Tag Archives: European Court of Justice

Major Pirate Site Operators’ Sentences Increased on Appeal

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/major-pirate-site-operators-sentences-increased-on-appeal-180330/

With The Pirate Bay the most famous pirate site in Swedish history still in full swing, a lesser known streaming platform started to gain traction more than half a decade ago.

From humble beginnings, Swefilmer eventually grew to become Sweden’s most popular movie and TV show streaming site. At one stage it was credited alongside another streaming portal for serving up to 25% of all online video streaming in Sweden.

But in 2015, everything came crashing down. An operator of the site in his early twenties was raided by local police and arrested. An older Turkish man, who was accused of receiving donations from users and setting up Swefilmer’s deals with advertisers, was later arrested in Germany.

Their activities between November 2013 and June 2015 landed them an appearance before the Varberg District Court last January, where they were accused of making more than $1.5m in advertising revenue from copyright infringement.

The prosecutor described the site as being like “organized crime”. The then 26-year-old was described as the main player behind the site, with the then 23-year-old playing a much smaller role. The latter received an estimated $4,000 of the proceeds, the former was said to have pocketed more than $1.5m.

As expected, things didn’t go well. The older man, who was described as leading a luxury lifestyle, was convicted of 1,044 breaches of copyright law and serious money laundering offenses. He was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to forfeit 14,000,000 SEK (US$1.68m).

Due to his minimal role, the younger man was given probation and ordered to complete 120 hours of community service. Speaking with TorrentFreak at the time, the 23-year-old said he was relieved at the relatively light sentence but noted it may not be over yet.

Indeed, as is often the case with these complex copyright prosecutions, the matter found itself at the Court of Appeal of Western Sweden. On Wednesday its decision was handed down and it’s bad news for both men.

“The Court of Appeal, like the District Court, judges the men for breach of copyright law,” the Court said in a statement.

“They are judged to have made more than 1,400 copyrighted films available through the Swefilmer streaming service, without obtaining permission from copyright holders. One of the men is also convicted of gross money laundering because he received revenues from the criminal activity.”

In respect of the now 27-year-old, the Court decided to hand down a much more severe sentence, extending the term of imprisonment from three to four years.

There was some better news in respect of the amount he has to forfeit to the state, however. The District Court set this amount at 14,000,000 SEK (US$1.68m) but the Court of Appeal reduced it to ‘just’ 4,000,000 SEK (US$482,280).

The younger man’s conditional sentence was upheld but community service was replaced with a fine of 10,000 SEK (US$1,200). Also, along with his accomplice, he must now pay significant damages to a Norwegian plaintiff in the case.

“Both men will jointly pay damages of NOK 2.2 million (US$283,000) together with interest to Nordisk Film A / S for copyright infringement in one of the films posted on the website,” the Court writes in its decision.

But even now, the matter may not be closed. Ansgar Firsching, the older man’s lawyer, told SVT that the case could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

“I have informed my client about the content of the judgment and it is highly likely that he will turn to the Supreme Court,” Firsching said.

It appears that the 27-year-old will argue that at the time of the alleged offenses, merely linking to copyrighted content was not a criminal offense but whether this approach will succeed is seriously up for debate.

While linking was previously considered by some to sit in a legal gray area, the District Court drew heavily on the GS Media ruling handed down by the European Court of Justice in September 2016.

In that case, the EU Court found that those who post links to content they do not know is infringing in a non-commercial environment usually don’t commit infringement. The Swefilmer case doesn’t immediately appear to fit either of those parameters.

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

Vodafone Appeals Decision Forcing it to Block Pirate Streaming Site Kinox

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/vodafone-appeals-decision-forcing-it-to-block-pirate-streaming-site-kinox-180317/

Streaming site Kinox has proven hugely problematic for German authorities and international rightsholders for many years.

Last year, following a three-year manhunt, one of the site’s alleged operators was detained in Kosovo. Despite this and other actions, the site remains online.

Given the profile of the platform and its popularity in Germany, it came as no surprise when Kinox became the guinea pig for site-blocking in the country. Last month following a complaint from local film production and distribution company Constantin Film, a district court in Munich handed down a provisional injunction against Internet provider Vodafone.

In common with many similar cases across the EU, the Court cited a 2017 ruling from the European Court of Justice which found that local authorities can indeed order blockades of copyright-infringing sites. The Court ordered Vodafone to prevent its subscribers from accessing the site and shortly after the provider complied, but not willingly it seems.

According to local news outlet Golem, last week Vodafone filed an appeal arguing that there is no legal basis in Germany for ordering the blockade.

“As an access provider, Vodafone provides only neutral access to the Internet, and we believe that under current law, Vodafone cannot be required to curb copyright infringement on the Internet,” a Vodafone spokesperson told the publication.

The ISP says that not only does the blocking injunction impact its business operations and network infrastructure, it also violates the rights of its customers. Vodafone believes that blocking measures can only be put in place with an explicit legal basis and argues that no such basis exists under German law.

Noting that blockades are easily bypassed by determined users, the ISP says that such measures can also block lots of legal content, making the whole process ineffective.

“[I]nternet blocking generally runs the risk of blocking non-infringing content, so we do not see it as an effective way to make accessing illegal offers more difficult,” Vodafone’s spokesperson said.

Indeed, it appears that the Kinox blockade is a simple DNS-only effort, which means that people can bypass it by simply changing to an alternative DNS provider such as Google DNS or OpenDNS.

Given all of the above, Vodafone is demanding clarification of the earlier decision from a higher court. Whether or not the final decision will go in the ISP’s favor isn’t clear but there is plenty of case law at the European level that suggests the balance of probabilities lies with Constantin Film.

When asked to balance consumer rights versus copyrights, courts have tended to side with the latter in recent years.

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

ISP Wants EU Court Ruling on Identifying ‘Pirating’ Subscribers

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-wants-eu-court-ruling-on-identifying-pirating-subscribers-180308/

In recent years Internet provider Bahnhof has fought hard to protect the privacy of its subscribers.

The company has been a major opponent of extensive data retention requirements, has launched a free VPN to its users, and vowed to protect subscribers from a looming copyright troll invasion.

The privacy-oriented ISP is doing everything in its power to prevent its Swedish customers from being exposed. It has even refused to hand over customer details in piracy cases when these requests are made by the police.

This stance resulted in a lawsuit in which Bahnhof argued that piracy isn’t a serious enough offense to warrant invading the privacy of its customers. The ISP said that this is in line with European privacy regulations.

Last month, the Administrative Court in Stockholm disagreed with this argument, ordering the ISP to hand over the requested information.

The Court ruled that disclosure of subscriber data to law enforcement agencies does not contravene EU law. It, therefore, ordered the ISP to comply, as the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) had previously recommended.

While the order is a serious setback for Bahnhof, the ISP isn’t letting the case go just yet. It has filed an appeal where it maintains that disclosing details of alleged pirates goes against EU regulations.

Bahnhof says NO

To settle the matter once and for all, Bahnhof has asked the Swedish Appeals Court to refer the case to the EU Court of Justice, to have an EU ruling on the data disclosure issue.

“Bahnhof, therefore, requires the Court of Appeal to obtain a preliminary ruling from EU law so that the European Court of Justice itself can rule on the matter before the Court of First Instance reaches a final position,” Bahnhof writes.

Law enforcement requests for piracy-related data are quite common in Sweden. Bahnhof previously showed that more than a quarter of all police request for subscriber data were for cases related to online file-sharing, trumping crimes such as grooming minors, forgery and fraud.

The ISP is vowing to fight this case to the bitter end. While it has no problem with law enforcement efforts in general, the company doesn’t want to hand over customer data without proper judicial review of a suspected crime.

“This legal process has already been going on for two years and Bahnhof is ready to continue for as long as necessary to achieve justice. Bahnhof will never agree to hand over delicate sensitive customer data without judicial review,” the company concludes.

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

Rightsholders & Belgian ISPs Cooperate to Block 450 ‘Pirate’ Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightsholders-belgian-isps-cooperate-to-block-450-pirate-domains-180303/

While site-blocking on copyright infringement grounds is now widespread, in most countries it requires intervention from the courts.

The process nearly always involves rightsholders grouping together with claims that customers of ISPs are infringing their rights by using ‘pirate’ sites to obtain movies, TV shows and music. As such, it isn’t pirate sites that are targeted by rightsholder legal action, but the ISPs themselves.

Of course, none of the ISPs targeted are breaking the law by providing access to the sites. However, the demands for a blocking injunction frame the ISPs as the wrong-doers, even if there is an underlying understanding that the pirate sites themselves are the issue. For this reason, ISPs around the world have regularly found themselves in an adversarial process.

In the Netherlands, for example, ISPs took their fight to the highest court in Europe to avoid blocking but will almost certainly fail after spending large sums of money. In others, such as the UK where the blocking process has matured, ISPs rarely object to anything, smoothing the process for both them and the rightsholders.

With the knowledge that site-blocking injunctions are likely to be granted by national courts in Europe, rightsholders and ISPs in Belgium now appear to be taking a collaborative approach. Sites have been blocked in the country before but future blocking efforts will be much easier to implement if a case before the Commercial Court of Brussels runs to plan.

It involves the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA) on one side and ISPs Proximus, Telenet and VOO on the other. Rather than squabbling over the details, it appears that the parties will jointly present a list of 33 websites and 450 domain names to a judge, alongside claims that they facilitate the illegal downloading of copyrighted material.

According to a report from L’Echo (paywall), the companies hope to avoid complex and costly legal proceedings by working together and accepting the inevitability of a blocking injunction.

The case has been running for a year already but during a hearing before the Commercial Court of Brussels this week, Benoît Michaux, lawyer for the Belgian Entertainment Association, explained the new approach.

“The European legislator has put in place a mechanism that allows a national judge to request injunctions to order the providers to block access to the websites in question”, Michaux said.

After being presented to the Court, the list of sites and domains will be assessed to determine whether they’re acting illegally. Michaux said that the parties have settled on a common approach and have been able to identify “reasonable measures” that can be ordered by the Court that are consistent with case law of the European Court of Justice.

“This joint request is a little unusual, things are changing, there is a certain maturation of minds, we realize, from all sides, that we must tackle the problem of piracy by blocking measures. There is a common vision on what to do and how to handle piracy,” he said.

While the ISPs are clearly on a path of cooperation, L’Echo reports that concerns over possible breaches of the E-Commerce Directive mean that the ISPs don’t want to take action against the sites themselves without being ordered to do so by the Court.

“The responsible actors want to demonstrate that it is possible to stop piracy through procedural law,” says Benoît Van Asbroeck, lawyer for Proximus and Telenet.

The Court is expected to hand down its judgment within a month. Given the cooperation on all sides, it’s likely to be in favor of mass site-blocking.

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

Dutch Continue to Curb Illegal Downloading But What About Streaming?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dutch-continue-to-curb-illegal-downloading-but-what-about-streaming-180222/

After many years of downloading content with impunity, 2014 brought a culture shock to the Dutch.

Citizens were previously allowed to obtain content for their own use due to a levy on blank media that compensated rightsholders. However, the European Court of Justice found that system to be illegal and the government quickly moved to ban downloading from unauthorized sources.

In the four years that have passed since the ban, the downloading landscape has undergone change. That’s according to a study published by the Consumer Insights panel at Telecompaper which found that while 41% of respondents downloaded movies, TV shows, music and games from unauthorized sources in 2013, the figure had plunged to 27% at the end of 2016. There was a further drop to 24% by the end of 2017.

Of the people who continue to download illegally, men are overrepresented, the study found. While 27% of men obtained media for free during the last year to October 2017, only 21% of women did likewise.

While as many as 150 million people still use P2P technologies such as BitTorrent worldwide, there is a general decline in usage and this is reflected in the report.

In 2013, 18% of Dutch respondents used torrent-like systems to download, a figure that had fallen to 8% in 2016 and 6% last year. Again, male participants were overrepresented, outnumbering women by two to one. However, people appear to be visiting P2P networks less.

“The study showed that people who reported using P2P to download content, have done so on average 37 times a year [to October 2017]. In January of 2017 it was significantly higher, 61 times,” the study notes. P2P usage in November 2015 was rated at 98 instances per year.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the oldest methods of downloading content has maintained its userbase in more recent years. Usenet, otherwise known as the newsgroups, accounted for 9% of downloaders in 2013 but after falling to around 6% of downloaders in 2016, that figure remained unchanged in 2017. Almost five times more men used newsgroups than women.

At the same time as showing a steady trend in terms of users, instances of newsgroup downloading are reportedly up in the latest count. In November 2015, people used the system an average of 98 times per year but in January 2017 that had fallen to 66 times. The latest figures find an average use of 68 times per year.

Drilling down into more obscure systems, 2% of respondents told Telecompaper that they’d used an FTP server during the past year, a method that was entirely dominated by men.

While the Dutch downloading ban in 2013 may have played some part in changing perceptions, the increased availability of legal offers cannot be ignored. Films and TV shows are now widely available on services such as Netflix and Amazon, while music is strongly represented via Spotify, Apple, Deezer and similar platforms.

Indeed, 12% of respondents said they are now downloading less illegally because it’s easier to obtain paid content, that’s versus 11% at the start of 2017 and just 3% in 2013. Interestingly, 14% of respondents this time around said their illegal downloads are down because they have more restrictions on their time.

Another interesting reason given for downloading less is that pirate content is becoming harder to find. In 2013, just 4% cited this as a cause for reduction yet in 2017, this had jumped to 8% of respondents, with blocked sites proving a stumbling block for some users.

On the other hand, 3% of respondents said that since content had become easier to find, they are now downloading more. However, that figure is down from 13% in November 2013 and 6% in January 2017.

But with legal streaming certainly making its mark in the Netherlands, the illegal streaming phenomenon isn’t directly addressed in the report. It is likely that a considerable number of citizens are now using this method to obtain their content fix in a way that’s not as easily trackable as torrent-like systems.

Furthermore, given the plans of local film distribution Dutch FilmWorks to chase and demand cash settlements from BitTorrent users, it’s likely that traffic to streaming sites will only increase in the months to come, at least for those looking to consume TV shows and movies.

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

Court Orders Spanish ISPs to Block Pirate Sites For Hollywood

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-spanish-isps-to-block-pirate-sites-for-hollywood-180216/

Determined to reduce levels of piracy globally, Hollywood has become one of the main proponents of site-blocking on the planet. To date there have been multiple lawsuits in far-flung jurisdictions, with Europe one of the primary targets.

Following complaints from Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner, Spain has become one of the latest targets. According to the studios a pair of sites – HDFull.tv and Repelis.tv – infringe their copyrights on a grand scale and need to be slowed down by preventing users from accessing them.

HDFull is a platform that provides movies and TV shows in both Spanish and English. Almost 60% its traffic comes from Spain and after a huge surge in visitors last July, it’s now the 337th most popular site in the country according to Alexa. Visitors from Mexico, Argentina, United States and Chile make up the rest of its audience.

Repelis.tv is a similar streaming portal specializing in movies, mainly in Spanish. A third of the site’s visitors hail from Mexico with the remainder coming from Argentina, Columbia, Spain and Chile. In common with HDFull, Repelis has been building its visitor numbers quickly since 2017.

The studios demanding more blocks

With a ruling in hand from the European Court of Justice which determined that sites can be blocked on copyright infringement grounds, the studios asked the courts to issue an injunction against several local ISPs including Telefónica, Vodafone, Orange and Xfera. In an order handed down this week, Barcelona Commercial Court No. 6 sided with the studios and ordered the ISPs to begin blocking the sites.

“They damage the legitimate rights of those who own the films and series, which these pages illegally display and with which they profit illegally through the advertising revenues they generate,” a statement from the Spanish Federation of Cinematographic Distributors (FEDECINE) reads.

FEDECINE General director Estela Artacho said that changes in local law have helped to provide the studios with a new way to protect audiovisual content released in Spain.

“Thanks to the latest reform of the Civil Procedure Law, we have in this jurisdiction a new way to exercise different possibilities to protect our commercial film offering,” Artacho said.

“Those of us who are part of this industry work to make culture accessible and offer the best cinematographic experience in the best possible conditions, guaranteeing the continuity of the sector.”

The development was also welcomed by Stan McCoy, president of the Motion Picture Association’s EMEA division, which represents the plaintiffs in the case.

“We have just taken a welcome step which we consider crucial to face the problem of piracy in Spain,” McCoy said.

“These actions are necessary to maintain the sustainability of the creative community both in Spain and throughout Europe. We want to ensure that consumers enjoy the entertainment offer in a safe and secure environment.”

After gaining experience from blockades and subsequent circumvention in other regions, the studios seem better prepared to tackle fallout in Spain. In addition to blocking primary domains, the ruling handed down by the court this week also obliges ISPs to block any other domain, subdomain or IP address whose purpose is to facilitate access to the blocked platforms.

News of Spain’s ‘pirate’ blocks come on the heels of fresh developments in Germany, where this week a court ordered ISP Vodafone to block KinoX, one of the country’s most popular streaming portals.

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

Court Dismisses Playboy’s Copyright Claims Against Boing Boing

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-dismisses-playboys-copyright-claims-against-boing-boing-180215/

Early 2016, Boing Boing co-editor Xeni Jardin published an article in which she linked to an archive of every Playboy centerfold image till then.

“Kind of amazing to see how our standards of hotness, and the art of commercial erotic photography, have changed over time,” Jardin commented.

While the linked material undoubtedly appealed to many readers, Playboy itself took offense to the fact that infringing copies of their work were being shared in public. While Boing Boing didn’t upload or store the images in question, the publisher filed a lawsuit late last year.

The blog’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.

Boing Boing saw things differently. With help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) it filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that hyperlinking is not copyright infringement. If Playboy would’ve had their way, millions of other Internet users could be sued for linking too.

“This case merely has to survive a motion to dismiss to launch a thousand more expensive lawsuits, chilling a broad variety of lawful expression and reporting that merely adopts the common practice of linking to the material that is the subject of the report,” they wrote.

The article in question

Yesterday US District Court Judge Fernando Olguin ruled on the matter. In a brief order, he concluded that an oral argument is not needed and that based on the arguments from both sides, the case should be dismissed with leave.

This effectively means that Playboy’s complaint has been thrown out. However, the company is offered a lifeline and is allowed to submit a new one if they can properly back up their copyright infringement allegations.

“The court will grant defendant’s Motion and dismiss plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint with leave to amend. In preparing the Second Amended Complaint, plaintiff shall carefully evaluate the contentions set forth in defendant’s Motion.

“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 adds.

According to the order, 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.

Playboy has until the end of the month to submit a new complaint and if it chooses not to do so, the case will be thrown out.

The order is clearly a win for Boing Boing, which vehemently opposed Playboy’s claims. While the order is clear, it must come as a surprise to the magazine publisher, which won a similar ‘hyperlinking’ lawsuit in the European Court of Justice last year.

EFF, who defend Boing Boing, is happy with the order and hopes that Playboy will leave it at this.

“From the outset of this lawsuit, we have been puzzled as to why Playboy, once a staunch defender of the First Amendment, would attack a small news and commentary website,” EFF comments

“Today’s decision leaves Playboy with a choice: it can try again with a new complaint or it can leave this lawsuit behind. We don’t believe there’s anything Playboy could add to its complaint that would meet the legal standard. We hope that it will choose not to continue with its misguided suit.”

A copy of US District Court Judge Fernando Olguin’s order is available here (pdf).

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

Pirate Site Blockades Enter Germany With Kinox.to as First Target

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-blockades-enter-germany-with-kinox-to-as-first-target-180213/

Website blocking has become one of the leading anti-piracy mechanisms of recent years.

It is particularly prevalent across Europe, where thousands of sites are blocked by ISPs following court orders.

This week, these blocking efforts also reached Germany. Following a provisional injunction issued by the federal court in Munich, Internet provider Vodafone must block access to the popular streaming portal Kinox.to.

The injunction was issued on behalf of the German film production and distribution company Constantin Film. The company complained that Kinox facilitates copyright infringement and cited a recent order from the European Court of Justice in its defense, Golem reports.

While these types of blockades are common in Europe, they’re a new sight in Germany. Vodafone users who attempt to access the Kinox site will now be welcomed with a blocking notification instead.

“This portal is temporarily unavailable due to a copyright claim,” it reads, translated from German.

Blocked

The Kinox streaming site has been a thorn in the side of German authorities and copyright holders for a long time. Last year, one of the site’s admins was detained in Kosovo after a three-year manhunt, but despite these and other actions, the site remains online.

With the blocking efforts, Constantin Film hopes to make it harder for people to access the site, although this measure is also limited.

For now, it seems to be a simple DNS blockade, which means that people can bypass it relatively easily by switching to a free alternative DNS provider such as Google DNS or OpenDNS.

And there are other workarounds as well, as operators of Kinox point out in a message on their homepage.

“Vodafone User: Use the public Google DNS server: 8.8.8.8, that goes the .TO domain again! Otherwise, a VPN or the free Tor Browser can be used!” they write.

While the measure may not be foolproof, the current order is certainly significant. Previously, all German courts have denied similar blocking orders based on different arguments. This means that more blocking efforts may be on the horizon.

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

Despite Protests, ISP Ordered To Hand Over Pirates’ Details to Police

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/despite-protests-isp-ordered-to-hand-over-pirates-details-to-police-180201/

As large ISPs become more closely aligned with the entertainment industries, the days of providers strongly standing up to blocking and disclosure requests appear to be on the decline. For Swedish ISP Bahnhof, however, customer privacy has become a business model.

In recent years the company has been a major opponent of data retention requirement, launched a free VPN to protect its users’ privacy, and put on a determined front against the threat of copyright trolls.

Back in May 2016, Bahnhof reiterated its stance that it doesn’t hand over the personal details of alleged pirates to anyone, not even the police. This, despite the fact that the greatest number of disclosure requests from the authorities relate to copyright infringement.

Bahnhof insisted that European privacy regulations mean that it only has to hand over information to the police if the complaint relates to a serious crime. But that went against a recommendation from the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS).

Now, however, the battle to protect customer privacy has received a significant setback after the Administrative Court in Stockholm found that Swedish provisions on disclosure of subscription data to law enforcement agencies do not contravene EU law.

“PTS asked Bahnhof to provide information on subscribers to law enforcement agencies. Bahnhof appealed against the order, claiming that the Swedish rules on disclosure of subscription information are incompatible with EU law,” the Court said in a statement.

“In support of its view, Bahnhof referred to two rulings of the European Court of Justice. The Administrative Court has held that it is not possible to state that the Swedish rules on law enforcement agencies’ access to subscription data are incompatible with EU law.”

The Court also looked at whether Swedish rules on disclosure of subscriber data meet the requirement of proportionality under EU law. In common with many other copyright-related cases, the Court found that law enforcement’s need to access subscriber data was more important than the individual’s right to privacy.

“In light of this, the Administrative Court has made the assessment that PTS’s decision to impose on Bahnhof a requirement to provide information about subscribers to law enforcement authorities is correct,” the Court adds.

PTS will now be able to instruct Bahnhof to disclose subscriber information in accordance with the provisions of the Electronic Communications Act and the ISP will be required to comply.

But as far as Bahnhof is concerned, the show isn’t over yet.

“We believe the sentence is incorrect, but it is also difficult to take PTS seriously when they can not even interpret the laws behind the decision in a consistent manner. We are of course going to appeal,” the company said in a statement.

To illustrate its point, Bahnhof says that PTS has changed its opinion on the importance of IP addresses in a matter of months. In October 2017, PTS lawyer Staffan Lindmark said he believed that IP addresses are to be regarded as privacy-sensitive data. In January 2018, however, PTS is said to have spoken of the same data in more trivial terms.

“That a supervisory authority pivots so much in its opinions is remarkable,” says Jon Karlung, President of the Bahnhof.

“Bahnhof is not in any way against law enforcement agencies, but we believe that sensitive data should only be released after judicial review and suspected crime.”

Bahnhof says it will save as little data on its customers as it can and IP addresses will be deleted within 24 hours, a practice that has been in place for some time.

In 2016, 27.5% of all disclosure requests sent to Bahnhof were related to online file-sharing, more than any other crime including grooming minors, harassment, sex crimes, forgery, and fraud.

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

T-Mobile Blocks Pirate Sites Then Reports Itself For Possible Net Neutrality Violation

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/t-mobile-blocks-pirate-sites-then-reports-itself-for-possible-net-neutrality-violation-180130/

For the past eight years, Austria has been struggling with the thorny issue of pirate site blocking. Local ISPs have put up quite a fight but site blocking is now a reality, albeit with a certain amount of confusion.

After a dizzying route through the legal system, last November the Supreme Court finally ruled that The Pirate Bay and other “structurally-infringing” sites including 1337x.to and isohunt.to can be blocked, if rightsholders have exhausted all other options.

The Court based its decision on the now-familiar BREIN v Filmspeler and BREIN v Ziggo and XS4All cases that received European Court of Justice rulings last year. However, there is now an additional complication, this time on the net neutrality front.

After being passed in October 2015 and coming into force in April 2016, the Telecom Single Market (TSM) Regulation established the principle of non-discriminatory traffic management in the EU. The regulation still allows for the blocking of copyright-infringing websites but only where supported by a clear administrative or judicial decision. This is where T-Mobile sees a problem.

In addition to blocking sites named specifically by the court, copyright holders also expect the ISP to block related platforms, such as clones and mirrors, that aren’t specified in the same manner.

So, last week, after blocking several obscure Pirate Bay clones such as proxydl.cf, the ISP reported itself to the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR) for a potential net neutrality breach.

“It sounds paradoxical, but this should finally bring legal certainty in a long-standing dispute over pirate sites. T-Mobile Austria has filed with regulatory authority RTR a kind of self-report, after blocking several sites on the basis of a warning by rights holders,” T-Mobile said in a statement.

“The background to the communication to the RTR, through which T-Mobile intends to obtain an assessment by the regulator, is a very unsatisfactory legal situation in which operators have no opportunity to behave in conformity with the law.

“The service provider is forced upon notification by the copyright owner to even judge about possible copyright infringements. At the same time, the provider is violating the principle of net neutrality by setting up a ban.”

T-Mobile says the problem is complicated by rightsholders who, after obtaining a blocking order forcing named ISPs to block named pirate sites (as required under EU law), send similar demands to other ISPs that were not party to court proceedings. The rightsholders also send blocking demands when blocked sites disappear and reappear under a new name, despite those new names not being part of the original order.

According to industry body Internet Service Providers Austria (ISPA), there is a real need for clarification. It’s hoped that T-Mobile reporting itself for a potential net neutrality breach will have the desired effect.

“For more than two years, we have been trying to find a solution with the involved interest groups and the responsible ministry, which on the one hand protects the rights of the artists and on the other hand does not force the providers into the role of a judge,” complains Maximilian Schubert, Secretary General of the ISPA.

“The willingness of the rights holders to compromise had remained within manageable limits. Now they are massively increasing the pressure and demanding costly measures, which the service providers see as punishment for them providing legal security for their customers for many years.”

ISPA hopes that the telecoms regulator will now help to clear up this uncertainty.

“We now hope that the regulator will give a clear answer here. Because from our point of view, the assessment of legality cannot and should not be outsourced to companies,” Schubert concludes.

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

Linking Is Not Copyright Infringement, Boing Boing Tells Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/linking-is-not-copyright-infringement-boing-boing-tells-court-180119/

Late last year Playboy sued the popular blog Boing Boing for publishing an article that linked to an archive of every playmate centerfold till then.

“Kind of amazing to see how our standards of hotness, and the art of commercial erotic photography, have changed over time,” Boing Boing’s Xena Jardin commented.

Playboy, instead, was amazed that infringing copies of their work were being shared in public. While Boing Boing didn’t upload or store the images in question, the publisher took the case to court.

The blog’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.

Boing Boing sees things differently. With help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it has filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that hyperlinking is not copyright infringement.

“This lawsuit is frankly mystifying. Playboy’s theory of liability seems to be that it is illegal to link to material posted by others on the web — an act performed daily by hundreds of millions of users of Facebook and Twitter, and by journalists like the ones in Playboy’s crosshairs here,” they write.

The article in question

The defense points out that Playboy’s complaint fails to state a claim for direct or contributory copyright infringement. In addition, it argues that this type of reporting should be seen as fair use.

“Boing Boing’s reporting and commenting on the Playboy photos is protected by copyright’s fair use doctrine,” EFF Senior Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer says, commenting on the case.

“We’re asking the court to dismiss this deeply flawed lawsuit. Journalists, scientists, researchers, and everyday people on the web have the right to link to material, even copyrighted material, without having to worry about getting sued.”

The lawsuit shares a lot of similarities with the case between Dutch blog GeenStijl and local Playboy publisher Sanoma. That high-profile case went all the way to the European Court of Justice.

The highest European court eventually decided that hyperlinks to infringing works are to be considered a ‘communication to the public,’ and that a commercial publication can indeed be held liable for copyright infringement.

Boing Boing hopes that US Courts will see things differently, or it might be “the end of the web as we know it.”

“The world can’t afford a judgment against us in this case — it would end the web as we know it, threatening everyone who publishes online, from us five weirdos in our basements to multimillion-dollar, globe-spanning publishing empires like Playboy,” Boing Boing writes.

A copy of Boing Boing’s memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss is available here (pdf). The original Playboy complaint can be found here (pdf).

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

Internet Users Warned Over Fake 20th Century Fox Piracy ‘Fines’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/internet-users-warned-over-fake-20th-century-fox-piracy-fines-171220/

Most people who obtain and share large quantities of material online understand that comes with risk, possibly in the form of an ISP-forwarded warning, a letter demanding cash, or even a visit from the police.

While the latter only happens in the rarest of circumstances, warnings are relatively commonplace, especially in the United States where companies like Rightscorp pump them out in their thousands. Letters demanding cash payment, sent by so-called copyright trolls, are less prevalent but these days most people understand the concept of a piracy ‘fine’.

With this level of understanding in the mainstream there are opportunities for scammers, who have periodically tried to extract payments from Internet users who have done nothing wrong. This is currently the case in Germany, where a consumer group is warning of a wave of piracy ‘fines’ being sent out to completely innocent victims.

The emails, which claim to be sent on behalf of 20th Century Fox, allege the recipient has infringed copyright on streaming portal Kinox.to. For this apparent transgression, they demand a payment of more than 375 euros but the whole thing is an elaborate scam.

The 20th Century Fox ‘piracy’ scam

Unlike some fairly primitive previous efforts, however, these emails are actually quite clever.

Citing a genuine ruling from the European Court of Justice which found that streaming content is illegal inside the EU, the cash demand offers up personal information of the user, such as IP addresses, browser, and operating system.

However, instead of obtaining these via an external piracy monitoring system and subsequent court order (as happens with BitTorrent cases), the data is pulled from the user’s machine when a third-party link is clicked.

As highlighted by Tarnkappe, who first noticed the warning, there are other elements to the cash demands that point to an elaborate scam.

Perhaps the biggest tell of all is the complete absence of precise details of the alleged infringement, such as the title of the content supposedly obtained along with a time and date. These are common features of all genuine settlement demands so any that fail to mention content should be treated with caution.

“Do not pay. It is rip off. Report to the police,” the local consumer group warns.

Interestingly, warning recipients are advised by the scammers to pay their ‘fine’ directly to a bank account in the United Kingdom. Hopefully it will have been shut down by now but it’s worth mentioning that people should avoid direct bank transfers with anyone they don’t trust.

If any payment must be made, credit cards are a much safer option but in the case of wannabe trolls, they’re best ignored until they appear with proper proof backed up by credible legal documentation. Even then, people should consider putting up a fight, if they’re being unfairly treated.

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

Dutch Film Distributor Wins Right To Chase Pirates, Store Data For 5 Years

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dutch-film-distributor-wins-right-to-chase-pirates-store-data-for-5-years-171208/

For many years, Dutch Internet users were allowed to download copyrighted content without reprisals, 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. Almost immediately, the government announced a downloading ban.

In March 2016, anti-piracy outfit BREIN followed up by obtaining permission from the Dutch Data Protection Authority to track and store the personal data of alleged BitTorrent pirates. This year, movie distributor Dutch FilmWorks (DFW) made a similar application.

The company said that it would be pursuing alleged pirates to deter future infringement but many suspected that securing cash settlements was its main aim. That was confirmed in August.

“[The letter to alleged pirates] will propose a fee. If someone does not agree [to pay], the organization can start a lawsuit,” said DFW CEO Willem Pruijsserts

“In Germany, this costs between €800 and €1,000, although we find this a bit excessive. But of course it has to be a deterrent, so it will be more than a tenner or two,” he added.

But despite the grand plans, nothing would be possible without first obtaining the necessary permission from the Data Protection Authority. This Wednesday, however, that arrived.

“DFW has given sufficient guarantees for the proper and careful processing of personal data. This means that DFW has been given a green light from the Data Protection Authority to collect personal data, such as IP addresses, from people downloading from illegal sources,” the Authority announced.

Noting that it received feedback from four entities during the six-week consultation process following the publication of its draft decision during the summer, the Data Protection Authority said that further investigations were duly carried out. All input was considered before handing down the final decision.

The Authority said it was satisfied that personal data would be handled correctly and that the information collected and stored would be encrypted and hashed to ensure integrity. Furthermore, data will not be retained for longer than is necessary.

“DFW has stated…that data from users with Dutch IP addresses who were involved in the exchange of a title owned by DFW, but in respect of which there is no intention to follow up on that within three months after receipt, will be destroyed,” the decision reads.

For any cases that are active and haven’t been discarded in the initial three-month period, DFW will be allowed to hold alleged pirates’ data for a maximum of five years, a period that matches the time a company has to file a claim under the Dutch Civil Code.

“When DFW does follow up on a file, DFW carries out further research into the identity of the users of the IP addresses. For this, it is necessary to contact the Internet service providers of the subscribers who used the IP addresses found in the BitTorrent network,” the Authority notes.

According to the decision, once DFW has a person’s details it can take any of several actions, starting with a simple warning or moving up to an amicable cash settlement. Failing that, it might choose to file a full-on court case in which the distributor seeks an injunction against the alleged pirate plus compensation and costs.

Only time will tell what strategy DFW will deploy against alleged pirates but since these schemes aren’t cheap to run, it’s likely that simple warning letters will be seriously outnumbered by demands for cash settlement.

While it seems unlikely that the Data Protection Authority will change its mind at this late stage, it’s decision remains open to appeal. Interested parties have just under six weeks to make their voices heard. Failing that, copyright trolling will hit the Netherlands in the weeks and months to come.

The full decision can be found here (Dutch, pdf) via Tweakers

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EU Court: Cloud-Based TV Recorder Requires Rightsholder Permission

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-court-cloud-based-tv-recorder-requires-rightsholder-permission-171130/

Over the years, many useful devices have come along which enable the public to make copies of copyright works, the VCR (video cassette recorder) being a prime example.

But while many such devices have been consumed by history, their modern equivalents still pose tricky questions for copyright law. One such service is VCAST, which markets itself as a Video Cloud Recorder. It functions in a notionally similar way to its older cousin but substitutes cassette storage for that in the cloud.

VCAST targets the Italian market, allowing users to sign up in order to gain access to more than 50 digital terrestrial TV channels. However, rather than simply watching live, the user can tell VCAST to receive TV shows (via its own antenna system) while recording them to private cloud storage (such as Google Drive) for subsequent viewing over the Internet.

VCAST attracted the negative interests of rightsholders, including Mediaset-owned RTI, who doubted the legality of the service. So, in response, VCAST sued RTI at the Turin Court of First Instance, seeking a judgment confirming the legality of its operations. The company believed that since the recordings are placed in users’ own cloud storage, the Italian private copying exception would apply and rightsholders would be compensated.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the complexity of the case, the Turin Court decided to refer questions to the European Court of Justice. It essentially asked whether the private copying exception is applicable when the copying requires a service like VCAST and whether such a service is allowed to operate without permission from copyright holders.

In September, Advocate General Szpunar published his opinion, concluding that EU law prohibits this kind of service when copyright holders haven’t given their permission. Today, the ECJ handed down its decision, broadly agreeing with Szpunar’s conclusion.

“By today’s judgment, the Court finds that the service provided by VCAST has a dual functionality, consisting in ensuring both the reproduction and the making available of protected works. To the extent that the service offered by VCAST consists in the making available of protected works, it falls within communication to the public,” the ECJ announced.

“In that regard, the Court recalls that, according to the directive, any communication to the public, including the making available of a protected work or subject-matter, requires the rightholder’s consent, given that the right of communication of works to the public should be understood, in a broad sense, as covering any transmission or retransmission of a work to the public by wire or wireless means, including broadcasting.”

The ECJ notes that the original transmission made by RTI was intended for one audience. In turn, the transmission by VCAST was intended for another. In this respect, the subsequent VCAST transmission was made to a “new public”, which means that copyright holder permission is required under EU law.

“Accordingly, such a remote recording service cannot fall within the private copying exception,” the ECJ concludes.

The full text of the judgment can be found here.

The key ruling reads as follows:

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, in particular Article 5(2)(b) thereof, must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which permits a commercial undertaking to provide private individuals with a cloud service for the remote recording of private copies of works protected by copyright, by means of a computer system, by actively involving itself in the recording, without the rightholder’s consent.

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

ACE and CAP Shut Down Aussie Pirate IPTV Operation

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ace-and-cap-shut-down-aussie-pirate-iptv-operation-171128/

Instead of companies like the MPAA, Amazon, Netflix, CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, CBS, Foxtel, and Village Roadshow tackling piracy completely solo, this year they teamed up to form the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

This massive collaboration of 30 companies represents a new front in the fight against piracy, with global players publicly cooperating to tackle the phenomenon in all its forms.

The same is true of CASBAA‘s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), a separate anti-piracy collective which to some extent shares the same members as ACE but with a sharp of focus on Asia.

This morning the groups announced the results of a joint investigation in Australia which targeted a large supplier of illicit IPTV devices. These small set-top boxes, which come in several forms, are often configured to receive programming from unauthorized sources. In this particular case, they came pre-loaded to play pirated movies, television shows, sports programming, plus other content.

The Melbourne-based company targeted by ACE and CAP allegedly sold these devices in Asia for many years. The company demanded AUS$400 (US$305) per IPTV unit and bundled each with a year’s subscription to pirated TV channels and on-demand movies from the US, EU, India and South East Asia markets.

In the past, companies operating in these areas have often been met with overwhelming force including criminal action, but ACE and CAP appear to have reached an agreement with the company and its owner, even going as far as keeping their names out of the press.

In return, the company has agreed to measures which will prevent people who have already invested in these boxes being able to access ACE and CAP content going forward. That is likely to result in a whole bunch of irritated customers.

“The film and television industry has made significant investments to provide audiences with access to creative content how, where, and when they want it,” says ACE spokesperson Zoe Thorogood.

“ACE and CAP members initiated this investigation as part of a comprehensive global approach to protect the legal marketplace for creative content, reduce online piracy, and bolster a creative economy that supports millions of workers. This latest action was part of a series of global actions to address the growth of illegal and unsafe piracy devices and apps.”

Neil Gane, General Manager of the CASBAA Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), also weighed in with what are now becoming industry-standard warnings of losses to content makers and supposed risks to consumers.

“These little black boxes are now beginning to dominate the piracy ecosystem, causing significant damage to all sectors of the content industry, from producers to telecommunication platforms,” Gane said.

“They also pose a risk to consumers who face a well-documented increase in exposure to malware. The surge in availability of these illicit streaming devices is an international issue that requires a coordinated effort between industry and government. This will be the first of many disruption and enforcement initiatives on which CAP, ACE, and other industry associations will be collaborating together.”

In September, TF revealed the secret agreement behind the ACE initiative, noting how the group’s founding members are required to commit $5m each annually to the project. The remaining 21 companies on the coalition’s Executive Committee put in $200,000 each.

While today’s IPTV announcement was very public, ACE has already been flexing its muscles behind the scenes. Earlier this month we reported on several cases where UK-based Kodi addon developers were approached by the anti-piracy group and warned to shut down – or else.

While all complied, each was warned not to reveal the terms of their agreement with ACE. This means that the legal basis for its threats remains shrouded in mystery. That being said, it’s likely that several European Court of Justice decisions earlier in the year played a key role.

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

170 ‘Pirate’ IPTV Vendors Throw in the Towel Facing Legal Pressure

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/170-pirate-iptv-vendors-throw-the-in-the-towel-facing-legal-pressure-171121/

Pirate streaming boxes are all the rage this year. Not just among the dozens of millions of users, they are on top of the anti-piracy agenda as well.

Dubbed Piracy 3.0 by the MPAA, copyright holders are trying their best to curb this worrisome trend. In the Netherlands local anti-piracy group BREIN is leading the charge.

Backed by the major film studios, the organization booked a significant victory earlier this year against Filmspeler. In this case, the European Court of Justice ruled that selling or using devices pre-configured to obtain copyright-infringing content is illegal.

Paired with the earlier GS Media ruling, which held that companies with a for-profit motive can’t knowingly link to copyright-infringing material, this provides a powerful enforcement tool.

With these decisions in hand, BREIN previously pressured hundreds of streaming box vendors to halt sales of hardware with pirate addons, but it didn’t stop there. This week the group also highlighted its successes against vendors of unauthorized IPTV services.

“BREIN has already stopped 170 illegal providers of illegal media players and/or IPTV subscriptions. Even providers that only offer illegal IPTV subscriptions are being dealt with,” BREIN reports.

In addition to shutting down the trade in IPTV services, the anti-piracy group also removed 375 advertisements for such services from various marketplaces.

“This is illegal commerce. If you wait until you are warned, you are too late,” BREIN director Tim Kuik says.

“You can be held personally liable. You can also be charged and criminally prosecuted. Willingly committing commercial copyright infringement can lead to a 82,000 euro fine and 4 years imprisonment,” he adds.

While most pirate IPTV vendors threw in the towel voluntarily, some received an extra incentive. Twenty signed a settlement with BREIN for varying amounts, up to tens of thousands of euros. They all face further penalties if they continue to sell pirate subscriptions.

In some cases, the courts were involved. This includes the recent lawsuit against MovieStreamer, that was ordered to stop its IPTV hyperlinking activities immediately. Failure to do so will result in a 5,000 euro per day fine. In addition, the vendor was also ordered to pay legal costs of 17,527 euros.

While BREIN has booked plenty of successes already, as exampled here, the pirate streaming box problem is far from solved. The anti-piracy group currently has one case pending in court, but more are likely to follow in the near future.

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

Ares Kodi Project Calls it Quits After Hollywood Cease & Desist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ares-kodi-project-calls-it-quits-after-hollywood-cease-desist-171117/

This week has been particularly bad for those involved in the Kodi addon scene. Following cease-and-desist notices from the MPA-led anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, several addon developers and repositories shut down.

With Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner, Netflix, Amazon and Sky TV all lined up for war, the third-party developers had little choice but to quit. One of those affected was the leader of the hugely popular Ares Project, which quietly disappeared mid-week.

The Ares Wizard was an extremely popular and important piece of software which allowed people to switch Kodi builds, install third-party addons, install popular repositories, change system settings, and carry out backups. It’s installed on huge numbers of machines worldwide but it will soon fall into disrepair.

The mighty Ares Wizard in action

“[This week] I was subject to a hand-delivered notice to cease-and-desist from MPA & ACE,” Ares Project leader Tekto informs TorrentFreak.

“Given the notice, we obviously shut down the repo and wizard as requested.”

The news that Ares Project is done and never coming back will be a huge blow to the community. The project just celebrated its second birthday and has grown exponentially since it first arrived on the scene.

“Ares Project started in Oct 2015. Originally it was to be a tool to setup up the video cache on Kodi correctly. However, many ideas were thrown into the pot and it became a wee bit more; such as a wizard to install community provided builds, common addons and few other tweaks and options,” Tekto says.

“For my own part I started blogging earlier that year as part of a longer-term goal to be self-funding. I always disliked seeing begging bowls out to support ‘server’ costs, many of which were cheap £5-10 per month servers that were used to gain £100s in donations.

“The blog, via affiliate links and ads, could and would provide the funds to cover our hosting costs without resorting to begging for money every weekend.”

Intrigued by this first wave of actions by ACE in Europe, TorrentFreak asked for a copy of the MPA/ACE cease-and-desist notice but unfortunately, Tekto flat-out refused. All he would tell us is that he’d agreed not to give out any copies or screenshots and that he was adhering to that 100%.

That only leaves speculation as to what grounds the MPA/ACE cited for closing the project but to be fair, it doesn’t take much thought to find a direct comparison. Earlier this year, in the BREIN v Filmspeler case, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes amounted to illegally communicating copyrighted content to the public.

With that in mind, it doesn’t take much of a leap to see how this ruling could also apply to someone distributing “fully-loaded” Kodi software builds or addons via a website. It had previously been considered a legal gray area, of course, and it was in that space that the Ares team believed it operated. After all, it took ECJ clarification for local courts in the Netherlands to be satisfied with the legal position.

“There was never any question that what we were doing was illegal. We didn’t and never have hosted any content, we always prevented discussions about illegal paid services, and never sold any devices, pre-loaded or otherwise. That used to be enough to occupy the ‘gray’ area which meant we were safe to develop our applications. That changed in 2017 as we were to discover,” Tekto notes.

Up until this week and apparently oblivious to how the earlier ECJ ruling might affect their operation, things had been going extremely well for Ares. In mid-2016, the group moved to its own support forum that attracted 100,000 signed-up members and 300,000 visitors every month.

“This was quite an achievement in terms of viral marketing but ultimately this would become part of our downfall,” Tekto says.

“The recent innovation of the ‘basket driven’ Ares Portal system seems to have triggered the legal move to shut the project down completely. This simple system gave access to hundreds of add-ons. The system removed the need for builds, blogs and YouTubers – you just shopped on the site for addons and then installed them to your device with a simple 6 digit code.”

While Ares and Tekto still didn’t believe they were doing anything illegal (addons were linked, not hosted) it is now pretty clear to them that the previous gray area has been well and truly closed, at least as far as the MPA/ACE alliance is concerned. And with that in mind, the show is over. Done. Finished.

“We are not criminals or malicious hackers, we weren’t even careful about hiding our identities. You couldn’t meet a more ordinary bunch of folks in truth,” he says.

“There was never any question we would close our doors if what we were doing crossed any boundaries of legality. So with the notice served on us, we are closing our doors and removing all our websites and applications. It’s a sad day in many ways, but nobody wants to be facing court or a potential custodial sentence, for what is essentially a hobby.”

Finally, Tekto says that others like him might want to consider their positions carefully, before they too get a knock at the door. In the meantime, he gives thanks to the project’s supporters, who have remained loyal over the past two years.

“It just leaves me to thank our users for their support and step away from the Kodi scene,” he concludes.

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

The Pirate Bay & 1337x Must Be Blocked, Austrian Supreme Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-1337x-must-be-blocked-austrian-supreme-court-rules-171014/

Following a long-running case, in 2015 Austrian ISPs were ordered by the Commercial Court to block The Pirate Bay and other “structurally-infringing” sites including 1337x.to, isohunt.to, and h33t.to.

The decision was welcomed by the music industry, which looked forward to having more sites blocked in due course.

Soon after, local music rights group LSG sent its lawyers after several other large ISPs urging them to follow suit, or else. However, the ISPs dug in and a year later, in May 2016, things began to unravel. The Vienna Higher Regional Court overruled the earlier decision of the Commercial Court, meaning that local ISPs were free to unblock the previously blocked sites.

The Court concluded that ISP blocks are only warranted if copyright holders have exhausted all their options to take action against those actually carrying out the infringement. This decision was welcomed by the Internet Service Providers Austria (ISPA), which described the decision as an important milestone.

The ISPs argued that only torrent files, not the content itself, was available on the portals. They also had a problem with the restriction of access to legitimate content.

“A problem in this context is that the offending pages also have legal content and it is no longer possible to access that if barriers are put in place,” said ISPA Secretary General Maximilian Schubert.

Taking the case to its ultimate conclusion, the music companies appealed to the Supreme Court. Another year on and its decision has just been published and for the rightsholders, who represent 3,000 artists including The Beatles, Justin Bieber, Eric Clapton, Coldplay, David Guetta, Iggy Azalea, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Metallica, George Michael, One Direction, Katy Perry, and Queen, to name a few, it was worth the effort.

The Court looked at whether “the provision and operation of a BitTorrent platform with the purpose of online file sharing [of non-public domain works]” represents a “communication to the public” under the EU Copyright Directive. Citing the now-familiar BREIN v Filmspeler and BREIN v Ziggo and XS4All cases that both received European Court of Justice rulings earlier this year, the Supreme Court concluded it was.

Citing another Dutch case, in which Playboy publisher Sanoma took on the blog GeenStijl.nl, the Court noted that linking to copyrighted content hosted elsewhere also amounted to a “communication to the public”, a situation mirrored on torrent sites like The Pirate Bay.

“The similarity of the technical procedure in this case when compared to BitTorrent platforms lies in the fact that in both cases the operators of the website did not provide any copyrighted works themselves, but merely provided further information on sites where the protected works were available,” the Court notes in its ruling.

In respect of the potential for blocking legitimate content as well as that infringing copyright, the Court turned the ISPs’ own arguments against them somewhat.

The ISPs had previously argued that blocking The Pirate Bay and other sites was pointless since the torrents they host would still be available elsewhere. The Court noted that point and also found that people can easily upload their torrents to sites that aren’t blocked, since there’s plenty of choice.

The ISPA criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling, noting that in future ISPs will still find themselves being held responsible for decisions concerning blocking.

“We do not support illegal content on the Internet in any way, but consider it extremely questionable that the decision on what is illegal and what is not falls to ISPs, instead of a court,” said ISPA Secretary General Maximilian.

“Although we find it positive that a court of last resort has taken the decision, the assessment of the website in the first instance continues to be left to the Internet provider. The Supreme Court’s expansion of the circle of sites that be potentially blocked further complicates this task for the operator and furthers the privatization of law enforcement.

“It is extremely unpleasant that even after more than 10 years of fierce discussion, there is still no compelling legal basis for a court decision on Internet blocking, which puts providers in the role of both judge and hangman.”

Also of interest is ISPA’s stance on how blocking of content fails to solve the underlying issue. When content is blocked, rather than removed, it simply displaces the problem, leaving others to pick up the pieces, the Internet body argues.

“Illegal content is permanently removed from the network by deletion. Everything else is a placebo with extremely dangerous side effects, which can easily be bypassed by both providers and consumers. The only thing that remains is a blocking infrastructure that can be misused for many purposes and, unfortunately, will be used in many places,” Schubert says.

“The current situation, where providers have to block the rightsholders quasi on the spot, if they do not want to engage in a time-consuming and cost-intensive litigation, is really not sustainable so we issue a call to action to the legislature.”

The domains that were listed in the case, many of which are already defunct, are: thepiratebay.se, thepiratebay.gd, thepiratebay.la, thepiratebay.mn, thepiratebay.mu, thepiratebay.sh, thepiratebay.tw, thepiratebay.fm, thepiratebay.ms, thepiratebay.vg, isohunt.to, 1337x.to and h33t.to.

Whether it will be added later is unclear, but the only domain currently used by The Pirate Bay (thepiratebay.org) is not included in the list.

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

‘Pirate’ IPTV Provider Loses Case, Despite Not Offering Content Itself

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-provider-loses-case-despite-not-offering-content-itself-171031/

In 2017, there can be little doubt that streaming is the big piracy engine of the moment. Dubbed Piracy 3.0 by the MPAA, the movement is causing tremendous headaches for rightsholders on a global scale.

One of the interesting things about this phenomenon is the distributed nature of the content on offer. Sourced from thousands of online locations, from traditional file-hosters to Google Drive, the big challenge is to aggregate it all into one place, to make it easy to find. This is often achieved via third-party addons for the legal Kodi software.

One company offering such a service was MovieStreamer.nl in the Netherlands. Via its website MovieStreamer the company offered its Easy Use Interface 2.0, a piece of software that made Kodi easy to use and other streams easy to find for 79 euros. It also sold ‘VIP’ access to thousands of otherwise premium channels for around 20 euros per month.

MovieStreamer Easy Interface 2.0

“Thanks to the unique Easy Use Interface, we have the unique 3-step process,” the company’s marketing read.

“Click tile of choice, activate subtitles, and play! Fully automated and instantly the most optimal settings. Our youngest user is 4 years old and the ‘oldest’ 86 years. Ideal for young and old, beginner and expert.”

Of course, being based in the Netherlands it wasn’t long before MovieStreamer caught the attention of BREIN. The anti-piracy outfit says it tried to get the company to stop offering the illegal product but after getting no joy, took the case to court.

From BREIN’s perspective, the case was cut and dried. MovieStreamer had no right to provide access to the infringing content so it was in breach of copyright law (unauthorized communication to the public) and should stop its activities immediately. MovieStreamer, however, saw things somewhat differently.

At the core of its defense was the claim that did it not provide content itself and was merely a kind of middleman. MovieStreamer said it provided only a referral service in the form of a hyperlink formatted as a shortened URL, which in turn brought together supply and demand.

In effect, MovieStreamer claimed that it was several steps away from any infringement and that only the users themselves could activate the shortener hyperlink and subsequent process (including a corresponding M3U playlist file, which linked to other hyperlinks) to access any pirated content. Due to this disconnect, MovieStreamer said that there was no infringement, for-profit or otherwise.

A judge at the District Court in Utrecht disagreed, ruling that by providing a unique hyperlink to customers which in turn lead to protected works was indeed a “communication to the public” based on the earlier Filmspeler case.

The Court also noted that MovieStreamer knew or indeed ought to have known the illegal nature of the content being linked to, not least since BREIN had already informed them of that fact. Since the company was aware, the for-profit element of the GS Media decision handed down by the European Court of Justice came into play.

In an order handed down October 27, the Court ordered MovieStreamer to stop its IPTV hyperlinking activities immediately, whether via its Kodi Easy Use Interface or other means. Failure to do so will result in a 5,000 euro per day fine, payable to BREIN, up to a maximum of 500,000 euros. MovieStreamer was also ordered to pay legal costs of 17,527 euros.

“Moviestreamer sold a link to illegal content. Then you are required to check if that content is legally on the internet,” BREIN Director Tim Kuik said in a statement.

“You can not claim that you have nothing to do with the content if you sell a link to that content.”

Speaking with Tweakers, MovieStreamer owner Bernhard Ohler said that the packages in question were removed from his website on Saturday night. He also warned that other similar companies could experience the same issues with BREIN.

“With this judgment in hand, BREIN has, of course, a powerful weapon to force them offline,” he said.

Ohler said that the margins on hardware were so small that the IPTV subscriptions were the heart of his company. Contacted by TorrentFreak on what this means for his business, he had just two words.

“The end,” he said.

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

UK ‘Pirate’ Kodi Box Seller Handed a Suspended Prison Sentence

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-pirate-kodi-box-seller-handed-a-suspended-prison-sentence-171021/

After being raided by police and Trading Standards in 2015, Middlesbrough-based shopkeeper Brian ‘Tomo’ Thompson found himself in the spotlight.

Accused of selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes (those with ‘pirate’ addons installed), Thompson continued to protest his innocence.

“All I want to know is whether I am doing anything illegal. I know it’s a gray area but I want it in black and white,” he said last September.

Unlike other cases, where copyright holders took direct action, Thompson was prosecuted by his local council. At the time, he seemed prepared to martyr himself to test the limits of the law.

“This may have to go to the crown court and then it may go all the way to the European court, but I want to make a point with this and I want to make it easier for people to know what is legal and what isn’t,” he said. “I expect it go against me but at least I will know where I stand.”

In an opinion piece not long after this statement, we agreed with Thompson’s sentiment, noting that barring a miracle, the Middlesbrough man would indeed lose his case, probably in short order. But Thompson’s case turned out to be less than straightforward.

Thompson wasn’t charged with straightforward “making available” under the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Acts. If he had, there would’ve been no question that he’d been breaking law. This is due to a European Court of Justice decision in the BREIN v Filmspeler case earlier this year which determined that selling fully loaded boxes in the EU is illegal.

Instead, for reasons best known to the prosecution, ‘Tomo’ stood 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”. It’s a different aspect of copyright law previously applied to cases where encryption has been broken on official products.

“A person commits an offense if he — in the course of a business — sells or lets for hire, any device, product or component which is primarily designed, produced, or adapted for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological measures,” the law reads.

‘Tomo’ in his store

In January this year, Thompson entered his official ‘not guilty’ plea, setting up a potentially fascinating full trial in which we would’ve heard how ‘circumvention of technological measures’ could possibly relate to streaming illicit content from entirely unprotected far-flung sources.

Last month, however, Thompson suddenly had a change of heart, entering guilty pleas against one count of selling and one count of advertising devices for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological measures.

That plea stomped on what could’ve been a really interesting trial, particularly since the Federation Against Copyright Theft’s own lawyer predicted it could be difficult and complex.

As a result, Thompson appeared at Teeside Crown Court on Friday for sentencing. Prosecutor Cameron Crowe said Thompson advertised and sold the ‘pirate’ devices for commercial gain, fully aware that they would be used to access infringing content and premium subscription services.

Crowe said that Thompson made around £40,000 from the devices while potentially costing Sky around £200,000 in lost subscription fees. When Thompson was raided in June 2015, a diary revealed he’d sold 159 devices in the previous four months, sales which generated £17,000 in revenue.

After his arrest, Thompson changed premises and continued to offer the devices for sale on social media.

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Armstrong told the 55-year-old businessman that he’d receive an 18-month prison term, suspended for two years.

“If anyone was under any illusion as to whether such devices as these, fully loaded Kodi boxes, were illegal or not, they can no longer be in any such doubt,” Judge Armstrong told the court, as reported by Gazette Live.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that in all the circumstances an immediate custodial sentence is not called for. But as a warning to others in future, they may not be so lucky.”

Also sentenced Friday was another local seller, Julian Allen, who sold devices to Thompson, among others. He was arrested following raids on his Geeky Kit businesses in 2015 and pleaded guilty this July to using or acquiring criminal property.

But despite making more than £135,000 from selling ‘pirate’ boxes, he too avoided jail, receiving a 21-month prison sentence suspended for two years instead.

While Thompson’s and Allen’s sentences are likely to be portrayed by copyright holders as a landmark moment, the earlier ruling from the European Court of Justice means that selling these kinds of devices for infringing purposes has always been illegal.

Perhaps the big surprise, given the dramatic lead up to both cases, is the relative leniency of their sentences. All that being said, however, a line has been drawn in the sand and other sellers should be aware.

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