Tag Archives: DMCA

Deezer Piles Pressure on Pirates, Deezloader Reborn Throws in the Towel

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/deezer-piles-pressure-on-pirates-deezloader-reborn-throws-in-the-towel-180315/

Spotify might grab most of the headlines in the world of music streaming but French firm Deezer is also growing in popularity.

Focused more on non-English speaking regions, the music service still has a massive selection of tens of millions of tracks. More importantly for pirates, it also has a loophole or two that allows users to permanently download songs from the service, a huge ‘selling’ point for the compulsive archiver.

One of the most popular third-party tools for achieving this was Deezloader but last year Deezer put pressure on its operators to cease-and-desist.

“On April 27, 2017 we received takedowns and threatened legal action from Deezer if we don’t shut down by April 29. So we decided to shut down Deezloader permanently,” the team announced.

Rather than kill the scene, the attack on Deezloader only seemed to spur things on. Many other apps underwent development in the months that followed but last December it became evident that Deezer (and probably the record labels supplying its content) were growing increasingly tired of these kinds of applications.

The company sent a wave of DMCA notices to developer platform GitHub, targeting several tools, claiming that they are “in total violation of our rights and of the rights of our music licensors.”

GitHub responded quickly by removing access to repositories referencing Deezloader, DeezerDownload, Deeze, Deezerio, Deezit, Deedown, and their associated forks. Deezer also reportedly modified its API, in order to stop or hinder apps already in existence.

However, pirates are a determined bunch and behind the scenes many sought to breathe new life into their projects, to maintain the flow of free music from Deezer. One of those that gained traction was the obviously-titled ‘Deezloader Reborn’ which enjoyed a new lease of life on both Github and Reddit after taking over from DeezLoader V2.3.1.

But in January 2018, Deezer turned up the pressure again, hitting Github with a wave (1,2) of takedown notices targeting various projects. On January 23, Deezer hit Deezloader Reborn itself with the notice detailed below.

The following project, identified in the paragraph below, makes available a hacked version of our Deezer application by describing methods to bypass Deezer’s security measures to unlawfully download its music catalogue, in total violation of our rights and of the rights of our music licensors (phonographic producers, performing artists, songwriters and composers):


I therefore ask that you immediately take down the project corresponding to the URL above and all of the related forks by others members who have had access or even contributed to such projects.

Not only did Github comply with Deezer’s request, Reddit did too. According to a thread still listed on the site, Reddit removed a post about Deezloader Reborn following a copyright complaint from Deezer.

Two days later Deezer targeted similar projects on Github but by this time, Deezloader Reborn already had new plans. Speaking with TF, project developer ExtendLord said that he wouldn’t be shutting down but would continue on code repository Gitlab instead. Now, however, those plans have also come to an abrupt end after Gitlab took the page down.

Deezloader Reborn – gone from Gitlab

A copy of the page available on Archive.org shows Deezloader Reborn at version 3.0.5 with the ability to download music ready-tagged and in FLAC quality. Links to newer versions are being shared on Reddit but it appears there is no longer a central trusted source for the application.

There’s no official confirmation yet but it seems likely that Deezer was behind the Gitlab takedown. TorrentFreak has contacted ExtendLord who linked us to this page which states that “DeezLoader Reborn is no longer maintained due to DMCA. [Version] 3.1.0 is the last update, no more updates will be made.”

So, at least for now, it appears that Deezloader Reborn will go the way of various other Deezer-reliant applications. That won’t be the end of the story though, that’s a certainty.

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

Playboy Wants to Know Who Downloaded Their Playmate Images From Imgur

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/playboy-wants-know-downloaded-pirated-playmates-imgur-180313/

Late last year Playboy filed a copyright lawsuit against the popular blog Boing Boing.

The site had previously published an article linking to an archive of Playboy centerfold images, which the adult magazine saw as problematic.

Boing Boing’s parent company Happy Mutants was accused of various counts of copyright infringement, with Playboy claiming that it exploited their playmates’ images for commercial purposes.

The California district court was not convinced, however. In an order last month, Judge Fernando Olguin noted that it is not sufficient to argue that Boing Boing merely ‘provided the means’ to carry out copyright-infringing activity. There also has to be a personal action that ‘assists’ the infringing activity.

“For example, the court is skeptical that plaintiff has sufficiently alleged facts to support either its inducement or material contribution theories of copyright infringement,” Judge Olguin wrote.

Playboy was given the option to file a new complaint before the end of February, or else the case would be dismissed. The magazine publisher decided to let the matter go, for now, and didn’t file a new complaint.

That doesn’t mean that they’ll completely pass on the issue though. Instead of only going after Boing Boing, Playboy is now digging up information on the people who posted the infringing content on Imgur and YouTube.

Last week the California Court asked why PlayBoy hadn’t responded after the latest order. The company replied that it thought no response was needed and that the case would be dismissed automatically, but it included another interesting note.

“Plaintiff has elected to pursue third party subpoenas under, inter alia, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Section 512(h) in order to obtain further facts before determining how to proceed on its claims against Happy Mutants,” Playboy writes.

Looking through the court dockets, we observed that Playboy requested DMCA subpoenas against both Imgur and YouTube. In both cases, the company demands information that can identify the uploaders, including email addresses, phone numbers, and other documents or information.

With Imgur, it goes even further. Here, Playboy also requests information on people “who downloaded any photos” from the Imgur gallery in question. That could be quite a long list as anyone would have to download the images in order to see them. This could include millions of people.

Playboy subpoena against Imgur

A broad request like this goes further than we’ve ever seen. However, soon after the requests came in, the clerk granted both subpoenas.

At this point, it’s unclear whether Playboy also intends to go after the uploaders directly. It informed the California District Court that these “further facts” will help to determine whether it will pursue its claims against Boing Boing, which means that it must file a new complaint.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that the subpoenas were obtained early last month before the case was dismissed.

Alternatively, Playboy can pursue the Imgur and YouTube uploaders directly, which is more likely to succeed than the infringement claims against Boing Boing. That’s only an option if Imgur and YouTube have sufficient information to identify the infringers in question, of course.

The allegedly infringing centerfold video is no longer listed on YouTube. The Imgur gallery, which was viewed more than two million times, is no longer available either.


Playboy’s latest filing mentioning the DMCA subpoenas can be found here (pdf). We also obtained copies of the Youtube (pdf + attachment) and Imgur (pdf + attachment) subpoenas themselves.

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U.S. Border Seizures of DMCA Circumvention Devices Surges

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/u-s-border-seizures-of-dmca-circumvention-devices-surges-180309/

In the United States, citizens are generally prohibited from tampering with DRM and other technological protection measures.

This means that Blu-ray rippers are not allowed, nor are mod chips for gaming consoles, and some pirate streaming boxes could fall into this category as well.

Despite possible sanctions, there are plenty of manufacturers who ship these devices to the US, often to individual consumers. To arrive at their destination, however, they first have to pass the border control.

Not all make it to their final destination. A new report released by Homeland Security shows that the number of “intellectual property” related seizures increased by 8%, from 31,560 in 2016 to 34,143 a year later.

The vast majority of these seized items are traditional counterfeit goods. This includes fake brand clothing, shoes, replica watches, toys, as well as consumer electronics.

What caught our eye, however, is a sharp increase in “circumvention devices” that were found to violate the DMCA. Last year, the number of these seized items U.S. Customs and Border Protection increased by 324%.

“CBP seized 297 shipments of circumvention devices for violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a 324 percent increase from 70 such seizures in FY 2016,” the report reads.

While the relative increase is quite dramatic, the absolute numbers are perhaps not as impressive, with less than one seized device per day. The report gives no explanation for the surge, nor is there an estimate of how many devices slip through.

What we did notice is that the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) recently framed streaming boxes as possible circumvention tools. The strong enforcement focus of rightsholders on these devices may have been communicated to border patrols as well.

When we previously reached out to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to find out more about what type of circumvention devices are seized under the DMCA, a spokesperson provided us with the following definition.

“[P]roducts, devices, components, or parts thereof that are primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing protection afforded by a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner, and have only limited commercially significant purposes or uses other than to circumvent such protection measures.”

TorrentFreak reached out to CBP again this week to ask if streaming boxes are seen as circumvention devices, but at the time of writing, we have yet to receive a response.

In a press release commenting on the news, CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said that his organization is happy with last year’s results.

“The theft of intellectual property and trade in counterfeit and pirated goods causes harm to an innovation-based economy by threatening the competitiveness of businesses and the livelihoods of workers,” McAleenan said.

“Another record-breaking year of IPR seizures highlights the vigilance of CBP and ICE personnel in preventing counterfeit goods from entering our stream of commerce and their dedication to protecting the American people,” he added.

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Spotify Emails Warning to ‘Pirates’ Using Hacked Apps

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spotify-emails-warning-to-pirates-using-hacked-apps-180305/

Spotify is a fantastic music streaming service used by more than 159 million users around the world. Around 71m of those are premium subscibers according to figures released by the company last December.

Given the above, 88 million Spotify members are using the free tier, meaning that they’re subjected to advertising and other limitations such as shuffle-only play and track skip restrictions.

The idea is that the free user gets a decent level of service but is held back just enough with small irritations to make the jump to a premium subscription a logical step at some point.

What millions of free users don’t know, however, is that there are modified Spotify apps out there that can remove many of these restrictions. All the user has to do is sign up to free Spotify account, download one of the many ‘hacked’ Spotify installation files out there, put in their username and password, and enjoy.

How many people use these hacked versions of Spotify isn’t clear and up to now, it’s been somewhat of a mystery as to why Spotify itself hasn’t done something about them. During the past few days, however, there have been signs that a crackdown could be on the way.

In an email sent to an unknown but significant number of people, Spotify informs users of modified apps that they’re on the company’s radar and there could be consequences for trying to subvert the system.

“We detected abnormal activity on the app you are using so we have disabled it. Don’t worry – your Spotify account is safe,” the email from Spotify reads.

“To access your Spotify account, simply uninstall any unauthorized or modified version of Spotify and download and install the Spotify app from the official Google Play Store. If you need more help, please see our support article on Reinstalling Spotify.”

Users have been popping up on Spotify’s forums asking why they’ve received this email. Some seem to think they’ve done nothing wrong but most signs point to people using modified software.

The warning email from Spotify

While the email signs off with a note thanking the recipient for being a Spotify user, there is also a warning.

“If we detect repeated use of unauthorized apps in violation of our terms, we reserve all rights, including suspending or terminating your account,” Spotify writes.

For people who used their real accounts along with modified apps this could be a problem but many people using hacked versions go in prepared with a secondary or temporary email address and false details.

Quite how far Spotify will go to rid its service of this kind of a user remains unknown but at least for now, the actual effects of this early crackdown seemed mixed.

TorrentFreak has spoken with users who have modified versions and have received the email, yet their installation still works just fine. Others report that they can no longer log in with their modified version.

What is clear, however, is that Spotify has both modified apps and their creators on its radar. On March 1, 2018 the company wrote to Github demanding that a popular Spotify mod known as ‘Dogfood’ be taken down from the repository.

Dogfood is done on Github

The full takedown notice can be found here. It lists Dogfood itself plus a whole bunch of ‘forks’ which have also been taken down by Github.

There were signs in January that the developer of Dogfood might have been under pressure to limit the effectiveness of his app. On January 18 he announced on XDA that some functionality would be removed moving forward.

“In order to comply with XDA’s Rules and CoC, Spotify Dogfood has taken a new direction, and now offers *exclusively* Ad-free music playback,” he wrote.

“Any other features won’t be included anymore in this mod. But, that doesn’t mean anything if you’re a true, a core user of this app, because there will still be regular updates to it, as there has been up until now.”

Where that development will take place now isn’t clear but it clearly won’t be on Github. Indeed, even XDA has been targeted by Spotify, with the site receiving a DMCA notice from the company which required the removal of links and an apparent closure of the whole discussion.

XDA DMCA takedown

For now it seems that Spotify is playing nice, at least with users of modified apps. Whether it will continue with the same relaxed attitude is unclear but it’s hard not to connect the move with its intention to go public and its $23bn valuation.

Still, the company should be more in tune with pirates than most given its history, so may yet have a decent plan up its sleeve.

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MPAA Wants Filmmakers to Pay Licenses, Not Rip Blu-rays

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-wants-filmmakers-to-pay-licenses-not-rip-blu-rays-180227/

Technically speaking it’s not hard to rip a DVD or Blu-ray disc nowadays, and the same is true for ripping content from Netflix or YouTube.

However, in the US people can break the law when they do this. The DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions specifically forbid it.

There are some exemptions, such as educational and other types of fair use, but the line between legal and illegal is not always clear, some argue.

Filmmakers, for example, are allowed to use small pieces of other copyrighted films under some conditions. However, this only applies to the documentary genre.

This is confusing and creates uncertainty, according to the International Documentary Association, Kartemquin Films, Independent Filmmaker Project, University of Film and Video Association, and several other organizations.

Late last year they penned a submission to the Copyright Office, which is currently considering updates to the exemptions, where they argued that all filmmakers should be allowed by break DRM and rip Blu-rays. The documentary exemptions have been in place for years now and haven’t harmed rightsholders in any way, they said.

“There is no reason this would change if the ‘documentary’ limitation were removed. All filmmakers regularly need access to footage on DVDs and without an exemption to DVDs, many non-infringing uses simply cannot be made,” the groups noted.

Not everyone agrees with this assessment though. A group of “joint creators and copyright owners” which includes Hollywood’s MPAA, the RIAA, and ESA informs the Copyright Office that such an exemption is too broad and a threat to the interests of the major movie studios.

The MPAA and the other groups point out that the exemption could be used by filmmakers to avoid paying licensing fees, which can be quite expensive.

“Many of the filmmakers who have participated in the rulemaking assert that license fees are often higher than they are willing to pay,” the Joint Creators and Copyright Owners write.

“While unfortunate, the fact that a copyright owner has chosen to make works available on terms that are not palatable to a particular user does not make that user’s proposed use fair or justify granting an exemption.”

If the filmmakers don’t have enough budget to license a video, they should look for alternatives. Simply taking it without paying would hurt the bottom line of movie studios, the filing suggests.

“Many filmmakers work licensing fees into their budgets. There is clearly a market for licensing footage from motion pictures, and it is clear that unlicensed uses harm that market.

“MPAA members actively exploit the market for licensing film clips for these types of uses. Each year, MPAA member companies license, collectively, thousands of clips for use in a variety of works,” the group writes.

The Copyright Office has limited the exemption to the documentary genre for a good reason, the creators argue, since non-documentaries are less likely to warrant a finding of fair use.

In addition, they also refute the claim that the documentary category is “vague.” They note that the International Documentary Association, which argued this, has an award ceremony for the same category, for example.

Finally, the MPAA and other creators respond to calls to extend the current exemptions to 4K content, such as AACS2 protected Ultra HD discs. They see no need for this, as the filmmakers and other groups haven’t shown that they suffer negative consequences in the current situation.

They have alternatives, such as regular Blu-ray discs, while allowing AACS2 circumvention could severely impact the Ultra HD ecosystem, they argue.

“No one has released a universal hack to all Ultra HD films protected by AACS2. The integrity of the AACS2 and Ultra HD technology is an especially important component of the ecosystem that is resulting in the increased availability of motion pictures.

“The Register and the Librarian should not undermine this integrity by authorizing widespread hacking, which could negatively impact ‘the market for or value of’ some of the industry’s most exciting products,” the Joint Creators add.

The Copyright Office will take all arguments into consideration before it makes a final decision later this year.

A copy of the Joint Creators reply is available here.

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Game Companies Oppose DMCA Exemption for ‘Abandoned’ Online Games

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-companies-oppose-dmca-exemption-for-abandoned-online-games-180217/

There are a lot of things people are not allowed to do under US copyright law, but perhaps just as importantly there are exemptions.

The U.S. Copyright Office is currently considering whether or not to loosen the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, which prevent the public from ‘tinkering’ with DRM-protected content and devices.

These provisions are renewed every three years after the Office hears various arguments from the public. One of the major topics on the agenda this year is the preservation of abandoned games.

The Copyright Office previously included game preservation exemptions to keep these games accessible. This means that libraries, archives, and museums can use emulators and other circumvention tools to make old classics playable.

Late last year several gaming fans including the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (the MADE), a nonprofit organization operating in California, argued for an expansion of this exemption to also cover online games. This includes games in the widely popular multiplayer genre, which require a connection to an online server.

“Although the Current Exemption does not cover it, preservation of online video games is now critical,” MADE wrote in its comment to the Copyright Office.

“Online games have become ubiquitous and are only growing in popularity. For example, an estimated fifty-three percent of gamers play multiplayer games at least once a week, and spend, on average, six hours a week playing with others online.”

This week, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which acts on behalf of prominent members including Electonic Arts, Nintendo and Ubisoft, opposed the request.

While they are fine with the current game-preservation exemption, expanding it to online games goes too far, they say. This would allow outsiders to recreate online game environments using server code that was never published in public.

It would also allow a broad category of “affiliates” to help with this which, according to the ESA, could include members of the public

“The proponents characterize these as ‘slight modifications’ to the existing exemption. However they are nothing of the sort. The proponents request permission to engage in forms of circumvention that will enable the complete recreation of a hosted video game-service environment and make the video game available for play by a public audience.”

“Worse yet, proponents seek permission to deputize a legion of ‘affiliates’ to assist in their activities,” ESA adds.

The proposed changes would enable and facilitate infringing use, the game companies warn. They fear that outsiders such as MADE will replicate the game servers and allow the public to play these abandoned games, something games companies would generally charge for. This could be seen as direct competition.

MADE, for example, already charges the public to access its museum so they can play games. This can be seen as commercial use under the DMCA, ESA points out.

“Public performance and display of online games within a museum likewise is a commercial use within the meaning of Section 107. MADE charges an admission fee – ‘$10 to play games all day’.

“Under the authority summarized above, public performance and display of copyrighted works to generate entrance fee revenue is a commercial use, even if undertaken by a nonprofit museum,” the ESA adds.

The ESA also stresses that their members already make efforts to revive older games themselves. There is a vibrant and growing market for “retro” games, which games companies are motivated to serve, they say.

The games companies, therefore, urge the Copyright Office to keep the status quo and reject any exemptions for online games.

“In sum, expansion of the video game preservation exemption as contemplated by Class 8 is not a ‘modest’ proposal. Eliminating the important limitations that the Register provided when adopting the current exemption risks the possibility of wide-scale infringement and substantial market harm,” they write.

The Copyright Office will take all arguments into consideration before it makes a final decision. It’s clear that the wishes of game preservation advocates, such as MADE, are hard to unite with the interests of the game companies, so one side will clearly be disappointed with the outcome.

A copy of ESA’s submissionavailablelble here (pdf).

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EFF Urges US Copyright Office To Reject Proactive ‘Piracy’ Filters

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eff-urges-us-copyright-office-to-reject-proactive-piracy-filters-180213/

Faced with millions of individuals consuming unlicensed audiovisual content from a variety of sources, entertainment industry groups have been seeking solutions closer to the roots of the problem.

As widespread site-blocking attempts to tackle ‘pirate’ sites in the background, greater attention has turned to legal platforms that host both licensed and unlicensed content.

Under current legislation, these sites and services can do business relatively comfortably due to the so-called safe harbor provisions of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD).

Both sets of legislation ensure that Internet platforms can avoid being held liable for the actions of others provided they themselves address infringement when they are made aware of specific problems. If a video hosting site has a copy of an unlicensed movie uploaded by a user, for example, it must be removed within a reasonable timeframe upon request from the copyright holder.

However, in both the US and EU there is mounting pressure to make it more difficult for online services to achieve ‘safe harbor’ protections.

Entertainment industry groups believe that platforms use the law to turn a blind eye to infringing content uploaded by users, content that is often monetized before being taken down. With this in mind, copyright holders on both sides of the Atlantic are pressing for more proactive regimes, ones that will see Internet platforms install filtering mechanisms to spot and discard infringing content before it can reach the public.

While such a system would be welcomed by rightsholders, Internet companies are fearful of a future in which they could be held more liable for the infringements of others. They’re supported by the EFF, who yesterday presented a petition to the US Copyright Office urging caution over potential changes to the DMCA.

“As Internet users, website owners, and online entrepreneurs, we urge you to preserve and strengthen the Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbors for Internet service providers,” the EFF writes.

“The DMCA safe harbors are key to keeping the Internet open to all. They allow anyone to launch a website, app, or other service without fear of crippling liability for copyright infringement by users.”

It is clear that pressure to introduce mandatory filtering is a concern to the EFF. Filters are blunt instruments that cannot fathom the intricacies of fair use and are liable to stifle free speech and stymie innovation, they argue.

“Major media and entertainment companies and their surrogates want Congress to replace today’s DMCA with a new law that would require websites and Internet services to use automated filtering to enforce copyrights.

“Systems like these, no matter how sophisticated, cannot accurately determine the copyright status of a work, nor whether a use is licensed, a fair use, or otherwise non-infringing. Simply put, automated filters censor lawful and important speech,” the EFF warns.

While its introduction was voluntary and doesn’t affect the company’s safe harbor protections, YouTube already has its own content filtering system in place.

ContentID is able to detect the nature of some content uploaded by users and give copyright holders a chance to remove or monetize it. The company says that the majority of copyright disputes are now handled by ContentID but the system is not perfect and mistakes are regularly flagged by users and mentioned in the media.

However, ContentID was also very expensive to implement so expecting smaller companies to deploy something similar on much more limited budgets could be a burden too far, the EFF warns.

“What’s more, even deeply flawed filters are prohibitively expensive for all but the largest Internet services. Requiring all websites to implement filtering would reinforce the market power wielded by today’s large Internet services and allow them to stifle competition. We urge you to preserve effective, usable DMCA safe harbors, and encourage Congress to do the same,” the EFF notes.

The same arguments, for and against, are currently raging in Europe where the EU Commission proposed mandatory upload filtering in 2016. Since then, opposition to the proposals has been fierce, with warnings of potential human rights breaches and conflicts with existing copyright law.

Back in the US, there are additional requirements for a provider to qualify for safe harbor, including having a named designated agent tasked with receiving copyright infringement notifications. This person’s name must be listed on a platform’s website and submitted to the US Copyright Office, which maintains a centralized online directory of designated agents’ contact information.

Under new rules, agents must be re-registered with the Copyright Office every three years, despite that not being a requirement under the DMCA. The EFF is concerned that by simply failing to re-register an agent, an otherwise responsible website could lose its safe harbor protections, even if the agent’s details have remained the same.

“We’re concerned that the new requirement will particularly disadvantage small and nonprofit websites. We ask you to reconsider this rule,” the EFF concludes.

The EFF’s letter to the Copyright Office can be found here.

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Hosting Provider Steadfast Maintains DMCA Safe Harbor Defense For Trial

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hosting-provider-steadfast-maintains-dmca-safe-harbor-defense-for-trial-180212/

Two years ago, 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.

The case against Steadfast is getting close to trial and to start with an advantage, ALS Scan recently asked the court for partial summary judgment, determining that the hosting company contributed to copyright infringement and that it has no safe harbor protection.

ALS 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 described the site as a repeat offender, as it had been targeted with dozens of DMCA notices, and accused Steadfast of turning a blind eye to the situation.

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

A few days ago California District Court Judge George Wu ruled on the matter, denying ALS’s motion for summary judgment.

Both sides made sensible arguments on the contributory infringement issue, but it is by no means undisputed that the hosting provider ‘contributed’ to the infringing activities. The court, therefore, left this question open for the jury to determine at trial.

“Ultimately, both sides have raised triable issues of fact with respect to material contribution. As a result, the Court would deny Plaintiff’s Motion,” Judge Wu writes.

ALS also sought summary judgment on the DMCA safe harbor protection issue, but the court denied this request as well. While it’s clear that the hosting company never terminated a customer for repeat infringements, it’s not clear whether it was ever in a situation where it needed to.

The DMCA requires Internet services to implement a meaningful repeat infringer policy, but in this case, Steadfast’s client Imagebam reportedly had a takedown policy of its own, which complicates the issue.

“While the fact Steadfast has never terminated one of its own customers for infringement is potentially damaging to its ability to fit the safe harbor, Plaintiff has not established that Steadfast faced a situation requiring it to terminate one of its users,” Judge Wu writes.

“Even in the present case it is unclear that Steadfast needed to terminate Flixya’s account given Flixya itself had a policy that was arguably successful at removing infringing images from imagebam.com.”

Judge Wu adds that safe harbor defenses are generally left to the jury, and this is what he decided as well.

As a result, ALS’s entire motion for summary judgment is denied. This is good news for Steadfast, who will have their safe harbor defense available at the upcoming trial. However, they will likely celebrate this win with caution, as the jury makes its ultimate decision.

A copy of the court’s order is available here (pdf).

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Comcast Explains How It Deals With Persistent Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/comcast-explains-how-it-deals-with-persistent-pirates-180210/

Dating back to the turn of the last century, copyright holders have alerted Internet providers about alleged copyright infringers on their network.

While many ISPs forwarded these notices to their subscribers, most were not very forthcoming about what would happen after multiple accusations.

This vagueness was in part shaped by law. While it’s clear that the DMCA requires Internet providers to implement a meaningful “repeat infringer” policy, the DMCA doesn’t set any clear boundaries on what constitutes a repeat infringer and when one should be punished.

With the recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against Cox, it is now clear that “infringers” doesn’t imply people who are adjudicated, valid accusations from copyright holders are enough. However, an ISP still has some flexibility when it comes to the rest of its “repeat infringer” policy.

In this light, it’s interesting to see that Comcast recently published details of its repeat infringer policy online. While the ISP has previously confirmed that persistent pirates could be terminated, it has never publicly spelled out its policy in such detail.

First up, Comcast clarifies that subscribers to its Xfinity service can be flagged based on reports from rightsholders alone, which is in line with the Fourth Circuit ruling.

“Any infringement of third party copyright rights violates the law. We reserve the right to treat any customer account for whom we receive multiple DMCA notifications from content owners as a repeat infringer,” the company notes.

If Comcast receives multiple notices in a calendar month, the associated subscriber moves from one policy step to the next one. This means that the ISP will issue warnings with increased visibility.

These alerts can come in the form of emails, letters to a home address, text messages, phone calls, and also alerts sent to the subscriber’s web browser. The alerts then have to be acknowledged by the user, so it clear that he or she understands what’s at stake.

From Comcast’s repeat infringer policy

Comcast doesn’t state specifically how many alerts will trigger tougher action, but it stresses that repeat infringers risk having their accounts suspended. As a result, all devices that rely on Internet access will be interrupted or stop working.

“If your XFINITY Internet account is suspended, you will have no Internet access or service during suspension. This means any services and devices that use the Internet will not properly work or will not work at all,” Comcast states.

The suspension is applied as a last warning before the lights go out completely. Subscribers who reach this stage can still reinstate their Internet connectivity by calling Comcast. It’s unclear whether they have to take any additional action, but it could be that these subscribers have to ‘promise’ to behave.

After this last warning, the subscriber risks the most severe penalty, account termination. This is not limited to regular access to the web, but also affects XFINITY TV, XFINITY Voice, and XFINITY Home, including smart thermostats and home security equipment.

“If you reach the point of service termination, we will terminate your XFINITY Internet service and related add-ons. Unreturned equipment charges will still apply. If you also have XFINITY TV and/or XFINITY Voice services, they will also be terminated,” Comcast warns.

Comcast doesn’t specify how long the Internet termination lasts but the company states that it’s typically no less than 180 days. This means that terminated subscribers will need to find an Internet subscription elsewhere if one’s available.

The good news is that other XFINITY services can be restored after termination, without Internet access. Subscribers will have to contact Comcast to request a quote for an Internet-less package.

While this policy may sound harsh to some, Comcast has few other options if it wants to avoid liability. The good news is that the company requires users to acknowledge the warnings, which means that any measures shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There is no mention of any option to contest any copyright holder notices, which may become an issue in the future. After all, when copyright holders have the power to have people’s Internet connections terminated, their accusations have to be spot on.

Comcast’s repeat infringer policy is available here and was, according to the information we have available, quietly published around December last year.

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Cloudflare Hit With Piracy Lawsuit After Abuse Form ‘Fails’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-hit-with-piracy-lawsuit-after-abuse-form-fails-180210/

Seattle-based artist Christopher Boffoli is no stranger when it comes to suing tech companies for aiding copyright infringement of his work.

Boffoli has filed lawsuits against Imgur, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, and others, which were dismissed and/or settled out of court under undisclosed terms.

This month he filed a new case against another intermediary, Cloudflare, which has had its fair share of piracy allegations in recent years.

In common with other companies, Cloudflare is accused of contributing to copyright infringements of Boffoli’s “Big Appetites” miniatures series. In this case, several Cloudflare customers allegedly posted these photos on their sites which were then reproduced on the servers of the CDN provider.

The lawsuit mentions that the infringing copies were posted on unique-landscape.com and baklol.com. This was also pointed out to Cloudflare by Boffoli, who sent the company DMCA takedown notices in October and November of last year.

While the photographer received an automated response, the photos in question remained online. Through the lawsuit, Boffoli hopes this will change.

“CloudFlare induced, caused, or materially contributed to the Infringing Websites’ publication,” the complaint reads. “CloudFlare had actual knowledge of the Infringing Content. Boffoli provided notice to CloudFlare in compliance with the DMCA, and CloudFlare failed to disable access to or remove the Infringing Websites.”

The photographer is asking the court to order an injunction preventing Cloudflare from making his work available. In addition, the complaint asks for actual and statutory damages for willful copyright infringement. With at least four photos in the lawsuit, the potential damages are more than half a million dollars.

While it’s not mentioned in the complaint, the email communication between Boffoli and Cloudflare goes further than just an automated response. Court records show that the photographer initially didn’t ask Cloudflare to remove the infringing photos. Instead, he asked the CDN provider to forward them to the ISP or site owner.

“I would be grateful if you would forward this DMCA takedown request to the website owner and ISP so these infringing links can immediately be removed,” it read.

Part of the email communication

From then on things escalated a bit. The emails reveal that Boffoli had trouble reporting the infringing photos through the required form.

When the photographer pointed this out in a direct email, Cloudflare urged him to try the form again as that was the only way to send the DMCA request to the designated copyright agent.

“The DMCA doesn’t require us to process reports not sent to our registered agent as per our registration with the US Copyright Office. Our registered copyright agent is the form located at cloudflare.com/abuse/form and you may proceed via that avenue,” Cloudflare wrote.

If the case moves forward, Cloudflare may use this to argue that it never received a proper DMCA takedown notice. However, Boffoli wasn’t planning on trying again and instead threatened a lawsuit, unless Cloudflare took immediate action.

“As I have said, your form did not work for me despite repeated attempts to use it. And it is insulting for you to suggest that it’s working fine when it is not. So again, this is absolutely my last attempt to get you to respond to this infringement for which you are impeding the removal,” Boffoli wrote.

“If you take no action now I will forward this to my legal team this week. It is more than enough of a burden to have to waste countless hours policing my own copyrights without organizations like Cloudflare running interference for copyright infringers. I am not averse to asking a federal judge to compel you to deal with these copyright infringements. And I will seek statutory damages for contributory infringement at that time.”

As it turns out, that was not an idle threat.


A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf) and the email exhibits can be found here (pdf).

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Rightscorp Has a Massive Database of ‘Repeat Infringers’ to Pursue

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-has-a-massive-database-of-repeat-infringers-to-pursue-180208/

Last week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ISPs are required to terminate ‘repeat infringers’ based on allegations from copyright holders alone, a topic that has been contested for years.

This means that copyright holders now have a bigger incentive to send takedown notices, as ISPs can’t easily ignore them. That’s music to the ears of the various piracy tracking companies, Rightscorp included.

The piracy monetization company always maintained that multiple complaints from copyright holders are enough to classify someone as a repeat infringer, without a court order, and the Fourth Circuit has now reached the same conclusion.

“After years of uncertainty on these issues, it is gratifying for the US Court of Appeals to proclaim the law on ISP liability for subscriber infringements to be essentially what Rightscorp has always said it is,” Rightscorp President Christopher Sabec says.

Rightscorp is pleased to see that the court shares its opinion since the verdict also provides new business opportunities. The company informs TorrentFreak that it’s ready to help copyright holders to hold ISPs responsible.

“Rightscorp has always stood with content holders who wish to protect their rights against ISPs that are not taking action against repeat infringers,” Sabec tells us.

“Now, with the law addressing ISP liability for subscriber infringements finally sharpened and clarified at the appellate level, we are ready to support all efforts by rights holders to compel ISPs to abide by their responsibilities under the DMCA.”

The piracy tracking company has a treasure trove of piracy data at its disposal to issue takedown requests or back lawsuits. Over the past five years, it amassed nearly a billion “records” of copyright infringements.

“Rightscorp’s data records include no less the 969,653,557 infringements over the last five years,” Sabec says.

This number includes a lot of repeat infringers, obviously. It’s made up of IP-addresses downloading the same file on several occasions and/or multiple files over time.

While it’s unlikely that account holders will be disconnected based on infringements that happened years ago, this type of historical data can be used in court cases. Rightscorp’s infringement notices are the basis of the legal action against Cox, and are being used as evidence in a separate RIAA case against ISP Grande communications as well.

Grande previously said that it refused to act on Rightcorp’s notices because it doubts their accuracy, but the tracking company contests this. That case is still ongoing and a final decision has yet to be reached.

For now, however, Rightcorp is marketing its hundreds of thousands of recorded copyright infringements as an opportunity for rightsholders. And for a company that can use some extra cash in hand, that’s good news.

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

Blizzard Targets Fan-Created ‘World of Warcraft’ Legacy Server

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/blizzard-targets-fan-created-world-of-warcraft-legacy-server-180203/

Over the years video game developer Blizzard Entertainment has published many popular game titles, including World of Warcraft (WoW).

First released in 2004, the multiplayer online role-playing game has been a massive success. It holds the record for the most popular MMORPG in history, with over 100 million subscribers.

While the current game looks entirely different from its first release, there are many nostalgic gamers who still enjoy the earlier editions. Unfortunately, however, they can’t play them. At least not legally.

The only option WoW fans have is to go to unauthorized fan projects which recreate the early gaming experience, such as Light’s Hope.

“We are what’s known as a ‘Legacy Server’ project for World of Warcraft, which seeks to emulate the experience of playing the game in its earliest iterations, including advancing through early expansions,” the project explains.

“If you’ve ever wanted to see what World of Warcraft was like back in 2004 then this is the place to be. Our goal is to maintain the same feel and structure as the realms back then while maintaining an open platform for development and operation.”

In recent years the project has captured the hearts of tens of thousands of die-hard WoW fans. At the time of writing, the most popular realm has more than 6,000 people playing from all over the world. Blizzard, however, is less excited.

The company has asked the developer platform GitHub to remove the code repository published by Light’s Hope. Blizzard’s notice targets several SQL databases stating that the layout and structure is nearly identical to the early WoW databases.

“The LightsHope spell table has identical layout and typically identical field names as the table from early WoW. We use database tables to represent game data, like spells, in WoW,” Blizzard writes.

“In our code, we use .sql files to represent the data layout of each table […]. MaNGOS, the platform off of which Light’s Hope appears to be built, uses a similar structure. The LightsHope spell_template table matches almost exactly the layout and field names of early WoW client database tables.”

This takedown notice had some effect, as people now see a “repository unavailable due to DMCA takedown” message when they access it in their browser.

While this may slow down development temporarily, it appears that the server itself is still running just fine. There were some downtime reports earlier this week, but it’s unknown whether that was related.

In addition to the GitHub repository, the official Twitter account was also suspended recently.

TorrentFreak contacted both Blizzard and Light’s Hope earlier this week for a comment on the situation. At the time of publication, we haven’t heard back.

Blizzard’s takedown notice comes just weeks after several organizations and gaming fans asked the US Copyright Office to make a DMCA circumvention exemption for “abandoned” games, including older versions of popular MMORPGs.

While it’s possible that such an exemption is granted in the future, it’s unlikely to apply to the public at large. The more likely scenario is that it would permit libraries, researchers, and museums to operate servers for these abandoned games.

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

Appeals Court Throws Out $25 Million Piracy Verdict Against Cox, Doesn’t Reinstate “Safe Harbor”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/appeals-court-throws-out-25-million-piracy-verdict-against-cox-doesnt-reinstate-safe-harbor-180201/

December 2015, a Virginia federal jury ruled that Internet provider Cox Communications was responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers.

The ISP was found guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement and ordered to pay music publisher BMG Rights Management $25 million in damages.

Cox swiftly filed its appeal arguing that the District Court made several errors in the jury instructions. In addition, it asked for a clarification of the term “repeat infringer” in its favor.

Today the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled on the matter in a mixed decision which could have great consequences.

The Court ruled that the District Court indeed made a mistake in its jury instruction. Specifically, it said that the ISP could be found liable for contributory infringement if it “knew or should have known of such infringing activity.” The Court of Appeals agrees that based on the law, the “should have known” standard is too low.

When this is the case the appeals court can call for a new trial, and that is exactly what it did. This means that the $25 million verdict is off the table, and the same is true for the millions in attorney’s fees and costs BMG was previously granted.

It’s not all good news for Cox though. The most crucial matter in the case is whether Cox has safe harbor protection under the DMCA. In order to qualify, the company is required to terminate accounts of repeat infringers, when appropriate.

Cox argued that subscribers can only be seen as repeat infringers if they’ve been previously adjudicated in court, not if they merely received several takedown notices. This was still an open question, as the term repeat infringer is not clearly defined in the DMCA.

Today, however, the appeals court is pretty clear on the matter. According to Judge Motz’s opinion, shared by HWR, the language of the DMCA suggests that the term “infringer” is not limited to adjudicated infringers.

This is supported by legislative history as the House Commerce and Senate Judiciary Committee Reports both explained that “those who repeatedly or flagrantly abuse their access to the Internet through disrespect for the intellectual property rights of others should know that there is a realistic threat of losing that access.”

“The passage does not suggest that they should risk losing Internet access only once they have been sued in court and found liable for multiple instances of infringement,” Judge Motz writes in her opinion.

Losing Internet access would hardly be a “realistic threat” that would stop someone from pirating if he or she has already been punished several times in court, the argument goes.

This leads the Court of Appeals to conclude that the District Court was right: Cox is not entitled to safe harbor protection because it failed to implement a meaningful repeat infringer policy.

“Cox failed to qualify for the DMCA safe harbor because it failed to implement its policy in any consistent or meaningful way — leaving it essentially with no policy,” Judge Motz writes.

This means that, while Cox gets a new trial, it is still at a severe disadvantage. Not only that, the Court of Appeals interpretation of the repeat infringer question is also a clear signal to other Internet service providers to disconnect pirates based on repeated copyright holder complaints.

Judge Motz’s full opinion is available here (pdf).

Cloudflare is Liable For Pirate Sites & Has No Safe Harbor, Publisher Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-is-liable-for-pirate-sites-and-has-no-safe-harbor-publisher-says-180201/

As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe.

This includes thousands of “pirate” sites, including the likes of The Pirate Bay, which rely on the U.S.-based company to keep server loads down.

Many rightsholders have complained about Cloudflare’s involvement with these sites and last year adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan took it a step further by dragging the company to court.

ALS accused the CDN service of various types of copyright and trademark infringement, noting that several customers used the Cloudflare’s servers to distribute pirated content. While Cloudflare managed to have several counts dismissed, the accusation of contributory copyright infringement remains.

An upcoming trial could determine whether Cloudflare is liable or not, but ALS believes that this isn’t needed. This week, the publisher filed a request for partial summary judgment, asking the court to rule over the matter in advance of a trial.

“The evidence is undisputed,” ALS writes. “Cloudflare materially assists website operators in reproduction, distribution and display of copyrighted works, including infringing copies of ALS works. Cloudflare also masks information about pirate sites and their hosts.”

ALS anticipates that Cloudflare may argue that the company or its clients are protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor provision, but contests this claim. The publisher notes that none of the customers registered the required paperwork at the US Copyright Office.

“Cloudflare may say that the Cloudflare Customer Sites are themselves service providers entitled to DMCA protections, however, none have qualified for safe harbors by submitting the required notices to the US Copyright Office.”

Cloudflare itself has no safe harbor protection either, they argue, because it operates differently than a service provider as defined in the DMCA. It’s a “smart system” which also modifies content, instead of a “dumb pipe,” they claim.

In addition, the CDN provider is accused of failing to implement a reasonable policy that will terminate repeat offenders.

“Cloudflare has no available safe harbors. Even if any safe harbors apply, Cloudflare has lost such safe harbors for failure to adopt and reasonably implement a policy including termination of repeat infringers,” ALS writes.

Previously, the court clarified that under U.S. law the company can be held liable for caching content of copyright infringing websites. Cloudflare’s “infrastructure-level caching” cannot be seen as fair use, it ruled.

ALS now asks the court to issue a partial summary judgment ruling that Cloudflare is liable for contributory copyright infringement. If this motion is granted, a trial would only be needed to establish the damages amount.

The lawsuit is a crucial matter for Cloudflare, and not only because of the potential damages it faces in this case. If Cloudflare loses, other rightsholders are likely to make similar demands, forcing the company to actively police potential pirate sites.

Cloudflare will undoubtedly counter ALS’ claims in a future filing, so this case is far from over.

A copy of ALS Scan’s memorandum in support of the motion for partial summary judgment can be found here (pdf).

Udemy Targets ‘Pirate’ Site Giving Away its Paid Courses For Free

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/udemy-targets-pirate-site-giving-away-its-paid-courses-for-free-180129/

While there’s no shortage of people who advocate free sharing of movies and music, passions are often raised when it comes to the availability of educational information.

Significant numbers of people believe that learning should be open to all and that texts and associated materials shouldn’t be locked away by copyright holders trying to monetize knowledge. Of course, people who make a living creating learning materials see the position rather differently.

A clash of these ideals is brewing in the United States where online learning platform Udemy has been trying to have some of its courses taken down from FreeTutorials.us, a site that makes available premium tutorials and other learning materials for free.

Early December 2017, counsel acting for Udemy and a number of its individual and corporate instructors (Maximilian Schwarzmüller, Academind GmbH, Peter Dalmaris, Futureshock Enterprises, Jose Marcial Portilla, and Pierian Data) wrote to FreeTutorials.us with DMCA takedown notice.

“Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’), this communication serves as a notice of infringement and request for removal of certain web content available on freetutorials.us,” the letter reads.

“I hereby request that you remove or disable access to the material listed in Exhibit A in as expedient a fashion as possible. This communication does not constitute a waiver of any right to recover damages incurred by virtue of any such unauthorized activities, and such rights as well as claims for other relief are expressly retained.”

A small sample of Exhibit A

On January 10, 2018, the same law firm wrote to Cloudflare, which provides services to FreeTutorials. The DMCA notice asked Cloudflare to disable access to the same set of infringing content listed above.

It seems likely that whatever happened next wasn’t to Udemy’s satisfaction. On January 16, an attorney from the same law firm filed a DMCA subpoena at a district court in California. A DMCA subpoena can enable a copyright holder to obtain the identity of an alleged infringer without having to file a lawsuit and without needing a signature from a judge.

The subpoena was directed at Cloudflare, which provides services to FreeTutorials. The company was ordered to hand over “all identifying information identifying the owner, operator and/or contact person(s) associated with the domain www.freetutorials.us, including but not limited to name(s), address(es), telephone number(s), email address(es), Internet protocol connection records, administrative records and billing records from the time the account was established to the present.”

On January 26, the date by which Cloudflare was ordered to hand over the information, Cloudflare wrote to FreeTutorials with a somewhat late-in-the-day notification.

“We received the attached subpoena regarding freetutorials.us, a domain managed through your Cloudflare account. The subpoena requires us to provide information in our systems related to this website,” the company wrote.

“We have determined that this is a valid subpoena, and we are required to provide the requested information. In accordance with our Privacy Policy, we are informing you before we provide any of the requested subscriber information. We plan to turn over documents in response to the subpoena on January 26th, 2018, unless you intervene in the case.”

With that deadline passing last Friday, it’s safe to say that Cloudflare has complied with the subpoena as the law requires. However, TorrentFreak spoke with FreeTutorials who told us that the company doesn’t hold anything useful on them.

“No, they have nothing,” the team explained.

Noting that they’ll soon dispense with the services of Cloudflare, the team confirmed that they had received emails from Udemy and its instructors but hadn’t done a lot in response.

“How about a ‘NO’? was our answer to all the DMCA takedown requests from Udemy and its Instructors,” they added.

FreeTutorials (FTU) are affiliated with FreeCoursesOnline (FCO) and seem passionate about what they do. In common with others who distribute learning materials online, they express a belief in free education for all, irrespective of financial resources.

“We, FTU and FCO, are a group of seven members assorted as a team from different countries and cities. We are JN, SRZ aka SunRiseZone, Letap, Lihua Google Drive, Kaya, Zinnia, Faiz MeemBazooka,” a spokesperson revealed.

“We’re all members and colleagues and we also have our own daily work and business stuff to do. We have been through that phase of life when we didn’t have enough money to buy books and get tuition or even apply for a good course that we always wanted to have, so FTU & FCO are just our vision to provide Free Education For Everyone.

“We would love to change our priorities towards our current and future projects, only if we manage to get some faithful FTU’ers to join in and help us to grow together and make FTU a place it should be.”

TorrentFreak requested comment from Udemy but at the time of publication, we were yet to hear back. However, we did manage to get in touch with Jonathan Levi, an Udemy instructor who sent this takedown notice to the site in October 2017:

“I’m writing to you on behalf of SuperHuman Enterprises, LLC. You are in violation of our copyright, using our images, and linking to pirated copies of our courses. Remove them IMMEDIATELY or face severe legal action….You have 48 hours to comply,” he wrote, adding:

“And in case you’re going to say I don’t have evidence that I own the files, it’s my fucking face in the videos.”

Levi says that the site had been non-responsive so now things are being taken to the next level.

“They don’t reply to takedowns, so we’ve joined a class action lawsuit against FTU lead by Udemy and a law firm specializing in this type of thing,” Levi concludes.

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

New Kodi Addon Tool Might Carry Interesting Copyright Liability Implications

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-kodi-addon-tool-might-carry-interesting-copyright-liability-implications-180124/

Kodi is the now ubiquitous media player taking the world by storm. In itself it’s a great piece of software but augmented with third-party software it can become a piracy powerhouse.

This software, known collectively as ‘add-ons’, enables Kodi to do things it was never designed for such as watching pirated movies, TV shows, and live sports. As a result, it’s the go-to media platform for millions around the globe, but for those distributing the add-ons, there can be risks attached.

As one of the most prominent Kodi-related sites around, TVAddons helped to distribute huge numbers of add-ons. The platform insists that if any add-on infringed copyright, it was only too willing to remove them under a DMCA-like regime. Last year, however, it became clear that copyright holders would prefer to sue TVAddons (1,2) than ask for takedowns.

With those lawsuits still ongoing, the site was left with a dilemma. Despite add-ons being developed and uploaded by third-parties, rightsholders are still trying to hold TVAddons responsible for what those add-ons can do. It’s a precarious situation that has led to TVAddons not having its own repository/repo (a place where the addons are stored for users to download) since the site ran into trouble last summer.

Now, however, the site has just launched a new tool which not only provides some benefits for users looking for addons, but also attempts to shift some liability for potential infringement away from the service and onto a company with much broader shoulders.

TVAddons’ Github Browser was released yesterday and is available via the platform’s Indigo tool. Its premise is simple.

Since many third-party Kodi add-ons are developed and first made available on Github, the world’s leading software development platform, why don’t users install them directly from there instead?

The idea is that this might reduce liability for distributors like TVAddons but could also present benefits for users, as they can be assured that they’re getting add-ons directly from the source.

Github Browser welcome screen

“Before the GitHub Browser, when an end user wanted to install a particular addon, they’d first have to download the necessary repository from either Fusion Installer or an alternative,” a TV addons spokesperson informs TF.

“This new feature gives the end user the ability to easily install any Kodi addon, and empowers developers to distribute their addons independently, without having to align themselves with a particular release group or web site.”

Aside from the benefits to users, it also means that TVAddons can provide its users with access to third-party add-ons without having to curate, store, or distribute them itself. In future, storage and distribution aspects can be carried out by Github, which has actually been the basic behind-the-scenes position for some time.

“GitHub has always been the leading host of Kodi addons, and also respects the law. The difference is, they are big enough to not be bullied by draconian legal maneuvers used by big corporations to censor the internet. We also felt that developers should be able to develop without having to comply with our rules, or any other Kodi web site’s rules for that matter,” TVAddons explain.

The screenshot of the Github Browser below reveals a text-heavy interface that will probably mean little to the low-level user of Kodi who bought his device already setup from a seller. However, those more familiar with the way Kodi functions will recognize that the filenames relate to add-ons which can now be directly installed via the browser.

The Github Browser

While the approach may seem basic or even inaccessible at first view, that wrongfully discounts the significant resources available to the sprawling third-party Kodi add-on community.

Dozens of specialist blogs and thousands of YouTube videos report in detail on the most relevant addons, providing all of the details users will need to identify and locate the required software. Developer usernames could be a good starting point, TVAddons suggests.

“We have already seen many social media posts, blogs and developers advertising their GitHub usernames in order to make it easier for users to find them,” the site explains.

From our tests, it appears that users really have to do all the work themselves. There doesn’t appear to be any add-on curation and users must know what they’re looking for in advance. Indeed, entering the Github usernames of developers who produce software that has nothing to do with Kodi can still present zip file results in the browser. Whether this will prove problematic later on will remain to be seen.

While most keen users won’t have a problem using the Github Browser, there is the question of whether redirecting the focus to the development platform will cause copyright holders to pay more attention to Github.

This has certainly happened in the past, such as when the Federation Against Copyright Theft targeted the SportsDevil add-on and had it removed from Github. It’s also worth noting that Github doesn’t appear to challenge takedown requests, so add-ons could be vulnerable if the heat gets turned up.

Nevertheless, TVAddons believes that the open source nature of most addons coupled with Github’s relative strength means that they’ll be able to stand up to most threats.

“Open source code lives on forever, it’s impossible to scrub the internet of freely distributed legitimate code. I think that GitHub is in a better position to legitimately assess and enforce the DMCA than us. They won’t be sued out of nowhere in circumvention of the DMCA in similar fashion to what we have been the victim of,” TVAddons says.

Several years ago, when The Pirate Bay got rid of torrents and relied on magnet links instead, the platform became much more compact, thus saving on bandwidth. The lack of a repository at TVAddons has also had benefits for the site. Previously it was consuming around 3PB (3,000,000 gigabytes) of bandwidth a month, with a hosting provider demanding $25,000 per month not to discontinue business.

Finally, the team says it is working on new browser features for the future, including repository distribution over torrents. Only time will tell how this new system will be viewed by copyright holders but even with add-on hosting taken care of externally, any form of curation could be instantly frowned upon, with serious consequences.

Details of the browser can be found here.

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

NAFTA Negotiations Heat Up Copyright “Safe Harbor” Clash

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/nafta-negotiations-heat-up-copyright-safe-harbor-clash-180123/

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was negotiated more than 25 years ago.

Over the past quarter-century trade has changed drastically, especially online, so the United States is now planning to modernize the international deal.

One of the topics that has received a lot of interest from various experts and stakeholders are safe harbors. In the US, Internet services are shielded from copyright infringement liability under the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, but in Mexico and Canada, that’s not the case.

The latest round of NAFTA renegotiations are currently taking place in Montreal and this is heating up the debate once again. Several legal scholars and advocacy groups believe that such US-style safe harbor provisions are essential for Internet services to operate freely on the Internet.

A group of more than fifty Internet law experts and organizations made this clear in a letter sent to the negotiators this week, urging them to make safe harbors part of the new deal.

“When NAFTA was negotiated, the Internet was an obscure electronic network. Since then, the Internet has become a significant — and essential — part of our societies and our economies,” the letter reads.

“To acknowledge this, if a modernized NAFTA contains a digital trade chapter, it should contain protections for online intermediaries from liability for third party online content, similar to the United States’ ‘Section 230’.”

The safe harbors in the Communications Decency Act and the DMCA ensure that services which deal with user-generated content, including Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia, are shielded from liability.

This immunity makes it easier for new user-generated services to launch, without the fear of expensive lawsuits, the argument goes.

However, not everyone sees it this way. In a letter cited by Variety, a group of 37 industry groups urges U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate ‘strong’ safe harbor protections. Strong, in this case, means that simply responding to takedown notices is not always enough.

“If these anti-IP voices succeed, they will turn long-standing trade policy, with creativity and innovation at its core, on its head by transforming our trade agreements into blueprints for how to evade liability for IP theft,” they write.

The MPAA and RIAA, which also signed the letter, previously stressed that the current US safe harbors are not working. These industry groups believe that services such as YouTube exploit their safe harbor immunity and profit from it.

The RIAA, therefore, wants any negotiated safe harbor provisions in NAFTA to be flexible in the event that the DMCA is tightened up in response to the ongoing safe harbor rules study.

So, what should a content industry-approved safe harbor look like then?

The music industry group says that these should only be available to passive platforms that are not actively engaged in communicating and do not generate any revenue from pirated content. This would exclude YouTube and many other Internet services.

While it’s clear that the ideas of both camps are hard to unite, there’s still the question of whether there will be a new and improved NAFTA version at all. President Trump has previously threatened to terminate the agreement.

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

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