Tag Archives: Anti-Piracy

Copyright Holders Want ISPs to Police Pirate Sites and Issue Warnings

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-holders-want-isps-to-police-pirate-sites-and-issue-warnings-171124/

Online piracy is a worldwide phenomenon and increasingly it ends up on the desks of lawmakers everywhere.

Frustrated by the ever-evolving piracy landscape, copyright holders are calling on local authorities to help out.

This is also the case in South Africa at the moment, where the Government is finalizing a new Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill.

Responding to a call for comments, anti-piracy group SAFACT, film producers, and local broadcaster M-Net seized the opportunity to weigh in with some suggestions. Writing to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, they ask for measures to make it easier to block pirate sites and warn copyright infringers.

“A balanced approach to address the massive copyright infringement on the Internet is necessary,” they say.

On the site-blocking front, the copyright holder representatives suggest an EU-style amendment that would allow for injunctions against ISPs to bar access to pirate sites.

“It is suggested that South Africa should consider adopting technology-neutral ‘no fault’ enforcement legislation that would enable intermediaries to take action against online infringements, in line with Article 8.3 of the EU Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC), which addresses copyright infringement through site blocking,” it reads.

Request and response (via Business Tech)

In addition, ISPs should also be obliged to take further measures to deter piracy. New legislation should require providers to “police” unauthorized file-sharing and streaming sites, and warn subscribers who are caught pirating.

“Obligations should be imposed on ISPs to co-operate with rights-holders and Government to police illegal filesharing or streaming websites and to issue warnings to end-users identified as engaging in illegal file-sharing and to block infringing content,” the rightsholders say.

The demands were made public by the Department recently, which also included an official response from the Government. While the suggestions are not dismissed based on their content, they don’t fit the purpose of the legislation.

“The Bill does not deal with copyright infringements. These aspects must be dealt with in terms of copyright-related legislation,” the Department writes.

SAFACT, the filmmakers, and M-Net are not without options though. The Government points out that the new Copyright Amendment Bill, which was introduced recently, would be a better fit for these asks. So it’s likely that they will try again.

This doesn’t mean that any of the proposed language will be adopted, of course. However, now that the demands are on the table, South Africans are likely to hear more blocking and warning chatter in the near future.

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

170 ‘Pirate’ IPTV Vendors Throw in the Towel Facing Legal Pressure

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/170-pirate-iptv-vendors-throw-the-in-the-towel-facing-legal-pressure-171121/

Pirate streaming boxes are all the rage this year. Not just among the dozens of millions of users, they are on top of the anti-piracy agenda as well.

Dubbed Piracy 3.0 by the MPAA, copyright holders are trying their best to curb this worrisome trend. In the Netherlands local anti-piracy group BREIN is leading the charge.

Backed by the major film studios, the organization booked a significant victory earlier this year against Filmspeler. In this case, the European Court of Justice ruled that selling or using devices pre-configured to obtain copyright-infringing content is illegal.

Paired with the earlier GS Media ruling, which held that companies with a for-profit motive can’t knowingly link to copyright-infringing material, this provides a powerful enforcement tool.

With these decisions in hand, BREIN previously pressured hundreds of streaming box vendors to halt sales of hardware with pirate addons, but it didn’t stop there. This week the group also highlighted its successes against vendors of unauthorized IPTV services.

“BREIN has already stopped 170 illegal providers of illegal media players and/or IPTV subscriptions. Even providers that only offer illegal IPTV subscriptions are being dealt with,” BREIN reports.

In addition to shutting down the trade in IPTV services, the anti-piracy group also removed 375 advertisements for such services from various marketplaces.

“This is illegal commerce. If you wait until you are warned, you are too late,” BREIN director Tim Kuik says.

“You can be held personally liable. You can also be charged and criminally prosecuted. Willingly committing commercial copyright infringement can lead to a 82,000 euro fine and 4 years imprisonment,” he adds.

While most pirate IPTV vendors threw in the towel voluntarily, some received an extra incentive. Twenty signed a settlement with BREIN for varying amounts, up to tens of thousands of euros. They all face further penalties if they continue to sell pirate subscriptions.

In some cases, the courts were involved. This includes the recent lawsuit against MovieStreamer, that was ordered to stop its IPTV hyperlinking activities immediately. Failure to do so will result in a 5,000 euro per day fine. In addition, the vendor was also ordered to pay legal costs of 17,527 euros.

While BREIN has booked plenty of successes already, as exampled here, the pirate streaming box problem is far from solved. The anti-piracy group currently has one case pending in court, but more are likely to follow in the near future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danes Deploy ‘Disruption Machine’ to Curb Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/danes-deploy-disruption-machine-to-curb-online-piracy-171119/

Over the years copyright holders have tried a multitude of measures to curb copyright infringement, with varying levels of success.

By now it’s well known that blocking or even shutting down a pirate site doesn’t help much. As long as there are alternatives, people will simply continue to download or stream elsewhere.

Increasingly, major entertainment industry companies are calling for a broader and more coordinated response. They would like to see ISPs, payment processors, advertisers, search engines, and social media companies assisting in their anti-piracy efforts. Voluntarily, or even with a legal incentive, if required.

In Denmark, local anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen has a similar goal and they are starting to make progress. The outfit is actively building a piracy “disruption machine” that tackles the issue from as many sides as it can.

The disruption machine is built around an Infringing Website List (IWL), which is not related to a similarly-named initiative from the UK police. This list is made up of pirate sites that have been found to facilitate copyright infringement by a Danish court.

“The IWL is a part of the disruption machine that RettighedsAlliancen has developed in collaboration with many stakeholders in the online community,” the group’s CEO Maria Fredenslund tells TorrentFreak.

The stakeholders include major ISPs, but also media companies, MasterCard, Google, and Microsoft. With help from the local government they signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Their goal is to make the internet a safe and legitimate platform for consumers and businesses while limiting copyright infringement and associated crime.

MoU signees

There are currently twelve court orders on which the list is based and two more are expected to come in before the end of the year. As a result, approximately 600 pirate sites are on the IWL, making them harder to find.

Every time a new court order is handed down, RettighedsAlliancen distributes an updated list to their the network of stakeholders.

“Currently, all major ISPs in Denmark have agreed to implement the IWL in their systems based on a joint Code of Conduct. This means that all the ISPs jointly will block their customers access to infringing services thus amplifying the impact of a blocking order by magnitudes,” Fredenslund explains.

Thus far ISPs are actively blocking 100 pirate sites, resulting in significant traffic drops. The rest of the list has yet to be implemented.

The IWL is also used in the online advertising industry, where several major advertising brokers have signed a joint agreement not to show advertising on these sites. This shuts off part of the revenue streams to pirate sites which, in theory, should make them less profitable.

A similar approach is being taken by major payment providers, who are preventing known pirate sites from processing transactions through their services. Every company has its own measures, but the overlapping goal is to frustrate pirate sites and reduce copyright infringement.

The Disruption Machine

It’s interesting to see that Google is listed as a partner since they don’t support general website blockades. However, Google said that it would demote sites on the IWL in its search results.

While these are all positive developments, according to the anti-piracy group, it’s just the start. RettighedsAlliancen also believes other tools and services could join in. Browser plugins could use the IWL to identify illegal sites, for example, and the options are endless.

“Likewise, large companies, institutions, and public authorities are also well-suited to implement the IWL in their local networks. For example, to prevent students from accessing illegal content while at school or university,” Fredenslund says.

“Looking further ahead, social media platforms such as Facebook are used to a great extent to consume content online and it is therefore obvious that they should also incorporate the IWL in their systems to prevent their users from harm and preventing copyright infringement.”

This model is not completely unique, of course. We’ve seen several elements being implemented in other countries as well, and copyright holders have been pushing voluntary agreements for quite some time now.

What’s new, however, is that it’s clearly defined as a strategy by the Danish group. And by labeling the strategy as a “disruption machine” it already sounds effective, which is part of the job.

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

“The Commercial Usenet Stinks on All Sides,” Anti-Piracy Boss Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/the-commercial-usenet-stinks-on-all-sides-anti-piracy-boss-says-171118/

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has targeted pirates of all shapes and sizes over the past several years.

It’s also one of the few groups keeping a close eye on Usenet piracy. Although Usenet and associated piracy are a few decades old already and relatively old-fashioned, the area still has millions of frequent users. This hasn’t escaped the attention of law enforcement.

Last week police in Germany launched one of the largest anti-piracy operations in recent history. Houses of dozens of suspects connected to Usenet forums were searched, with at least 1,000 gigabytes of data and numerous computers seized for evidence.

In their efforts, German authorities received help from international colleagues in the Netherlands, Spain, San Marino, Switzerland and Canada. Rightfully so, according to BREIN boss Tim Kuik, who describes Usenet as a refuge for pirates.

“Usenet was originally for text only. People were able to ask questions and exchange information via newsgroups. After it became possible to store video and music as Usenet text messages, it became a refuge for illegal copies of everything. That’s where the revenue model is based on today,” Kuik says.

BREIN states that uploaders, Usenet forums, and Usenet resellers all work in tandem. Resellers provide free accounts to popular uploaders, for example, which generates more traffic and demand for subscriptions. That’s how resellers and providers earn their money.

The same resellers also advertise on popular Usenet forums where links to pirated files are shared, suggesting that they specifically target these users. For example, one of the resellers targeted by BREIN in the past, was sponsoring one of the sites that were raided last week, BREIN notes.

Last year BREIN signed settlements with several Usenet uploaders. This was in part facilitated by a court order, directing Usenet provider Eweka to identify a former subscriber who supposedly shared infringing material.

Following this verdict, several Dutch Usenet servers were taken over by a San Marino company. But, according to BREIN this company can also be ordered to share customer information if needed.

“It is not unthinkable that this construction has been called into existence by Usenet companies who find themselves in hot water,” Kuik says.

According to BREIN it’s clear. Large parts of Usenet have turned into a playground for pirates and people who profit from copyright infringement. This all happens while the legitimate rightsholders don’t see a penny.

“For a long time, there’s been a certain smell to the commercial Usenet,” Kuik says. “It’s stinking on all sides.”

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

The Truth Behind the “Kodi Boxes Can Kill Their Owners” Headlines

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-truth-behind-the-kodi-boxes-can-kill-their-owners-headlines-171118/

Another week, another batch of ‘Kodi Box Armageddon’ stories. This time it hasn’t been directly about the content they can provide but the physical risks they pose to their owners.

After being primed in advance, the usual British tabloids jumped into action early Thursday, noting that following tests carried out on “illicit streaming devices” (aka Android set-top devices), 100% of them failed to meet UK national electrical safety regulations.

The tests were carried out by Electrical Safety First, a charity which was prompted into action by anti-piracy outfit Federation Against Copyright Theft.

“A series of product safety tests on popular illicit streaming devices entering the UK have found that 100% fail to meet national electrical safety regulations,” a FACT statement reads.

“The news is all the more significant as the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) estimates that more than one million of these illegal devices have been sold in the UK in the last two years, representing a significant risk to the general public.”

After reading many sensational headlines stating that “Kodi Boxes Might Kill Their Owners”, please excuse us for groaning. This story has absolutely nothing – NOTHING – to do with Kodi or any other piece of software. Quite obviously, software doesn’t catch fire.

So, suspecting that there might be more to this than meets the eye, we decided to look beyond the press releases into the actual Electrical Safety First (ESF) report. While we have no doubt that ESF is extremely competent in its field (it is, no question), the front page of its report is disappointing.

Despite the items sent for testing being straightforward Android-based media players, the ESF report clearly describes itself as examining “illicit streaming devices”. It’s terminology that doesn’t describe the subject matter from an electrical, safety or technical perspective but is pretty convenient for FACT clients Sky and the Premier League.

Nevertheless, the full picture reveals rather more than most of the headlines suggest.

First of all, it’s important to know that ESF tested just nine devices out of the million or so allegedly sold in the UK during the past two years. Even more importantly, every single one of those devices was supplied to ESF by FACT.

Now, we’re not suggesting they were hand-picked to fail but it’s clear that the samples weren’t provided from a neutral source. Also, as we’ll learn shortly, it’s possible to determine in advance if an item will fail to meet UK standards simply by looking at its packaging and casing.

But perhaps even more intriguing is that the electrical testing carried out by ESF related primarily not to the set-top boxes themselves, but to their power supplies. ESF say so themselves.

“The product review relates primarily to the switched mode power supply units for the connection to the mains supply, which were supplied with the devices, to identify any potential risks to consumers such as electric shocks, heating and resistance to fire,” ESF reports.

The set-top boxes themselves were only assessed “in terms of any faults in the marking, warnings and instructions,” the group adds.

So, what we’re really talking about here isn’t dangerous illicit streaming devices set-top boxes, but the power supply units that come with them. It might seem like a small detail but we’ll come to the vast importance of this later on.

Firstly, however, we should note that none of the equipment supplied by FACT complied with Schedule 1 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. This means that they failed to have the “Conformité Européene” or CE logo present. That’s unacceptable.

In addition, none of them lived up the requirements of Schedule 3 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 either, which in part requires the manufacturer’s brand name or trademark to be “clearly printed on the electrical equipment or, where that is not possible, on the packaging.” (That’s how you can tell they’ll definitely fail UK standards, before sending them for testing)

Also, none of the samples were supplied with “sufficient safety or warning information to ensure the safe and correct use, assembly, installation or maintenance of the equipment.” This represents ‘a technical breach’ of the regulations, ESF reports.

Finally, several of the samples were considered to be a potential risk to their users, either via electric shock and/or fire. That’s an important finding and people who suspect they have such devices at home should definitely take note.

However, the really important point isn’t mentioned in the tabloids, probably since it distracts from the “Kodi Armageddon” narrative which underlies the whole study and subsequent reports.

ESF says that one of the key issues is that the set-top boxes come unbranded, something which breaches safety regulations while making it difficult for consumers to assess whether they’re buying a quality product. Crucially, this is not exclusively a set-top box problem, it is much, MUCH bigger.

“Issues with power supply units or unbranded and counterfeit chargers go beyond illicit streaming devices. In the last year, issues have been reported with other consumer electrical devices, such as laptop chargers and counterfeit phone chargers,” the same ESF report reveals.

“The total annual online sales of mains plug-in chargers is estimated to be in the region of 1.8 million and according to Electrical Safety First, it is likely that most of these sales involve cheap, unbranded chargers.”

So, we looked into this issue of problem power supplies and chargers generally, to see where this report fits into the bigger picture. It transpires it’s a massive problem, all over the UK, across a wide range of products. In fact, Trading Standards reports that 99% of non-genuine Apple chargers bought online “fail a basic safety test”.

But buying from reputable High Street retailers doesn’t help either.

During the past year, Poundworld was fined for selling – wait for it – 72,000 dangerous chargers. Home Bargains was also fined for selling “thousands” of power adaptors that fail to meet UK standards.

“All samples provided failed to comply with Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations and were not marked with the manufacturer’s name,” Trading Standards reports.

That sounds familiar.

So, there you have it. Far from this being an isolated “Kodi Box Crisis” as some have proclaimed, this is a broad issue affecting imported electrical items in general. On this basis, one can’t help but think the tabloids missed a trick here. Think of the power of this headline:

ALL UNBRANDED ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT CAN KILL, DISCONNECT EVERYTHING

or, alternatively:

PIRATES URGED TO SWITCH TO BRANDED AMAZON FIRESTICKS, SAFER FOR KODI

Perhaps not….

The ESF report can be found here (pdf)

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

Ares Kodi Project Calls it Quits After Hollywood Cease & Desist

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

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

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

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

The mighty Ares Wizard in action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft Sued Over ‘Baseless’ Piracy Threats

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/microsoft-sued-over-baseless-piracy-threats-171113/

For many years, Microsoft and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) have carried out piracy investigations into organizations large and small.

Companies accused of using Microsoft software without permission usually get a letter asking them to pay up, or face legal consequences.

Rhode Island-based company Hanna Instruments is one of the most recent targets. The company stands accused of using Microsoft Office products without a proper license.

However, instead of Microsoft going after Hanna in court for copyright infringement, Hanna has filed a lawsuit against BSA and Microsoft asking for a declaratory judgment that it did nothing wrong.

The lawsuit is the result of a long back-and-forth that started in June. At the time, BSA’s lawyers sent Hanna a letter accusing it of using Microsoft products without a proper license, while requesting an audit.

Hanna’s management wasn’t aware of any pirated products but after repeated requests, the company decided to go ahead and conduct a thorough investigation. The results, combined in a detailed spreadsheet, showed that it purchased 126 copies of Microsoft Office software, while only 120 were in use.

Perfectly fine, they assumed, but the BSA was not convinced.

Since Hanna only had Microsoft generated key cards for the most recent purchases, the company used purchase orders, requisitions, and price quotes to prove that it properly licensed earlier copies of Microsoft Office. Not good enough, according to the BSA, which wanted to see money instead.

The BSA’s lawyers informed Hanna that the company would face up to $4,950,000 in damages if the case went to court. Instead, however, they offered to settle the matter for $72,074.

From the complaint

Hanna wasn’t planning to pay and pointed out that they sent in as much proof as they could find, documenting legal purchases of Microsoft Office licenses for a period covering more than ten years. While the BSA appreciated the effort, it didn’t accept this as hard evidence.

“…the provision of purchase orders, price quotes, purchase requisitions are not acceptable as valid proof of purchase to our client. Reason being, the aforesaid documents do not demonstrate that a purchase has taken place, they merely establish intent to make a purchase of software,” the BSA wrote in yer another email.

Interestingly, the BSA itself still failed to provide any solid proof that Hanna was using unlicensed software. The Rhode Island company repeatedly requested this, but the BSA simply replied that it’s neither appropriate nor efficient to request evidence from their clients in every case.

The BSA then went a step further and suggested that Microsoft did the company a favor by approaching it directly. The alternative would have been to call in the U.S. Marshals and raid the company’s headquarters.

“The rights holders had the alternative option of simply commencing litigation and seeking a court order permitting a raid by U.S. Marshals,” the BSA’s lawyers wrote in one of their letters.

This ‘threat’ wasn’t completely in vain. In the past, the BSA and Microsoft’s accusations have developed into fully-fledged raids, with armed law enforcement officials assisting the software vendor, taking away computers for further inspection.

Still, Hanna maintained that it didn’t do anything wrong. At this point, they’d spent $25,000 on disproving the BSA’s “baseless” claims, and saw no other option than to take the matter to court.

Late last week the company submitted a complaint against Microsoft and the BSA in a Rhode Island federal court, asking for a declaratory judgment and monetary compensation.

“To date, the Defendants have not provided any documentation supporting the baseless allegation that Hanna illegally copied Microsoft Office, in spite of repeated requests by Plaintiff’s counsel that BSA produce such information,” the complaint reads.

“By this Complaint, Hanna seeks a declaration by the Court that it has not infringed any Microsoft copyrights, that Hanna has been harmed by BSA’s relentless and unsupported charges, and that Defendants pay Hanna’s costs and expenses for this action, together with reasonable attorney fees, and any additional monetary award this Court deems appropriate.”

It’s now up to the court to decide who’s right and who’s wrong, but the case already provides a rare and intriguing insight into the anti-piracy practices of Microsoft and the BSA.

This isn’t the first time that one of these cases has gone to court. In Belgium, the BSA and Microsoft lost a similar case. Here, a local company was ordered to pay a settlement on the spot or lose its computers. With law enforcement at the ready, the owner decided to pay, despite owning valid licenses.

The full complaint is available here (pdf).

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

Hollywood Studios Force ISPs to Block Popcorn Time & Subtitle Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-isps-to-block-popcorn-time-subtitle-websites-171113/

Early 2014, a new craze was sweeping the piracy world. Instead of relatively cumbersome text-heavy torrent sites, people were turning to a brand new application called Popcorn Time.

Dubbed the Netflix for Pirates due to its beautiful interface, Popcorn Time was soon a smash hit all over the planet. But with that fame came trouble, with anti-piracy outfits all over the world seeking to shut it down or at least pour cold water on its popularity.

In the meantime, however, the popularity of Kodi skyrocketed, something which pushed Popcorn Time out of the spotlight for a while. Nevertheless, the application in several different forms never went away and it still enjoys an impressive following today. This means that despite earlier action in several jurisdictions, Hollywood still has it on the radar.

The latest development comes out of Norway, where Disney Entertainment, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Columbia Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios and Warner Bros. have just taken 14 local Internet service providers to court.

The studios claimed that the ISPs (including Telenor, Nextgentel, Get, Altibox, Telia, Homenet, Ice Norge, Eidsiva Bredbånd and Lynet Internet) should undertake broad blocking action to ensure that three of the most popular Popcorn Time forks (located at popcorn-time.to, popcorntime.sh and popcorn-time.is) can no longer function in the region.

Since site-blocking necessarily covers the blocking of websites, there appears to have been much discussion over whether a software application can be considered a website. However, the court ultimately found that wasn’t really an issue, since each application requires websites to operate.

“Each of the three [Popcorn Time variants] must be considered a ‘site’, even though users access Popcorn Time in a way that is technically different from the way other pirate sites provide users with access to content, and although different components of the Popcorn Time service are retrieved from different domains,” the Oslo District Court’s ruling reads.

In respect of all three releases of Popcorn Time, the Court weighed the pros and cons of blocking, including whether blocking was needed at all. However, it ultimately decided that alternative methods for dealing with the sites do not exist since the rightsholders tried and ultimately failed to get cooperation from the sites’ operators.

“All sites have as their main purpose the purpose of facilitating infringement of protected works by giving the public unauthorized access to movies and TV shows. This happens without regard to the rights of others and imposes major losses on the licensees and the cultural industry in general,” the Court writes.

The Court also supported compelling ISPs to introduce the blocks, noting that they are “an appropriate and proportionate measure” that does not interfere with the Internet service providers’ freedom to operate nor anyone’s else’s right to freedom of expression.

But while the websites in question are located in three places (popcorn-time.to, popcorntime.sh and popcorn-time.is) the Court’s blocking order goes much further. Not only does it cover these key domains but also other third-party sites that Popcorn Time utilizes, such as platforms offering subtitles.

Popcorn-time.to related domains to be blocked: popcorn-time.to, popcorn-time.xyz, popcorn-time.se, iosinstaller.com, video4time.info, thepopcorntime.net, timepopcorn.info, time-popcorn.com, the-pop-corn-time.net, timepopcorn.net, time4videostream.com, ukfrnlge.xyz, opensubtitles.org, onlinesubtitles.com, popcorntime-update.xyz, plus subdomains.

Popcorntime.sh related domains to be blocked: Popcorntime.sh, api-fetch.website, yts.ag, opensubtitles.org, plus subdomains.

Popcorn-time.is related domains to be blocked: popcorn-time.is, yts.ag, yify.is, yts.ph, api-fetch.website, eztvapi.ml and opensubtitles.org, plus subdomains.

Separately, the Court ordered the ISPs to block torrent site YTS.ag and onlinesubtitles.com, opensubtitles.org, plus their subdomains.

Since no one appeared to represent the sites and the ISPs can’t be held responsible if they cooperate, the Court found that the studios had succeeding in their action and are entitled to compensation.

“The Court’s conclusions mean that the plaintiffs have won the case and, in principle, are entitled to compensation for their legal costs from the operators of the sites,” the Court notes. “This means that the operators of sites are ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ costs.”

Those costs amount to 570,000 kr (around US$70,000), an amount which the Court chose to split equally between the three Popcorn Time forks ($23,359 each). It seems unlikely the amounts will ever be recovered although there is still an opportunity for the parties to appeal.

In the meantime the ISPs have just days left to block the sites listed above. Once they’ve been put in place, the blocks will remain in place for five years.

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

MPAA Lobbies US Congress on Streaming Piracy Boxes

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-lobbies-us-congress-on-streaming-piracy-boxes-171112/

As part of its quest to reduce piracy, the MPAA continues to spend money on its lobbying activities, hoping to sway lawmakers in its direction.

While the lobbying talks take place behind closed doors, quarterly disclosure reports provide some insight into the items under discussion.

The MPAA’s most recent lobbying disclosure form features several new topics that weren’t on the agenda last year.

Among other issues, the Hollywood group lobbied the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives on set-top boxes, preloaded streaming piracy devices, and streaming piracy in general.

The details of these discussions remain behind closed doors. The only thing we know for sure is what Hollywood is lobbying on, but it doesn’t take much imagination to take an educated guess on the ‘why’ part.

Just over a year ago streaming piracy boxes were hardly mentioned in anti-piracy circles, but today they are on the top of the enforcement list. The MPAA is reporting these concerns to lawmakers, to see whether they can be of assistance in curbing this growing threat.

Some of the lobbying topics

It’s clear that pirate streaming players are a prime concern for Hollywood. MPA boss Stan McCoy recently characterized the use of these devices as “Piracy 3.0” and a coalition of industry players sued a US-based seller of streaming boxes earlier this month.

The lobbying efforts themselves are nothing new of course. Every year the MPAA spends around $4 million to influence the decisions of lawmakers, both directly and through external lobbying firms such as Covington & Burling, Capitol Tax Partners, and Sentinel Worldwide.

While piracy streaming boxes are new on the agenda this year, they are not the only topics under discussion. Other items include trade deals such as the TPP, TTIP, and NAFTA, voluntary domain name initiatives, EU digital single market proposals, and cybersecurity.

TorrentFreak reached out to the MPAA for more information on the streaming box lobbying efforts, but we have yet to hear back.

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

Russia Plans Instant Movie Pirate Site Blockades, Without Court Order

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-plans-instant-movie-pirate-site-blockades-without-court-order-171108/

A decade ago online pirates had more or less free rein in Russia, but much has changed in recent years.

With the introduction of several new laws, the country has been very aggressive in its anti-piracy approach, outpacing the United States and other western countries in several key areas.

At the center of many of these efforts is Rozcomnadzor. The controversial Russian Government body is responsible for managing web-blockades against pirate portals and other disruptive sites, which are censored on a broad scale.

In addition to regular pirate sites, Rozcomnadzor also has the power to block their proxies and mirrors, and even VPN services which can be used to circumvent these measures. However, according to a recent proposal from the Russian government, this is not enough.

A new amendment that that was published by the Ministry of Culture proposes to allow for near-instant pirate site blockades to protect the local movie industry, Vedomosti reports.

Russian officials state that people often skip a visit to the movie theater when a pirated copy is available, depriving the makers of a crucial source of income. While filmmakers and other copyright holders can already report infringing sites, it’s a relatively slow process.

At the moment, website owners are given three days to remove infringing content before any action is taken. Under the new proposal, site blockades would be implemented less than 24 hours after Rozcomnadzor is alerted. Website owners will not get the chance to remove the infringing content and a court order isn’t required either.

Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s Minister of Culture, has been a proponent of such pre-judicial blockades for a while, but his previous proposals didn’t receive support in the State Duma.

The new blocking plans go further than any of the previous legislation, but they will only apply to movies that have “a national film certificate” from Russian authorities, as HWR points out. This doesn’t cover any Hollywood movies, which typically top the local box office.

Hollywood’s industry group MPAA is not going to appreciate being left out, but its critique isn’t new. Despite all the new anti-piracy laws, the group is generally critical of Russia’s copyright enforcement policies.

“Russia needs to increase its enforcement activity well beyond current levels to provide adequate and effective enforcement of IPR violations, including the imposition of criminal deterrent penalties,” the MPAA wrote in its recent trade barriers report.

That said, the group was positive about the new law that allows rightsholders to have proxy sites and mirrors banned.

“The recently-enacted amendment to the Anti-Piracy law should constrain the ability of wrongdoers to simply modify their internet sites and continue to operate in violation of the law,” the MPAA added.

From a Hollywood perspective, it certainly beats blocking no sites at all, which is largely the case in the US at the moment.

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

Sky: People Can’t Pirate Live Soccer in the UK Anymore

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sky-people-cant-pirate-live-soccer-in-the-uk-anymore-171108/

The commotion over the set-top box streaming phenomenon is showing no signs of dying down and if day one at the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) Conference 2017 was anything to go by, things are only heating up.

Held at Studio City in Macau, the conference has a strong anti-piracy element and was opened by Joe Welch, CASBAA Board Chairman and SVP Public Affairs Asia, 21st Century Fox. He began Tuesday by noting the important recent launch of a brand new anti-piracy initiative.

“CASBAA recently launched the Coalition Against Piracy, funded by 18 of the region’s content players and distribution partners,” he said.

TF reported on the formation of the coalition mid-October. It includes heavyweights such as Disney, Fox, HBO, NBCUniversal and BBC Worldwide, and will have a strong focus on the illicit set-top box market.

Illegal streaming devices (or ISDs, as the industry calls them), were directly addressed in a segment yesterday afternoon titled Face To Face. Led by Dr. Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright & IP Enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office, the session detailed the “onslaught of online piracy” and the rise of ISDs that is apparently “shaking the market”.

Given the apparent gravity of those statements, the following will probably come as a surprise. According to Lynch, the UK IPO sought the opinion of UK-based rightsholders about the pirate box phenomenon a while back after being informed of their popularity in the East. The response was that pirate boxes weren’t an issue. It didn’t take long, however, for things to blow up.

“The UKIPO provides intelligence and evidence to industry and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in London who then take enforcement actions,” Lynch explained.

“We first heard about the issues with ISDs from [broadcaster] TVB in Hong Kong and we then consulted the UK rights holders who responded that it wasn’t a problem. Two years later the issue just exploded.”

The evidence of that in the UK isn’t difficult to find. In addition to millions of devices with both free Kodi addon and subscription-based systems deployed, the app market has bloomed too, offering free or near to free content to all.

This caught the eye of the Premier League who this year obtained two pioneering injunctions (1,2) to tackle live streams of football games. Streams are blocked by local ISPs in real-time, making illicit online viewing a more painful experience than it ever has been. No doubt progress has been made on this front, with thousands of streams blocked, but according to broadcaster Sky, the results are unprecedented.

“Site-blocking has moved the goalposts significantly,” said Matthew Hibbert, head of litigation at Sky UK.

“In the UK you cannot watch pirated live Premier League content anymore,” he said.

While progress has been good, the statement is overly enthusiastic. TF sources have been monitoring the availability of pirate streams on around dozen illicit sites and services every Saturday (when it is actually illegal to broadcast matches in the UK) and service has been steady on around half of them and intermittent at worst on the rest.

There are hundreds of other platforms available so while many are definitely affected by Premier League blocking, it’s safe to assume that live football piracy hasn’t been wiped out. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to suggest that no progress has been made, in this and other related areas.

Kevin Plumb, Director of Legal Services at The Premier League, said that pubs showing football from illegal streams had also massively dwindled in numbers.

“In the past 18 months the illegal broadcasting of live Premier League matches in pubs in the UK has been decimated,” he said.

This result is almost certainly down to prosecutions taken in tandem with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), that have seen several landlords landed with large fines. Indeed, both sides of the market have been tackled, with both licensed premises and IPTV device sellers being targeted.

“The most successful thing we’ve done to combat piracy has been to undertake criminal prosecutions against ISD piracy,” said FACT chief Kieron Sharp yesterday. “Everyone is pleading guilty to these offenses.”

Most if not all of FACT-led prosecutions target device and subscription sellers under fraud legislation but that could change in the future, Lynch of the Intellectual Property Office said.

“While the UK works to update its legislation, we can’t wait for the new legislation to take enforcement actions and we rely heavily on ‘conspiracy to defraud’ charges, and have successfully prosecuted a number of ISD retailers,” she said.

Finally, information provided yesterday by network company CISCO shine light on what it costs to run a subscription-based pirate IPTV operation.

Director of Intelligence & Security Operations Avigail Gutman said a pirate IPTV server offering 1,000 channels to around 1,000 subscribers can cost as little as 2,000 euros per month to run but can generate 12,000 euros in revenue during the same period.

“In April of 2017, ten major paid TV and content providers had relinquished 3.09 million euros per month to 285 ISD-based streaming pirate syndicates,” she said.

There’s little doubt that IPTV piracy, both paid and free, is here to stay. The big question is how it will be tackled short and long-term and whether any changes in legislation will have any unintended knock-on effects.

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

MPAA Warns Australia Not to ‘Mess’ With Fair Use and Geo-Blocking

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-warns-australia-not-mess-with-fair-use-and-geo-blocking-171107/

Last year, the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission published a Draft Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements, recommending various amendments to local copyright law.

The Commission suggested allowing the use of VPNs and similar technologies to enable consumers to bypass restrictive geo-blocking. It also tabled proposals to introduce fair use exceptions and to expand safe harbors for online services.

Two months ago the Government responded to these proposals. It promised to expand the safe harbor protections and announced a consultation on fair use, describing the current fair dealing exceptions as restrictive. The Government also noted that circumvention of geo-blocks may be warranted, in some cases.

While the copyright reform plans have been welcomed with wide support from the public and companies such as Google and Wikipedia, there’s also plenty of opposition. From Hollywood, for example, which fears that the changes will set back Australia’s progress to combat piracy.

A few days ago, the MPAA submitted its 2018 list of foreign trade barriers to the U.S. Government. The document in question highlights key copyright challenges in the most crucial markets, Australia included. According to the movie industry group, the tabled proposals are problematic.

“If the Commission’s recommendations were adopted, they could result in legislative changes that undermine the current balance of protection in Australia. These changes could create significant market uncertainty and effectively weaken Australia’s infrastructure for intellectual property protection,” the MPAA writes.

“Of concern is a proposal to introduce a vague and undefined ‘fair use’ exception unmoored from decades of precedent in the United States. Another proposal would expand Australia’s safe harbor regime in piecemeal fashion,” the group adds.

The fair use opposition is noteworthy since the Australian proposal is largely modeled after US law. The MPAA’s comment suggests, however, that this can’t be easily applied to another country, as that would lack the legal finetuning that’s been established in dozens of court cases.

That the MPAA isn’t happy with the expansion of safe harbor protections for online service providers is no surprise. In recent years, copyright holders have often complained that these protections hinder progress on the anti-piracy front, as companies such as Google and Facebook have no incentive to proactively police copyright infringement.

Moving on, the movie industry group highlights that circumvention of geo-blocking for copyrighted content and other protection measures are also controversial topics for Hollywood.

“Still another would allow circumvention of geo-blocking and other technological protection measures. Australia has one of the most vibrant creative economies in the world and its current legal regime has helped the country become the site of major production investments.

“Local policymakers should take care to ensure that Australia’s vibrant market is not inadvertently impaired and that any proposed relaxation of copyright and related rights protection does not violate Australia’s international obligations,” the MPAA adds.

Finally, while it was not included in the commission’s recommendations, the MPAA stresses once again that Australia’s anti-camcording laws are not up to par.

Although several camming pirates have been caught in recent years, the punishments don’t meet Hollywood’s standards. For example, in 2012 a man connected to a notorious release group was convicted for illicitly recording 14 audio captures, for which he received an AUS$2,000 fine.

“Australia should adopt anticamcording legislation. While illegal copying is a violation of the Copyright Act, more meaningful deterrent penalties are required,” the MPAA writes. “Such low penalties fail to reflect the devastating impact that this crime has on the film industry.”

The last suggestion has been in the MPAA’s recommendations for several years already, but the group is persistent.

In closing, the MPAA asks the US Government to keep these and other issues in focus during future trade negotiations and policy discussions with Australia and other countries, while thanking it for the critical assistance Hollywood has received over the years.

MPAA’s full submission, which includes many of the recommendations that were made in previous years, is available here (pdf).

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

Top 10 Torrent Site TorrentDownloads Blocked By Chrome and Firefox

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-torrent-site-torrentdownloads-blocked-by-chrome-and-firefox-171107/

While the popularity of torrent sites isn’t as strong as it used to be, dozens of millions of people use them on a daily basis.

Content availability is rich and the majority of the main movie, TV show, game and software releases appear on them within minutes, offering speedy and convenient downloads. Nevertheless, things don’t always go as smoothly as people might like.

Over the past couple of days that became evident to visitors of TorrentDownloads, one of the Internet’s most popular torrent sites.

TorrentDownloads – usually a reliable and tidy platform

Instead of viewing the rather comprehensive torrent index that made the Top 10 Most Popular Torrent Site lists in 2016 and 2017, visitors receive a warning.

“Attackers on torrentdownloads.me may trick you into doing something dangerous like installing software or revealing your personal information (for example, passwords, phone numbers or credit cards),” Chrome users are warned.

“Google Safe Browsing recently detected phishing on torrentdownloads.me. Phishing sites pretend to be other websites to trick you.”

Chrome warning

People using Firefox also receive a similar warning.

“This web page at torrentdownloads.me has been reported as a deceptive site and has been blocked based on your security preferences,” the browser warns.

“Deceptive sites are designed to trick you into doing something dangerous, like installing software, or revealing your personal information, like passwords, phone numbers or credit cards.”

A deeper check on Google’s malware advisory service echoes the same information, noting that the site contains “harmful content” that may “trick visitors into sharing personal info or downloading software.” Checks carried out with MalwareBytes reveal that service blocking the domain too.

TorrentFreak spoke with the operator of TorrentDownloads who told us that the warnings had been triggered by a rogue advertiser which was immediately removed from the site.

“We have already requested a review with Google Webmaster after we removed an old affiliates advertiser and changed the links on the site,” he explained.

“In Google Webmaster they state that the request will be processed within 72 Hours, so I think it will be reviewed today when 72 hours are completed.”

This statement suggests that the site itself wasn’t the direct culprit, but ads hosted elsewhere. That being said, these kinds of warnings look very scary to visitors and sites have to take responsibility, so completely expelling the bad player from the platform was the correct choice. Nevertheless, people shouldn’t be too surprised at the appearance of suspect ads.

Many top torrent sites have suffered from similar warnings, including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, which are often a product of anti-piracy efforts from the entertainment industries.

In the past, torrent and streaming sites could display ads from top-tier providers with few problems. However, in recent years, the so-called “follow the money” anti-piracy tactic has forced the majority away from pirate sites, meaning they now have to do business with ad networks that may not always be as tidy as one might hope.

While these warnings are the very last thing the sites in question want (they’re hardly good for increasing visitor numbers), they’re a gift to entertainment industry groups.

At the same time as the industries are forcing decent ads away, these alerts provide a great opportunity to warn users about the potential problems left behind as a result. A loose analogy might be deliberately cutting off beer supply to an unlicensed bar then warning people not to go there because the homebrew sucks. It some cases it can be true, but it’s a problem only being exacerbated by industry tactics.

It’s worth noting that no warnings are received by visitors to TorrentDownloads using Android devices, meaning that desktop users were probably the only people at risk. In any event, it’s expected that the warnings will disappear during the next day, so the immediate problems will be over. As far as TF is informed, the offending ads were removed days ago.

That appears to be backed up by checks carried out on a number of other malware scanning services. Norton, Opera, SiteAdvisor, Spamhaus, Yandex and ESET all declare the site to be clean.

Technical Chrome and Firefox users who are familiar with these types of warnings can take steps (Chrome, FF) to bypass the blocks, if they really must.

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

Aussie ‘Pirate’ Blocking Efforts Switch to Premium IPTV

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/aussie-pirate-blocking-efforts-switch-to-premium-iptv-171106/

Website blocking has become one of the leading anti-piracy mechanisms in recent years and is particularly prevalent across Europe, where thousands of sites are now off-limits by regular means.

More recently the practice spread to Australia, where movie and music industry bodies have filed several applications at the Federal Court. This has rendered dozens of major torrent and streaming inaccessible in the region, after local ISPs complied with orders compelling them to prevent subscriber access.

While such blocking is now commonplace, Village Roadshow and a coalition of movie studios have now switched tack, targeting an operation offering subscription-based IPTV services.

The action targets HDSubs+, a fairly well-known service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee, at least versus the real deal.

A small selection of channels in the HDSubs+ package

ComputerWorld reports that the application for the injunction was filed last month. In common with earlier requests, it targets Australia’s largest ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus the subsidiaries.

Access to HDSubs.com appears to be limited, possibly by the platform’s operators, so that visitors from desktop machines are redirected back to Google. However, access to the platform is available by other means and that reveals a fairly pricey IPTV offering.

As seen in the image below, the top package (HD Subs+), which includes all the TV anyone could need plus movies and TV shows on demand, weighs in at US$239.99 per year, around double the price of similar packages available elsewhere.

Broad selection of channels but quite pricey

If the court chooses to grant the injunction, ISPs will not only have to block the service’s main domain (HDSubs.com) but also a range of others which provide the infrastructure for the platform.

Unlike torrent and streaming sites which tend to be in one place (if we discount proxies and mirrors), IPTV services like HD Subs often rely on a number of domains to provide a sales platform, EPG (electronic program guide), software (such as an Android app), updates, and sundry other services.

As per CW, in the HD Subs case they are: ois001wfr.update-apk.com, ois005yfs.update-apk.com, ois003slp.update-apk.com, update002zmt.hiddeniptv.com, apk.hiddeniptv.com, crossepg003uix.hiddeniptv.com, crossepg002gwj.hiddeniptv.com, mpbs001utb.hiddeniptv.com, soft001rqv.update-apk.com and hdsubs.com.

This switch in tactics by Village Roadshow and the other studios involved is subtle but significant. While torrent and streaming sites provide a largely free but fragmented experience, premium IPTV services are direct commercial competitors, often providing a more comprehensive range of channels and services than the broadcasters themselves.

While quality may not always be comparable with their licensed counterparts, presentation is often first class, giving the impression of an official product which is comfortably accessed via a living room TV. This is clearly a concern to commercial broadcasters.

As reported last week, global IPTV traffic is both huge and growing, so expect more of these requests Down Under.

Previous efforts to block IPTV services include those in the UK, where the Premier League takes targeted action against providers who provide live soccer. These measures only target live streams when matches are underway and as far as we’re aware, there are no broader measures in place against any provider.

This could mean that the action in Australia, to permanently block a provider in its entirety, is the first of its kind anywhere.

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

US Court Grants ISPs and Search Engine Blockade of Sci-Hub

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-court-grants-isps-and-search-engine-blockade-of-sci-hub-171106/

Earlier this year the American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry, filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub and its operator Alexandra Elbakyan.

The non-profit organization publishes tens of thousands of articles a year in its peer-reviewed journals. Because many of these are available for free on Sci-Hub, ACS wants to be compensated.

Sci-Hub was made aware of the legal proceedings but did not appear in court. As a result, a default was entered against the site.

In addition to millions of dollars in damages, ACS also requested third-party Internet intermediaries to take action against the site.

The broad request was later adopted in a recommendation from Magistrate Judge John Anderson. This triggered a protest from the tech industry trade group CCIA, which represents global tech firms including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, that warned against the broad implications. However, this amicus brief was denied.

Just before the weekend, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a final decision which is a clear win for ACS. The publisher was awarded the maximum statutory damages of $4.8 million for 32 infringing works, as well as a permanent injunction.

The injunction is not limited to domain name registrars and hosting companies, but expands to search engines, ISPs and hosting companies too, who can be ordered to stop linking to or offering services to Sci-Hub.

“Ordered that any person or entity in active concert or participation with Defendant Sci-Hub and with notice of the injunction, including any Internet search engines, web hosting and Internet service providers, domain name registrars, and domain name registries, cease facilitating access to any or all domain names and websites through which Sci-Hub engages in unlawful access to, use, reproduction, and distribution of ACS’s trademarks or copyrighted works,” the injunction reads.

part of the injunction

There is a small difference with the recommendation from the Magistrate Judge. Instead of applying the injunction to all persons “in privity” with Sci-Hub, it now applies to those who are “in active concert or participation” with the pirate site.

The injunction means that Internet providers, such as Comcast, can be requested to block users from accessing Sci-Hub. That’s a big deal since pirate site blockades are not common in the United States. The same is true for search engine blocking of copyright-infringing sites.

It’s clear that the affected Internet services will not be happy with the outcome. While the CCIA’s attempt to be heard in the case failed, it’s likely that they will protest the injunction when ACS tries to enforce it.

Previously, Cloudflare objected to a similar injunction where the RIAA argued that it was “in active concert or participation” with the pirate site MP3Skull. Here, Cloudflare countered that the DMCA protects the company from liability for the copyright infringements of its customers, limiting the scope of anti-piracy injunctions.

However, a Florida federal court ruled that the DMCA doesn’t apply in these cases.

It’s likely that ISPs and search engines will lodge similar protests if ACS tries to enforce the injunction against them.

While this case is crucial for copyright holders and Internet services, Sci-Hub itself doesn’t seem too bothered by the blocking prospect or the millions in damages it must pay on paper.

It already owes Elsevier $15 million, which it can’t pay, and a few million more or less doesn’t change anything. Also, the site has a Tor version which can’t be blocked by Internet providers, so determined scientists will still be able to access the site if they want.

The full order is available here (pdf) and a copy of the injunction can be found here (pdf).

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

Fate of The Furious Cammers Found Guilty, Hollywood Fails to Celebrate?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/fate-of-the-furious-cammers-found-guilty-hollywood-fails-to-celebrate-171105/

Earlier this year Hollywood’s MPAA helped local police catch two camcording pirates at a movie theater in Linthicum, Maryland.

Troy Cornish and Floyd Buchanan were spotted with recording equipment, preparing to target the US premiere of The Fate of the Furious.

According to Anne Arundel County Police, both were caught inside the theater while they were recording. The men reportedly wore camming harnesses under their clothing, which strapped mobile phones against their chests.

The MPAA’s involvement in the case is no surprise. The anti-piracy organization is the go-to outfit when it comes to content security at movie theaters and often keeps a close eye on known suspects.

In fact, at the time, an MPAA investigator told police that Buchanan was already known to the industry group as a movie piracy suspect.

Soon after the first reports of the arrests were released, dozens of news outlets jumped on the story. Rightly so, as ‘camming’ movie pirates are rarely caught. However, when the two were convicted this summer it was awfully quiet. There was no mention in the news at all.

While a few months late, this means we can break the news today. Despite claiming their innocence during trial, both Cornish and Buchanan were found guilty at the Glen Burnie District Court.

The court sentenced the two men to a suspended jail sentence of a year, as well as 18 months probation.

The sentence

While this is a serious sentence, it’s likely not the result the MPAA and the major Hollywood studios were hoping for. Despite the cammers’ attempt to illegally record one of the biggest blockbusters of the year, they effectively escaped prison.

If both were jailed for a substantial period there would undoubtedly be a press release to celebrate, but nothing of the like happened during the summer.

The above may sound a bit odd, but it’s totally understandable. The sentences in these cases are likely seen as too mild by Hollywood’s standards, so what’s the purpose of highlighting them? Anti-piracy messaging is mostly about scaring people and deterrence, and this case doesn’t fit that picture.

Still, the MPAA’s investigators are not going to stop. If either of the two men are caught again, it will be hard to avoid prison. Perhaps we’ll hear more then.

The MPAA didn’t respond to our request for comment.

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

Piracy ‘Fines’ Awareness Causes 13% of Pirates to Stop Pirating, Study Finds

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-fines-awareness-cause-13-of-pirates-to-stop-pirating-study-finds-171105/

Figuring out what to do about the online piracy problem is an ongoing puzzle for rightsholders everywhere. What they’re all agreed upon, however, is the need to educate the public.

Various approaches have been deployed, from ISP-based ‘education’ notices through to the current practice of painting pirate sites as havens for viruses and malware. The other approach, of course, has been to threaten to sue pirates in an effort to make them change their ways.

These threats have traditionally been deployed by so-called copyright trolls – companies and groups who have the sole intention of extracting cash payments from pirates in order to generate an additional revenue stream. At the same time, many insist that their programs are also designed to reduce piracy via word of mouth.

While that might be true in some cases, there’s little proof that the approach works. However, a new study carried out on behalf of the Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Center (CIAPC) in Finland suggests that they may have had some effect.

The survey was carried out between 11 September 2017 and 10 October 2017 among people aged 15 to 79-years-old. In total, 1001 people were interviewed, 77% of whom said they’d never used pirate services.

Of all people interviewed, 43% said they’d heard about copyright holders sending settlement letters to Internet users, although awareness rates were higher (between 51% and 55%) among people aged between 25 and 49-years-old. Predictably, awareness jumped to 70% among users of pirate services and it’s these individuals that produced some of the study’s most interesting findings.

Of the pirates who said they were aware of settlement letters being sent out, 13% reported that they’d terminated their use of pirate services as a result. A slightly higher figure, 14%, said they’d reduced their use of unauthorized content.

Perhaps surprisingly (given that they aren’t likely to receive a letter), the study also found that 17% of people who listen to or play content on illegal online services (implication: streaming) stopped doing so, with 13% cutting down on the practice.

“According to the Economic Research Survey, these two groups of respondents are partly overlapping, but it can still be said that the settlement letters have had a decisive impact on the use of pirated services,” CIAPC reports.

The study also found support for copyright holders looking to unmask alleged Internet pirates by compelling their ISPs to do so in court.

“The survey found that 65 percent of the population is fully or partly in favor of rightsholders being allowed to find out who has infringed their rights anonymously on the Internet,” the group adds.

Overall, just 17% of respondents said that rightsholders shouldn’t be able to find out people’s identities. Unsurprisingly, young pirates objected more than the others, with 35% of 25 to 49-year-old pirates coming out against disclosure. That being said, this figure suggests that 65% of pirates in this group are in favor of pirates being unmasked. That appears counter-intuitive, to say the least.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Pirate Party vice council member of Espoo City Janne Paalijärvi says that study seems to have omitted to consider the effects of legal alternatives on pirate consumption.

“The analysis seemingly forgets to fully take into account the prevalence of legal streaming services such as Netflix,” Paalijärvi says.

“Legitimate, reasonably-priced and easy-to-use delivery platforms are the number one weapon against piracy. Not bullying your audience with copyright extortion letters. The latter approach creates unwanted hostility between artists and customers. It also increases the demand for political parties wanting to balance copyright legislation.”

Overall, however, Finland doesn’t appear to have a serious problem with piracy, at least as far as public perceptions go. According to the study, only 5% of citizens believe that unauthorized file-sharing is acceptable. The figure for 2016 was 7%.

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

Trolls Want to Seize Alleged Movie Pirates’ Computers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/trolls-want-to-seize-alleged-movie-pirates-computers-171101/

Five years ago, a massive controversy swept Finland. Local anti-piracy group CIAPC (known locally as TTVK) sent a letter to a man they accused of illegal file-sharing.

The documents advised the man to pay a settlement of 600 euros and sign a non-disclosure document, to make a threatened file-sharing lawsuit disappear. He made the decision not to cave in.

Then, in November 2012, there was an 8am call at the man’s door. Police, armed with a search warrant, said they were there to find evidence of illicit file-sharing. Eventually the culprit was found. It was the man’s 9-year-old daughter who had downloaded an album by local multi-platinum-selling songstress Chisu from The Pirate Bay, a whole year earlier.

Police went on to seize the child’s Winnie the Pooh-branded laptop and Chisu was horrified, posting public apologies on the Internet to her young fans. Five years on, it seems that pro-copyright forces in Finland are treading the same path.

Turre Legal, a law firm involved in defending file-sharing matters, has issued a warning that copyright trolls have filed eight new cases at the Market Court, the venue for previous copyright battles in the country.

“According to information provided by the Market Court, Crystalis Entertainment, previously active in such cases, filed three new copyright cases and initiated five pre-trial applications in October 2017,” says lawyer Herkko Hietanen.

The involvement of Crystalis Entertainment adds further controversy into the mix. The company isn’t an official movie distributor but obtained the rights to distribute content on BitTorrent networks instead. It doesn’t do so officially, instead preferring to bring prosecutions against file-sharers’ instead.

Like the earlier ‘Chisu’ case, the trolls’ law firms have moved extremely slowly. Hietanen reports that some of the new cases reference alleged file-sharing that took place two years ago in 2015.

“It would seem that right-holders want to show that even old cases may have to face justice,” says Hietanen.

“However, applications for enforceability may be a pre-requisite for computer confiscation by a bailiff for independent investigations. It is possible that seizures of the teddy bears of the past years will make a comeback,” he added, referencing the ‘Chisu’ case.

Part of the reason behind the seizure requests is that some people defending against copyright trolls have been obtaining reports from technical experts who have verified that no file-sharing software is present on their machines. The trolls say that this is a somewhat futile exercise since any ‘clean’ machine can be presented for inspection. On this basis, seizure on site is a better option.

While the moves for seizure are somewhat aggressive, things haven’t been getting easier for copyright trolls in Finland recently.

In February 2017, an alleged file-sharer won his case when a court ruled that copyright holders lacked sufficient evidence to show that the person in question downloaded the files, in part because his Wi-Fi network was open to the public

Then, in the summer of 2017, the Market Court tightened the parameters under which Internet service providers are compelled to hand over the identities of suspected file-sharers to copyright owners.

The Court determined that this could only happen in serious cases of unlawful distribution. This, Hietanen believes, is partially the reason that the groups behind the latest cases are digging up old infringements.

“After the verdict of the summer, I assumed that rightsholders would have to operate with old information, at least for a while,” he says. “Rightsholders want to show that litigation is still possible.”

The big question, of course, is what people should do if they receive a settlement letter. In some jurisdictions, the advice is to ignore, until proper legal documentation arrives.

Hietanen says the matter in Finland is serious and should be treated as such. There’s always a possibility that after failing to receive a response, a copyright holder could go to court to obtain a default judgment, meaning the alleged file-sharer is immediately found guilty.

In the current cases, the Market Court will now have to decide whether unannounced seizures are required to preserve evidence. For cases already dating back two years, there will be plenty of discussions to be had, for and against. But in the meantime, Hedman Partners, the company representing the copyright trolls, warn that more cases are on the way.

“We have put in place new requests for information after the summer. We have a large number of complaints in preparation. More are coming,” lawyer Joni Hatanmaa says.

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