Tag Archives: European Court of Justice

Seller of ‘Fully Loaded’ Kodi Boxes Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/seller-of-fully-loaded-kodi-boxes-pleads-guilty-to-money-laundering-170806/

In June 2015, police and Trading Standards officers in the UK carried out raids on sellers of Android boxes configured to receive unauthorized content. One seller, operating from GeekyKit.com, told customers that his physical shops would be shutting down.

“As you may be aware we were visited yesterday by Sky [television] in conjunction with Trading Standards. Whilst we continue to investigate our position the stores will remain closed and support will remain suspended. Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused,” he explained.

Julian Allen was arrested after raids at ‘Geeky Kit’ premises in Billingham and Middlesbrough in the north of England. One of the locations is pictured below.

Despite the seriously incriminating storefront claims, Allen insisted that his businesses couldn’t be held responsible for copyrighted TV shows, movies and sports received by customers on boxes his company supplied.

“We do not control the content that is accessible on the internet via the product that we sell. We are currently working with Trading Standards to ensure that we can sell our products whilst adhering to UK copyright laws,” he said.

This January, Allen appeared before Teesside Crown Court charged with laundering £135,173, money said to have been generated via the sale of pre-loaded set-top boxes and premium packages over a 30-month period.

Allen was expected to appear for a week-long trial scheduled to start this Monday but that was scrapped after the 40-year-old pleaded guilty to using or acquiring criminal property.

According to Gazette Live, a proceeds of crime hearing has been scheduled for next year. In the meantime, Allen was granted unconditional bail until sentencing on October 20, where he faces a potential jail sentence.

“I don’t know what the sentence will be until all the matters are known,” the judge said.

Ever since a European Court of Justice ruling earlier this year that found that selling “fully-loaded” streaming boxes are illegal, people in a similar position to Allen have seen their cases take a turn for the worse.

One such case, involving Middlesbrough shopkeeper Brian Thompson, appears to be progressing under different legislation, however. Thompson stands accused of two offenses under section 296ZB of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, which deals with devices and services designed to circumvent technological measures.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Dutch Film Distributor to Target BitTorrent Users For Cash ‘Fines’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dutch-film-distributor-to-target-bittorrent-users-for-cash-fines-170802/

For many carefree years, Dutch Internet users were allowed to download copyrighted content, provided it was for their own personal use. In 2014, however, the European Court of Justice ruled that the country’s “piracy levy” to compensate rightsholders was unlawful. An immediate downloading ban followed.

That action took place more than three years ago but as recently reported by Dutch anti-piracy BREIN, the country still has an appetite for unauthorized content consumption. Some of that takes place with the assistance of torrent sites but for the most part, file-sharers have had little to worry about.

That could all be about to change with the news that local film distributor Dutch Filmworks (DFW) has announced its intention to monitor torrent site users and collect data on their online activities. The news comes via the Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens), which needs to be formally advised in order for the data collection to go ahead.

DFW’s plans are outlined in a detailed application (Dutch, pdf) dated July 2017. It explains that DFW wishes to combat “the unlawful dissemination of copyright protected works” in order to protect their own interests, and this involves collecting data on Dutch individuals without their knowledge or permission.

“DFW intends to collect data from people who exchange files over the Internet through BitTorrent networks. The data processing consists of capturing proof of exchange of files via IP addresses for the purpose of researching involvement of these users in the distribution or reproduction of copyrighted works,” it reads.

DFW will employ an external German-based tracking company to monitor alleged pirates which will “automatically participate in swarms in which works from DFW are being shared.” Data collected from non-Dutch users will be stripped and discarded but information about local pirates will be retained and processed for further action.

However, in order for DFW to connect an IP address with an individual, the company will have to approach Internet service providers to obtain subscriber information including names and addresses. DFW says that if ISPs won’t cooperate voluntarily, it will be forced to take its case to court. Given past experience, that will probably have to happen.

In March 2016, anti-piracy outfit BREIN obtained permission from the Dutch Data Protection Authority to collect similar data on alleged BitTorrent users, aiming to change attitudes among pirates with fines and legal action.

Several ISPs, most prominently Ziggo, announced that they would not voluntarily cooperate with BREIN and that personal information would only be handed over if BREIN took them to court. It’s logical to presume that Dutch Filmworks will receive the same treatment.

Should the company be successful, however, it has had detailed a stepped plan. First, the alleged pirate will receive a warning and DFW will aim to reach “an amicable settlement” for the breach. If one cannot be reached, further legal action could be taken, up to and including prosecution and claims for damages.

The whole scheme certainly sounds like a classic “copyright trolling” operation in the making but only time will tell which end of the spectrum this project will fall. When asked by NU.nl whether DFW would actually be seeking cash from alleged pirates, it declined to comment.

“This is the first step in this process. We’re going to see what we’re going to do after 25 August,” a spokesperson said.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Italian ISPs Say New Copyright Amendment Infringes Human Rights

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/italian-isps-say-new-copyright-amendment-infringes-human-rights-170728/

After being spoken of in unfavorable terms by the United States Trade Representative in its Special 301 Reports, Italy achieved a sudden breakthrough in 2014.

“Italy’s removal from the Special 301 List reflects the significant steps the Government of Italy has taken to address the problem of online piracy, and the continued U.S. commitment to meaningful and sustained engagement with our critical partner Italy,” the USTR said in a special announcement.

This praise was in part due to the way Italy promised to deal with online piracy. Instead of legislating to make a piracy crackdown easier, the government handed AGCOM, the Italian Communications Regulatory Authority, the power to deal with infringement based on complaints filed by rightsholders.

Without any need for legal cases or court injunctions, at the end of March 2014, AGCOM was granted the power to have allegedly infringing content removed from sites and to have domains blocked at the ISP level.

Now, just over three years later, AGCOM has been granted even more power. Passed last week, Amendment 1.022 effectively gives AGCOM the power to order sites to not only take allegedly infringing content down but to keep it down permanently, all without intervention from the judiciary.

The decision has provoked a furious response from a body representing the country’s ISPs, which describes the “unconstitutional rules” as a way to protect the economic interests of right holders behind various creative works and live sporting events.

“This measure abolishes procedural safeguards for citizens, imposes interception obligations to Internet providers, and damages consumers by imposing technical measures that will result in increased costs,” the Italian Association of Internet Providers (AIIP) said in a statement.

According to AIIP, it is the judiciary that should have sole power over copyright infringement disputes in Italy. When other bodies such as AGCOM are given control over criminal issues, it represents a violation of both constitutional principles and EU law.

“Any rule that would require Internet Providers to filter and carry out preventive checks – as well as to remove content generated by users without a court order – is in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, Community legislation on electronic communications services, and case law of the European Court of Justice,” AIIP says.

The ISP body says that AGCOM now possesses discretionary powers that even magistrates do not have, which from a technical perspective includes monitoring, interception, and blocking of user activity, a position that amounts to “gigantic state censorship.”

Only time will tell how the situation pans out but it’s crystal clear that ISPs feel that unlike the views of the copyright industry, their concerns have not been taken into consideration.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

BREIN Takes Down 231 Pirate Sites in Six Months, But That’s Not All

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-takes-down-231-pirate-sites-in-six-months-but-thats-not-all-170722/

Over the years, the MPAA and RIAA have grabbed hundreds of headlines for their anti-piracy activities but recently their work has been more subtle. The same cannot be said of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.

BREIN is the most prominent outfit of its type in the Netherlands but it’s not uncommon for its work to be felt way beyond its geographical borders. The group’s report for the first six months of 2017 illustrates that in very clear terms.

In its ongoing efforts to reduce piracy on movies, music, TV shows, books and games, BREIN says it carried out 268 investigations during the first two quarters of 2017. That resulted in the takedown of 231 piracy-focused sites and services.

They included 45 cyberlocker linking sites, 30 streaming sites and 9 torrent platforms. The last eDonkey site in the Netherlands was among the haul after its operators reached a settlement with BREIN. The anti-piracy outfit reports that nearly all of the sites were operated anonymously so in many instances hosting providers were the ones to pull the plug, at BREIN’s request.

BREIN has also been actively tracking down people who make content available on file-sharing networks. These initial uploaders are considered to be a major part of the problem, so taking them out of the equation is another of BREIN’s goals.

In total, 14 major uploaders to torrent, streaming, and Usenet platforms were targeted by BREIN in the first six months of this year, with each given the opportunity to settle out of court or face legal action. Settlements typically involved a cash payment of between 250 and 7,500 euros but in several instances, uploaders were also required to take down the content they had uploaded.

In one interesting case, BREIN obtained an ex parte court order against a person running a “live cinema” on Facebook. He later settled with the anti-piracy group for 7,500 euros.

BREIN has also been active in a number of other areas. The group says it had almost 693,000 infringing results removed from Google search, pushing its total takedowns to more than 15.8 million. In addition, more than 2,170 listings for infringing content and devices were removed from online marketplaces and seven piracy-focused Facebook groups were taken down.

But while all of these actions have an effect locally, it is BREIN’s persistence in important legal cases that have influenced the copyright landscape across Europe.

Perhaps the most important case so far is BREIN v Filmspeler, which saw the anti-piracy group go all the way to the European Court of Justice for clarification on the law surrounding so-called “fully loaded” set-top boxes.

In a ruling earlier this year, the ECJ not only determined that selling such devices is a breach of copyright law, but also that people streaming content from an illicit source are committing an offense. Although the case began in the Netherlands, its effects will now be felt right across Europe, and that is almost completely down to BREIN.

But despite the reach of the ruling, BREIN has already been making good use of the decision locally. Not only has the operator of the Filmspeler site settled with BREIN “for a substantial amount”, but more than 200 sellers of piracy-configured set-top boxes have ceased trading since the ECJ decision. Some of the providers are the subject of further legal action.

Finally, a notable mention must go to BREIN’s determination to have The Pirate Bay blocked in the Netherlands. The battle against ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL has been ongoing for seven years and like the Filmspeler case, required the attention of the European Court of Justice. While it’s still not over yet, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will eventually rule in BREIN’s favor.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

BREIN Wants to Speed Up Dutch Pirate Bay Blockade

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-wants-to-speed-up-dutch-pirate-bay-blockade-170720/

While website blocking has become a common occurrence in many European countries, it has proven to be a rather cumbersome and slow-moving process in the Netherlands.

Seven years ago, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN went to court to try and force local ISP Ziggo to block The Pirate Bay. Rival ISP XS4ALL later joined in on the action, which is still ongoing.

Initially, the court decided that blocking all subscribers went too far but BREIN wasn’t satisfied and took the case to a full trial, which they won.

Both Ziggo and XS4ALL filed subsequent appeals, arguing that the blockade was ineffective and denied subscribers’ free access to information, an argument which later proved successful.

The case eventually moved to the Supreme Court, which referred some questions to the European Court of Justice. The highest European court ruled that there are no legal obstacles to have a site like The Pirate Bay blocked, and now the ball is back with the Supreme Court again.

BREIN, however, has grown impatient and doesn’t want to wait until the Supreme Court comes to a final decision, which isn’t expected to happen before 2018. To speed things up, the anti-piracy group wants a new preliminary injunction at a lower court.

A new hearing on the Pirate Bay blockade is currently scheduled to take place at a court in The Hague early September, Tweakers reports.

BREIN director Tim Kuik informs TorrentFreak that the preliminary injunction will only be valid until the final verdict is handed down.

“We are requesting a preliminary injunction until the final decision in the procedural trial, now pending before the Dutch Supreme Court. After that, the final blocking decision applies,” Kuik says.

Kuik stresses that its action is supported by the recent EU Court of Justice ruling which clarified that The Pirate Bay facilitates copyright infringement, as well as an earlier ruling from 2014, which confirmed that EU Internet service providers can be required to block access to such sites.

Based on the second ruling, pirate site blockades are warranted if they make it harder for the public to access these sites. This is certainly the case here, according to Kuik, who refers to blockades in thirteen other EU countries.

In addition, the EU court stressed that blocking injunctions must be proportional, so as not to unnecessarily stop subscribers from lawfully accessing information.

Responding to the news, a Ziggo spokesman told Tweakers that BREIN is running ahead of itself. The provider is of the opinion that they have to wait for the Supreme Court to make a final decision before taking any further action.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Half of All Football Fans Have Watched Illegal Streams

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/half-of-all-football-fans-have-watched-illegal-streams-170704/

Being a fan of top-flight football in the UK is an expensive proposition. In 2016, the average price of a season ticket was just shy of £500 a season while watching on TV can cost more than £60 per month.

Of course, there are good reasons for these high prices. Premier League footballers are notoriously highly-paid and with TV rights recently changing hands for more than £5.3bn, money has to be recouped in the most basic of ways – from the fans’ pocket.

While this is a success up to a point, there’s a growing factor upsetting the money men. The rise of online streaming is a thorn in the side of English Premier League, who are having to deal with large numbers of fans obtaining live matches for free via the Internet. But just how many fans are going down this route?

The results of a new survey carried out by the BBC reveal some shocking but perhaps not entirely unexpected results. Carried out online by ComRes between 7 and 15 March among 1,000 fans, it shows that large numbers of fans prefer the free option.

The headline figure is that 36% of football supporters stream Premier League matches online illegally at least once every month, a figure that reduces to just under a quarter (22%) when the frequency is once a week.

However, when fans were asked whether they had ever watched a match through an unofficial online provider, close to half (47%) said they had done so. That’s certainly a worryingly high number for the Premier League.

And if one removes older fans from the equation, things only get worse.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of younger fans aged 18 to 34 say they illegally stream live football matches online at least once a month. Among older fans aged 34 to 54 the figure improves to 33%, dropping to just 13% for the over 55s.

With 29%, the top reason fans gave for streaming content illegally was because “a friend/family member does it and they just watch.” Whether this is fans simply being coy is unclear, but it does suggest that watching football illegally has become a communal pastime, something which can likely be attributed to the rise of set-top boxes running software like Kodi.

Almost a quarter (24%) believe that TV sports packages do not represent good value for money but the only shock here is that the number isn’t higher. It’s certainly possible that many ‘streaming’ fans would never have paid in the first place, so pricing might be less of a factor for them.

Interestingly, 25% of respondents say they stream matches illegally because the quality is good. This is interesting since while illicit streams are both cheap and convenient, quality and reliability isn’t usually high up the checklist. That being said, the BBC research doesn’t differentiate between free streams and cheap IPTV streams, and the latter can indeed rival an official service.

There are also a few interesting revelations when it comes to fans’ opinions on the legality of illicit streaming.

A small 12% of fans think the practice is legal, almost three times less than the number who say it is illegal (34%). Almost three-quarters (32%) don’t know the legal status of streaming from an illicit source.

Following a recent ruling from the European Court of Justice, it is now clear that streaming from an unlicensed source amounts to copyright infringement.

However, enforcing that legislation against people in their own homes would provide similar challenges to prosecuting people who ‘tape’ a friend’s record collection or watch pirate DVDs. It’s just not realistic.

Interestingly, 10% believe it is legal to watch but illegal to upload a stream. That was believed to be the case before the ECJ ruling, but the former has now been clarified.

Uploading streams is very, very much illegal (as is supplying ‘pirate’ boxes) and in the right circumstances could lead to a custodial sentence. However, no regular consumer does this through conventional streaming (through a Kodi-powered device, for example), so it’s a moot point.

A tiny 4% of people believe that unauthorized streaming is not breaking the law but that Sky or BT could still fine them if they found out, which is technically wrong on both counts.

That being said, proving someone watched a stream is extremely difficult and since copyright law in the UK requires that infringers compensate for the losses they’ve caused, any ‘fine’ imposed might only amount to the cost of a match, for example.

Again, the chances of this happening in any way are very unlikely and have certainly never happened to date, even though millions are watching streams via their computers and set-top boxes loaded with Kodi. This is something the Premier League wants to change.

“Fans should know that these pre-loaded boxes enable pirate broadcasts of Premier League football, and other popular content, and are illegal. People who supply them have been jailed or ordered to pay significant financial penalties,” a spokesman told the BBC.

“We are increasingly seeing prominent apps and add-ons being closed down as the law catches up with them, leading to consumers being out of pocket.

“The Premier League will continue to protect its copyright, and the legitimate investment made by its broadcasting partners. Their contribution allows our clubs to develop and acquire players, invest in facilities and support the wider football pyramid and communities – all things that fans enjoy and society benefits from.”

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

200 ‘Pirate’ Media Player Sellers Shut Down After EU Court Ruling

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/200-pirate-media-player-sellers-shut-down-after-eu-court-ruling-170630/

The huge increase in popularity of piracy-configured set-top boxes has been nothing short of amazing over the past 18 months.

According to numerous reports, their use has become somewhat of an epidemic in Europe, prompting concern from anti-piracy organizations across the continent.

One group at the forefront is Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN, who took a case against a seller of ‘pirate’ boxes all the way to the European Court of Justice – and won.

Handed down in April, the decision concluded that selling devices pre-configured for piracy (such as those loaded with Kodi and third-party addons) is illegal under EU law.

While news of the decision was never likely to reach all sellers of ‘pirate’ boxes, those under the impression that sales occupied some kind of gray area were quickly corrected. That resulted in some sellers exiting the market and others changing the way they operate, such as selling boxes blank and expecting users to configure them themselves.

Due to the locality of the original case, sellers in the Netherlands were always likely to feel the impact of the ECJ ruling most initially, particularly with BREIN breathing down their collective necks. That has just been effectively confirmed by the anti-piracy group, with the news that around 200 ‘pirate’ media player sellers have ceased trading since the decision.

“This is a mixture of individuals and companies,” BREIN chief Tim Kuik informs TorrentFreak.

Kuik says that the sales were taking place via dedicated websites, online stores such as Amazon and eBay, plus social platforms including Facebook.

In an indication of how much in demand the devices are, the BREIN chief says that most of the sellers sold nothing else but ‘pirate’ boxes, to sustain a business or bring in some extra cash for the entrepreneurial individual.

Kuik says that 150 out of the 200 entities were contacted directly by BREIN, who advised them to stop what they’re doing to avoid things getting out of hand.

“Typically we send an explanatory letter with a cease and desist undertaking. Everyone gets the opportunity to settle. Most take it,” Kuik says.

Of course, others choose not to comply with BREIN’s demands, so for them, things have the potential to get more expensive and complicated, given the right conditions.

“We have now entered a phase in which willful infringement is assumed and this means no more warnings. If no settlement is reached the case will go to court. We have a couple of court cases under preparation,” Kuik explains.

This could mean a contested court case, which following the ECJ ruling is likely to end badly for anyone selling boxes filled with pirate addons. That being said, settling with BREIN can be expensive too.

“Providers who settle with BREIN pay up to 10,000 euros. Those who continue can count on a multiple of that. There’s a raw deal for those who think they’ll just get a warning. That time is now over.”

For those who ignore BREIN’s overtures and threats of legal action, there’s also the possibility of a case going ahead without them even being there.

“Under certain circumstances, an ex parte court order may be applied for,” Kuik concludes.

While the legality of such devices now seems completely clear in the EU, the market is yet to settle. Given past innovations, it’s more than likely that new avenues will open up to re-test the law to a new breaking point – and beyond.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

The Pirate Bay Isn’t Affected By Adverse Court Rulings – Everyone Else Is

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-isnt-affected-by-adverse-court-rulings-everyone-else-is-170618/

For more than a decade The Pirate Bay has been the world’s most controversial site. Delivering huge quantities of copyrighted content to the masses, the platform is revered and reviled across the copyright spectrum.

Its reputation is one of a defiant Internet swashbuckler, but due to changes in how the site has been run in more recent times, its current philosophy is more difficult to gauge. What has never been in doubt, however, is the site’s original intent to be as provocative as possible.

Through endless publicity stunts, some real, some just for the ‘lulz’, The Pirate Bay managed to attract a massive audience, all while incurring the wrath of every major copyright holder in the world.

Make no mistake, they all queued up to strike back, but every subsequent rightsholder action was met by a Pirate Bay middle finger, two fingers, or chin flick, depending on the mood of the day. This only served to further delight the masses, who happily spread the word while keeping their torrents flowing.

This vicious circle of being targeted by the entertainment industries, mocking them, and then reaping the traffic benefits, developed into the cheapest long-term marketing campaign the Internet had ever seen. But nothing is ever truly for free and there have been consequences.

After taunting Hollywood and the music industry with its refusals to capitulate, endless legal action that the site would have ordinarily been forced to participate in largely took place without The Pirate Bay being present. It doesn’t take a law degree to work out what happened in each and every one of those cases, whatever complex route they took through the legal system. No defense, no win.

For example, the web-blocking phenomenon across the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia was driven by the site’s absolute resilience and although there would clearly have been other scapegoats had The Pirate Bay disappeared, the site was the ideal bogeyman the copyright lobby required to move forward.

Filing blocking lawsuits while bringing hosts, advertisers, and ISPs on board for anti-piracy initiatives were also made easier with the ‘evil’ Pirate Bay still online. Immune from every anti-piracy technique under the sun, the existence of the platform in the face of all onslaughts only strengthened the cases of those arguing for even more drastic measures.

Over a decade, this has meant a significant tightening of the sharing and streaming climate. Without any big legislative changes but plenty of case law against The Pirate Bay, web-blocking is now a walk in the park, ad hoc domain seizures are a fairly regular occurrence, and few companies want to host sharing sites. Advertisers and brands are also hesitant over where they place their ads. It’s a very different world to the one of 10 years ago.

While it would be wrong to attribute every tightening of the noose to the actions of The Pirate Bay, there’s little doubt that the site and its chaotic image played a huge role in where copyright enforcement is today. The platform set out to provoke and succeeded in every way possible, gaining supporters in their millions. It could also be argued it kicked a hole in a hornets’ nest, releasing the hell inside.

But perhaps the site’s most amazing achievement is the way it has managed to stay online, despite all the turmoil.

This week yet another ruling, this time from the powerful European Court of Justice, found that by offering links in the manner it does, The Pirate Bay and other sites are liable for communicating copyright works to the public. Of course, this prompted the usual swathe of articles claiming that this could be the final nail in the site’s coffin.

Wrong.

In common with every ruling, legal defeat, and legislative restriction put in place due to the site’s activities, this week’s decision from the ECJ will have zero effect on the Pirate Bay’s availability. For right or wrong, the site was breaking the law long before this ruling and will continue to do so until it decides otherwise.

What we have instead is a further tightened legal landscape that will have a lasting effect on everything BUT the site, including weaker torrent sites, Internet users, and user-uploaded content sites such as YouTube.

With The Pirate Bay carrying on regardless, that is nothing short of remarkable.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Pirate Bay Ruling is Bad News For Google & YouTube, Experts Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-ruling-is-bad-news-for-google-youtube-experts-says-170615/

After years of legal wrangling, yesterday the European Court of Justice handed down a decision in the case between Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN and ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL.

BREIN had demanded that the ISPs block The Pirate Bay, but both providers dug in their heels, forcing the case through the Supreme Court and eventually the ECJ.

For BREIN, yesterday’s decision will have been worth the wait. Although The Pirate Bay does not provide the content that’s ultimately downloaded and shared by its users, the ECJ said that it plays an important role in how that content is presented.

“Whilst it accepts that the works in question are placed online by the users, the Court highlights the fact that the operators of the platform play an essential role in making those works available,” the Court said.

With that established the all-important matter is whether by providing such a platform, the operators of The Pirate Bay are effectively engaging in a “communication to the public” of copyrighted works. According to the ECJ, that’s indeed the case.

“The Court holds that the making available and management of an online sharing platform must be considered to be an act of communication for the purposes of the directive,” the ECJ said.

Add into the mix that The Pirate Bay generates profit from its activities and there’s a potent case for copyright liability.

While the case was about The Pirate Bay, ECJ rulings tend to have an effect far beyond individual cases. That’s certainly the opinion of Enzo Mazza, chief at Italian anti-piracy group FIMI.

“The ruling will have a major impact on the way that entities like Google operate, because it will expose them to a greater and more direct responsibility,” Mazza told La Repubblica.

“So far, Google has worked against piracy by eliminating illegal content after it gets reported. But that is not enough. It is a fairly ineffective intervention.”

Mazza says that platforms like Google, YouTube, and thousands of similar sites that help to organize and curate user-uploaded content are somewhat similar to The Pirate Bay. In any event, they are not neutral intermediaries, he insists.

The conclusion that the decision is bad for platforms like YouTube is shared by Fulvio Sarzana, a lawyer with Sarzana and Partners, a law firm specializing in Internet and copyright disputes.

“In the ruling, the Court has in fact attributed, for the first time, secondary liability to sharing platforms due to the violation of copyrights carried out by the users of a platform,” Sarzana informs TF.

“This will have consequences for video-sharing platforms and user-generated content sites like YouTube, but it excludes responsibility for platforms that play a purely passive role, without affecting users’ content. This the case with cyberlockers, for example.”

Sarzana says that “unfortunate judgments” like this should be expected, until the approval of a new European copyright law. Enzo Mazza, on the other hand, feels that the copyright reform debate should take account of this ruling when formulating legislation to stop platforms like YouTube exploiting copyright works without an appropriate license.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

ISP Doesn’t Have to Expose Alleged BitTorrent Pirates, Finnish Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-doesnt-have-to-expose-alleged-bittorrent-pirates-finnish-court-rules-170615/

finlandStarting three years ago, copyright holders began sending out thousands of settlement letters to alleged pirates in Finland, a practice often described as copyright trolling.

This week, however, the local Market Court has put the brakes on these efforts, with a rather significant ruling.

In the case in question, filmmakers requested the personal information of hundreds of alleged BitTorrent users from Internet provider DNA. However, after a careful review by a panel of seven judges, the Court decided not to grant the request.

The rightsholders provided a detailed log from a BitTorrent monitoring tool as evidence. While the Court didn’t doubt that the pirated material had been shared, it questioned how significant the infringements were.

The provided list of IP-addresses and timestamps don’t show how much data was shared, or for how long.

The evidence included an overview of the total number of users sharing the same file in a single BitTorrent swarm. However, the fact that thousands of people were sharing the same file says nothing about the significance of individual infringements.

“[T]he applicant has not claimed or provided any explanation that would indicate that the distribution of its work, by an IP address in the application, would have repeatedly occurred or for a longer period of time,” the Market Court writes.

The verdict, first reported by Iltalethi, refers to a recent case in the European Court of Justice, and stressed that the significance of an infringement must be weighed against the defendants’ privacy rights. In this case, the court decided that the evidence doesn’t warrant the exposure of the alleged pirates.

“Since the applicant has not provided sufficient proof of compliance with the conditions set out in Article 60a of the Copyright Act to adoption of an application, the application must be dismissed,” the Market Court writes.

The outcome is a clear victory for the accused BitTorrent users. Time will tell whether rightsholders will adapt their evidence to the ruling, or whether they will test their luck elsewhere. The current ruling can still be appealed.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Streaming Site Operator Jailed For Three Years After Landmark Trial

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/streaming-site-operator-jailed-for-three-years-after-landmark-trial-170516/

Founded more than half a decade ago, Swefilmer grew to become Sweden’s most popular movie and TV show streaming site. It was credited alongside another streaming portal for serving up to 25% of all online video streaming in Sweden.

With this level of prominence, it was only a question of time before authorities stepped in to end the free streaming bonanza. In 2015, that happened when an operator of the site in his early twenties was raided by local police.

This was followed by the arrest of a now 26-year-old Turkish man in Germany, who was accused of receiving donations from users and setting up Swefilmer’s deals with advertisers.

The pair, who had never met in person, appeared at the Varberg District Court in January, together accused of making more than $1.5m from their activities between November 2013 and June 2015.

As the trial progressed, it was clear that the outcome was not likely to be a good one for the men.

Prosecutor Anna Ginner described the operation as being like “organized crime”, with lawyer Henrik Pontén of RightsAlliance claiming that the evidence only represented a small part of the money made by the pair.

From the beginning, it was always claimed that the 26-year-old was the main player behind the site, with the now 23-year-old playing a much smaller role. While the latter received an estimated $4,000 of the proceeds, the former was said to have enriched himself with more than $1.5m in advertising revenue.

The Varberg District Court has now handed down its ruling and it’s particularly bad news for the 26-year-old, who is reported to have led a luxury lifestyle with proceeds from the site.

In a short statement the court confirmed he had been convicted of 1,044 breaches of copyright law and serious money laundering offenses. He was sentenced to serve three years in prison and ordered to forfeit $1.59m. The Court was far more lenient with the younger man.

After being found guilty of four counts of copyright infringement but playing almost no role in the site’s revenue operations, no sentencing for money laundering was handed down. He was instead handed probation and ordered to complete 120 hours of community service, a sentence that was positively affected by his age when the offenses were committed.

It’s worth noting that the sentence received by the 26-year-old goes way beyond the sentences handed down even in the notorious Pirate Bay case, where defendants Fredrik Neij, Peter Sunde and Gottfrid Svartholm received 10 months, 12 months and 8 months respectively.

However, with Henrik Pontén describing the Swefilmer case as being primarily about money laundering, his group is clearly unhappy that copyright offenses aren’t considered serious enough to warrant lengthy sentences in their own right.

“We welcome the judgment, but it is clear that copyright law must be adapted to today’s serious piracy. The penalty for copyright infringement should in itself be enough to deter people from crime,” Pontén says.

“The low level of penalties allows foreign piracy organizations to locate their operations in Sweden. The trend is very worrying.”

An important factor in the case moving forward is that in determining whether infringement had taken place, the Court drew heavily on the GS Media ruling handed down by the European Court of Justice last September.

In that decision, the Court found that linking to copyrighted material is only allowed when there is no intent to profit and when the linker is unaware that the content is infringing.

When there is a profit motive, which there clearly was in the Swefilmer case, operators of a site are expected to carry out the “checks necessary” to ensure that linked works have not been illegally published.

The operators of Swefilmer failed on all counts, so the local court determined that the platform had communicated copyrighted works to the public, in breach of copyright law.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, the 23-year-old expressed relief at his relatively light sentence but noted it may not be over yet.

“I was really happy when the judgment came. The long wait is finally over,” he said.

“RightsAlliance will appeal because they did not receive any compensation for the trial. But the prosecutor is satisfied with the judgment so it is only RightsAlliance who are dissatisfied.”

According to IDG, the lawyer of the 26-year-old believes that his client’s sentence is far too severe, so there may be an appeal in that direction too.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

BREIN ‘Hunts Down’ Pirate Media Player Vendors

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-hunts-down-pirate-media-player-vendors-170512/

A surge of cheap media players, which often use the open source Kodi software, has made it easy for people to stream video from the Internet directly to their TVs.

In some cases vendors add pirate add-ons to these devices, selling these “fully-loaded” boxes through their own stores or marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.

Over the past several years, there has been little enforcement effort on this front. However, this changed a few weeks ago, when the European Court of Justice ruled that selling devices pre-configured to obtain copyright-infringing content is illegal.

The media players themselves can still be sold, and the Kodi software is legal too, but vendors who ship boxes with pirate add-ons could get a letter from rightsholders. The Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN, is particularly active on this front.

The group states that 84 vendors have already halted their sales in response to the European court ruling. Roughly half of these stopped before the ruling was announced, and 44 followed afterwards.

BREIN says that it contacted 51 sellers after the court order and 37 of these did indeed stop. The group also filed complaints against 11 vendors of which one has halted its sales, with six others stopping voluntarily.

Those who continue to offer “fully-loaded” boxes now risk hefty fines, BREIN Director Tim Kuik warns.

“The use of this type of player is causing major damage to the makers and providers of films, series, and sports broadcasts. The progress and settlements are therefore solid and run to tens of thousands of euros and more,” Kuik notes.

“The longer the vendors persist in their offering of illegal media players, the more expensive it becomes for them.”

In addition to online sellers, BREIN says it’s also keeping an eye on offline sales via markets and brick and mortar stores.

“It’s not just about webshops and ordinary stores, market traders will also get their turn. Sellers must realize that this is punishable as a crime. BREIN will ensure that this kind of crime does not pay.”

While there’s little doubt that BREIN’s efforts and threats have an effect, it appears that there are still plenty of vendors who continue to offer “fully loaded” boxes. So the ‘hunt’ is likely to continue for a while.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Hold ISPs Responsible For Piracy After Brexit, Music Biz Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hold-isps-responsible-for-piracy-after-brexit-music-biz-says-170512/

UK Music is an umbrella organization representing music interests in the UK, from artists and composers, through to studios, recording labels and collecting societies.

The group counts many influential bodies as members, including the BPI, PRS for Music, and licensing outfit PPL. No surprise then that it has a keen anti-piracy agenda, much in tune with its member groups.

Yesterday, UK Music published its 2017 manifesto, covering a wide range of topics from regional development, skills and education, to finance and investment. Needless to say, anti-piracy measures feature prominently, with the group urging vigilance during the Brexit process to ensure music gets a good deal.

“Copyright and its enforcement should be a key part of the trade negotiations, ensuring that our trading partners protect not only their respective creative industries but also the interests of the UK music industry,” the group says.

“Maintaining and strengthening the copyright framework is of great importance to the music industry during the Brexit negotiations and beyond.”

When the UK leaves the EU mid-2019, the government proposes to convert all EU law into UK law. According to David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the so-called Great Repeal Bill will provide “clarity and certainty” for businesses and citizens alike.

However, the Bill will also grant power for MPs to change these laws once the UK has left the EU. For UK Music, this should be a time for stability for the music business.

“Withdrawal from the EU does not require substantial changes to the UK copyright framework. This continuity is critical to ensuring confidence amongst music businesses,” the group says.

“There is no evidence of the need for new exceptions to copyright. If this is not accepted by the Government then it would only serve to take away rights and undermine the potential for growth.”

But while stressing the importance of post-Brexit stability for the music industry, UK Music sees no problem with changing the law to impose additional responsibilities on others.

“There were 7.2 billion visits to copyright-infringing stream-ripping websites in 2016, representing a 60% increase in the previous year. Withdrawal from the EU provides an opportunity for the UK to strengthen the enforcement of copyright,” the group says.

That toughening-up of the law should be focused on tech companies, UK Music insists.

“Initiatives should be developed to place responsibility on internet service providers and require them to have a duty of care for copyright protected music,” the group says.

While UK Music has a clear mandate to look after its own interests, it’s likely that service providers would also like the opportunity to enjoy both continuity and stability after the Brexit negotiations are complete. Being held responsible for piracy is unlikely to help them reach that goal.

Nevertheless, UK Musicwill require further support from ISPs, if it is to meet another of its manifesto goals. Currently, several of the UK’s largest providers are cooperating with the industry to send piracy notices to their subscribers. UK Music would like to expand the scheme.

“The Get It Right From A Genuine Site campaign, designed to promote greater copyright understanding online, is also showing evidence of success. With further support it has the potential to broaden its reach,” the organization says.

Finally, UK Music says that Brexit will give the UK an opportunity to put forward “a coherent definition of hyperlinking under copyright law.”

The group doesn’t go into specifics, but it could be argued that the recent GS Media case handled by the European Court of Justice offers all the clarity the UK needs to transfer the decision into local law.

The full manifesto can be downloaded here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Illegal IPTV & VOD Provider Settles With BREIN

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/illegal-iptv-vod-provider-settles-with-brein-170504/

While movies can be obtained from BitTorrent sites and live TV watched on unlicensed streaming portals, the combined experience generally lacks convenience when compared to official services. There is, however, a massive price difference to sweeten the deal.

Illicit IPTV services, on the other hand, nicely fill the middle ground. Providing decent quality streaming TV with VOD services often alongside, they offer superior convenience at bargain basement prices. As a result, these are increasingly being targeted by copyright holders.

IPTV services are prevalent across Europe with many anti-piracy groups trying to mitigate the threat. One such outfit is Netherlands-based BREIN who recently went to court in an effort to shut down an IPTV supplier.

In an ex-parte application dated April 27, 2017, BREIN asked for an immediate injunction to prevent live TV and on-demand streams being offered by the provider. BREIN described the infringement as both “large scale” and “professional”.

According to the anti-piracy outfit, the supplier offered subscriptions costing between 80 euros and 119.95 euros per year, which provided almost 1,800 channels of infringing content.

Included in the package was a VOD service, which offered around 545 HD movies organized into categories including action, comedy, sci-fi, kids and drama. These kinds of services often contain the latest movies, beyond what even Netflix is able to offer.

Since the content provided by the supplier was accessed via a hyperlink (in this case an .M3U file), BREIN cited the recent GS Media decision from the European Court of Justice, which found that there is a communication to the public when illicit content is supplied via a for-profit link.

The anti-piracy group also noted that streams would often be accompanied by corresponding movie posters or DVD covers, which also amounts to copyright infringement according to local case law.

On May 1, 2017, the supplier received the ex parte order, upon which BREIN agreed to enter into a settlement agreement of 10,000 euros plus further potential multiple penalties of the same amount.

“The provider has the obligation to pay a penalty of 10,000 euros for each individual IPTV subscription, individual hyperlink, or day that he acts in violation of the court order and continues with the sale of IPTV subscriptions,” BREIN said in a statement.

While these amounts may sound large, the initial 10,000 euro settlement seems relatively reasonable given the substantial penalties that could be handed down following a successful direct infringement lawsuit.

Of course, if the supplier wants to avoid further penalties, his service needs to come down, something which is likely to infuriate customers that have already paid money up front. BREIN is happy to pile on the pressure in this respect and is encouraging people to be proactive.

“We advise consumers who bought such a media player and / or subscription to retrieve their money from the seller,” says Kuik.

“Once the links are no longer tracked, the boxes and subscriptions stop working. People are getting excited. It’s better to spend your money on legal offerings, so you pay for innovation and creation and you can keep enjoying new content.”

In the meantime, dozens of similar suppliers will move in to fill the gap. Whether once-bitten customers will risk another spend will remain to be seen but the usual advice around IPTV discussion forums is not to commit to long-term subscriptions – they can end in disappointment.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

What Now For ‘Pirate’ Boxes & Streaming Following the ECJ Ruling?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/what-now-for-pirate-boxes-streaming-following-the-ecj-ruling-170429/

On Wednesday, the European Court of Justice handed down its decision in the long-running case between Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN and Filmspeler.nl.

Filmspeler sold Android-type devices with Kodi software installed. However, it augmented otherwise legal setups with third-party addons designed to deliver infringing content to customers.

Filmspeler’s owners felt that its pre-configured devices were legal, but both BREIN and ultimately the ECJ disagreed, with the latter noting that their sale amounted to a “communication to the public” in respect of infringing content.

So what does this decision mean for the sale of so-called “fully-loaded” devices in the EU? In the very short term, probably very little. Longer term, some changes probably lie ahead.

Suppliers

There can be little doubt that one of the first places people turn to for such devices are places like eBay. But despite some recent UK tabloid claims that the auction site had banned their sale, a cursory search today reveals hundreds of listings for devices that are clearly configured for piracy.

Over time – whether due to eBay tightening its policies, more aggressive reporting of infringing listings by rights holders, or increased caution on the part of sellers due to prosecutions – it’s likely that these kinds of blatant ‘pirate’ listings will become much less common. However, sellers will find subtle ways to get their message across, without attracting too much attention.

For instance, people hoping to watch satellite TV without paying for an expensive subscription can head over to eBay and pop the otherwise benign terms “satellite” and “gift” into the search box. Hundreds of listings appear, the majority of which offer a pirate subscription to an illegal card-sharing service. ‘Pirate’ box sellers are likely to employ similar tactics in future.

While sprawling, eBay is relatively easy to police but the same cannot be said of the listings that appear in local classified papers. These ads are often placed by regular people who have nurtured a small cottage industry selling a few boxes per week. These people could find themselves targeted by authorities, but sheer numbers will dictate that most fly under the radar.

For suppliers still intent on shifting volume, safer strategies exist.

Pirate addons? Get ready for a DIY boom

This week’s ECJ ruling has nothing to do with the sale of basic hardware and everything to do with infringing software. In other words, if box suppliers sell devices with little other than an operating system installed, they are not breaking the law. This presents a problem, however.

A typical ‘pirate’ box buyer hasn’t got the knowledge to turn an Android device into a piracy machine, that’s why he bought the thing off eBay in the first instance. This means that these kinds of people will be much less likely to buy if they have to mess around themselves. However, if they only have to click a couple of links to get going, that probably won’t be too much of a problem.

That’s certainly the case with native Android apps such as Showbox, Popcorn Time, Mobdro, and Terrarium TV, which are all installed to a set-top device with a couple of clicks, even by the complete novice. With this in mind, it’s likely that sellers will very gently direct customers to sites offering the software and tutorials, rather than take the risk themselves.

Custom installers for Kodi (such as TVAddons’ Fusion) are also widely available and will no doubt gain further traction if the availability of pre-configured ‘pirate’ boxes is restricted. Expect there to be a lot of innovation in this area, with an emphasis on making this as close to a ‘one-click’ process as possible.

But will users be breaking the law using these setups?

In a word – probably.

Up until this week, it was widely believed that users who merely stream pirated content are not breaking the law. It was a position even held by UK Trading Standards, who have an important prosecution pending against a box seller.

But the ECJ’s decision published on Wednesday appears to have removed all doubt, noting that a “copyright-protected work obtained by streaming from a website belonging to a third party offering that work without the consent of the copyright holder” does not qualify for exemption from reproduction rights.

In other words, streaming copyrighted content from an illicit source is now just as illegal in the EU as downloading from an illicit source. So what does this mean for the average ‘pirate’ box user? In the short term, probably not a great deal.

When a user downloads or streams infringing content, whether that’s from a file-hosting site, streaming portal, or even YouTube, no third parties are legally able to get in the way to monitor what’s going on. The user’s connection is directly communicating with the source, and unlike BitTorrent, there are no easily monitored and potentially risky uploads going on.

So yes, streaming is now apparently confirmed illegal but will remain a hidden offense carried out by dozens of millions of people all around the EU. Even in the face of an ECJ ruling, only their consciences will stand between them and illicit content, whether a box seller installed the addons, or if they did the deed themselves.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Selling Piracy-Configured Media Players is Illegal, EU Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/selling-piracy-configured-media-players-is-illegal-eu-court-rules-170426/

Probably the biggest story in online piracy scene over the past 12 months has been the massive increase in popularity of piracy-configured set-top devices.

Mostly running Android, these devices are often supplied with software such as the neutral Kodi platform augmented with third-party addons, each designed to receive the latest films, TV shows or live sports, with minimum input from the user.

One of perhaps hundreds of sites involved in these sales was Netherlands-based Filmspeler.nl (Movie Player), an online store that found itself targeted by Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN. Filmspeler’s owners felt that its pre-configured devices were legal, arguing that their sale did not amount to a “communication to the public” as determined by the EU Copyright Directive.

In 2015, the Dutch District Court referred the case to the EU Court of Justice. It was asked to consider whether it’s illegal to sell a product (in this case a media player) with pre-installed add-ons containing hyperlinks to websites from where copyrighted works such as movies, TV shows and live broadcasts are made available without copyright holders’ permission.

A year later, Advocate General (AG) Campos Sánchez-Bordona issued his recommendation to the Court.

Describing how Filmspeler owner Mr. Wullems knowingly added infringing add-ons to Kodi devices, with hyperlinks to content published by known ‘pirate’ sites, the AG added that Filmspeler advertised its media players as ways to watch content without paying. This, he said, amounted to a communication to the public and hence copyright infringement.

But while the AG’s opinion was important, it is the EU Court of Justice’s opinion that holds absolute legal weight. After months of deliberation it handed down its decision a few minutes ago and it’s bad news for purveyors of ‘pirate’ devices all around the EU.

In a long and complex ruling, the ECJ said that a media player with pre-installed addons, accessed through structured menus, grants users “direct access to the protected works published without the permission of the copyright owners” and “must be regarded as an act of communication to the public.”

That large numbers of people have bought these players was taken by the Court to mean that there are an “indeterminate number of potential viewers” involving a large number of people (the public).

On the crucial question of whether the copyright works were transmitted to a “new public”, the Court found that the audience for these devices was not something taken into account by the copyright holders when they first gave permission for their works to be distributed.

Referencing the earlier GS Media case, the ECJ placed emphasis on whether links were offered in the knowledge they were infringing and whether the subsequent communication to the public had a profit element.

“It is common ground that the sale of the ‘filmerspeler’ multimedia player was made in full knowledge of the fact that the add-ons containing hyperlinks pre-installed on that player gave access to works published illegally on the internet,” the decision reads.

“In addition, it cannot be disputed that the multimedia player is supplied with a view to making a profit, the price for the multimedia player being paid in particular to obtain direct access to protected works available on streaming websites without the consent of the copyright holders.

“Therefore, it is necessary to hold that the sale of such a multimedia player constitutes a ‘communication to the public’, within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29.”

Having determined that such piracy-configured players can be considered infringing by EU member courts, the ECJ goes on to provide greater clarity on the status of copyrighted content streamed on the Internet without copyright holders’ permission.

The ECJ states that reproduction of content may only be exempt from reproduction rights when it fulfils five conditions:

– When the act is temporary
– When it’s transient or incidental
– When it’s an integral and essential part of a technological process
– When the sole purpose of that process is to enable a transmission in a network between third parties by an intermediary or a lawful use of a work or protected subject matter
– The act has no independent economic significance

Since copyrighted works are obtained from streaming websites without obtaining permission from copyright holders, the above standards are not completely met and no copyright exceptions are available. Streaming copyrighted content from an illicit source can therefore be considered illegal.

The Filmspeler case will now head back to the Dutch court but this decision is likely to echo all around Europe and have a notable and immediate effect on pending cases involving ‘pirate’ boxes and illicit streaming.

Update: The two key points from the decision, as published by the ECJ.

1. The concept of ‘communication to the public’, within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, must be interpreted as covering the sale of a multimedia player, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, on which there are pre-installed add-ons, available on the internet, containing hyperlinks to websites — that are freely accessible to the public — on which copyright-protected works have been made available to the public without the consent of the right holders.

2. Article 5(1) and (5) of Directive 2001/29 must be interpreted as meaning that acts of temporary reproduction, on a multimedia player, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, of a copyright-protected work obtained by streaming from a website belonging to a third party offering that work without the consent of the copyright holder does not satisfy the conditions set out in those provisions.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Pirate Site Operators Caught By Money Trail, Landmark Trial Hears

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-operators-caught-by-money-trail-landmark-trial-hears-170411/

Founded half a decade ago, Swefilmer grew to become Sweden’s most popular movie and TV show streaming site. At one stage, Swefilmer and fellow streaming site Dreamfilm were said to account for 25% of all web TV viewing in Sweden.

In 2015, local man Ola Johansson took to the Internet to reveal that he’d been raided by the police under suspicion of being involved in running the site. In March 2016, a Turkish national was arrested in Germany on a secret European arrest warrant.

After a couple of false starts, one last June and another this January, the case finally got underway yesterday in Sweden.

The pair stand accused of the unlawful distribution of around 1,400 movies, owned by a dozen studios including Warner, Disney and Fox. Investigators tested 67 of the titles and ten had been made available online before their DVD release.

Anti-piracy group Rights Alliance claims that the site generated a lot of money from advertising without paying for the appropriate licenses. On the table are potential convictions for copyright infringement and money laundering.

Follow the money

In common with so many file-sharing related cases, it’s clear that the men in this case were tracked down from traces left online. Those included IP address evidence and money trails from both advertising revenues and site donations.

According to Sveriges Radio who were in court yesterday, police were able to trace two IP addresses used to operate Swefilmer back to Turkey.

In an effort to trace the bank account used by the site to hold funds, the prosecutor then sought assistance from Turkish authorities. After obtaining the name of the 26-year-old, the prosecutor was then able to link that with advertising revenue generated by the site.

Swefilmer also had a PayPal account used to receive donations and payments for VIP memberships. That account was targeted by an investigator from Rights Alliance who donated money via the same method. That allowed the group to launch an investigation with the payment processor.

The PayPal inquiry appears to have been quite fruitful. The receipt from the donation revealed the account name and from there PayPal apparently gave up the email and bank account details connected to the account. These were linked to the 26-year-old by the prosecutor.

Advertising

The site’s connections with its advertisers also proved useful to investigators. The prosecution claimed that Swefilmer received its first payment in 2013 and its last in 2015. The money generated, some $1.5m (14m kronor), was deposited in a bank account operated by the 26-year-old by a Stockholm-based ad company.

The court heard that while the CEO of the advertising company had been questioned in connection with the case, he is not suspected of crimes.

Connecting the site’s operators

While the exact mechanism is unclear, investigators from Rights Alliance managed to find an IP address used by the 22-year-old. This IP was then traced back to his parents’ home in Kungsbacka, Sweden. The same IP address was used to access the man’s Facebook page.

In court, the prosecution read out chat conversations between both men. They revealed that the men knew each other only through chat and that the younger man believed the older was from Russia.

The prosecution’s case is that the 26-year-old was the ring-leader and that his colleague was a minor player. With that in mind, the latter is required to pay back around $4,000, which is the money he earned from the site.

For the older man, the situation is much more serious. The prosecution is seeking all of the money the site made from advertising, a cool $1.5m.

The case was initially set to go ahead last year but was postponed pending a ruling from the European Court of Justice. Last September, the Court determined that it was illegal to link to copyrighted material if profit was being made.

Claes Kennedy, the lawyer for the 22-year-old, insists that his client did nothing wrong. His actions took place before the ECJ’s ruling so should be determined legal, he says.

The case continues.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Germany Approves Draft Law to Protect WiFi Operators From Piracy Liability

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/germany-approves-draft-law-to-protect-wifi-operators-from-piracy-liability-170407/

In most jurisdictions it’s standard practice for those who commit online copyright infringement to be held responsible for their own actions. In Germany, however, the situation is more complex.

Due to a legal concept known as ‘Störerhaftung’ (‘interferer liability’), a third party who played no intentional part in someone else’s infringements can be held responsible for them. This type of liability has raised its head in a number of file-sharing cases where WiFi owners have been considered liable for other people’s piracy.

As a direct result of this precarious legal position, Germany has found itself trailing behind its European neighbors when it comes to providing public Internet hotspots. Some have described the situation as an embarrassment for one of the most advanced countries in the world.

Under pressure and in response to a European Court of Justice opinion on the matter last March, the government eventually decided to rescind liability for open WiFi operators. In September, a full decision from the EU Court of Justice further underlined the position.

Since then the government has been working on changes to local law to bring it into line with EU standards. This Wednesday a third draft presented by Brigitte Zypries, Minister for Economics and Energy, was adopted by the cabinet.

Should the amendments receive parliamentary approval, businesses will be free to offer open WiFi to their customers, without fear of being held liable for their actions. They will also be able to offer truly open WiFi, with no requirement to verify the identities of users or have them log in with a password.

While copyright holders won’t be pleased by the changes, they will still have opportunities to clamp down on infringement. If a certain WiFi location is connected with online piracy, a properly filed complaint will require the operator to bar access to websites connected with the infringement.

How this will work in respect of P2P transfers like BitTorrent will remain to be seen but WiFi operators are likely to be more relaxed blocking domains in their routers than appearing in court charged with copyright infringement.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Streaming ‘Pirate’ Video is Illegal, High Court Judge Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/streaming-pirate-video-is-illegal-high-court-judge-says-170319/

Copyright education has come a long way in recent years, with a much greater proportion of Internet users now aware when their activities might fall foul of the law.

There is no doubt that many still have a problem with the level of freedoms available when it comes to sharing content online without copyright holders’ permission, but an understanding of how that is viewed by the authorities is certainly helpful.

In most areas certainty is available. In many jurisdictions, downloading and then sharing content online using BitTorrent, for example, is considered unlawful distribution, an act punishable by law. But what about those who only consume unauthorized content via online streaming and are not involved in dissemination?

What looks like a straightforward question does not have a straightforward answer. That’s somewhat unfortunate since streaming video is now an extremely popular activity engaged in by millions of Internet users.

Legal experts have gone back and forth on the issue of streaming for years. The idea that people who stream do not make any more than a transient copy of content on their own machine has led some to conclude the activity is either legal or sits in a gray area. That opinion is not shared by rightsholders.

One such example can be found in the case between Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN and Filmspeler.nl, a store which sold “piracy configured” Kodi-type devices. The case was referred to the EU Court of Justice, where several questions were discussed during a hearing late September. One question tackled streaming directly.

“Is it lawful under EU law to temporarily reproduce content through streaming if the content originates from a third-party website where it’s made available without permission?” it asked.

Interestingly, in this case, the European Commission equated streaming to watching, which in its opinion is legal from a viewer perspective. Based on this conclusion the Advocate General is to offer a recommendation, to be followed by a final verdict from the EU Court of Justice sometime in 2017.

With that moment still to arrive and anti-piracy groups still insisting that streaming illegal content is, well, illegal, earlier this month Derbyshire Council Trading Standards in the UK offered its opinion, which essentially supports the position of the EC.

“Accessing premium paid-for content without a subscription is considered by the industry as unlawful access, although streaming something online, rather than downloading a file, is likely to be exempt from copyright laws,” a spokesperson said.

But before streaming pirates begin celebrating too much, a rather influential individual has just thrown his hat, or indeed wig, into the arena.

Mr Justice Arnold has presided over a number of important copyright cases in the UK, including those involving The Pirate Bay and Newzbin2. He hasn’t been asked to rule directly whether users who stream content break the law, but he gave an opinion on the topic as part of the recent injunction application by The Premier League.

Before handing down an order to block pirate streams of Premier League matches, Justice Arnold had to consider whether “the operators and users” of pirate servers infringed the League’s copyrights.

In respect of operators, the decision was straightforward. They have a copy of Premier League content which they distribute unlawfully to the public. It’s an open and shut case dealt with under existing case law, something that cannot be said about user streaming specifically.

Nevertheless, Justice Arnold appears to have reached his decision with ease. The Judge decided that although they do not distribute, users do make unlawful copies of Premier League content, even if they only stream it to a device.

“In the course of streaming the Works, users who access a stream cause their computer, mobile device or set-top box to create copies of the Works in the memory of those devices. In some cases, a substantial part of a Work may be copied in a single frame (for example, a Logo),” the Judge said.

In an earlier case, it was determined that no copyright exists in a live match but The Premier League (FAPL) has now closed that loophole. It now records a copy of a match momentarily before transmission to the public, so it holds a copyright in the same way as a movie or TV show company would over their products.

“[T]he Clean Live Feed for each match is now recorded prior to onward transmission and so the FAPL now claims copyright in those films. In addition, FAPL now claims copyright in new logos and graphics,” the injunction reads.

It’s worth noting that to breach the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, a person needs to copy a “substantial” part of a work, whether that’s a movie, TV show, or indeed a football match. However, despite the transient nature of streaming video to the memory of a viewer’s device, the Judge said that a substantial part of the work would be copied if users stream content in any meaningful way.

“In the case of films of matches, copying of a substantial part is very likely to occur if users stream footage of any appreciable segment of the match,” he wrote.

So what we have here is a conflict of opinion. On the one hand, the European Commission doesn’t have a problem with users streaming under EU law, and on the other, a prominent High Court Judge believes that streaming amounts to illegally copying a substantial part of a copyrighted work into a computer’s memory.

What happens from here isn’t clear, but an opinion from the European Court of Justice is awaited, which should provide greater clarity. In the meantime, consumers of unauthorized streaming content will have to wait, unsure whether they’re breaking the law or not, which is far from ideal.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Filmmakers Take Dutch State to Court Over Lost Piracy Revenue

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/filmmakers-take-dutch-state-court-lost-piracy-revenue-170309/

Like many other countries around the world, downloading music and movies is hugely popular in the Netherlands.

In part, the popularity was facilitated by the fact that downloading pirated music had long been legal under local law.

This tolerant stance towards online piracy changed in 2014 when the European Court of Justice ruled it to be unlawful. As a result, the Dutch Government quickly outlawed unauthorized downloading.

Despite the legislative change piracy rates remain high, much to the frustration of the local entertainment industries. Dutch filmmakers and distributors previously accused the Government of not doing enough to counter piracy, while threatening legal action.

Last year the Dutch Government denied these allegations, noting that the filmmakers could go after downloaders directly if they want to recoup their losses. However, they are not backing down.

On Tuesday a group of film and TV show companies issued a summons announcing their legal action, NRC reports. Through the court they hope to hold the Government liable, and if that’s the case, a separate damages procedure will likely follow.

“The producers could have a good chance,” says lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, who specializes in Internet issues. The lawyer added that the film companies “must be able to demonstrate that they have suffered financial loss.”

Fellow lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet agrees but notes that it might be tricky to calculate the scale of the damages since a pirate download doesn’t directly translate to a lost sale.

In any case, the claimed compensation will be substantial. Last year film industry group VPSO already asked for 1.2 billion euros ($1.27 billion) in damages for piracy losses that were allegedly suffered since 2004.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.