The Pirate Bay is well known for its huge database of magnet links which allow users to download most types of content imaginable.
Over the past few days, however, the platform has been adding a brand new feature that will please those who prefer to access movies and TV shows instantly, rather than waiting for them to download.
As the image below shows, in addition to the familiar magnet and trusted uploader icons displayed alongside video and TV show releases, the site also features a small orange ‘B’ graphic.
In some cases (but currently not all), pressing these buttons when they appear next to a video release diverts users to a new platform called BayStream. Here, the chosen content can be streamed directly in the browser using a YouTube-style player interface.
Loading times appear swift when the content is actually available and as the screenshot below shows, the material appears to be sourced, at least in some cases, from torrent releases.
The new feature appears to be in its early stages of development and in tests doesn’t always perform as planned. In particular, accessing the ‘B’ links using various Pirate Bay ‘proxy’ sites can cause them to break with various errors. Nevertheless, when things go to plan (usually when selecting more popular content) the system appears effective.
When one accesses the BayStream homepage directly, without using links found on TPB, what appears is a fairly plain file-hosting upload interface. It claims that files up to 20GB can be uploaded and stored on the platform and at least for now, there’s no mention of premium accounts or affiliate programs.
The big question, perhaps, is whether this is a Pirate Bay-operated platform or one run by outsiders. The familiar ‘Kopimi‘ logo at the bottom suggests that it could be someone who supports the ‘pirate’ movement but anyone can use the image freely, so that’s not the best pointer.
Public sources reveal that the site does have other links to Sweden and in some cases entities linked, however loosely, to the Kopimist movement. But again, those don’t provide solid pointers to the nature or identities of the operators of the site.
The Pirate Bay previously launched its own file-hosting platform, BayFiles, way back in 2011. That disappeared after the 2014 raid on a Stockholm datacenter but was later relaunched under new ownership.
The addition of BayStream links to The Pirate Bay isn’t the first time that the world’s most famous torrent site has dipped its toes into streaming waters. In 2016, the site experimented with ‘Stream It!” links next to all video torrents, playable via a browser plug-in called Torrents-Time.
In May 2019, TF discovered that the RIAA had obtained a DMCA subpoena which compelled CDN company Cloudflare to reveal the identities of several site operators using its services.
Among the several domains listed was DBR.ee, a file-hosting site that had was utilized by some of its users for hosting pre-release music leaks. This clearly didn’t sit well with the RIAA and within a month of the subpoena being obtained, DBR.ee shut itself down.
Initially it wasn’t clear if the subpoena and the closure were linked but soon after a message appeared on the site which advised that it had been shut down for copyright infringement following action by the RIAA, IFPI, and Music Canada.
Early September, however, a new site appeared. Sporting the DBREE name and graphics but located under a different URL (DBREE.co), the site seemed to want to pick up where the original had left off. It’s not currently known whether the same people are behind the resurrection but the RIAA appears keen to find out.
Late November the RIAA obtained a pair of DMCA subpoenas at a Columbia federal court, one targeting domain registrar Namecheap and the other CDN service Cloudflare. Their aim is to uncover the identities of several site operators, DBREE.co’s included.
“The purpose for which this subpoena is sought is to obtain the identity of the individual assigned to these websites who has induced the infringement of, and has directly engaged in the infringement of, our members’ copyrighted sound recordings without their authorization,” the subpoenas read.
DBREE.co stands accused of infringement on three tracks – Lover by Taylor Swift, Under the Graveyard by Ozzy Osbourne, and Thailand by Lil Uzi Vert.
FLACC.org, a music release blog that links to content hosted elsewhere, is also accused of infringing copyrights on three tracks from Celine Dion, Ed Sheeran, and Tech N9ne.
Hiphopeasy.xyz, an album, single, and mixtape indexing site, is currently offline. Nevertheless, the RIAA claims it infringed the rights of Post Malone, Travis Scott, and Ed Sheeran. Another platform, identified by the RIAA as operating from Ovzy.xyz and its subdomains, is also inaccessible.
As usual, the subpoenas require Namecheap and Cloudflare to give up every piece of information they hold on the site’s alleged operators. Both companies are also asked to consider “the widespread and infringing nature” of the sites to determine whether they are in breach of terms of service agreements or repeat infringer policies.
Whether Namecheap or Cloudflare have any useful information to hand over to the RIAA remains to be seen but they are both expected to comply.
The DMCA subpoenas are available here and here (pdf)
The Pirate Bay has been operating one of its original domains – thepiratebay.org – for well over 15 years. During that same period, it has also burned through countless others due to anti-piracy action all around the globe.
The Pirate Bay is also one of the most blocked platforms on the planet for the same reason, something that has led to the creation of hundreds of proxy sites, set up to facilitate access to the index, regardless of which official domain is in use.
Last evening the operator of a site that indexes links to some of these proxies told TorrentFreak that their owners had noticed that The Pirate Bay’s Onion site had been down for several hours, which is unusual. After further investigation, it was discovered that the site had switched from the extremely messy uj3wazyk5u4hnvtk.onion to piratebayztemzmv.onion.
Accessible via the Tor browser, for example, Onion domains grant access to the so-called ‘dark web’, which is a fancy way of describing sites and services that aren’t visible using a normal search engine or accessible by regular means. In the case of TPB, being hidden inside the Tor network also provides extra security for the raid and lawsuit-prone index.
While there has been no official announcement from TPB’s operators about the Onion domain switch, the new address can now be seen when hovering over the ‘Tor’ link on the site. Exactly why the site’s operators made the change isn’t entirely clear, however.
The new Onion domain is certainly easier to read than the old one, but still not easy to remember. That being said, it is an improvement over its predecessor and now is probably a very good time to get everyone familiar with it.
As reported here recently, the Internet Society is in the process of selling the Public Interest Registry which currently controls The Pirate Bay’s .org domain. As a result, there are concerns that the new owners may throw the infamous domain overboard on copyright grounds.
If that does indeed happen, the Onion domain will certainly come in handy, as will the hundreds of pre-existing proxy sites currently doing a dance around dozens of blockades, all around the world.
In March, US-based author John Van Stry filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Travis McCrea, the operator of eBook download platform eBook.bike.
To say early progress in the case was disorganized is something of an understatement. With a relatively inexperienced McCrea opting to defend himself, things were never likely to go particularly smoothly.
Nevertheless, in September things appeared to get back on track, with McCrea eventually filing an answer to the complaint, pushing matters on to the next stage. Since then, however, the plaintiff and his attorney have grown increasingly frustrated with McCrea’s alleged conduct and tactics.
Back in August during a scheduling conference, the court indicated a desire to keep costs as low as possible during the discovery process, to the benefit of both plaintiff and defendant. According to a motion to compel discovery filed by the plaintiff this week, however, McCrea is allegedly frustrating the discovery process.
“Defendant has been acting at cross-purposes with the Court; bringing all progress in the case to a standstill by providing no response to discovery requests, much less any discovery; delaying by habitually requiring weeks and numerous emails from Plaintiff before Defendant responds to simple inquiries, such as indicating whether Defendant received the discovery requests,” the motion reads.
What follows is a laundry list of complaints, too numerous to cover here in detail. In summary, however, there are many accusations that McCrea promised to do things he subsequently didn’t, including missing deadlines, failing to communicate properly, if at all, and generally bogging the process down.
Van Stry’s attorney further accuses McCrea of “needlessly” driving up costs by “propounding discovery that Defendant never collected, and proposing a settlement requiring Plaintiff’s counsel to draft an agreement quickly, and then ignoring communications from Plaintiff regarding the same once drafted.”
In respect of the settlement, McCrea is said to have proposed terms that suited Van Stry and a draft was drawn up and sent to McCrea in advance of the required date of October 11, 2019. On October 9, counsel for the plaintiff reached out to McCrea to confirm receipt of the agreement and asked when a reply could be expected.
After McCrea’s own deadline passed without communication, on October 15 Van Stry’s legal team set a deadline of their own – October 18. McCrea reportedly got in touch on the day but then requested an amendment to the agreement, which was accepted and redrafted within hours.
A new deadline of October 21 passed without communication so on October 23, counsel for the plaintiff asked McCrea, “If there is some impediment to executing the agreement, please let us know.” According to the filing, a response to that statement was never received.
“Plaintiff can only speculate why Mr. McCrea would propose a settlement, making Plaintiff’s counsel scramble in order to achieve the objective after Plaintiff agreed to the settlement, and then ignore communication regarding the same, but such speculation by Plaintiff leads only to harmful motives on Mr. McCrea’s part,” the motion reads.
According to counsel for Van Stry, McCrea “is simply failing to prioritize” the litigation he’s involved in. McCrea is reportedly moving house but the plaintiff believes that the case is “at least on par” with the former Pirate Party leader’s commitments in respect of moving and working.
To highlight that McCrea isn’t taking things seriously, Van Stry’s team indicate they have been watching McCrea’s Reddit activity, noting that he’s had time to post “over 100 times” on the platform during October and November but not deal with the lawsuit efficiently.
In closing, the author’s attorney asks the court to set McCrea a quick deadline to deliver his discovery responses.
“Plaintiff is asking the Court to recognize Mr. McCrea’s behavior as unacceptable, and asking that Mr. McCrea be given a tight and strict deadline to fully respond to the interrogatories and RFPs or face consequences,” the motion concludes.
The response from the court was swift. Two days later an order appeared on the docket ordering McCrea to take action or face the consequences.
“Because of the apparent lack of progress in the discovery process in this case and the impending deadlines for the close of discovery and the filing of dispositive motions, the defendant is ordered to respond to the motion by 5:00 pm, Central (U.S.) Time, on December 2, 2019,” Judge Bryson writes.
“In the absence of a response from the defendant by that time, the motion will be treated as unopposed, and the Court will take action based on the allegations in the motion.”
The motion to compel and subsequent order can be found here and here (pdf)
Until recently, Boom Media was one of the most active and recognizable ‘pirate’ IPTV reseller brands available to the public.
Operating in the United States under the name Boom Media LLC, the company acted as a reseller for IPTV subscription services including MFG TV, Beast TV, Nitro TV, Murica Streams, Epic IPTV, Vader Streams, and OK2.
As reported early November, this attracted the unwanted attention of DISH Network and partner NagraStar, who teamed up to sue Boom Media LLC and son and mother team John and Debra Henderson.
The broadcaster claimed that the Boom Media service, which was allegedly operated from John’s home, received payments from customers via accounts operated by mother Debra. This operation, DISH said, resulted in willful violations of the company’s rights under the Federal Communications Act.
While some of DISH’s similar lawsuits have dragged on for some time in court, there’s evidence to suggest that in addition to obtaining cash settlements from targets such as Boom, the broadcaster views such litigation as a stepping-stone to further litigation against their associates. And, of course, more settlements.
John Henderson certainly believes this is the case. In an expletive-ridden video posted to YouTube this week, he says that DISH and NagraStar want to break him down in their hunt for information on others involved in the IPTV supply and consumption chain.
He says he’s not comfortable with that at all so he wants to take the fight to DISH in order to prevent that from happening. But of course, that will take money – lots of money – and he wants that to be donated by former customers and other interested parties.
“I set up a GoFundMe to help me pay for legal fees. The point of that is i’m gonna take this shit to a trial by jury, that’s my intent. So basically, the lawyer just to start is $15,000,” he says.
“The basic point is in order for me to get any kind of settlement, I have to turn over information on fucking everything, everything I’ve ever known, and I’m just not comfortable doing that. Yeah, so you bought [subscriptions to IPTV services through Boom] but they have the right to subpoena Google and PayPal.”
The $15,000 to get started is, well, just that. The GoFundMe currently has a target of $250,000 but whether that sizeable amount will cover the costs of lengthy litigation is up for debate. Nevertheless, Henderson says that by biting back, he can stop DISH from getting his customers’ details and sending them demands for cash settlements for alleged piracy.
“What they’ve done with these cookie-cutter lawsuits is that they’ve turned them into a stream of revenue for themselves. This isn’t really about fucking lawsuits and protecting anything at this point, it’s about getting information to send you a fucking letter demanding $3,500, which is what they’ve been doing with everyone.
“Everyone has settled, no one has taken them to trial, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it unfolds,” he says.
Henderson acknowledges that the legal process is going to cost “a shit-load of money” but if people don’t want to support him, “that’s fine”. However, he warns that these types of cases can set a precedent and handing over the information is something he wants to avoid, to protect everyone in the supply and consumption chain.
“I think I have some valid points why they shouldn’t be able to get that information at all. That’s really all there is to it, I’m asking for support. I think resellers across the fucking globe should be jumping on this because whatever happens to me, does affect you because now they can say ‘we got this from Boom Media’, this is the way it worked out, now you must settle,” he adds.
Henderson believes that IPTV providers themselves should also take an interest in a successful outcome to the case because if resellers are no longer a legal target, they won’t have any reason to give up information on their suppliers.
“The only reason that people are getting snitched on is because resellers are pussies, I mean that’s just the way it is,” he claims.
“I have [the GoFundMe] up for $250,000. I know that when TVAddons was going through this, that’s pretty much how it went. They just bled them dry,” Henderson says.
While TVAddons did have a huge legal dispute with DISH that undoubtedly cost founder Adam Lackman a lot of money, Lackman insists that he never handed over his users’ data to DISH. That suggests there may be a way out of Henderson’s situation without compromising his suppliers and former customers but only time will tell if a jury trial can deliver the type of victory that avoids that.
If it even gets that far, that is.
While a quarter of a million dollars is a significant sum, Henderson fully expects to face tactics designed to break his ability to fight back. Already he claims that DISH is attempting to get a gag order to prevent him from telling the world “what garbage they are for suing an innocent woman, my mother, knowing goddamn well she had nothing to do with anything.”
Until he gets served with a gag order, however, he’s not shutting up at all, he insists. Meanwhile, he says that DISH is generating money from a “stupid tax”, a reference to all the IPTV and IKS (Internet Key Sharing) users to whom DISH sends letters and receives settlements in return.
“They [DISH] want everything from me. They want my soul, they want all the information, they want me to roll on everyone, which isn’t even really possible but I’m not gonna do it,” Henderson adds.
“I’m fully prepared to go to war over this shit but I’m gonna need financial help. Obviously, everyone knows I’m out of business, that’s the way it is. I’m not a millionaire, I’m not a billionaire, I’m barely a thousandaire.”
Henderson doesn’t provide any proof, but claims that Vader Streams – a pirate IPTV provider that was targeted by the MPA-backed Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment earlier this year, “snitched on everyone, they snitched and they rolled over and they gave up everything.” Prior to the settlement agreement, Vader said it would not compromise customers.
Henderson says he doesn’t want to go down the disclosure route but DISH is on record wanting Boom Media to do just that. In addition to a permanent injunction against the company, it wants Boom’s domain name plus “all hard copy and electronic records” regarding persons involved in the entire “Rebroadcasting Scheme”.
At the time of writing, the GoFundMe has raised $700 of its $250,000 target.
The original complaint against Boom Media can be found here (pdf)
In October 2013, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents received information from PayPal concerning two ‘pirate’ websites, Noobroom.com and Noobroom7.com.
For a fee, the sites allowed subscribers to stream movies and TV shows, which was of particular interest to the MPAA. Their investigation concluded that the platforms distributed works in breach of their members’ copyrights.
In July the following year, the MPAA sent a cease-and-desist notice to Noobroom but within days, the site shifted its users to a new site, SuperChillin.com. The MPAA determined that the platforms – plus another pair named as Movietv.co and SitPlay.com – were operated by Oregon resident Talon White.
With White under suspicion of copyright and money laundering offenses, last November a magistrate judge in Oregon approved a search and seizure warrant targeting millions in cash and cryptocurrency.
On Monday, the Department of Justice revealed that after netting more than $8 million from his piracy activities, Talon had pleaded guilty to one count each of criminal copyright infringement and tax evasion.
According to the Department of Justice, White underreported his income by more than $4.4 million from 2013 through 2017, resulting in a willful underpayment of $1.9 million in taxes.
The penalties faced by White are severe. On top of a potential five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years’ supervised release on each of the two charges, the financial implications are already massive.
White has entered into a plea agreement which will see him forfeit $3.9 million seized from his bank accounts, $35,000 in cash, cryptocurrency worth around $424,000, plus his home in Oregon, currently valued at $415,000.
On top, he must pay $669,557 in restitution to the MPAA and $3,392,708 in restitution, which includes penalties and interest, to the IRS.
White will be sentenced on February 21, 2020, before U.S. District Court Judge Ann L. Aiken. In the meantime, however, the case raises additional interest in at least two other directions.
A case revealed at the weekend in New Zealand appears to have some similarities with White’s. Both involve a pirate movie site in the US, both received a PayPal referral for suspicious activity, and both resulted in the seizure of large volumes of cash and cryptocurrency.
Finally, the involvement of the IRS in a criminal copyright infringement case raises questions about what lies ahead for Gears Reloaded founder Omar Carrasquillo, aka YouTube OMI IN A HELLCAT.
Last week, he reported that he’d been raided by several FBI officers and a single IRS agent who seized “pretty much everything”, including millions of dollars, a huge car collection, and a large collection of jewelry. Ever since he’s been posting videos on the topic, one of which included a brief glimpse of a purported search a seizure warrant issued by a court in Pennsylvania.
Carrasquillo insists that what he did in respect of IPTV isn’t a crime in the United States but concedes that he didn’t pay his taxes in a timely manner and he’s learned his lesson. He hopes that the money seized will cover his back taxes but still expects to spend some time in prison.
Following a complaint from major media companies Rogers, Bell and TVA, the Court ordered several major ISPs to block access to domains and IP-addresses of the pirate IPTV service GoldTV.
While the service in question has a relatively modest number of users, the order paves the way for additional site blocking requests that may target traditional pirate sites as well.
This is exactly what major rightsholders have extensively lobbied for in the past. After a request for a national pirate site blocking scheme was denied last year, the media companies have now accomplished this goal through the courts.
Most Internet providers, which include Bell and Rogers as well, haven’t objected to the request. However, there’s one that’s pushing back. According to TekSavvy, site blocking will do more harm than good and the company filed an official appeal yesterday.
“We are very concerned about what the federal court’s new site-blocking regime means for the open Internet as a whole,” says Andy Kaplan-Myrth TekSavvy’s vice-president of regulatory affairs.
TekSavvy argues that the Federal Court reached the wrong conclusion and asked for the order to be set aside. One of the problems, according to the ISP, is that the Court heavily relied on a UK ruling, instead of merely following Canadian law.
The ISP further highlights that it runs counter to Canada’s Net Neutrality principles.
“[The order] is based on foreign law, and it clearly violates Network Neutrality, without giving any serious consideration to that fundamental principle of communications law in Canada,” Kaplan-Myrth tells TorrentFreak.
“If it is allowed to stand, this site-blocking order will be just the first of many, undermining the open Internet to protect the profits and business models of a handful of powerful media conglomerates,” he adds.
TekSavvy is the only ISP to file an appeal but, outside court, there has been strong opposition from others. Canadian law professor Michael Geist, for example, has criticized the ruling, arguing that the Government should weigh in on such a crucial matter.
“In reviewing the GoldTV ruling, it is obvious that site blocking raises so many issues that it requires a government policy decision, not a single judge making a myriad of policy calls,” Geist noted.
Meanwhile, the Federal Court’s order has already resulted in the first blocks. Several people are reporting that their ISPs have started to roll out the restrictions already. This includes Rogers, Fido, Bell Aliant, and SaskTel.
It’s clear that rightsholders are pleased with the blocking ruling, so they are expected to fiercely defend it at the Federal Court of Appeal. Given the controversy around the site-blocking topic, it would be no surprise if other interested parties will have their say in court as well.
A copy of TekSavvy’s Notice of Appeal, filed at the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal, is available here (pdf).
Pirate site-blocking has become a prime measure for the entertainment industries to target pirate sites on the Internet.
The practice has been around for over a decade and has gradually expanded to more than 30 countries around the world.
This is also true in France, where The Pirate Bay was one of the first targets five years ago, but not the last. Several site-blocking applications followed, mostly on behalf of the local anti-piracy group La Société Civile des Producteurs Phonographiques, or SCPP as it’s more commonly known.
The organization, which represents over 2,000 music companies, including Warner, Universal, and Sony, is also behind the most recent blocking efforts.
In three separate orders, a Paris court recently ordered Internet providers Bouygues, Free, Orange, SFR, and SFR Fibre, to prevent customers from accessing piracy-linked websites.
The first order is targeted at six relatively small file-hosting services: Nippyspace.com, Nippyshare.com, Yolobit.com, Nippybox.com, Nippyfile.com, and Nippydrive.com. The sites in question all share the same simple design.
The term file-hoster or cyberlocker can have a broad meaning. In this case, the sites also provided a search function, which makes pirated content easier to find. Also, Zippyshare is no stranger to the music industry, as the RIAA previously listed it as a ‘notorious’ pirate site.
While SCPP didn’t respond to our request for comment, the Finnish anti-piracy group TTVK notes that the ruling is unique, as it’s the first court order that requires ISPs to block a file-hosting service in Europe.
“The decision of the French court confirms the view that blocking orders should be available for all pirated content services, regardless of the technology,” TTVK Executive Director Jaana Pihkala says.
The other two orders, which were released on the same day, target the torrent sites Torlock.com, Toros.co, Bittorrent.am, Seedpeer.me, Yggserver.net and Yggtorrent.ch, as well as the linking site 2DDL.vg.
Interestingly, NextInpact notes that the court suggested that the use of the word “BitTorrent” assumes bad intent, as the file-sharing protocol is often associated with piracy. This is rather broad, as there are also many legitimate BitTorrent services.
The orders (1, 2, and 3) are valid for 18 months. The Internet providers will have to pay the blocking costs themselves but did not oppose the orders in court.
This week the company filed a new lawsuit in a Texas district court targeting the operators of 15 domains that allegedly stream DISH content to the public without appropriate licensing.
DISH’s complaint says that 15 ‘Doe’ defendants are behind the websites Freetvall.net, Freetvall.xyz, Freetvall.me, Freetvall.live, Livetvcafe.com, Livetvcafe.net, Livetvcafe.me, Time4tv.com, Time4tv.net, Time4tv.me, Cricket-tv.net, Crickettv.me, Tv4embed.com, and A1livetv.com.
Checks against the domains indicate that the Freetvall domains are connected to the same platform, currently operating at Freetvall.xyz. The site is a goldmine of free embedded TV channels, not only from DISH, but from broadcasters around the world including Sky and ESPN, to name just two.
The second batch of ‘Livetvcafe’ domains appear to redirect to the same website, Livetvcafe.me. It bears a striking similarity to the site located at Freetvall.xyz albeit with slight variations in content. Cricket-tv.net and Crickettv.me triggered malware warnings in our tests, so were skipped.
In respect of streaming, A1livetv is currently non-functioning, likewise Cricket-tv.net and Cricket-tv.me. TV4embed.com currently offers no video content but does display a notice stating the following:
“DMCA: This site only contains links and embeds to TV channels from 3rd party sites which are freely available on all Internet. We are not affiliated in any way with the broadcasted channels nor responsible for their content. All content is copyright of their respective owners.”
Despite the seemingly hopeful position of this apparent disclaimer, the above statement is precisely what DISH considers to be infringing when it comes to these platforms.
“Upon information and belief, Defendants search the Internet for unauthorized sources of the Protected Channels and identify links to that content. Defendants then upload these links for the Protected Channels onto the Free TV Websites,” the broadcaster’s complaint reads.
It appears that DISH has been working since September 2013 to have all of these sites taken down. The company says it directly sent the platforms “at least” 49 notices of infringement demanding that they cease their activities but none were responded to.
DISH also sent the same number of notices to the sites’ hosts, at least some of which were passed on to the defendants. However, even when the service providers acted to remove content, DISH says it faced “interference”, such as the defendants switching hosts or links to content.
As a result, DISH says that the defendants have “actual knowledge” that the transmission of its channels infringes the broadcaster’s exclusive rights so are therefore liable for inducing and materially contributing to copyright infringement.
The company is demanding a permanent injunction against the defendants and anyone working in concert with them from “transmitting, streaming, distributing, publicly performing, linking to, hosting, promoting, advertising or displaying” any of DISH’s protected content in the United States, and/or inducing others in respect of the same.
DISH is also demanding statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each of 112 or more registered works and profits attributable to the infringement of any unregistered works. In addition to attorneys’ fees, the broadcaster also wants to seize all of the domains listed in the lawsuit.
A copy of DISH’s complaint can be found here (pdf).
It is not uncommon for anti-piracy groups to state that some ‘pirates’ make a lot of money.
However, whenever that is the case, there’s a tendency for most in the piracy world to maintain a low profile.
Take that position, multiply it by a million. You’re now just halfway to the crazy world of YouTube sensation OMI IN A HELLCAT.
Regularly seen on his channel adding yet another supercar to his huge collection (a recent addition was a McLaren 720s Spider), OMI — real name Omar Carrasquillo — is the founder and owner of ‘pirate’ IPTV service Gears Reloaded.
There’s no suggestion that all of OMI’s rumored $50m fortune came from piracy (he reportedly owns real estate, a restaurant, and several other businesses) but it seems highly likely that the Gears Reloaded gig is well and truly over.
Starting early yesterday, users of the Gears Reloaded IPTV service reported rare downtime. The website connected to the service displays a message indicating ‘down for maintenance’ but according to OMI himself, that’s only part of the story.
“This ain’t clickbait. This ain’t fake, this is not fake. This is 100% real,” OMI said in a noticeably subdued live Q&A with his fans a couple of hours ago, streamed from a friend’s house in Philadelphia.
“I’m gonna let you guys know exactly…and by the way, the FBI is in here [the channel] watching right now as we speak. What i’m gonna need you guys to do for me, i’m gonna need you to buy that merch when it drops,” the persistent entrepreneur began.
“Pretty much they seized all my cars. One thing they didn’t seize was the things I was able to sell a few weeks ago, even a few days ago before this shit happened. A few cars and shit.
“When I tell you they took ‘everything’, they took every SD card, every camera, every television in my house — HOUSES. They took every car. They took ALL my Hellcats. They only thing they didn’t take was my dick because it’s attached to my balls.”
Describing himself for the benefit of newcomers, OMI insisted that his wealth isn’t the result of selling drugs. He began as an app developer for Kodi, one that “got hacked early on.” He then answered the million-dollar question — what happened with the FBI?
“It was pretty much IPTV and taxes and shit and hiring the wrong CPA [accountant]. This is really important for you guys, make sure your taxes are paid for,” he said.
That “taxes and shit” is apparently a reference to pending tax evasion and money laundering charges following a two-year IRS investigation. This is particularly interesting when one considers that OMI has regularly and persistently described pirate IPTV as legal.
“I hit a great area and exploited it and they just didn’t like it. I made a ton of money but at the same time a lot of the money I made super-legit,” he told the Q&A.
“I felt that what I was doing wasn’t illegal. Streaming is totally legal, it’s just the way they’re trying to word it, it’s a little different. But streaming isn’t illegal. It was never live television, it was always delayed television and there’s no laws against it. There’s no laws against it.
“This is Napster 2.0. This wasn’t killing anybody. If anything I saved hundreds of thousands of people [with] cheaper cable. IPTV is not illegal in the US. It isn’t. It isn’t. It’s illegal in other countries but it’s not illegal in the US.
“The [Copyright Act] has nothing to do with streaming and when they seize those servers and they realize there’s nothing being stored on these servers, you have nothing on me. Streaming is not illegal. I saw a window, I saw an opportunity, I exploited the fuck out of it. That’s all it is.”
In earlier videos, OMI said that he previously made lots of money from hosting services, including Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto servers. He also talked about selling huge numbers of Firesticks. Generally, it’s difficult to find a video where the amount of money he’s made isn’t either the sole topic of conversation or at least heavily featured.
But according to OMI, that might be more difficult in the future.
“[My friend] had to lend me a phone because I don’t have a phone. They seized millions of dollars out of all my accounts. They took all the cash I had laying around,” he says. “They took all my jewelry [a recent video has OMI apparently buying $300K’s worth], kids’ things, they took Xboxes, they took computers, laptops, cellphones. They didn’t even leave drones.”
Having previously watched a good number of OMI’s videos, his optimism and positivity have always shone through. That wasn’t the case during this Q&A. By his own estimation, he’s going to prison “for a few years” although he says he’ll also take the rap for those who worked with him.
Another particular point of interest is that OMI insists that entertainment companies never sued him.
“I could’ve dealt with the MPA or the NFL suing me, that never happened. They never gave me fair warning, which by law they have to. Especially when it comes down to a crime like this, when it comes down to ‘copyright infringement’. They were supposed to hit me with a seize operation, or a cease and desist.
“They never hit me with that. I would’ve took it right down,” he adds.
However, OMI also admits that he had been receiving takedown notices issued from the UK on behalf of “the European leagues”, which seems like a reference to either Premier League or UEFA blocking efforts. He also acknowledges receiving notices from Sky, HBO, and similar “fucking stupid channels.”
If there is a point where a defendant in a serious criminal case should stop talking and consult a lawyer, OMI doesn’t seem to know where that point is. He told viewers that the FBI is accusing him of “stealing channels” but he insists he always paid for his — before capturing them and distributing them to his customers.
“I paid for my channels. I did things the old school way. I used capture cards. I take full responsibility so anybody on my team and shit, I pretty much hope you guys don’t ever go to jail now,” he explained.
According to OMI, he knew an investigation was underway since an associate he names as ‘Hector Fuentes’ was a CI (an informant).
“So he used to come around and shit, with a little wire on and could see the wire through his fucking shirt and would say dumb shit to see how far it would get him. The mother-fucker was a confidential informant. The whole time, he was putting people in jail for a long time,” OMI claimed.
Considering this was a Q&A streamed live on YouTube, things then got dark, very dark indeed. OMI says that after being detained by the FBI and being run to the station, all he could think of was killing himself, live on YouTube.
“I’m gonna go on live….and i’m going to kill myself. I’m gonna go on live, express how I feel and then shoot myself on live.”
Thankfully, for everyone’s sake, that didn’t happen.
Last year Cox settled its piracy liability lawsuit with music rights company BMG.
While the company hoped that this would be the end of its copyright woes, the next legal battle was already being prepared.
This time, the ISP was up against 53 music companies, including Capitol Records, Warner Bros, and Sony Music.
The rightsholders complained that Cox categorically failed to terminate repeat copyright infringers and that it substantially profited from this ongoing ‘piracy’ activity. All at the expense of the music companies and other rightsholders.
A year later the case is heading to trial where Cox will have to defend itself once again. However, not before some final issues are resolved.
In August, both Cox and the music companies requested summary judgments on several crucial issues. Among other things, the ISP requested a ruling that it’s not vicariously liable for copyright infringement.
This week US District Court Judge Liam O’Grady ruled on the requests. He decided to deny most, stating that these issues will be resolved at trial. The Judge did, however, issue a ruling on whether Cox had “knowledge” of the allegedly pirating customers.
The music companies asked to have this issue resolved before trial. It is a crucial question, as it determines whether the ISP can be held contributorily liable for pirating subscribers or not.
Cox first argued that the notices failed to identify many copyrighted works. For example, in some cases, the music companies only identified one song from a torrent that contained more works. In addition, the notices only highlighted infringements of sound recordings, not the compositions.
The court, however, waved away this defense and concluded that the notices are certainly specific enough when it comes to specific sound recordings. They include a title, timestamp, date, notice id, IP-address, and hash, among other things.
“Based on the level of detail included in the notices directed at Cox and its subscribers, there is no doubt that Defendants had more than just ‘generalized knowledge’ of infringement,” Judge O’Grady writes.
“Thus, the Court finds as a matter of law that there is no genuine issue of fact regarding the sufficiency of the RIAA notices in this case, and that they can support the knowledge element of a contributory infringement claim,” he adds.
The second question is whether these notices, which the RIAA sent, can lead to the conclusion that Cox had knowledge of the infringements in a legal sense. The ISP denied this, but according to the court, it’s clear that the notices are sufficient.
“It would be farcical to argue that Cox had no knowledge of the hundreds of thousands of notices it received indicating infringement for the works in suit,” Judge O’Grady writes.
“The notices were sent to an email address Cox created for the very purpose of receiving this information, and were processed by a corporate department dedicated to abuse and security for Cox.”
Finally, Cox also argued that it can’t be liable for alleged infringements that occurred through business subscribers, as it can’t identify individual users of these businesses. However, the court ruled that there is no ground to exclude business subscribers at this point.
All in all, it is clear that Cox had specific enough knowledge of pirating subscribers to hold it contributorily liable. However, to do so, a jury must also conclude that the ISP contributed to or induced the infringements. That will be decided at trial.
In addition to the “knowledge” question, Judge O’Grady also ruled that the music companies own or control the exclusive rights to all works that are part of the case, something Cox contested.
With these issues ‘resolved’ the case is yet another step close to trial, which is currently scheduled to take place next month.
A copy of US District Court Judge Liam O’Grady’s memorandum opinion and order is available here (pdf).
Last year, a coalition of copyright holders and major players in the telco industry asked the Canadian Government to institute a national pirate site blocking scheme.
The Fairplay coalition argued that such measures would be required to effectively curb online piracy. Canada’s telco regulator CRTC reviewed the request but eventually denied the application, noting that it lacks jurisdiction.
The driving forces behind the request, Bell, Rogers, and Groupe TVA, were not prepared to let the blocking idea slip away, however. A few months ago the companies filed a lawsuit against the operators of a ‘pirate’ IPTV service GoldTV.ca. The companies argued that the service provides access to their TV content without licenses or authorization.
Among other things, the rightsholders requested an interim injunction to stop the operators, who remain unidentified, from continuing to offer the allegedly-infringing IPTV service. This was granted, but despite the order, some of the infrastructures remained available.
This resulted in a follow-up request from the media giants, which became the setup for the first-ever pirate site blocking order in Canada. Specifically, the companies requested an interlocutory injunction order that would require several Canadian ISPs to block GoldTV domain names and IP-addresses.
Late last week this request was granted by a Federal Court in Ontario. An order, issued by Judge Patrick Gleeson, requires most of Canada’s largest ISPs, including Cogeco, Rogers, Bell, Eastlink and, TekSavvy, to start blocking their customers’ access to GoldTV within 15 days.
The order is unique in North America and relies heavily on UK jurisprudence, can be extended with new IP-addresses and domain names, if those provide access to the same IPTV service. The court doesn’t prescribe a specific blocking method but mentions DNS and IP-address blocking as options.
TekSavvy, for example, argued that blocking websites isn’t very effective, as subscribers have plenty of workarounds they can try, including VPNs. In addition, the company pointed out that many smaller ISPs are not affected by the order, which means that they don’t have to block the service.
Judge Gleeson recognized that blocking measures are not foolproof. However, based on the evidence provided, he concluded that it’s effective enough to make a difference.
“It’s clear from the evidence that site-blocking will not eliminate user access to infringing services. However, the evidence does establish that in those jurisdictions where site-blocking measures have been implemented there has been a significant reduction in visits to infringing websites.
“I am satisfied that a site-blocking order is an effective means of limiting access to GoldTV Services,” Judge Gleeson added.
TekSavvy further argued that it could become very costly to implement a site-blocking system, which would put a significant financial strain on the company. In addition, the order would set a precedent that could lead to hundreds or even thousands of site-blocking orders
Judge Gleeson didn’t agree with this assessment. TekSaffy can rely on DNS and IP-address blocking, which it’s already technically capable of. That wouldn’t require any new hardware investments. In addition, ISPs don’t have to pay the costs of the implementation, as that will be covered by the rightsholders.
TekSavvy also pointed out that site-blocking measures violate net neutrality and freedom of expression. But again, the Court was not convinced that this weighs stronger than the interests of the rightsholders.
“I am satisfied, in the face of a strong prima facie case of ongoing infringement and a draft order that seeks to limit blocking to unlawful sites and incorporates processes to address inadvertent over-blocking, that neither net neutrality nor freedom of expression concerns tip the balance against granting the relief sought,” Judge Gleeson writes.
All in all, the Federal Court sided with the copyright holders. This means that the first-ever pirate site blockade in Canada will soon be in effect. Whether TekSavvy or any of the other ISPs plan to appeal the decision is not known at this point.
The site-blocking question has been a point of debate in Canada over the past several months. While local authorities and lawmakers have spoken out against a non-judicial site-blocking regime, Judge Gleeson’s ruling shows that site-blocking injunctions certainly are an option.
Interestingly, this approach was previously raised by opponents of Fairplay Coalition’s site blocking push. At the time, the rightsholders countered that the legal process could take up to 765 days, but in this case, it went a lot quicker.
In February, several major Hollywood studios filed a lawsuit against Omniverse One World Television.
Under the flag of anti-piracy group ACE, the companies accused Omniverse and its owner Jason DeMeo of supplying of pirate streaming channels to various IPTV services.
Omniverse sold live-streaming services to third-party distributors, such as Dragon Box and HDHomerun, which in turn offered live TV streaming packages to customers. According to ACE, the company was a pirate streaming TV supplier, offering these channels without permission from its members.
Omniverse disagreed with this characterization and countered that it did everything by the book. It relied on a deal from the licensed cable company Hovsat, which has a long-standing agreement with DirecTV to distribute a broad range of TV-channels with few restrictions.
As time went on, however, it transpired that the streaming provider was clearly worried about the legal threat. After several of its distributors distanced themselves from the service, Omniverse decided to wind down its business.
The streaming provider also filed a third-party complaint (pdf) against Hovsat for indemnification and breach of contract, among other things. Omniverse believed that it was properly licensed and wants Hovsat to pay the damages for any alleged infringements if that was not the case.
That there are damages became crystal clear yesterday, when ACE announced that it had obtained a consent judgment against Omniverse. Both parties have agreed to settle the matter with the streaming provider committing to pay a $50 million settlement.
“Damages are awarded in favor of Plaintiffs and against Defendants, jointly and severally, in the total amount of fifty million dollars,” the proposed judgment reads.
The agreement also includes a permanent injunction that prevents Omniverse and its owner Jason DeMeo from operating the service and being involved in supplying or offering pirate streaming channels in any other way.
The damages amount of $50 million is a substantial figure. In the past, however, we have seen that the public figure can be substantially higher than what’s agreed in private. In any case, Omniverse may hold Hovsat accountable, as previously suggested.
Karen Thorland, Senior Vice President at the Motion Picture Association, which has a leading role in the ACE coalition, is pleased with the outcome.
“This judgment and injunction are a major win for creators, audiences, and the legitimate streaming market, which has been undermined by Omniverse and its ‘back office’ piracy infrastructure for years,” Thorland, says
Over the past years, ACE has built a steady track record of successful cases against IPTV providers and services. In addition to Omniverse, it also helped to shut down SetTV, Dragon Box, TickBox, Vader Streams, and many third-party Kodi addons.
The consent judgment and permanent injunction (pdf) have yet to be signed off by the court but since both parties are in agreement, that’s mostly a formality.
In March several major music companies sued Charter Communications, one of the largest Internet providers in the US with 22 million subscribers.
Helped by the RIAA, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, and others accused Charter of deliberately turning a blind eye to its pirating subscribers.
Among other things, they argued that the ISP failed to terminate or otherwise take meaningful action against the accounts of repeat infringers, even though it was well aware of them. As such, it is liable for both contributory infringement and vicarious liability, the music companies claim.
The ISP disagreed and filed a motion at a Colorado federal court, asking it to dismiss the vicarious liability claims. Charter argues that it doesn’t directly profit from copyright-infringing subscribers, nor does it have the ability to control them.
Previously, other Internet providers have been successful in getting vicarious infringement claims dropped, but Charter’s case appears to go in the other direction. Last month Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty recommended the court to deny the motion to dismiss.
According to the Judge, Charter’s “failure to stop or take other action in response to notices of infringement is a draw to current and prospective subscribers to purchase and use Defendant’s internet service to ‘pirate’ Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works.”
Charter objected to this recommendation and hopes that the court will not accept it. The company fears that this will subject the company, and pretty much all other ISPs, to a wide range of piracy liability claims.
They are not alone in this assessment. Yesterday, a group of 23 copyright law professors submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the company. According to the legal scholars from prominent institutions including Harvard and Stanford, the recommendation would set a dangerous precedent.
The copyright professors point out that, based on the complaint, it can’t be concluded that Charter enjoyed direct financial benefits from the alleged infringements, as vicarious liability prescribes.
Vicarious liability requires ISPs’ actions to serve as a “draw” to potential infringers. However, the professors argue that this isn’t the case here. Instead, the potential to use Charter to pirate should be seen as an “added benefit.”
The draw, in this case, is access to the entire Internet, with the potential to pirate being an added benefit.
“Access to this universe of content and services is the draw for subscribers, and the use by some subscribers of some portion of that service to download infringing material can only plausibly be seen as an added benefit of the service.
“This is especially true with ISPs, like Charter, because subscribers pay the same flat monthly rate for a particular level of service irrespective of whether, or how often, they infringe,” the professors add.
The Judge’s recommendation fails to properly make this distinction according to the professors. Neither does it show the necessary causal link between infringements and the financial benefit. As a result, it would expose Charter and other ISPs to “unprecedented risks of liability.”
The fact that Charter advertises “blazing-fast” speeds that allow users to download “just about anything” efficiently is not relevant either. According to the professors, these features are valued by all Internet users whether they engage in infringement or not.
“The Recommendation’s misapplication of the direct financial benefit analysis would cause considerable harm to other ISPs, consumers, and the public,” they write.
The immediate threat to ISPs is more lawsuits where dozens of millions of dollars in damages are at stake. If the recommendation stands, providers would have a hard time defending them. In addition, many would have to change their piracy policies, which could hurt consumer privacy.
In order to avoid vicarious liability claims, Charter and others would have to be more active against potential repeat infringers. This could lead to more Internet terminations and possible monitoring of legitimate users, the professors warn.
“Consumers, whether they personally engage in infringing conduct or not, could be subject to wholesale termination of their Internet access based on unproven allegations of infringement occurring at the IP address through which they connect to the Internet.
“Moreover, ISPs could be forced to engage in privacy-invasive monitoring of their subscribers’ Internet activity,” they add.
The brief explains that ISPs that don’t host any content should pass all Internet traffic along in a neutral manner. These companies should not be forced to become copyright enforcers based on mere allegations.
Based on the above, the copyright law professors urge the court not to adopt the Magistrate Judge’s recommendations. First, however, the court must decide whether it will accept the brief and add it to the record.
Given what’s at stake, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see submissions from more third-parties on this matter in the coming days.
A copy of the professors’ amicus curiae brief, which has yet to be accepted, is available here (pdf).
For well over a decade, entertainment industry groups have been developing legal processes to have allegedly-infringing websites blocked at the ISP level.
The majority of these complaints have been initiated by movie and music companies but in recent years, other content distributors have sought similar blockades in order to protect their interests.
Publishing giant Elsevier has emerged as a major player with arch-rivals Sci-Hub (‘The Pirate Bay of Science’) and Libgen (Library Genesis) as its key targets. Late last week, Austrian ISP T-Mobile revealed that it had begun blocking several Sci-Hub and Libgen related domains following a supervisory procedure carried out by local telecoms regulator TKK.
The original complaint against more than two dozen domains was filed in the summer by Elsevier Ltd, Elsevier BV and Elsevier Inc. against rival ISP A1. The ISP took the decision to block the domains in July but due to concerns that blocking has the potential to breach net neutrality rules, it reported the case to TKK (Telekom-Control-Commission).
Early August, TKK launched a supervisory process and both A1 and Elsevier were asked to participate. In September, TKK informed the parties of the results of its investigation which determined that 24 of the 27 domains listed in the original blocking request (listed below) were “structurally infringing”.
In summary, the 24 domains either provided direct access to Sci-Hub or Libgen or provided proxy/mirror access to essentially the same content.
Three domains – libgen.io, lgmag.org and bookdescr.org – were determined to be either inaccessible during the process or didn’t carry content owned by Elsevier at the time. After notification from TKK, A1 confirmed that it had lifted its blocks against the three domains in question.
Following A1’s blocking of the listed domains, TKK says no end-users complained to the ISP that the blocks had been put in place or filed any official complaints with the telecoms regulator.
So, after analysis of the nature of the sites and their conduct, TKK therefore ruled (pdf) that blocking them at the ISP level would be the correct balance between the rights of Internet users and Elsevier’s rights to protect its intellectual property.
The question remains, however, whether anti-piracy enforcement action alone will ever keep Sci-Hub down, particularly when universities are reconsidering their business dealings with Elsevier and making the platform more relevant than ever.
The full list of 24 domains blocked in Austria reads as follows:
In 2014, the application known as Popcorn Time burst onto the scene to transform the BitTorrent landscape.
Instead of accessing torrent files from indexing platforms such as The Pirate Bay to download them in a comparatively boring regular client, users were given a beautiful, Netflix-style, all-in-one solution.
Very quickly, Popcorn Time became a smash-hit sensation but it also attracted movie and TV show companies determined to shut it down. While some success was booked on this front, Popcorn Time’s open-source nature meant that it could be replicated by enthusiasts, such as those who ultimately ended up operating from PopcornTime.sh.
While there are other variants, Reddit’s /r/popcorntime considers the .sh domain as offering the ‘official’ version of PopcornTime and the site was previously linked from the official Github repository. As the image below shows, the website and associated services attached to the app via the .sh domain were working just fine on November 3, 2019.
The situation today, however, is very much different. PopcornTime.sh and all the sub-domains which allow its app to work as intended have been rendered inaccessible.
According to WHOIS data, late on Monday the domain was updated. It isn’t due to expire for another year but its domain status is currently listed as “clientHold”, which can signal bad news.
‘ClientHold’ status is set by the domain registrar, 101domain.com in this case, and informs the registry not to activate the DNS for PopcornTime.sh. As a result, the website in question has been rendered inaccessible.
“This status code tells your domain’s registry to not activate your domain in the DNS and as a consequence, it will not resolve,” ICANN’s official advice reads. “It is an uncommon status that is usually enacted during legal disputes, non-payment, or when your domain is subject to deletion.”
We have been unable to officially confirm why PopcornTime.sh has been given this treatment but in the past, clientHold status has proven problematic for domains and has sometimes signaled legal issues. Information received earlier today adds at least some weight to that theory.
This afternoon we received an email from the folks at InternetProtocol.co who, citing anonymous police sources, claim that the site’s operator may (and that’s a pretty big ‘may’) have been arrested in Tunisia.
The publication also posted an image that supposedly shows items confiscated as evidence as part of a “raid” carried out in “cooperation with some international copyright organization.”
Unable to confirm the allegations from any other source and given its worldwide position on anti-piracy enforcement, TorrentFreak contacted the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment seeking confirmation or indeed denial that it was involved in this alleged and as-yet unconfirmed action.
We were told by their spokesperson that at this point in time, he wasn’t able to provide us with any information.
Although the moderators of the official PopcornTime sub on Reddit claim to have no direct connection with the software distributed and maintained from the .sh domain, TorrentFreak requested comments from all of them. At the time of publication, however, we were yet to hear back.
Whether the domain issue will be solved in time is unclear but that seems largely reliant on whether the information about a supposed arrest in North Africa holds up as credible.
Similar action in that region is extremely rare, perhaps unheard of as far as popular applications go, so there will be a waiting game for the full picture to emerge, if it ever does. Last year, PopcornTime.sh was targeted by movie companies seeking the identity of its operator but what ultimately became of that remains unclear.
Piracy settlement letters have become a serious threat in several countries.
Dutch Internet users have been spared from this practice, but local movie distributor Dutch Filmworks (DFW), planned to change that.
Two years ago the movie company received permission from the Dutch Data Protection Authority to track the IP-addresses of BitTorrent users who shared pirated movies.
However, that was only the first hurdle, as Dutch Internet provider Ziggo refused to share any customer data without a court order.
The case went to court, where the movie company requested the personal details of 377 account holders whose addresses were allegedly used to share a copy of the movie “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”.
Dutch Filmworks lost this case but swiftly announced an appeal. This ruling was initially expected during this summer, but the Court of Appeal postponed it due to the complexity of the case. After additional deliberation, the Court announced its verdict today.
The Court of Appeal in Arnhem sided with the lower court, rejecting the request for subscriber details. In its ruling, the Court explains that it must find a balance between the privacy rights of subscribers and Dutch Filmworks’ intellectual property rights.
In this specific case, copyright doesn’t outweigh the privacy rights of Internet subscribers. This is, in part, because it remains uncertain what the movie company plans to do with the personal data it obtains. Dutch Filmworks explained that it could either warn subscribers or request damages, but that it would decide this on a case-by-case basis.
“By not being transparent about the criteria it applies when carrying out its intended actions, the interests of the involved Ziggo customer are harmed,” the Court notes.
“In the opinion of the Court of Appeal, this leads to a disturbance of the [rights] balance, in particular in the situation that it is uncertain whether the Ziggo customer involved is actually the infringer,” the Court adds, noting that the subscriber in question may be a third-party.
In addition, it remains unclear how large the proposed settlements will be. An initial figure of €150 per infringement has been mentioned in the past, but this number could also be significantly higher. Transparency is lacking here as well, which means more uncertainty for the potential targets.
After weighing all evidence, the Court of Appeal concludes that the lower court made the right decision. Based on the presented information, the Court can’t grant the request to hand over the personal details of alleged infringers.
“There are no clear and comprehensible criteria based on which an estimate can be made of the consequences for the relevant Ziggo customers, if their personal data is disclosed. It cannot be checked whether the intended measures are in reasonable proportion to the importance that it serves DFW and the privacy interest of the Ziggo customer whose privacy is violated.”
In addition, the Court ordered the movie company to pay €4,000 in costs. Whether Dutch Filmworks will continue to appeal the case is unknown at the time of publication. For now, however, Ziggo customers don’t have to worry about a settlement letter from Dutch Filmworks.
TuneIn is one of the most prominent and recognizable providers of radio content in the world.
Available for free or on a premium basis, the service offers access to well over 100,000 radio stations and millions of podcasts. It doesn’t provide this content itself but acts as an indexer (“audio guide service”, according to TuneIn) for those looking to access third-party streams.
In 2017 it emerged that Sony Music UK and Warner Music UK had sued the US-based company in the UK, claiming that since many of the TuneIn-indexed stations are unlicensed to play music in the region, linking to them amounts to infringement of the labels’ copyrights.
Today, the High Court of England Wales handed down its decision and it doesn’t look good for TuneIn. The judgment begins by stating the opposing positions of the labels and TuneIn, which are particularly familiar in these types of disputes concerning hyperlinking.
“The claimants say that a finding for the defendant will fatally undermine copyright. The defendant says that a finding for the claimants will break the internet,” Justice Birss writes.
The labels argued that TuneIn needs a license, an assertion “strongly disputed” by TuneIn. The company argued that it does not “store any music, and merely provides users of TuneIn Radio with hyperlinks to works which have already been made freely available on the internet without any geographic or other restriction.”
In other words, TuneIn presents itself as not unlike Google search but instead of indexing websites, it indexes and links to radio streams. However, Justice Birss declared the service to be “much more than that”, in part due to its curation and search features.
“I find therefore that the activity of TuneIn does amount to an act of communication of the relevant works; and also that that act of communication is to a ‘public’, in the sense of being to an indeterminate and fairly large number of persons,” he writes.
The ruling, which was first published by a blog connected to Bird and Bird, the law firm that represented TuneIn, runs to 47 pages and is both extremely detailed and complex. However, the conclusion to Judge Birss’ judgment can be summarized in a straightforward manner.
When TuneIn supplied UK users with links to radio stations that are already licensed in the UK, the company did not infringe Sony or Warner’s copyrights.
However, when TuneIn supplied UK users with links to radio stations that are not licensed for the UK or are not licensed at all, the company did infringe the labels’ rights.
Noting that TuneIn cannot rely on the safe harbor defenses under the E-Commerce Directive, Judge Birss declared TuneIn, “liable for infringement by authorization and as a joint tortfeasor.”
In what is becoming an increasingly competitive market, generating revenue by any means is a must for most significant sites, platforms, and services operating in the piracy space.
In Russia, pirate platforms have been experiencing an upward revenue trend for many years but according to a forecast just published by cybersecurity firm Group-IB, 2019 is set to be much less lucrative.
For background, in 2015 revenues were estimated to be $32m but a year later the picture had changed significantly with the market almost doubling in size to $62m. In 2017 there was a further 21% uplift to $85m but in 2018 things began to slow down, with a small 2.3% growth delivering estimated revenues of $87m.
In its latest analysis, the company states that for the first time in half a decade, revenues are set to collapse. Group-IB predicts a figure of around $63.5m for 2019, a drop of 27% compared to estimates for 2018 published last year.
The reasons cited for the dramatic downward shift are numerous. Russia has been tightening its anti-piracy laws almost every year, including site-blocking and in particular, the ability to block repeat-infringer sites and their mirrors/proxies on a permanent basis.
Internet platforms including Yandex, Mail.ru, Rambler and Gazprom Media, in conjunction with major content companies, agreed to the creation of an infringing content database which signals which URLs to remove from search results. Around 600,000 links to pirated copies of movies and TV shows are currently included.
The arrangement officially expired early October but an extension was subsequently agreed, with an option to continue until the end of the year if a bill to enshrine its terms in law is submitted to the State Duma by the end of this month. In the meantime, the effects of the agreement haven’t gone unnoticed.
“In the previous years, even if pirated content was removed from a web page, a user still could open the web page, finding it in the search engine, and see the advertisement placed on it, bringing money to online-pirates,” says Andrey Busargin, Director of Brand Protection and Anti-Piracy at Group-IB.
“In 2019, on the contrary, a user was not always able to open a resource with pirated video content, even intentionally.”
Pirate site operators have other advertising issues too. Group-IB estimates that the average earnings for a pirate site via advertising are around $10,000 per month, with online casinos and gaming platforms providing most of the income.
“The active work of the Russian Federal Tax Service against bookmakers and gambling led to the pushing out of advertisers of pirated websites,” Busargin notes.
“For example, Azino777, a highly affiliated provider of advertising services for pirate CDNs, has already lost its leading position.”
Many streaming portals in the region utilize these ‘pirate’ CDNs which bundle video and advertising into a single package. As recently reported, however, several major players were either taken down after legal action by BREIN, the MPA, and the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, or shut down as a direct result. At least temporarily, this could be affecting up to 80% of the pirate streaming market.
Nevertheless, there remains a thirst among Russian consumers for pirated content, so solutions are likely to be found. Group-IB says that the volume of search requests seeking pirated movies and TV shows increased by 0.06% in 2019, to 10.4 billion.
But there is also a cultural problem faced by content companies. A survey published in September by security company ESET suggested that just 9% of respondents prefer legal content over pirated, with 75% citing high prices as their motivation.
That being said, their supply will only continue if pirate sites can make money at their end, so it will be interesting to see whether their 2020 revenues continue on a downward trend.
With millions of regular visitors, file-hosting site Openload generates more traffic than popular streaming services such as Hulu or HBO Go.
While the site has plenty of legal uses it is also a thorn in the side of many copyright holders, due to the frequent appearance of pirated content.
This pirate stigma most recently resulted in a mention on the US Government’s list of “Notorious Markets”.
Today the site’s regular users are welcomed by a rather unpleasant surprise. Instead of the usual interface, allowing them to access the latest videos, they see a message from the global anti-piracy alliance ACE.
“The website is no longer available due to copyright infringement. You will be redirected to alliance4creativity.com,” it reads.
A closer look at the DNS information shows that the domain name now points to the ns3.films.org and ns4.films.org nameservers, which have been used in the past for similar seizures.
(This article has been amended after additional information came in)
Initially, ACE didn’t immediately reply to our request for comment but the coalition has now confirmed that it reached an agreement with the operator of the site. As a result, many related Openload domains such as oload.cc, oload.club and oload.download, openload.pw and oloadcdn.net are offline as well.
The same is true for Streamango.com, which is believed to be connected to Openload. Streamcherry.com also shows the same ACE copyright notice, although ACE has not confirmed that this domain is part of the deal.
According to ACE, the shutdown is a major win.
“Prior to this ACE action, Openload and Streamango were massive piracy outfits. Openload alone had more than 1,000 servers in Romania, France, and Germany, and generated more traffic than many leading sources of legal content,” ACE writes.
With millions of daily visitors, the redirects are causing trouble for the ACE website too, which is slowing down and returning errors regularly. This is no surprise, as Openload.co alone has an estimated 65 million visits per month, according to SimilarWeb.
This is a breaking story, we will update the article if and when new information becomes available.
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