounter a simple friendly warning than they were last year too. The “Six Strikes” Copyright Alerts System operated by the MPAA and RIAA, that set out to advise large volumes of pirates using notices sent via their ISPs, was discontinued in January. Those behind it gave in, for reasons unknown.

This means that millions of torrent users – despite exposing their IP addresses in public while sharing copyrighted content – are doing so without significant problems. Nevertheless, large numbers are also taking precautions, by using anonymization technologies including VPNs.

That’s not to say that their actions are legal – they’re not – but outside the few thousand people caught up in trolls’ nets each year, the vast and overwhelming majority of torrent users (which number well over 100 million) are pirating with impunity.

In the UK, not even trolling is a problem anymore. After a few flurries that seemed to drag on longer than they should, copyright trolls appear to have left the country for more lucrative shores. No cases have gone through the courts in recent times which means that UK users are torrenting pretty much whatever they like, with no legal problems whatsoever.

It’s important to note though, that their actions aren’t going unnoticed. Unlike the United States, the UK has a warning system in place. This means that a few thousand customers of a handful of ISPs are receiving notices each month informing them that their piratey behavior has been monitored by an entertainment company.

Currently, however, there are no punishments for those who are ‘caught’, even when they’re accused of pirating on a number of occasions. At least so far, it seems that the plan is to worry pirates into submission and in some cases that will probably work. Nevertheless, things can easily change when records are being kept on this scale.

Germany aside (which is overrun with copyright trolling activity), a handful of other European countries have also endured relatively small troll problems (Finland, Sweden, Denmark) but overall, file-sharers go about their business as usual across the continent. There are no big projects in any country aiming to punish large numbers of BitTorrent users and only France has an active warning notice program.

Canada and Australia have also had relatively small problems with copyright trolls (the former also has a fairly toothless ISP warning system) but neither country is considered a particularly ‘dangerous’ place to share files using BitTorrent. Like the United States, UK, and Europe, the chances of getting prosecuted for infringement are very small indeed.

Why such little enforcement?

There are a number of reasons for the apparent lack of interest in BitTorrent users but a few bubble up to the top. Firstly, there’s the question of resources required to tackle millions of users. Obviously, some scare tactics could be deployed by hitting a few people hard, but it feels like most companies have moved beyond that thinking.

That’s partly due to the more recent tendency of entertainment groups and governments to take a broader view of infringement, hitting it at its source by strangling funds to pirate sites, hitting their advertisers, blocking their websites, and attempting to forge voluntary anti-piracy schemes with search engines.

It’s also worth noting that huge numbers of people are routinely protecting themselves with VPN-like technology, which allows them to move around the Internet with much improved levels of privacy. Just recently, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp partly blamed this for falling revenues.

Importantly, however, the nature of infringement has been changing for some time too.

A few years ago, most people were getting their movies and music from torrent sites but now they’re more likely to be obtaining their fix from a streaming source. Accessing the top blockbusters via a streaming site (perhaps via Kodi) is for the most part untraceable, as is grabbing music from one of the hundreds of MP3 portals around today.

But as recent news revealed, why bother with ‘pirate’ sites when people can simply rip music from sites like YouTube?

So-called stream-ripping is now blamed for huge swathes of piracy and as a result, torrent sites get far fewer mentions from anti-piracy groups than they did before.

While still a thorn in their side, it wouldn’t be a stretch to presume that torrent sites are no longer considered the primary problem they once were, at least in respect of music. Now, the ‘Value Gap‘ is more of a headache.

So, in a nutshell, the millions of people obtaining and sharing copyrighted content using BitTorrent are still taking some risks in every major country, and those need to be carefully weighed.

The activity is illegal almost everywhere, punishable in both civil and criminal courts, and has the potential to land people with big fines and even a jail sentence, if the scale of sharing is big enough.

In truth, however, the chances of the man in the street getting caught are so slim that many people don’t give the risks a second thought. That said, even people who drive 10mph over the limit get caught once in a while, so those that want to keep a clean sheet online often get a VPN and reduce the risks to almost 0%.

For people who stream, life is much less complicated. Streaming movies, TV shows or music from an illicit source is untraceable by any regular means, which up to now has made it almost 100% safe. Notably, there hasn’t been a single prosecution of a user who streamed infringing content anywhere in the world. In the EU it is illegal though, so something might happen in future, potentially…..possibly…..at some point….maybe.

And here’s the thing. While this is the general position today, the ‘market’ is volatile and has the ability to change quickly. A case could get filed in the US or UK next week, each targeting 50,000 BitTorrent users for downloading something that came out months ago. Nobody knows for sure so perhaps the best analogy is the one drummed into kids during high-school sex education classes.

People shouldn’t put themselves at risk at all but if they really must, they should take precautions. If they don’t, they could easily be the unlucky one and that is nearly always miserable.

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

Net Neutrality is Not a Pirates’ Fight Anymore

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/net-neutrality-is-not-a-pirates-fight-anymore-170712/

Today, millions of people are protesting the FCC’s plan to repeal the net neutrality rules that were put in place by the former Obama administration.

In this “Battle for the Net,” they are joined by many prominent groups and companies, including Amazon, BitTorrent, Dropbox, Netflix, and even Pornhub.

Under the present net neutrality rules, there’s a clear standard that prevents ISPs from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of “lawful” traffic. In addition, they allow Internet providers to be regulated as carriers under Title II.

If the current net neutrality rules disappear, some fear that throttling and ‘fast lanes’ for some services will become commonplace.

Historically, there is a strong link to between net neutrality and online piracy. The throttling concerns were first brought to the forefront in 2007 when Comcast started to slow down both legal and unauthorized BitTorrent traffic, in an affort to ease the load on its network.

When we uncovered this atypical practice, it ignited the first broad discussion on net neutrality. This became the setup for the FCC’s Open Internet Order which was released three years later.

For its part, the Open Internet Order formed the foundation of the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted in 2015. The big change compared to the earlier rules was that ISPs can be regulated as carriers under Title II.

While pirates may have helped to get the ball rolling, they’re no longer a player in the current net neutrality debate. Under the current rules, ISPs are allowed to block any unlawful traffic, including copyright infringing content.

In fact, in the net neutrality order the FCC has listed the following rule:

“Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity.”

The FCC reasons that copyright infringement hurts the US economy, so Internet providers are free to take appropriate measures against this type of traffic. This includes the voluntary censoring of pirate sites, something the MPAA and RIAA are currently lobbying for.

“For example, the no-blocking rule should not be invoked to protect copyright infringement, which has adverse consequences for the economy, nor should it protect child pornography. We reiterate that our rules do not alter the copyright laws and are not intended to prohibit or discourage voluntary practices undertaken to address or mitigate the occurrence of copyright infringement,” the FCC explains.

That gives ISPs plenty of leeway. ISPs could still block access to The Pirate Bay and other alleged pirate sites as a voluntary anti-piracy measure, for example. And throttling BitTorrent traffic across the board is also an option, as long as it’s framed as reasonable network management.

The worrying part is that ISPs themselves can decide what traffic or sites are unlawful. This could potentially lead to overblocking. Currently, there is no indication that any will, but the net neutrality rules do not preventing these companies from doing so.

This glaring “copyright loophole” doesn’t mean that the net neutrality rules are irrelevant. They’re certainly not perfect, but there are many aspects that benefit the public and companies alike.

What should be clear though clear though, is that the fight for net neutrality is no longer a pirate’s fight.

While the current protest is reminiscent of the massive “Internet blackout” revolt against the SOPA anti-piracy law five years ago, where many pirate sites joined in as well, you won’t see many of these sites calling for net neutrality today. Not out of personal interest, at least.

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

Could Pirate TV Box Users Be Prosecuted For Fraud?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/could-pirate-tv-box-users-be-prosecuted-for-fraud-170709/

With the issue of piracy-enabled set-top boxes still making the headlines, the English Premier League (EPL) has emerged as the most likely organization to prosecute sellers of infringing boxes in the UK.

However, last month the Federation Against Copyright Theft, who provide anti-piracy services for the EPL, revealed that mere users of boxes (such as those containing augmented Kodi setups) could be targeted for prosecution sometime in the future.

As noted in our earlier coverage, people who merely stream pirated content into their own homes are difficult to track online. They pose much greater challenges than BitTorrent users, for example, who can lead investigators straight to their door. But for FACT chief executive Kieron Sharp, there are opportunities to find people via non-technical means.

“When we’re working with the police against a company that’s selling IPTV boxes or illicit streaming devices on a large scale, they have records of who they’ve sold them to,” Sharp said.

The suggestion here is that box sellers’ customer lists contain the personal details of people who obtain Premier League and other content for free so, once identified, could be open to prosecution.

With conventional thinking under copyright law, prosecuting a set-top box/Kodi user for streaming content to his own home is a bit of a daunting prospect, not to mention an expensive one. Copyright cases are notoriously complicated and an individual putting up a spirited defense could cause problems for the prosecution. The inevitable light sentence wouldn’t provide much of a deterrent either.

With all that in mind, it appears that FACT is more interested in prosecuting under other legislation.

During an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Chris Warburton this week, Sharp said that people streaming into their own homes are committing a criminal offense, i.e., something that could interest the police and attract a fine or custodial sentence.

“The law has always been the case that people who are doing something illegal, streaming in their own homes, through these devices, are committing a crime. What’s happened recently is that’s been clarified by an EU judge in one case and by a civil judge in another,” Sharp said.

The EU case was BREIN v Filmspeler, which in part determined that people who stream content from an illegal source do so in breach of copyright law. The judge in the civil case was Justice Arnold, who in a UK Premier League blocking case reached the same conclusion.

While it’s now fairly clear that streaming pirate content in the EU is indeed illegal, is a civil wrong, and can be dealt with by suing someone, it’s not immediately clear how that turns into a criminal offense. It wasn’t clear in the interview either, so Warburton pressed Sharp again.

“What is the bit of the law that you are breaking when you’re streaming, how are you committing a criminal act?” he asked Sharp.

“There are various pieces of legislation,” the FACT chief said. “The one we’ve been looking at is under the Fraud Act which would say you are committing a fraud by streaming these football matches through to your television, watching them at home, and not paying for the license to do so.”

At this point, everything begins to slot into place.

For the past several years through several high-profile Internet piracy cases, FACT has shied away from prosecutions under copyright law. Each time it has opted for offenses under the Fraud Act 2006, partly because longer sentences were available at the time, i.e., up to 10 years in prison.

However, earlier this year FACT’s lawyer revealed that prosecutions under the Fraud Act can be easier for a jury to understand than those actioned under copyright law.

With this wealth of experience in mind, it’s easy to see why FACT would take this route in set-top box cases, especially when fraud legislation is relatively easy to digest.

Possession etc. of articles for use in frauds

“A person is guilty of an offense if he has in his possession or under his control any article for use in the course of or in connection with any fraud,” the Fraud Act reads.

To clarify, an ‘article’ includes “any program or data held in electronic form,” which is perfect for infringing Kodi addons etc.

Given the above, it seems that if the Court can be convinced that the person knowingly possessed a pirate set-top box programmed for fraudulent purposes, there could, in theory, be a successful prosecution resulting in a prison sentence and/or a fine.

Obtaining services dishonestly

“A person is guilty of an offense under this section if he obtains services for himself or another….by a dishonest act, and….he [knowingly] obtains them without any payment having been made for or in respect of them or without payment having been made in full,” the relevant section of the Act reads.

There are probably other angles to this under the Fraud Act but these seem to fit so well that others might not be needed. But how likely is it that someone could be prosecuted in this manner?

Sharp reiterated to the BBC that FACT could get the identities of box buyers as part of investigations into sellers, and as part of that “would see what the situation is” with their customers.

“It may well be that in the future, somebody who is an end-user may well get prosecuted,” he said.

But while the possibilities are there, Sharp really didn’t seem that keen to commit to the hounding of stream consumers in the future, and certainly not now. FACT’s strategy appears to be grounded in getting the word out that people are breaking the law.

“[People] think they can get away with it and that’s an important message from our perspective, that they must understand that they are committing offenses, apart from all the other issues of why they should be paying for the legal product. This is something that should be of concern to them, that they are committing offenses,” Sharp said.

The big question that remains is whether FACT and the English Premier League would ever take a case against a regular end-user to court. History tells us that this is fairly unlikely, but if any case did end up in court, it would definitely be hand-picked for best results.

For example, someone who bought a box from eBay would probably be of no real interest, but someone who had extended email exchanges with a seller, during which they discussed in detail how to pirate English Premier League games specifically, would provide a more useful test subject.

And then, when there are two people involved (the knowingly infringing buyer and the seller, who would also be prosecuted) that also raises the question of whether there had been an element of conspiracy.

Overall though, what people probably want to know is whether lots of people are going to get prosecuted for fraud and the answer to that is almost certainly ‘no.’ Prosecutions against the little guy are resource hungry, expensive, offer little return, and tend to generate negative publicity if they’re perceived as vindictive.

A single highly publicized case is a possible outcome if FACT and the EPL got really desperate, but there’s no guarantee that the Crown Prosecution Service would allow the case to go ahead.

“Prosecutors should guard against the criminal law being used as a debt collection agency or to protect the commercial interests of companies and organizations,” recent CPS advice reads.

“However, prosecutors should also remain alert to the fact that such organizations can become the focus of serious and organized criminal offending.”

FACT could, of course, conduct a private prosecution, which they have done several times in the past. But that is a risk too, so it seems likely that education efforts will come first, to try and slow things down.

“Our desire has always been that sports fans, football fans, would pay for the commercial package, they would pay a fee to watch and that is still our position,” Sharp told the BBC.

“But working with our clients and members such as the Premier League and Sky and BT Sports, we have to consider all the options available to us, to put a bit of a brake on this problem because it’s growing all the time.”

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

Court Orders Advertisers to Freeze Revenue of ‘Pirate’ Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-advertisers-to-freeze-revenue-pirate-sites-170707/

When one thinks of anti-piracy efforts in the United States, the MPAA and RIAA are often the first groups that come to mind.

While that may be true, there’s another player which has made a massive impact, while barely being noticed at all.

ABS-CBN, the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines, has filed a series of lawsuits against pirate sites in the US, with the popular streaming portal Fmovies as the biggest target.

The company has already won several cases with damages ranging from a few hundred thousand to millions of dollars. However, the associated injunctions in these cases are perhaps even more significant.

We previously covered how ABS-CBN managed to get court orders to seize domain names, without the defendants getting actively involved. This is also the case in a recent lawsuit where a Florida federal court signed a broad injunction targeting more than two dozen sites.

The websites, including dramasget.com, latestpinoymovies.com, pinoydailyshows.com, tvnijuan.org and weeklywarning.org, may not ring a bell with a wide audience but their domain names have all been suspended, linking to a takedown message instead.

And there is another interesting element to the injunction, which hasn’t been widely used in the past. Hoping for a good shot at some damages down the road, ABS-CBN put in a request to freeze the advertising revenues of these sites at Google Adsense, MGID, Popads.net, and elsewhere.

The court signed off on this, and added it to the preliminary injunction. As a result, the advertisers must freeze the funds until further notice.

“…all funds in the advertising accounts related to Defendants as identified on Schedule B, including but not limited to those which are currently held by the advertising services […] are immediately restrained from movement, transfer, or otherwise being disturbed, as opposed to ongoing activity.”

None of the funds of the defendants are allowed to be moved. Instead, the court order directs the advertising companies to transfer everything to a holding account that is known to the court.

On top of that, Google Adsense, MGID, and the other advertising companies must send the copyright holder an overview of the revenue in each account and all transactions associated with it.

“(i) an accounting of the total funds restrained and identifies the advertising/financial account(s) which the restrained funds are related to, and (ii) the account transactions related to all funds transmitted into the advertising/financial account(s) which have been restrained.”

Needless to say, this injunction will have a pretty severe effect on alleged pirate sites. Not only do they lose their preferred advertising outlets, but they also miss out on any pending revenue.

The sites that are targeted in this case are relatively small, but it could, in theory, happen to the big players as well. While the RIAA and MPAA are not involved in this case, we’re pretty confident that they are watching this case very closely.

Finally, the injunction sheds an interesting light on which registrars and registries swiftly respond to US court orders. At the time of writing all .com, .org and .net domains are suspended, but some of the .ag, .ch and .ph domains are still operational. With new ads, of course.

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

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

Chrome’s Default ‘Ad-Blocker’ is Bad News for Torrent Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/chromes-default-ad-blocker-is-bad-news-for-torrent-sites-170705/

Online advertising can be quite a nuisance. Flashy and noisy banners, or intrusive pop-ups, are a thorn in the side of many Internet users.

These type of ads are particularly popular on pirate sites, so it’s no surprise that their users are more likely to have an ad-blocker installed.

The increasing popularity of these ad-blocking tools hasn’t done the income of site owners any good and the trouble on this front is about to increase.

A few weeks ago Google announced that its Chrome browser will start blocking ‘annoying’ ads in the near future, by default. This applies to all ads that don’t fall within the “better ads standards,” including popups and sticky ads.

Since Chrome is the leading browser on many pirate sites, this is expected to have a serious effect on torrent sites and other pirate platforms. TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of one of the largest torrent sites, who’s sounding the alarm bell.

The owner, who prefers not to have his site mentioned, says that it’s already hard to earn enough money to pay for hardware and hosting to keep the site afloat. This, despite millions of regular visitors.

“The torrent site economy is in a bad state. Profits are very low. Profits are f*cked up compared to previous years,” the torrent site owner says.

At the moment, 40% of the site’s users already have an ad-blocker installed, but when Chrome joins in with its default filter, it’s going to get much worse. A third of all visitors to the torrent site in question use the Chrome browser, either through mobile or desktop.

“Chrome’s ad-blocker will kill torrent sites. If they don’t at least cover their costs, no one is going to use money out of his pocket to keep them alive. I won’t be able to do so at least,” the site owner says.

It’s too early to assess how broad Chrome’s ad filtering will be, but torrent site owners may have to look for cleaner ads. That’s easier said than done though, as it’s usually the lower tier advertisers that are willing to work with these sites and they often serve more annoying ads.

The torrent site owner we spoke with isn’t very optimistic about the future. While he’s tested alternative revenue sources, he sees advertising as the only viable option. And with Chrome lining up to target part of their advertising inventory, revenue may soon dwindle.

“I’ve tested all types of ads and affiliates that are safe to work with, and advertising is the only way to cover costs. Also, most services that you can make good money promoting don’t work with torrent sites,” the torrent site owner notes.

Just a few months ago popular torrent site TorrentHound decided to shut down, citing a lack in revenue as one of the main reasons. This is by no means an isolated incident. TorrentFreak spoke to other site owners who confirm that it’s becoming harder and harder to pay the bills through advertisements.

The operator of Torlock, for example, confirms that those who are in the business to make a profit are having a hard time.

“All in all it’s a tough time for torrent sites but those that do it for the money will have a far more difficult time in the current climate than those who do this as a hobby and as a passion. We do it for the love of it so it doesn’t really affect us as much,” Torlock’s operator says.

Still, there is plenty of interest from advertisers, some of whom are trying their best to circumvent ad-blockers.

“Every day we receive emails from willing advertisers wanting to work with us so the market is definitely still there and most of them have the technology in place to circumvent adblockers, including Chrome’s default one,” he adds.

Google’s decision to ship Chrome with a default ad-blocker appears to be self-serving in part. If users see less annoying ads, they are less likely to install a third-party ad-blocker which blocks more of Google’s own advertisements.

Inadvertently, however, they may have also announced their most effective anti-piracy strategy to date.

If pirate sites are unable to generate enough revenue through advertisements, there are few options left. In theory, they could start charging visitors money, but most pirates go to these sites to avoid paying.

Asking for voluntary donations is an option, but that’s unlikely to cover the all the costs.

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

TV Giant Canal Plus Decides to Stop Paying Artists & Creators, Gets Sued

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tv-giant-canal-plus-decides-to-stop-paying-artists-creators-gets-sued-170705/

It’s common for anti-piracy groups to accuse torrent, streaming, and other download sites of not paying licensing fees. As a result, dozens have been sued over the years, often with catastrophic results for the platforms involved.

It is extremely rare, however, for a bone fide broadcasting company to simply declare that it won’t be paying artists, authors, and creators, for the content they provide. Amazingly, that’s the situation playing out in France with pay TV company Canal Plus.

Owned by giant Vivendi, Canal Plus has decided that its current deals with content providers are unfavorable to the company and wants to renegotiate them. In the meantime, tens of millions of euros in royalties owed to SACEM (Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music), SACD (Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers), SCAM (The Civil Society of Multimedia Authors) and ADAGP (Society of Authors in the Graphic and Plastic Arts) are going unpaid.

The decision has caused outrage among the collecting societies, with SACEM (the group that caused the closure of What.CD and French torrent giant T411) deriding Canal Plus for denying artists what is rightfully theirs.

“We are receiving many calls from panic-stricken authors who are finding themselves without the wages due to them,” a spokesman from SACEM said. “Some of them will find themselves facing serious difficulties and how will they continue to create if they have not been paid?”

Hervé Rony, general manager of The Civil Society of Multimedia Authors (SCAM) directly attacked the TV provider.

“I’ve never seen such brutality. Never has another player in the audiovisual industry deployed such methods,” Rony said.

Even filmmakers are affected by the decision to withhold royalties, with the Association of Authors, Directors, Producers (L’ARP) noting that it was “deeply shocked” at what it describes as an act of “violence.”

Although a broad range of creators is affected, local media reports say that Canal Plus’ decision not to pay copyright fees will hit the music sector first, with today being the day that payments should have been made. As a result, SCAM is warning that it may not be able to meet its obligations for the fiscal year.

Telerama reports that Canal Plus is trying to negotiate an 80% discount worth tens of millions of euros to support its cost-cutting agenda, but those demands are meeting a wall of defiance among the collecting societies.

“We only discuss between people in good faith, when they have already settled what they owe and do not renege on contracts already signed,” Rony said. “Nobody wants the death of Canal Plus. But the prerequisite for any discussion is the resumption of payments.”

In comments made by SACEM yesterday, the copyright group indicated that beyond paying what it owes now, Canal Plus only has two options available, both involving the inside of a courtroom. The first would involve a lawsuit over breach of contract and the second would see it being sued for using copyright works without a license – piracy, effectively.

“In this case, we will seek penalties for infringement. They do not have much latitude,” SACEM said.

Several of the groups owed money by Canal Plus have published statements, with SACD, SACEM, SCAM, and ADAGP indicating they will be joining forces to tackle the broadcaster, who they accuse of undermining the right of creators to get paid.

“SACEM, along with the other authors’ societies, would have liked the constructive dialogue it had conducted over the last few weeks to have resulted in Canal Plus fulfilling its contractual obligations, but failing that, was obliged to take appropriate measures, including Judicial rights, so that the rights of its members are preserved,” SACEM wrote.

With a meeting between those affected scheduled for Friday, the suggestion that legal action is already underway has now been confirmed by Variety. Citing an industry source, the publication says that Canal Plus is being sued in the Paris High Court for around 50 million euros.

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

Hollywood Wants Governments to Push Voluntary Anti-Piracy Deals

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-wants-governments-to-push-voluntary-anti-piracy-deals-170704/

The ever-present threat of online piracy remains a hot topic in Hollywood.

A lot has changed over the years. Piracy is arguably more mainstream now with easy to use streaming sites and tools, and site owners have become more skilled at evading various enforcement efforts.

Most sites have multiple domain names at their disposal, for example, as well as access to hosting facilities that are more responsive to complaints from rightsholders.

According to Hollywood’s MPAA, cross-border cooperation with various third-party intermediaries is required to curb piracy. The group has promoted this agenda for a while and is now reemphasizing the need for governments to facilitate these kinds of deals.

In a statement prepared for an upcoming meeting of WIPO’s Advisory Committee on Enforcement, MPAA’s Global Content Protection chief Dean Marks states that voluntary agreements are essential in their fight against piracy.

These agreements will help to adapt to the evolving piracy landscape, much quicker than copyright legislation can.

“Unlike laws and regulations, voluntary measures can quickly be adapted to address changing forms of online piracy. Such measures benefit not only rightsholders, but also internet intermediaries, service providers, governments and individual users of the internet,” Marks notes.

“Voluntary measures should therefore be encouraged by governments as an important means of addressing online copyright piracy,” he adds (pdf).

One of the problems, according to the Hollywood group, is that piracy sites are spreading their infrastructure all over the world. They may use a domain name in one country, hosting in a few others, and a CDN on top of all that.

This cross-border threat can often not be dealt with in a single country or by a single company. It requires cooperation from a wide variety of third-party intermediaries, including search engines and hosting providers.

“Clearly this new paradigm of infringement strains the foundational notion of territoriality of copyright law and increases the difficulty of effectively enforcing copyrights,” Marks writes.

“Hosting providers, domain name registries and registrars, CDNs, cloud storage services and even internet access providers and search engines all can serve a constructive role by adopting measures to prevent their platforms and services from being abused for copyright infringement.”

The MPAA has thus far struck two voluntary deals with the domain name registries Donuts and Radix. This allows the anti-piracy group to report infringing domain names, which may then be removed. Thus far this has resulted in 25 domain name suspensions, but the MPAA would like to broaden its scope and partner with more registries.

Hosting companies, CDNs such as Cloudflare, and search engines can also do more to curb copyright infringements. Ultimately this will be in their own interest, the MPAA says. These companies do not want to be associated with piracy or face tougher legislation when governments step in.

“…many companies do not wish to be associated with those engaged in illegal activities, including copyright pirates. Moreover, turning a blind eye to doing business with pirate websites can result in damaging repercussions.

“In the United States of America (USA), for example, intermediaries have been named as unindicted co-conspirators in criminal copyright prosecutions,” Marks notes.

MPAA’s Global Content Protection chief suggests a few ways governments can intervene. They could host hearings to facilitate cooperation, for example. Another option is to adopt laws or regulations that foster cooperation.

Finally, Marks notes that authorities can instruct law enforcement agencies to “work with” internet intermediaries and service providers to adopt voluntary anti-piracy measures, similar to the ones in place with City of London Police and its piracy watch list for advertisers.

Previously the MPAA has offered similar suggestions to the US Government. While this may have had some effect, many companies are still reluctant to jump on board.

Companies such as Google, CloudFlare and ICANN don’t believe they are required to proactively enforce against piracy on a broad scale, and it likely requires a massive push to change their perspective.

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

Copyright Holders Ask Google to Block Site-Blocking Notifications

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-holders-ask-google-to-block-site-blocking-notifications-170702/

Following a series of High Court orders, UK Internet providers now block access to thousands of pirate domain names.

If prospective pirates try to access these sites, they are presented with a blocking notification instead.

Virgin Media, for example, shows the following message to its subscribers.

“Virgin Media has received an order from the High Court requiring us to prevent access to this site.”

While these type of messages are crystal clear to the general public, they appear to cause confusion among copyright holders. Or more likely, among the automated takedown tools they use.

This week we stumbled upon an unusual request from the anti-piracy group RipBlock, sent on behalf of Amorphous Music. The notice in question targets several links, but also the blocking page of Virgin Media, as seen below.

Virgin takedown

Needless to say, Virgin’s blocking notification doesn’t list any infringing material. Perhaps RipBlock’s monitoring tool is using a Virgin Media connection, entering the notification in their system instead of the URL of a pirate site?

While that seems plausible, it would mean that the UK company is using more than one ISP, as it also frequently reports the blocking notifications of Sky in its takedown requests.

In any case, it’s clear that the company doesn’t check its submissions very carefully, as the same URLs are listed in dozens of DMCA notices.

Sky takedown

Interestingly, this kind of mistake is not unique to RipBlock. Another UK company, Leak Delete, asked Google to remove BT’s blocking page from its search results with a similar takedown notice.

BT’s “ukispcourtorders.co.uk” page provides a list of blocked sites and no infringing content. Nonetheless, Leak Delete has targeted it repeatedly according to Google’s transparency report.

BT takedown

In situations like this, we can see how erroneous takedown claims can easily lead to over-blocking. If blocking requests are used to block access to site blocking notifications, anything can be targeted.

It’s good to know that, despite receiving millions of requests per day, Google is still able to spot most of these flaws.

The search giant can’t catch them all though. As a result, BT’s blocking notification is no longer listed in the search engine.

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

The Terrible Horrors of ‘Kodi Boxes’ Shock The UK

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-terrible-horrors-of-kodi-boxes-shock-the-uk-170702/

In the beginning, we were told that Kodi Boxes are probably going to destroy Hollywood, not to mention companies like Sky and The Premier League. But who cares about the big people in suits drinking champagne from gold swimming pools?

No, what the unwashed masses need to hear are stories that make us realize that these little plastic wonder boxes are going to ruin our miserable lives. Luckily, they’ve been appearing thick and fast this past couple of weeks.

It turns out that Kodi Boxes are not only likely to burn your house down, but they’re also part of a master plan to pick away at the delicate threads holding family life together.

Forget about the piracy, that doesn’t matter. The powers that be need you to understand that Kodi Boxes are Trojan horses of misery that people are willingly bringing in to their own homes. Can you believe people are being so stupid?

According to an article in this week’s The Mirror, for example, kids’ movies spewed out by these evil devices are now being interrupted by adverts for alcohol. Well, it makes a change from seeing Phil Mitchell smashed out of his mind at 8pm on BBC1, doesn’t it?

At the same time, Kodi Boxes are straining relationships between father and son, not to mention subjecting unsuspecting parents to malware threats. They include scams purporting to be from the ‘FBI’ which demand money for using Popcorn Time inside Kodi. The world truly has gone mad.

Of course, if only one person sees this nonsense it’s too much, and The Mirror piece is quite rightly filled with quotes from real people who gave up piracy as a result of their bad experiences. It also has plenty of useful advice from the UK’s leading anti-piracy outfit, as you’d expect.

Intrigued, we decided to carry out our own research among a handful of the millions of maniacs who are still prepared to plug one of these death devices into their UK mains supply. And we were shocked – not by a dodgy power adaptor from China – but by the huge numbers of other problems these Kodi Boxes can foist upon the honest working man.

A user called Neil told us that he’d bought a Kodi Box off eBay after hearing all the hype in the media. His plan was to watch Premier League football without paying a penny. However, instead of scooping up that forbidden 3pm kick-off excitement, all it did was ruin his enjoyment of the beautiful game.

“I’d been out drinking all day with the lads. I was proper, proper smashed. I got home and shoved the thing into the nearest telly to watch Liverpool versus Manchester United and although I felt really sick, couldn’t focus on the screen, and soon fell unconscious, I think the picture wasn’t too bad,” he said.

“I don’t think I saw that wheel thing spinning in the middle of the screen and everything stopping either, which is a big plus for me on a free box. And to top it all, Liverpool beat United 2:1, which was a real bonus.

“However, when discussing the game the next day with my dad who watched the game on Sky with a proper subscription, I was horrified to learn that Manchester United actually won the game 3:0 – against Arsenal! It just goes to show, you get what you pay for. My box is now where it should have been all along – in the bin.”

A man called Rich told us that he’d also heard good things about Kodi Boxes but was really upset after being completely misled by the person who sold him one.

“I used to be a subscriber to Sky’s top package, including those fifty channels nobody watches but they force you to have. I also forked out for all their boxing PPVs that come on at stupid o’clock in the morning, and bought several blu-ray discs each time I got paid. All in all I must’ve spent £140 a month.

“So, when a bloke down the pub who I’ve never met before told me that I could legally get the same stuff for free using a Kodi Box, I immediately believed him. I mean, what reasonable bloke wouldn’t? He had just one left as well, how lucky was that?”

But it didn’t take long for Rich’s enthusiasm to wane. The thought of owning a potential incendiary device filled with content provided by a Russian crime syndicate and funded by Columbian drug barons was too much.

“I watched a couple of films on it without my house burning down, but then I started reading horror stories in the paper about these boxes shoving drinks adverts in our kids’ faces,” he told us.

“Enough was enough. After being lied to by the seller the thought of my kids demanding toys and beer for Christmas was just too much, it just wasn’t worth the risk. So I went straight back to giving Sky over a grand a year and life’s never been better.”

Kodi Box user Peter told us that he could really relate to warnings published in the papers this week that set-top box users had been hit with popups demanding their bank details.

“I was hoping to watch the big fight last weekend but it only came on for a few minutes and then suddenly went off,” he explained. “Then a notice appeared telling me to ring a number with my credit card details. Well, I’d heard about these ransomware attacks and I wasn’t going to fall for that old trick.

“However, imagine my surprise when I realized that I’d accidentally put on my official satellite box instead of Kodi, and the message was actually from my pay-per-view provider. Just goes to show, everybody wants your money these days, and these crooks can rope you in for years, and make it really hard to cancel.”

Another chap called James told us that he never considered getting a Kodi Box until he saw an article in a UK tabloid explaining how Kodi Boxes pose a risk for families with children.

“The article quoted some anti-piracy company. They said that parents don’t realize that Kodi Boxes allow easy access to hardcore pornography. And it’s true, I had no idea,” James said.

“But I live alone, so I wasted no time buying one off eBay. I’m watching it in the shed with a fire extinguisher in the other hand, just to be safe.”

But while James clearly has his hands full, our last user is much less satisfied.

Sue told us that she was assured her Kodi box was a miracle device with endless uses. However, after its addons recently stopped working she decided to test the claim by sliding the failing unit under the leg of a wobbly table. It soon became clear the hardware had been massively oversold.

“They say these boxes can do anything but mine clearly wasn’t fit for purpose. It was way too thick so when I put it under the leg, the table sat at a really steep angle. If anything, it was more unstable than it was before.

“I dread to think what could’ve happened if I’d put a pot of boiling oil on it next to the baby. No wonder health and safety are up in arms.”

Tune in next week when we reveal how Kodi Boxes can cause unsightly hair growth and unwanted pregnancies.

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

200 ‘Pirate’ Media Player Sellers Shut Down After EU Court Ruling

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/200-pirate-media-player-sellers-shut-down-after-eu-court-ruling-170630/

The huge increase in popularity of piracy-configured set-top boxes has been nothing short of amazing over the past 18 months.

According to numerous reports, their use has become somewhat of an epidemic in Europe, prompting concern from anti-piracy organizations across the continent.

One group at the forefront is Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN, who took a case against a seller of ‘pirate’ boxes all the way to the European Court of Justice – and won.

Handed down in April, the decision concluded that selling devices pre-configured for piracy (such as those loaded with Kodi and third-party addons) is illegal under EU law.

While news of the decision was never likely to reach all sellers of ‘pirate’ boxes, those under the impression that sales occupied some kind of gray area were quickly corrected. That resulted in some sellers exiting the market and others changing the way they operate, such as selling boxes blank and expecting users to configure them themselves.

Due to the locality of the original case, sellers in the Netherlands were always likely to feel the impact of the ECJ ruling most initially, particularly with BREIN breathing down their collective necks. That has just been effectively confirmed by the anti-piracy group, with the news that around 200 ‘pirate’ media player sellers have ceased trading since the decision.

“This is a mixture of individuals and companies,” BREIN chief Tim Kuik informs TorrentFreak.

Kuik says that the sales were taking place via dedicated websites, online stores such as Amazon and eBay, plus social platforms including Facebook.

In an indication of how much in demand the devices are, the BREIN chief says that most of the sellers sold nothing else but ‘pirate’ boxes, to sustain a business or bring in some extra cash for the entrepreneurial individual.

Kuik says that 150 out of the 200 entities were contacted directly by BREIN, who advised them to stop what they’re doing to avoid things getting out of hand.

“Typically we send an explanatory letter with a cease and desist undertaking. Everyone gets the opportunity to settle. Most take it,” Kuik says.

Of course, others choose not to comply with BREIN’s demands, so for them, things have the potential to get more expensive and complicated, given the right conditions.

“We have now entered a phase in which willful infringement is assumed and this means no more warnings. If no settlement is reached the case will go to court. We have a couple of court cases under preparation,” Kuik explains.

This could mean a contested court case, which following the ECJ ruling is likely to end badly for anyone selling boxes filled with pirate addons. That being said, settling with BREIN can be expensive too.

“Providers who settle with BREIN pay up to 10,000 euros. Those who continue can count on a multiple of that. There’s a raw deal for those who think they’ll just get a warning. That time is now over.”

For those who ignore BREIN’s overtures and threats of legal action, there’s also the possibility of a case going ahead without them even being there.

“Under certain circumstances, an ex parte court order may be applied for,” Kuik concludes.

While the legality of such devices now seems completely clear in the EU, the market is yet to settle. Given past innovations, it’s more than likely that new avenues will open up to re-test the law to a new breaking point – and beyond.

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