Tag Archives: Breaking News

TRON Cryptocurrency Founder Plans to Buy BitTorrent Inc

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tron-founder-plans-to-buy-bittorrent-inc-180525/

Founded by BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen, BitTorrent Inc. is best known for its torrent client uTorrent, which has more than 100 million users.

Despite this massive userbase, however, the company never transformed into the next billion-dollar tech giant, as some as the early investors had hoped.

In fact, it has only gone downhill in recent years, in part due to questionable management practices. Things have calmed down since, but according to new information gathered by TorrentFreak, there is a major change afoot.

A few weeks ago we reported that BitTorrent Inc. quietly renamed its company to “Rainberry” last year. The company informed us that this was “purely a corporate decision.” While that may be the case, it could also be related to the company’s plans to be acquired.

Legal paperwork filed earlier this year reveals that Rainberry was sued because it allegedly violated a “No Shop” clause in an agreement with a potential buyer. This potential buyer, who signed a letter of intent, is none other than TRON founder Justin Sun.

TRON is one of the hottest and controversial cryptocurrencies. After a successful ICO, it now has a market cap of more than $4 billion, only surpassed by a few others. And with Sun at the helm, it makes headlines nearly every day.

The TRON mainnet, which will go live in a few days, has the ultimate goal to “decentralize the web.” BitTorrent would fit well in this picture, and the TRON whitepaper mentions torrents as one of the pillars.

TRON

Sun first began pursuing the acquisition of BitTorrent Inc.’s assets in September last year. In January 2018, both parties finalized a letter of intent for the acquisition, of which Sun returned a signed copy.

While it appeared that things were moving along nicely, BitTorrent Inc. CEO Ro Choy came back with a surprising reply.

“Within literally hours after the parties agreed to the Letter of Intent, and after Ro Choy began performing the terms of the Letter of Intent, Defendant claims it received three ‘superior’ bids from companies that David Chao admitted they had been communicating with,” Sun claims in the lawsuit.

Sun asked the court for a restraining order to prevent BitTorrent from talking to other potential buyers, as was agreed in the letter of intent. The case was swiftly dismissed by the court, but not without leaving a paper trail.

While it is clear that TRON’s founder is eager to acquire BitTorrent, less is known about what happened afterward. Did both parties throw their letter of intent in the trash mid-February, or was the deal still on?

Then, our research pointed out another interesting fact which suggests that the deal is going forward. At the end of February, right when the exclusivity period set in the letter of intent ended, a holding company named “Rainberry Acquisition” was registered in California.

This company is registered to none other than TRON founder Justin Sun, who completed the statement of information last month, as can be seen below.

Rainberry Acquisition paperwork

TorrentFreak reached out to Justin Sun, but TRON’s founder did not immediately reply to our request for comment.

When we confronted BitTorrent Inc. with the information, the company confirmed our findings and the interest from Sun, but it noted that the acquisition is not 100% finalized yet. More information will likely be released at a later stage, if all goes well.

At this point, Sun’s plans for BitTorrent Inc. remain unclear. He has not spoken about the acquisition in public, obviously, but it’s likely that it will be used to the advantage of TRON.

Interestingly, BitTorrent Inc. founder Bram Cohen has also taken an interest in cryptocurrencies, with the goal of creating a superior one called Chia. As far as we know, he is not part of TRON’s future in any way.

A copy of Sun’s complaint against Rainberry (f/k/a BitTorrent) is available here (pdf).

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

Fully-Loaded Kodi Box Sellers Receive Hefty Jail Sentences

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fully-loaded-kodi-box-sellers-receive-hefty-jail-sentences-180524/

While users of older peer-to-peer based file-sharing systems have to work relatively hard to obtain content, users of the Kodi media player have things an awful lot easier.

As standard, Kodi is perfectly legal. However, when augmented with third-party add-ons it becomes a media discovery powerhouse, providing most of the content anyone could desire. A system like this can be set up by the user but for many, buying a so-called “fully-loaded” box from a seller is the easier option.

As a result, hundreds – probably thousands – of cottage industries have sprung up to service this hungry market in the UK, with regular people making a business out of setting up and selling such devices. Until three years ago, that’s what Michael Jarman and Natalie Forber of Colwyn Bay, Wales, found themselves doing.

According to reports in local media, Jarman was arrested in January 2015 when police were called to a disturbance at Jarman and Forber’s home. A large number of devices were spotted and an investigation was launched by Trading Standards officers. The pair were later arrested and charged with fraud offenses.

While 37-year-old Jarman pleaded guilty, 36-year-old Forber initially denied the charges and was due to stand trial. However, she later changed her mind and like Jarman, pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent business. Forber also pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property by shifting cash from the scheme through various bank accounts.

The pair attended a sentencing hearing before Judge Niclas Parry at Caernarfon Crown Court yesterday. According to local reporter Eryl Crump, the Court heard that the couple had run their business for about two years, selling around 1,000 fully-loaded Kodi-enabled devices for £100 each via social media.

According to David Birrell for the prosecution, the operation wasn’t particularly sophisticated but it involved Forber programming the devices as well as handling customer service. Forber claimed she was forced into the scheme by Jarman but that claim was rejected by the prosecution.

Between February 2013 and January 2015 the pair banked £105,000 from the business, money that was transferred between bank accounts in an effort to launder the takings.

Reporting from Court via Twitter, Crump said that Jarman’s defense lawyer accepted that a prison sentence was inevitable for his client but asked for the most lenient sentence possible.

Forber’s lawyer pointed out she had no previous convictions. The mother-of-two broke up with Jarman following her arrest and is now back in work and studying at college.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Niclas Parry described the offenses as a “relatively sophisticated fraud” carried out over a significant period. He jailed Jarman for 21 months and Forber for 16 months, suspended for two years. She must also carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

The pair will also face a Proceeds of Crime investigation which could see them paying large sums to the state, should any assets be recoverable.

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

Facebook User Pleads Guilty to Uploading Pirated Copy of Deadpool

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/facebook-user-pleads-guilty-to-uploading-pirated-copy-of-deadpool-180522/

Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook to share photos, videos and other information.

While most of the content posted on the site is relatively harmless, some people use it to share things they are not supposed to. A pirated copy of Deadpool, for example.

This is what the now 22-year-old Trevon Franklin from Fresno, California, did early 2016. Just a week after the first installment of the box-office hit Deadpool premiered in theaters, he shared a pirated copy of the movie on the social network.

To be clear, Franklin wasn’t the person who originally made the copy available. He simply downloaded it from the file-sharing site Putlocker.is and then proceeded to upload it to his Facebook account, using the screen name “Tre-Von M. King.”

This post went viral with more than six million viewers ‘tuning in.’ While many people dream of this kind of attention, in this case, it meant that copyright holder Twentieth Century Fox and the feds were alerted as well.

The FBI launched a full-fledged investigation which eventually led to an indictment and the arrest of Franklin last summer.

After months of relative silence, Franklin has now signed a plea agreement with the Government where he admits to sharing the pirated film on Facebook. In return, the authorities will recommend a sentence reduction.

“Defendant admits that defendant is, in fact, guilty of the offense to which defendant is agreeing to plead guilty,” the plea agreement reads.

The legal paperwork, signed by both sides, states that Franklin downloaded the pirated copy from Putlocker, knowing full well that he didn’t have permission to do so. He then willfully shared it on Facebook where it was accessed by millions of people.

“Between February 20 and 22, 2016, while Deadpool was still in theaters and had not yet been made available for purchase by the public for home viewing, the copy of Deadpool defendant posted to his Facebook page had been viewed over 6,386,456 times,” the paperwork reads.

From the plea agreement

While a federal case over Facebook uploads is unlikely, the risk of legal trouble was pointed out to Franklin by others.

According to Facebook comments from 2016, several people warned “Tre-Von M. King” that it wasn’t wise to post copyright-infringing material on the social media platform. However, Franklin said he wasn’t worried.

It’s unclear why the US Government decided to pursue this case. Copyright infringement isn’t exactly rare on Facebook. However, it may be that the media attention and the high number of views may have prompted the authorities to set an example.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Franklin will be sentenced for a Class A misdemeanor. This can lead to a maximum prison sentence of one year, followed by probation or a supervised release, as well as a fine of $100,000. Meanwhile, he has waived his right to a trial by jury.

A copy of the plea agreement is available here (pdf).

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

ISP Telenor Will Block The Pirate Bay in Sweden Without a Shot Fired

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-telenor-will-block-the-pirate-bay-in-sweden-without-a-shot-fired-180520/

Back in 2014, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry filed a lawsuit against Bredbandsbolaget, one of Sweden’s largest ISPs.

The copyright holders asked the Stockholm District Court to order the ISP to block The Pirate Bay and streaming site Swefilmer, claiming that the provider knowingly facilitated access to the pirate platforms and assisted their pirating users.

Soon after the ISP fought back, refusing to block the sites in a determined response to the Court.

“Bredbandsbolaget’s role is to provide its subscribers with access to the Internet, thereby contributing to the free flow of information and the ability for people to reach each other and communicate,” the company said in a statement.

“Bredbandsbolaget does not block content or services based on individual organizations’ requests. There is no legal obligation for operators to block either The Pirate Bay or Swefilmer.”

In February 2015 the parties met in court, with Bredbandsbolaget arguing in favor of the “important principle” that ISPs should not be held responsible for content exchanged over the Internet, in the same way the postal service isn’t responsible for the contents of an envelope.

But with TV companies SVT, TV4 Group, MTG TV, SBS Discovery and C More teaming up with the IFPI alongside Paramount, Disney, Warner and Sony in the case, Bredbandsbolaget would need to pull out all the stops to obtain victory. The company worked hard and initially the news was good.

In November 2015, the Stockholm District Court decided that the copyright holders could not force Bredbandsbolaget to block the pirate sites, ruling that the ISP’s operations did not amount to participation in the copyright infringement offenses carried out by some of its ‘pirate’ subscribers.

However, the case subsequently went to appeal, with the brand new Patent and Market Court of Appeal hearing arguments. In February 2017 it handed down its decision, which overruled the earlier ruling of the District Court and ordered Bredbandsbolaget to implement “technical measures” to prevent its customers accessing the ‘pirate’ sites through a number of domain names and URLs.

With nowhere left to go, Bredbandsbolaget and owner Telenor were left hanging onto their original statement which vehemently opposed site-blocking.

“It is a dangerous path to go down, which forces Internet providers to monitor and evaluate content on the Internet and block websites with illegal content in order to avoid becoming accomplices,” they said.

In March 2017, Bredbandsbolaget blocked The Pirate Bay but said it would not give up the fight.

“We are now forced to contest any future blocking demands. It is the only way for us and other Internet operators to ensure that private players should not have the last word regarding the content that should be accessible on the Internet,” Bredbandsbolaget said.

While it’s not clear whether any additional blocking demands have been filed with the ISP, this week an announcement by Bredbandsbolaget parent company Telenor revealed an unexpected knock-on effect. Seemingly without a single shot being fired, The Pirate Bay will now be blocked by Telenor too.

The background lies in Telenor’s acquisition of Bredbandsbolaget back in 2005. Until this week the companies operated under separate brands but will now merge into one entity.

“Telenor Sweden and Bredbandsbolaget today take the final step on their joint trip and become the same company with the same name. As a result, Telenor becomes a comprehensive provider of broadband, TV and mobile communications,” the company said in a statement this week.

“Telenor Sweden and Bredbandsbolaget have shared both logo and organization for the last 13 years. Today, we take the last step in the relationship and consolidate the companies under the same name.”

Up until this final merger, 600,000 Bredbandsbolaget broadband customers were denied access to The Pirate Bay. Now it appears that Telenor’s 700,000 fiber and broadband customers will be affected too. The new single-brand company says it has decided to block the notorious torrent site across its entire network.

“We have not discontinued Bredbandsbolaget, but we have merged Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget and become one,” the company said.

“When we share the same network, The Pirate Bay is blocked by both Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget and there is nothing we plan to change in the future.”

TorrentFreak contacted the PR departments of both Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget requesting information on why a court order aimed at only the latter’s customers would now affect those of the former too, more than doubling the blockade’s reach. Neither company responded which leaves only speculation as to its motives.

On the one hand, the decision to voluntarily implement an expanded blockade could perhaps be viewed as a little unusual given how much time, effort and money has been invested in fighting web-blockades in Sweden.

On the other, the merger of the companies may present legal difficulties as far as the court order goes and it could certainly cause friction among the customer base of Telenor if some customers could access TPB, and others could not.

In any event, the legal basis for web-blocking on copyright infringement grounds was firmly established last year at the EU level, which means that Telenor would lose any future legal battle, should it decide to dig in its heels. On that basis alone, the decision to block all customers probably makes perfect commercial sense.

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

Police Forces Around Europe Hit Pirate IPTV Operation

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-forces-around-europe-hit-pirate-iptv-operation-180519/

Once upon a time, torrent and web streaming sites were regularly in the headlines while being targeted by the authorities. With the rise of set-top box streaming, actions against pirate IPTV operations are more regularly making the news.

In an operation coordinated by the public prosecutor’s office in Rome, 150 officers of the Provincial Command of the Guardia di Finanza (GdF) this week targeted what appears to be a fairly large unauthorized IPTV provider.

Under the banner Operation Spinoff, in Italy, more than 50 searches were carried out in 20 provinces of 11 regions. Five people were arrested. Elsewhere in Europe – in Switzerland, Germany and Spain – the Polizei Basel-Landschaft, the Kriminal Polizei and the Policia Nacional coordinated to execute warrants.

A small selection of the service on offer

“Through technical and ‘in-the-field’ investigations and the meticulous reconstruction of financial flows, carried out mainly through prepaid credit cards or payment web platforms, investigators have reconstructed the activity of a pyramid-like criminal structure dedicated to the illegal decryption and diffusion of pay-per-view television content through the Internet,” the GdF said in a statement.

Italian authorities report that the core of the IPTV operation were its sources of original content and channels. These were located in a range of diverse locations such as companies, commercial premises, garages and even private homes. Inside each location was equipment to receive, decrypt and capture signals from broadcasters including Sky TV.

Italian police examine hardware

These signals were collected together to form a package of channels which were then transmitted via the Internet and sold to the public in the form of an IPTV subscription. Packages were reportedly priced between 15 and 20 euros per month.

It’s estimated that between the 49 individuals said to be involved in the operation, around one million euros was generated. All are suspected of copyright infringement and money laundering offenses. Of the five Italian citizens reported to be at the core of the operations, four were taken into custody and one placed under house arrest.

Reports identify the suspects as: ‘AS’, born 1979 and residing in Lorrach, Germany. ‘RM’, born 1987 and living in Sarno, Italy. ‘LD’, born 1996 and also living in Sarno, Italy. ‘GP’, born 1990, living in Pordenone, Italy. And ‘SM’, born 1981 and living in Zagarolo, Italy.

More hardware

Players at all levels of the business are under investigation, from the sources who decrypted the signals to the sellers and re-sellers of the content to end users. Also under the microscope are people said to have laundered the operation’s money through credit cards and payment platforms.

The GdF describes the pirate IPTV operation in serious terms, noting that it aimed to set up a “parallel distribution company able to provide services that are entirely analogous to lawful companies, from checks on the feasibility of installing the service to maintaining adequate standards and technical assistance to customers.”

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

ExtraTorrent Replacement Displays Warning On Predecessor’s Shutdown Anniversary

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/extratorrent-replacement-displays-warning-on-predecessors-shutdown-anniversary-180518/

Exactly one year ago, millions of users in the BitTorrent community went into mourning with the shock depature of one of its major players.

ExtraTorrent was founded in back in November 2006, at a time when classic platforms such as TorrentSpy and Mininova were dominating the torrent site landscape. But with dedication and determination, the site amassed millions of daily visitors, outperforming every other torrent site apart from the mighty Pirate Bay.

Then, on May 17, 2017, everything came crashing down.

“ExtraTorrent has shut down permanently,” a note in the site read. “ExtraTorrent with all mirrors goes offline. We permanently erase all data. Stay away from fake ExtraTorrent websites and clones. Thx to all ET supporters and torrent community. ET was a place to be….”

While ExtraTorrent staff couldn’t be more clear in advising people to stay away from clones, few people listened to their warnings. Within hours, new sites appeared claiming to be official replacements for the much-loved torrent site and people flocked to them in their millions.

One of those was ExtraTorrent.ag, a torrent site connected to the operators of EZTV.ag, which appeared as a replacement in the wake of the official EZTV’s demise. Graphically very similar to the original ExtraTorrent, the .ag ‘replacement’ had none of its namesake’s community or unique content. But that didn’t dent its popularity.

ExtraTorrent.ag

At the start of this week, ExtraTorrent.ag was one of the most popular torrent sites on the Internet. With an Alexa rank of around 2,200, it would’ve clinched ninth position in our Top 10 Torrent Sites report earlier this year. However, after registering the site’s domain a year ago, something seems to have gone wrong.

Yesterday, on the anniversary of ExtraTorrent’s shutdown and exactly a year after the ExtraTorrent.ag domain was registered, ExtraTorrent.ag disappeared only to be replaced by a generic landing page, as shown below.

ExtraTorrent.ag landing page

This morning, however, there appear to be additional complications. Accessing with Firefox produces the page above but attempting to do so with Chrome produces an ominous security warning.

Chrome warning

Indeed, those protected by MalwareBytes won’t be able to access the page at all, since ExtraTorrent.ag redirects to the domain FindBetterResults.com, which the anti-malware app flags as malicious.

The change was reported to TF by the operator of domain unblocking site Unblocked.lol, which offers torrent site proxies as well as access to live TV and sports.

“I noticed when I started receiving emails saying ExtraTorrent was redirecting to some parked domain. When I jumped on the PC and checked myself it was just redirecting to a blank page,” he informs us.

“First I thought they’d blocked our IP address so I used some different ones. But I soon discovered the domain was in fact parked.”

So what has happened to this previously-functioning domain?

Whois records show that ExtraTorrent.ag was created on May 17, 2017 and appears to have been registered for a year. Yesterday, on May 17, 2018, the domain was updated to list what could potentially be a new owner, with an expiry date of May 17, 2019.

Once domains have expired, they usually enter an ‘Auto-Renew Grace Period’ for up to 45 days. This is followed by a 30-day ‘Redemption Grace Period’. At the end of this second period, domains cannot be renewed and are released for third-parties to register. That doesn’t appear to have been the case here.

So, to find out more about the sudden changes we reached out to the email address listed in the WHOIS report but received no response. Should we hear more we’ll update this report but in the meantime the Internet has lost one of its largest torrent sites and gained a rather pointless landing page with potential security risks.

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

Pirate IPTV Service Gave Customer Details to Premier League, But What’s the Risk?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-service-gave-customer-details-to-premier-league-but-whats-the-risk-180515/

In a report last weekend, we documented what appear to be the final days of pirate IPTV provider Ace Hosting.

From information provided by several sources including official liquidation documents, it became clear that a previously successful and profitable Ace had succumbed to pressure from the Premier League, which accused the service of copyright infringement.

The company had considerable funds in the bank – £255,472.00 to be exact – but it also had debts of £717,278.84, including £260,000 owed to HMRC and £100,000 to the Premier League as part of a settlement agreement.

Information received by TF late Sunday suggested that £100K was the tip of the iceberg as far as the Premier League was concerned and in a statement yesterday, the football outfit confirmed that was the case.

“A renowned pirate of Premier League content to consumers has been forced to liquidate after agreeing to pay £600,000 for breaching the League’s copyright,” the Premier League announced.

“Ace IPTV, run by Craig Driscoll and Ian Isaac, was selling subscriptions to illegal Premier League streams directly to consumers which allowed viewing on a range of devices, including notorious Kodi-type boxes, as well as to smaller resellers in the UK and abroad.”

Sources familiar with the case suggest that while Ace Hosting Limited didn’t have the funds to pay the Premier League the full £600K, Ace’s operators agreed to pay (and have already paid, to some extent at least) what were essentially their own funds to cover amounts above the final £100K, which is due to be paid next year.

But that’s not the only thing that’s been handed over to the Premier League.

“Ace voluntarily disclosed the personal details of their customers, which the League will now review in compliance with data protection legislation. Further investigations will be conducted, and action taken where appropriate,” the Premier League added.

So, the big question now is how exposed Ace’s former subscribers are.

The truth is that only the Premier League knows for sure but TF has been able to obtain information from several sources which indicate that former subscribers probably aren’t the Premier League’s key interest and even if they were, information obtained on them would be of limited use.

According to a source with knowledge of how a system like Ace’s works, there is a separation of data which appears to help (at least to some degree) with the subscriber’s privacy.

“The system used to manage accounts and take payment is actually completely separate from the software used to manage streams and the lines themselves. They are never usually even on the same server so are two very different databases,” he told TF.

“So at best the only information that has voluntarily been provided to the [Premier League], is just your email, name and address (assuming you even used real details) and what hosting package or credits you bought.”

While this information is bad enough, the action against Ace is targeted, in that it focuses on the Premier League’s content and how Ace (and therefore its users) infringed on the football outfit’s copyrights. So, proving that subscribers actually watched any Premier League content would be an ideal position but it’s not straightforward, despite the potential for detailed logging.

“The management system contains no history of what you watched, when you watched it, when you signed in and so on. That is all contained in a different database on a different server.

“Because every connection is recorded [on the second server], it can create some two million entries a day and as such most providers either turn off this feature or delete the logs daily as having so many entries slows down the system down used for actual streams,” he explains.

Our source says that this data would likely to have been the first to be deleted and is probably “long gone” by now. However, even if the Premier League had obtained it, it’s unlikely they would be able to do much with it due to data protection laws.

“The information was passed to the [Premier League] voluntarily by ACE which means this information has been given from one entity to another without the end users’ consent, not part of the [creditors’ voluntary liquidation] and without a court order to support it. Data Protection right now is taken very seriously in the EU,” he notes.

At this point, it’s probably worth noting that while the word “voluntarily” has been used several times to explain the manner in which Ace handed over its subscribers’ details to the Premier League, the same word can be used to describe the manner in which the £600K settlement amount will be paid.

No one forces someone to pay or hand something over, that’s what the courts are for, and the aim here was to avoid that eventuality.

Other pieces of information culled from various sources suggest that PayPal payment information, limited to amounts only, was also handed over to the Premier League. And, perhaps most importantly (and perhaps predictably) as far as former subscribers are concerned, the football group was more interested in Ace’s upwards supplier chain (the ‘wholesale’ stream suppliers used, for example) than those buying the service.

Finally, while the Premier League is now seeking to send a message to customers that these services are risky to use, it’s difficult to argue with the assertion that it’s unsafe to hand over personal details to an illegal service.

“Ace IPTV’s collapse also highlighted the risk consumers take with their personal data when they sign up to illegal streaming services,” Premier League notes.

TF spoke with three IPTV providers who all confirmed that they don’t care what names and addresses people use to sign up with and that no checks are carried out to make sure they’re correct. However, one concedes that in order to run as a business, this information has to be requested and once a customer types it in, it’s possible that it could be handed over as part of a settlement.

“I’m not going to tell people to put in dummy details, how can I? It’s up to people to use their common sense. If they’re still worried they should give Sky their money because if our backs are against the wall, what do you think is going to happen?” he concludes.

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

Pirate IPTV Service Goes Bust After Premier League Deal, Exposing Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-service-goes-bust-after-premier-league-deal-exposing-users-180913/

For those out of the loop, unauthorized IPTV services offering many thousands of unlicensed channels have been gaining in popularity in recent years. They’re relatively cheap, fairly reliable, and offer acceptable levels of service.

They are, however, a huge thorn in the side of rightsholders who are desperate to bring them to their knees. One such organization is the UK’s Premier League, which has been disrupting IPTV services over the past year, hoping they’ll shut down.

Most have simply ridden the wave of blocks but one provider, Ace Hosting in the UK, showed signs of stress last year, revealing that it would no longer sell new subscriptions. There was little doubt in most people’s minds that the Premier League had gotten uncomfortably close to the IPTV provider.

Now, many months later, the amazing story can be told. It’s both incredible and shocking and will leave many shaking their heads in disbelief. First up, some background.

Doing things ‘properly’ – incorporation of a pirate service…

Considering how most operators of questionable services like to stay in the shade, it may come as a surprise to learn that Ace Hosting Limited is a proper company. Incorporated and registered at Companies House on January 3, 2017, Ace has two registered directors – family team Ian and Judith Isaac.

In common with several other IPTV operators in the UK who are also officially registered with the authorities, Ace Hosting has never filed any meaningful accounts. There’s a theory that the corporate structure is basically one of convenience, one that allows for the handling of large volumes of cash while limiting liability. The downside, of course, is that people are often more easily identified, in part due to the comprehensive paper trail.

Thanks to what can only be described as a slow-motion train wreck, the Ace Hosting debacle is revealing a bewildering set of circumstances. Last December, when Ace said it would stop signing up new members due to legal pressure, a serious copyright threat had already been filed against it.

Premier League v Ace Hosting

Documents seen by TorrentFreak reveal that the Premier League sent legal threats to Ace Hosting on December 15, 2017, just days before the subscription closure announcement. Somewhat surprisingly, Ace apparently felt it could pay the Premier League a damages amount and keep on trading.

But early March 2018, with the Premier League threatening Ace with all kinds of bad things, the company made a strange announcement.

“The ISPs in the UK and across Europe have recently become much more aggressive in blocking our service while football games are in progress,” Ace said in a statement.

“In order to get ourselves off of the ISP blacklist we are going to black out the EPL games for all users (including VPN users) starting on Monday. We believe that this will enable us to rebuild the bypass process and successfully provide you with all EPL games.”

It seems doubtful that Ace really intended to thumb its nose at the Premier League but it had continued to sell subscriptions since receiving threats in December, so all things seemed possible. But on March 24 that all changed, when Ace effectively announced its closure.

Premier League 1, Ace Hosting 0

“It is with sorrow that we announce that we are no longer accepting renewals, upgrades to existing subscriptions or the purchase of new credits. We plan to support existing subscriptions until they expire,” the team wrote.

“EPL games including highlights continue to be blocked and are not expected to be reinstated before the end of the season.”

Indeed, just days later the Premier League demanded a six-figure settlement sum from Ace Hosting, presumably to make a lawsuit disappear. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“When the proposed damages amount was received it was clear that the Company would not be able to cover the cost and that there was a very high probability that even with a negotiated settlement that the Company was insolvent,” documents relating to Ace’s liquidation read.

At this point, Ace says it immediately ceased trading but while torrent sites usually shut down and disappear into the night, Ace’s demise is now a matter of record.

Creditors – the good, the bad, and the ugly

On April 11, 2018, Ace’s directors contacted business recovery and insolvency specialists Begbies Traynor (Central) LLP to obtain advice on the company’s financial position. Begbies Traynor was instructed by Ace on April 23 and on May 8, Ace Hosting director Ian Isaac determined that his company could not pay its debts.

First the good news. According to an official report, Ace Hosting has considerable cash in the bank – £255,472.00 to be exact. Now the bad news – Ace has debts of £717,278.84. – the details of which are intriguing to say the least.

First up, Ace has ‘trade creditors’ to whom it owes £104,356. The vast majority of this sum is a settlement Ace agreed to pay to the Premier League.

“The directors entered into a settlement agreement with the Football Association Premier League Limited prior to placing the Company into liquidation as a result of a purported copyright infringement. However, there is a residual claim from the Football Association Premier League Limited which is included within trade creditors totaling £100,000,” Ace’s statement of affairs reads.

Bizarrely (given the nature of the business, at least) Ace also owes £260,000 to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in unpaid VAT and corporation tax, which is effectively the government’s cut of the pirate IPTV business’s labors.

Former Ace Hosting subscriber? Your cash is as good as gone

Finally – and this is where things get a bit sweaty for Joe Public – there are 15,768 “consumer creditors”, split between ‘retail’ and ‘business’ customers of the service. Together they are owed a staggering £353,000.

Although the documentation isn’t explicit, retail customers appear to be people who have purchased an Ace IPTV subscription that still had time to run when the service closed down. Business customers seem likely to be resellers of the service, who purchased ‘credits’ and didn’t get time to sell them before Ace disappeared.

The poison chalice here is that those who are owed money by Ace can actually apply to get some of it back, but that could be extremely risky.

“Creditor claims have not yet been adjudicated but we estimate that the majority of customers who paid for subscription services will receive less than £3 if there is a distribution to unsecured creditors. Furthermore, customer details will be passed to the relevant authorities if there is any suggestion of unlawful conduct,” documentation reads.

We spoke with a former Ace customer who had this to say about the situation.

“It was generally a good service notwithstanding their half-arsed attempts to evade the EPL block. At its heart there were people who seemed to know how to operate a decent service, although the customer-facing side of things was not the greatest,” he said.

“And no, I won’t be claiming a refund. I went into it with my eyes fully open so I don’t hold anyone responsible, except myself. In any case, anyone who wants a refund has to complete a claim form and provide proof of ID (LOL).”

The bad news for former subscribers continues…potentially

While it’s likely that most people will forgo their £3, the bad news isn’t over for subscribers. Begbies Traynor is warning that the liquidators will decide whether to hand over subscribers’ personal details to the Premier League and/or the authorities.

In any event, sometime in the next couple of weeks the names and addresses of all subscribers will be made “available for inspection” at an address in Wiltshire for two days, meaning that any interested parties could potentially gain access to sensitive information.

The bottom line is that Ace Hosting is in the red to the tune of £461,907 and will eventually disappear into the bowels of history. Whether its operators will have to answer for their conduct will remain to be seen but it seems unimaginable at this stage that things will end well.

Subscribers probably won’t get sucked in but in a story as bizarre as this one, anything could yet happen.

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

ABS-CBN Targets ‘Pirate’ Streaming Box Vendor in Canada

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/abs-cbn-targets-pirate-streaming-box-vendor-in-canada-180510/

ABS-CBN, the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines, is continuing its legal campaign against piracy.

Over the past several years, the company has singled out dozens of streaming sites that offer access to ‘Pinoy’ content without permission, both in the US and abroad.

This week it filed a new case in Canada, that’s different from the ones we’ve seen before. Instead of going after site operators, ABS-CBN is suing a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ store located at the Kennedy Square Mall in Brampton, Ontario.

The company announced that it has filed a lawsuit at the Canadian Federal Court seeking CAD$2.5 million in damages for alleged copyright and infringement, and another CAD$2.5 million for trademark infringement.

The vendor, incorporated as Dazcon Inc, reportedly sold streaming boxes that allowed users to access movies and TV-shows. The devices in question are BuzzTV boxes pre-configured with a pirate add-on.

Dazcon appears to be a small vendor, also known as “Manila Center,” that offers a variety of products and services oriented at Philipino customers in Ontario. It’s also an agent for LBC Express, for example, which offers money and mail services to the Philipines.

Manila Center

A copy of the complaint, obtained by TorrentFreak, shows that the vendor is accused of selling devices pre-loaded with copyrighted works. In addition, it also offered devices that were able to circumvent ABS-CBN’s technical protection measures.

“In furtherance of this scheme, the Defendants, individually and/or collectively, sold set-top boxes for the primary purpose of circumventing the Plaintiffs’ TPMS and permitting unauthorized access to the ABS-CBN Copyrighted Works,” the complaint reads.

“As a consequence of the actions of the Defendants, the public is enabled to receive the ABS-CBN Copyrighted Works via circumvention of the Plaintiffs’ encryption, all without the authority, license or permission of any of the Plaintiffs,” it adds.

ABS-CBN alleges that Dazcon manually installed an add-on to the set-top boxes which made the infringements possible. The name of this offending add-on is not mentioned in the complaint.

From the complaint

In addition to the CAD$5 million in damages, the media company also requests an injunction preventing the vendor from engaging in any copyright infringement of its works in the future, as well as an order granting it custody of the set-top boxes.

Interestingly, the vendor in question was outed by ABS-CBN’s own customers, the company reports while warning others to remain vigilant.

“Beware of these operations that are not licensed or affiliated in any way with ABS-CBN,” says Elisha Lawrence the company’s Head of Global Anti-Piracy.

“If you have any suspicions of other boxes being sold that are not affiliated with ABS-CBN, please call the ABS-CBN office in the U.S. or Canada to verify. We will continue to protect customers by shutting these operations down.”

While the requested amount of damages may appear quite high, history has shown that this is not unusual for the media giant.

In the US, the company won $1 million judgments against 19 pirate sites last years, and earlier it won a $10 million judgment against the operator of another small streaming site. Whether any of these damages were actually paid is unknown.

A copy of ABS-CBN’s complaint against Dazcon Inc is available here (pdf).

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

New Mexico AG Wants uTorrent to Report ‘Child-Exploiting’ Users

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/new-mexico-ag-wants-utorrent-to-report-child-exploiting-users-180509/

In recent years BitTorrent has been regularly linked to online piracy.

BitTorrent Inc., founded by the protocol’s inventor Bram Cohen, has tried to shake this image, pointing out the many legal implementations and uses of the protocol.

However, it’s hard to ignore that its flagship software uTorrent is regularly used as a pirate tool.

This has previously prompted copyright holders to demand action from BitTorrent Inc., without result, but this week more serious concerns about BitTorrent usage have been brought to the forefront.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has launched an investigation into the links between BitTorrent usage and child exploitation. As part of this effort he’s demanding cooperation from BitTorrent Inc., which is made clear in a letter to CEO Ro Choy.

“Protecting New Mexico’s children from horrific sexual violence and exploitation is the number one priority of our Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and I am fully expecting BitTorrent’s cooperation with our investigation,” Attorney General Hector Balderas announced.

The AG points out that uTorrent and some of its users are associated with illegal activity, including piracy and child exploitation. The letter also includes a list of search terms, which isn’t published, so the company can track down this content and see for themselves.

“As you may be aware, users of your client software, uTorrent, are known to use your services and software for illegal purposes, including sharing copyright protected material and child pornography and other material that contribute to the exploitation of children and adults in New Mexico,” the letter reads.

In addition to singling out uTorrent, Balderas is also concerned about the CyberGhost VPN, which uTorrent sells in a bundle with the Pro subscription. In particular, because users with criminal intentions can use this to hide their IP-addresses.

“We are also concerned that the ‘Cyber Ghost VPN: be anonymous online’ service offered by uTorrent may pose a high risk of abuse by users seeking to engage in the trade, manufacture, and distribution of child exploitation imagery,” the AG writes.

The letter continues by asking a list of questions through which it hopes to find out more about uTorrent’s users, giving June 8 as a deadline.

Among other things, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) wants to know how many subscriptions with a VPN uTorrent has sold, what means are used to monitor misuse, and how frequently users are terminated for a violation of uTorrents Terms of Service and End User License agreement.

AG’s questions

As far as we are aware, BitTorrent Inc. does not monitor users’ download activities, nor have they terminated any subscribers. However, the AG would like to see this happening. The letter specifically asks the company to report users who engage in child abuse.

“Further, the OAG demands that uTorrent immediately report any individuals engaging in the illegal trade of contraband images of child exploitation to the OAG and the NCMEC and provide a list of IP addresses regardless of the status of the user’s subscription status,” concludes the letter.

The AG further urges BitTorrent Inc. to take steps to monitor and prevent illegal use of its software.

As Engadget points out, the letter mentions that other online services use hash filtering tools to prevent the distribution of illegal content, suggesting that uTorrent could do the same.

This brings us back to the copyright complaints we mentioned earlier. Three years ago the RIAA also asked BitTorrent Inc. to block infringing content using hash filtering. While that hasn’t happened, the Attorney General’s investigation makes it a hot topic once again.

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

Sci-Hub ‘Pirate Bay For Science’ Security Certs Revoked by Comodo

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-pirate-bay-for-science-security-certs-revoked-by-comodo-ca-180503/

Sci-Hub is often referred to as the “Pirate Bay of Science”. Like its namesake, it offers masses of unlicensed content for free, mostly against the wishes of copyright holders.

While The Pirate Bay will index almost anything, Sci-Hub is dedicated to distributing tens of millions of academic papers and articles, something which has turned itself into a target for publishing giants like Elsevier.

Sci-Hub and its Kazakhstan-born founder Alexandra Elbakyan have been under sustained attack for several years but more recently have been fending off an unprecedented barrage of legal action initiated by the American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry.

After winning a default judgment for $4.8 million in copyright infringement damages last year, ACS was further granted a broad injunction.

It required various third-party services (including domain registries, hosting companies and search engines) to stop facilitating access to the site. This plunged Sci-Hub into a game of domain whac-a-mole, one that continues to this day.

Determined to head Sci-Hub off at the pass, ACS obtained additional authority to tackle the evasive site and any new domains it may register in the future.

While Sci-Hub has been hopping around domains for a while, this week a new development appeared on the horizon. Visitors to some of the site’s domains were greeted with errors indicating that the domains’ security certificates had been revoked.

Tests conducted by TorrentFreak revealed clear revocations on Sci-Hub.hk and Sci-Hub.nz, both of which returned the error ‘NET::ERR_CERT_REVOKED’.

Certificate revoked

These certificates were first issued and then revoked by Comodo CA, the world’s largest certification authority. TF contacted the company who confirmed that it had been forced to take action against Sci-Hub.

“In response to a court order against Sci-Hub, Comodo CA has revoked four certificates for the site,” Jonathan Skinner, Director, Global Channel Programs at Comodo CA informed TorrentFreak.

“By policy Comodo CA obeys court orders and the law to the full extent of its ability.”

Comodo refused to confirm any additional details, including whether these revocations were anything to do with the current ACS injunction. However, Susan R. Morrissey, Director of Communications at ACS, told TorrentFreak that the revocations were indeed part of ACS’ legal action against Sci-Hub.

“[T]he action is related to our continuing efforts to protect ACS’ intellectual property,” Morrissey confirmed.

Sci-Hub operates multiple domains (an up-to-date list is usually available on Wikipedia) that can be switched at any time. At the time of writing the domain sci-hub.ga currently returns ‘ERR_SSL_VERSION_OR_CIPHER_MISMATCH’ while .CN and .GS variants both have Comodo certificates that expired last year.

When TF first approached Comodo earlier this week, Sci-Hub’s certificates with the company hadn’t been completely wiped out. For example, the domain https://sci-hub.tw operated perfectly, with an active and non-revoked Comodo certificate.

Still in the game…but not for long

By Wednesday, however, the domain was returning the now-familiar “revoked” message.

These domain issues are the latest technical problems to hit Sci-Hub as a result of the ACS injunction. In February, Cloudflare terminated service to several of the site’s domains.

“Cloudflare will terminate your service for the following domains sci-hub.la, sci-hub.tv, and sci-hub.tw by disabling our authoritative DNS in 24 hours,” Cloudflare told Sci-Hub.

While ACS has certainly caused problems for Sci-Hub, the platform is extremely resilient and remains online.

The domains https://sci-hub.is and https://sci-hub.nu are fully operational with certificates issued by Let’s Encrypt, a free and open certificate authority supported by the likes of Mozilla, EFF, Chrome, Private Internet Access, and other prominent tech companies.

It’s unclear whether these certificates will be targeted in the future but Sci-Hub doesn’t appear to be in the mood to back down.

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

Epic Settles With Copyright Infringing Fortnight Cheater, PUBG Cheaters Arrested

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-settles-with-copyright-infringing-fortnight-cheater-pubg-cheaters-arrested-180502/

Last year, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode, generating massive interest among gamers.

Unfortunately, not all players stick to the rules. Thousands of people are trying to gain an advantage through cheats, ruining the game for those who play fair.

The same is true for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), which predates Fortnite and shares many of the same characteristics. While the games are very much alike, the same can’t be said for the way cheaters are treated.

Over the past month, Epic Games has filed lawsuits against several people who violated the company’s copyrights, by creating, promoting – and in some cases – selling cheats. While copyright infringement cases can easily bankrupt defendants, that’s not what Epic is after.

This week the company signed another ‘settlement.’ This time with Joseph Sperry, a.k.a. “Spoezy,” in a North Carolina federal court. Sperry, who stood accused of creating and selling cheats, admitted to the copyright infringement allegations and signed a consent judgment.

“Defendant directly infringed Epic’s copyrights in Fortnite. Defendant used the cheats. His use of the cheats created unauthorized derivative works of Epic’s copyright protected Fortnite code that are substantially similar to Epic’s copyrighted work,” the judgment reads.

“In addition to creating and using the cheats, Defendant promoted, marketed, and sold these cheats to third parties, and actively encouraged and induced these other cheaters to purchase and use the cheats to gain an unfair advantage in Fortnite.”

The order includes an injunction which bars Sperry from cheating or promoting cheats in the future, but it doesn’t list any damages. Only if Sperry breaks the agreement will he be required to pay $5,000.

From the various Fortnite settlements we’ve seen to date, it’s clear that Epic Games is not after money. Its main goal is to stop the cheating and to hold cheaters accountable, but the company doesn’t go any further, for now.

This is quite a large contrast between several enforcement actions that were taken against alleged PUBG cheaters in China a few days ago.

Although there were no specific copyright infringement charges mentioned, Chinese authorities reported that fifteen people were arrested in connection with PUBG cheating.

“15 major suspects including ‘OMG’, ‘FL’, ‘火狐’, ‘须弥’ and ‘炎黄’ were arrested for developing hack programs, hosting marketplaces for hack programs, and brokering transactions. Currently the suspects have been fined approximately 30mil RNB ($5.1mil USD),” a statement reads.

PlayerUnknown shared the developments late last week and added that it will continue to crack down on those who continue to cheat.

“We take cheating extremely seriously. Developing, selling, promoting, or using unauthorized hacking/cheating programs isn’t just unfair for others playing PUBG—in many places, it’s also against the law,” the company said, commenting on the news.

Without further details, it’s hard to compare the Chinese cheating ‘operations’ to the Fortnite cases. However, Epic’s moderate approach clearly differs from the Chinese crackdown against PUBG cheaters.

A copy of the consent judgment against Sperry is available here (pdf).

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

French Minister of Culture Calls For Pirate Streaming Blacklist

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/french-minister-of-culture-calls-for-pirate-streaming-blacklist-180423/

Nearly a decade ago, France was on the anti-piracy enforcement frontline.

The country was the first to introduce a graduated response system, Hadopi, where Internet subscribers risked losing their Internet connections if they were caught sharing torrents repeatedly.

Today this approach is no longer as effective as it once was. The bulk of all online piracy has moved from P2P downloading to streaming, and the latter isn’t traceable by anti-piracy watchdogs.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the French Government, Minister of Culture Françoise Nyssen in particular, who highlighted the issue to reporters a few days ago.

“The Hadopi response is no longer suitable because piracy is now 80% by streaming,” she said, quoted by local media.

While Hadopi may have outgrown its usefulness, France is not giving up the piracy fight. On the contrary, the country is now pondering new measures to target the current epidemic of pirate streaming sites.

Nyssen hopes that local authorities will implement a national pirate site blocklist to address the problem. Ideally, this should be constantly updated to ensure that pirate streaming sites remain inaccessible.

The Minister told reporters that France must “act on the sites,” by implementing “a blacklist which is constantly updated to keep them offline”.

This list would be maintained by the Hadopi agency which can then circulate it among several online intermediaries. This can include Internet providers, but also search engines and advertising networks.

The tough language will be music to the ears of the film industry and the timing doesn’t appear to be a total coincidence either.

The comments from the French Minister of Culture come shortly after several film industry groups boycotted a reception at the ministry. According to the groups, France dropped the ball on enforcement against piracy, which is blamed for more than a billion euros in losses.

The renewed promise may calm the waters for a while, but for now, it’s little more than that. It will likely take time before an effective pirate site blacklist is established, if it gets that far.

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

Facebook Privacy Fiasco Sees Congress Urged on Anti-Piracy Action

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/facebook-privacy-fiasco-sees-congress-urged-on-anti-piracy-action-180420/

It has been a tumultuous few weeks for Facebook, and some would say quite rightly so. The company is a notorious harvester of personal information but last month’s Cambridge Analytica scandal really brought things to a head.

With Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg in the midst of a PR nightmare, last Tuesday the entrepreneur appeared before the Senate. A day later he faced a grilling from lawmakers, answering questions concerning the social networking giant’s problems with user privacy and how it responds to breaches.

What practical measures Zuckerberg and his team will take to calm the storm are yet to unfold but the opportunity to broaden the attack on both Facebook and others in the user-generated content field is now being seized upon. Yes, privacy is the number one controversy at the moment but Facebook and others of its ilk need to step up and take responsibility for everything posted on their platforms.

That’s the argument presented by the American Federation of Musicians, the Content Creators Coalition, CreativeFuture, and the Independent Film & Television Alliance, who together represent more than 650 entertainment industry companies and 240,000 members. CreativeFuture alone represents more than 500 companies, including all the big Hollywood studios and major players in the music industry.

In letters sent to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary; the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the coalitions urge Congress to not only ensure that Facebook gets its house in order, but that Google, Twitter, and similar platforms do so too.

The letters begin with calls to protect user data and tackle the menace of fake news but given the nature of the coalitions and their entertainment industry members, it’s no surprise to see where this is heading.

“In last week’s hearing, Mr. Zuckerberg stressed several times that Facebook must ‘take a broader view of our responsibility,’ acknowledging that it is ‘responsible for the content’ that appears on its service and must ‘take a more active view in policing the ecosystem’ it created,” the letter reads.

“While most content on Facebook is not produced by Facebook, they are the publisher and distributor of immense amounts of content to billions around the world. It is worth noting that a lot of that content is posted without the consent of the people who created it, including those in the creative industries we represent.”

The letter recalls Zuckerberg as characterizing Facebook’s failure to take a broader view of its responsibilities as a “big mistake” while noting he’s also promised change.

However, the entertainment groups contend that the way the company has conducted itself – and the manner in which many Silicon Valley companies conduct themselves – is supported and encouraged by safe harbors and legal immunities that absolve internet platforms of accountability.

“We agree that change needs to happen – but we must ask ourselves whether we can expect to see real change as long as these companies are allowed to continue to operate in a policy framework that prioritizes the growth of the internet over accountability and protects those that fail to act responsibly. We believe this question must be at the center of any action Congress takes in response to the recent failures,” the groups write.

But while the Facebook fiasco has provided the opportunity for criticism, CreativeFuture and its colleagues see the problem from a much broader perspective. They suck in companies like Google, which is also criticized for shirking its responsibilities, largely because the law doesn’t compel it to act any differently.

“Google, another major global platform that has long resisted meaningful accountability, also needs to step forward and endorse the broader view of responsibility expressed by Mr. Zuckerberg – as do many others,” they continue.

“The real problem is not Facebook, or Mark Zuckerberg, regardless of how sincerely he seeks to own the ‘mistakes’ that led to the hearing last week. The problem is endemic in a system that applies a different set of rules to the internet and fails to impose ordinary norms of accountability on businesses that are built around monetizing other people’s personal information and content.”

Noting that Congress has encouraged technology companies to prosper by using a “light hand” for the past several decades, the groups say their level of success now calls for a fresh approach and a heavier touch.

“Facebook and Google are grown-ups – and it is time they behaved that way. If they will not act, then it is up to you and your colleagues in the House to take action and not let these platforms’ abuses continue to pile up,” they conclude.

But with all that said, there is an interesting conflict that develops when presenting the solution to piracy in the context of a user privacy fiasco.

In the EU, many of the companies involved in the coalitions above are calling for pre-emptive filters to prevent allegedly infringing content being uploaded to Facebook and YouTube. That means that all user uploads to such platforms will have to be opened and scanned to see what they contain before they’re allowed online.

So, user privacy or pro-active anti-piracy filters? It might not be easy or even legal to achieve both.

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

Pirates Taunt Amazon Over New “Turd Sandwich” Prime Video Quality

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-taunt-amazon-over-new-turd-sandwich-prime-video-quality-180419/

Even though they generally aren’t paying for the content they consume, don’t fall into the trap of believing that all pirates are eternally grateful for even poor quality media.

Without a doubt, some of the most quality-sensitive individuals are to be found in pirate communities and they aren’t scared to make their voices known when release groups fail to come up with the best possible goods.

This week there’s been a sustained chorus of disapproval over the quality of pirate video releases sourced from Amazon Prime. The anger is usually directed at piracy groups who fail to capture content in the correct manner but according to a number of observers, the problem is actually at Amazon’s end.

Discussions on Reddit, for example, report that episodes in a single TV series have been declining in filesize and bitrate, from 1.56 GB in 720p at a 3073 kb/s video bitrate for episode 1, down to 907 MB in 720p at just 1514 kb/s video bitrate for episode 10.

Numerous theories as to why this may be the case are being floated around, including that Amazon is trying to save on bandwidth expenses. While this is a possibility, the company hasn’t made any announcements to that end.

Indeed, one legitimate customer reported that he’d raised the quality issue with Amazon and they’d said that the problem was “probably on his end”.

“I have Amazon Prime Video and I noticed the quality was always great for their exclusive shows, so I decided to try buying the shows on Amazon instead of iTunes this year. I paid for season pass subscriptions for Legion, Billions and Homeland this year,” he wrote.

“Just this past weekend, I have noticed a significant drop in details compared to weeks before! So naturally I assumed it was an issue on my end. I started trying different devices, calling support, etc, but nothing really helped.

“Billions continued to look like a blurry mess, almost like I was watching a standard definition DVD instead of the crystal clear HD I paid for and have experienced in the past! And when I check the previous episodes, sure enough, they look fantastic again. What the heck??”

With Amazon distancing itself from the issues, piracy groups have already begun to dig in the knife. Release group DEFLATE has been particularly critical.

“Amazon, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to start fucking with the quality of their encodes. They’re now reaching Netflix’s subpar 1080p.H264 levels, and their H265 encodes aren’t even close to what Netflix produces,” the group said in a file attached to S02E07 of The Good Fight released on Sunday.

“Netflix is able to produce drastic visual improvements with their H265 encodes compared to H264 across every original. In comparison, Amazon can’t decide whether H265 or H264 is going to produce better results, and as a result we suffer for it.”

Arrr! The quality be fallin’

So what’s happening exactly?

A TorrentFreak source (who tells us he’s been working in the BluRay/DCP authoring business for the last 10 years) was kind enough to give us two opinions, one aimed at the techies and another at us mere mortals.

“In technical terms, it appears [Amazon has] increased the CRF [Constant Rate Factor] value they use when encoding for both the HEVC [H265] and H264 streams. Previously, their H264 streams were using CRF 18 and a max bitrate of 15Mbit/s, which usually resulted in file sizes of roughly 3GB, or around 10Mbit/s. Similarly with their HEVC streams, they were using CRF 20 and resulting in streams which were around the same size,” he explained.

“In the past week, the H264 streams have decreased by up to 50% for some streams. While there are no longer any x264 headers embedded in the H264 streams, the HEVC streams still retain those headers and the CRF value used has been increased, so it does appear this change has been done on purpose.”

In layman’s terms, our source believes that Amazon had previously been using an encoding profile that was “right on the edge of relatively good quality” which kept bitrates relatively low but high enough to ensure no perceivable loss of quality.

“H264 streams encoded with CRF 18 could provide an acceptable compromise between quality and file size, where the loss of detail is often negligible when watched at regular viewing distances, at a desk, or in a lounge room on a larger TV,” he explained.

“Recently, it appears these values have been intentionally changed in order to lower the bitrate and file sizes for reasons unknown. As a result, the quality of some streams has been reduced by up to 50% of their previous values. This has introduced a visual loss of quality, comparable to that of viewing something in standard definition versus high definition.”

With the situation failing to improve during the week, by the time piracy group DEFLATE released S03E14 of Supergirl on Tuesday their original criticism had transformed into flat-out insults.

“These are only being done in H265 because Amazon have shit the bed, and it’s a choice between a turd sandwich and a giant douche,” they wrote, offering these images as illustrative of the problem and these indicating what should be achievable.

With DEFLATE advising customers to start complaining to Amazon, the memes have already begun, with unfavorable references to now-defunct group YIFY (which was often chastized for its low quality rips) and even a spin on one of the most well known anti-piracy campaigns.

You wouldn’t download stream….

TorrentFreak contacted Amazon Prime for comment on both the recent changes and growing customer complaints but at the time of publication we were yet to receive a response.

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

MPA Reveals Scale of Worldwide Pirate Site Blocking

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpa-reveals-scale-of-worldwide-pirate-site-blocking-180410/

Few people following the controversial topic of Internet piracy will be unaware of the site-blocking phenomenon. It’s now one of the main weapons in the entertainment industries’ arsenal and it’s affecting dozens of countries.

While general figures can be culled from the hundreds of news reports covering the issue, the manner in which blocking is handled in several regions means that updates aren’t always provided. New sites are regularly added to blocklists without fanfare, meaning that the public is kept largely in the dark.

Now, however, a submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) by Motion Picture Association Canada provides a more detailed overview. It was presented in support of the proposed blocking regime in Canada, so while the key figures are no doubt accurate, some of the supporting rhetoric should be viewed in context.

“Over the last decade, at least 42 countries have either adopted and implemented, or are legally obligated to adopt and implement, measures to ensure that ISPs take steps to disable access to copyright infringing websites, including throughout the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Korea,” the submission reads.

The 42 blocking-capable countries referenced by the Hollywood group include the members of the European Union plus the following: Argentina, Australia, Iceland, India, Israel, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.

While all countries have their own unique sets of legislation, countries within the EU are covered by the requirements of Article 8.3 of the INFOSEC Directive which provides that; “Member States shall ensure that rightholders are in a position to apply for an injunction against intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to infringe a copyright or related right.”

That doesn’t mean that all countries are actively blocking, however. While Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia have the legal basis to block infringing sites, none have yet done so.

In a significant number of other EU countries, however, blocking activity is prolific.

“To date, in at least 17 European countries, over 1,800 infringing sites and over 5,300 domains utilized by such sites have been blocked, including in the following four countries where the positive impact of site-blocking over time has been demonstrated,” MPA Canada notes.

Major blocking nations in the EU

At this point, it’s worth pointing out that authority to block sites is currently being obtained in two key ways, either through the courts or via an administrative process.

In the examples above, the UK and Denmark are dealt with via the former, with Italy and Portugal handled via the latter. At least as far as the volume of sites is concerned, court processes – which can be expensive – tend to yield lower site blocking levels than those carried out through an administrative process. Indeed, the MPAA has praised Portugal’s super-streamlined efforts as something to aspire to.

Outside Europe, the same two processes are also in use. For example, Australia, Argentina, and Singapore utilize the judicial route while South Korea, Mexico, Malaysia and Indonesia have opted for administrative remedies.

“Across 10 of these countries, over 1,100 infringing sites and over 1,500 domains utilized by such sites have been blocked,” MPA Canada reveals.

To date, South Korea has blocked 460 sites and 547 domains, while Australia has blocked 91 sites and 355 domains. In the case of the latter, “research has confirmed the increasingly positive impact that site-blocking has, as a greater number of sites are blocked over time,” the Hollywood group notes.

Although by no means comprehensive, MPA Canada lists the following “Notorious Sites” as subject to blocking in multiple countries via both judicial and administrative means. Most will be familiar, with the truly notorious The Pirate Bay heading the pile. Several no longer exist in their original form but in many cases, clones are blocked as if they still represent the original target.


The methods used to block the sites vary from country to country, dependent on what courts deem fit and in consideration of ISPs’ technical capabilities. Three main tools are in use including DNS blocking, IP address blocking, and URL blocking, which can also include Deep Packet Inspection.

The MPA submission (pdf) is strongly in favor of adding Canada to the list of site-blocking countries detailed above. The Hollywood group believes that the measures are both effective and proportionate, citing reduced usage of blocked sites, reduced traffic to pirate sites in general, and increased visits to legitimate platforms.

“There is every reason to believe that the website blocking measures [presented to the CRTC] will lead to the same beneficial results in Canada,” MPA Canada states.

While plenty of content creators and distributors are in favor of proposals, all signs suggest they will have a battle on their hands, with even some ISPs coming out in opposition.

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

Publisher Gets Carte Blanche to Seize New Sci-Hub Domains

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/publisher-gets-carte-blanche-to-seize-new-sci-hub-domains-180410/

While Sci-Hub is loved by thousands of researchers and academics around the world, copyright holders are doing everything in their power to wipe if off the web.

Following a $15 million defeat against Elsevier last June, the American Chemical Society (ACS) won a default judgment of $4.8 million in copyright damages a few months later.

The publisher was further granted a broad injunction, requiring various third-party services to stop providing access to the site. This includes domain registries, hosting companies and search engines.

Soon after the order was signed, several of Sci-Hub’s domain names became unreachable as domain registries and Cloudflare complied with the court order. Still, Sci-Hub remained available all this time, with help from several newly registered domain names.

Frustrated by Sci-Hub’s resilience, ACS recently went back to court asking for an amended injunction. The publisher requested the authority to seize any and all Sci-Hub domain names, also those that will be registered in the future.

“Plaintiff has been forced to engage in a game of ‘whac-a-mole’ whereby new ‘sci-hub’ domain names emerge,” ACS informed the court.

“Further complicating matters, some registries, registrars, and Internet service providers have refused to disable newer Sci-Hub domain names that were not specifically identified in the Complaint or the injunction”

Soon after the request was submitted, US District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema agreed to the amended language.

The amended injunction now requires search engines, hosting companies, domain registrars, and other service or software providers, to cease facilitating access to Sci-Hub. This includes, but is not limited to, the following domain names.

‘sci-hub.ac, scihub.biz, sci-hub.bz, sci-hub.cc, sci-hub.cf, sci-hub.cn, sci-hub.ga, sci-hub.gq, scihub.hk, sci-hub.is, sci-hub.la, sci-hub.name, sci-hub.nu, sci-hub.nz, sci-hub.onion, scihub22266oqcxt.onion, sci-hub.tw, and sci-hub.ws.’

From the injunction

The new injunction makes ACS’ enforcement efforts much more effective. It effectively means that third-party services can no longer refuse to comply because a Sci-Hub domain is not listed in the complaint or injunction.

This already appears to have had some effect, as several domain names including sci-hub.la and sci-hub.tv became inaccessible soon after the paperwork was signed. Still, it is unlikely that it will help to shut down the site completely.

Several service providers are not receptive to US Court orders. One example is Iceland’s domain registry ISNIC and indeed, at the time of writing, Sci-Hub.is is still widely available.

Seizing .onion domain names, which are used on the Tor network, may also prove to be a challenge. After all, there is no central registration organization involved.

For now, Sci-Hub founder and operator Alexandra Elbakyan appears determined to keep the site online, whatever it takes. While it may be a hassle for users to find the latest working domain names, the new court order is not the end of the “whac-a-mole” just yet.

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

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

PrimeWire Becomes Unusable After Malicious Ad ‘Takeover’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/primewire-becomes-unusable-after-malicious-ad-takeover-180404/

With millions of visitors per month, Primewire is one of the best-known pirate linking sites on the Internet.

The site originally started as LetMeWatchThis and later became 1Channel. After several of its domains were hijacked the operator eventually landed at Primewire.ag.

That was five years ago and nothing significant has changed since then. At least, nothing that was noticeable to the public at large. Despite a few ISP blockades here and there, the site functioned normally.

This changed a few days ago when we noticed that the Primewire.ag DNS records were updated to EuroDNS, which caused the site to become unreachable.

Around the same time, the flow of new content also stopped on the backup domain Primewire.is, while existing links all changed to advertisements.

A few days have passed now and while Primewire.ag has returned online, the site is little more than an inventory of suspicious ad links. Instead of pointing people to the latest TV-shows and movies, they get scammy advertisements.

Scam ads

When clicking on a link, users are directed to dubious services such as Pushplay. These require people to enter their credit card details for a ‘free’ account, which leads to quite a few complaints from “pissed consumers.”

It’s obvious that this is a ploy to generate cash but it’s unclear why this is happening. At the moment there are plenty of rumors floating around but no word from the site’s operator. The official Twitter and Facebook accounts remain quiet as well.

Interestingly, another popular streaming link site, gowatchfreemovies.to, appears to be suffering the same fate. This site has also become unusable with all links now pointing to ads. While we can only speculate at the moment, this could very well be related.

The question remains who’s behind all this? Has the operator given up, is it a play to make quick cash, or has the site been compromised by outsiders, again?

For now, the only conclusion we can draw is that hundreds of thousands of pirates will have to get by without their goto site.

Update: A sharp Reddit user points out that the actual streaming links can still be decoded from the “ad urls.”

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Hosting Provider Steadfast is Not Liable for ‘Pirate’ Site

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hosting-provider-steadfast-is-not-liable-for-pirate-site-180403/

In 2016, adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan dragged several third-party Internet services to court.

The company targeted companies including CDN provider CloudFlare and the Chicago-based hosting company Steadfast, accusing them of copyright infringement because they offered services to pirate sites.

ALS argued that Steadfast refused to shut down the servers of the image sharing platform Imagebam.com, which was operated by its client Flixya. The hosting provider had been targeted with dozens of DMCA notices, and ALS accused Steadfast of turning a blind eye to the situation.

Steadfast denied these allegations. The hosting provider did indeed lease servers to Flixya for ten years but said that it forwarded all notices to its client. The hosting company could not address individual infringements, other than shutting down the entire site, which would have been disproportionate in their view.

With a trial getting closer, the hosting company submitted a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it can’t be held liable for copyright infringement. A few days ago California District Court Judge George Wu ordered on the matter, bringing good news for Steadfast.

Judge Wu dismissed all claims against Steadfast, including contributory copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement, and contributory trademark infringement, which is a clear win.

Dismissed

The order clarifies that hosting providers such as Steadfast can be held liable for pirate sites. This is also the case when these sites are hosted on servers that are leased by a company which itself has a takedown policy, something Steadfast contended.

In this case, it is clear that Steadfast knew of the infringements. It could have shut down imagebam.com but failed to do so, and continued to provide server space to known copyright infringers on the site. All these arguments could, in theory, weigh against the hosting provider.

However, in order to be liable for contributory copyright infringement, ALS Scan needed to show that Steadfast failed to take simple steps to prevent the copyright infringements at issue. This is where the adult entertainment publisher’s arguments failed.

Steadfast forwarded all notices to its customer Flixya which resulted in the removal of the infringing images. In other words, the hosting provider took simple steps that prevented further copyright infringements.

“Given these undisputed facts, the Court would find that Steadfast did not ‘[fail] to take simple measures’ to prevent the specific acts of infringement of which it was aware. Steadfast took simple steps that resulted in all of the at-issue images being removed,” Judge Wu writes.

ALS argued that Steadfast should have shut down the entire server of its customer to prevent future infringements, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Service providers only have to take measures if they know that infringements occurred or will occur in the future. The latter was not obvious here.

“As such, the Court is not convinced that Steadfast had any reason, legal or practical, to terminate Flixya’s account and power down its servers,” the order reads.

Steadfast founder and CEO Karl Zimmerman is happy with the outcome of the case. He agrees that hosting providers have a responsibility to respond to copyright infringement complaints, but stresses that his company already has the right procedures in play.

“We already check and assure the content is removed, and yes, if the content simply stays up, that is concerning and shows that more could be done,” Zimmerman informs TF.

“We took action in forwarding the complaints, tracking those complaints, and validating the content had been removed. We did what was required of us, which is why I thought it was odd we were in this case in the first place.”

Hosting providers should take measures to help curb copyright infringement, according to Steadfast. However, shutting down entire services of customers who take down infringing links when they’re asked too, goes too far. Zimmerman is glad that Judge Wu agreed with this.

“To me, it simply does not seem reasonable to have to shut down a customer just because future infringement of their users is possible, when every indication is that the customer is completely law-abiding and I’m glad the judge agreed with that,” he says.

A copy of United States District Court Judge George Wu’s order is available here (pdf).

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

UN Human Rights Rapporteur Warns Against Canadian Pirate Site Blocking Plan

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/un-human-rights-rapporteur-warns-against-canadian-pirate-site-blocking-plan-180402/

In January, a coalition of Canadian companies called on the country’s telecom regulator CRTC to establish a local pirate site blocking program, which would be the first of its kind in North America.

The Canadian deal is supported by Fairplay Canada, a coalition of both copyright holders and major players in the telco industry, such as Bell and Rogers, which also have their own media branches.

Before making a decision on the proposal, the CTRC launched a public consultation asking the public for input on the matter. This has resulted in thousands of submissions, both for and against the plan.

Last week, just before the deadline passed, a noteworthy letter typed on a United Nations letterhead came in. The submission comes from David Kaye, acting as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Special Rapporteurs are independent experts who have a mandate from the Human Rights Council to report and advise United Nations members on threats and problems that arise. In this case, the letter warns against the Canadian site blocking plan.

According to Kaye, the website blocking plan threatens to violate Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This article guarantees people’s freedom of “opinion and expression” through “any media” and “regardless of frontiers.”

The Special Rapporteur informs the CRTC that the blocking plan could violate Canada’s obligations under Article 19 in several ways. The first problem he highlights is proportionality. According to Kaye, website blocking is an extreme measure that is often too broad to tackle copyright infringement.

“While the enforcement of copyright law may be a legitimate aim, I am concerned that website/application blocking is almost always a disproportionate means of achieving this aim,” Kaye writes.

“The risk that online expression will be disproportionately restricted is particularly high for websites/applications that are implicated in copyright infringement but also widely used to protect personal identity and security, such as VPNs, proxy services and peer-to-peer networks.”

The Special Rapporteur also highlights that the proposed criteria for piracy sites are vague, which may lead to over-blocking. This could affect sites and services that also have significant non-infringing uses.

In addition, he also notes that the proposed plan lacks due process safeguards. This means that sites may be blocked solely based on allegations from copyright holders, without judicial oversight.

Finally, it’s pointed out that the website blocking plan requires ISPs to work with copyright holders. However, the Rapporteur notes that these Telcos also own major Canadian commercial television services, which makes it unclear if they can act as neutral gatekeepers.

All in all, the Special Rapporteur urges the CRTC to make sure that, if it adopts any blocking measures, these will be in accordance with Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Given his summary, that is currently not the case.

“Website blocking is an extreme measure that should only be imposed when an independent and impartial judicial authority or adjudicatory body has determined that it is the least restrictive means available to end individual acts of copyright infringement.”

“The proposed website blocking regime raises concern that websites may be blocked in Canada based on insufficient evidence or misleading allegations of copyright infringement, through a process lacking necessary due process guarantees,” Kaye adds.

Now that the public consultation has ended the CRTC will review the thousands of responses, including this one. When that’s done, it is expected to release a final review on the proposal, which is expected to happen later this year.

The submission of Special Rapporteur David Kaye, which hasn’t gone unnoticed, is available here (pdf).

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