Tag Archives: Anti-Piracy

Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Products & Devices

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/facebook-bans-sale-of-piracy-enabling-products-devices-170525/

Riding the crest of a wave made possible by the rise of Internet streaming, piracy-enabled set-top boxes and similar devices have been hitting the homes of millions around the globe.

Often given the broad title of ‘Kodi Boxes’ after the legal open source software that commonly comes pre-installed, these devices are regularly configured for piracy with the aid of third-party addons.

Easy to use, set-top devices have opened up piracy to a whole new audience, normalizing it during the process. It’s a problem now being grappled with by anti-piracy outfits in a number of ways, including putting pressure on services where the boxes are being sold.

Now there are signs that Facebook has decided – or more likely been persuaded – to ban the sale of these devices from its platform. The latest addition to its Commerce Policy carries a new rule (13) which targets infringing set-top boxes almost perfectly.

“Items, products or services sold on Facebook must comply with our Community Standards, as well as the Commerce Policies,” the page reads.

“Sale of the following is prohibited on Facebook: Products or items that facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media.”

The move by Facebook follows similar overtures from Amazon back in March. In a change to its policies, the company said that devices that promote or facilitate infringement would not be tolerated.

“Products offered for sale on Amazon should not promote, suggest the facilitation of, or actively enable the infringement of or unauthorized access to digital media or other protected content,” Amazon said.

“Any streaming media player or other device that violates this policy is prohibited from sale on Amazon,” the company added.

The recent move by Facebook was welcomed by Federation Against Copyright Theft chief, Kieron Sharp.

“It is great to see Facebook follow the likes of Amazon and eBay in making changes to their policies to prohibit the sale of illicit streaming devices on their platforms,” Sharpe said.

“These days social media sites are more than just a place to share photos and comments with friends and family. Unfortunately, the fast-paced development of these sites are being exploited by opportunists for criminal activity which needs to be disrupted.”

The sale of infringing devices on social media does indeed pose a challenge to the likes of FACT.

While most piracy devices have traditionally needed an expert touch to configure and then sell, in 2017 almost anyone can buy a standard Android device and set it up for piracy in a matter of minutes. This means that every interested citizen is a potential seller and Facebook provides a perfect platform that people are already familiar with.

Nevertheless, recent rulings from the EU Court of Justice have clarified two key issues, both of which will help in the fight to reduce the availability of ‘pirate’ boxes, wherever they appear.

In April, the ECJ declared such devices illegal to sell while clarifying that users who stream pirate content to their homes are also breaking the law.

It’s unlikely that any end users will be punished (particularly to the ridiculous extent erroneously reported by some media), but it certainly helps to demonstrate illegality across the board when outfits like FACT are considering prosecutions.

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

Girl Busted For Pirating ‘Chicken Run’ Provides Food For Thought

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/girl-busted-for-pirating-chicken-run-provides-food-for-thought-170521/

This past Thursday the BBC published an article about Gianna Mulville-Zanetta, a first year Social Policy student at Bristol University in the UK.

After getting caught downloading the stop-motion comedy-drama film Chicken Run using BitTorrent, the 18-year-old reportedly felt the wrath of the university’s IT department.

“I completely forgot I had downloaded it,” Gianna told the BBC.

“I got an email the day after I watched it on Netflix with my friend saying I had been removed from Eduroam – which is our wifi. It took about a day or more to download and that’s why I forgot I had it, it took forever.”

For her sins, Gianna was blocked from using the university’s wifi for 20 days, a period that coincided with her exams. With access to a 4G connection she says the ban didn’t affect her studies but of course, the potential for chaos was certainly there.

There appears to be no doubt that Gianna committed an infringement. However, that someone who prefers to watch something legally on Netflix gets caught up in something like this is pretty disappointing. But not a complete surprise.

Chicken Run was released in 2000 but only 12 years later did it appear on UK Netflix. According to New on Netflix, it was withdrawn from Netflix during November 2013, put back on two years later in 2015, removed a year later in 2016, and was only re-added on May 1 this year.

Considering the BBC states that the Chicken Run affair “has ruined much of May for Gianna”, the ban must’ve kicked in early this month. That means that Chicken Run was either not on UK Netflix when Gianna decided on her download, or had only been there for a day or two. Either way, if there had been less yo-yo’ing of its availability on Netflix, it’s possible this whole affair could’ve been completely avoided.

Moving on, the BBC article states that Gianna was “caught out by the university’s IT department.” Student newspaper The Tab makes a similar assumption, claiming that Gianna was “busted by an elite team of University IT technicians.”

However, those familiar with these issues will know that the ‘blame’ should be placed elsewhere, i.e., on rightsholders who are filing complaints directly with the university. The tactic is certainly an interesting one.

Despite there being dozens of residential ISPs the copyright holders could focus on, they choose not to do so outside the limited scope of the Get it Right campaign instead. Knowing that universities come down hard on students seems like a motivating factor here, one that students should be aware of.

The Tab went on to publish a screenshot of the complaint received by Gianna. It’s incomplete, but it contains information that allows us to investigate further.

The note that Gianna’s connection had been suspended to prevent the IT department from “receiving further complaints” is a dead giveaway of rightsholder involvement. But, further down is an even clearer clue that the complaint was made by someone outside the university.

The format used in the complaint is identical to that used by US and Australia-based anti-piracy outfit IP-Echelon. The company is known to work with Paramount Pictures who own the rights to Chicken Run.

In fact, if one searches the filesize referenced in the infringement notice (572,221,548), it’s possible to find an identical complaint processed by VPN service Proxy.sh.

Another Chicken Run complaint

Given the file size, we can further deduce that Gianna downloaded a 720p BrRip of Chicken Run that was placed online by now defunct release team/torrent site YIFY, which has also been referenced in a number of complaints sent to Google.

So what can we conclude from these series of events?

First of all, with less messing around by Paramount and/or Netflix, Gianna might have gone to Netflix first, having seen it previously in the listings on the platform. As it goes, it had been absent for months, having been pulled from the service at least twice before.

Second, we know that at least one person who chose to pirate Chicken Run avoided Gianna’s predicament by using a VPN service. While Gianna found herself disconnected, the VPN user walked away completely unscathed, with Paramount and IP-Echelon complaining to the VPN service and that being the end of the matter.

Third, allowing your real name and a copy of a copyright infringement complaint to be published alongside a confession is a risky business. While IP-Echelon isn’t known for pressuring people to pay settlements in the UK, the situation could have been very different if a copyright troll was involved.

Fourth, we can also conclude that while it’s believed that older content is safer to download, this story suggests otherwise. Chicken Run was released 17 years ago and is still being monitored by rightsholders.

Finally, stories of students getting banned from university Internet access are relatively commonplace in the United States, but the same out of the UK is extremely rare.

In fact, we’re not aware of such exclusions happening on a regular basis anywhere in the region, although Gianna told the BBC that she knows another person who is still being denied access to the Internet for downloading Shrek, another relatively ancient film.

That raises the possibility that some copyright holders have seriously begun targeting universities in the UK. If that’s the case, one has to question what has more value – uninterrupted Internet access while on campus or a movie download.

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

IPTV Providers Counter Premier League Piracy Blocks

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-providers-counter-premier-league-piracy-blocks-170520/

In the UK, top tier football is handled by The Premier League and its broadcasting partners Sky and BT Sport. All are facing problems with Internet piracy.

In a nutshell, official subscriptions are far from cheap, so people are always on the lookout for more affordable alternatives. As a result, large numbers of fans are turning to piracy-enabled set-top boxes for their fix.

These devices, often running Kodi with third-party addons, not only provide free or cheap football streams but also enable fans to watch matches at 3pm on Saturdays, a time traditionally covered by the blackout.

To mitigate this threat, earlier this year the Premier League obtained a rather special High Court injunction.

While similar in its aims to earlier orders targeting torrent sites including The Pirate Bay, this injunction enables the Premier League to act quickly, forcing local ISPs such as Sky, BT, and Virgin to block football streams in real-time.

“This will enable us to target the suppliers of illegal streams to IPTV boxes, and the internet, in a proportionate and precise manner,” the Premier League said at the time.

Ever since the injunction was issued, TF has monitored for signs that it has been achieving its stated aim of stopping or at least reducing stream availability. Based on information obtained from several popular IPTV suppliers, after several weeks we have concluded that Premier League streams are still easy to find, with some conditions.

HD sources for games across all Sky channels are commonplace on paid services, with SD sources available for free. High-quality streams have been consistently available on Saturday afternoons for the sensitive 3pm kick-off, with little to no interference or signs of disruption.

Of course, the Internet is a very big place, so it is certainly possible that disruption has been experienced by users elsewhere. However, what we do know is that some IPTV providers have been working behind the scenes to keep their services going.

According to a low-level contact at one IPTV provider who demanded total anonymity, servers used by his ‘company’ (he uses the term loosely) have seen their loads drop unexpectedly during match times, an indication that ISPs might be targeting their customers with blocks.

A re-seller for another well-known provider told TF that some intermittent disruption had been felt but that it was “being handled” as and when it “becomes a problem.” Complaint levels from customers are not yet considered a concern, he added.

That the Premier League’s efforts are having at least some effect doesn’t appear to be in doubt, but it’s pretty difficult to find evidence in public. That being said, an IPTV provider whose identity we were asked to conceal has taken more easily spotted measures.

After Premier League matches got underway this past Tuesday night, the provider in question launched a new beta service in its Kodi addon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it allows users to cycle through proxy servers in order to bypass blocks put in place by ISPs on behalf of the Premier League.

Embedded proxy service in Kodi

As seen from the image above, the beta unblocking service is accessible via the service’s Kodi addon and requires no special skills to operate. Simply clicking on the “Find a Proxy to Use” menu item opens up the page below.

The servers used to bypass the blocks

Once a working proxy is found, access to the streams is facilitated indirectly, thereby evading the Premier League’s attempts at blocking IP addresses at the UK’s ISPs. Once that’s achieved, the list of streams is accessible again.

Sky Sports streams ready, in HD

The use of proxies for this kind of traffic is of interest, at least as far as the injunction goes.

What we know already is that the Premier League only has permission to block servers if it “reasonably believes” they have the “sole or predominant purpose of enabling or facilitating access to infringing streams of Premier League match footage.”

If any server “is being used for any other substantial purpose”, the football organization cannot block it, meaning that non-dedicated or multi-function proxies cannot be blocked by ISPs, legally at least.

On Thursday evening, however, a TF source monitoring a popular IPTV provider using proxies reported that the match between Southampton and Manchester United suddenly became blocked. Whether that was due to Premier League action is unclear but by using a VPN, usual service was restored.

The use of VPNs with IPTV services raises other issues, however. All Premier League blockades can be circumvented with the use of a VPN but many IPTV providers are known for being intolerant of them, since they can also be used by restreamers to ‘pirate’ their service.

The Premier League injunction came into force on March 18, 2017, and will run out this weekend when the football season ends.

It’s reasonable to presume that the period will have been used for testing and that the Premier League will be back in court again this year seeking a further injunction for the new season starting in August. Expect it to be more effective than it has been thus far.

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

Sony Files Lawsuits to Block Video Game Piracy Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sony-files-lawsuits-block-video-game-piracy-sites-170519/

Once the preserve of countries like China whose government likes to routinely censor and control information, website blocking is now a regularly occurence elsewhere.

With commercial interests at their core, most website blocking efforts now take place under copyright law, to protect the business models of the world’s leading entertainment companies. While that usually involves those in the movie and music industries, occasionally others get involved too.

That’s now the case in Russia, where the UK division of Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) is currently taking steps to prevent the illegal distribution of its videogame products via online platforms.

According to local news outlet Izvestia, SIE has filed seven lawsuits at the Moscow City Court targeting sites that offer Sony titles without obtaining permission.

While they have no yet been named, the lawsuits indicate that copyright action has been taken against the sites before. This means that under Russia’s strict anti-piracy laws, these repeat offenders can be subjected to the so-called “eternal lock.” Under that regime, once ISP blockades are put in place, they stay in place forever.

Sergey Klisho, General Manager of Playstation in Russia, says that the lawsuits and subsequent court orders will enable the company to deal with the worst offenders.

“Positive changes in legislation aimed at protecting rightsholders, plus greater attention by state bodies to intellectual property rights violations, allows us today to begin to fight against piracy on the Internet,” Klisho says.

According to Vadim Ampelonsky, a spokesman for telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor, protection of gaming titles is becoming more commonplace, with companies such as Sony and Ubisoft resorting to legal action against sites offering pirated titles.

For Sony, it appears this action might only be the beginning, with a company representative indicating that more lawsuits are likely to follow in the future. But just how effective are these blockades?

Russian torrent giant RuTracker, which is permanently blocked by all local ISPs, believes that the effect on its operations is limited. Just recently the site’s tracker ‘announce’ URLs were added to Russia’s blocklist, on top of the site’s main URLs which have been banned for some time.

That resulted in the site offering its own special app on Github this month, which allows users to automatically find proxy workarounds that render the current blocking efforts ineffective.

The tool is already proving a bit of a headache for Russian authorities. Internet Ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev says that Roskomnadzor won’t be able to ban the software since it can spread by many means.

“I do not believe that Roskomnadzor can block any application,” Marinichev says.

“You can prevent Google Play or Apple’s iTunes from distributing them. But there is still one hundred and one ways left for these applications to spread. Stopping the application itself from working on the device of a particular user is a daunting task.”

Interestingly, Marinichev also believes that targeting RuTracker is the wrong strategy, since the site itself isn’t distributing infringing content, its users are.

“Rightsholders can not punish RuTracker. They are not engaged in piracy. Piracy is carried out by the ones who distribute and duplicate. It is impossible for the law to solve technological problems,” he concludes.

It’s an opinion shared by many in the pirate community, who continue to find technical solutions to many legal roadblocks.

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

Hackers Demand Ransom Over Stolen Copy of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 5’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hackers-demand-ransom-over-stolen-copy-of-pirates-of-the-caribbean-5-170516/

During a town hall meeting in New York on Monday, Disney CEO Bob Iger informed a group of ABC employees that hackers have stolen one of the company’s movies.

The hackers offered to keep it away from public eyes in exchange for ransom paid in Bitcoin but Disney says it has no intention to pay.

Although Iger did not mention the movie by name during the meeting, Deadline reports that it’s a copy of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.’

The fifth movie in the ‘Pirates‘ franchise starring Johnny Depp, is officially scheduled to appear in theaters next week. Needless to say, a high-quality leak at this point will be seen as a disaster for Disney.

The “ransom” demand from the hacker is reminiscent of another prominent entertainment industry leak, where the requested amount of Bitcoin was not paid.

Just a few weeks ago a group calling itself TheDarkOverlord (TDO) published the premiere episode of the fifth season of Netflix’s Orange is The New Black, followed by nine more episodes a few hours later.

Despite Netflix’s anti-piracy efforts, the ten leaked episodes of Orange is The New Black remain popular on many torrent indexes and pirate streaming sites.

There is no indication that the previous and threatened leaks are related in any way. TorrentFreak has seen a list of movies and TV-shows TDO said they have in their possession, but the upcoming ‘Pirates’ movie isn’t among them.

The Disney hackers have threatened to release the movie in increments, but the movie studio is hoping that they won’t go ahead with their claims.

Thus far there haven’t been any reports of leaked parts of the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film. Disney, meanwhile, is working with the FBI to track down the people responsible for the hack.

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

YouTube Content ID Critic Doesn’t Appreciate the Irony

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-content-id-critic-doesnt-appreciate-the-irony-170514/

YouTube is not only one of the best sites on the Internet today but is arguably the best multimedia platform ever created. There can be barely a person alive who has heard of the Internet but not of YouTube. The site is that important.

But today, YouTube has problems. Despite generating hundreds of millions each year for the music industry, the major labels argue that the company fails to do enough about piracy while exploiting the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA.

YouTube sees things quite differently. The company says that its Content ID recognition system, which was developed at huge cost, allows creators to block or monetize otherwise pirated content uploaded to the platform by users.

Like every anti-piracy system ever created, Content ID is fallible. It can be circumvented using various techniques and tricks found on any number of sites and indeed, on YouTube itself. This week, that fact attracted the attention of the Music Tech Policy blog.

“What’s Wrong With Content ID? Start with Dozens of YouTube Videos on How to Defeat It,” wrote editor, industry veteran, and outspoken Google critic, Chris Castle.

Castle begins by talking a little about one of the techniques often used by people trying to evade the clutches of Content ID – changing the tempo of an uploaded music track. The idea is that by altering the speed, the fingerprint of the uploaded track is changed enough for YouTube not to recognize it as an infringing copy.

No doubt it’s a popular trick, but at this point the conspiracy theories begin.

YouTube has a feature which allows people to speed up or slow down videos, which can be handy for speed ‘reading’ an audio book, for example, or slowing down a tutorial so someone inexperienced in the task can keep up.

However, discounting fans of pitch-shifted vocals, Castle says it’s actually there for Google to make money from pirates. Slowed-down, Content ID-evading tracks can be sped back up to enjoy at normal speeds, he says.

“Why is it there? To cater to fans of Alvin and the Chipmunks? No. It’s there so YouTube can monetize illegal copies of music and movies,” he says.

“If Google were serious about piracy, they’d dump the speed control on YouTube. They’d also police the ‘how to’ defeat Content ID videos on YouTube.”

While Castle is perfectly entitled to his opinion (and it’s one that is popular in the industry) he seems oblivious to the fact that his own article not only reveals how Content ID can be gamed, but also goes on to demand that YouTube censors discussion on the same topic.

If that doesn’t already feel like a case of “don’t do as I do, do as I tell you”, then perhaps the next bit will.

Amping the irony up to 11, Castle then embeds one of the Content ID circumvention videos from YouTube into his own article.

How the video appears in the article

Of course, some people will quite rightly argue that in order to properly report on the problem, someone writing on this topic might need to show an example of an ‘offending’ video on YouTube. We wouldn’t disagree with that assertion at all, 100% in agreement.

There are, however, plenty of problems. For a start, discussing how Content ID can be bypassed isn’t illegal, so if any uploaded videos covering that topic are all the creators’ own work, the resulting videos are legal too.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to see what grounds YouTube would have for taking those videos down. If nothing else, it would be seen as stifling free speech, no matter how disappointing that speech is to the music and movie industries.

Admittedly, inciting people to commit a civil wrong might be a problem in some regions, but in most cases that’s not what we’re talking about here, as illustrated by Music Tech Policy’s willingness to embed the video on its site.

The take-home here is that some material on YouTube is always going to be offensive to some people, we just have to learn how to deal with it and in some cases, make the best of it.

For example, last year I was particularly irritated to find a video on YouTube which detailed how my car could be stolen in seconds using a special device. A link to buy that device was included below the video. Screw YouTube, right? Not really.

With the information presented in the video, I was able to find and buy an aftermarket alarm/immobilizer that defeated that device and others like it.

Admittedly the video (and ‘buy’ link) had the potential to recruit other would-be car thieves to the party, but if I hadn’t have seen it too, my car would still be vulnerable today. The thieves, meanwhile, would still have the ability to steal it. As it stands, it’s going nowhere, at least by that method.

Ultimately, knowledge is power and it is absolutely pointless to try and suppress it with censorship, people are always one step ahead. We just need to use all available knowledge to our advantage.

So, despite Chris Castle perhaps not appreciating the irony, he was absolutely within his rights to write that article and embed those videos in order to illustrate a point that is not only important to him, but others too. Whether people agree with him or not is moot.

He shouldn’t be censored, and YouTube shouldn’t be required to censor people either. The site already provides Content ID to millions of satisfied users and presumably, it’s in YouTube’s best interest to have that working as advertised.

That it fails sometimes is no surprise but talking about its weaknesses, on YouTube and sites like Music Tech Policy and indeed here on TF, draws attention to the topic. And only when people are allowed to discuss stuff openly does anything get done.

Censorship is never the answer and only makes matters like these worse.

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

BREIN ‘Hunts Down’ Pirate Media Player Vendors

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-hunts-down-pirate-media-player-vendors-170512/

A surge of cheap media players, which often use the open source Kodi software, has made it easy for people to stream video from the Internet directly to their TVs.

In some cases vendors add pirate add-ons to these devices, selling these “fully-loaded” boxes through their own stores or marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.

Over the past several years, there has been little enforcement effort on this front. However, this changed a few weeks ago, when the European Court of Justice ruled that selling devices pre-configured to obtain copyright-infringing content is illegal.

The media players themselves can still be sold, and the Kodi software is legal too, but vendors who ship boxes with pirate add-ons could get a letter from rightsholders. The Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN, is particularly active on this front.

The group states that 84 vendors have already halted their sales in response to the European court ruling. Roughly half of these stopped before the ruling was announced, and 44 followed afterwards.

BREIN says that it contacted 51 sellers after the court order and 37 of these did indeed stop. The group also filed complaints against 11 vendors of which one has halted its sales, with six others stopping voluntarily.

Those who continue to offer “fully-loaded” boxes now risk hefty fines, BREIN Director Tim Kuik warns.

“The use of this type of player is causing major damage to the makers and providers of films, series, and sports broadcasts. The progress and settlements are therefore solid and run to tens of thousands of euros and more,” Kuik notes.

“The longer the vendors persist in their offering of illegal media players, the more expensive it becomes for them.”

In addition to online sellers, BREIN says it’s also keeping an eye on offline sales via markets and brick and mortar stores.

“It’s not just about webshops and ordinary stores, market traders will also get their turn. Sellers must realize that this is punishable as a crime. BREIN will ensure that this kind of crime does not pay.”

While there’s little doubt that BREIN’s efforts and threats have an effect, it appears that there are still plenty of vendors who continue to offer “fully loaded” boxes. So the ‘hunt’ is likely to continue for a while.

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

Hold ISPs Responsible For Piracy After Brexit, Music Biz Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hold-isps-responsible-for-piracy-after-brexit-music-biz-says-170512/

UK Music is an umbrella organization representing music interests in the UK, from artists and composers, through to studios, recording labels and collecting societies.

The group counts many influential bodies as members, including the BPI, PRS for Music, and licensing outfit PPL. No surprise then that it has a keen anti-piracy agenda, much in tune with its member groups.

Yesterday, UK Music published its 2017 manifesto, covering a wide range of topics from regional development, skills and education, to finance and investment. Needless to say, anti-piracy measures feature prominently, with the group urging vigilance during the Brexit process to ensure music gets a good deal.

“Copyright and its enforcement should be a key part of the trade negotiations, ensuring that our trading partners protect not only their respective creative industries but also the interests of the UK music industry,” the group says.

“Maintaining and strengthening the copyright framework is of great importance to the music industry during the Brexit negotiations and beyond.”

When the UK leaves the EU mid-2019, the government proposes to convert all EU law into UK law. According to David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the so-called Great Repeal Bill will provide “clarity and certainty” for businesses and citizens alike.

However, the Bill will also grant power for MPs to change these laws once the UK has left the EU. For UK Music, this should be a time for stability for the music business.

“Withdrawal from the EU does not require substantial changes to the UK copyright framework. This continuity is critical to ensuring confidence amongst music businesses,” the group says.

“There is no evidence of the need for new exceptions to copyright. If this is not accepted by the Government then it would only serve to take away rights and undermine the potential for growth.”

But while stressing the importance of post-Brexit stability for the music industry, UK Music sees no problem with changing the law to impose additional responsibilities on others.

“There were 7.2 billion visits to copyright-infringing stream-ripping websites in 2016, representing a 60% increase in the previous year. Withdrawal from the EU provides an opportunity for the UK to strengthen the enforcement of copyright,” the group says.

That toughening-up of the law should be focused on tech companies, UK Music insists.

“Initiatives should be developed to place responsibility on internet service providers and require them to have a duty of care for copyright protected music,” the group says.

While UK Music has a clear mandate to look after its own interests, it’s likely that service providers would also like the opportunity to enjoy both continuity and stability after the Brexit negotiations are complete. Being held responsible for piracy is unlikely to help them reach that goal.

Nevertheless, UK Musicwill require further support from ISPs, if it is to meet another of its manifesto goals. Currently, several of the UK’s largest providers are cooperating with the industry to send piracy notices to their subscribers. UK Music would like to expand the scheme.

“The Get It Right From A Genuine Site campaign, designed to promote greater copyright understanding online, is also showing evidence of success. With further support it has the potential to broaden its reach,” the organization says.

Finally, UK Music says that Brexit will give the UK an opportunity to put forward “a coherent definition of hyperlinking under copyright law.”

The group doesn’t go into specifics, but it could be argued that the recent GS Media case handled by the European Court of Justice offers all the clarity the UK needs to transfer the decision into local law.

The full manifesto can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

Four Men Jailed For Running Pirate Movie Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/four-men-jailed-running-pirate-movie-sites-170510/

In the wake of December 2014 action that closed down The Pirate Bay for weeks, Swedish police turned their focus to one of the country’s top streaming portals, Dreamfilm.se.

The site had been growing in popularity for a while, and together with defunct streaming site Swefilmer, whose admins also went on trial recently, the site accounted for up to 25% of online viewing in Sweden.

“After an administrator was detained and interrogated, it has been mutually agreed that dreamfilm.se will be shut down for good,” the site said in a January 2015 statement.

While the site later came back to life under a new name, Swedish police kept up the pressure. In February 2015, several more sites bit the dust including the country’s second largest torrent site Tankefetast, torrent site PirateHub, and streaming portal Tankefetast Play (TFPlay).

Image previously released by Tankafetasttankafetast

It took more than two years, but recently the key people behind the sites had their day in court. According to IDG, all of the men admitted to being involved in Dreamfilm, but none accepted they had committed any crimes.

Yesterday the Linköping District Court handed down its decision and it’s particularly bad news for those involved. Aged between 21 and 31-years-old, the men were sentenced to between six and 10 months in jail and ordered to pay damages of around $147,000 to the film industry.

A 23-year-old man who founded Dreamfilm back in 2012 was handed the harshest sentence of 10 months. He was due to receive a sentence of one year in jail but due to his age at the time of some of the offenses, the Court chose to impose a slightly lower term.

A member of the Pirate Party who reportedly handled advertising and helped to administer the site, was sentenced to eight months in prison. Two other men who worked in technical roles were told to serve between six and 10 months.

Image published by Dreamfilm after the raiddreamfilm

Anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance, which as usual was deeply involved in the prosecution, says that the sites were significant players in the pirate landscape.

“The network that included Dream Movie, Tankafetast, TF Play and Piratehub was one of Europe’s leading players for illegal file sharing and streaming. The coordination of the network was carried out by two of the convicted,” the group said.

“This case is an example of how organized commercial piracy used Sweden as a base and target for its operations. They are well organized and earn a lot of money and the risks are considered small and punishments low in Sweden,” lawyer Henrik Pontén said.

While lenient sentences are now clearly off the agenda, the convicted men still have a chance to appeal. It is not yet clear whether they will do so. In the meantime the Dreamfilm.se domain will be seized until the District Court decision becomes final.

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

Pirate Site “Coke and Popcorn” Shuts Down, Points Users to Netflix

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-coke-and-popcorn-shuts-down-points-users-to-netflix-170509/

Pirate sites come and go all the time. Often they disappear quietly, without an official word, but that’s not the case with the popular streaming site Coke and Popcorn.

Late last week the streaming portal suddenly posted a surprise update announcing that it had shut down its service for good.

While the exact reasons for the surprise decision remain unknown, the site’s operator is clear that users should hold no hope for a comeback. Instead, he points them to “better” alternatives such as Netflix.

“As many of you noticed the site has not been updating for quite some time. It is time to say good bye, Sorry to announce that Coke & Popcorn had closed down for good,” a message posted on the site reads.

“There are now a lot of other better places to enjoy online TV, we recommend Netflix,” the site’s operator adds.

Coke and Popcorn, which operated from a Swiss domain name, has been around for several years but remained out of the spotlight most of the time.

In 2014 it was listed by Netnames in a piracy advertising report, where it was classified as a medium-sized linking site, which potentially earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in yearly revenue.

It’s possible that there is some kind of legal pressure behind the “voluntary” shutdown, but the true reason is open to speculation. A decline in advertising revenue may have prompted it to throw in the towel, however.

Taking a page from the anti-piracy playbook, Coke and Popcorn closes with a warning to former users, urging them not to trust copycats as these may be ridden with malicious ads or worse. Instead, they should try Netflix.

“If you see other fake duplicates of CnP in the future who claim to be us, we urge you NOT to use them as they all will probably serve harmful virus & malicious ads and hidden software that WILL harm your computers & steal your private information,” the operator warns.

“Please be careful and use only safe alternative sites like Netflix.”

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

US Court Orders Registries to Seize Control of ‘Pirate’ Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-court-orders-registries-seize-control-of-pirate-domains-170508/

ABS-CBN is the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines and it is extremely aggressive when it comes to protecting its intellectual property. In fact, it now targets way more ‘pirate’ sites in the United States than the MPAA.

One of the tactics employed by ABS-CBN is targeting the domains of ‘pirate’ sites. On several occasions, the TV outfit has found courts willing to step in with ex parte orders, based on allegations of copyright and trademark infringement.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida is a popular venue for ABS-CBN and in April the company approached the Court again, this time with allegations against 19 streaming platforms (list below).

“Through their websites operating under the Subject Domain Names, Defendants advertise and hold out to the public that they have ABS-CBN’s copyrighted content and perform ABS-CBN’s copyrighted content over the Internet, in order to illegally profit from ABS-CBN’s intellectual property, without ABS-CBN’s consent,” the company wrote in its complaint.

“Defendants’ entire Internet-based website businesses amount to nothing more than illegal operations established and operated in order to infringe the intellectual property rights of ABS-CBN and others.”

Claiming direct and contributory copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition, among other things, ABS-CBN demanded maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement, plus injunctive relief to avoid future infringement. Following an ex parte process, the Court responded favorably.

In an order granting a preliminary injunction, the Florida district court agreed that the sites present an ongoing threat to ABS-CBN’s business and it’s likely they’ll continue to deceive the public by illegally using the company’s trademarks and content without a license.

Judge Robert N.Scola Jr. restrained everyone connected to the sites from “advertising, promoting, copying, broadcasting, publicly performing, and/or distributing” any of ABS-CBN’s content and/or abusing its trademarks.

While this is fairly standard for this kind of process, it was also remarkably easy for ABS-CBN to deprive the sites of their domains.

In his order, the Judge ordered the domain registrars of the ‘pirate’ sites to transfer the domains to a holding account operated by a new registrar of ABS-CBN’s choosing, pending the outcome of the case. If they fail to do that within a single business day, the TLD (top-level domain) registries are instructed to do it for them.

While the case is underway, each domain is ordered to be re-directed away from the pirate sites and towards a new URL displaying copies of the complaint and subsequent orders.

“After the New Registrar has effected this change, the Subject Domain Names shall be placed on lock status, preventing the modification or deletion of the domains by the New Registrar or the Defendants,” the order reads.

While 19 domains are listed, any other domains “properly brought to the Court’s attention” can be seized in the same manner, the order notes.

Since the ‘pirate’ site operators are unlikely to defend the action, the domains are almost certainly out of reach already. ABS-CBN says it now wants $40m in damages, so arguing over the fate of a few domains is probably low on the operators’ agenda.

“We will continue to shut down these pirate sites to protect the public from harm,” said ABS-CBN assistant vice president and head of global anti-piracy Elisha Lawrence.

“There is only one genuine ABS-CBN internet subscription service that is safe for our fans to use and that is TFC and TFC.t.”

The affected domains

cinesilip.net
pinoychanneltv.me
pinoytambayantv.me
pinoytambayanreplay.net
drembed.com
embeds.me
fullpinoymovies.com
lambingan.ph
magtvna.com
pinoye.com
pinoyteleserye.org
pinoytvnetwork.net
pinoytopmovies.info
teleserye.me
watchpinaytv.com
wildpinoy.net
pinoy-hd.com
pinoytvreplay.ws
pinoychannel.co
wowpinoytambayan.ws
pinoytelebyuwers.se

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

Huge Pirate Site Owner To Be Held Under House Arrest

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/huge-pirate-site-owner-to-be-held-under-house-arrest-170506/

Serving more than a million users every day, FS.to was one of Ukraine’s largest pirate sites. Last year it was of the country’s top 20 most popular sites overall, but its focus on video content was to attract negative attention.

With FS.to in its sights for some time, the MPAA eventually filed formal complaints with local authorities. What followed was one of the biggest anti-piracy raids ever seen in Ukraine.

Last November, the cyber crime division of Ukraine’s national police shut down FS.to in what was a large and coordinated multi-location operation.

Authorities said that at least 19 people suspected of running the site via a network of local and offshore companies were arrested. The raids covered both residential and office locations, with swoops on datacenters where dozens of servers were seized.

One of those arrested was alleged FS.to owner Andrew Komlychenko. He was openly connected with the platform for a number of years, granting interviews with local media and discussing the site’s operations. In 2013 the site was reportedly sold to outside investors, but there are indications that the businessman remained involved.

Indeed, it appears that Komlychenko is now in considerable trouble. Alexander Strigunov, the prosecutor in charge of the case against FS.to, is calling for the toughest possible sentence. As a result, Komlychenko will be detained under house arrest for the next two months on a bail of almost $180,000.

Alexander Strigunov (credit)

“[The law] allows for up to six years in prison, but it is too early to begin talking about the sentence,” Strigunov said.

Also of interest is how Ukranian authorities have flip-flopped over what crimes the site and its owners have supposed to have committed. Initially it was made clear that FS.to had been shut down for being a piracy haven, but later it was suggested that non-payment of taxes and possibly money laundering was the main concern.

Of course, as the Megaupload case shows, these offenses aren’t mutually exclusive, but comments this week suggest that the protection of intellectual property with a distinctly political international angle is at the heart of this landmark case.

“I think it is necessary to compensate the losses incurred to foreign companies so that each company knows that its rights are protected not only by their national legislation, but the legislation of the countries where their rights are violated or affected. It is our image at stake,” Strigunov said.

But despite these notable efforts by the Ukrainian authorities, the country can’t seem to catch a break with the US Government. In the USTR’s latest annual Special 301 Report, Ukraine keeps its status as a priority threat.

Following the USTR’s announcement, First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Stepan Kubiv said that his country will continue its efforts to improve its copyright standing with the United States.

“Our task is to ensure proper protection of intellectual property for all creative works,” Kubiv said.

“This will improve the assessment of the Office of the US Trade Representative and the position of Ukraine in the Special 301 Report. That will improve the economic development of Ukraine, encouraging inventions and innovations while attracting significant investment to Ukraine.”

In the meantime, efforts have been underway to resurrect FS.to. At the end of March a new site appeared under the FS.life domain, but for the past several days the site has reportedly been under a DDoS attack and is currently non-functional.

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

Netflix Focuses Piracy Takedown Efforts on “Orange is The New Black” Leak

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-focuses-piracy-takedown-efforts-on-orange-is-the-new-black-leak-170505/

Last Friday, Netflix became the key victim in one of the biggest piracy leaks in history.

A hacking group or person calling itself TheDarkOverlord (TDO) released the premiere episode of the fifth season of Netflix’s Orange is The New Black, followed by nine more episodes a few hours later.

Netflix hasn’t said much about the issue in public, aside from the generic response. “We are aware of the situation. A production vendor used by several major TV studios had its security compromised and the appropriate law enforcement authorities are involved.”

However, it appears that behind the scenes something has changed.

While browsing through Google’s public repository of piracy takedown requests, hosted by Lumen, we noticed that the anti-piracy vendor “IP Arrow” suddenly started to submit requests on Netflix’s behalf.

The first request from IP Arrow came in on Saturday, the day after the leak, and there have been at least a dozen more since.

What’s unusual about these notices is that they only target the leaked “Orange is The New Black” episodes, no other content. This is also clearly reflected in a statement by the anti-piracy firm, which comes with the request.

“This is submitted for my client Netflix These links are facilitating piracy of my client’s work. The work can be seen by visiting their site www.netflix.com. The item this is relating to is Orange Is The New Black Season 5,” it reads.

Although Netflix might not believe that the leak is a disaster for its business, which is also reflected in several opinion pieces published in recent days, the IP-Arrow notices suggest the company is focusing part of its takedown efforts specifically on containing the fallout.

Netflix isn’t new to anti-piracy work. With help from Vobile Inc the company started sending takedown requests to Google roughly a year ago. Unlike IP-Arrow’s requests, Vobile targets a wide variety of content.

A few weeks ago we also reported that Netflix has its own “Global Copyright Protection Group” which is tasked with fighting online piracy. Given the recent leaks, we assume that the group has plenty of work to do now.

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

ISP Lands Supreme Court Win Over Copyright Trolls

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-lands-supreme-court-win-over-copyright-trolls-170505/

Every day, millions of people use BitTorrent to obtain free movies, TV shows, and music but many aren’t aware that their activities can be monitored. Most monitoring is relatively benign but there are companies out there who make a living from threatening to sue file-sharers.

These so-called ‘copyright trolls’ share files along with regular users, capture their IP addresses and trace them back to their ISPs. From there, ISPs are asked to hand over the alleged pirates’ names and addresses so trolls can extract a cash settlement from them, but most ISPs demand a court process before doing so.

Over in Norway, a company called Scanbox Entertainment hired German anti-piracy outfit Excipio to track people sharing the movie ‘The Captive’. Between November 27 and December 1, 2015, the company reportedly found eight customers of telecoms giant Telenor doing so. While the numbers are small, initial cases are often presented this way to attract less attention in advance of bigger moves.

During December 2015, Scanbox sent a request to the Oslo District Court to force Telenor to hand over its subscribers’ information. It also asked the Court to prevent the ISP from deleting or anonymizing logs that could identify the alleged infringers.

In May 2016 Scanbox won its case, and Telenor was ordered to hand over the names and postal addresses of its subscribers. However, determined to protect its customers’ privacy (now and for similar cases in the future), the ISP filed an appeal.

At the Court of Appeal in September 2016, the tables were turned when it was decided that Telenor wouldn’t have to hand over the personal information of its customers after all. The evidence of the alleged infringements failed to show that any sharing was substantial.

But after coming this far and with lots of potential settlement payments at stake, Scanbox refused to give in, taking its case all the way to the Supreme Court where a panel of judges was asked to issue a definitive ruling. The decision just handed down by the Court is bad news for Scanbox.

In essence, the Court weighed Scanbox’s right to protect copyright versus Norwegian citizens’ right to privacy. If the former is to trump the latter, then any copyright infringements must be of a serious nature. The panel of judges at the Supreme Court felt that the evidence presented against Telenor’s customers was not good enough to prove infringement beyond the threshold. The panel, therefore, upheld the earlier decision of the Court of Appeal.

Torgeir Waterhouse of Internet interest group ICT Norway says that online privacy should always be respected and not disregarded as the rightsholders and their law firm, Denmark-based Njord Law, would like.

“This is not about enforcing copyright, this is about what methods are acceptable to use within the law,” Waterhouse says.

“This is an important decision that sends an important message to the licensees and Njord Law that the rule of law can not be set aside in their eagerness to deal with illegal file-sharing. We are very pleased that Njord’s frivolous activity has been stopped. We expect licensees to act responsibly and respect both privacy and the rule of law.”

ScanBox is now required to pay Telenor almost $70,000 in costs, a not insignificant amount that should give reason to pause before future trolling efforts get underway in Norway.

Full decision (Norwegian, pdf)

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

Illegal IPTV & VOD Provider Settles With BREIN

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/illegal-iptv-vod-provider-settles-with-brein-170504/

While movies can be obtained from BitTorrent sites and live TV watched on unlicensed streaming portals, the combined experience generally lacks convenience when compared to official services. There is, however, a massive price difference to sweeten the deal.

Illicit IPTV services, on the other hand, nicely fill the middle ground. Providing decent quality streaming TV with VOD services often alongside, they offer superior convenience at bargain basement prices. As a result, these are increasingly being targeted by copyright holders.

IPTV services are prevalent across Europe with many anti-piracy groups trying to mitigate the threat. One such outfit is Netherlands-based BREIN who recently went to court in an effort to shut down an IPTV supplier.

In an ex-parte application dated April 27, 2017, BREIN asked for an immediate injunction to prevent live TV and on-demand streams being offered by the provider. BREIN described the infringement as both “large scale” and “professional”.

According to the anti-piracy outfit, the supplier offered subscriptions costing between 80 euros and 119.95 euros per year, which provided almost 1,800 channels of infringing content.

Included in the package was a VOD service, which offered around 545 HD movies organized into categories including action, comedy, sci-fi, kids and drama. These kinds of services often contain the latest movies, beyond what even Netflix is able to offer.

Since the content provided by the supplier was accessed via a hyperlink (in this case an .M3U file), BREIN cited the recent GS Media decision from the European Court of Justice, which found that there is a communication to the public when illicit content is supplied via a for-profit link.

The anti-piracy group also noted that streams would often be accompanied by corresponding movie posters or DVD covers, which also amounts to copyright infringement according to local case law.

On May 1, 2017, the supplier received the ex parte order, upon which BREIN agreed to enter into a settlement agreement of 10,000 euros plus further potential multiple penalties of the same amount.

“The provider has the obligation to pay a penalty of 10,000 euros for each individual IPTV subscription, individual hyperlink, or day that he acts in violation of the court order and continues with the sale of IPTV subscriptions,” BREIN said in a statement.

While these amounts may sound large, the initial 10,000 euro settlement seems relatively reasonable given the substantial penalties that could be handed down following a successful direct infringement lawsuit.

Of course, if the supplier wants to avoid further penalties, his service needs to come down, something which is likely to infuriate customers that have already paid money up front. BREIN is happy to pile on the pressure in this respect and is encouraging people to be proactive.

“We advise consumers who bought such a media player and / or subscription to retrieve their money from the seller,” says Kuik.

“Once the links are no longer tracked, the boxes and subscriptions stop working. People are getting excited. It’s better to spend your money on legal offerings, so you pay for innovation and creation and you can keep enjoying new content.”

In the meantime, dozens of similar suppliers will move in to fill the gap. Whether once-bitten customers will risk another spend will remain to be seen but the usual advice around IPTV discussion forums is not to commit to long-term subscriptions – they can end in disappointment.

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

Hollywood Demands Net Neutrality Exceptions to Tackle Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-demands-net-neutrality-exceptions-to-tackle-piracy-170502/

Net neutrality is the notion that ISPs should treat all data traveling via the Internet in the same manner. Providers shouldn’t discriminate based on user, content or platform type, nor devices attached to the network.

While there are plenty of entities who support these principles, the free-flow of information is sometimes perceived as a threat. The concept of so-called fast and slow lanes with variable pricing, for example, has the potential to cause many anti-competitive headaches.

But for the content industries, particularly those involved in movies, TV shows, and other video entertainment, the concept of net neutrality has the potential to complicate plans to block and otherwise restrict access to copyright-infringing material.

As a result, Hollywood is making its feelings known both locally and overseas, including in India where it’s just contributed to the country’s net neutrality debate.

Early 2017, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) asked for input on its “Consultation Paper on Net Neutrality”, the fifth in the past two years aimed at introducing a legal framework for net neutrality.

Published by MediaNama in January, the 14-point questionnaire received responses from many stakeholders, including the Motion Picture Distribution Association, the local division of the MPA/MPAA representing Paramount, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Disney and Warner.

Exceptions to net neutrality principles for pirate content

In response to a question which asked whether there should be exceptions to net neutrality in order for ISPs to implement traffic management practices (TMP), Hollywood is clear. Net neutrality should only ever apply when Internet traffic is lawful, and ISPs should be able to take measures to deal with infringing content.

“For the Motion Picture Association’s members, as representatives of an industry that creates and distributes copyrighted content, it is critical that the Internet does not serve as a haven for illegal activity and that [service providers] should be permitted to take reasonable action to prevent the transfer of stolen copyrighted content,” the Hollywood group writes.

“It is commonly accepted that the requirements of [net neutrality] apply only in respect of access to lawful content. This implies that a [service provider] to, say, block content pursuant to a direction from authorities authorised by law to do so, and after following due process – will not be considered unreasonable.”

The studios say they’re in agreement that the Indian government should have the right to regulate content in “emergency situations” and also whenever content is deemed illegal, so in these instances, net neutrality rules would not apply.

Copyright-infringing content fits the latter category, but the MPA wants the government to include specific wording in any regulation that expressly denotes pirate material as exempt from the freedoms of net neutrality.

“We urge that a clear statement be included in any eventual net neutrality regulation that specifies that pirated and infringing content is unlawful and therefore not subject to the normal net neutrality policy of prohibiting content-based regulations,” the studios say.

Exemptions for blocking and throttling to counter piracy

The idea that infringing content should be blocked, throttled, or otherwise hindered is a cornerstone of Hollywood’s fight against infringing content worldwide, despite it being unable to achieve those things in its own backyard. In India, however, the studios see blocking as a fair response to the spread of infringing content and something that should be allowed under net neutrality rules.

“As a remedy to address the dissemination of, or unauthorized access to, unlawful content, blocking and throttling are necessary and appropriate measures,” the studios note.

“Blocking access to infringing sites is not inconsistent with net neutrality. In fact, blocking illegal sites, especially when they originate from outside the country, is often the only effective remedy to prevent access to illegal content in India.

“[Service providers] must be able to block sites that link, stream, make available, or otherwise communicate to the public unauthorized or illegal content.”

Rightsholders and ISPs should work together

In both the United States and Europe, Hollywood is an advocate of voluntary anti-piracy measures, with content owners and ISPs collaborating to hinder the spread of infringing content. According to its submission to the telecoms regulator, Hollywood would like to see something similar in India.

When forming its regulations, the studios would like to see service providers “encouraged” to work with rightsholders to “employ the best available tools and technologies” to fight piracy while affirming ISPs’ right to use traffic management practices (TMP) to deal with the spread of infringing content.

Furthermore, Hollywood would like a clear statement that the use of TMPs against infringing content “should not depend on an advance judicial or regulatory determination of ‘lawfulness’ prior to every use.” In other words, court oversight should not generally be required.

In conclusion, the MPA underlines that rightsholders and rightsholders alone should have the final say in respect of when, to whom, and under what circumstances they make content available. Should the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India interfere with that right, both domestic and international breaches of law could result.

The full submission can be found here (pdf)

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

Canada and Switzerland Remain on US ‘Pirate Watchlist’ Under President Trump

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/canada-and-switzerland-remain-on-us-pirate-watchlist-under-president-trump-170501/

ustrEvery year the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) publishes its Special 301 Report highlighting countries that aren’t doing enough to protect U.S. intellectual property rights.

The format remains the same as in previous years and lists roughly two dozen countries that, for different reasons, threaten the intellectual property rights of US companies.

The latest report, which just came out, is the first under the administration of President Trump and continues where Obama left off. China, Russia, Ukraine, and India are listed among the priority threats, and Canada and Switzerland remain on the general Watch List.

“One of the top trade priorities for the Trump Administration is to use all possible sources of leverage to encourage other countries to open their markets to U.S. exports of goods and services, and provide adequate and effective protection and enforcement of U.S. intellectual property (IP) rights,” the USTR writes.

One of the main problems the US has with Canada is that it doesn’t allow border protection officials to seize or destroy pirated and counterfeit goods that are passing through.

In addition, the US is fiercely against Canada’s fair dealing rules, which adds educational use to the list of copyright infringement exceptions. According to the US, the language used in the law is too broad, damaging the rights of educational publishers.

“The United States also remains deeply troubled by the broad interpretation of an ambiguous education-related exception to copyright that has significantly damaged the market for educational publishers and authors.”

In the past, Canada has also been called out for offering a safe haven to pirate sites, but there is no mention of this in the 2017 report (pdf).

That said, pirate site hosting remains a problem in many other countries including Switzerland, with the USTR noting that the country has become an “increasingly popular host country for websites offering infringing content” since 2010.

While the Swiss Government is taking steps to address these concerns, another enforcement problem also requires attention. One of the key issues the United States has with Switzerland originates from the so-called ‘Logistep Decision.‘

In 2010 the Swiss Federal Supreme Court barred anti-piracy outfit Logistep from harvesting the IP addresses of file-sharers. The Court ruled that IP addresses amount to private data, and outlawed the tracking of file-sharers in Switzerland.

According to the US, this ruling prevents copyright holders from enforcing their rights, and they call on the Swiss Government to address this concern.

“Switzerland remains on the Watch List this year due to U.S. concerns regarding specific difficulties in Switzerland’s system of online copyright protection and enforcement,” the USTR writes.

“Seven years have elapsed since the issuance of a decision by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, which has been implemented to essentially deprive copyright holders in Switzerland of the means to enforce their rights against online infringers. Enforcement is a critical element of providing meaningful IP protection.”

The above points are merely a selection of the many complaints the United States has about a variety of countries. As is often the case, the allegations are in large part based on reports from copyright-heavy industries, in some cases demanding measures that are not even in effect in the US itself.

By calling out foreign governments, the USTR hopes to elicit change. However, not all countries are receptive to this kind of diplomatic pressure. Canada, for one, said it does’t recognize the Special 301 Report and plans to follow its own path.

“Canada does not recognize the validity of the Special 301 and considers the process and the Report to be flawed,” the Government wrote in a previous memo regarding last year’s report.

“The Report fails to employ a clear methodology and the findings tend to rely on industry allegations rather than empirical evidence and objective analysis,” it added.

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

What Now For ‘Pirate’ Boxes & Streaming Following the ECJ Ruling?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/what-now-for-pirate-boxes-streaming-following-the-ecj-ruling-170429/

On Wednesday, the European Court of Justice handed down its decision in the long-running case between Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN and Filmspeler.nl.

Filmspeler sold Android-type devices with Kodi software installed. However, it augmented otherwise legal setups with third-party addons designed to deliver infringing content to customers.

Filmspeler’s owners felt that its pre-configured devices were legal, but both BREIN and ultimately the ECJ disagreed, with the latter noting that their sale amounted to a “communication to the public” in respect of infringing content.

So what does this decision mean for the sale of so-called “fully-loaded” devices in the EU? In the very short term, probably very little. Longer term, some changes probably lie ahead.

Suppliers

There can be little doubt that one of the first places people turn to for such devices are places like eBay. But despite some recent UK tabloid claims that the auction site had banned their sale, a cursory search today reveals hundreds of listings for devices that are clearly configured for piracy.

Over time – whether due to eBay tightening its policies, more aggressive reporting of infringing listings by rights holders, or increased caution on the part of sellers due to prosecutions – it’s likely that these kinds of blatant ‘pirate’ listings will become much less common. However, sellers will find subtle ways to get their message across, without attracting too much attention.

For instance, people hoping to watch satellite TV without paying for an expensive subscription can head over to eBay and pop the otherwise benign terms “satellite” and “gift” into the search box. Hundreds of listings appear, the majority of which offer a pirate subscription to an illegal card-sharing service. ‘Pirate’ box sellers are likely to employ similar tactics in future.

While sprawling, eBay is relatively easy to police but the same cannot be said of the listings that appear in local classified papers. These ads are often placed by regular people who have nurtured a small cottage industry selling a few boxes per week. These people could find themselves targeted by authorities, but sheer numbers will dictate that most fly under the radar.

For suppliers still intent on shifting volume, safer strategies exist.

Pirate addons? Get ready for a DIY boom

This week’s ECJ ruling has nothing to do with the sale of basic hardware and everything to do with infringing software. In other words, if box suppliers sell devices with little other than an operating system installed, they are not breaking the law. This presents a problem, however.

A typical ‘pirate’ box buyer hasn’t got the knowledge to turn an Android device into a piracy machine, that’s why he bought the thing off eBay in the first instance. This means that these kinds of people will be much less likely to buy if they have to mess around themselves. However, if they only have to click a couple of links to get going, that probably won’t be too much of a problem.

That’s certainly the case with native Android apps such as Showbox, Popcorn Time, Mobdro, and Terrarium TV, which are all installed to a set-top device with a couple of clicks, even by the complete novice. With this in mind, it’s likely that sellers will very gently direct customers to sites offering the software and tutorials, rather than take the risk themselves.

Custom installers for Kodi (such as TVAddons’ Fusion) are also widely available and will no doubt gain further traction if the availability of pre-configured ‘pirate’ boxes is restricted. Expect there to be a lot of innovation in this area, with an emphasis on making this as close to a ‘one-click’ process as possible.

But will users be breaking the law using these setups?

In a word – probably.

Up until this week, it was widely believed that users who merely stream pirated content are not breaking the law. It was a position even held by UK Trading Standards, who have an important prosecution pending against a box seller.

But the ECJ’s decision published on Wednesday appears to have removed all doubt, noting that a “copyright-protected work obtained by streaming from a website belonging to a third party offering that work without the consent of the copyright holder” does not qualify for exemption from reproduction rights.

In other words, streaming copyrighted content from an illicit source is now just as illegal in the EU as downloading from an illicit source. So what does this mean for the average ‘pirate’ box user? In the short term, probably not a great deal.

When a user downloads or streams infringing content, whether that’s from a file-hosting site, streaming portal, or even YouTube, no third parties are legally able to get in the way to monitor what’s going on. The user’s connection is directly communicating with the source, and unlike BitTorrent, there are no easily monitored and potentially risky uploads going on.

So yes, streaming is now apparently confirmed illegal but will remain a hidden offense carried out by dozens of millions of people all around the EU. Even in the face of an ECJ ruling, only their consciences will stand between them and illicit content, whether a box seller installed the addons, or if they did the deed themselves.

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

Selling Piracy-Configured Media Players is Illegal, EU Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/selling-piracy-configured-media-players-is-illegal-eu-court-rules-170426/

Probably the biggest story in online piracy scene over the past 12 months has been the massive increase in popularity of piracy-configured set-top devices.

Mostly running Android, these devices are often supplied with software such as the neutral Kodi platform augmented with third-party addons, each designed to receive the latest films, TV shows or live sports, with minimum input from the user.

One of perhaps hundreds of sites involved in these sales was Netherlands-based Filmspeler.nl (Movie Player), an online store that found itself targeted by Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN. Filmspeler’s owners felt that its pre-configured devices were legal, arguing that their sale did not amount to a “communication to the public” as determined by the EU Copyright Directive.

In 2015, the Dutch District Court referred the case to the EU Court of Justice. It was asked to consider whether it’s illegal to sell a product (in this case a media player) with pre-installed add-ons containing hyperlinks to websites from where copyrighted works such as movies, TV shows and live broadcasts are made available without copyright holders’ permission.

A year later, Advocate General (AG) Campos Sánchez-Bordona issued his recommendation to the Court.

Describing how Filmspeler owner Mr. Wullems knowingly added infringing add-ons to Kodi devices, with hyperlinks to content published by known ‘pirate’ sites, the AG added that Filmspeler advertised its media players as ways to watch content without paying. This, he said, amounted to a communication to the public and hence copyright infringement.

But while the AG’s opinion was important, it is the EU Court of Justice’s opinion that holds absolute legal weight. After months of deliberation it handed down its decision a few minutes ago and it’s bad news for purveyors of ‘pirate’ devices all around the EU.

In a long and complex ruling, the ECJ said that a media player with pre-installed addons, accessed through structured menus, grants users “direct access to the protected works published without the permission of the copyright owners” and “must be regarded as an act of communication to the public.”

That large numbers of people have bought these players was taken by the Court to mean that there are an “indeterminate number of potential viewers” involving a large number of people (the public).

On the crucial question of whether the copyright works were transmitted to a “new public”, the Court found that the audience for these devices was not something taken into account by the copyright holders when they first gave permission for their works to be distributed.

Referencing the earlier GS Media case, the ECJ placed emphasis on whether links were offered in the knowledge they were infringing and whether the subsequent communication to the public had a profit element.

“It is common ground that the sale of the ‘filmerspeler’ multimedia player was made in full knowledge of the fact that the add-ons containing hyperlinks pre-installed on that player gave access to works published illegally on the internet,” the decision reads.

“In addition, it cannot be disputed that the multimedia player is supplied with a view to making a profit, the price for the multimedia player being paid in particular to obtain direct access to protected works available on streaming websites without the consent of the copyright holders.

“Therefore, it is necessary to hold that the sale of such a multimedia player constitutes a ‘communication to the public’, within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29.”

Having determined that such piracy-configured players can be considered infringing by EU member courts, the ECJ goes on to provide greater clarity on the status of copyrighted content streamed on the Internet without copyright holders’ permission.

The ECJ states that reproduction of content may only be exempt from reproduction rights when it fulfils five conditions:

– When the act is temporary
– When it’s transient or incidental
– When it’s an integral and essential part of a technological process
– When the sole purpose of that process is to enable a transmission in a network between third parties by an intermediary or a lawful use of a work or protected subject matter
– The act has no independent economic significance

Since copyrighted works are obtained from streaming websites without obtaining permission from copyright holders, the above standards are not completely met and no copyright exceptions are available. Streaming copyrighted content from an illicit source can therefore be considered illegal.

The Filmspeler case will now head back to the Dutch court but this decision is likely to echo all around Europe and have a notable and immediate effect on pending cases involving ‘pirate’ boxes and illicit streaming.

Update: The two key points from the decision, as published by the ECJ.

1. The concept of ‘communication to the public’, within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, must be interpreted as covering the sale of a multimedia player, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, on which there are pre-installed add-ons, available on the internet, containing hyperlinks to websites — that are freely accessible to the public — on which copyright-protected works have been made available to the public without the consent of the right holders.

2. Article 5(1) and (5) of Directive 2001/29 must be interpreted as meaning that acts of temporary reproduction, on a multimedia player, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, of a copyright-protected work obtained by streaming from a website belonging to a third party offering that work without the consent of the copyright holder does not satisfy the conditions set out in those provisions.

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

The RIAA is Now Copyright Troll Rightscorp’s Biggest Customer

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-riaa-is-now-copyright-troll-rightscorps-biggest-customer-170424/

Nurturing what appears to be a failing business model, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has been on life-support for a number of years, never making a cent while losing millions of dollars.

As a result, every annual report filed by the company is expected to reveal yet more miserable numbers. This year’s, filed two weeks late a few days ago, doesn’t break the trend. It is, however, a particularly interesting read.

For those out of the loop, Rightscorp generates revenue from monitoring BitTorrent networks, logging infringements, and sending warning notices to ISPs. It hopes those ISPs will forward notices to customers who are asked to pay $20 or $30 per offense. Once paid, Rightscorp splits this revenue with its copyright holder customers.

The company’s headline sales figures for 2016 are somewhat similar to those of the previous year. In 2015 the company generated $832,215 in revenue but in 2016 that had dropped to $778,215. While yet another reduction in revenue won’t be welcome, the company excelled in trimming its costs.

In 2015, Rightscorp’s total operating costs were almost $5.47m, something which led the company to a file an eye-watering $4.63 million operational loss.

In 2016, the company somehow managed to reduce its costs to ‘just’ $2.73m, a vast improvement over the previous year. But, despite the effort, Rightscorp still couldn’t make money in 2016. In its latest accounts, the company reveals an operational loss of $1.95m and little salvation on the bottom line.

“During the year ended December 31, 2016, the Company incurred a net loss of $1,355,747 and used cash in operations of $807,530, and at December 31, 2016, the Company had a stockholders’ deficit of $2,092,060,” the company reveals.

While a nose-diving Rightscorp has been a familiar story in recent years, there are some nuggets of information in 2016’s report that makes it stand out.

According to Rightscorp, in 2014 BMG Rights Management accounted for 76% of the company’s sales, with Warner Bros. Entertainment made up a token 13%. In 2015 it was a similar story, but during 2016, big developments took place with a brand new and extremely important customer.

“For the year ended December 31, 2016, our contract with Recording Industry Association of America accounted for approximately 44% of our sales, and our contract with BMG Rights Management accounted for 23% of our sales,” the company’s report reveals.

The fact that the RIAA is now Rightscorp’s biggest customer to the tune of $342,000 in business during 2016 is a pretty big reveal, not only for the future of the anti-piracy company but also the interests of millions of BitTorrent users around the United States.

While it’s certainly possible that the RIAA plans to start sending settlement demands to torrent users (Warner has already done so), there are very clear signs that the RIAA sees value in Rightscorp elsewhere. As shown in the table below, between 2015 and 2016 there has been a notable shift in how Rightscorp reports its revenue.

In 2015, all of Rightscorp’s revenue came from copyright settlements. In 2016, roughly 50% of its revenue (a little over the amount accounted for by the RIAA’s business) is listed as ‘consulting revenue’. It seems more than likely that the lion’s share of this revenue came from the RIAA, but why?

On Friday the RIAA filed a big lawsuit against Texas-based ISP Grande Communications. Detailed here, the multi-million suit accuses the ISP of failing to disconnect subscribers accused of infringement multiple times.

The data being used to prosecute that case was obtained by the RIAA from Rightscorp, who in turn collected that data from BitTorrent networks. The company obtained a patent under its previous Digital Rights Corp. guise which specifically covers repeat infringer identification. It has been used successfully in the ongoing case against another ISP, Cox Communications.

In short, the RIAA seems to be planning to do to Grande Communications what BMG and Rightscorp have already done to Cox. They will be seeking to show that Grande knew that its subscribers were multiple infringers yet failed to disconnect them from the Internet. This inaction, they will argue, means that Grande loses its protection from liability under the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA.

Winning the case against Grande Communications is extremely important for the RIAA and for reasons best understood by the parties involved, it clearly places value on the data held by Rightscorp. Whether the RIAA will pay another few hundred thousand dollars to the anti-piracy outfit in 2017 remans to be seen, but Rightscorp will be hoping so as it’s desperate for the cash.

The company’s year-end filing raises “substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern” while noting that its management believes that the company will need at least another $500,000 to $1,000,000 to fund operations in 2017.

This new relationship between the RIAA and Rightscorp is an interesting one and one that’s likely to prove controversial. Grande Communications is being sued today, but the big question is which other ISPs will follow in the months and years to come.

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