Tag Archives: Breaking News

Rightscorp Bleeds Another Million, Borrows $200K From Customer BMG

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-bleeds-another-million-borrows-200k-from-customer-bmg-170819/

Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp is one of the many companies trying to turn Internet piracy into profit. The company has a somewhat novel approach but has difficulty balancing the books.

Essentially, Rightscorp operates like other so-called copyright-trolling operations, in that it monitors alleged offenders on BitTorrent networks, tracks them to their ISPs, then attempts to extract a cash settlement. Rightscorp does this by sending DMCA notices with settlement agreements attached, in the hope that at-this-point-anonymous Internet users break cover in panic. This can lead to a $20 or $30 ‘fine’ or in some cases dozens of multiples of that.

But despite settling hundreds of thousands of these cases, profit has thus far proven elusive, with the company hemorrhaging millions in losses. The company has just filed its results for the first half of 2017 and they contain more bad news.

In the six months ended June 2017, revenues obtained from copyright settlements reached just $138,514, that’s 35% down on the $214,326 generated in the same period last year. However, the company did manage to book $148,332 in “consulting revenue” in the first half of this year, a business area that generated no revenue in 2016.

Overall then, total revenue for the six month period was $286,846 – up from $214,326 last year. While that’s a better picture in its own right, Rightscorp has a lot of costs attached to its business.

After paying out $69,257 to copyright holders and absorbing $1,190,696 in general and administrative costs, among other things, the company’s total operating expenses topped out at $1,296,127 for the first six months of the year.

To make a long story short, the company made a net loss of $1,068,422, which was more than the $995,265 loss it made last year and despite improved revenues. The company ended June with just $1,725 in cash.

“These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued,” the company’s latest statement reads.

This hanging-by-a-thread narrative has followed Rightscorp for the past few years but there’s information in the latest accounts which indicates how bad things were at the start of the year.

In January 2016, Rightscorp and several copyright holders, including Hollywood studio Warner Bros, agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over intimidating robo-calls that were made to alleged infringers. The defendants agreed to set aside $450,000 to cover the costs, and it appears that Rightscorp was liable for at least $200,000 of that.

Rightscorp hasn’t exactly been flush with cash, so it was interesting to read that its main consumer piracy settlement client, music publisher BMG, actually stepped in to pay off the class-action settlement.

“At December 31, 2016, the Company had accrued $200,000 related to the settlement of a class action complaint. On January 7, 2017, BMG Rights Management (US) LLC (“BMG”) advanced the Company $200,000, which was used to pay off the settlement. The advance from BMG is to be applied to future billings from the Company to BMG for consulting services,” Rightscorp’s filing reads.

With Rightscorp’s future BMG revenue now being gobbled up by what appears to be loan repayments, it becomes difficult to see how the anti-piracy outfit can make enough money to pay off the $200,000 debt. However, its filing notes that on July 21, 2017, the company issued “an aggregate of 10,000,000 shares of common stock to an investor for a purchase price of $200,000.” While that amount matches the BMG debt, the filing doesn’t reveal who the investor is.

The filing also reveals that on July 31, Rightscorp entered into two agreements to provide services “to a holder of multiple copyrights.” The copyright holder isn’t named, but the deal reveals that it’s in Rightscorp’s best interests to get immediate payment from people to whom it sends cash settlement demands.

“[Rightscorp] will receive 50% of all gross proceeds of any settlement revenue received by the Client from pre-lawsuit ‘advisory notices,’ and 37.5% of all gross proceeds received by the Client from ‘final warning’ notices sent immediately prior to a lawsuit,” the filing notes.

Also of interest is that Rightscorp has offered not to work with any of the copyright holders’ direct competitors, providing certain thresholds are met – $10,000 revenue in the first month to $100,000 after 12 months. But there’s more to the deal.

Rightscorp will also provide a number of services to this client including detecting and verifying copyright works on P2P networks, providing information about infringers, plus reporting, litigation support, and copyright protection advisory services.

For this, Rightscorp will earn $10,000 for the first three months, rising to $85,000 per month after 16 months, valuable revenue for a company fighting for its life.

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

Porn Producer Says He’ll Prove That AMC TV Exec is a BitTorrent Pirate

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/porn-producer-says-hell-prove-that-amc-tv-exec-is-a-bittorrent-pirate-170818/

When people are found sharing copyrighted pornographic content online in the United States, there’s always a chance that an angry studio will attempt to track down the perpertrator in pursuit of a cash settlement.

That’s what adult studio Flava Works did recently, after finding its content being shared without permission on a number of gay-focused torrent sites. It’s now clear that their target was Marc Juris, President & General Manager of AMC-owned WE tv. Until this week, however, that information was secret.

As detailed in our report yesterday, Flava Works contacted Juris with an offer of around $97,000 to settle the case before trial. And, crucially, before Juris was publicly named in a lawsuit. If Juris decided not to pay, that amount would increase significantly, Flava Works CEO Phillip Bleicher told him at the time.

Not only did Juris not pay, he actually went on the offensive, filing a ‘John Doe’ complaint in a California district court which accused Flava Works of extortion and blackmail. It’s possible that Juris felt that this would cause Flava Works to back off but in fact, it had quite the opposite effect.

In a complaint filed this week in an Illinois district court, Flava Works named Juris and accused him of a broad range of copyright infringement offenses.

The complaint alleges that Juris was a signed-up member of Flava Works’ network of websites, from where he downloaded pornographic content as his subscription allowed. However, it’s claimed that Juris then uploaded this material elsewhere, in breach of copyright law.

“Defendant downloaded copyrighted videos of Flava Works as part of his paid memberships and, in violation of the terms and conditions of the paid sites, posted and distributed the aforesaid videos on other websites, including websites with peer to peer sharing and torrents technology,” the complaint reads.

“As a result of Defendant’ conduct, third parties were able to download the copyrighted videos, without permission of Flava Works.”

In addition to demanding injunctions against Juris, Flava Works asks the court for a judgment in its favor amounting to a cool $1.2m, more than twelve times the amount it was initially prepared to settle for. It’s a huge amount, but according to CEO Phillip Bleicher, it’s what his company is owed, despite Juris being a former customer.

“Juris was a member of various Flava Works websites at various times dating back to 2006. He is no longer a member and his login info has been blocked by us to prevent him from re-joining,” Bleicher informs TF.

“We allow full downloads, although each download a person performs, it tags the video with a hidden code that identifies who the user was that downloaded it and their IP info and date / time.”

We asked Bleicher how he can be sure that the content downloaded from Flava Works and re-uploaded elsewhere was actually uploaded by Juris. Fine details weren’t provided but he’s insistent that the company’s evidence holds up.

“We identified him directly, this was done by cross referencing all his IP logins with Flava Works, his email addresses he used and his usernames. We can confirm that he is/was a member of Gay-Torrents.org and Gayheaven.org. We also believe (we will find out in discovery) that he is a member of a Russian file sharing site called GayTorrent.Ru,” he says.

While the technicalities of who downloaded and shared what will be something for the court to decide, there’s still Juris’ allegations that Bleicher used extortion-like practices to get him to settle and used his relative fame against him. Bleicher says that’s not how things played out.

“[Juris] hired an attorney and they agreed to settle out of court. But then we saw him still accessing the file sharing sites (one site shows a user’s last login) and we were waiting on the settlement agreement to be drafted up by his attorney,” he explains.

“When he kept pushing the date of when we would see an agreement back we gave him a final deadline and said that after this date we would sue [him] and with all lawsuits – we make a press release.”

Bleicher says at this point Juris replaced his legal team and hired lawyer Mark Geragos, who Bleicher says tried to “bully” him, warning him of potential criminal offenses.

“Your threats in the last couple months to ‘expose’ Mr. Juris knowing he is a high profile individual, i.e., today you threatened to issue a press release, to induce him into wiring you close to $100,000 is outright extortion and subject to criminal prosecution,” Geragos wrote.

“I suggest you direct your attention to various statutes which specifically criminalize your conduct in the various jurisdictions where you have threatened suit.”

Interestingly, Geragos then went on to suggest that the lawsuit may ultimately backfire, since going public might affect Flava Works’ reputation in the gay market.

“With respect to Mr. Juris, your actions have been nothing but extortion and we reject your attempts and will vigorously pursue all available remedies against you,” Geragos’ email reads.

“We intend to use the platform you have provided to raise awareness in the LGBTQ community of this new form of digital extortion that you promote.”

But Bleicher, it seems, is up for a fight.

“Marc knows what he did and enjoyed downloading our videos and sharing them and those of videos of other studios, but now he has been caught,” he told the lawyer.

“This is the kind of case I would like to take all the way to trial, win or lose. It shows
people that want to steal our copyrighted videos that we aggressively protect our intellectual property.”

But to the tune of $1.2m? Apparently so.

“We could get up to $150,000 per infringement – we have solid proof of eight full videos – not to mention we have caught [Juris] downloading many other studios’ videos too – I think – but not sure – the number was over 75,” Bleicher told TF.

It’s quite rare for this kind of dispute to play out in public, especially considering Juris’ profile and occupation. Only time will tell if this will ultimately end in a settlement, but Bleicher and Juris seemed determined at this stage to stand by their ground and fight this out in court.

Complaint (pdf)

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

Court Orders Aussie ISPs to Block Dozens of Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-aussie-isps-to-block-dozens-of-pirate-sites-170818/

Rather than taking site operators to court, copyright holders increasingly demand that Internet providers should block access to ‘pirate’ domains.

As a result, courts all around the world have ordered ISPs to block subscriber access to various pirate sites.

This is also happening in Australia where the first blockades were issued late last year. In December, the Federal Court ordered ISPs to block The Pirate Bay and several other sites, which happened soon after.

However, as is often the case with website blocking, one order is not enough as there are still plenty of pirate sites and proxies readily available. So, several rightsholders including movie studio Village Roadshow and local broadcaster Foxtel went back to court.

Today the Federal Court ruled on two applications that cover 59 pirate sites in total, including many popular torrent and streaming portals.

The first order was issued by Justice John Nicholas, who directed several Internet providers including IINet, Telstra, and TPG to block access to several pirate sites. The request came from Village Roadshow, which was backed by several major Hollywood studios.

The order directs the ISPs to stop passing on traffic to 41 torrent and streaming platforms including Demonoid, RARBG, EZTV, YTS, Gomovies, and Fmovies. The full list of blocked domains is even longer, as it also covers several proxies.

“The infringement or facilitation of infringement by the Online Locations is flagrant and reflect a blatant disregard for the rights of copyright owners,” the order reads.

“By way of illustration, one of the Online Locations is accessible via the domain name ‘istole.it’ and it and many others include notices encouraging users to implement technology to frustrate any legal action that might be taken by copyright owners.”

In a separate order handed down by Federal Court Judge Stephen Burley, another 17 sites are ordered blocked following a request from Foxtel. This includes popular pirate sites such as 1337x, Torlock, Putlocker, YesMovies, Vumoo, and LosMovies.

The second order also includes a wide variety of alternative locations, including proxies, which brings the total number of targeted domain names to more than 160.

As highlighted by SHM, the orders coincide with the launch of a new anti-piracy campaign dubbed “The Price of Piracy,” which is organized by Creative Content Australia. Lori Flekser, Executive director of the non-profit organization, believes that the blockades will help to significantly deter piracy.

“Not only is there decreasing traffic to pirate sites but there is a subsequent increase in traffic to legal sites,” she said.

At the same time, she warns people not to visit proxy and mirror sites, as these could be dangerous. This message is also repeated by her organization’s campaign, which warns that pirate sites can be filled with ransomware, spyware, trojans, viruses, bots, rootkits and worms.

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

New Premier League Blocking Disrupts Pirate IPTV Providers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-premier-league-blocking-disrupts-pirate-iptv-providers-170814/

Top tier football in the UK is handled by the English Premier League (EPL) and broadcasting partners Sky and BT Sport. All face considerable problems with Internet piracy, through free web or Kodi-based streaming and premium IPTV feeds.

To mitigate the threat, earlier this year the Premier League obtained a unique High Court injunction which required ISPs such as Sky, BT, and Virgin to block ‘pirate’ football streams in real-time.

Although the success of the program was initially up for debate, the EPL reported it was able to block 5,000 server IP addresses that were streaming its content. When that temporary injunction ran out, the EPL went back to court for a new one, valid for the season that began this past weekend. There are signs the EPL may have upped its game.

As soon as the matches began on Saturday, issues were reported at several of the more prominent IPTV providers. Within minutes of the match streams going live, subscribers to affected services were met with black screens, causing anger and frustration. While some clearly knew that action was on the cards, relatively few had an effective plan in place.

One provider, which targets subscribers in the UK, scrambled to obtain new domain names, thinking that the existing domains had been placed on some kind of Premier League blacklist. While that may have indeed been the case, making a service more obscure in that sense was never going to outwit the systems deployed by the anti-piracy outfits involved.

Indeed, the provider in question was subjected to much chaos over both Saturday and Sunday, since it’s clear that large numbers of subscribers had absolutely no idea what was going on. Even if they understood that the EPL was blocking, the change of domain flat-footed the rest. The subsequent customer service chaos was not a pretty sight but would’ve been a pleasure for the EPL to behold.

An interesting side effect of this EPL action is that even if IPTV subscribers don’t care about football, many were affected this past weekend anyway.

TF is aware of at least three services (there are probably many more) that couldn’t service their UK customers with any other channels whatsoever while the Premier League games were being aired. This suggests that the IP addresses hit by the EPL and blocked by local ISPs belonged to the same servers carrying the rest of the content offered by the IPTV providers.

When the High Court handed down its original injunction it accepted that some non-Premier League content could be blocked at the same time but since that “consists almost exclusively of [infringing] commercial broadcast content such as other sports, films, and television programs,” there was little concern over collateral damage.

So the big question now is what can IPTV providers and/or subscribers do to tackle the threat?

The first interesting thing to note is not all of the big providers were affected this past weekend, so for many customers the matches passed by as normal. It isn’t clear whether EPL simply didn’t have all of the providers on the list or whether steps were taken to mitigate the threat, but that was certainly the case in a handful of cases.

Information passed to TF shows that at least a small number of providers were not only waiting for the EPL action but actually had a backup plan in place. This appears to have resulted in a minimum of disruption for their customers, something that will prove of interest to the many frustrated subscribers looking for a new service this morning.

While the past few days have been somewhat chaotic, other issues have been muddying the waters somewhat.

TF has learned that at least two, maybe three suppliers, were subjected to DDoS attacks around the time the matches were due to air. It seems unlikely that the EPL has been given permission to carry out such an attack but since the High Court injunction is secret in every way that describes its anti-piracy methods, that will remain a suspicion. In the meantime, rival IPTV services remain possible suspects.

Also, a major IPTV stream ‘wholesaler’ is reported to have had technical issues on Saturday, which affected its ability to serve lower-tier providers. Whether that was also linked to the Premier League action is unknown and TF couldn’t find any source willing to talk about the provider in any detail.

So, sports fans who rely on IPTV for their fix are wondering how things will pan out later this week. If this last weekend is anything to go by, disruption is guaranteed, but it will be less of a surprise given the problems of the last few days. While some don’t foresee huge problems, several providers are already advising customers that VPNs will be necessary.

An IPTV provider suggesting the use of VPNs

While a VPN will indeed solve the problem in most cases, for many subscribers that will amount to an additional expense, not to mention more time spent learning about VPNs, what they can do, and how they can be setup on the hardware they’re using for IPTV.

For users on Android devices running IPTV apps or Kodi-type setups, VPNs are both easy to install and use. However, Mag Box STB users cannot run a VPN directly on the device, meaning that they’ll need either a home router that can run a VPN or a smaller ‘travel’ type router with OpenVPN capabilities to use as a go-between.

Either way, costs are beginning to creep up, if IPTV providers can’t deal with the EPL’s blocking efforts. That makes the new cheaper football packages offered by various providers that little bit more attractive. But that was probably the plan all along.

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

Man Leaks New ‘Power’ Episodes Online, Records His Own Face

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/man-leaks-new-power-episodes-online-records-his-own-face-170809/

With the whole world going crazy for Game of Thrones, another TV series has been turning some serious numbers. Produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, crime drama ‘Power’ has been pulling in around eight million viewers per episode.

After premiering in June 2014, Power is now seven episodes into season four, which is set to reach its climax on August 27. But somewhat typically for the Internet these days, fans won’t necessarily have to wait another three weeks to find out what happens. During the past few hours, the final three episodes of ‘Power’ leaked online.

While that’s something in itself, this leak is possibly the most bizarre to take place in the history of piracy. Having been tipped off that screener episodes were available online, TF went looking for evidence. We found it, but it wasn’t what we expected.

The leaks consist of the three episodes (one complete, the other two missing a few minutes) being played back on an iPhone. A white one. With a broken screen.

Power leaks: Broken iPhone edition

The off-center nature of the image above isn’t typical though and most of the time the main picture is both central and well-defined, with surprisingly clear audio. It’s certainly not going to win any prizes for quality but for the extremely impatient it offers some kind of relief.

The big question, of course, is how these episodes happened to find their way onto that battered iPhone in the first place. Incredibly, the videos themselves provide the answers, with the thoughtful ‘cammer’ explaining in several voice-overs how he gained access to one of STARZ hottest properties.

“This is like the special, this is only for the people that work at STARZ that watch this shit. My man sent me the whole log-in shit. I had to pay that n******r though,” he said.

The log-in referenced by the leaker appears to unlock press access to unreleased content on mediaroom.starz.com. That page has been taken down since, quite possibly due to the leak. Thanks to the video though, we can see how the portal looked on the leaker’s phone.

Unreleased ‘Power’ episodes on the STARZ portal

“That’s the whole series bitch, but I can’t log out though, so I can’t send it to you. The man says don’t log out. So i’m gonna watch these last two episodes and then spoil it for y’all,” the ‘cammer’ said over one of the episodes.

The original claim that theses were screener copies holds up. Throughout all three episodes, an occasional message appears across the bottom of the screen, declaring that the episodes are “for screening purposes only.”

Screener copies, for your eyes only

If the whole situation isn’t bizarre enough so far, the episodes contain quite a bit of complaining from the ‘cammer’, mainly due to his arm aching from holding up the recording phone for such a long time.

Why he didn’t simply place it down on the table isn’t clear. He managed it with the playback phone, which is seen leaning against a large water container throughout, something the ‘cammer’ believes is pretty badass.

“You see, I got my shit propped up like a G,” he said, placing the phone against the water bottle. “Next episode, definitely not holdin’ this shit, so you n*****s gotta relax.”

If this whole scenario isn’t crazy enough, the ‘cammer’ polishes off his virtuoso performance by turning the ‘cam’ phone around and recording his own face for several seconds. To save his embarrassment we won’t publish an image here but needless to say, he is extremely easy to identify, as is his Facebook page, where the content seems to have first appeared.

While there’s clearly no criminal mastermind behind these leaks, dumping unreleased TV shows online can result in a hefty jail sentence, no matter how poorly it’s done. The gentleman involved should hope that STARZ and the FBI are prepared to see the funny side. Fingers crossed….

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

Hotspot Shield VPN Reported to FTC For Alleged Privacy Breaches

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hotspot-shield-vpn-reported-to-ftc-for-alleged-privacy-breaches-170807/

With online privacy becoming an increasingly hot topic, large numbers of companies are offering products which claim to stop third-parties from snooping on users’ Internet activities.

At the forefront are Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which push consumer traffic through encrypted tunnels and remote servers to hide activity from ISPs while offering varying levels of anonymity.

Claims made by VPN companies are often scrutinized by privacy advocates but if a complaint filed this morning by the Center for Democracy and Technology
(CDT) gains momentum, there could be a government investigation into one of the most popular.

Developed by AnchorFree, Inc. and initially released more than nine years ago, the Hotspot Shield application allows users to connect to a VPN service. According to its makers, it’s been downloaded 75 million times and provides “anonymous web surfing with complete privacy.” That claim, however, is now under the spotlight.

In a complaint filed this morning with the Federal Trade Commission, CDT notes that Hotspot Shield makes “strong claims” about the privacy and security of its data collection and sharing practices, including that it “never logs or stores user data.” Crucially, the company also claims never to track or sell its customers’ information, adding that security and privacy are “guaranteed.”

Countering, CDT says that Hotspot Shield engages in logging practices that contradict its claims, noting that it collects information to “identify [a user’s] general location, improve the Service, or optimize advertisements displayed through the Service.”

The complaint says that IP addresses and unique device identifiers are regularly
collected by Hotspot Shield but the service gets around this issue by classing neither sets of data as personal information.

CDT says it used Carnegie Mellon University’s Mobile App Compliance System to gain insight into Hotspot Shield’s functionality and found problems with privacy.

“CMU’s analysis of Hotspot Shield’s Android application permissions found undisclosed data sharing practices with third party advertising networks,” the group notes.

“While an ad-supported VPN may be beneficial in certain instances, it should not be paired with a product or service that tells users that it ensures anonymity, privacy, and security.”

CDT also says that Hotspot Shield tries to cover its back with a disclaimer that the company “may not provide a virtual IP Address for every web site you may visit and third-party web sites may receive your original IP Address when you are visiting those web sites.” But this runs counter to the stated aim of the service, CDT writes.

Accusing Hotspot Shield of unfair and deceptive trade practices, CDT calls on the Commission to conduct an investigation into its data collection and sharing practices.

Hotspot Shield is yet to respond to the complaint or accusations but in a 2014 blog post, welcomed the FTC’s involvement in online security issues.

Full complaint here, courtesy Ars

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

Court Won’t Drop Case Against Alleged KickassTorrents Owner

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-wont-drop-case-against-alleged-kickasstorrents-owner-170804/

kickasstorrents_500x500Last summer, Polish law enforcement officers arrested Artem Vaulin, the alleged founder of KickassTorrents.

Polish authorities acted on a criminal complaint from the US Government, which accused Vaulin of criminal copyright infringement and money laundering.

While Vaulin is still awaiting the final decision in his extradition process in Poland, his US counsel tried to have the entire case thrown out with a motion to dismiss submitted to the Illinois District Court late last year.

One of the fundamental flaws of the case, according to the defense, is that torrent files themselves are not copyrighted content. In addition, they argued that any secondary copyright infringement claims would fail as these are non-existent under criminal law.

After a series of hearings and a long wait afterwards, US District Judge John Z. Lee has now issued his verdict (pdf).

In a 28-page memorandum and order, the motion to dismiss was denied on various grounds.

The court doesn’t contest that torrent files themselves are not protected content under copyright law. However, this argument ignores the fact that the files are used to download copyrighted material, the order reads.

“This argument, however, misunderstands the indictment. The indictment is not concerned with the mere downloading or distribution of torrent files,” Judge Lee writes.

“Granted, the indictment describes these files and charges Vaulin with operating a website dedicated to hosting and distributing them. But the protected content alleged to have been infringed in the indictment is a number of movies and other copyright protected media that users of Vaulin’s network purportedly downloaded and distributed..,” he adds.

In addition, the defense’s argument that secondary copyright infringement claims are non-existent under criminal law doesn’t hold either, according to the Judge’s decision.

Vaulin’s defense noted that the Government’s theory could expose other search engines, such as Google, to criminal liability. While this is theoretically possible, the court sees distinct differences and doesn’t aim to rule on all search engines in general.

“For present purposes, though, the Court need not decide whether and when a search engine operator might engage in conduct sufficient to constitute aiding and abetting criminal copyright infringement. The issue here is whether 18 U.S.C. § 2 applies to 17 U.S.C. § 506. The Court is persuaded that it does,” Judge Lee writes.

Based on these and other conclusions, the motion to dismiss was denied. This means that the case will move forward. The next step will be to see how the Polish court rules on the extradition request.

Vaulin’s lead counsel Ira Rothken is disappointed with the outcome. He stresses that while courts commonly construe indictments in a light most favorable to the government, it went too far in this case.

“Currently a person merely ‘making available’ a file on a network in California wouldn’t even be committing a civil copyright infringement under the ruling in Napster but under today’s ruling that same person doing it in Illinois could be criminally prosecuted by the United States,” Rothken informs TorrentFreak.

“If federal judges disagree on the state of the federal copyright law then people shouldn’t be criminally prosecuted absent clarification by Congress,” he adds.

The defense team is still considering the best options for appeal, and whether they want to go down that road. However, Rothken hopes that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will address the issue in the future.

“We hope one day that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will undo this ruling and the chilling effect it will have on internet search engines, user generated content sites, and millions of netizens globally,” Rothken notes.

For now, however, Vaulin’s legal team will likely shift its focus to preventing his extradition to the United States.

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

Next Game of Thrones Episode Leaks Online Early

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/next-game-of-thrones-episode-leaks-online-170804/

It’s been a pretty rough week for HBO thus far.

After hackers got their hands on over a terabyte of confidential information, including Game of Thrones scripts, another major leak has just surfaced.

Starting a few hours ago, a copy of the upcoming Game of Thrones episode “The Spoils of War” began to circulate on various file-sharing and streaming sites, including The Pirate Bay.

GoT s07e04 leak on TPB

While most copies are pulled offline quickly, presumably by HBO itself, the unreleased fourth episode of season 7 is still widely available.

Although the leak comes only a few days after the prominent HBO hack, the two might not be related. The leaked episode appears to be an internal release and is tagged with “For Internal Viewing Only” as well as a prominent “Star India Pvt Ltd” watermark.

Star India is a large media company owned by 21st Century Fox, which broadcasts the popular HBO series locally.

Screenshot from the leaked episode

Show/hide screenshot

Despite being a low-quality leak, plenty of eager Game of Thrones fans are likely to jump on the episode early. Whether the pirated copy is intact, or whether it’s unfinished is unclear. The official release will still take a few more days.

This is not the first time that Game of Thrones episodes have leaked early. Two years ago the same happened with the first four episodes of season 5. Still, leaks or not, that season still broke previous viewership records.

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

Piracy Brings a New Young Audience to Def Leppard, Guitarist Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-brings-a-new-young-audience-to-def-leppard-guitarist-says-170803/

For decades the debate over piracy has raged, with bands and their recording industry paymasters on one side and large swathes of the public on the other. Throughout, however, there have been those prepared to recognize that things aren’t necessarily black and white.

Over the years, many people have argued that access to free music has helped them broaden their musical horizons, dabbling in new genres and discovering new bands. This, they argue, would have been a prohibitively expensive proposition if purchases were forced on a trial and error basis.

Of course, many labels and bands believe that piracy amounts to theft, but some are prepared to put their heads above the parapet with an opinion that doesn’t necessarily tow the party line.

Formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England, rock band Def Leppard have sold more than 100 million records worldwide and have two RIAA diamond certificated albums to their name. But unlike Metallica who have sold a total of 116 million records and were famous for destroying Napster, Def Leppard’s attitude to piracy is entirely more friendly.

In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell has been describing why he believes piracy has its upsides, particularly for enduring bands that are still trying to broaden their horizons.

“The way the band works is quite extraordinary. In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fueled by younger people coming to the shows,” Campbell said.

“We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”

Def Leppard celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, and the fact that they’re still releasing music and attracting a new audience is a real achievement for a band whose original fans only had access to vinyl and cassette tapes. But Campbell says the band isn’t negatively affected by new technology, nor people using it to obtain their content for free.

“You know, people bemoan the fact that you can’t sell records anymore, but for a band like Def Leppard at least, there is a silver lining in the fact that our music is reaching a whole new audience, and that audience is excited to hear it, and they’re coming to the shows. It’s been fantastic,” he said.

While packing out events is every band’s dream, Campbell believes that the enthusiasm these fresh fans bring to the shows is actually helping the band to improve.

“There’s a whole new energy around Leppard, in fact. I think we’re playing better than we ever have. Which you’d like to think anyway. They always say that musicians, unlike athletes, you’re supposed to get better.

“I’m not sure that anyone other than the band really notices, but I notice it and I know that the other guys do too. When I play ‘Rock of Ages’ for the 3,000,000 time, it’s not the song that excites me, it’s the energy from the audience. That’s what really lifts our performance. When you’ve got a more youthful audience coming to your shows, it only goes in one direction,” he concludes.

The thought of hundreds or even thousands of enthusiastic young pirates energizing an aging Def Leppard to the band’s delight is a real novelty. However, with so many channels for music consumption available today, are these new followers necessarily pirates?

One only has to visit Def Leppard’s official YouTube channel to see that despite being born in the late fifties and early sixties, the band are still regularly posting new content to keep fans up to date. So, given the consumption habits of young people these days, YouTube seems a more likely driver of new fans than torrents, for example.

That being said, Def Leppard are still humming along nicely on The Pirate Bay. The site lists a couple of hundred torrents, some uploaded more recently, some many years ago, including full albums, videos, and even entire discographies.

Arrr, we be Def Leppaaaaaard

Interestingly, Campbell hasn’t changed his public opinion on piracy for more than a decade. Back in 2007 he was saying similar things, and in 2011 he admitted that there were plenty of “kids out there” with the entire Def Leppard collection on their iPods.

“I am pretty sure they didn’t all pay for it. But, maybe those same kids will buy a ticket and come to a concert,” he said.

“We do not expect to sell a lot of records, we are just thankful to have people listening to our music. That is more important than having people pay for it. It will monetize itself later down the line.”

With sites like YouTube perhaps driving more traffic to bands like Def Leppard than pure piracy these days (and even diverting people away from piracy itself), it’s interesting to note that there’s still controversy around people getting paid for music.

With torrent sites slowly dropping off the record labels’ hitlists, one is much more likely to hear them criticizing YouTube itself for not giving the industry a fair deal.

Still, bands like Def Leppard seem happy, so it’s not all bad news.

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

TVAddons Returns, But in Ugly War With Canadian Telcos Over Kodi Addons

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-returns-ugly-war-canadian-telcos-kodi-addons-170801/

After Dish Network filed a lawsuit against TVAddons in Texas, several high-profile Kodi addons took the decision to shut down. Soon after, TVAddons itself went offline.

In the weeks that followed, several TVAddons-related domains were signed over (1,2) to a Canadian law firm, a mysterious situation that didn’t dovetail well with the US-based legal action.

TorrentFreak can now reveal that the shutdown of TVAddons had nothing to do with the US action and everything to do with a separate lawsuit filed in Canada.

The complaint against TVAddons

Two months ago on June 2, a collection of Canadian telecoms giants including Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, filed a complaint in Federal Court against Montreal resident, Adam Lackman, the man behind TVAddons.

The 18-page complaint details the plaintiffs’ case against Lackman, claiming that he communicated copyrighted TV shows including Game of Thrones, Prison Break, The Big Bang Theory, America’s Got Talent, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and dozens more, to the public in breach of copyright.

The key claim is that Lackman achieved this by developing, hosting, distributing or promoting Kodi add-ons.

Adam Lackman, the man behind TVAddons (@adam.lackman on Instagram)

A total of 18 major add-ons are detailed in the complaint including 1Channel, Exodus, Phoenix, Stream All The Sources, SportsDevil, cCloudTV and Alluc, to name a few. Also under the spotlight is the ‘FreeTelly’ custom Kodi build distributed by TVAddons alongside its Kodi configuration tool, Indigo.

“[The defendant] has made the [TV shows] available to the public by telecommunication in a way that allows members of the public to have access to them from a place and at a time individually chosen by them…consequently infringing the Plaintiffs’ copyright…in contravention of sections 2.4(1.1), 3(1)(f) and 27(1) of the Copyright Act,” the complaint reads.

The complaint alleges that Lackman “induced and/or authorized users” of the FreeTelly and Indigo tools to carry out infringement by his handling and promotion of infringing add-ons, including through TVAddons.ag and Offshoregit.com, in contravention of sections 3(1)(f) and 27(1) of the Copyright Act.

“Approximately 40 million unique users located around the world are actively using Infringing Addons hosted by TVAddons every month, and approximately 900,000 Canadian households use Infringing Add-ons to access television content. The amount of users of Infringing add-ons hosted TVAddons is constantly increasing,” the complaint adds.

To limit the harm allegedly caused by TVAddons, the complaint asked for interim, interlocutory, and permanent injunctions restraining Lackman and associates from developing, promoting or distributing any of the allegedly infringing add-ons or software. On top, the plaintiffs requested punitive and exemplary damages, plus costs.

The interim injunction and Anton Piller Order

Following the filing of the complaint, on June 9 the Federal Court handed down a time-limited interim injunction against Lackman which restrained him from various activities in respect of TVAddons. The process took place ex parte, meaning in secret, without Lackman being able to mount a defense.

The Court also authorized a bailiff and computer forensics experts to take control of Internet domains including TVAddons.ag and Offshoregit.com plus social media and hosting provider accounts for a period of 14 days. These were transferred to Daniel Drapeau at DrapeauLex, an independent court-appointed supervising counsel.

The order also contained an Anton Piller order, a civil search warrant that grants plaintiffs no-notice permission to enter a defendant’s premises in order to secure and copy evidence to support their case, before it can be destroyed or tampered with.

The order covered not only data related to the TVAddons platform, such as operating and financial details, revenues, and banking information, but everything in Lackman’s possession.

The Court ordered the telecoms companies to inform Lackman that the case against him is a civil proceeding and that he could deny entry to his property if he wished. However, that option would put him in breach of the order and would place him at risk of being fined or even imprisoned. Catch 22 springs to mind.

The Court did, however, put limits on the number of people that could be present during the execution of the Anton Piller order (ostensibly to avoid intimidation) and ordered the plaintiffs to deposit CAD$50,000 with the Court, in case the order was improperly executed. That decision would later prove an important one.

The search and interrogation of TVAddons’ operator

On June 12, the order was executed and Lackman’s premises were searched for more than 16 hours. For nine hours he was interrogated and effectively denied his right to remain silent since non-cooperation with an Anton Piller order amounts to contempt of court. The Court’s stated aim of not intimidating Lackman failed.

The TVAddons operator informs TorrentFreak that he heard a disturbance in the hallway outside and spotted several men hiding on the other side of the door. Fearing for his life, Lackman called the police and when they arrived he opened the door. At this point, the police were told by those in attendance to leave, despite Lackman’s protests.

Once inside, Lackman was told he had an hour to find a lawyer, but couldn’t use any electronic device to get one. Throughout the entire day, Lackman says he was reminded by the plaintiffs’ lawyer that he could be held in contempt of court and jailed, even though he was always cooperating.

“I had to sit there and not leave their sight. I was denied access to medication,” Lackman told TorrentFreak. “I had a doctor’s appointment I was forced to miss. I wasn’t even allowed to call and cancel.”

In papers later filed with the court by Lackman’s team, the Anton Piller order was described as a “bombe atomique” since TVAddons had never been served with so much as a copyright takedown notice in advance of this action.

The Anton Piller controversy

Anton Piller orders are only valid when passing a three-step test: when there is a strong prima facie case against the respondent, the damage – potential or actual – is serious for the applicant, and when there is a real possibility that evidence could be destroyed.

For Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, serious problems emerged on at least two of these points after the execution of the order.

For example, TVAddons carried more than 1,500 add-ons yet only 1% of those add-ons were considered to be infringing, a tiny number in the overall picture. Then there was the not insignificant problem with the exchange that took place during the hearing to obtain the order, during which Lackman was not present.

Clearly, the securing of existing evidence wasn’t the number one priority.

Plaintiffs: We want to destroy TVAddons

And the problems continued.

No right to remain silent, no right to consult a lawyer

The Anton Piller search should have been carried out between 8am and 8pm but actually carried on until midnight. As previously mentioned, Adam Lackman was effectively denied his right to remain silent and was forbidden from getting advice from his lawyer.

None of this sat well with the Honourable B. Richard Bell during a subsequent Federal Court hearing to consider the execution of the Anton Piller order.

“It is important to note that the Defendant was not permitted to refuse to answer questions under fear of contempt proceedings, and his counsel was not permitted to clarify the answers to questions. I conclude unhesitatingly that the Defendant was subjected to an examination for discovery without any of the protections normally afforded to litigants in such circumstances,” the Judge said.

“Here, I would add that the ‘questions’ were not really questions at all. They took the form of orders or directions. For example, the Defendant was told to ‘provide to the bailiff’ or ‘disclose to the Plaintiffs’ solicitors’.”

Evidence preservation? More like a fishing trip

But shockingly, the interrogation of Lackman went much, much further. TorrentFreak understands that the TVAddons operator was given a list of 30 names of people that might be operating sites or services similar to TVAddons. He was then ordered to provide all of the information he had on those individuals.

Of course, people tend to guard their online identities so it’s possible that the information provided by Lackman will be of limited use, but Judge Bell was not happy that the Anton Piller order was abused by the plaintiffs in this way.

“I conclude that those questions, posed by Plaintiffs’ counsel, were solely made in furtherance of their investigation and constituted a hunt for further evidence, as opposed to the preservation of then existing evidence,” he wrote in a June 29 order.

But he was only just getting started.

Plaintiffs unlawfully tried to destroy TVAddons before trial

The Judge went on to note that from their own mouths, the Anton Piller order was purposely designed by the plaintiffs to completely shut down TVAddons, despite the fact that only a tiny proportion of the add-ons available on the site were allegedly used to infringe copyright.

“I am of the view that [the order’s] true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the Defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defense to the claim made against him, and to provide an opportunity for discovery of the Defendant in circumstances where none of the procedural safeguards of our civil justice system could be engaged,” Judge Bell wrote.

As noted, plaintiffs must also have a “strong prima facie case” to obtain an Anton Piller order but Judge Bell says he’s not convinced that one exists. Instead, he praised the “forthright manner” of Lackman, who successfully compared the ability of Kodi addons to find content in the same way as Google search can.

So why the big turn around?

Judge Bell said that while the prima facie case may have appeared strong before the judge who heard the matter ex parte (without Lackman being present to defend himself), the subsequent adversarial hearing undermined it, to the point that it no longer met the threshold.

As a result of these failings, Judge Bell declared the Anton Piller order unlawful. Things didn’t improve for the plaintiffs on the injunction front either.

The Judge said that he believes that Lackman has “an arguable case” that he is not violating the Copyright Act by merely providing addons and that TVAddons is his only source of income. So, if an injunction to close the site was granted, the litigation would effectively be over, since the plaintiffs already admitted that their aim was to neutralize the platform.

If the platform was neutralized, Lackman could no longer earn money from the site, which would harm his ability to mount a defense.

“In considering the balance of convenience, I also repeat that the plaintiffs admit that the vast majority of add-ons are non-infringing. Whether the remaining approximately 1% are infringing is very much up for debate. For these reasons, I find the balance of convenience favors the defendant, and no interlocutory injunction will be issued,” the Judge declared.

With the Anton Piller order declared unlawful and no interlocutory injunction (one effective until the final determination of the case) handed down, things were about to get worse for the telecoms companies.

They had paid CAD$50,000 to the court in security in case things went wrong with the Anton Piller order, so TVAddons was entitled to compensation from that amount. That would be helpful, since at this point TVAddons had already run up CAD$75,000 in legal expenses.

On top, the Judge told independent counsel to give everything seized during the Anton Piller search back to Lackman.

The order to return items previously seized

But things were far from over. Within days, the telecoms companies took the decision to the Court of Appeal, asking for a stay of execution (a delay in carrying out a court order) to retain possession of items seized, including physical property, domains, and social media accounts.

Mid-July the appeal was granted and certain confidentiality clauses affecting independent counsel (including Daniel Drapeau, who holds the TVAddons’ domains) were ordered to be continued. However, considering the problems with the execution of the Anton Piller order, Bell Canada, TVA, Videotron and Rogers et al, were ordered to submit an additional security bond of CAD$140,000, on top of the CAD$50,000 already deposited.

So the battle continues, and continue it will

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Adam Lackman says that he has no choice but to fight the telcoms companies since not doing so would result in a loss by default judgment. Interestingly, both he and one of the judges involved in the case thus far believe he has an arguable case.

Lackman says that his activities are protected under the Canadian Copyright Act, specifically subparagraph 2.4(1)(b) which states as follows:

A person whose only act in respect of the communication of a work or other subject-matter to the public consists of providing the means of telecommunication necessary for another person to so communicate the work or other subject-matter does not communicate that work or other subject-matter to the public;

Of course, finding out whether that’s indeed the case will be a costly endeavor.

“It all comes down to whether we will have the financial resources necessary to mount our defense and go to trial. We won’t have ad revenue coming in, since losing our domain names means that we’ll lose the majority of our traffic for quite some time into the future,” Lackman told TF in a statement.

“We’re hoping that others will be as concerned as us about big companies manipulating the law in order to shut down what they see as competition. We desperately need help in financially supporting our legal defense, we cannot do it alone.

“We’ve run up a legal bill of over $100,000 to date. We’re David, and they are four Goliaths with practically unlimited resources. If we lose, it will mean that new case law is made, case law that could mean increased censorship of the internet.”

In the hope of getting support, TVAddons has launched a fundraiser campaign and in the meantime, a new version of the site is back on a new domain, TVAddons.co.

Given TVAddons’ line of defense, the nature of both the platform and Kodi addons, and the fact that there has already been a serious abuse of process during evidence preservation, this is now one of the most interesting and potentially influential copyright cases underway anywhere today.

TVAddons is being represented by Éva Richard , Hilal Ayoubi and Karim Renno in Canada, plus Erin Russell and Jason Sweet in the United States.

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

BitTorrent Users Form The World’s Largest Criminal Enterprise, Lawyer Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-users-form-the-worlds-largest-criminal-enterprise-lawyer-says-170731/

As the sharing of copyrighted material on the Internet continues, so do the waves of lawsuits which claim compensation for alleged damage caused.

Run by so-called ‘copyright trolls’, these legal efforts are often painted as the only way for rightsholders to send a tough message to deter infringement. In reality, however, these schemes are often the basis for a separate revenue stream, one in which file-sharers are forced to pay large cash sums to make supposed jury trials disappear.

Courts around the United States are becoming familiar with these ‘settlement factories’ and sometimes choose to make life more difficult for the trolls. With this potential for friction, the language deployed in lawsuits is often amped up to paint copyright holders as fighting for their very existence. Meanwhile, alleged infringers are described as hardened criminals intent on wreaking havoc on the entertainment industries.

While this polarization is nothing new, a court filing spotted by the troll-fighters over at Fight Copyright Trolls sees the demonization of file-sharers amped up to eleven – and then some.

The case, which is being heard in a district court in Nevada, features LHF Productions, the outfit behind action movie London Has Fallen. It targets five people who allegedly shared the work using BitTorrent and failed to respond to the company’s requests to settle.

“[N]one of the Defendants referenced herein have made any effort to answer or otherwise respond to the Plaintiff’s allegations. In light of the Defendants’ apparent failure to take any action with respect to the present lawsuit, the Plaintiff is left with no choice but to seek a default judgment,” the motion reads.

In the absence of any defense, LHF Productions asks the court to grant default judgments of $15,000 per defendant, which amounts to $75,000 overall, a decent sum for what amounts to five downloads. LHF Productions notes that it could’ve demanded $150,000 from each individual but feels that a more modest sum would be sufficient to “deter future infringement.”

However, when reading the description of the defendants provided by LHF, one could be forgiven for thinking that they’re actually heinous criminals hell-bent on worldwide destruction.

“The Defendants are participants in a global piracy ring composed of one hundred fifty million members – a ring that threatens to tear down fundamental structures of intellectual property,” the lawsuit reads.

While there are indeed 150 million users of BitTorrent, this characterization that they’re all involved in a single “piracy ring” is both misleading and inaccurate.

BitTorrent swarms are separate entities, so the correct way of describing the defendants would be limited to their action for the movie London Has Fallen. Instead, they’re painted as being involved in a global conspiracy with more members than the populations of the United Kingdom, Canada, and Spain combined.

It seems that the introduction of more drama into these infringement lawsuits is becoming necessary as more courts become wise to the activities of trolls, not least organizations being branded criminal themselves, such as the now defunct Prenda Law.

Perhaps with this in mind, LHF Productions tries to convince the court that far from being small-time file-sharers, people downloading their movie online are actually part of something extremely big, a crime wave so huge that nothing like it has ever been witnessed.

“While the actions of each individual participant may seem innocuous, their collective action amounts to one of the largest criminal enterprises ever seen on earth,” LHF says of the defendants.

“[I]f this pervasive culture of piracy is allowed to continue undeterred, it threatens to undo centuries of intellectual property law and unravel a core pillar of our economy. After all, the right to intellectual property was something so fundamental, so essential, to our nation’s founding, that our founding father’s found it necessary to include in the first article of the Constitution.”

If the apocalyptic scenario painted by LHF in its lawsuit (pdf) is to be believed, recouping a mere $15,000 from each defendant begins to sound like a bargain. Certainly, the movie outfit will be hoping the judge sees it that way too.

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

RIAA: Hip-Hop Mixtape Site Has No DMCA Safe Harbor

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-hip-hop-mixtape-site-has-no-dmca-safe-harbor-170731/

Earlier this year, a group of well-known labels targeted Spinrilla, a popular hip-hop mixtape site and accompanying app with millions of users.

The coalition of record labels including Sony Music, Warner Bros. Records, and Universal Music Group, filed a lawsuit accusing the service of alleged copyright infringements.

“Spinrilla specializes in ripping off music creators by offering thousands of unlicensed sound recordings for free,” the RIAA commented at the time.

The hip-hop site countered the allegations by pointing out that it installed an RIAA-approved anti-piracy filter and actively worked with major record labels to promote their tracks. In addition, Spinrilla stressed that the DMCA’s safe harbor protects the company.

The DMCA safe-harbor shields Internet services from liability for copyright infringing users. However, to apply for this protection, companies have to meet certain requirements. This is where Spinrilla failed, according to a filing just submitted by the record labels.

The RIAA points out that Spinrilla failed to register a designated DMCA agent with the copyright office, which is one of the requirements. In addition, they claim that the mix-tape site took no clear action against repeat infringers, another prerequisite.

“Defendants have not registered a designated DMCA agent with the Copyright Office and have not adopted, communicated, or reasonably implemented a policy that prevents repeat infringement. Either of these undisputed facts alone renders Defendants ineligible for the protections of the DMCA,” the RIAA writes.

On the repeat infrimnger issue, the record labels say that some of Spinrilla’s “artist” accounts were used to upload infringing material for weeks on end.

“For example, one such ‘artist’ uploaded a new mixtape each week for over 80 consecutive weeks, each containing sound recordings that the RIAA identified to Spinrilla as infringing, including recordings by such well-known major label artists as Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, Missy Elliott, Common, and Ludacris,” RIAA notes.

Based on the above, RIAA argues that Spinrilla is not entitled to safe harbor protections under the DMCA. They ask the court for a summary judgment to render this defense inapplicable, which would be a severe blow to the hip-hop mixtape site.

“And, because Defendants have pinned their defense to liability almost entirely on the DMCA, a ruling now that Defendants are ineligible for the DMCA safe harbor will substantially streamline — if not end entirely — this litigation going forward.

“The Court should therefore grant Plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment now,” the RIAA stresses (pdf).

While the case doesn’t end here, without DMCA safe harbor protection it will definitely be harder for Spinrilla to come out unscathed.

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

Russia Bans ‘Uncensored’ VPNs, Proxies and TOR

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-bans-unrestricted-vpns-proxies-and-tor-in-russia-170731/

Russia has swiftly become a world leader when it comes to website blocking. Tens of thousands of websites are blocked in the country on copyright infringement and a wide range of other grounds.

However, as is often the case, not all citizens willingly subject themselves to these type of restrictions. On the contrary, many use proxies or anonymizing services such as VPNs and TOR to gain access.

In recent months, the Russian Government has worked on legislation to crack down on these circumvention tools as well, and local media report that President Vladimir Putin has now signed the proposed bill into law.

Under the new law, local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor will keep a list of banned domains while identifying sites, services, and software that provide access to them. Rozcomnadzor will then try to contact the operators of the services, urging them to ban the blocked websites, or face the same fate.

The FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be tasked with monitoring offenses, which they will then refer to the telecoms watchdog.

In addition to targeting the circumvention sites, services, and their hosts, the bill targets search engines as well.

Search engines will be required to remove links to blocked resources from their results, as these would encourage people to access prohibited material. Search engines that fail to comply with the new requirements face a $12,400 penalty per breach.

Local search giant Yandex previously spoke out against the far-reaching requirements, describing them as unnecessary.

“We believe that the laying of responsibilities on search engines is superfluous,” a Yandex spokesperson said.

“Even if the reference to a [banned] resource does appear in search results, it does not mean that by clicking on it the user will get access, if it was already blocked by ISPs or in any other ways,” the company added.

The new legislation has not been without controversy. Earlier this month many Russians protested the plans, but this had little effect on the final vote. In the Duma, the bill was approved by 373 deputies. Only two voted against the plans, and another and two abstained.

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

Now Kodi ‘Navi-X’ Domains Get Signed Over to Law Firm

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/now-kodi-navi-x-domains-get-signed-over-to-law-firm-170730/

In the wake of the Dish Network lawsuit filed against TVAddons in Texas, the booming Kodi third-party addon scene received its first real taste of corporate power.

With lawyers breathing down their necks, several high-profile Kodi addons took the decision to shut down and even TVAddons itself went offline without explanation.

With very little news surfacing, last week we revealed how three key domains previously operated by TVAddons had ended up in new hands. TVAddons.ag, the site’s main domain, plus Offshoregit.com and XBMCHUB.com, were transferred to Canadian law firm, DrapeauLex.

With no explanations forthcoming from company owner Daniel Drapeau or staff at TVAddons, no solid conclusions could be reached. Was this part of a settlement with Dish Networks or was something unrelated underway?

With everyone involved remaining tight-lipped since, further investigations by TorrentFreak this week have revealed more developments on the domain shifting front, with one in particular catching the eye.

Back in May, one of the oldest and most popular Kodi addons was shut down by its operators. Navi-X, which was used by hundreds of thousands of people, was discontinued after spam, pollution of its indexes, and mislabeled adult content piled on top of general legal fears.

Navi-X was a particularly iconic piece of software. Launched in 2007 by Netherlands-based coder ‘Rodejo,’ it debuted on XBMC (Kodi’s previous name) on the original XBoX. Subsequent success aside, that longevity put the addon into the history books.

So why then is Navi-X’s former main domain now in the hands of the same law firm that’s taken control of TVAddons’ domains?

Now Navi-X’s domain is in the hands of lawyers

Navixtreme.com was first registered in November 2007 and was the key domain associated with Navi-X. For years it was prominently displayed on the addons’ Twitter feed, for example. Another domain – navi-x.org – was registered more recently in February 2017. Both are now under the control of lawyer Daniel Drapeau.

What is unusual about this situation is that Navi-X shut down long before the Dish lawsuit was filed against TVAddons. If TVAddons did indeed shut down because of that lawsuit, why then have the domains of Navi-X been transferred in the same manner as TVAddons’ domains? They certainly weren’t mentioned in the lawsuit so one has to conclude that something else is at play here.

Again, no one wants to talk, but the situation appears to be fluid. In addition to the TVAddons .ag domain that was transferred last week, the law firm has now acquired other TVAddons domains that were registered around the same time, including TVAddons.com, .org, and .TV.

Something unusual is undoubtedly going on in the addon scene but quite where this will all end up is currently anyone’s guess. All the signs point to legal action of some kind but the nature of that is still unclear. That being said, it’s unlikely to remain a secret forever.

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

Apple Bans VPNs From App Store in China

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/apple-bans-vpns-from-app-store-in-china-170729/

Apple is known to have a rigorous app-review policy.

Over the past several years, dozens of apps have been rejected from the App Store because they mention the word BitTorrent, for example.

The mere association with piracy is good enough to warrant a ban. This policy is now expanding to the privacy-sphere as well, at least in China.

It is no secret that the Chinese Government is preventing users from accessing certain sites and services. The so-called ‘Great Firewall’ works reasonably well, but can be circumvented through VPN services and other encryption tools.

These tools are a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities, which are now receiving help from Apple to limit their availability.

Over the past few hours, Apple has removed many of the most-used VPN applications from the Chinese app store. In a short email, VPN providers are informed that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.

Apple’s email to VPN providers

VPN providers and users are complaining bitterly about the rigorous action. However, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Over the past few months there have been various signals that the Chinese Government would crack down on non-authorized VPN providers.

In January, a notice published by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the government had launched a 14-month campaign to crack down on local ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

This essentially means that all VPN services have to be pre-approved by the Government if they want to operate there.

Earlier this month Bloomberg broke the news that China’s Government had ordered telecommunications carriers to block individuals’ access to VPNs. The Chinese Government denied that this was the case, but it’s clear that these services remain a high-profile target.

Thanks to Apple, China’s Government no longer has to worry about iOS users having easy access to the most popular VPN applications. Those users who search the local app store for “VPN” still see plenty of results, but, ironically, many of these applications are fake.

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

Police Confirm ‘Extra’ Illegal Spying on Kim Dotcom

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/police-confirms-extra-illegal-spying-on-kim-dotcom-170727/

Kim Dotcom has made headlines in the press again over the past week, but not for his own alleged misconduct.

Instead, there is a renewed focus on the unlawful surveillance practices of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

During the months leading up to the raid, the GCSB carried out surveillance on Dotcom but failed to check his residency status. The outfit was not allowed to spy on its own residents and clearly crossed a line with its unlawful information gathering.

To find out what was collected, Dotcom asked the High Court for access to the surveilled information, but last week this request was denied. While this came as a disappointment, the court did reveal something else of interest.

As it turns out, the illegal spying on Dotcom didn’t stop on January 20, 2012, when Dotcom was arrested. Instead, it carried on for another two months, ending March 22, 2012.

Initially, some people thought that the High Court may have made a mistake in the timeline, but with pressure mounting, New Zealand police have now confirmed that this is not the case. The illegal spying did indeed continue for two more months.

“We’ve checked the file and can confirm that the dates you’ve highlighted were known to the Operation Grey team. They were considered as part of the investigation and decision-making about the outcome,” a police spokesman told NZ Herald.

While this is all news to the public, the police and others were well-aware of the additional spying. This raises a series of questions, which Megaupload’s founder would like to see answered.

“Does this mean that New Zealand Police knew that the GCSB affidavits were false? GCSB told the Courts under oath that the illegal spying ended two months earlier. Not in March but in January,” Dotcom says, commenting on the news.

The issue is more than a matter of oversight, Dotcom says, and he calls for a proper investigation where the people responsible will be held accountable.

“New Zealand Police investigated GCSB because of the illegal spying but nobody was ever charged with any crime. How is that possible if the Police knew that the GCSB lied to the New Zealand Courts? What else would we discover if we had a fair and open hearing instead of secret submissions in closed Court?

“The New Zealand Courts have been fooled by the GCSB and the Police. What’s next? What are the consequences?” Dotcom adds.

In recent years the Megaupload case has been a stumbling block for several politicians and the latest revelations have put Prime Minister Bill English under pressure. It’s clear that several high ranked officials would rather see Dotcom leave, but thus far the fiasco is more likely to help him stay.

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

Premier League Wins New Stream Blocking Injunction to Fight Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/premier-league-wins-new-stream-blocking-injunction-to-fight-piracy-170727/

Earlier this year the Premier League obtained a rather special High Court injunction to assist in its fight against illegal football match streaming.

Similar in its aims to earlier blocking orders that targeted torrent sites including The Pirate Bay, the injunction enabled the Premier League to act quickly, forcing local ISPs such as Sky, BT, and Virgin to block football streams in real-time.

Although public results varied, the English Premier League (EPL) reports that under the injunction it was able to block 5,000 server IP addresses that were streaming its content. That appears to have encouraged the organization to apply for another injunction for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

According to a statement published on the EPL site, that has now been granted.

“This blocking order is a game-changer in our efforts to tackle the supply and use of illicit streams of our content,” said Premier League Director of Legal Services, Kevin Plumb.

“It will allow us to quickly and effectively block and disrupt the illegal broadcast of Premier League football via any means, including so called ‘pre-loaded Kodi boxes’.”

Although the details of the new injunction are yet to be published by the High Court, the EPL indicates that the injunction is very similar to the one obtained previously, which targets overseas servers streaming Premier League matches into the UK.

Upon notice from the Premier League, ISPs including Sky, BT, Virgin Media, Plusnet, EE and TalkTalk are required to block IP addresses quickly as matches are being streamed, all without any direct intervention from the court.

“The protection of our copyright, and the investment made by our broadcast partners, is hugely important to the Premier League and the future health of English football,” the Premier League said.

The injunction itself lists the Internet service providers as defendants but it’s important to note that most have a vested interest in the injunction being put in place. Sky, BT and Virgin Media all screen Premier League matches in some way so there’s no surprise that none put up a fight when confronted by the football organization.

Indeed, several of the ISPs appeared to have assisted the EPL in some pretty intimate ways, even going as far as sharing a certain level of customer traffic data with the organization.

It will be interesting to see what effect the new blocking efforts will have on stream availability when the new season begins. Saturday afternoons, when matches take place around the country but are prohibited from being screened due to the blackout, should be the main focal point. As previously suggested, the EPL will probably enjoy more success than last season with experience under their belts.

Finally, tabloids in the UK have been giving the injunction their usual dramatic coverage but a special mention must go out to The Sun. In an article titled “Closing the Net“, the paper said that under the injunction, “BRITS who illegally stream Premier League football matches could have their internet connection shut off.”

The way things are worded it suggests that people who watch streams could be disconnected by their ISP. That is not the case.

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

BulkyIPTV Operator Was Arrested For Fraud, Money Laundering

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bulkyiptv-operator-was-arrested-for-fraud-money-laundering-170724/

For many years, video-focused Internet piracy was all about obtaining pre-recorded content such as movies and TV shows. Now, however, the rise of streaming is enabling a massive uptake of live ‘pirate’ programming.

At the forefront of this movement are web streaming portals, dedicated Kodi add-ons, and premium IPTV services. The latter, which can rival official services, tend to offer a better quality service but with a price tag attached. This has resulted in a whole new market for people seeking to generate revenue from piracy.

One of those outfits was UK-based BulkyIPTV, but as first reported here on TF, last week the entire operation was shut down after police arrested its operator.

“Hi all. Today I was arrested. Everything has been shut down,” its operator confirmed Wednesday.

“They took everything – phone, laptop, PC and cash, as well as other stuff to gather evidence against me. I’m sorry it has come to this but i’m looking at a stretch inside.”

Soon after the news was made public, many people on Facebook speculated that the arrest never happened and that BulkyIPTV’s operator had conjured up a story in order to “do a runner” with his customers’ subscription money.

However, a source close to the situation insisted that an arrest had been made in the Derby area of the UK in connection with live TV piracy, a fact we reported in our article.

For a few days things went silent, but in a joint statement with the Federation Against Copyright Theft, Derbyshire Police have now confirmed that they executed a warrant at a Derby property last week.

“The warrant took place on Tuesday (18th July) as part of ongoing work to stop the use of the illegal set top boxes, which are tampered with to enable them to offer a range of premium subscription services such as Sky TV and BT Sport without paying for them,” the police statement reads.

While the police don’t specifically mention BulkyIPTV in their press release, everything points to the operator of the service being the person who was targeted last week.

BulkyGifts.co.uk, a site connected to BulkyIPTV that sold a product which enabled people to access cable and satellite programming cheaply, was initially registered to the address that police targeted on Tuesday in Grenfell Avenue, Sunny Hill. The name of the person who registered the domain is also a perfect match with Electoral Roll records and social media profiles across numerous sites.

Police confirmed that a 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, and copyright offenses. Electronic equipment was seized along with a “large amount” of cash.

In a statement, Kieron Sharp, CEO of the Federation Against Copyright Theft, reminded sellers and buyers of these services that their actions are illegal.

“This collaboration between Derbyshire police and FACT is another step forward in disrupting the sale of illegal streaming devices,” Sharp said.

“People may think there is nothing wrong with having one of these devices and streaming premium pay-for channels for free, such as live sports. However, this is illegal and you would be breaking the law.”

As highlighted in our opinion piece last week, some service providers appear to be playing fast and loose with their security. If that trend continues, expect FACT and the police to keep taking these services down.

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

Kodi Security Risk Emerges After TVAddons Shutdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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