Tag Archives: Breaking News

YouTube Refuses to Process DMCA Counternotice for ‘Creepy Bugs’ Cartoon

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-refuses-to-process-dmca-counternotice-for-creepy-bugs-cartoon-200328/

Earlier this week we reported on a dark parody cartoon depicting a washed-out Bugs Bunny as a sex pest. The controversial video was created by Hunter Hancock, the person behind the MeatCanyon channel.

It was hit with a copyright complaint by Warner Bros. As a result, the MeatCanyon channel received a copyright strike and the cartoon was taken down.

When a video is targeted by a copyright holder with a manual complaint (i.e one not actioned as a result of ContentID matching), users can generally refer to the DMCA for guidance. This means that if they believe their content was not infringing (under fair use guidelines, for example), they can submit a DMCA counternotice to YouTube explaining why the content should not have been taken down.

This is exactly what Hancock did in response to the Warner complaint.

“This is my own creation. I animated every frame, composed the music, recorded the audio and made the backgrounds,” he told YouTube in his counternotice shared with TorrentFreak.

“This creation is under fair use,” he continued. “The characters have been stylized by myself to not reflect directly with the traditional characters. There is no branded logo to incite that this is a real video owned by Warner Brothers, but is in fact a parody video created by none other than by myself.”

As required under the law, Hancock swore that he had a “good faith belief” that the material had been removed due to a mistake and also consented to the jurisdiction of his local federal court, in case Warner chose to sue him – something it must do within two weeks to prevent the content from being restored. Should that time pass with no lawsuit, then the content would’ve been put back up and the strike removed.

In the event, however, none of those things happened. In short, YouTube declined to accept the apparently valid DMCA counternotice filed by Hancock and refused to pass it on to Warner.

“Based on the information you provided, it appears that you do not have the necessary rights to post the content on YouTube. Therefore, we regretfully cannot honor your request. It has not been forwarded to the original claimant, and we will not be able to restore your video,” YouTube’s correspondence reads.

While this response from YouTube runs counter to what most people would expect under the DMCA counter-claim process, it is not unprecedented. The EFF previously reported that agreements YouTube has with rightsholders may effectively deny access to the system.

“In many instances, even if you successfully submit a DMCA counter-notice, the video will not be reinstated. These agreements are opaque, and scope of what’s allowed under them is unknown. They may be short-term, or long-term,” the EFF previously explained.

In this case, the refusal of YouTube to allow a counter-claim represents a double-edged sword. While Hancock submitted the notice in good faith, genuinely believing he was in a good position to put his side of the argument by insisting he was protected under fair use doctrines, the reality of dealing with a lawsuit, should one be initiated, is a serious proposition and not to be underestimated.

After being denied by YouTube and further consideration, he decided that fighting probably wasn’t the best option after all.

“I am in no place to fight this in court due to financial reasons. It seems unnecessary to start a GoFund me or ask for help, because it’s between me and Warner Brothers,” he told TF.

“It also made me think YouTube wanted the video off the platform. It is a very crude video so I can’t blame them for that, but it would’ve been nice to have been given more information on why this video was unacceptable to stay up on my page. It’s very disheartening.”

While the decision by YouTube will be viewed by some as anti-consumer and a denial of due process, in this case the platform arguably did the animator a favor. Instead of expending resources he doesn’t have on a legal process that could go either way and could even prove financially ruinous, he can now concentrate on creating new content for fans.

Some battles are worth fighting but it’s definitely worth weighing the costs first.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Bad Boys For Life Leads Wave of Early Movie Releases Flooding Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bad-boys-for-life-leads-wave-of-early-movie-releases-flooding-pirate-sites-200327/

As the planet struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic, businesses around the world are looking at ways to mitigate the disruption caused by voluntary and in some cases mandatory isolation.

Social distancing is now vital to the health of billions of people and as a result, visiting cinemas is no longer an option. Instead, movie companies are bringing forward digital release dates for many movies, hoping that people will rent or buy these titles, as a temporary replacement for venturing out to the big screen.

Somewhat inevitably these releases are now appearing on pirate sites, available to download or stream depending on the platform. Last Friday, The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma were readily available for viewing and this week many new titles can be added to the list.

Despite the movie only hitting cinema screens in mid-January, the much-anticipated Bad Boys For Life is now pulling in considerable numbers on unofficial platforms. It wasn’t expected until March 31 but this morning there are various HD copies culled from a digital source doing the rounds on torrent and streaming platforms.

Switching back and forth between second and third place in this batch is superhero movie Bloodshot. Starring Vin Diesel, the title was released early on March 13 but just a handful of days later, Sony Pictures said it would appear digitally on March 24 in response to the outbreak.

Next up is the Guy Ritchie action/comedy The Gentleman. Available in 1080p WEBRip format after being captured from platforms such as Amazon, the movie was previously slated for a home release on April 7. In the event, it appeared March 24 and almost immediately found itself on unlicensed platforms.

In no particular order (our regular weekly download chart will determine that in due course), several other titles are also readily available after early digital releases.

After being released digitally last Friday, animated release Onward was quickly made available unofficially. The same thing happened to the Harrison Ford movie The Call of the Wild today, just hours after being made available on Disney Plus.

Another Disney movie, Downhill starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, also appeared this morning but doesn’t appear to be particularly popular, at least for now.

Finally, after a February theatrical release, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn was slated for a digital release on March 24 by DC. In the event, it actually appeared on pirate sites as early as March 21.

Quite how this state of play is being received at the studios is unclear. However, these are unprecedented times and since the vast majority of the public buy, rent or stream their movies legally, sales figures may yet be respectable – for the good films at least.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

AMD Uses DMCA to Mitigate Massive GPU Source Code Leak

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/amd-uses-dmca-to-mitigate-massive-gpu-source-code-leak-200325/

Graphics cards are big business and AMD is one of the leading brands with an estimated 32% share of the discrete desktop market.

In July 2019, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, AMD released its Radeon RX 5000 series powered by ‘Navi’ GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit). The source code for these devices is extremely sensitive and considered secret but perhaps not for much longer.

This week rumors began to circulate that an unnamed individual had somehow obtained the source for Navi 10, Navi 21 and Arden devices, the latter representing the rumored GPU for the yet-to-be-released Xbox Series X. Confirming whether such leaks are genuine is difficult but yesterday AMD took action which tends to support the theory.

In a DMCA notice sent to development platform Github, AMD identified the recently-created ‘xxXsoullessXxx’ repository and a project titled “AMD-navi-GPU-HARDWARE-SOURCE” as the location of its “stolen” intellectual property.

“This repository contains intellectual property owned by and stolen from AMD,” the semiconductor company wrote. “The original IP is held privately and was stolen from AMD.”

Github responded by immediately taking the repository down, as per AMD’s request. That prompted us to try and find the person behind the repo and to ask some questions about what AMD was trying to suppress. The individual informed TorrentFreak that AMD’s GPU source code was the content in question. (Responses edited for clarity)

“In November 2019, I found AMD Navi GPU hardware source codes in a hacked computer,” the person explained. “The user didn’t take any effective action against the leak of the codes.”

Questioned further on the route of extraction, we were told that a combination of factors led to the leak.

“The source code was unexpectedly achieved from an unprotected computer//server through some exploits. I later found out about the files inside it. They weren’t even protected properly or even encrypted with anything which is just sad.”

The individual, who claims to be female, told us that the package included code for Navi 10 and Navi 21 devices. She also confirmed that the source for the Xbox Series X GPU ‘Arden’ was part of the haul.

When asked whether the person had spoken to AMD about the leak, the answer was negative.

“I haven’t spoken to AMD about it because I am pretty sure that instead of accepting their mistake and moving on, they will try to sue me. So why not just leak it to everyone?” we were told.

The alleged leaker further told us that one “source code packet” had already been released. Whether that is limited to the material made available via Github remains unclear but TF was able to find links to a file-hosting site where an archive claiming to be the content was stored. Given the potentially criminal route via which the content was obtained, we did not download the package.

That AMD is concerned about the leak was underlined once again late yesterday. Having indicated in its initial complaint to Github that the source couldn’t be found anywhere else, the company later backtracked, identifying at least four other locations on Github where the project had been forked. All of those repos have been taken down.

While taking down the repositories is a logical first step for AMD, the gravity of this leak is hard to underestimate. The claimed hacker told TF that she valued the source at $100m but how that calculation was arrived at is unknown. While AMD considers its next steps, an even bigger storm may be heading the company’s way.

“If I get no buyer I will just leak everything,” the leaker concluded, adding that the files would be secured with passwords that will only be handed out to select individuals.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Nintendo Shuts Down Kickstarter Campaign For Violating Animal Crossing Copyrights

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/nintendo-shuts-down-kickstarter-campaign-for-violating-animal-crossing-copyrights-200324/

Anyone with a cool idea that could potentially develop into a great product or business can raise funding on Kickstarter.

Launched in 2009, the crowdfunding platform has helped to fund almost 180,000 projects with an impressive $4.85 billion in pledges. But while many projects go on to enjoy success, others can fail at an early stage due to basic errors.

The ‘New Adventures Passport Travel Holder’ fundraiser launched with a modest target of just £1,000. The aim was to offer an RFID-protected passport holder and luggage tags along with a matching lanyard, which doesn’t sound especially exciting in the grand scheme of things.

Nevertheless, the project quickly amassed 1,823 backers pledging more than £34,000 between them, 34 times the original target. While there may have been other factors contributing to this success, a quick view of the promotional material provides a fairly obvious clue as to why it was so popular.

For reasons best known to those behind the crowdfunding campaign, creating original artwork for the products wasn’t high on the agenda. As the image shows, all of the products are adorned with characters from the highly successful Animal Crossing video game series created by Nintendo.

History has shown us that this kind of move is a bad idea. Nintendo is known to aggressively protect its copyrights and trademarks and this case was no different. In a letter and DMCA notice to Kickstarter, a law firm acting for Nintendo explained that the project must be shut down.

“Nintendo owns copyrights in all aspects of its Animal Crossing video game franchise, including but not limited to the audio-visual work, imagery, and fictional character depictions covered by [various U.S. Copyright Registration numbers relating to Animal Crossing, Animal Crossing: City Folk, New Leaf, and Wild World],” the complaint reads.

“The reported campaign displays images of Nintendo’s copyright-protected Animal Crossing characters and images in connection with the creation of products that make unauthorized use of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing characters and images, all in violation of Nintendo’s rights.”

In response, Kickstarter swiftly shut down the campaign, noting that it had been rendered unavailable due to an “intellectual property dispute”.

Considering the text used to draw attention to the UK-launched campaign, the use of Nintendo’s works appears to have been intentional.

Advertising the “New Adventures” travel holder, those behind the project described their product as a “cute animal pattern passport cover for your new adventures crossing the horizons!” Almost all words in that description relate to Animal Crossing which makes the project easy to find in search engines by gaming fans.

“All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Tue, March 31 2020,” the campaign read before being taken down. Clearly, that will not happen now.

At any one time, Nintendo is involved with multiple intellectual property disputes which are tackled using various means.

In recent months the gaming company has resorted to site-blocking measures in the UK to tackle Switch piracy, filed a complaint against Github to tackle a remake developer, obtained an injunction in the US to restrain a mod seller, filed DMCA anti-circumvention notices, and continued with a full-blown lawsuit against download portal RomUniverse.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

ACE Coalition Seizes Four More ‘Pirate’ IPTV Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ace-coalition-seizes-four-more-pirate-iptv-domains-200322/

The Alliance for Creativity Entertainment (ACE) is the largest anti-piracy coalition in history. It pools the resources of all the major Hollywood studios plus Netflix, Amazon and dozens of other companies to tackle piracy on a global scale.

ACE has made many announcements over the past couple of years celebrating successful conclusions to multiple operations. Most relate to closures of file-hosting services, IPTV providers and other platforms involved in the unlicensed streaming of movies and TV shows.

However, for reasons best known to the coalition, not all of its investigations are publicized. Many fly under the radar until visitors to once-active websites find themselves being directed to the ACE anti-piracy portal when they expected to find a ‘pirate’ platform.

According to information obtained by TorrentFreak, four new domains have recently begun redirecting to ACE. The first, ausmediastreaming.com.au, comes as no surprise. In early March, ACE revealed that it had secured the closure of the IPTV supplier following a cease-and-desist order.

“The closure of Aus Media Streaming is the latest in a series of victories that can protect Australian creators and ensure that legal services can continue to thrive,” said Karyn Temple, Senior Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel of the Motion Picture Association.

The second fresh domain under ACE/MPA control is watchmoviesfree.com.au. When it was online, the site asked prospective customers whether they wanted to watch “Every single movie, TV show, sporting event, documentary, kids TV and movie ever made, free?”

Concluding that the answer must be “Of course you do”, the site then went on to offer Android-based set-top devices named Octo-Ninja and Ninja-Quad. It’s unclear what was in those devices but either a pre-loaded setup and/or a subscription-based IPTV service seems likely. Before it was taken down, the domain offered an Australian telephone number for people to get in touch.

EmpireTV.ca is the third domain. According to its now disappeared website and Facebook pages, it claimed to be the “top streaming service in Canada”, offering over 5,000 channels plus on-demand movies, TV shows, PPV and more from $9.99 per month.

Various packages were made available by the site, varying in price according to subscription length and levels of content available. The site was previously targeted in a DMCA complaint after supplying German football content without permission. It also had a detailed disclaimer that clearly didn’t cut much ice with ACE.

“We have no association with any of the IP channels shown or any of these products. TV channels and video content of the services are being provided without any liability from us regarding copyrights,” it began.

“Per our knowledge all channels provided by the server sellers abide by all relevant countries copyright laws and any copyright issues must be taken up directly with the server owners. EMPIRETV.CA does not take any liability as to what is aired on the servers and EMPIRETV.CA have NO control over the servers or streams.”

With EmpireTV.ca now redirecting to the ACE portal, the fourth domain to be placed under the anti-piracy group’s control (or more accurately, that of the MPA) is ZeddIPTV.com. Little is known about this supplier but given that it was previously offered via classified listings in Australia, it may have been focused on that region.

Although nothing has been officially confirmed by ACE in respect of ‘seizing’ any of these domains, it seems likely that following pressure from the anti-piracy group, domains were handed over as part of a settlement. ACE has shuttered close to three dozen operations to date but publicized just a few.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

The Invisible Man, Emma, and The Hunt Hit Pirate Sites After Rushed VOD Releases

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-invisible-man-emma-and-the-hunt-hit-pirate-sites-after-rushed-vod-releases-200321/

For the major Hollywood studios and industry body the MPA, theatrical windows have always been something to vigorously protect.

Supporting the big screen experience and the massive infrastructure behind it is a top priority for the industry overall, not to mention a crucial revenue stream.

Slowly but surely, however, theatrical windows have shortened due to various pressures but nevertheless, day and date cinema and VOD releases have remained a distant prospect for major titles. Then coronavirus happened.

In common with hundreds of business sectors and individuals around the world, the spread of the virus is having a profound effect on cinemas. As preventative measures are put in place, revenues are reportedly down to the lowest levels in twenty-five years. On the other hand, services that can be accessed at home – Netflix for example – are enjoying a boom in usage.

In an effort to cushion the blow, earlier this week Universal Pictures announced that it would be releasing some of its newest movies, that are technically still in their theatrical windows, on digital platforms for rental. As a result, The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma all went on sale Friday at around the $20 mark.

How well these movies will be received and in what volumes consumed remains to be seen but within hours of them appearing on official platforms, the inevitable happened. At the time of writing, all are available for free downloading and streaming on dozens of pirate sites.

Currently available in both 1080p and 720p, The Invisible Man is now being downloaded and streamed by huge numbers of pirates and is currently the most popular of the trio. At this point, most copies are so-called ‘web-rips’ meaning they have been captured from streaming service streams rather than downloaded.

Obtained via the same method, available in the same qualities, and in second place in popularity terms, is horror/thriller movie The Hunt. Emma sits in a distant third place, with mainly lower quality rips and substantially lower levels of consumption.

The big question remains whether this illicit consumption will have a measurable effect on the success of these movies and those that may follow under the ’emergency’ release policy implemented by Universal. Most years big movies have to compete with leaked screener copies so this type of availability isn’t new but it is unprecedented for the content not to have come from ‘leaked’ sources.

If nothing else, the studios now find themselves in the middle of an experiment. Will VOD sales soar as a result of these early releases and if they do, will it be possible to replicate in a more stable environment later on?

Already beleaguered cinema chains will certainly have plenty to say in the months to come and could find themselves in the middle of yet another crisis, beyond what they’re experiencing today.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Doom Eternal Debacle May Have Dismantled Denuvo DRM on Debut Day

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/doom-eternal-debacle-may-have-dismantled-denuvo-drm-on-debut-day-1200320/

Originally penciled in for a November 2019 launch, Doom Eternal suffered delays. Id Software and publisher Bethesda said that this was to ensure that the game lived up to the hype.

A few hours ago, in regions that had already ticked over to March 20 (Australia, for example), people began downloading the game from official sources.

Given that the game was already revealed to be using the infamous anti-tamper technology Denuvo, no one really expected a fast ‘pirate’ release. However, a user on Reddit quickly dropped a bombshell.

The player revealed that after paying for and downloading the official Bethesda.net version’s game files, he opened up the main folder and spied the main executable – a 368MB file named DOOMEternalx64vk.exe. However, a secondary folder (located in Doom Eternal\original\) contained a second much smaller .exe file (67MB) with exactly the same name.

What followed is barely believable. According to now numerous reports, it is possible to replace the .exe file in the ‘original’ folder with the main executable and the game still runs. The theory is that the smaller file is the source .exe without Denuvo, while the highly-bloated version is the one ‘infected’ with Denuvo.

This appears to suggest that someone in the supply chain managed to place a DRM-free executable in the purchased game, put it in a folder clearly marked as ‘original’, then served it up for one of the first-ever purchasers to stumble across, apparently with minimum effort. This has led to jokes that the developers have effectively cracked their own game.

As a result, copies of the game are now being shared online and a number of people are reportedly playing the game with no issues. Initially, there was talk that the game crashed after level 3 but that appears to have been driver-related with an update fixing the problem. A Bethesda account is reportedly needed but a solution to that is already being shared on a Russian forum popular with game pirates.

There is still some work to be done before the pirate release appears in the mainstream (repacker ‘Fitgirl’ lists it as ‘coming soon’) but it seems pretty likely that will be today, the day the game was released. Denuvo didn’t even need to be cracked or disabled to make this happen which is unsettling some, who feel it might be some sort of cunning stunt to give pirates a time-limited demo or something similar.

Time will tell…

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Charter Countersues Music Companies for Sending Inaccurate DMCA Notices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/charter-countersues-music-companies-for-sending-inaccurate-dmca-notices-200319/

Last year, several major music companies sued Charter Communications, one of the largest Internet providers in the US with 22 million subscribers.

Helped by the RIAA, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, and others accused Charter of deliberately turning a blind eye to its pirating subscribers.

Under US law, providers must terminate the accounts of repeat infringers “in appropriate circumstances” and Charter failed to do so, according to the music labels. Specifically, the ISP is accused of ignoring repeat infringers on its network, which it continued to serve as customers.

This week Charter replied to the complaint, which was amended in February, denying most of these allegations. In addition, the ISP is countersuing the music companies on two issues.

Firstly, Charter requests a declaratory judgment from the court, ruling that it’s not contributorily liable for the alleged infringements of its customers. Among other things, it points out that it doesn’t host or promote any infringing activity, nor can it detect piracy on its network.

Other ISPs have issued similar counterclaims in the past. However, Charter goes a step further by also countersuing the music companies for violating copyright law themselves.

The ISP’s claim follows a decision by the music companies to remove 272 sound recordings and 183 music compositions from their initial complaint. These were dropped after the record labels were ordered to produce further evidence that they indeed owned the rights.

This doesn’t sit well with Charter, which believes that the record companies, through the RIAA, have sent inaccurate DMCA notices for these works.

“Upon information and belief, the Record Company Plaintiffs did not own the Dropped Works when they sent notices for them,” Charter writes, adding that “…the Record Company Plaintiffs did not have the right to send notices to Charter for the Dropped Works.”

The notices in question contained “inaccurate information,” which includes the “misrepresentation” that the RIAA was authorized on behalf of the record companies to send these, the ISP adds.

According to the court documents, some of these works were also part of the lawsuit against fellow ISP Cox, where a jury recently awarded a damages amount of nearly $100,000 per work.

Charter itself argues that it was also directly harmed. The notices were processed in its CATS anti-piracy system, through which they were forwarded to subscribers. This obviously costs money.

“Charter incurs costs in implementing its CATS, including when processing Plaintiffs’ inaccurate notices,” the ISP notes, adding that the inaccurate notices also resulted in reputational damage.

“Charter is injured when it processes inaccurate notices, causing it to forward false accusations to its subscribers, to the extent this creates tension with the impacted subscribers, negatively affects goodwill, and causes reputational harm to Charter,” the counterclaim reads.

The ISP demands a jury trial on these issues and wants to be compensated for all damages suffered. In addition, it asks the court to declare that it is not contributorily liable for the alleged copyright infringements of its subscribers.

A copy of Charter’s response to the amended complaint, including the affirmative defenses and the counterclaims, is available here (pdf).

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Cox Maintains That $1 Billion in Piracy Damages is Excessive

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cox-maintains-that-1-billion-in-piracy-damages-is-excessive-200317/

Last December, Internet provider Cox Communications lost its legal battle against a group of major record labels.

Following a two-week trial, the jury held Cox liable for the copyright infringements of its subscribers, ordering the company to pay $1 billion in damages.

Heavily disappointed by the decision, Cox later asked the court to lower the damages. This triggered a scathing response from the music companies, which said that Cox deserved to be punished and that the billion-dollar damages award could have been higher.

The labels countered that Cox’s copyright infringement policy was a “sham,” effectively offering a safe haven for pirates. The ISP’s internal documentation showed that subscribers were let back in after being disconnected, quoting the head of the abuse department saying “f the dmca!!!”

Late last week Cox responded to this reply, stressing that its position is unchanged. According to the ISP, the opposition lacks a proper legal basis and only confirms that the damages amount is too high.

“Plaintiffs’ opposition confirms the need for remittitur to reduce the historically excessive damage award, which undisputedly dwarfs any previous award in a comparable case—or indeed in any case,” Cox writes.

The ISP argues that, even though there are ‘only’ around 10,000 infringements in this case, the labels are holding the company liable for piracy losses across the entire industry. That’s not justified, Cox argues, adding that its claimed piracy profits are overblown.

“Plaintiffs strove to convince the jury that the 10,017 infringements they could prove were evidence of millions more infringements they could not prove, and that the appropriate measure of damages was the harm not to Plaintiffs from Cox’s infringement but to the entire music industry from all infringement,” Cox states.

One of the key points of the reply focuses on the allegations that Cox didn’t have a proper repeat infringer policy as it let terminated subscribers back in. However, the ISP counters that many of its policies were in line with the Copyright Alert System (CAS), the voluntary agreement rightsholders struck with other US Internet providers.

“Plaintiffs call it ‘incredible’ that Cox allowed terminated subscribers to return to Cox’s service with ‘a clean slate,’ but CAS too allowed a ‘reset’ for an infringing subscriber after a period without notices, no matter how many times that subscriber had previously infringed.

“And Plaintiffs’ claim that Cox’s ‘never-suspend and never terminate’ policy for business customers ‘was even more outrageous’ rings hollow given that CAS imposed no obligations at all with respect to ISPs’ business customers,” the reply reads.

While there certainly are some differences with CAS, Cox believes that it could have simply escaped liability by joining the program. Because it didn’t, it now faces a billion-dollar judgment, even though its policy wasn’t that different, it says.

“The fact that Cox could have joined CAS and thereby avoided any liability for the conduct at issue here (it is undisputed that Plaintiffs have not sued any of the ISPs who signed onto CAS) makes readily apparent the gross disproportion between the culpability of its conduct and the $1 billion award.”

The record labels blasted Cox’s initial request to lower the damages award, which was sprinkled with shaded language such as “outrageous,” “egregious,” “flagrant,” “sham.” However, the ISP says that adjectives are not facts. It, therefore, urges the court to look at the evidence and properly weigh it in context.

This includes the way the damages are calculated, Cox’s conduct, but also damages awards that were handed down in similar copyright infringement cases. In this light, the ISP believes that a billion-dollar award is not justified.

“Fair consideration of the record establishes that the $1 billion award is excessive, not only by comparison to analogous awards, but in light of the trial evidence on which it must be based,” Cox concludes.

It is now up to the court to make a decision. If it decides not to lower the damages, Cox would like to have a new trial. In addition, the ISP also has a separate request outstanding for the court to issue a judgment as a matter of law, which effectively bypasses the jury.

A copy of Cox’s reply to the labels’ opposition to its motion for remittitur can be found here (pdf).

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

‘Pirate’ iTunes Download Site and Three Others Targeted By the RIAA

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-itunes-download-site-and-three-others-targeted-by-the-riaa-200315/

Despite the fact that most modern music is readily available for free on ad-supported platforms such as YouTube and Spotify, a thriving market for pirated content remains.

While streaming is convenient and mostly cheap, part of the lure of pirate sites is that music can be downloaded to users’ machines, to be played back whenever they like, with or without an Internet connection and associated costs.

The threat from unlicensed sources is actively countered by groups such as the RIAA, which is regularly seen targeting so-called YouTube-downloader sites via legal action and DMCA anti-circumvention notices. However, there are also efforts to identify the people behind these sites and the weapon of choice in that respect appears to be the DMCA subpoena.

The latest, filed by the RIAA at a district court in Columbia, targets a handful of unlicensed music platforms, all of which use or have used the services of Cloudflare. The theory is that the CDN company holds information on the operators of these sites so if the RIAA can gain access to that too, something can be done to disrupt their activities.

“We have learned that your service is hosting the below-referenced websites on its network,” the RIAA’s latest subpoena to Cloudflare reads.

“These websites are offering recording s which are owned by one or more of our member companies and have not been authorized for this kind os use, including without limitation that referenced at the URLs below. We have a good faith belief that this activity is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”

The first unlicensed site targeted by the RIAA is iPlusFree.org, a music download site that appears to specialize in tracks culled from iTunes.

iPlusFree isn’t a particularly big platform when compared to some of the most popular YouTube-ripping sites and if anything its traffic has been reducing over the past several months. However, at least a quarter of the site’s traffic comes from the United States so the RIAA appears keen to unmask its operators for offering tracks by prominent artists without permission.

They include The Other Side (SZA & Justin Timberlake), Rare by Selena Gomez, and A Boogie wit da Hoodie by Artist 2.0.

The three other sites listed in the DMCA subpoena do not appear particularly popular in the United States. However, the RIAA will be concerned by their popularity in South America, Brazil in particular, where the trio are thriving.

From virtually no traffic at all six months ago, Asmelhores.net (Portuguese: ‘The Best’) is now enjoying more than 360,000 visits per month, with 97% of users hailing from Brazil.
Baixarcdscompletos.net (Portuguese: ‘Download Complete CDs’), the second most-trafficked site in the list with 340,000 visits per month, is also big in Brazil with a similar percentage of traffic.

With more than 218,000 visits per month according to SimilarWeb, Xandaodownload.net is also dominated by traffic from the same region. Unlike the others, however, the site also offers non-musical content including movies, TV shows, software and games.

This trio are accused of offering unlicensed copies of tracks from Red Hot Chili Peppers (Scar Tissue), Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana), Sexx Dreams (Lady Gaga), Daydream (Maria Carey), plus several others.

“As is stated in the attached subpoena, you are required to disclose to the RIAA information sufficient to identify the infringers,” the letter to Cloudflare reads. “This would include the individuals’ names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account history.”

The subpoena was signed off by a court clerk in the District of Columbia three days after it was filed, with two of those days covered by a weekend. It requires Cloudflare to hand over the personal details requested by the music industry group by 17:00 on March 13, 2020.

Whether Cloudflare holds any useful information will remain to be seen. All four sites are operational at the time of writing.

The RIAA’s subpoena to Cloudflare can be obtained here (pdf)

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Serious Copyright Infringers Face Up to Six Years in Prison Under New Swedish Law

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/serious-copyright-infringers-face-up-to-six-years-in-prison-under-new-swedish-law-200314/

For more than a decade, rightsholders and anti-piracy groups in Sweden have criticized the scale of the penalties available for courts to hand down in cases of serious copyright infringement.

Perhaps the most famous case, involving the people behind The Pirate Bay, ended with defendants Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström originally receiving eight, ten and four months in prison. As things stand the absolute maximum sentence is two years. The government now wants to challenge the status quo with changes to the law that will see the most egregious infringers jailed for much longer.

The amendments, which began with a 2017 investigation and cover many aspects of intellectual property including patents and trademarks, were first tabled more than two years ago. According to an announcement by the Swedish government, they have now been passed to the Law Council for consideration.

“There has been significant social development since the penalties for intellectual property infringement took their present form,” the government writes in its submission.

“The meaning of intellectual property rights has increased substantially at the same time as large-scale and industrially-operated infringement operations. This has serious consequences for society as a whole.

“It is therefore important that criminal law is designed so that this type of crime can be met with penalties commensurate with the seriousness of the offense. Therefore, in the Law Council’s remit, it is proposed that the penalties for the most serious cases of intellectual property infringement are sharpened and special penalties for intentional serious crimes are introduced in all intellectual property laws.”

To this end and in addition to regular fines, the proposals envision a two-tiered approach.

Less serious copyright infringement offenses will still be punishable by up to two years in prison (‘copyright infringement’) but should a crime be considered serious (‘gross copyright infringement’), the government wants to set a minimum of six months detention. This category of offenders, who will have shown an intent to commit large scale crime, face up to six years’ imprisonment.

To determine whether an intellectual property infringement is gross or serious, the government says that particular consideration must be given to whether the crime was preceded by special planning, part of a crime that was organized and/or extensive, or was of a “particularly dangerous nature.”

As previously reported, the government also looked at whether amendments would be required to more easily seize all kinds of property in response to infringement, including intangible assets such as domain names. This was most likely a nod towards the Pirate Bay case which dragged on for several years before the state was able to take over the thepiratebay.se domain.

In the event, the final proposals note that changes to confiscation standards can be omitted since developments in case law have rendered them unnecessary.

“There should be no new provisions introduced in intellectual property laws on the seizure of property which can reasonably be believed to be subject to confiscation. There is also no need for changes in the law regarding the handling of domain names that have been forfeited,” the proposals read.

“In case law, it has been found that the right to a domain name used as a means of committing copyright infringement constitutes such property that may be forfeited under the provisions of the Copyright Act. Also in relation to the general rules on the use of [infringement tools] in Chapter 36 of the Criminal Code it has been found in practice that any form of property can be forfeited.”

After consideration by the Law Council, the legislative amendments (pdf, Swedish) are proposed to enter into force on September 1, 2020.

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Spotify Hits Windows Software That Downloads Tracks & Removes DRM

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spotify-hits-windows-software-that-downloads-tracks-removes-drm-200313/

With more than 271 million users across 79 markets, Spotify is the most popular music streaming service in the world.

Its 50 million song library is accessed by 124 million paying subscribers, who gain additional features such as an ad-free experience and the ability to download tracks to their own devices for offline listening. These tracks are encrypted so can’t be used outside the Spotify software, at least by conventional means.

One tool that turns this business model on its head is Windows-based application XSpotify. The tool has gained popularity for a number of reasons, not least its ability to remove DRM from the tracks stored in Spotify’s extensive library and permanently download them for keeping on users’ machines.

XSpotify has been quietly growing its userbase, offering track downloads from both free Spotify accounts (in 160 kb/s, 32-bit, 44100 Hz .ogg) and premium accounts (in 320 kb/s, 32-bit, 44100 Hz .ogg) while pulling down metadata such as artist, title, and album covers. Considering the above and its ability to block ads, it’s no surprise that Spotify eventually took legal action to tackle the spread of the tool.

This week, Washington-based law firm Perkins Coie LLP sent a broad takedown notice to Github, where XSpotify was available for download, citing breaches of the DMCA by the app and its developer.

“Copyrighted files on Spotify’s services are protected by encryption. Spotify uses a key to decrypt the copyrighted files so legitimate users can listen to the copyrighted files through the Spotify services. Spotify’s encryption system prevents users from listening to copyrighted works without Spotify’s decryption key,” the notice reads.

“XSpotify states that it is a ‘DRM bypass’ that allows users to ‘Download all songs directly from Spotify servers.’ XSpotify’s technology circumvents Spotify’s encryption by stealing the Spotify key and using it in a way Spotify prohibits, namely, enabling users to access encrypted copyrighted content without authorization.

“By providing technology that circumvents Spotify’s access controls, XSpotify violates 17 U.S.C. §§ 1201(a)(2),” the law firm writes.

The section of US law cited by Spotify’s attorneys is clear. Among other things, it states that no person shall offer any technology to the public that is “primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.”

In addition to removing the main XSpotify repository, Github was also ordered to delete almost 130 others that carried forks of the popular tool. At the time of writing, every repository reported by Spotify as infringing has been removed. Of course, XSpotify is still available for download from other locations but whether its developer will continue his work after this warning shot is yet to be seen.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Red Dead Redemption: Damned Enhancement Modder Counters Take-Two Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/red-dead-redemption-damned-enhancement-modder-counters-take-two-lawsuit-200312/

Last August, calls for Take Two Interactive’s Red Dead Redemption (RDR1) to land on PC appeared they might be answered by the developer behind the ‘Red Dead Redemption: Damned Enhancement Project’.

The supposed plan of ‘DamnedDev’ (real name Johnathan Wyckoff) was to modify the Xbox360 and PS3 versions of RDR1 and bring the game to the PC while improving the game with better graphics and additional features. In September 2019, however, Wyckoff revealed that he was being “bullied” by a corporation. A lawsuit filed at a New York court in December revealed that Take-Two was taking action to bring the project to an end.

Citing breaches of its intellectual property rights (direct and contributory copyright infringement) and user licensing agreements, Take-Two said that it had repeatedly asked Wyckoff to cease and desist but when the project continued, it had no other choice than to take legal action. It did so on two grounds.

Firstly, the lawsuit targeted the RDRII Project, which reportedly aimed to add the RDR1 game map to RDR2. It went on to make claims about the Damned Enhancement Project, which would reportedly enable users to play RDR1 on PC, where it isn’t officially available, “thereby destroying the market for an official, updated version from Take-Two, and creating competition for Take-Two’s PC-version of RDR2.”

The case has been rolling on for several months now and this week Wyckoff filed an answer to Take-Two’s lawsuit along with a series of counterclaims.

Describing himself as an “enthusiastic player” and modifier of Take-Two videogames, Wyckoff first provides a short background on what modding is all about, such as improving game graphics or changing features. He claims that this activity is accepted by gaming companies which typically publish a ‘mod policy’ to explain what type of mods are allowed. He believes that he acted within the boundaries set out in the Rockstar/Take-Two policy.

“Defendant believes it was acting in accordance with the Plaintiff’s published policy on ‘PC Single-Player Mods’ which says that ‘Take-Two has agreed that it generally will not take legal action against third-party projects involving Rockstar’s PC games that are single-player, non-commercial, and respect the intellectual property (IP) rights of third parties,” Wyckoff’s answer reads, referencing the document below.

From here, Wyckoff refutes many of Take-Two’s allegations, including that his RDR2 mod “did not contain maps” from the original RDR1 game and that the publisher’s description of the mod appeared to describe a previous mod he developed (RDRV) “that was abandoned in 2017 at the request of the Plaintiff.”

As the above ‘mod policy’ lays out, to meet the criteria any mod must be non-commercial. In its lawsuit, Take-Two implied that donations solicited by Wyckoff were used to create the “infringing programs” which were then used to “drive followers” to his social media and streaming accounts. Wyckoff sees things differently.

“Defendant asserts that it is a hobbyist and worked on the project without expecting or soliciting compensation for the mod,” he writes. “Defendant denies receiving any compensation for its mod projects.”

In its lawsuit, Take-Two wrote that it had hoped to settle the dispute with Wyckoff without resorting to the courts. However, the company claims that rather than ending his activities, Wyckoff suggested that the project might get “leaked” by him or others. In his answer, Wyckoff admits to discussions with Take-Two but denies that he ever threatened to leak the project online. In any event, he says he’s in no position to do so.

“Defendant no longer has access to the mod project files and does not intend to redevelop them,” he writes. “Defendant will not restart work on the now-lost mod files and has expressly agreed to same,” he adds, noting that all claims that Take-Two has been injured in any way are also refuted, not least since the mods were never released.

In conclusion, Wyckoff says that since everything he did was within the parameters of Take-Two’s ‘mod policy’, all copyright infringement claims should be rejected and the court should issue a declaration to that effect or, in the alternative, determine that Wyckoff is an innocent infringer.

Finally, he points to the fact that Take-Two’s ‘user agreement’ contains a clause that compels parties in dispute to enter into an arbitration process (that Take-Two must pay for) to settle their differences. Wyckoff wants that to happen.

Wyckoff’s answer, affirmative defenses and counterclaims can be found here (pdf)

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

BPI Has Reported Half a Billion ‘Pirate’ Links to Google

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/bpi-has-reported-half-a-billion-pirate-links-to-google-290310/

Over the past two decades, the music industry has witnessed several shifts in music consumption. First, CDs were traded in for downloads and in recent years streaming has taken over.

Despite the growing availability of legal streaming services in many countries, the piracy problem hasn’t disappeared. In just a few clicks, virtually every music track can be accessed for free through unauthorized sources.

In an attempt to prevent these infringements, the BPI and other music industry groups send millions of takedown notices to Internet services every month. Although all major search engines are targeted, most of these requests are directed at Google.

With roughly a million URLs reported to Google every week, the BPI is the most active music industry sender. When added up the numbers are substantial and have just resulted in the music group hitting a new milestone.

After crossing the mark of 500,000,000 reported links, the BPI has become the second most active reporter after Rivendell. It also means that, of all the URLs reported to Google over the past several years, more than 11% come from the UK group.

While the massive numbers open the door to mistakes, the BPI has a very decent track record. Close to 97% of the links are indeed removed by Google, which rejected less than one percent. The rest are either duplicates or links that aren’t indexed.

For comparison, Google only removed 72% of Rivendell’s reported links while more than a quarter were marked as duplicates or not listed in Google’s search results.

Over the years, the BPI has flagged ‘copyright infringing’ links on more than 30,000 domains. Many of these are no longer operational. The top targeted sites that are still online today are 4shared.com and chomikuj.pl, which were reported 9.2 million and 7.9 million times respectively.

According to BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor, the new milestone shows that piracy remains a massive problem that requires the full attention of all stakeholders involved.

“The fact the BPI has had to delist half a billion infringing music links from Google alone, on behalf of UK artists and labels, highlights the staggering scale of the problem of illegal sites, as well as BPI’s unwavering commitment to fighting for the rights of artists and their record labels,” Taylor says.

In the past, the BPI stressed that companies such as Google should take more responsibility. These continued requests eventually led to a “code of practice” where major search engines committed to do more.

This has led to progress, Taylor says, noting that demotion of known pirate sites “has significantly improved the quality of results presented to consumers.”

“The collaboration with search engines, including Google, sets a good example for online intermediaries and platforms, which must urgently take on greater responsibility to combat illegal content,” Taylor stresses.

This is not limited to search engines but also applies to advertising networks, payment providers, hosting services, domain registries, and registrars.

”For too long we have accepted a reactive approach that places all the burden on creators to search for and police hundreds of millions of infringements of their rights across the entire internet. That approach cannot succeed,” Taylor says.

“Instead we should expect reasonable, proactive, preventative measures by all online businesses, using technology and good business practices, to sweep the black market to the edges of the internet.”

According to the BPI, these changes are achievable. If not voluntarily, then with a little help from lawmakers, to push these companies in the right direction.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Viral Marketing Firm is Pirating Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video & HBO Go

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/viral-marketing-firm-is-pirating-netflix-disney-prime-video-hbo-go-200310/

The legal online movie and TV show streaming landscape has expanded rapidly in recent years but has now developed its own issues.

From having no platforms just a few years ago, there are now many with each attempting to create space for their own exclusive offerings. As a result, consumers must now subscribe to them all at great expense to get everything they desire, something that most wallets are averse to.

At least ostensibly, this is the problem being addressed by AllTheStreams.fm, a self-proclaimed ‘pirate radio’ video site. At the time of writing it is streaming shows from Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, HBO Now, Prime Video and Showtime, all for free.

When we tuned in we were greeted by The Office from Netflix and The Mandalorian from Disney+.

Of course, the latest Disney shows being streamed online for free isn’t something one should ever expect. The AllTheStreams ‘manifesto’ is curious too.

“Netflix has all the Netflix stuff, Disney has all the Disney stuff, and never the twain shall meet. Let’s change that, however briefly,” it reads.

“Whenever media becomes inaccessible, piracy thrives again – from the 1960’s BBC 1-hour limit on pop music, to the iTunes store mp3 tyranny of the 00s. Today, All The Streams comes in response to the fragmentation and walled-garden paradigm that has risen to prominence for online video streaming services.”

The people behind AllTheStreams say they don’t care about several things, including but perhaps not limited to user-utility, scalability and terms of service. “All The Streams is made to revel in platform independence, and to demonstrate how even the most lo-fi hacks can be the equal of giants. We’re going to play anything and everything we feel like,” the manifesto continues.

“We’re going to make a frankensteinian playlist of media that none of these streaming platforms could ever recommend to you because it would cost them the profits of their exclusively-owned content. Sit back and enjoy the ride: like all pirate media offerings, we’re doing this for you.”

Given the tone, one could be forgiven for thinking that AllTheStreams.fm had just redirected to the PR department of The Pirate Bay, which is bizarrely half the way there. While The Pirate Bay has nothing to do with this site, the people behind it are a PR department of sorts.

In the bottom right-hand corner of the site are five fairly familiar letters – MSCHF. Said quickly we hear ‘mischief’, something that the company of the same name has caused plenty of.

MSCHF is a marketing company that claims to run on “structured chaos“. It previously developed a browser add-on that disguised Netflix viewing as a conference call, launched an Internet restaurant that transformed corporate perks into a tool to attack corporations, and sold Air Max 97s with ‘Holy Water’ in the sole.

So what’s this latest campaign all about? TorrentFreak spoke with CEO Gabriel Whaley who didn’t give away too much but pretty much admitted that the campaign is infringing copyrights.

“We don’t have any permissions to be running this whatsoever. But once one network shuts us down, five stand in their place!” he said.

That sounds a little bit like the pirate mantra (shut down one site, another five will appear) completely turned on its head, which is another curiosity. We put it to Whaley that if AllTheStreams doesn’t have permission to stream The Mandalorian online to the masses for free, then it’s possible that the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment could be paying a visit quite soon.

We received no response to that thought but given MSCHF’s record, of engaging in over-the-top stunts to gain exposure, the legal aspect must have at least crossed the company’s mind. We asked if a calculation had been done to balance the potential marketing exposure against potential legal fees and what the endgame might be, but that didn’t help much either.

“Haha,” Whaley added. “MSCHF’s only endgame is the endgame itself.”

It’s almost impossible to work out what MSCHF is trying to achieve here. Maybe they have some kind of plan to bring all streaming services under one roof at a fair price and if so, that would be impressive, if brutally obvious. Given their history, however, it’s more likely they’re hoping to sell out a new line of exclusive sports clothing for cats made entirely of cheese.

If the company is looking for exposure, which it most certainly is, it has the right recipe here. Perhaps Disney will supply the crackers. Or the lawyers.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

YTS Releases Pirated Copy of ‘Contagion’ Movie Following Coronavirus Surge

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/yts-releases-pirated-copy-of-contagion-movie-following-coronavirus-surge-200309/

For weeks on end, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has dominated the news. The disease continues to spread today and is severely disrupting society in some of the most affected areas.

Almost everyone appears to have an opinion on the matter and the latest news is followed closely across the world. However, people’s interest in the topic goes further than news alone. As we reported on Saturday, it has now spread to the entertainment sector as well. In recent weeks movie rentals of Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 movie “Contagion” surged.

On top of the increased legal demand, piracy numbers were up as well. Instead of roughly 200 downloads per day via torrent sites, piracy numbers soon hit the tens of thousands.

Apparently this increase in demand hasn’t gone unnoticed to YTS, the most popular torrent site on the Internet which just recently settled two copyright lawsuits with movie studios. A day after we highlighted the download surge, YTS published two new high-quality copies of the film on the site.

The new uploads are 720p and 1080p BluRay rips, which are also spread by YTS across other torrent sites. While there is no mention of the reason to add the older movie, the connection to the Coronavirus outbreak is obvious.

That link is also quite apparent in the comments that are posted on the torrent site. “Is this what’s gonna happen?” one commenter writes, with another one adding that it’s a “great movie if you want to know about Coronavirus.”

As mentioned before, the events depicted in the movie “Contagion” have very little to do with the challenges facing the world today. Apart from both being related to a virus outbreak, perhaps.

What is striking, however, is that instead of the usual torrent site discussions about the quality of the pirated copy of the movie itself, the talk on YTS is mostly about the Coronavirus itself. Some commenters predict more doom and gloom, while others state that there’s little to worry about.

At TorrentFreak, we know more about copyright law than medical issues, so we will refrain from joining the discussion. That said, we believe that one comment is worth repeating. If only because it’s one of the oddest things we’ve read on a torrent site, yet quite accurate.

“Be smart, wash your hands frequently,” trapsterr writes.

At the time of writing YTS’s new “Contagion” rips are only a few hours old. We don’t have any updated download statistics yet, but it will likely break the daily record for this year soon enough.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Jehovah’s Witness Body Uses DMCA to Subpoena YouTube For ‘Apostate’ Identity

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/jehovahs-witness-body-uses-dmca-to-subpoena-youtube-for-apostates-identity-200308/

Reddit user Darkspliver, a member of the Jehovah’s Witness community, was recently targeted by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society with claims that his postings infringed their copyrights.

The case drew the attention of the EFF which mounted a defense on the user’s behalf, claiming that the subpoena against Reddit was invalid since Darkspliver’s use of Jehovah’s Witness material were covered under fair use. The court agreed.

“Our client shared comments and concerns about the Watch Tower organization — something they have every right to do,” said EFF Staff Attorney Alex Moss this week. “We are glad that Darkspilver is safe from unmasking, and that a judge saw the important free speech and fair use issues at play here.”

While the identity of Darkspliver is now safe, the religious organization now has a fresh target. According to documents obtained by TorrentFreak, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania has obtained a DMCA subpoena that requires Google to reveal the personal details of a YouTube user who uploaded Jehovah’s Witness sermons to the video platform.

The subpoena targets an account called ‘JW Apostate’ which advertised itself as a place for “leaking Watch Tower videos”.

At least initially, the channel had many videos listed for viewing but the DMCA subpoena application lists just five.

“Watch Tower conducted a good-faith fair use analysis of numerous infringing posts on the account at issue,” the application filed at a New York court reads. “This content infringes copyrights held by Watch Tower.”

Watch Tower informed the court that it had fulfilled all the requirements for obtaining a subpoena and its sole purpose is to “obtain the identity of an alleged infringer or infringers” so that copyrighted content can be protected.

The allegedly-infringing YouTube channel listed a Reddit account for correspondence so on discovering the application, TorrentFreak contacted the associated user for comment. Very shortly after, the Reddit account, YouTube channel and all of its videos were deleted, leaving nothing in their wake.

A day later, District Judge Cathy Seibel signed off on the Watch Tower request and ordered the clerk of the court to issue the subpoena against Google LLC.

“This matter comes before the Court upon the ex parte application of movant Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania along with the Declaration of Paul D. Polidoro, Esq. and supporting documents for the signing of a Subpoena directing Google, LLC to produce the identity of entities or persons believed to be infringing on the copyright of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania,” the order reads.

“Having considered the Declaration and all documents submitted in support of the instant application, the Court finds good reason to issue an order directing the clerk to issue said subpoena.”

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is no stranger when it comes to DMCA subpoena applications or indeed Judge Seibel. The religious group has attempted to obtain several subpoenas in New York courts against Facebook and YouTube users, filing around 60 applications overall since June 2017.

Considering that the aim of most Christian-based religions is to spread the word as widely as possible around the world, it appears that those at the top of the Jehovah’s Witness group would prefer to control access to their information much more tightly.

The application, proposed DMCA subpoena, and order granting subpoena can be found here (1,2,3 pdf)

Image credit: Pixabay

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

ApolloTV Streaming App Shuts Down Following ACE Cease-and-Desist Notice

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/apollotv-streaming-app-shuts-down-following-ace-cease-and-desist-notice-200304/

While third-party Kodi addons remain popular with those seeking free access to premium video, standalone apps for Android and iOS have gained traction in recent years.

Easy to install and use on set-top boxes, tablets and phones, these tools often provide a Popcorn-Time or Showbox-like experience, offering the latest movies and TV shows in a familiar Netflix-style interface. On the one hand, they’re popular with users but Hollywood studios and other content creators consider them a risk to their business that needs to be countered.

ApolloTV is a relatively recent addition to the growing market. Available for iOS and Android, the application gained a reasonable following and is featured in dozens of tutorials and YouTube video installation guides. At the time of writing, however, it seems highly unlikely that the project will continue.

Over the past several days, rumors began to circulate that ApolloTV would be shutting down. The whispers suggested that the application’s developer had been targeted by copyright holders and as a result, the app would be discontinued. Counter-rumors suggested that the developer simply wanted a way out so TorrentFreak approached ‘Sam’ directly to find out.

“I received a cease and desist from the Alliance 4 Creativity – the same people who took down Openload and Streamango – citing ApolloTV making available copyrighted works copied and hosted by unaffiliated third parties without permission from the copyright holder,” Sam informs us.

The claim seems reasonable given the circumstances. ApolloTV didn’t host any content of its own but did provide access to content hosted on third-party file-hosting platforms, a common feature among similar ‘scraper’-type applications.

As TF discovered, Sam made little to no effort to hide his identity so it appears that ACE had few difficulties tracking him down. However, while we reached him easily via email, ACE managed to discover his home address which enabled them to serve the cease-and-desist notice by hand.

“I was surprised that I actually received the cease and desist physically, in person (it was delivered by a court officer), at my home address,” he explains.

Sam says that he doesn’t have the time or the resources to fight a lawsuit and since ACE were very reasonable, he’ll be complying with their requests immediately. He doesn’t want to go into too many additional details but says that as part of the settlement, he will need to shut down the project’s Github page and hand over the Apollo domain to ACE.

At the time of writing, the official ApolloTV repository on Github has been taken down. ACE nor the MPA appear to have filed any official DMCA takedown requests with the developer platform so at this point things seem to be progressing quickly on a voluntary basis.

TorrentFreak sought comment from ACE on the reported action but, at the time of publishing, we were yet to receive a response.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

OMI IN A HELLCAT Claims Comcast Got FBI to Pursue Gears IPTV Case

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/omi-in-a-hellcat-claims-comcast-got-fbi-to-pursue-gears-iptv-case-200229/

When large ‘pirate’ services are taken down, the tendency is for copyright holders and/or the authorities to make a lot of noise. Taking out big players is seen as an achievement and is often held up as an example to others not to follow the same path.

Last November, when the founder of Gears Reloaded ‘pirate’ IPTV service Omar Carrasquillo was reportedly targeted in a massive FBI raid, not a single person in authority would confirm the existence of an investigation. Independent eyewitnesses appeared on TV to reveal what they saw but now, several months on, information from official sources remains non-existent.

Carrasquillo, better known by his social media handle OMI IN A HELLCAT, has been talking a lot, however. He’s appeared in TV interviews with his lawyer, decrying the seizure of dozens of luxury cars, huge volumes of jewelry, and “at least” $5.2m in cash. He says the entire operation against him grew out of his position as the founder of Gears, an unpaid tax bill, plus allegations of money laundering.

Nevertheless, he keeps maintaining his innocence. Time and again he’s said that capturing live TV broadcasters from cable providers and streaming channels to end-users over the Internet at an affordable price is completely legal. He found a loophole, he says, and companies didn’t like it.

Until now, Carrasquillo has never directly pointed a finger at who might have prompted the case against him. In a live stream this week, however, he claimed that the second-largest telecoms company in the United States is at the root of his troubles. (Note: most expletives removed)

“There’s nothing worse than coming home and grabbing your bills – electric company you gotta pay, water is an essential, gas you need to cook, $300 cable bill – what the fuck?” he said.

“Everybody hates the cable companies, they’re a monopoly. So when you come out with a service that’s affordable to the world and it’s not illegal, oh my God, I’m in somebody’s pocket.”

And then the bombshell.

“Comcast is paying for this investigation [unintelligible]. There’s an unfiled Comcast claim but why didn’t Comcast sue me? ‘Cos they knew it was an uphill battle so what did they do? They got the FBI involved, tried to take me down,” he claimed.

Coincidentally or not, Carrasquillo’s main home is in Philadelphia. Comcast has its headquarters in the same city.

According to several videos posted by Carrasquillo in recent weeks, he has been working hard behind the scenes through official channels to try and reclaim his property. However, he claims there has been significant pushback after the FBI began using his videos and social media postings as evidence against him.

Insisting again and again that streaming captured TV broadcasts to the public is not illegal, Carrasquillo says he filed a motion to get his property back. In response, the FBI had to send in evidence to support why the goods should continue to be held while the investigation continues.

According to him, they “took his [social media] posts and sent them to the judge”. Since the raid, most of Carrasquillo’s posts have centered on him getting back on his feet, allegedly making significant amounts of money, some of it used to replenish his car collection. He believes those videos are now undermining him.

“Look judge, he’s saying that he’s still a millionaire, he doesn’t need the money. We can still hold it throughout the whole investigation,” he said in a mocking summary of what was allegedly reported to the court.

At this point, Carrasquillo seems to imply that not everything portrayed in those videos and postings should necessarily be taken at face value and that, in some cases, those in the entertainment business may face pressures to impress.

“Entertainers, we have a certain image to uphold and this is why I don’t show anything anymore because frankly, it ain’t nobody’s business. Whether I got it or I don’t got it, I ain’t gonna say it no more. Because obviously you’re using what I say as an exhibit and send it to the judge,” he added.

Carrasquillo says he’s hoping to settle his case with the IRS via a payment plan but he insists that any claims of money laundering are nonsense. He says he’s not upset with anyone working on the case and says that he’s “pretty sure” that the two investigators and district attorneys “are pretty nice guys.” That said, he is unhappy with what he describes as an “unethical process and the events that took place.”

Just before he was raided, Carrasquillo went to the Dominican Republic and he believes this prompted the authorities to act earlier than they would’ve preferred.

“Be honest you guys came to [sic] early I broke no laws apology accepted,” he wrote in a separate post. “While Gears is down 20 more shitty services came up and I don’t see you guys doing shit about it. Want to know why? Steaming isn’t illegal. It’s victimless and not against the law. I did not host shit on servers this was a matter for copyright holders to sue. Not for the FBI to get involved.”

Only time will tell when the other side of this pretty one-sided story will see the light of day. As indicated previously, no one in authority is prepared to comment at this stage.

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

Man Who Sold Pirate IPTV Must Pay £521,000 or Face Five More Years in Prison

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/man-who-sold-pirate-iptv-must-pay-521000-or-face-five-more-years-in-prison-200228/

From 2009 until 2016, John Dodds and Jason Richards were involved in an operation selling ‘pirate’ IPTV to around 270 pubs and clubs in the North-East of England.

For less than £200 per month, the pair provided a set-top box plus a service, which included Premier League soccer and pay-per-view boxing matches. The subscription package, which at some point was branded ‘Full Effects HD Sports’, eventually attracted the attention of the Premier League which launched a private prosecution for fraud offenses.

The football organization told the court that the “highly professional broadcasting service” was sold to subscribers at a rate designed to undercut legitimate broadcasters and in 2018, Dodds and Richards were sentenced to four-and-a-half years each in prison. That wasn’t the end of the matter, however.

According to a joint press statement by the Premier League and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), a judge at Newcastle Crown Court has now ordered Dodds to pay back £521,000 to the public purse. Failure to do so within three months will result in his prison sentence being extended by an additional five years.

The judge handling the matter reportedly described Dodds “as an unreliable and dishonest character” who concealed the proceeds of his criminal activities by hiding large amounts of cash in his house and placing assets in his daughter’s name.

“This is a welcome judgment and we are pleased the courts have recognized how serious an issue illegal streaming is – it is a crime which has very significant consequences,” commented Kevin Plumb, Director of Legal Services at the Premier League.

“The defendant has now been ordered to forfeit the proceeds of his criminal activities, which we have requested go directly back to the public purse. The money recovered will go towards funding the courts and law enforcement agencies to help continue the brilliant work they do in helping bring people like this to justice.”

FACT, which worked with the Premier League on the cases against both Dodds and Richards, welcomed the decision and took the opportunity to warn others considering the same type of business model.

“This is a warning to anyone selling subscriptions or devices that allow access to content without remunerating the legitimate provider – you risk time in jail and the loss of your properties, cars and other proceeds of crime,” said FACT CEO Kieron Sharp.

“FACT will continue to work with members to crackdown on illegal streaming and to hold those behind it accountable for their actions.”

According to local sources at the time of original convictions, the scheme was lucrative for the pair. Using a fraudulent company, the men generated revenues of £1.5m, which among other things funded the purchase of luxury cars and foreign homes.

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