Tag Archives: European Court of Justice

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

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

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.

‘Pirate’ EBook Site Refuses Point Blank to Cooperate With BREIN

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-ebook-site-refuses-point-blank-to-cooperate-with-brein-171015/

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN is probably best known for its legal action against The Pirate Bay but the outfit also tackles many other forms of piracy.

A prime example is the case it pursued against a seller of fully-loaded Kodi boxes in the Netherlands. The subsequent landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice will reverberate around Europe for years to come.

Behind the scenes, however, BREIN persistently tries to take much smaller operations offline, and not without success. Earlier this year it revealed it had taken down 231 illegal sites and services includes 84 linking sites, 63 streaming portals, and 34 torrent sites. Some of these shut down completely and others were forced to leave their hosting providers.

Much of this work flies under the radar but some current action, against an eBook site, is now being thrust into the public eye.

For more than five years, EBoek.info (eBook) has serviced Internet users looking to obtain comic books in Dutch. The site informs TorrentFreak it provides a legitimate service, targeted at people who have purchased a hard copy but also want their comics in digital format.

“EBoek.info is a site about comic books in the Dutch language. Besides some general information about the books, people who have legally obtained a hard copy of the books can find a link to an NZB file which enables them to download a digital version of the books they already have,” site representative ‘Zala’ says.

For those out of the loop, NZB files are a bit like Usenet’s version of .torrent files. They contain no copyrighted content themselves but do provide software clients with information on where to find specific content, so it can be downloaded to a user’s machine.

“BREIN claims that this is illegal as it is impossible for us to verify if our visitor is telling the truth [about having purchased a copy],” Zala reveals.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, BREIN chief Tim Kuik says there’s no question that offering downloads like this is illegal.

“It is plain and simple: the site makes links to unauthorized digital copies available to the general public and therefore is infringing copyright. It is distribution of the content without authorization of the rights holder,” Kuik says.

“The unauthorized copies are not private copies. The private copy exception does not apply to this kind of distribution. The private copy has not been made by the owner of the book himself for his own use. Someone else made the digital copy and is making it available to anyone who wants to download it provided he makes the unverified claim that he has a legal copy. This harms the normal exploitation of the
content.”

Zala says that BREIN has been trying to take his site offline for many years but more recently, the platform has utilized the services of Cloudflare, partly as a form of shield. As readers may be aware, a site behind Cloudflare has its originating IP addresses hidden from the public, not to mention BREIN, who values that kind of information. According to the operator, however, BREIN managed to obtain the information from the CDN provider.

“BREIN has tried for years to take our site offline. Recently, however, Cloudflare was so friendly to give them our IP address,” Zala notes.

A text copy of an email reportedly sent by BREIN to EBoek’s web host and seen by TF appears to confirm that Cloudflare handed over the information as suggested. Among other things, the email has BREIN informing the host that “The IP we got back from Cloudflare is XXX.XXX.XX.33.”

This means that BREIN was able to place direct pressure on EBoek.info’s web host, so only time will tell if that bears any fruit for the anti-piracy group. In the meantime, however, EBoek has decided to go public over its battle with BREIN.

“We have received a request from Stichting BREIN via our hosting provider to take EBoek.info offline,” the site informed its users yesterday.

Interestingly, it also appears that BREIN doesn’t appreciate that the operators of EBoek have failed to make their identities publicly known on their platform.

“The site operates anonymously which also is unlawful. Consumer protection requires that the owner/operator of a site identifies himself,” Kuik says.

According to EBoek, the anti-piracy outfit told the site’s web host that as a “commercial online service”, EBoek is required under EU law to display its “correct and complete business information” including names, addresses, and other information. But perhaps unsurprisingly, the site doesn’t want to play ball.

“In my opinion, you are confusing us with Facebook. They are a foreign commercial company with a European branch in Ireland, and therefore are subject to Irish legislation,” Zala says in an open letter to BREIN.

“Eboek.info, on the other hand, is a foreign hobby club with no commercial purpose, whose administrators have no connection with any country in the European Union. As administrators, we follow the laws of our country of residence which do not oblige us to disclose our identity through our website.

“The fact that Eboek is visible in the Netherlands does not just mean that we are going to adapt to Dutch rules, just as we don’t adapt the site to the rules of Saudi Arabia or China or wherever we are available.”

In a further snub to the anti-piracy group, EBoek says that all visitors to the site have to communicate with its operators via its guestbook, which is publicly visible.

“We see no reason to make an exception for Stichting BREIN,” the site notes.

What makes the situation more complex is that EBoek isn’t refusing dialog completely. The site says it doesn’t want to talk to BREIN but will speak to BREIN’s customers – the publishers of the comic books in question – noting that to date no complaints from publishers have ever been received.

While the parties argue about lines of communication, BREIN insists that following this year’s European Court of Justice decision in the GS Media case, a link to a known infringing work represents copyright infringement. In this case, an NZB file – which links to a location on Usenet – would generally fit the bill.

But despite focusing on the Dutch market, the operators of EBoek say the ruling doesn’t apply to them as they’re outside of the ECJ’s jurisdiction and aren’t commercially motivated. Refusing point blank to take their site offline, EBoek’s operators say that BREIN can do its worst, nothing will have much effect.

“[W]hat’s the worst thing that can happen? That our web host hands [BREIN] our address and IP data. In that case, it will turn out that…we are actually far away,” Zala says.

“[In the case the site goes offline], we’ll just put a backup on another server and, in this case, won’t make use of the ‘services’ of Cloudflare, the provider that apparently put BREIN on the right track.”

The question of jurisdiction is indeed an interesting one, particularly given BREIN’s focus in the Netherlands. But Kuik is clear – it is the area where the content is made available that matters.

“The law of the country where the content is made available applies. In this case the EU and amongst others the Netherlands,” Kuik concludes.

To be continued…..

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

Yarrrr! Dutch ISPs Block The Pirate Bay But It’s Bad Timing for Trolls

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/yarrrr-dutch-isps-block-the-pirate-bay-but-its-bad-timing-for-trolls-171005/

While many EU countries have millions of Internet pirates, few have given citizens the freedom to plunder like the Netherlands. For many years, Dutch Internet users actually went about their illegal downloading with government blessing.

Just over three years ago, downloading and copying movies and music for personal use was not punishable by law. Instead, the Dutch compensated rightsholders through a “piracy levy” on writable media, hard drives and electronic devices with storage capacity, including smartphones.

Following a ruling from the European Court of Justice in 2014, however, all that came to an end. Along with uploading (think BitTorrent sharing), downloading was also outlawed.

Around the same time, The Court of The Hague handed down a decision in a long-running case which had previously forced two Dutch ISPs, Ziggo and XS4ALL, to block The Pirate Bay.

Ruling against local anti-piracy outfit BREIN, it was decided that the ISPs wouldn’t have to block The Pirate Bay after all. After a long and tortuous battle, however, the ISPs learned last month that they would have to block the site, pending a decision from the Supreme Court.

On September 22, both ISPs were given 10 business days to prevent subscriber access to the notorious torrent site, or face fines of 2,000 euros per day, up to a maximum of one million euros.

With that time nearly up, yesterday Ziggo broke cover to become the first of the pair to block the site. On a dedicated diversion page, somewhat humorously titled ziggo.nl/yarrr, the ISP explained the situation to now-blocked users.

“You are trying to visit a page of The Pirate Bay. On September 22, the Hague Court obliged us to block access to this site. The pirate flag is thus handled by us. The case is currently at the Supreme Court which judges the basic questions in this case,” the notice reads.

Ziggo Pirate Bay message (translated)

Customers of XS4ALL currently have no problem visiting The Pirate Bay but according to a statement handed to Tweakers by a spokesperson, the blockade will be implemented today.

In addition to the site’s main domains, the injunction will force the ISPs to block 155 URLs and IP addresses in total, a list that has been drawn up by BREIN to include various mirrors, proxies, and alternate access points. XS4All says it will publish a list of all the blocked items on its notification page.

While the re-introduction of a Pirate Bay blockade in the Netherlands is an achievement for BREIN, it’s potentially bad timing for the copyright trolls waiting in the wings to snare Dutch file-sharers.

As recently reported, movie outfit Dutch Filmworks (DFW) is preparing a wave of cash-settlement copyright-trolling letters to mimic those sent by companies elsewhere.

There’s little doubt that users of The Pirate Bay would’ve been DFW’s targets but it seems likely that given the introduction of blockades, many Dutch users will start to educate themselves on the use of VPNs to protect their privacy, or at least become more aware of the risks.

Of course, there will be no real shortage of people who’ll continue to download without protection, but DFW are getting into this game just as it’s likely to get more difficult for them. As more and more sites get blocked (and that is definitely BREIN’s overall plan) the low hanging fruit will sit higher and higher up the tree – and the cash with it.

Like all methods of censorship, site-blocking eventually drives communication underground. While anti-piracy outfits all say blocking is necessary, obfuscation and encryption isn’t welcomed by any of them.

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

EU Proposes Take Down Stay Down Approach to Combat Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-proposes-take-down-stay-down-approach-to-combat-online-piracy-170928/

In recent years, many copyright holders have grown frustrated with pirates copies of their content (re)appearing on hundreds of online platforms.

This problem is not restricted to pirate sites, but also affects other services where users can freely upload content, including Dropbox, Google, YouTube, and Facebook.

In an attempt to streamline these takedown procedures the European Commission published a detailed set of guidelines today. Their communication titled “Tackling Illegal Content Online” includes a comprehensive overview of how illegal content, including piracy, should be dealt with.

The recommendation, of which a non-final copy leaked earlier this month, is non-binding. However, future legislative measures are not ruled out if no significant progress is made.

One of the motivations to release the guidelines is to define clearly what a good takedown policy would look like. A harmonized and coherent takedown approach is currently missing in the EU, the Commission notes.

“A more aligned approach would make the fight against illegal content more effective. It would also benefit the development of the Digital Single Market and reduce the cost of compliance with a multitude of rules for online platforms, including for new entrants,” the recommendation reads.

One of the suggestions that stand out is “proactive” filtering. The Commission recommends that online services should implement measures that can automatically detect and remove suspected illegal content.

“Online platforms should do their utmost to proactively detect, identify and remove illegal content online. The Commission strongly encourages online platforms to use voluntary, proactive measures aimed at the detection and removal of illegal content and to step up cooperation and investment in, and use of, automatic detection technologies.”

This is similar to the much-discussed upload filters and raises the question whether such practice is in line with existing EU law. In the Sabam v Netlog case, the European Court of Justice previously ruled that hosting sites can’t be forced to filter copyrighted content, as this would violate the privacy of users and hinder freedom of information.

Importantly, the Commission emphasizes that when online services explicitly search for pirated material, they won’t lose the benefit of the liability exemption provided for in Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive. In other words, copyright holders can’t hold these services accountable for content that slips through the net.

The recommendation further includes some specific suggestions to make sure that content, once removed, does not reappear. This is the notice-and-stay-down approach copyright holders are lobbying for, which can be addressed by content recognition tools including hash filtering.

“The Commission strongly encourages the further use and development of automatic technologies to prevent the re-appearance of illegal content online,” the document reads, adding that errors should not be overlooked.

“Where automatic tools are used to prevent re-appearance of illegal content a reversibility safeguard should be available for erroneous decisions, and the use and performance of this technology should be made transparent in the platforms’ terms of service.”

Hash-based and other automatic filters are not new of course. Services such as Google Drive and Dropbox already have these in place and YouTube’s Content-ID system also falls into this category.

Another measure to prevent re-uploading of content is to ban frequent offenders. The Commission notes that services should take appropriate measures against such users, which could include the suspension or termination of accounts.

Most of the suggestions come with a recommendation to have sufficient safeguards in place to repair or prevent errors. This includes a counter-notice process as well as regularly published transparency reports. In some cases where context is relevant, it is important to have a human reviewer in the loop.

Finally, the Commission encourages cooperation between online services and so-called “trusted flaggers.” The latter are known representatives of copyright holders who are trusted. As such, their takedown notices can be prioritized.

“Notices from trusted flaggers should be able to be fast-tracked by the platform. This cooperation should provide for mutual information exchange so as to evaluate and improve the removal process over time.”

The proposals go above and beyond current legal requirements. For many larger online services, it might not be too hard to comply with most of the above. But, for smaller services, it could be quite a burden.

European Digital Rights (EDRi) has highlighted some good and bad elements but remains critical.

“The document puts virtually all its focus on internet companies monitoring online communications, in order to remove content that they decide might be illegal. It presents few safeguards for free speech, and little concern for dealing with content that is actually criminal,” EDRi writes.

Google has also been critical of the notice-and-stay-down principle in the past. Copyright counsel Cédric Manara previously outlined several problems, concluding that the system “just won’t work.

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

New UK IP Crime Report Reveals Continued Focus on ‘Pirate’ Kodi Boxes

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-uk-ip-crime-report-reveals-continued-focus-on-pirate-kodi-boxes-170908/

The UK’s Intellectual Property Office has published its annual IP Crime Report, spanning the period 2016 to 2017.

It covers key events in the copyright and trademark arenas and is presented with input from the police and trading standards, plus private entities such as the BPI, Premier League, and Federation Against Copyright Theft, to name a few.

The report begins with an interesting statistic. Despite claims that many millions of UK citizens regularly engage in some kind of infringement, figures from the Ministry of Justice indicate that just 47 people were found guilty of offenses under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act during 2016. That’s down on the 69 found guilty in the previous year.

Despite this low conviction rate, 15% of all internet users aged 12+ are reported to have consumed at least one item of illegal content between March and May 2017. Figures supplied by the Industry Trust for IP indicate that 19% of adults watch content via various IPTV devices – often referred to as set-top, streaming, Android, or Kodi boxes.

“At its cutting edge IP crime is innovative. It exploits technological loopholes before they become apparent. IP crime involves sophisticated hackers, criminal financial experts, international gangs and service delivery networks. Keeping pace with criminal innovation places a burden on IP crime prevention resources,” the report notes.

The report covers a broad range of IP crime, from counterfeit sportswear to foodstuffs, but our focus is obviously on Internet-based infringement. Various contributors cover various aspects of online activity as it affects them, including music industry group BPI.

“The main online piracy threats to the UK recorded music industry at present are from BitTorrent networks, linking/aggregator sites, stream-ripping sites, unauthorized streaming sites and cyberlockers,” the BPI notes.

The BPI’s website blocking efforts have been closely reported, with 63 infringing sites blocked to date via various court orders. However, the BPI reports that more than 700 related URLs, IP addresses, and proxy sites/ proxy aggregators have also been rendered inaccessible as part of the same action.

“Site blocking has proven to be a successful strategy as the longer the blocks are in place, the more effective they are. We have seen traffic to these sites reduce by an average of 70% or more,” the BPI reports.

While prosecutions against music pirates are a fairly rare event in the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Specialist Fraud Division highlights that their most significant prosecution of the past 12 months involved a prolific music uploader.

As first revealed here on TF, Wayne Evans was an uploader not only on KickassTorrents and The Pirate Bay, but also some of his own sites. Known online as OldSkoolScouse, Evans reportedly cost the UK’s Performing Rights Society more than £1m in a single year. He was sentenced in December 2016 to 12 months in prison.

While Evans has been free for some time already, the CPS places particular emphasis on the importance of the case, “since it provided sentencing guidance for the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, where before there was no definitive guideline.”

The CPS says the case was useful on a number of fronts. Despite illegal distribution of content being difficult to investigate and piracy losses proving tricky to quantify, the court found that deterrent sentences are appropriate for the kinds of offenses Evans was accused of.

The CPS notes that various factors affect the severity of such sentences, not least the length of time the unlawful activity has persisted and particularly if it has done so after the service of a cease and desist notice. Other factors include the profit made by defendants and/or the loss caused to copyright holders “so far as it can accurately be calculated.”

Importantly, however, the CPS says that beyond issues of personal mitigation and timely guilty pleas, a jail sentence is probably going to be the outcome for others engaging in this kind of activity in future. That’s something for torrent and streaming site operators and their content uploaders to consider.

“[U]nless the unlawful activity of this kind is very amateur, minor or short-lived, or in the absence of particularly compelling mitigation or other exceptional circumstances, an immediate custodial sentence is likely to be appropriate in cases of illegal distribution of copyright infringing articles,” the CPS concludes.

But while a music-related trial provided the highlight of the year for the CPS, the online infringement world is still dominated by the rise of streaming sites and the now omnipresent “fully-loaded Kodi Box” – set-top devices configured to receive copyright-infringing live TV and VOD.

In the IP Crime Report, the Intellectual Property Office references a former US Secretary of Defense to describe the emergence of the threat.

“The echoes of Donald Rumsfeld’s famous aphorism concerning ‘known knowns’ and ‘known unknowns’ reverberate across our landscape perhaps more than any other. The certainty we all share is that we must be ready to confront both ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’,” the IPO writes.

“Not long ago illegal streaming through Kodi Boxes was an ‘unknown’. Now, this technology updates copyright infringement by empowering TV viewers with the technology they need to subvert copyright law at the flick of a remote control.”

While the set-top box threat has grown in recent times, the report highlights the important legal clarifications that emerged from the BREIN v Filmspeler case, which found itself before the European Court of Justice.

As widely reported, the ECJ determined that the selling of piracy-configured devices amounts to a communication to the public, something which renders their sale illegal. However, in a submission by PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, box sellers are said to cast a keen eye on the legal situation.

“Organised criminals, especially those in the UK who distribute set-top boxes, are aware of recent developments in the law and routinely exploit loopholes in it,” PIPCU reports.

“Given recent judgments on the sale of pre-programmed set-top boxes, it is now unlikely criminals would advertise the devices in a way which is clearly infringing by offering them pre-loaded or ‘fully loaded’ with apps and addons specifically designed to access subscription services for free.”

With sellers beginning to clean up their advertising, it seems likely that detection will become more difficult than when selling was considered a gray area. While that will present its own issues, PIPCU still sees problems on two fronts – a lack of clear legislation and a perception of support for ‘pirate’ devices among the public.

“There is no specific legislation currently in place for the prosecution of end users or sellers of set-top boxes. Indeed, the general public do not see the usage of these devices as potentially breaking the law,” the unit reports.

“PIPCU are currently having to try and ‘shoehorn’ existing legislation to fit the type of criminality being observed, such as conspiracy to defraud (common law) to tackle this problem. Cases are yet to be charged and results will be known by late 2017.”

Whether these prosecutions will be effective remains to be seen, but PIPCU’s comments suggest an air of caution set to a backdrop of box-sellers’ tendency to adapt to legal challenges.

“Due to the complexity of these cases it is difficult to substantiate charges under the Fraud Act (2006). PIPCU have convicted one person under the Serious Crime Act (2015) (encouraging or assisting s11 of the Fraud Act). However, this would not be applicable unless the suspect had made obvious attempts to encourage users to use the boxes to watch subscription only content,” PIPCU notes, adding;

“The selling community is close knit and adapts constantly to allow itself to operate in the gray area where current legislation is unclear and where they feel they can continue to sell ‘under the radar’.”

More generally, pirate sites as a whole are still seen as a threat. As reported last month, the current anti-piracy narrative is that pirate sites represent a danger to their users. As a result, efforts are underway to paint torrent and streaming sites as risky places to visit, with users allegedly exposed to malware and other malicious content. The scare strategy is supported by PIPCU.

“Unlike the purchase of counterfeit physical goods, consumers who buy unlicensed content online are not taking a risk. Faulty copyright doesn’t explode, burn or break. For this reason the message as to why the public should avoid copyright fraud needs to be re-focused.

“A more concerted attempt to push out a message relating to malware on pirate websites, the clear criminality and the links to organized crime of those behind the sites are crucial if public opinion is to be changed,” the unit advises.

But while the changing of attitudes is desirable for pro-copyright entities, PIPCU says that winning over the public may not prove to be an easy battle. It was given a small taste of backlash itself, after taking action against the operator of a pirate site.

“The scale of the problem regarding public opinion of online copyright crime is evidenced by our own experience. After PIPCU executed a warrant against the owner of a streaming website, a tweet about the event (read by 200,000 people) produced a reaction heavily weighted against PIPCU’s legitimate enforcement action,” PIPCU concludes.

In summary, it seems likely that more effort will be expended during the next 12 months to target the set-top box threat, but there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of confidence in existing legislation to tackle all but the most egregious offenders. That being said, a line has now been drawn in the sand – if the public is prepared to respect it.

The full IP Crime Report 2016-2017 is available here (pdf)

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

Mandatory Piracy Filters Could Breach Human Rights, EU Members Warn

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mandatory-piracy-filters-could-breach-human-rights-eu-members-170906/

Last year, the European Commission published its long-awaited proposal to modernize EU copyright law. Among other things, it will require online services to do more to fight piracy.

Specifically, Article 13 of the proposed Copyright Directive requires online services to monitor and filter pirated content, in collaboration with rightsholders.

This means that online services, which deal with large volumes of user-uploaded content, must use fingerprinting or other detection mechanisms to block copyright infringing files, similar to YouTube’s Content-ID system.

The Commission stressed that the changes are needed to support copyright holders. However, many legal scholars, digital activists, and members of the public worry that they will violate the rights of regular Internet users.

They believe that mandatory filters ignore established case law and human rights. This critique is now, in part, backed up by questions from several EU member states.

Authorities in Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland and the Netherlands have recently sent a series of questions to the Council Legal Service, requesting clarification on several issues.

The document (pdf), published by Statewatch, asks whether a mandatory piracy filter is proportionate and compatible with existing law.

“Would the standalone measure/ obligation as currently proposed under Article 13 be compatible with the Charter of Human Rights […] in the light of the jurisprudence of the CJEU that aims to secure a fair balance in the application of competing fundamental rights?

“Are the proposed measures justified and proportionate?” the member states add.

Specifically, the member states suggest that the filters may hinder people’s right to freedom of expression and information, the right to protection of personal data, and freedom to conduct a business.

One of the problems is that such filters work by monitoring the communications of all citizens uploading to platforms, which would go against existing EU law. In the Sabam v Netlog case, the European Court of Justice ruled that hosting sites can’t be forced to filter copyrighted content, as this would violate the privacy of users and hinder freedom of information.

The letter, which was sent on July 25, also stresses that important copyright exceptions, such as parody and the right to quote, are not taken into account.

“The [Commission’s] proposal does not provide for appropriate measures that would enable these users to actually benefit from public interest copyright exceptions. It is important to point out that certain exceptions to copyright, such as e.g. parody or the quotation right are the embodiment in copyright of fundamental rights other than the right to property.”

This is not the first time that member states have responded critically to the proposal. Tweakers notes that the Dutch Government previously stressed that there should be a better balance between the rights of consumers and copyright holders.

The recent letter from the six member states backs up many of the questions that have been asked by activists, scholars and members of the public, including the “Save the Meme” campaign. These critics hope that the proposal will be changed substantially, ideally without mandatory piracy filters, when it’s voted on in the EU Parliament.

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

Police Confiscate 245 ‘Pirate’ Media Players

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/police-confiscate-245-pirate-media-players-170829/

More and more people are starting to use “fully-loaded” set-top boxes to stream video content directly to their TVs.

Although the media players themselves can be used for perfectly legal means, third-party add-ons turn them into pirate machines, providing access to movies, TV-shows and IPTV channels.

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

The hardware can still be sold and media player software such as Kodi is legal too, but vendors who ship boxes with pirate add-ons could get a letter or visit from rightsholders. Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN is particularly active on this front and has convinced hundreds of sellers to clean up shop.

One of these vendors, located in The Hague, recently promised that it would stop offering these boxes. However, BREIN discovered that while the pirate media players disappeared from the online store, they were still sold in the bricks-and-mortar store.

The anti-piracy group obviously wasn’t happy with this and reported the shop owner to the local police, who went in and confiscated 245 “pirate” media players a few days ago.

“We summoned this merchant to stop but, despite his promise to do so, he continued. We have therefore reported it to the police. These players cause great damage because people no longer pay for the movies and series they watch,” BREIN director Tim Kuik says.

It is now up to the authorities to determine if any further action is needed. BREIN expects that the prosecutor’s office will try to settle the case with a fine, but if the vendor refuses to pay it may also lead to a prosecution. At the same time, BREIN also has the option to file a civil case.

Although BREIN’s actions usually don’t result in criminal prosecutions, the anti-piracy group continues to pressure people who are involved in selling and developing these platforms. Ultimately, they hope that this will deter others from getting involved.

Earlier this year the Motion Picture Association described pirate media players as a major threat, dubbing them “Piracy 3.0.” While this threat is far from over, it has definitely become riskier for people to get involved in developing and selling these boxes.

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

Piracy Fines For Dutch Pirates, Starting This Autumn

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-fines-for-dutch-pirates-starting-this-autumn-170828/

In 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled that the “piracy levy”, used in the Netherlands to compensate rightsholders for illicit downloading, was unlawful. In the immediate aftermath, downloading from unauthorized sources was banned.

Three years on and illegal downloading is still considered by rightsholders to be a problem that needs to be brought under control. This means that BitTorrent users are the number one target since their activities also involve uploading, something that most courts consider to be a relatively serious offense.

With that in mind, Dutch film distributor Dutch Filmworks (DFW) is preparing a wave of anti-piracy activity that looks set to mimic the copyright-trolling activities of similar outfits all over the world.

A recent application to the Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens), revealed that DFW wishes to combat “the unlawful dissemination of copyright protected works” by monitoring the activities of BitTorrent users.

“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.

People who are monitored sharing DFW titles (the company says it intends to track people sharing dozens of releases) will get a letter with an offer to settle in advance of being taken to court. Speaking with NOS, DFW CEO Willem Pruijsserts now reveals that the campaign will begin in the autumn.

“[The lettter] will propose a fee,” he says. “If someone does not agree [to pay], the organization can start a lawsuit.”

Quite how much DFW will ask for is not yet clear, but Pruijsserts says the Dutch model will be more reasonable than similar schemes underway in other regions.

“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 said.

In comments to RTLZ, Pruijsserts confirmed ‘fines’ of at least hundreds of euros.

According to documents filed with the Dutch data protection authority, 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.” The company has been named by RTL Z as German company Excipion, which could be linked to the monitoring outfit Tecxipio, which began as Excipio.

In conversation with NOS, Pruijsserts said that “hundreds of thousands” of people watched films like Mechanic: Resurrection without paying. This particular movie is notable for appearing in many piracy cases in the United States. It is one of the titles pursued relentlessly by lawyers acting in concert with notorious copyright-trolling outfit Guardaley.

Perhaps the most crucial element moving forward is whether DFW will be able to get ISPs to cooperate in handing over the personal details of allegedly infringing subscribers. Thus far, ISPs Ziggo and KPN have indicated they won’t do so without a court order, so further legal action will be required for DFW to progress.

When DFW’s application for discovery is heard by the court, it will be interesting to see how far the ISPs dig into the anti-piracy scheme. Finding out more about Guardaley, if the company is indeed involved, would be an intriguing approach, especially given the outfit’s tendency to scurry away (1,2) when coming under intense scrutiny.

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

BREIN Goes After Developers of ‘Pirate’ Kodi Builds

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-goes-after-developers-of-pirate-kodi-builds-170823/

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.

The media players themselves are perfectly legal, and the Kodi software is too, but when these are loaded with pirate add-ons, legal issues arise.

Earlier this year the European Court of Justice ruled that selling or using devices pre-configured to obtain copyright-infringing content is illegal. With this decision in hand, anti-piracy group BREIN has pressured dozens of vendors to halt their sales, but the action hasn’t stopped there.

Aside from going after sellers, BREIN is also targeting people who make “pirate” Kodi builds, which are prepackaged bundles of add-ons.

“We are also going after people who are involved in illegal builds, those with add-ons for unauthorized content,” BREIN director Tim Kuik confirmed to TorrentFreak without highlighting any specific targets.

Thus far, the group has focused on three ‘pirate’ builds and settled with ten people connected to them.

BREIN settlements generally include an agreement not to offer any infringing material in the future. This is also the case here. The developers face a penalty of 500 euros per infringing link per day.

Aside from the Filmspeler (Film Player) judgment of the EU Court of Justice, BREIN’s actions also use the Geenstijl ruling as a basis. This confirmed that merely linking to copyrighted works without permission can be seen as infringement, especially when it’s done with a profit motive.

In addition to targeting developers, BREIN previously announced that it had successfully halted the infringing activities of 200 sellers of ‘pirate’ media players.

Despite BREIN’s efforts, there are still plenty of infringing players, builds, and add-ons circulating in the wild, even on eBay. However, with pressure from various sides, it has become increasingly risky for the people involved, which is a dramatic change compared to a year ago.

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

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.