Tag Archives: Breaking News

Treasure Trove of AACS 2.0 UHD Blu-Ray Keys Leak Online

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/treasure-trove-of-aacs-2-0-uhd-blu-ray-keys-leak-online-171211/

Nowadays, movie buffs and videophiles find it hard to imagine a good viewing experience without UHD content, but disc rippers and pirates have remained on the sidelines for a long time.

Protected with strong AACS 2.0 encryption, UHD Blu-ray discs have long been one of the last bastions movie pirates had yet to breach.

This year there have been some major developments on this front, as full copies of UHD discs started to leak online. While it remained unclear how these were ripped, it was a definite milestone.

Just a few months ago another breakthrough came when a Russian company released a Windows tool called DeUHD that could rip UHD Blu-ray discs. Again, the method for obtaining the keys was not revealed.

Now there’s another setback for AACS LA, the licensing outfit founded by Warner Bros, Disney, Microsoft, Intel, and others. On various platforms around the Internet, copies of 72 AACS 2.0 keys are being shared.

The first mention we can find was posted a few days ago in a ten-year-old forum thread in the Doom9 forums. Since then it has been replicated a few times, without much fanfare.

The keys

The keys in question are confirmed to work and allow people to rip UHD Blu-ray discs of movies with freely available software such as MakeMKV. They are also different from the DeUHD list, so there are more people who know how to get them.

The full list of leaked keys includes movies such as Deadpool, Hancock, Passengers, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and The Martian. Some movies have multiple keys, likely as a result of different disc releases.

The leaked keys are also relevant for another reason. Ten years ago, a hacker leaked the AACS cryptographic key “09 F9” online which prompted the MPAA and AACS LA to issue DMCA takedown requests to sites where it surfaced.

This escalated into a censorship debate when Digg started removing articles that referenced the leak, triggering a massive backlash.

Thus fas the response to the AACS 2.0 leaks has been pretty tame, but it’s still early days. A user who posted the leaked keys on MyCe has already removed them due to possible copyright problems, so it’s definitely still a touchy subject.

The question that remains now is how the hacker managed to secure the keys, and if AACS 2.0 has been permanently breached.

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

Hollywood and Netflix Ask Court to Seize Tickbox Streaming Devices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-and-netflix-ask-court-to-seize-tickbox-streaming-devices-171209/

More and more people are starting to use Kodi-powered set-top boxes to stream video content to their TVs.

While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons give it a bad reputation.

According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors.

Earlier this year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The Tickbox devices use the Kodi media player and come with instructions on how to add various add-ons.

According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. “TickBox promotes and distributes TickBox TV for infringing use, and that is exactly the result of its use,” they told court this week.

After the complaint was filed in October, Tickbox made some cosmetic changes to the site, removing some allegedly inducing language. The streaming devices are still for sale, however, but not for long if it’s up to the media giants.

This week ACE submitted a request for a preliminary injunction to the court, hoping to stop Tickbox’s sales activities.

“TickBox is intentionally inducing infringement, pure and simple. Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court enter a preliminary injunction that requires TickBox to halt its flagrantly illegal conduct immediately,” they write in their application.

The companies explain that that since Tickbox is causing irreparable harm, all existing devices should be impounded.

“[A]ll TickBox TV devices in the possession of TickBox and all of its officers, directors, agents, servants, and employees, and all persons in active concert or participation or in privity with any of them are to be impounded and shall be retained by Defendant until further order of the Court,” the proposed order reads.

In addition, Tickbox should push out a software update which remove all infringing add-ons from the devices that were previously sold.

“TickBox shall, via software update, remove from all distributed TickBox TV devices all Kodi ‘Themes,’ ‘Builds,’ ‘Addons,’ or any other software that facilitates the infringing public performances of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works.”

Among others, the list of allegedly infringing add-ons and themes includes Spinz, Lodi Black, Stream on Fire, Wookie, Aqua, CMM, Spanish Quasar, Paradox, Covenant, Elysium, UK Turk, Gurzil, Maverick, and Poseidon.

The filing shows that ACE is serious about its efforts to stop the sale of these type of streaming devices. Tickbox has yet to reply to the original complaint or the injunction request.

While this is the first US lawsuit of its kind, the anti-piracy conglomerate has been rather active in recent weeks. The group has successfully pressured several addon developers to quit and has been involved in enforcement actions around the globe.

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

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

Google & Facebook Excluded From Aussie Safe Harbor Copyright Amendments

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-facebook-excluded-from-aussie-safe-harbor-copyright-amendments-171205/

Due to a supposed drafting error in Australia’s implementation of the Australia – US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), copyright safe harbor provisions currently only apply to commercial Internet service providers.

This means that while local ISPs such as Telstra receive protection from copyright infringement complaints, services such as Google, Facebook and YouTube face legal uncertainty.

Proposed amendments to the Copyright Act earlier this year would’ve seen enhanced safe harbor protections for such platforms but they were withdrawn at the eleventh hour so that the government could consider “further feedback” from interested parties.

Shortly after the government embarked on a detailed consultation with entertainment industry groups. They accuse platforms like YouTube of exploiting safe harbor provisions in the US and Europe, which forces copyright holders into an expensive battle to have infringing content taken down. They do not want that in Australia and at least for now, they appear to have achieved their aims.

According to a report from AFR (paywall), the Australian government is set to introduce new legislation Wednesday which will expand safe harbors for some organizations but will exclude companies such as Google, Facebook, and similar platforms.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield confirmed the exclusions while noting that additional safeguards will be available to institutions, libraries, and organizations in the disability, archive and culture sectors.

“The measures in the bill will ensure these sectors are protected from legal liability where they can demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to deal with copyright infringement by users of their online platforms,” Senator Fifield told AFR.

“Extending the safe harbor scheme in this way will provide greater certainty to institutions in these sectors and enhance their ability to provide more innovative and creative services for all Australians.”

According to the Senator, the government will continue its work with stakeholders to further reform safe harbor provisions, before applying them to other service providers.

The news that Google, Facebook, and similar platforms are to be denied access to the new safe harbor rules will be seen as a victory for rightsholders. They’re desperately trying to tighten up legislation in other regions where such safeguards are already in place, arguing that platforms utilizing user-generated content for profit should obtain appropriate licensing first.

This so-called ‘Value Gap’ (1,2,3) and associated proactive filtering proposals are among the hottest copyright topics right now, generating intense debate across Europe and the United States.

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

Epic Games Settles First Copyright Case Against Fortnite Cheater

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-settles-first-copyright-case-against-fortnite-cheater-171201/

Frustrated by thousands of cheaters who wreak havoc in Fortnite’s “Battle Royale,” game publisher Epic Games decided to take several of them to court.

One of the defendants is Minnesota resident Charles Vraspir, a.k.a. “Joreallean,”

The game publisher accused him of copyright infringement and breach of contract, by injecting unauthorized computer code in order to cheat.

According to Epic’s allegations, Vraspir was banned at least nine times but registered new accounts to continue his cheating. In addition, he was also suspected of having written code for the cheats.

“Defendant’s cheating, and his inducing and enabling of others to cheat, is ruining the game playing experience of players who do not cheat,” Epic games wrote.

While the complaint included all the elements for an extensive legal battle, both sides chose to resolve the case without much of a fight. Yesterday, they informed the court that a settlement had been reached.

Epic Games’ counsel asked the court to enter the agreement as well as a permanent injunction, which both have agreed on.

The proposed injunction, signed today, forbids Vraspir from carrying out any copyright infringements in the future, to destroy all cheats, and to never cheat again.

Among other things, he is prohibited from “creating, writing, developing, advertising, promoting, and/or distributing anything that infringes Epic’s works now or hereafter protected by any of Epic’s copyrights.”

While there is no mention of a settlement fee or fine, Vraspir will have to pay $5,000 if he breaches the agreement.

From the injunction

Based on the swift settlement, it can be assumed that Epic Games is not aiming to bankrupt the cheaters. Instead, it’s likely that the company wants to set an example and deter others from cheating in the future.

In addition to the settlement, Epic Games also responded to the mother of the 14-year-old cheater who was sued in a separate case. After we first covered the news last week it was quickly picked up by mainstream media, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the game publisher either.

The mother accused Epic of taking a minor to court and making his personal info known to the public.

In a response this week, the company notes that it had no idea of the age of the defendant when it filed the complaint. In addition, Epic notes that by handing over his full name and address in the unredacted letter, she exposed her son.

The rules dictate that filings mentioning an individual known to be a minor should use the minor’s initials only, not the full name as the mother did. While the mother may have waived this protection with her letter, Epic says it will stick to the initials going forward.

“Although there is an argument that by submitting the Letter to the Court containing Defendant’s name and address, Defendant’s mother waived this protection […] we plan to include only Defendant’s initials or redact his name entirely in all future filings with the Court, including this letter.”

Given the quick settlement in the Vraspir case, it’s likely that the case against the 14-year-old boy will also be resolved without much additional damage. That is, if both sides can come to an agreement.

A copy of the stipulation and injunction is available here (pdf). The reply to the mother can be found here (pdf).

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

YouTube Begins Blocking Music in Finland Due to Licensing Failure

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-begins-blocking-music-in-finland-due-to-licensing-failure-171130/

YouTube is used by millions of people worldwide to access a broad range of content but it is music that is increasingly one of the platform’s big draws.

With an almost unrivaled library, YouTube is the go-to service for music fans globally but over in Finland this morning, things aren’t playing out well.

As shown in the image below, users who try to access music are now getting the following graphic. When translated the text reads “Video content owned by Teosto. The video can not be used in your country.”

No license…..No access…

This is a pretty big deal. Teosto is a Finnish performance rights organization that collects royalties on behalf of local artists and composers. It represents around 30,000 local songwriters and publishers, small fry when compared to the three million foreign music entities it represents in Finland.

This means that YouTube must have pulled huge volumes of content from its platform locally, rendering the service far less attractive to users. However, according to a TorrentFreak source, things go much further than standard modern licensed music.

As shown in the image below, even music published in 1899 has found itself pulled from the platform.

Jean Sibelius’ masterpiece Finlandia? Gone..

The music licensing dispute, which appears to have led to millions of tracks being rendered inaccessible in Finland, was confirmed by YouTube this morning.

“We were unable to reach a new licensing agreement with TEOSTO. Because of this, some videos containing music will be blocked in Finland,” the team said.

While the removal of content will come as a disappointment to the quarter of Finnish citizens who use YouTube regularly, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

In September, Teosto issued an opinion on copyrights to Parliament’s Education Committee. The licensing group complained that rightsholders aren’t adequately compensated for content played on platforms like YouTube. Like other groups in the same position, Teosto is looking to obtain more revenue for its members. That seems to be the basis for the dispute with YouTube.

For YouTube to have pulled so much content, negotiations must have really broken down, but Teosto sounded a note of optimism this morning. The group noted that while Google had indeed pulled music content from YouTube in Finland, it may reinstate it during the next couple of days.

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

ACE and CAP Shut Down Aussie Pirate IPTV Operation

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ace-and-cap-shut-down-aussie-pirate-iptv-operation-171128/

Instead of companies like the MPAA, Amazon, Netflix, CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, CBS, Foxtel, and Village Roadshow tackling piracy completely solo, this year they teamed up to form the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

This massive collaboration of 30 companies represents a new front in the fight against piracy, with global players publicly cooperating to tackle the phenomenon in all its forms.

The same is true of CASBAA‘s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), a separate anti-piracy collective which to some extent shares the same members as ACE but with a sharp of focus on Asia.

This morning the groups announced the results of a joint investigation in Australia which targeted a large supplier of illicit IPTV devices. These small set-top boxes, which come in several forms, are often configured to receive programming from unauthorized sources. In this particular case, they came pre-loaded to play pirated movies, television shows, sports programming, plus other content.

The Melbourne-based company targeted by ACE and CAP allegedly sold these devices in Asia for many years. The company demanded AUS$400 (US$305) per IPTV unit and bundled each with a year’s subscription to pirated TV channels and on-demand movies from the US, EU, India and South East Asia markets.

In the past, companies operating in these areas have often been met with overwhelming force including criminal action, but ACE and CAP appear to have reached an agreement with the company and its owner, even going as far as keeping their names out of the press.

In return, the company has agreed to measures which will prevent people who have already invested in these boxes being able to access ACE and CAP content going forward. That is likely to result in a whole bunch of irritated customers.

“The film and television industry has made significant investments to provide audiences with access to creative content how, where, and when they want it,” says ACE spokesperson Zoe Thorogood.

“ACE and CAP members initiated this investigation as part of a comprehensive global approach to protect the legal marketplace for creative content, reduce online piracy, and bolster a creative economy that supports millions of workers. This latest action was part of a series of global actions to address the growth of illegal and unsafe piracy devices and apps.”

Neil Gane, General Manager of the CASBAA Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), also weighed in with what are now becoming industry-standard warnings of losses to content makers and supposed risks to consumers.

“These little black boxes are now beginning to dominate the piracy ecosystem, causing significant damage to all sectors of the content industry, from producers to telecommunication platforms,” Gane said.

“They also pose a risk to consumers who face a well-documented increase in exposure to malware. The surge in availability of these illicit streaming devices is an international issue that requires a coordinated effort between industry and government. This will be the first of many disruption and enforcement initiatives on which CAP, ACE, and other industry associations will be collaborating together.”

In September, TF revealed the secret agreement behind the ACE initiative, noting how the group’s founding members are required to commit $5m each annually to the project. The remaining 21 companies on the coalition’s Executive Committee put in $200,000 each.

While today’s IPTV announcement was very public, ACE has already been flexing its muscles behind the scenes. Earlier this month we reported on several cases where UK-based Kodi addon developers were approached by the anti-piracy group and warned to shut down – or else.

While all complied, each was warned not to reveal the terms of their agreement with ACE. This means that the legal basis for its threats remains shrouded in mystery. That being said, it’s likely that several European Court of Justice decisions earlier in the year played a key role.

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

Mashup Site Hit With Domain Suspension Following IFPI Copyright Complaint

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mashup-site-hit-with-domain-suspension-following-ifpi-copyright-complaint-171127/

Mashups are musical compositions, usually made up of two or more tracks seamlessly blended together, which bring something fresh and new to the listener.

There are hundreds of stunning examples online, many created in hobbyist circles, with dedicated communities sharing their often brilliant work.

However, the majority of mashups have something in common – they’re created without any permission from the copyright holders’ of the original tracks. As such they remain controversial, as mashup platform Sowndhaus has just discovered.

This Canada-based platform allows users to upload, share and network with other like-minded mashup enthusiasts. It has an inbuilt player, somewhat like Soundcloud, through which people can play a wide range of user-created mashups. However, sometime last Tuesday, Sowndhaus’ main domain, Sowndhaus.com, became unreachable.

Sowndhaus: High-quality mashups

The site’s operators say that they initially believed there was some kind of configuration issue. Later, however, they discovered that their domain had been “purposefully de-listed” from its DNS servers by its registrar.

“DomainBox had received a DMCA notification from the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) and immediately suspended our .com domain,” Sowndhaus’ operators report.

At this point it’s worth noting that while Sowndhaus is based and hosted in Canada, DomainBox is owned by UK-based Mesh Digital Limited, which is in turn owned by GoDaddy. IFPI, however, reportedly sent a US-focused DMCA notice to the registrar which noted that the music group had “a good faith belief” that activity on Sowndhaus “is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”

While mashups have always proved controversial, Sowndhaus believe that they operate well within Canadian law.

“We have a good faith belief that the audio files allegedly ‘infringing copyright’ in the DMCA notification are clearly transformative works and meet all criteria for ‘Non-commercial User-generated Content’ under Section 29.21 of the Copyright Act (Canada), and as such are authorized by the law,” the site says.

“Our service, servers, and files are located in Canada which has a ‘Notice and Notice regime’ and where DMCA (a US law) has no jurisdiction. However, the jurisdiction for our .com domain is within the US/EU and thus subject to its laws.”

Despite a belief that the site operates lawfully, Sowndhaus took a decision to not only take down the files listed in IFPI’s complaint but also to ditch its .com domain completely. While this convinced DomainBox to give control of the domain back to the mashup platform, Sowndhaus has now moved to a completely new domain (sowndhaus.audio), to avoid further issues.

“We neither admit nor accept that any unlawful activity or copyright infringement with respect to the DMCA claim had taken place, or has ever been permitted on our servers, or that it was necessary to remove the files or service under Section 29.21 of the Copyright Act (Canada) with which we have always been, and continue to be, in full compliance,” the site notes.

“The use of copyright material as Non-commercial User-generated Content is authorized by law in Canada, where our service resides. We believe that the IFPI are well aware of this, are aware of the jurisdiction of our service, and therefore that their DMCA notification is a misrepresentation of copyright.”

Aside from what appears to have been a rapid suspension of Sowndhaus’ .com domain, the site says that it is being held to a higher standard of copyright protection that others operating under the DMCA.

Unlike YouTube, for example, Sowndhaus says it pro-actively removes files found to infringe copyright. It also bans users who use the site to commit piracy, as per its Terms of Service.

“This is a much stronger regime than would be required under the DMCA guidelines where users generally receive warnings and strikes before being banned, and where websites complying with the DMCA and seeking to avoid legal liability do not actively seek out cases of infringement, leading to some cases of genuine piracy remaining undetected on their services,” the site says.

However, the site remains defiant in respect of the content it hosts, noting that mashups are transformative works that use copyright content “in new and creative ways to form new works of art” and as such are legal for non-commercial purposes.

That hasn’t stopped it from being targeted by copyright holders in the past, however.

This year three music-based organizations (IFPI, RIAA, and France’s SCPP) have sent complaints to Google about the platform, targeting close to 200 URLs. However, at least for more recent complaints, Google hasn’t been removing the URLs from its indexes.

Complaints sent to Google about Sowndhaus in 2017<

Noting that corporations are using their powers “to hinder, stifle, and silence protected new forms of artistic expression with no repercussions”, Sowndhaus says that it is still prepared to work with copyright holders but wishes they would “reconsider their current policies and accept non-commercial transformative works as legitimate art forms with legal protections and/or exemptions in all jurisdictions.”

While Sowndhaus is now operating from a new domain, the switch is not without its inconveniences. All URLs with links to files on sowndhaus.com are broken but can be fixed by changing the .com to .audio.

DomainBox did not respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment.

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

Rightscorp: Revenue From Piracy Settlements Down 48% in 2017

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-revenue-from-piracy-settlements-down-48-in-2017-171125/

For the past several years, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has been trying to turn piracy into profit. The company monitors BitTorrent networks, captures IP addresses, then attempts to force ISPs to forward cash settlement demands to its subscribers.

Unlike other companies operating in the same area, Rightscorp has adopted a “speeding fine” type model, where it asks for $20 to $30 to make a supposed lawsuit go away, instead of the many hundreds demanded by its rivals. To date, this has resulted in the company closing more than 230,000 cases of infringement.

But despite the high numbers, the company doesn’t seem to be able to make it pay. Rightscorp’s latest set of financial results covering the three months ended September 30, 2017, show how bad things have got on the settlement front.

During the period in question, Rightscorp generated copyright settlement revenues of $45,848, an average of just $15,282 per month. That represents a decrease of 67% when compared to the $139,834 generated during the same period in 2016.

When looking at settlement revenues year to date, Rightscorp generated $184,362 in 2017, a decrease of 48% when compared to $354,160 generated during the same nine-month period in 2016.

But as bleak as these figures are, things get much worse. Out of these top-line revenues, Rightscorp has to deal with a whole bunch of costs before it can put anything into its own pockets. For example, in exchange for the right to pursue pirates, Rightscorp agrees to pay around 50% of everything it generates from settlements back to copyright holders.

So, for the past three months when it collected $45,848 from BitTorrent users, it must pay out $22,924 to copyright holders. Last year, in the same period, it paid them $69,143. For the year to date (nine months ended September 30, 2017), the company paid $92,181 to copyright holders, that’s versus $174,878 for the same period last year.

Whichever way you slice it, Rightscorp settlement model appears to be failing. With revenues from settlements down by almost half thus far this year, one has to question where this is all going, especially with BitTorrent piracy volumes continuing to fall in favor of other less traceable methods such as streaming.

However, Rightscorp does have a trick up its sleeve that is helping to keep the company afloat. As previously reported, the company has amassed a lot of intelligence on pirate activity which clearly has some value to copyright holders.

That data is currently being utilized by both BMG and the RIAA, who are using it as evidence in copyright liability lawsuits filed against ISPs Cox and Grande Communications, where each stand accused of failing to disconnect repeat infringers.

This selling of ‘pirate’ data is listed by Rightscorp in its financial reports as “consulting services” and thus far at least, it’s proving to be a crucial source of income.

“During the three months ended September 30, 2017, we generated revenues of $76,666 from consulting services rendered under service arrangements with prominent trade organizations,” Rightscorp reports.

“Under the agreements, the Company is providing certain data and consultation regarding copyright infringements on such organizations’ respective properties. During the three months ended September 30, 2016, we had no consulting services revenue.”

Year to date, the numbers begin to add up. In the nine months ended September 30, 2017, Rightscorp generated revenues of $224,998 from this facet of their business, that’s versus zero revenue in 2016.

It’s clear that without this “consulting” revenue, Rightscorp would be in an even worse situation than it is today. In fact, it appears that these services, provided to the likes of the RIAA, are now preventing the company from falling into the abyss. All that being said, there’s no guarantee that won’t happen anyway.

To the nine months ended September 30, 2017, Rightscorp recorded a net loss of $1,448,899, which is even more than the $1,380,698 it lost during the same period last year. As a result, the company had just $3,147 left in cash at the end of September. That crisis was eased by issuing 2.5 million shares to an investor for a purchase price just $50,000. But to keep going, Rightscorp will need more money – much more.

“Management believes that the Company will need an additional $250,000 to $500,000 in 2017 to fund operations based on our current operating plans,” it reports, noting that there is “substantial doubt” whether Rightscorp can continue as a going concern.

But despite all the bad news, Rightscorp manages to survive and at least in the short-term, the piracy data it has amassed holds value, beyond basic cash settlement letters. The question is, for how long?

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

‘Netflix’ Takedown Request Targets “Stranger Things” Subreddit (Update)

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-takedown-request-targets-stranger-things-subreddit-171126/

Netflix offers a great selection of movies and TV-shows and dozens of millions of people can’t go a week without it.

Netflix is seen as an alternative to piracy. However, since Netflix’s priorities are shifting more to the production of original content, piracy is also a problem.

The streaming service now has its own anti-piracy unit and works with third-party vendors to remove unauthorized content from the Internet. This includes links to their shows in Google’s search results.

While most requests are legitimate, a recent takedown notice targeting “Stranger Things,” was a bit off. Tucked in between various pirate sites, we spotted articles from news sites Express and The Wrap.

(Update: The notice in question appears to be fake/fraudulent, see update below. This is potentially an even problematic.)

Strange?

The Express article has an obvious clickbait title aimed to attract freeloaders: “Stranger Things season 2 streaming – How to watch Stranger Things online for FREE in UK.”

While there are no references to infringing content in the piece, it’s at least understandable that Netflix’ anti-piracy partner confused by it. The Wrap article, however, doesn’t even hint at anything piracy related.

That’s not all though. Netflix’s takedown request also lists the “Stranger Things” subreddit. This community page has nearly a quarter million followers and explicitly forbids any pirated content. Still, Netflix wanted it removed from Google’s search results.

Stranger Things subreddit

To give Netflix the benefit of doubt, it’s always possible that a link to pirated content slipped through at the time the notice was sent. But, if that was the case they should have at least targeted the link to the full Reddit post as well.

The more likely scenario is that there was some sort of hiccup in the automated takedown software, or perhaps a human error of some kind. Stanger things have happened.

The good news is that Google came to the rescue. After reviewing the takedown notice, the three mentioned links were discarded. This means that the subreddit is still available in Google’s search results. For now.

Reddit itself is also quite skilled at spotting faulty takedown requests. While it’s unknown whether they were contacted directly by Netflix’s anti-piracy partner, the company rejects more than half of all DMCA takedown requests it receives.

Update: A spokesman from IP Arrow, who are listed as the sender, they have nothing to do with the takedown notice. This suggests that some third party not related to IP Arrow or Netflix may have submitted it.

IP Arrow will ask Google to look into it. Strange things are clearly happening here.

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

Police Seize Hundreds of Computers Over Pirate Movie Download in 2013

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-seize-hundreds-of-computers-over-pirate-movie-download-in-2013-171125/

Late October 2016, we reported on an alarming situation in Poland, where police had visited hundreds of homes across the country, seizing computers alleged to have been involved in the sharing of a comedy movie titled “Screwed“.

In some cases, police reportedly advised suspects to settle with copyright holders rather than face legal action, something critics felt was particularly inappropriate in an unproven copyright case. Now it appears that history is repeating itself in the region, with people being targeted over downloads of a local thriller titled “Drogówka”.

While this is of concern in itself, the alleged offenses took place via BitTorrent way back in 2013, four whole years ago. Local journalist Marcin Maj at Bezprawnik, who’s also an IT security instructor at Niebezpiecznik, has been documenting the activities of copyright trolls in Poland for some time. He picked up the story this week after he learned that police had seized an alleged file-sharer’s computer.

After speaking with local police, he subsequently discovered that 200 to 300 other people had been given the same treatment.

Maj says that after presenting a long list of questions to authorities, he learned that these seizures have been going on continuously for about a year, following a criminal complaint filed by a law firm. It’s that this point that the uncomfortable nature of this whole operation becomes apparent.

“In 2013-2014, lawyer Artur Glass-Brudziński reported numerous copyright infringements (movie sharing) to the prosecutor’s office, and the prosecutor’s office started to identify people behind the indicated IP addresses,” Maj informs TF.

“It’s important to understand that in the Polish legal system, it’s impossible to sue someone who is unknown to a plaintiff [John Doe]. But you can always start a criminal proceeding.”

Such a criminal proceeding was filed in 2014 but it appears that Glass-Brudziński used the process to gain a secondary advantage.

“As a barrister of the [copyright holder], Artur Glass-Brudziński had access to the prosecutor’s documentation. So he used this to obtain identified names and addresses, without waiting for the end of the criminal proceeding. Those people were just witnesses, but Glass-Brudziński sent thousands of letters to them, suggesting they are suspects, which was not true,” Maj says.

So, in effect, a criminal action was used to gain access to personal details that were subsequently used in civil actions. That’s completely legal and quite common in Poland but many view the process as problematic.

“Polish lawyers see this as something not quite ethical,” Maj reports. “Now Glass-Brudziński faces a disciplinary court because his letters were quite misleading. Regardless of that, however, criminal proceedings are still underway.”

A hearing took place before the Disciplinary Court November 13 but a resolution will take some time to reach since there around 80 people involved in the case. In the meantime the current criminal case continues, with several problems.

For example, it’s quite likely that many people will have changed their computers since 2013, but the police are required to seize the ones people currently have. Also, Maj reports that after speaking to people who received demands for cash payment, many report having had nothing to do with the alleged offenses. But there is a broader problem around such cases in general.

As we reported last year, prosecutors admit that they do not verify the technical processes that the copyright holders use to identify the alleged infringers, meaning that hundreds of members of the public are subjected to property seizures based on untested evidence.

“Polish prosecutors often decide to seize computers just because they got an IP address list from a lawyer. Sometimes even prosecutors don’t want to do that, but copyright owners complain to the courts, and the courts issue an order to seize machines. That’s deeply absurd,” Maj says.

“Many times I have asked prosecutors if they check the method used to track pirates. Many times I have asked prosecutors if they have found evidence on every seized computer. The answers? No. They don’t check the method of tracking pirates, and evidence is found only ‘sometimes’.”

There are clearly mounting problems in Poland with both evidence and discovery-based loopholes providing copyright holders with a significant advantage. While questionable, it’s currently all legal, so it seems likely that as long as ‘victims’ can gain access to private information via criminal cases, the cash threats will continue. It’s a topic covered in a report compiled by Maj and the Modern Poland Foundation (Polish, pdf)

“Computer seizures and our report were discussed in the lower house of the Polish parliament in 2016, at the meeting of the Commision of Digitalization, Innovation and New Technologies. Many politicians are aware of the problem and they declare we should do something to stop bullying and seizures. Unfortunately, it all ended with was declarations,” Maj concludes.

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UK Government Publishes Advice on ‘Illicit Streaming Devices’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-government-publishes-advice-on-illicit-streaming-devices-171120/

With torrents and other methods of obtaining content simmering away in the background, unauthorized streaming is the now the method of choice for millions of pirates around the globe.

Previously accessible only via a desktop browser, streaming is now available on a wide range of devices, from tablets and phones through to dedicated set-top box. These, collectively, are now being branded Illicit Streaming Devices (ISD) by the entertainment industries.

It’s terminology the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office has adopted this morning. In a new public advisory, the IPO notes that illicit streaming is the watching of content without the copyright owner’s permission using a variety of devices.

“Illicit streaming devices are physical boxes that are connected to your TV or USB sticks that plug into the TV such as adapted Amazon Fire sticks and so called ‘Kodi’ boxes or Android TV boxes,” the IPO reports.

“These devices are legal when used to watch legitimate, free to air, content. They become illegal once they are adapted to stream illicit content, for example TV programmes, films and subscription sports channels without paying the appropriate subscriptions.”

The IPO notes that streaming devices usually need to be loaded with special software add-ons in order to view copyright-infringing content. However, there are now dedicated apps available to view movies and TV shows which can be loaded straight on to smartphones and tablets.

But how can people know if the device they have is an ISD or not? According to the IPO it’s all down to common sense. If people usually charge for the content you’re getting for free, it’s illegal.

“If you are watching television programmes, films or sporting events where you would normally be paying to view them and you have not paid, you are likely to be using an illicit streaming device (ISD) or app. This could include a film recently released in the cinema, a sporting event that is being broadcast by BT Sport or a television programme, like Game of Thrones, that is only available on Sky,” the IPO says.

In an effort to familiarize the public with some of the terminology used by ISD sellers on eBay, Amazon or Gumtree, for example, the IPO then wanders into a bit of a minefield that really needs much greater clarification.

First up, the government states that ISDs are often described online as being “Fully loaded”, which is a colloquial term for a device with addons already installed. Although they won’t all be infringing, it’s very often the case that the majority are intended to be, so no problems here.

However, the IPO then says that people should keep an eye out for the term ‘jail broken’, which many readers will understand to be the process some hardware devices, such as Apple products, are put through in order for third-party software to be run on them. On occasion, some ISD sellers do put this term on Android devices, for example, but it’s incorrect, in a tiny minority, and of course misleading.

The IPO also warns people against devices marketed as “Plug and Play” but again this is a dual-use term and shouldn’t put consumers off a purchase without a proper investigation. A search on eBay this morning for that exact term didn’t yield any ISDs at all, only games consoles that can be plugged in and played with a minimum of fuss.

“Subscription Gift”, on the other hand, almost certainly references an illicit IPTV or satellite card-sharing subscription and is rarely used for anything else. 100% illegal, no doubt.

The government continues by giving reasons why people should avoid ISDs, not least since their use deprives the content industries of valuable revenue.

“[The creative industries] provide employment for more than 1.9 million people and contributes £84.1 billion to our economy. Using illicit streaming devices is illegal,” the IPO writes.

“If you are not paying for this content you are depriving industry of the revenue it needs to fund the next generation of TV programmes, films and sporting events we all enjoy. Instead it provides funds for the organized criminals who sell or adapt these illicit devices.”

Then, in keeping with the danger-based narrative employed by the entertainment industries’ recently, the government also warns that ISDs can have a negative effect on child welfare, not to mention on physical safety in the home.

“These devices often lack parental controls. Using them could expose children or young people to explicit or age inappropriate content,” the IPO warns.

“Another important reason for consumers to avoid purchasing these streaming devices is from an electrical safety point of view. Where devices and their power cables have been tested, some have failed EU safety standards and have the potential to present a real danger to the public, causing a fire in your home or premises.”

While there can be no doubt whatsoever that failing EU electrical standards in any way is unacceptable for any device, the recent headlines stating that “Kodi Boxes Can Kill Their Owners” are sensational at best and don’t present the full picture.

As reported this weekend, simply not having a recognized branding on such devices means that they fail electrical standards, with non-genuine phone chargers presenting a greater risk around the UK.

Finally, the government offers some advice for people who either want to get off the ISD gravy train or ensure that others don’t benefit from it.

“These devices can be used legally by removing the software. If you are unsure get advice to help you use the device legally. If you wish to watch content that’s only available via subscription, such as sports, you should approach the relevant provider to find out about legal ways to watch,” the IPO advises.

Get it Right from a Genuine Site helps you get the music, TV, films, games, books, newspapers, magazines and sport that you love from genuine services.”

And, if the public thinks that people selling such devices deserve a visit from the authorities, people are asked to report them to the Crimestoppers charity via an anonymous hotline.

The government’s guidance is exactly what one might expect, given that the advisory is likely to have been strongly assisted by companies including the Federation Against Copyright Theft, Premier League, and Sky, who have taken the lead in this area during the past year or so.

The big question is, however, whether many people using these devices really believe that obtaining subscription TV, movies, and sports for next to free is 100% legal. If there are people out there they must be in the minority but at least the government itself is now putting them on the right path.

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

Ares Kodi Project Calls it Quits After Hollywood Cease & Desist

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

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

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

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

The mighty Ares Wizard in action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Pirate Bay & 1337x Must Be Blocked, Austrian Supreme Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-1337x-must-be-blocked-austrian-supreme-court-rules-171014/

Following a long-running case, in 2015 Austrian ISPs were ordered by the Commercial Court to block The Pirate Bay and other “structurally-infringing” sites including 1337x.to, isohunt.to, and h33t.to.

The decision was welcomed by the music industry, which looked forward to having more sites blocked in due course.

Soon after, local music rights group LSG sent its lawyers after several other large ISPs urging them to follow suit, or else. However, the ISPs dug in and a year later, in May 2016, things began to unravel. The Vienna Higher Regional Court overruled the earlier decision of the Commercial Court, meaning that local ISPs were free to unblock the previously blocked sites.

The Court concluded that ISP blocks are only warranted if copyright holders have exhausted all their options to take action against those actually carrying out the infringement. This decision was welcomed by the Internet Service Providers Austria (ISPA), which described the decision as an important milestone.

The ISPs argued that only torrent files, not the content itself, was available on the portals. They also had a problem with the restriction of access to legitimate content.

“A problem in this context is that the offending pages also have legal content and it is no longer possible to access that if barriers are put in place,” said ISPA Secretary General Maximilian Schubert.

Taking the case to its ultimate conclusion, the music companies appealed to the Supreme Court. Another year on and its decision has just been published and for the rightsholders, who represent 3,000 artists including The Beatles, Justin Bieber, Eric Clapton, Coldplay, David Guetta, Iggy Azalea, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Metallica, George Michael, One Direction, Katy Perry, and Queen, to name a few, it was worth the effort.

The Court looked at whether “the provision and operation of a BitTorrent platform with the purpose of online file sharing [of non-public domain works]” represents a “communication to the public” under the EU Copyright Directive. Citing the now-familiar BREIN v Filmspeler and BREIN v Ziggo and XS4All cases that both received European Court of Justice rulings earlier this year, the Supreme Court concluded it was.

Citing another Dutch case, in which Playboy publisher Sanoma took on the blog GeenStijl.nl, the Court noted that linking to copyrighted content hosted elsewhere also amounted to a “communication to the public”, a situation mirrored on torrent sites like The Pirate Bay.

“The similarity of the technical procedure in this case when compared to BitTorrent platforms lies in the fact that in both cases the operators of the website did not provide any copyrighted works themselves, but merely provided further information on sites where the protected works were available,” the Court notes in its ruling.

In respect of the potential for blocking legitimate content as well as that infringing copyright, the Court turned the ISPs’ own arguments against them somewhat.

The ISPs had previously argued that blocking The Pirate Bay and other sites was pointless since the torrents they host would still be available elsewhere. The Court noted that point and also found that people can easily upload their torrents to sites that aren’t blocked, since there’s plenty of choice.

The ISPA criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling, noting that in future ISPs will still find themselves being held responsible for decisions concerning blocking.

“We do not support illegal content on the Internet in any way, but consider it extremely questionable that the decision on what is illegal and what is not falls to ISPs, instead of a court,” said ISPA Secretary General Maximilian.

“Although we find it positive that a court of last resort has taken the decision, the assessment of the website in the first instance continues to be left to the Internet provider. The Supreme Court’s expansion of the circle of sites that be potentially blocked further complicates this task for the operator and furthers the privatization of law enforcement.

“It is extremely unpleasant that even after more than 10 years of fierce discussion, there is still no compelling legal basis for a court decision on Internet blocking, which puts providers in the role of both judge and hangman.”

Also of interest is ISPA’s stance on how blocking of content fails to solve the underlying issue. When content is blocked, rather than removed, it simply displaces the problem, leaving others to pick up the pieces, the Internet body argues.

“Illegal content is permanently removed from the network by deletion. Everything else is a placebo with extremely dangerous side effects, which can easily be bypassed by both providers and consumers. The only thing that remains is a blocking infrastructure that can be misused for many purposes and, unfortunately, will be used in many places,” Schubert says.

“The current situation, where providers have to block the rightsholders quasi on the spot, if they do not want to engage in a time-consuming and cost-intensive litigation, is really not sustainable so we issue a call to action to the legislature.”

The domains that were listed in the case, many of which are already defunct, are: thepiratebay.se, thepiratebay.gd, thepiratebay.la, thepiratebay.mn, thepiratebay.mu, thepiratebay.sh, thepiratebay.tw, thepiratebay.fm, thepiratebay.ms, thepiratebay.vg, isohunt.to, 1337x.to and h33t.to.

Whether it will be added later is unclear, but the only domain currently used by The Pirate Bay (thepiratebay.org) is not included in the list.

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

Hollywood Studios Force ISPs to Block Popcorn Time & Subtitle Sites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MPAA Lobbies US Congress on Streaming Piracy Boxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the lobbying topics

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

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

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

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

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

Spanish Police Arrest Seven in Pirate Sports Streaming Crackdown

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spanish-police-arrest-seven-in-pirate-sports-streaming-crackdown-171111/

While most large broadcasters around the world now offer comprehensive sports packages to their customers, subscriptions are often quite expensive.

This has led to the proliferation of pirate services, each dedicated to bringing live sports to the masses at massively reduced prices or even completely free.

As a result, it’s now possible to watch almost any sport from a pirate source, whether that’s via a website, an augmented Kodi setup, or a premium IPTV provider. Today, however, there’s one less pirate service available after a series of raids in Spain.

According to the National Police, raids took place in Madrid, Alicante, Albacete, Gandía, and the Valencian cities of Xátiva and Antequera this week. In total, seven people were arrested for illegally broadcasting football matches.

Unusually in such cases, the suspects are alleged to have offered matches via a number of mechanisms, including direct download, streaming, subscription streaming, and peer-to-peer distribution. This, the police say, allowed them to have the broadest possible access to the market.

The group’s servers were scattered around the world; some located in Spain, others in France, with the remainder in the United States and Canada.

The investigation began in 2016 following a complaint from La Liga, the top professional association in Spanish football. The group alleged that a total of 13 websites were illegally offering lists of links which enabled visitors to access content to which it holds the exclusive rights.

Police say the operation was well organized, with matches presented to Internet users with schedules ordered by championships. Revenue was generated via advertising which appeared on the various pages viewed by visitors.

It’s claimed that the sites’ operators also attempted to make their scattered servers harder to find by utilizing intermediary companies, including those that offer server location anonymization services.

Across the country, eight house searches reportedly yielded a trove of evidence, both digital and physical, detailing the pirate operation and the profit obtained from it.

At this early stage, police estimate the “economic benefit” to the defendants from subscriptions and advertising to be in the region of 1.4 million euros, although it’s unclear whether those are actual historic or projected gains.

Following the raids, seven websites were ordered to be blocked and three bank accounts, said to be linked to the pirate operation, were frozen. Police say that the investigation continues so further arrests and website blockades can’t be ruled out.

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

Multi-National Police Operation Shuts Down Pirate Forums

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/multi-national-police-operation-shuts-down-pirate-forums-171110/

Once upon a time, large-scale raids on pirate operations were a regular occurrence, with news of such events making the headlines every few months. These days things have calmed down somewhat but reports coming out of Germany suggests that the war isn’t over yet.

According to a statement from German authorities, the Attorney General in Dresden and various cybercrime agencies teamed up this week to take down sites dedicated to sharing copyright protected material via the Usenet (newsgroups) system.

Huge amounts of infringing items were said to have been made available on a pair of indexing sites – 400,000 on Town.ag and 1,200,000 on Usenet-Town.com.

“Www.town.ag and www.usenet-town.com were two of the largest online portals that provided access to films, series, music, software, e-books, audiobooks, books, newspapers and magazines through systematic and unlawful copyright infringement,” the statement reads.

Visitors to these URLs are no longer greeted by the usual warez-fest, but by a seizure banner placed there by German authorities.

Seizure banner on Town.ag and Usenet-Town.com (translated)

Following an investigation carried out after complaints from rightsholders, 182 officers of various agencies raided homes and businesses Wednesday, each connected to a reported 26 suspects. In addition to searches of data centers located in Germany, servers in Spain, Netherlands, San Marino, Switzerland, and Canada were also targeted.

According to police the sites generated income from ‘sponsors’, netting their operators millions of euros in revenue. One of those appears to be Usenet reseller SSL-News, which displays the same seizure banner. Rightsholders claim that the Usenet portals have cost them many millions of euros in lost sales.

Arrest warrants were issued in Spain and Saxony against two German nationals, 39 and 31-years-old respectively. The man arrested in Spain is believed to be a ringleader and authorities there have been asked to extradite him to Germany.

At least 1,000 gigabytes of data were seized, with police scooping up numerous computers and other hardware for evidence. The true scale of material indexed is likely to be much larger, however.

Online chatter suggests that several other Usenet-related sites have also disappeared during the past day but whether that’s a direct result of the raids or down to precautionary measures taken by their operators isn’t yet clear.

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

Sony & Warner Sue TuneIn For Copyright Infringement in UK High Court

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sony-warner-sue-tunein-for-copyright-infringement-in-uk-high-court-171109/

When it comes to providing digital online audio content, TuneIn is one of the world’s giants.

Whether music, news, sport or just chat, TuneIn provides more than 120,000 radio stations and five million podcasts to 75,000,000 global users, both for free and via a premium tier service.

Accessible from devices including cellphones, tablets, smart TVs, digital receivers, games consoles and even cars, TuneIn reaches more than 230 countries and territories worldwide. One, however, is about to cause the company a headache.

According to a report from Music Business Worldwide (MBW), Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group are suing TuneIn over unlicensed streams.

MBW sources say that the record labels filed proceedings in the UK High Court last week, claiming that TuneIn committed copyright infringement on at least 800 music streams accessible in the UK.

While TuneIn does offer premium streams to customers, the service primarily acts as an index for radio streams hosted by their respective third-party creators. It describes itself as “an audio guide service” which indicates it does not directly provide the content listened to by its users.

However, previous EU rulings (such as one related to The Pirate Bay) have determined that providing an index to content is tantamount to a communication to the public, which for unlicensed content would amount to infringement in the UK.

While it would be difficult to avoid responsibility, TuneIn states on its website that it makes no claim that its service is legal in any other country than the United States.

“Those who choose to access or use the Service from locations outside the United States of America do so on their own initiative and are responsible for compliance with local laws, if and to the extent local laws are applicable,” the company writes.

“Access to the Service from jurisdictions where the contents or practices of the Service are illegal, unauthorized or penalized is strictly prohibited.”

All that being said, the specific details of the Sony/Warner complaint are not yet publicly available so the precise nature of the High Court action is yet to be determined.

TorrentFreak contacted the BPI, the industry body that represents both Sony and Warner in the UK, for comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson informed us that they are not directly involved in the action.

We also contacted both the IFPI and San Francisco-based TuneIn for further comment but at the time of publication, we were yet to hear back from either.

TuneIn reportedly has until the end of November to file a defense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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