Tag Archives: complaint

Tickbox Clearly Promotes and Facilitates Piracy, Hollywood Tells Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tickbox-clearly-promotes-and-facilitates-piracy-hollywood-tells-court-180115/

The rising popularity of piracy streaming boxes has turned into Hollywood’s main piracy concern in recent months.

While the hardware and media players such as Kodi are not a problem, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons turn them into fully-fledged piracy machines.

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

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

According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright-infringing content. The coalition, therefore, asked the court for a permanent injunction to remove all infringing add-ons from previously sold devices.

Tickbox maintained its innocence, however. The company informed the court that its box is a simple computer like any other, which is perfectly legal.

According to Tickbox, they don’t have anything to do with the infringing “Themes” that users can select on their device. These themes feature several addons that link to infringing content.

This explanation doesn’t sit well with the movie companies, which submitted a reply to the court late last week. They claim that Tickbox is deliberately downplaying their own role, as they are the ones who decided to make these themes accessible through their boxes.

“TickBox falsely claims that the presence of these ‘Themes’ on TickBox devices ‘have nothing to do with Defendant’,” ACE’s reply reads.

“To the contrary, TickBox intentionally chooses which ‘Themes’ to include on its ‘Select your Theme’ menu for the TickBox TV interface, and TickBox pushes out automatic software updates to its customers’ TickBox TV devices.”

The movie companies also dispute Tickbox’s argument that they don’t induce copyright infringement because their device is “simply a small computer” that has many legitimate uses.

This liability question isn’t about whether Tickbox stores any infringing material or runs pirate streams through their servers, they counter. It’s about the intended use and how Tickbox promotes its product.

“TickBox’s liability arises based on its advertising and promoting TickBox TV as a tool for infringing use, and from designing and including software on the device that encourages access to infringing streams from third-party sources.”

ACE notes that, unlike Tickbox claims, the current case shows a lot of parallels with previous landmark cases including Grokster and Fung [isoHunt].

The isoHunt website didn’t store and infringing material, nor was it crucial in the torrent piracy ecosystem. However, it was liable because the operator willingly facilitated copyright infringing activity. This is what Tickbox does too, according to ACE.

“TickBox ‘competes’ with legitimate services by telling customers that they can access the same content available from legitimate distributors ‘ABSOLUTELY FREE’ and that customers therefore ‘will find that you no longer need those subscriptions’.”

The movie companies therefore ask the court to issue the requested injunction. They want all existing devices to be impounded and Tickbox should, through an update, remove infringing addons from already sold devices.

Tickbox argued that this would require them to “hack into” their customers’ boxes and delete content. ACE, however, says that this is a simple update and nothing different from what the company has done in the past.

“The proposed injunction would merely obligate TickBox to make good on its halfhearted and ineffective efforts to do what it claims to have already done: remove Kodi builds with illicit addons from TickBox TV,” ACE writes.

“As demonstrated by TickBox’s own, repeated software updates since the filing of Plaintiffs’ Complaint, TickBox has the means and ability to easily and remotely change what options users see and can access on their TickBox TVs.”

After having heard the arguments from both sides, it’s now up to the California federal court to decide who’s right.

The current case should set an important precedent. In addition to Tickbox, ACE also filed a similar lawsuit against Dragon Box. Clearly, the coalition is determined to get these alleged pirate devices off the market.

A copy of ACE’s reply is available here (pdf).

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Are Torrent Sites Using DMCA Notices to Quash Their Competition?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/are-torrent-sites-using-dmca-notices-to-quash-their-competition-180114/

Every day, copyright holders send out millions of takedown notices to various services, hoping to protect their works.

While most of these requests are legitimate, the process is also being abused. Google prominently features examples of such dubious DMCA requests in its transparency report.

This week we were contacted by the owner of YTS.me after he noticed some unusual activity. In recent weeks his domain name has been targeted with a series of takedown notices from rather unusual people.

Senders with names such as Niklas Glockner, Michelle Williams, Maria Baader, Stefan Kuefer, Anja Herzog, and Markus Ostermann asked Google to remove thousands of YTS.me URLs.

Every notice lists just one movie title, but hundreds of links, most of which have nothing to do with the movie in question.

A few URLs from a single notice

These submitters are all relatively new and there is no sign that they are authorized by the applicable copyright holder. This, and the long list of irrelevant URLs suggest that these DMCA notices are abusive.

The owner of YTS.me believes that the senders have a clear motive. The purpose of the notices is to remove well-ranked pages and push the targeted sites down in Google’s search results.

“These all are fake people names submitting fake DMCA complaints and are not authorized to submit complaints,” the YTS.me operator notes.

“Even if they are real people they would have submitted, or are authorized to submit, complaints for only a few titles. Instead, they submit fake complaints and submit all the URLs possible on our website to degrade its ranking.”

The question that remains is, who is responsible for these notices? Looking at the list of sites that are targeted by these abusive senders we see a pattern emerge. They all target copycats of defunct sites such as YTS and ExtraTorrent.

Markus Osterman’s activity

This leads the YTS.me operator to the conclusion that one of its main competitors is sending these notices. While there is no hard evidence, it seems plausible that another YTS copycat is attempting to take the competition out of Google’s search results to gain more exposure itself.

YTS.me has a good idea of who the perpetrator(s) are – a person or group that also operates several other copycat sites. Thus far there’s no bulletproof evidence though, but it’s a likely explanation.

In any case, the DMCA takedown requests are definitely out of order and warrant further investigation by Google.

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

Epic Games Sues Cheater Over ‘Stealing’ Fortnite V-Bucks

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-sues-cheater-over-stealing-fortnite-v-bucks-180112/

Last fall, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode for the PC and other platforms, generating massive interest among gamers.

This also included thousands of cheaters, many of whom were subsequently banned. Epic Games then went a step further by taking several cheaters to court for copyright infringement.

While the initial targets were people who coded, used or promoted cheats to gain a clear competitive advantage, this week Epic sued a different type of cheater. In a complaint filed at a California Federal court, the game publisher accuses a New Zealander of creating an exploit that allows users to get free V-bucks.

V-bucks are the game’s currency and can be bought through an online store, starting at $9.99. The virtual coins allow players to purchase skins for their characteras well as other game tools.

According to Epic, people who create and use these kinds of free-money exploits are stealing from the game publisher.

“Players who search for and promote exploits ruin the game experience for others and undermine the integrity of Fortnite. Players who use exploits to avoid paying for items in Fortnite are stealing from Epic,” the complaint reads.

V-bucks

The alleged perpetrator is identified as Yash Gosai, who’s a resident of Auckland, New Zealand. Epic believes that Gosai developed the exploit which was then promoted through YouTube.

“On information and belief, Gosai developed an exploit for Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode that enables players to obtain V-bucks without paying for them. Gosai created and posted a video on YouTube to advertise, promote and demonstrate the exploit,” the complaint reads.

While the game company managed to get the video taken down, they’re not done with the New Zealander. They accuse Gosai of copyright infringement, breach of contract, as well as conversion.

“Defendant’s videos demonstrating the exploit infringe Epic’s copyrights in Fortnite by copying, reproducing, preparing derivative works from, and/or displaying Fortnite
publicly without Epic’s permission, the company writes.

Epic asks the court for damages and wants the defendant to destroy all Fortnite copies and any related works.

As mentioned before, this is not the first lawsuit Epic has filed against a cheater. Thus far, it has reached at least three settlements behind closed doors. Minnesota resident Charles Vraspir signed an agreement early December. Philip Josefsson from Sweden and Artem Yakovenko from Russia followed soon after.

A copy of the complaint against Gosai is available here (pdf).

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Netflix, Amazon and Hollywood Sue Kodi-Powered Dragon Box Over Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-amazon-and-hollywood-sue-kodi-powered-dragon-box-over-piracy-180111/

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

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

In recent months these boxes have become the prime target for copyright enforcers, including the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies.

After suing Tickbox last year a group of key ACE members have now filed a similar lawsuit against Dragon Media Inc, which sells the popular Dragon Box. The complaint, filed at a California federal court, also lists the company’s owner Paul Christoforo and reseller Jeff Williams among the defendants.

According to ACE, these type of devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. That also applies to Dragon Box, they inform the court.

“Defendants market and sell ‘Dragon Box,’ a computer hardware device that Defendants urge their customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of the copyrighted motion pictures and television shows,” the complaint, picked up by HWR, reads.

The movie companies note that the defendants distribute and promote the Dragon Box as a pirate tool, using phrases such as “Watch your Favourites Anytime For FREE” and “stop paying for Netflix and Hulu.”

Dragon Box

When users follow the instructions Dragon provides they get free access to copyrighted movies, TV-shows and live content, ACE alleges. The complaint further points out that the device uses the open source Kodi player paired with pirate addons.

“The Dragon Media application provides Defendants’ customers with a customized configuration of the Kodi media player and a curated selection of the most popular addons for accessing infringing content,” the movie companies write.

“These addons are designed and maintained for the overarching purpose of scouring the Internet for illegal sources of copyrighted content and returning links to that content. When Dragon Box customers click those links, those customers receive unauthorized streams of popular motion pictures and television shows.”

One of the addons that are included with the download and installation of the Dragon software is Covenant.

This addon can be accessed through a preinstalled shortcut which is linked under the “Videos” menu. Users are then able to browse through a large library of curated content, including a separate category of movies that are still in theaters.

In theaters

According to a statement from Dragon owner Christoforo, business is going well. The company claims to have “over 250,000 customers in 50 states and 4 countries and growing” as well as “374 sellers” across the world.

With this lawsuit, however, the company’s future has suddenly become uncertain.

The movie companies ask the California District for an injunction to shut down the infringing service and impound all Dragon Box devices. In addition, they’re requesting statutory damages which can go up to several million dollars.

At the time of writing the Dragon Box website is still in on air and the company has yet to comment on the allegations.

A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf).

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TVAddons and ZemTV Ask Court to Dismiss U.S. Piracy Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-and-zemtv-ask-court-to-dismiss-u-s-piracy-lawsuit-180108/

Last year, American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network targeted two well-known players in the third-party Kodi add-on ecosystem.

In a complaint filed in a federal court in Texas, add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were accused of copyright infringement. As a result, both are facing up to $150,000 in damages for each offense.

While the case was filed in Texas, neither of the defendants live there, or even in the United States. The owner and operator of TVAddons is Adam Lackman, who resides in Montreal, Canada. ZemTV’s developer Shahjahan Durrani is even further away in London, UK.

Their limited connection to Texas is reason for the case to be dismissed, according to the legal team of the two defendants. They are represented by attorneys Erin Russel and Jason Sweet, who asked the Court to drop the case late last week.

According to their motion, the Texas District Court does not have jurisdiction over the two defendants.

“Lackman and Durrani have never been residents or citizens of Texas; they have never owned property in Texas; they have never voted in Texas; they have never personally visited Texas; they have never directed any business activity of any kind to anyone in Texas […] and they have never earned income in Texas,” the motion reads.

Technically, defendants can be sued in a district they have never been, as long as they “directed actions” at the state or its citizens.

According to Dish, this is the case here since both defendants made their services available to local residents, among other things. However, the defense team argues that’s not enough to establish jurisdiction in this case.

“Plaintiff’s conclusory allegation that Lackman and Durrani marketed, made available, and distributed ZemTV service and the ZemTV add-on to consumers in the State of Texas and the Southern District of Texas is misleading at best,” the attorneys write.

If the case proceeds this would go against the US constitution, violating the defendants’ due process rights. Whether the infringement claims hold ground or not, Dish has no right to sue, according to the defense.

“Defendants are citizens of Canada and Great Britain and have not had sufficient contacts in the State of Texas for this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over them. To do so would violate the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.”

The Court must now decide whether the case can proceed or not. TorrentFreak reached out to TVAddons but the service wishes to refrain from commenting on the proceeding at the moment.

Previously, TVAddons made it clear that it sees the Dish lawsuit as an attempt to destroy the Kodi addon community. One of the methods of attack it mentioned, was to sue people in foreign jurisdictions.

“Most people don’t have money lying around to hire lawyers in places they’ve never even visited. This means that if a company sues you in a foreign country and you can’t afford a lawyer, you’re screwed even if you did nothing wrong,” TVAddons wrote at the time.

A copy of the motion to dismiss is available here (pdf).

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Musician’s White Noise YouTube Video Hit With Copyright Complaints

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/musicians-white-noise-youtube-video-hit-with-copyright-complaints-180105/

When people upload original content to YouTube, there should be no problem with getting paid for that content, should it attract enough interest from the public.

Those who upload infringing content get a much less easy ride, with their uploads getting flagged for abuse, potentially putting their accounts at risk.

That’s what’s happened to Australia-based music technologist Sebastian Tomczak, who uploaded a completely non-infringing work to YouTube and now faces five separate copyright complaints.

“I teach and work in a music department at a University here in Australia. I’ve got a PhD in chiptune, and my main research interests are various intersections of music / sound / tech e.g. arduino programming and DIY stuff, modular synthesis, digital production, sound design for games, etc,” Tomczak informs TF.

“I started blogging about music around a decade ago or so, mainly to write about stuff I was interested in, researching or doing. At the time this would have been physical interaction, music controller design, sound design and composition involving computers.”

One of Tomczak videos was a masterpiece entitled “10 Hours of Low Level White Noise” which features – wait for it – ten hours of low-level white noise.

“The white noise video was part of a number of videos I put online at the time. I was interested in listening to continuous sounds of various types, and how our perception of these kinds of sounds and our attention changes over longer periods – e.g. distracted, focused, sleeping, waking, working etc,” Tomczak says.

White noise is the sound created when all different frequencies are combined together into a kind of audio mush that’s a little baffling and yet soothing in the right circumstances. Some people use it to fall asleep a little easier, others to distract their attention away from irritating sounds in the environment, like an aircon system or fan, for example.

The white noise made by Tomczak and presented in his video was all his own work.

“I ‘created’ and uploaded the video in question. The video was created by generating a noise waveform of 10 hours length using the freeware software Audacity and the built-in noise generator. The resulting 10-hour audio file was then imported into ScreenFlow, where the text was added and then rendered as one 10-hour video file,” he explains.

This morning, however, Tomczak received a complaint from YouTube after a copyright holder claimed that it had the rights to his composition. When he checked his YouTube account, yet more complaints greeted him. In fact, since July 2015, when the video was first uploaded, a total of five copyright complaints had been filed against Tomczak’s composition.

As seen from the image below, posted by Tomczak to his Twitter account, the five complaints came from four copyright holders, with one feeling the need to file two separate complaints while citing two different works.

The complaints against Tomczak’s white noise

One company involved – Catapult Distribution – say that Tomczak’s composition infringes on the copyrights of “White Noise Sleep Therapy”, a client selling the title “Majestic Ocean Waves”. It also manages to do the same for the company’s “Soothing Baby Sleep” title. The other complaints come from Merlin Symphonic Distribution and Dig Dis for similar works .

Under normal circumstances, Tomczak’s account could have been disabled by YouTube for so many infringements but in all cases the copyright holders chose to monetize the musician’s ‘infringement’ instead, via the site’s ContentID system. In other words, after creating the video himself with his own efforts, copyright holders are now taking all the revenue. It’s a situation that Tomczak will now dispute with YouTube.

“I’ve had quite a few copyright claims against me, usually based on cases where I’ve made long mixes of work, or longer pieces. Usually I don’t take them too seriously,” he explains.

“In any of the cases where I think a given claim would be an issue, I would dispute it by saying I could either prove that I have made the work, have the original materials that generated the work, or could show enough of the components included in the work to prove originality. This has always been successful for me and I hope it will be in this case as well.”

Sadly, this isn’t the only problem Tomczak’s had with YouTube’s copyright complaints system. A while back the musician was asked to take part in a video for his workplace but things didn’t go well.

“I was asked to participate in a video for my workplace and the production team asked if they could use my music and I said ‘no problem’. A month later, the video was uploaded to one of our work channels, and then YouTube generated a copyright claim against me for my own music from the work channel,” he reveals.

Tomczak says that to him, automated copyright claims are largely an annoyance and if he was making enough money from YouTube, the system would be detrimental in the long run. He feels it’s something that YouTube should adjust, to ensure that false claims aren’t filed against uploads like his.

While he tries to sort out this mess with YouTube, there is some good news. Other videos of his including “10 Hours of a Perfect Fifth“, “The First 106 Fifths Derived from a 3/2 Ratio” and “Hour-Long Octave Shift” all remain copyright-complaint free.

For now……

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[$] Varlink: a protocol for IPC

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/742675/rss

One of the motivations behind projects like kdbus and bus1, both of which have fallen short of
mainline inclusion, is to have an interprocess communication (IPC)
mechanism available early in the boot process. The D-Bus IPC
mechanism has a daemon that cannot be started until filesystems are mounted
and the like, but what if the early boot process wants to perform IPC?
A new project, varlink, was
recently announced; it aims
to provide IPC from early boot onward, though it does not really address
the longtime D-Bus performance complaints that also served as motivation
for kdbus and bus1.

Dish Network Files Two Lawsuits Against Pirate IPTV Providers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dish-network-files-two-lawsuits-against-pirate-iptv-providers-180103/

In broad terms, there are two types of unauthorized online streaming of live TV. The first is via open-access websites where users can view for free. The second features premium services to which viewers are required to subscribe.

Usually available for a few dollars, euros, or pounds per month, the latter are gaining traction all around the world. Service levels are relatively high and the majority of illicit packages offer a dazzling array of programming, often putting official providers in the shade.

For this reason, commercial IPTV providers are considered a huge threat to broadcasters’ business models, since they offer a broadly comparable and accessible service at a much cheaper price. This is forcing companies such as US giant Dish Networks to court, seeking relief.

Following on from a lawsuit filed last year against Kodi add-on ZemTV and TVAddons.ag, Dish has just filed two more lawsuits targeting a pair of unauthorized pirate IPTV services.

Filed in Maryland and Texas respectively, the actions are broadly similar, with the former targeting a provider known as Spider-TV.

The suit, filed against Dima Furniture Inc. and Mohammad Yusif (individually and collectively doing business as Spider-TV), claims that the defendants are “capturing
broadcasts of television channels exclusively licensed to DISH and are unlawfully retransmitting these channels over the Internet to their customers throughout the United States, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.”

Dish claim that the defendants profit from the scheme by selling set-top boxes along with subscriptions, charging around $199 per device loaded with 13 months of service.

Dima Furniture is a Maryland corporation, registered at Takoma Park, Maryland 20912, an address that is listed on the Spider-TV website. The connection between the defendants is further supported by FCC references which identify Spider devices in the market. Mohammad Yusif is claimed to be the president, executive director, general manager, and sole shareholder of Dima Furniture.

Dish describes itself as the fourth largest pay-television provider in the United States, delivering copyrighted programming to millions of subscribers nationwide by means of satellite delivery and over-the-top services. Dish has acquired the rights to do this, the defendants have not, the broadcaster states.

“Defendants capture live broadcast signals of the Protected Channels, transcode these signals into a format useful for streaming over the Internet, transfer the transcoded content to one or more servers provided, controlled, and maintained by Defendants, and then transmit the Protected Channels to users of the Service through
OTT delivery, including users in the United States,” the lawsuit reads.

It’s claimed that in July 2015, Yusif registered Spider-TV as a trade name of Dima Furniture with the Department of Assessments and Taxation Charter Division, describing the business as “Television Channel Installation”. Since then, the defendants have been illegally retransmitting Dish channels to customers in the United States.

The overall offer from Spider-TV appears to be considerable, with a claimed 1,300 channels from major regions including the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Importantly, Dish state that the defendants know that their activities are illegal, since the provider sent at least 32 infringement notices since January 20, 2017 demanding an end to the unauthorized retransmission of its channels. It went on to send even more to the defendants’ ISPs.

“DISH and Networks sent at least thirty-three additional notices requesting the
removal of infringing content to Internet service providers associated with the Service from February 16, 2017 to the filing of this Complaint. Upon information and belief, at least some of these notices were forwarded to Defendants,” the lawsuit reads.

But while Dish says that the takedowns responded to by the ISPs were initially successful, the defendants took evasive action by transmitting the targeted channels from other locations.

Describing the defendants’ actions as “willful, malicious, intentional [and] purposeful”, Dish is suing for Direct Copyright Infringement, demanding a permanent injunction preventing the promotion and provision of the service plus statutory damages of $150,000 per registered work. The final amount isn’t specified but the numbers are potentially enormous. In addition, Dish demands attorneys’ fees, costs, and the seizure of all infringing articles.

The second lawsuit, filed in Texas, is broadly similar. It targets Mo’ Ayad Al
Zayed Trading Est., and Mo’ Ayad Fawzi Al Zayed (individually and collectively doing business as Tiger International Company), and Shenzhen Tiger Star Electronical Co., Ltd, otherwise known as Shenzhen Tiger Star.

Dish claims that these defendants also illegally capture and retransmit channels to customers in the United States. IPTV boxes costing up to $179 including one year’s service are the method of delivery.

In common with the Maryland case, Dish says it sent almost two dozen takedown notices to ISPs utilized by the defendants. These were also countered by the unauthorized service retransmitting Dish channels from other servers.

The biggest difference between the Maryland and Texas cases is that while Yusif/Spider/Dima Furniture are said to be in the US, Zayed is said to reside in Amman, Jordan, and Tiger Star is registered in Shenzhen, China. However, since the unauthorized service is targeted at customers in Texas, Dish states that the Texas court has jurisdiction.

Again, Dish is suing for Direct Infringement, demanding damages, costs, and a permanent injunction.

The complaints can be found here and here.

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

Massive Site-Blocking Measures Countered By 100K Browser Addon Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/massive-site-blocking-measures-countered-by-100k-browser-addon-users-171231/

FCT tyIn July 2015, Portugal’s Ministry of Culture announced the signing of a memorandum between its own General Inspection of Cultural Activities (IGAC), the Portuguese Association of Telecommunication Operators (APRITEL), various rightsholder groups, the body responsible for administering Portugal’s .PT domain, and representatives from the advertising industry.

The memorandum laid out a new mechanism for blocking so-called ‘pirate’ sites. In common with similar frameworks elsewhere, the process can be triggered by a complaint from a rightsholder association. Local anti-piracy group MAPINET then collates evidence that a site is engaged in the unlawful distribution of copyright works and has failed to cease its activities.

The system was quickly utilized by rightsholders seeking to block access to their content. Within six months, 330 sites had been blocked by ISPs, but that was only the beginning. In the months and years that followed, hundreds more sites were rendered inaccessible but in common with similar programs elsewhere, no official list of blocked sites was made available. People are keeping watch, however.

SitesBloqueados (Blocked Sites) is a web portal run by Revolução dos Bytes (Bytes’ Revolution), a group of like-minded anti-censorship activists in Portugal. Created a few months after blocking began in the region, their comprehensive database now contains almost 1,400 domains, the majority of which have been blocked on copyright grounds.

“SitesBloqueados was mainly created because, although the Memorandum of Understanding contained certain requirements to make a site eligible to be blocked – such as 500 items [or links] to copyright content or one third of the site containing copyrighted material – there was no official way to validate that data and make sure that these ‘rules’ are being respected,” team member Henrique Mouta informs TF.

The manner in which the list is maintained is quite unique. As mentioned earlier, there are no official sources listing blocked domains so the people behind SitesBloqueados had to get creative. Alongside this project they also run Ahoy!, a Chrome and Firefox extension that allows users to circumvent censorship in Portugal and it’s through that tool they gather information.

“Ahoy! basically bypasses any traffic to a blocked site through our own proxies, allowing the users to navigate in a free, uncensored internet,” Henrique explains.

As this extension works on a whitelist basis, we had to create a mechanism to automatically detect and whitelist sites that have been blocked, so if a user accesses a blocked site that is not on our list yet, we get a notification so we can review the site and add it to the list. That is the list that is also powering SitesBloqueados.pt.”

When the voluntary agreement was first announced, local ISPs came under intense criticism for agreeing to work with copyright holders without need for a court process. However, Henrique says they are actually in a precarious position.

“We usually see the ISPs as the bad guys, blocking sites, throttling our internet and, more recently, going against the Internet Neutrality. But, in this particular case, all the major ISPs are forced to block any sites that have been requested in 15 days, or they might pay fines for every single day after the deadline.

“MAPiNET (MOVIMENTO CÍVICOANTI PIRATARIA NA INTERNET) is the organization, alongside with IGAC (Inspecção Geral Das Actividades Culturais), that compiles the lists of sites and sends them to the ISP. It’s usually two lists per month. Of course, I’m not excusing the ISPs, as they should stand up against censorship. But we all know that’s asking too much of them,” Henrique adds.

Interestingly, the first site blockade in Portugal wasn’t actioned on copyright grounds. It was, in fact, targeted at Uber.com.

“This happened in June 2015, after a court order to suspend all Uber activity in Portugal. This opened a huge precedent, with all these anti-piracy organizations seeing how easy is to block a site, technically speaking.

“So, at the end of August of that same year, the [anti-piracy] Memorandum was signed by all the parties and, since then, both MAPiNET and IGAC have the power to request any site block, without any court order, without any legal order,” Henrique notes.

This lit a fire under the team and two and half years later, Ahoy! is now being used by 100k people to unblock almost 1,400 sites, while feeding back information on newly blocked domains. These are then added to the blocklist database and considered for unblocking methods via the addon.

Currently, around 50 new domains are blocked every month in Portugal and Henrique and the team are determined to document every one of them. They believe that by keeping an eye on things publicly, it lets the anti-piracy groups know they are being watched and cannot act with impunity. Around 90% of all blocked domains are restricted on copyright grounds but some also fall foul of new gambling laws that forbid unlicensed sites.

From the beginning, the big question has surrounded potential abuse. So, given the lack of a court process, have any players attempted to game the system?

“So far, we haven’t seen any signs of intentional abuse. There have been a few problems with sites being wrongly blocked. The most popular case is Carbon Games site that was blocked nearly two years ago, and it was mistaken for a different site, a Gambling site, named Carbon Gaming,” Henrique says.

“A few months later, we detected another case. A Spanish journalist had a website where he was posting videoclips of the latest releases. All of these releases were originally on YouTube, uploaded by the respective owners, however that was not enough to keep the site alive.”

Under pressure from Revolução dos Bytes this block was reversed but it’s not the only instance of errors. Non-existent sites have been blocked as have sites publishing headlines and linking to the respective online newspapers.

With blocking continuing at a steady pace, dozens of new domains are restricted every month. But Henrique and the team believe it won’t achieve anything positive and only serves to harm the Internet and democracy.

“Blocking sites to prevent piracy is the same as being on a sinking submarine, trying to patch every leaking hull hole with duct tape. If they want to fight piracy, they should try to understand, in the first place, why it happens and what they can do to change it.

“It’s well known that having cheap and quality services like Netflix and Spotify helped Internet piracy levels drop to record lows, DRM issues aside, of course. And the worst of it is the timing: these organizations see the decreasing levels of piracy as a signal that their stupid censorship is actually working. I’m really afraid that this is now an unstoppable snowball. The Internet in Portugal has seen much better days,” Henrique concludes.

But while he’s pessimistic over current developments, it appears that the Ahoy! movement is only set to grow. The team say they want to bring the browser-based system to other countries that are suffering from similar blockades and that suggestions from the public are welcome.

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TorrentFreak’s 17 Most Read Articles of 2017

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/torrentfreaks-17-most-read-articles-of-2017-171231/

Every year we write roughly 900 articles here at TorrentFreak, and some are more popular than others.

On the brink of 2018, we look back at 2017 by going over the 17 most read news items of the year.

The ExtraTorrent shutdown was a clear eye catcher. Not only was it the most read article, there are also two related news items in the list.

All in all, it was quite a controversial year once again. Website and domain issues tend to be popular items, as the full list shows, as are the inevitable Game of Thrones mentions.

But what will 2018 bring?

1. ExtraTorrent Shuts Down For Good

Popular torrent site ExtraTorrent shut down in May. The abrupt decision was announced in a brief message posted on the site’s homepage and came as a complete surprise to many friends and foes.

2. Pirate Streaming Site 123Movies Rebrands as GoMovies

Pirate movie streaming site 123movies renamed itself to GoMovies for a fresh start last March. With the brand change and a new domain name, the popular site hoped to set itself apart from the many fake sites. Interestingly, the site has recently moved back to the old 123movies brand again.

3. Game of Thrones Episode “S07E06” Leaks Online Early

The sixth episode of the last Game of Thrones season leaked online early in August. Soon after, it was widely shared on various streaming and download portals The leak turned out to be the result of an error at HBO Spain.

4. ExtraTorrent’s Main Domain Name Shut Down By Registrar

Prior to its shutdown, ExtraTorrent lost control of its main domain Extratorrent.cc. The domain name was disconnected by the registrar, presumably after a copyright holder complaint.

5. ‘Putlocker’ Loses Domain Name Following Court Order

Putlockers.ch lost its domain name in February. The site’s registrar EuroDNS was ordered to suspend the domain name following a decision from a Luxembourg court, in favor of an entertainment industry group.

6. ExtraTorrent’s Distribution Groups ettv and EtHD Keep Going

ExtraTorrent shut down, but several popular release groups that originated on the site kept the name alive. Later in the year, ettv and EtHD launched their own website which is slowly gaining traction.

7. Anime Torrent Site NYAA Goes Down After Domain Name Deactivation

Popular anime torrent site NYAA lost control over several of its domain names last Spring. Several people later pointed out that NYAA’s owner decided to close the site voluntarily.

8. Popular Kodi Addon ‘Exodus’ Turned Users into a DDoS ‘Botnet’

Users of the popular Kodi addon Exodus became unwittingly part of a DDoS attack in February. After the issue raised eyebrows in the community, the Exodus developer rolled back the malicious code and retired.

9. Porn Pirate Sites Use ‘Backdoor’ to Host Videos on YouTube

Last January adult streaming sites were found to use Google’s servers to store infringing material at no cost. While streaming sites have exploited Google’s servers for a long time, the issue hit the mainstream news this year.

10. The Pirate Bay’s .SE Domain is Back in Action

The Pirate Bay’s .SE domain name sprang back into action in October, after it was deactivated. A few months later, the Supreme Court decided that it should be handed over to the authorities. TPB, meanwhile, sails on, relying on its original .org domain.

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

Last summer a man leaked several episodes of the smash-hit TV series Power. The episodes were ‘cammed’ using a phone, with the ‘cammer’ recording his own face for good measure.

12. Live Mayweather v McGregor Streams Will Thrive On Torrents Tonight

The Mayweather v McGregor fight last August was a streaming success, but not just on legal channels. While centralized streaming services had a hard time keeping up with the unprecedented demand, lesser known live streaming torrents thrived.

13. The Pirate Bay Website Runs a Cryptocurrency Miner

In September, The Pirate Bay decided to use the computer resources of its visitors to mine Monero coins. This resulted in a heated debate. Supporters saw it as a novel way to generate revenue and a potential to replace ads, while opponents went out of their way to block the mining script.

14. Hackers Leak Netflix’s Orange is The New Black Season 5

In April the hacking group “TheDarkOverlord” leaked a trove of unreleased TV shows and movies. The group uploaded several videos, including episodes of Netflix’s Orange is The New Black, which it obtained the content from a post-production studio.

15. Demonoid Returns After Two Months Downtime

After nearly two months of downtime, the semi-private BitTorrent tracker Demonoid resurfaced online in March. The site was pulled offline due to hosting problems and had to endure some internal struggles as well.

16. “We Won’t Block Pirate Bay,” Swedish Telecoms Giant Says

In February a landmark ruling compelled a Swedish ISP to block The Pirate Bay. Copyright holders hoped that other ISPs would follow suit but telecoms giant Telia said it had no intention of blocking The Pirate Bay, unless it’s forced to do so by law.

17. Former Vuze Developers Launch BiglyBT, a ‘New’ Open Source Torrent Client

In August two long-time developers of the Vuze BitTorrent client, formerly known as Azureus, launched BiglyBT. The client emerged at a time when Vuze development stalled. The developers promised to take the project forward while removing all advertising and other annoyances.

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

Hosting Provider Steadfast Fights to Keep DMCA Safe Harbor

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hosting-provider-steadfast-fights-to-keep-dmca-safe-harbor-171230/

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

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

More than a year has passed and both sides have yet to resolve their differences.

ALS Scan recently asked the court for a partial summary judgment, determining that Steadfast contributed to copyright infringement and that it has no safe harbor protection. If this was granted, the hosting provider would be in serious trouble.

The copyright holder argued that Steadfast refused to shut down the servers of the image sharing platform imagebam.com, which was operated by its client Flixya. ALS Scan sees the site as a repeat offender as it was targeted with dozens of DMCA notices, and accuses Steadfast of turning a blind eye to the situation.

In a new filing submitted this month, Steadfast fiercely denies the allegations. The hosting provider indeed leased servers to Flixya for ten years but says it forwarded all notices to its client.

The hosting company could not address individual infringements, other than shutting down the entire site, which would be disproportionate in their view.

“Steadfast had no ability to terminate services to individual users of Imagebam.com other than unilaterally shutting down the entire server which would have violated the law. Imagebam.com was not a pirate site when it was operated by Flixya,” Steadfast informs the court.

“Steadfast was not a direct infringer; Steadfast’s client Flixya was not a direct infringer. The direct infringers of the ALS content were the users of Flixya’s Imagebam.com website. Discovery has shown that many, if not all the infringers of the ALS content, were actually ALS’s own members who posted ALS content with impunity.”

Interestingly, the users who posted pirated images on the site were ALS Scan’s own customers. According to Steadfast, ALS took absolutely no steps to curb these infringements themselves.

Instead, ALS hired an agent, Steve Easton, to track down infringements on external sites and issue takedown requests. Steadfast received several of these as well, but believes it responded appropriately, even though the notices were not DMCA compliant.

“Once Easton sent his legally insufficient notices to Steadfast, Steadfast immediately forwarded the notices to Flixya. In turn, Flixya disabled access to the allegedly infringing works that were hosted on imagebam.com,” the company writes.

While ALS Claims that imagebam.com was a repeat offender, Steadfast sees things differently. They point out that Flixya is a service provider as well, and that they were the ones who had to address the alleged infringements.

It would certainly not be an “appropriate circumstance” to disconnect the servers of an entire website, not in the way Congress intended the DMCA to work, the hosting provider notes.

“An ‘appropriate circumstance’ to terminate a user does not include terminating a user who follows the law. Here, the facts in the record demonstrate that Flixya did not blatantly infringe copyright,” Steadfast writes.

“Rather, the facts show that Flixya complied with the DMCA. Flixya posted the required DMCA information on its imagebam.com website, had users agree to the terms of service, and informed users that his or her account will be terminated.”

The hosting provider wants the case to be thrown out, but ALS Scan clearly disagrees. According to the copyright holder, Steadfast should have terminated the imagebam.com servers.

“Steadfast maintained its own theory that if its own client was an Internet service provider, Steadfast had no burden to terminate services to its client, or indeed take any action, in response to notifications of infringement,” ALS writes.

“The law is that a service provider must stop providing services to whomever it is providing such services as long as such services materially contribute to infringement.”

It is now up to the court to decide whether Steadfast is indeed liable. If the company loses its safe harbor, this will have implications for the broader hosting industry.

It would essentially mean that large hosting companies are responsible for the infringing content that their clients’ users upload or link to, which could get quite messy.

Steadfast’s response is available here (pdf) and ALS Scan’s reply can be found here (pdf).

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Our ‘Kodi Box’ Is Legal & Our Users Don’t Break the Law, TickBox Tells Hollywood

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/our-kodi-box-is-legal-our-users-dont-break-the-law-tickbox-tells-hollywood-171229/

Georgia-based TickBox TV is a provider of set-top boxes that allow users to stream all kinds of popular content. Like other similar devices, Tickboxes use the popular Kodi media player alongside instructions how to find and use third-party addons.

Of course, these types of add-ons are considered a thorn in the side of the entertainment industries and as a result, Tickbox found itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit in the United States.

Filed in a California federal court in October, Universal, Columbia Pictures, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Amazon, and Netflix accused Tickbox of inducing and contributing to copyright infringement.

“TickBox sells ‘TickBox TV,’ a computer hardware device that TickBox urges its customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted motion pictures and television shows,” the complaint reads.

“TickBox promotes the use of TickBox TV for overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, infringing purposes, and that is how its customers use TickBox TV. TickBox advertises TickBox TV as a substitute for authorized and legitimate distribution channels such as cable television or video-on-demand services like Amazon Prime and Netflix.”

The copyright holders reference a TickBox TV video which informs customers how to install ‘themes’, more commonly known as ‘builds’. These ‘builds’ are custom Kodi-setups which contain many popular add-ons that specialize in supplying pirate content. Is that illegal? TickBox TV believes not.

In a response filed yesterday, TickBox underlined its position that its device is not sold with any unauthorized or illegal content and complains that just because users may choose to download and install third-party programs through which they can search for and view unauthorized content, that’s not its fault. It goes on to attack the lawsuit on several fronts.

TickBox argues that plaintiffs’ claims, that TickBox can be held secondarily liable under the theory of contributory infringement or inducement liability as described in the famous Grokster and isoHunt cases, is unlikely to succeed. TickBox says the studios need to show four elements – distribution of a device or product, acts of infringement by users of Tickbox, an object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, and causation.

“Plaintiffs have failed to establish any of these four elements,” TickBox’s lawyers write.

Firstly, TickBox says that while its device can be programmed to infringe, it’s the third party software (the builds/themes containing addons) that do all the dirty work, and TickBox has nothing to do with them.

“The Motion spends a great deal of time describing these third-party ‘Themes’ and how they operate to search for and stream videos. But the ‘Themes’ on which Plaintiffs so heavily focus are not the [TickBox], and they have absolutely nothing to do with Defendant. Rather, they are third-party modifications of the open-source media player software [Kodi] which the Box utilizes,” the response reads.

TickBox says its device is merely a small computer, not unlike a smartphone or tablet. Indeed, when it comes to running the ‘pirate’ builds listed in the lawsuit, a device supplied by one of the plaintiffs can accomplish the same task.

“Plaintiffs have identified certain of these thirdparty ‘builds’ or ‘Themes’ which are available on the internet and which can be downloaded by users to view content streamed by third-party websites; however, this same software can be installed on many different types of devices, even one distributed by affiliates of Plaintiff Amazon Content Services, LLC,” the company adds.

Referencing the Grokster case, TickBox states that particular company was held liable for distributing a device (the Grokster software) “with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright.” In the isoHunt case, it argues that the provision of torrent files satisfied the first element of inducement liability.

“In contrast, Defendant’s product – the Box – is not software through which users can access unauthorized content, as in Grokster, or even a necessary component of accessing unauthorized content, as in Fung [isoHunt],” TickBox writes.

“Defendant offers a computer, onto which users can voluntarily install legitimate or illegitimate software. The product about which Plaintiffs complain is third-party software which can be downloaded onto a myriad of devices, and which Defendant neither created nor supplies.”

From defending itself, TickBox switches track to highlight weaknesses in the studios’ case against users of its TickBox device. The company states that the plaintiffs have not presented any evidence that buyers of the TickBox streaming unit have actually accessed any copyrighted material.

Interestingly, however, the company also notes that even if people had streamed ‘pirate’ content, that might not constitute infringement.

First up, the company notes that there are no allegations that anyone – from TickBox itself to TickBox device owners – ever violated the plaintiffs’ exclusive right to perform its copyrighted works.

TickBox then further argues that copyright law does not impose liability for viewing streaming content, stating that an infringer is one who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder, in this case, the right to “perform the copyrighted work publicly.”

“Plaintiffs do not allege that Defendant, Defendant’s product, or the users of Defendant’s product ‘transmit or otherwise communicate a performance’ to the public; instead, Plaintiffs allege that users view streaming material on the Box.

“It is clear precedent [Perfect 10 v Google] in this Circuit that merely viewing copyrighted material online, without downloading, copying, or retransmitting such material, is not actionable.”

Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, TickBox insists that if its users aren’t infringing copyright, it’s impossible to argue that TickBox induced its customers to violate the plaintiffs’ rights. In that respect, plaintiffs’ complaints that TickBox failed to develop “filtering tools” to diminish its customers’ infringing activity are moot, since in TickBox’s eyes no infringement took place.

TickBox also argues that unlike in Grokster, where the defendant profited when users’ accessed infringing content, it does not. And, just to underline the earlier point, it claims that its place in the market is not to compete with entertainment companies, it’s actually to compete with devices such as Amazon’s Firestick – another similar Android-powered device.

Finally, TickBox notes that it has zero connection with any third-party sites that transmit copyrighted works in violation of the plaintiffs’ rights.

“Plaintiff has not alleged any element of contributory infringement vis-à-vis these unknown third-parties. Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendant has distributed any product to those third parties, that Defendant has committed any act which encourages those third parties’ infringement, or that any act of Defendant has, in fact, caused those third parties to infringe,” its response adds.

But even given the above defenses, TickBox says that it “voluntarily took steps” to remove links to the allegedly infringing Kodi builds from its device, following the plaintiffs’ lawsuit. It also claims to have modified its advertising and webpage “to attempt to appease Plaintiffs and resolve their complaint amicably.”

Given the above, TickBox says that the plaintiffs’ application for injunction is both vague and overly broad and would impose “imperssible hardship” on the company by effectively shutting it down while requiring it to “hack into and delete content” which TickBox users may have downloaded to their boxes.

TickBox raises some very interesting points around some obvious weaknesses so it will be intriguing to see how the Court handles its claims and what effect that has on the market for these devices in the US. In particular, the thorny issue of how they are advertised and promoted, which is nearly always the final stumbling block.

A copy of Tickbox’s response is available here (pdf), via Variety

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Piracy Notices Can Mess With Your Thermostat, ISP Warns

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-notices-can-mess-with-your-thermostat-isp-warns-171224/

Since the early 2000’s copyright holders have been sending ISPs takedown notices, to alert account holders that someone’s been using their connection to share copyrighted material.

The goal of these warnings is to deter people from sharing pirated material in the future.

Internet providers are not legally obliged to forward the notices, but many do. What ISPs are required to do is implement a policy to deal with frequent offenders.

Keeping pirates on board without taking any action can make the ISP liable, as Cox found out the hard way. While this case is currently on appeal, some ISPs have already put stringent measures in place.

Take Armstrong Zoom Internet, for example, which has roughly a million subscribers in the Northeastern part of the U.S. Like many other ISPs it reserves the right to terminate repeat infringers, a policy which it doesn’t hide.

Our attention was caught by a recent letter the company sent to one of its users. The ISP points out that it received multiple copyright infringement notices, urging the customer to stop, or else.

“…please be advised that, if Armstrong receives additional notifications of infringement connected With your Zoom Internet Service, Armstrong will remove you from your current service level and place you at the lowest service level.

“This will allow you to access email, but limit your speeds and affect your ability to upload or download material to the internet or use other file-sharing capabilities.”

Armstrong warning (via)

While reduced Internet speeds are bad enough, there’s another scary prospect. The reduced service level may also prevent subscribers from controlling their thermostat remotely. Not ideal during the winter.

“Please be advised that this may affect other services which you may have connected to your internet service, such as the ability to control your thermostat remotely or video monitoring services.”

Accused pirates who want their full service restored, and regain control over their thermostats, have to answer some copyright questions and read an educational piece about copyright infringement.

When they sign an agreement acknowledging that they have done so, full Internet access is restored. However, if more complaints come in later, the consequences will be more severe.

“…if Armstrong received additional notifications after you sign the Acknowledgement, your Zoom Internet Service will be terminated,” the provider writes.

Getting back in after that is only possible after signing an affidavit, so under penalty of perjury, and by paying a fee.

Only then they will regain full control over their thermostat again.

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“Pirate” Streaming Service Sued by “Legal” Competitor

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-streaming-service-sued-by-legal-competitor-171222/

In recent years there has been a boom in video streaming services, some operating with proper licenses and others without.

In a few cases, the line between legal and illegal is hard to spot for the public. When the latest Hollywood blockbusters are available for free it’s quite clear, but there are also slick-looking paid subscription services that operate without proper licenses.

The latter is what eTVnet is accused of. The streaming service targets Russian speakers in the United States and is accessible via the web or streaming boxes such as Roku. However, it does so without proper licenses, a complaint filed at a Massachusetts federal court alleges.

“On information and belief, the eTVnet Conspirators have illegally copied thousands of movies and are distributing them to paying customers illegally,” the complaint reads.

“By populating their streaming video service with stolen, illegally copied, and infringing copyrighted content, the eTVnet Conspirators have unlawfully and unfairly gained an advantage over their competitors, including Plaintiff.”

While this reads like a typical copyright infringement lawsuit, it isn’t. The complaint was filed by the Scottish company Alamite Ventures, which operates TUA.tv, a competing streaming service in the US.

The company filed suit against eTVnet, which is incorporated in Canada, as well as two owners and operators of the streaming service. They stand accused of civil conspiracy, unfair business practices, and false or misleading representations of fact under the Lanham Act.

“The eTVnet Conspirators deceptively market the eTVnet Service as a legal and fully licensed service,” Alamite Ventures notes.

ETVNET

There obviously can’t be a claim for copyright infringement damages, since Alamite is not a copyright holder, but the complaint does mention that major US companies such as HBO, Disney and Netflix are harmed as well.

“Given the staggering amount of copyright infringement committed by the eTVnet Conspirators, the damage to United States-based copyright owners easily eclipses $100,000,000,” it reads.

There is no calculation or evidence to back the $100 million claim, which seems quite substantial. However, according to Alamite Ventures there is no doubt that eTVnet is willingly operating a pirate service.

“…the eTVnet Conspirators know that their actions are illegal and have instituted a sophisticated scheme to avoid getting caught.”

“For example, the eTVnet Conspirators do not allow new users to access the stolen content library until they can verify that the new users are not “spies” or affiliated with content producers or law enforcement.”

Alamite Ventures hopes the court will agree and requests damages, as well as the shutdown of eTVnet in the United States.

A copy of the full complaint is available here (pdf).

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Judge rm -rf Grsecurity’s defamation sue-ball against Bruce Perens (Register)

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/742154/rss

The Register reports
that the grsecurity defamation suit filed against Bruce Perens has been
tossed out of court. “On Thursday, the judge hearing the case, San
Francisco magistrate judge Laurel Beeler, granted Peren’s motion to dismiss
the complaint while also denying – for now – his effort to invoke
California’s anti-SLAPP law.

Swedish Police Set to Take Over Pirate Bay Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/swedish-police-set-to-take-over-pirate-bay-domains-171222/

Way back in 2013, anti-piracy prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad filed a motion targeting two key Pirate Bay domain names – ThePirateBay.se and PirateBay.se.

Ingblad filed a complaint against Punkt SE (IIS), the organization responsible for Sweden’s top level .SE domain, arguing that the domains are tools that The Pirate Bay uses to infringe copyright.

In April 2015 the case was heard and a month later the Stockholm District Court ruled that The Pirate Bay should forfeit both ThePirateBay.se and PirateBay.se to the state. The case later went to appeal.

In May 2016, the Svea Court of Appeal handed down its decision which upheld the decision of the Stockholm District Court, finding that since they assisted with crimes, the domains could be seized.

With that established a question remained – should the domains be seized from Pirate Bay co-founder and domain owner Fredrik Neij or from IIS, the organization responsible for Sweden’s top-level .SE domain?

The Court subsequently found that domain names should be considered a type of intellectual property, property owned by the purchaser of the domain. In this case, therefore, IIS was not considered the owner of the Pirate Bay domains, Fredrik Neij was.

Neij subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the District Court and the Court of Appeal wrongly concluded that a domain name is a type of property that can be confiscated.

Today the Supreme Court handed down its decision, siding with the lower courts and determining that the domains – ThePirateBay.se and PirateBay.se – can indeed be seized by the state.

“The Supreme Court declares that the right to domain names constitutes property that may be forfeited as the Court of Appeal previously found,” its judgment reads.

Since the decision was handed down, things have been moving quickly. Kjetil Jensen of Online Group, the parent company of domain registry Binero, informs TorrentFreak that the police have already moved to take over the domains in question.

“Today Binero, Binero.se, (registrar for thepiratebay.se and piratebay.se) received an executive request from Swedish Police to take over ownership of the domain names thepiratebay.se and piratebay.se because the Swedish Supreme Court now allows the domain names to be seized,” Jensen says.

“The WHOIS of the domain names shows that the domain names no longer have any active name servers and the next step in this process is that the Police will take over the ownership of the domain names.”

WHOIS entry for ThePirateBay.se

While Binero will cooperate with the authorities, the company doesn’t believe that seizure will solve the online copyright infringement problem.

“Binero considers that the confiscation of a domain name is an ineffective approach to prevent criminal activity on the internet,” Jensen says.

“Moving a site to another top-level domain is very easy. And even if you want to close the domain, content is still available over the internet, using both the IP address and search engines etc.”

Indeed, The Pirate Bay saw this day coming a long way off and has already completely migrated to its original domain, ThePirateBay.org.

Despite the ruling, the site remains fully accessible, but it appears a line has been drawn in the sand in Sweden when it comes to domains that are used to break the law. They will be easier to seize in future, thanks to this lengthy legal process.

The judgment is available here (PDF, Swedish)

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US Government Teaches Anti-Piracy Skills Around The Globe

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-government-teaches-anti-piracy-skills-around-the-globe-171217/

Online piracy is a global issue. Pirate sites and services tend to operate in multiple jurisdictions and are purposefully set up to evade law enforcement.

This makes it hard for police from one country to effectively crack down on a site in another. International cooperation is often required, and the US Government is one of the leaders on this front.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has quite a bit of experience in tracking down pirates and they are actively sharing this knowledge with countries that can use some help. This goes far beyond the occasional seminar.

A diplomatic cable obtained through a Freedom of Information request provides a relatively recent example of these efforts. The document gives an overview of anti-piracy training, provided and funded by the US Government, during the fall of 2015.

“On November 24 and 25, prosecutors and investigators from Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Turkey participated in a two-day, US. Department of Justice (USDOJ)-sponsored training program on combatting online piracy.

“The program updated participants on legal issues, including data retention legislation, surrounding the investigation and prosecution of online piracy,” the cable adds.

According to the cable, piracy has become a very significant problem in Eastern Europe, costing rightsholders and governments millions of dollars in revenues. After the training, local law enforcement officers in these countries should be better equipped to deal with the problem.

Pirates Beware

The event was put together with help from various embassies and among the presenters were law enforcement professionals from around the world.

The Director of the DoJ’s CCIPS Cybercrime Laboratory was among the speakers. He gave training on computer forensics and participants were provided with various tools to put this to use.

“Participants were given copies of forensic tools at the conclusion of the program so that they could put to use some of what they saw demonstrated during the training,” the cable reads.

While catching pirates can be quite hard already, getting them convicted is a challenge as well. Increasingly we’ve seen criminal complaints using non-copyright claims to have site owners prosecuted.

By using money laundering and tax offenses, pirates can receive tougher penalties. This was one of the talking points during the training as well.

“Participants were encouraged to consider the use of statutes such as money laundering and tax evasion, in addition to those protecting copyrights and trademarks, since these offenses are often punished more severely than standalone intellectual property crimes.”

The cable, written by the US Embassy in Bucharest, provides a lot of detail about the two-day training session. It’s also clear on the overall objective. The US wants to increase the likelihood that pirate sites are brought to justice. Not only in the homeland, but around the globe.

“By focusing approximately forty investigators and prosecutors from four countries on how they can more effectively attack rogue sites, and by connecting rights holders and their investigators with law enforcement, the chances of pirates being caught and held accountable have increased.”

While it’s hard to link the training to any concrete successes, Romanian law enforcement did shut down the country’s leading pirate site a few months later. As with a previous case in Romania, which involved the FBI, money laundering and tax evasion allegations were expected.

While it’s not out of the ordinary for international law enforcers to work together, it’s notable how coordinated the US efforts are. Earlier this week we wrote about the US pressure on Sweden to raid The Pirate Bay. And these are not isolated incidents.

While the US Department of Justice doesn’t reveal all details of its operations, it is very open about its global efforts to protect Intellectual Property.

Around the world..

The DoJ’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) has relationships with law enforcement worldwide and regularly provides training to foreign officers.

A crucial part of the Department’s international enforcement activities is the Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinator (IPLEC) program, which started in 2006.

Through IPLECs, the department now has Attorneys stationed in Thailand, Hong Kong, Romania, Brazil, and Nigeria. These Attorneys keep an eye on local law enforcement and provide assistance and training, to protect US copyright holders.

“Our strategically placed coordinators draw upon their subject matter expertise to help ensure that property holders’ rights are enforced across the globe, and that the American people are protected from harmful products entering the marketplace,” Attorney General John Cronan of the Criminal Division said just last Friday.

Or to end with the title of the Romanian cable: ‘Pirates beware!’

The cable cited here was made available in response to a Freedom of Information request, which was submitted by Rachael Tackett and shared with TorrentFreak. It starts at page 47 of document 2.

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CBS Drops Lawsuit Over ‘Pirated’ Screenshot of 59-Year-Old TV Show

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cbs-drops-lawsuit-over-pirated-screenshot-of-59-year-old-tv-show-171215/

Over the past year, dozens of independent photographers have taken mainstream media outlets to court, accusing the companies of using their work without permission.

While the photographers only have a tiny fraction of the legal budgets of their wealthy adversaries, they have managed to score several settlements.

This is no surprise, as the evidence in these cases is often undisputed. However, New York photographer Jon Tannen learned that going up against a media mogul is not without risk. When he sued CBS Broadcasting a few weeks ago, the company ‘retaliated’ in a highly unusual way.

Instead of resolving the matter behind closed doors, CBS came out guns blazing. The company filed a lawsuit against the photographer accusing him of posting a copyright-infringing screenshot of a TV show on social media – the 59-year-old show Gunsmoke.

While posting a half-century old screenshot of an episode is quite different from using a recent photograph in a commercial publication, CBS branded Tannen a hypocrite in the complaint.

Follow up filings revealed how things spiraled out of control. Both parties were not able to agree on a settlement. According to CBS, Tannen demanded more than 100 times the value of a license, which they refused to pay.

Instead, they filed a lawsuit of their own. It was a clear retaliatory move and without informing the photographer in advance, attorney Richard Liebowitz wrote to the court.

“[I]n the midst of settlement negotiations on this case, Ballard Spahr LLP, the same law firm which serves as defense counsel here, filed a patently frivolous copyright infringement case on behalf of CBS against Tannen in obvious retaliation for this lawsuit,” he writes.

“Patently frivolous”

While lawsuits over TV show screenshots are highly unusual, this one apparently revitalized the settlement negotiations.

Both parties recently informed the court that they are finalizing an agreement in the initial lawsuit, which will end the case. As a result, CBS also dismissed its case against the photographer this week. As is usual, details of the settlement are not disclosed.

Meanwhile, another photographer filed a lawsuit against CBS this week, again represented by attorney Richard Liebowitz, who’s not hesitant in targeting the company again.

In this case the photographer, New York-based Lawrence Schwartzwald, accuses CBS Interactive of using a photo he took of actress Barbara Streisand and actor Jeff Bridges on CBSNews.com without obtaining permission.

With a screenshot of the photo of the site on file, the evidence looks quite compelling. However, let’s see if CBS can dig up some dirt on the photographer’s social media accounts this time round.

A copy of Schwartzwald’s complaint is available here (pdf).

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Seized Popcorn Time “News” Domain Back in Court to Defend Free Speech

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/seized-popcorn-time-news-domain-back-in-court-to-defend-free-speech-171215/

popcorntA few years ago, Popcorn Time gained popularity worldwide, mostly thanks to its ability to stream torrent files through a user-friendly interface.

This rapid rise raised concern among many movie industry companies, who worked hard to contain the threat by going after several forks and their developers.

This resulted in the shutdown of several projects. Domain name blockades in several countries, including the UK and most recently Denmark, were used to further mitigate the problem.

The most unusual action, however, was taken in Norway where the economic crime police seized the Popcorn-Time.no domain name following a complaint from copyright holders.

This was highly unusual because the domain in question didn’t host Popcorn Time itself. Instead, the site posted news articles, as well as links to sites that offered the application.

Popcorn-time.no when it was still active

popcor-no

This broad takedown of a news-focused site raised concerns among digital rights activists and legal experts. They questioned whether the far-reaching measure, without a proper judicial review, was violating free speech.

Hoping to hold the authorities accountable, Electronic Frontier Norway (EFN) and the Norwegian Unix User Group (NUUG) took the case to court.

Initially, the court refused to take on the case, arguing that both parties lacked standing, since they were not sufficiently affected by the domain seizure. This decision was appealed together with the legal owner of the domain name, the Norwegian company IMCASREG8, the domain registrar.

After several new filings and hearings, the Appeal Court decided that the case had to be sent back to the District Court again, which will start a new trial next week.

TorrentFreak spoke with senior lawyer Kirill Miazine, who will act as the legal assistant for the digital rights groups. He is looking forward to the hearings.

“This is going to be like the revenge of the nerds, as the usual suspects, who are monitoring the Internet and bullying the users and ISPs, are now going to be asked uncomfortable questions,” Miazine says.

“We’re also considering whether there are grounds to file a criminal case against the people who filed the criminal complaint against the registrant. We are serious about this. It’s not about Popcorn Time.”

Since the beginning, this case has been one against the seizure process of the authorities, rather than the site in question. The person who operated the targeted website is not even involved in the case.

One of the key questions that will be brought up during the trial, is how Popcorn-Time.no’s activities were different from all the mainstream news sites that covered and linked to Popcorn Time.

The rights groups are being represented pro bono by law firm Føyen Torkildsen, who are confident that they can win the case, and prevent similar broad seizures in the future.

“For us, the matter is about three core aspects: Internet freedom, free speech, and free software,” Miazine says.

“When they attack a tool which could be used legally and illegally, we have to fight back, as their next step could target Tor and VPNs. Of course, the case is about justice too: the police should not be agents of the called copyright groups..,” he adds.

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YouTuber Convicted For Publishing Video Piracy ‘Tutorials’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtuber-convicted-for-publishing-video-piracy-tutorials-171212/

While piracy-focused tutorials have been around for many years, the advent of streaming piracy coupled with the rise of the YouTube star created a perfect storm online.

Even a cursory search on YouTube now turns up thousands of Kodi addon and IPTV-focused channels, each vying to become the ultimate location for the latest and hottest piracy tips. While these videos don’t appear to be a priority for copyright holders, a channel operator in Brazil has just discovered that they aren’t without consequences.

The case involves Marcelo Otto Nascimento, the operator of YouTube channel Café Tecnológico. It began, strangely, with videos about baking bread but later experimented with videos on technological topics including observations on streaming content without paying for it.

In time, this attracted the negative attention of local TV industry group Associação Brasileira de Televisões por Assinatura (Brazilian Association of Television By Signature / ABTA). The group eventually took legal action, complaining about the nature of Nascimento’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

ABTA told the court that Nascimento had been posting tutorials that “encourage the use of equipment and applications designed to allow access to services and content” of its members, despite that content being protected by copyright. The trade group called for the removal of the content, an injunction against Nascimento, an apology, plus compensation for “material and moral damages.”

In his defense, Nascimento said that he merely comments on IPTV systems, does not breach copyright, doesn’t represent unfair competition, and did not cause the TV companies to incur any losses. Overall, Judge Fernando Henrique de Oliveira Biolcati did not agree with his assertions.

“[T]he plain intention of the defendant was to guide users in order for them to obtain access to the restricted content of the applicant’s associates….while gaining advantages for this, especially via remuneration from the providers of the mentioned applications (YouTube and Facebook), proportional to the volumes of visitors,” the Judge wrote in his ruling.

“This is not a question of mere disinterested comments, in the exercise of freedom of expression,” he added.

As a result, Nascimento was ordered to remove all of his online content that could be deemed instructional for pirates, in order to protect the interests of ABTA’s members and their ability to earn revenue from their content. In addition, the channel operator was forbidden from publishing any more videos of a similar nature.

On top, Nascimento must now pay the copyright holders for material damages, yet to be determined, measured from the posting of the first ‘pirate’ tutorial until such a date when all of the tutorials have been removed.

The ruling (PDF via Mg, Portuguese) also requires Nascimento to pay the equivalent of US$7,600 for “moral damages” plus extra for legal costs, during the next 15 days.

In a statement, ABTA said that following this conviction, more people could fall under the spotlight.

“ABTA is also monitoring the activities of other channels on YouTube and on social networks that publish illegal content such as channel lists, movies and ‘free’ access TV series, as well as tutorials and comparisons of devices or applications intended for illicit use (such as Megabox, HtvBox, Kodi, Dejavu, IPTV, ITVGo, etc.),” the group said.

Meanwhile, Nascimento says that he would’ve taken the videos down if only ABTA had asked him to. He will be appealing the decision, claiming that the videos did not teach people about piracy, they only demonstrated functionality. YouTube declined to comment.

Update: Following publication, a spokesperson for TVAddons – which has previously published instructional videos for Kodi – commented to TorrentFreak on the apparent urgency to take this matter to court, rather than handle via YouTube’s established complaints procedure.

“Taking the matter to courts rather than going through YouTube’s takedown system is part of an increasing pattern of legal bullying in the realm of intellectual property enforcement. Fighting a lawsuit against a major corporation can cost more than buying a house, it’s not a fair playing field for your average individual,” he said.

One of the remaining IPTV-focused videos

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