Nowadays, movie buffs and videophiles find it hard to imagine a good viewing experience without UHD content, but disc rippers and pirates have remained on the sidelines for a long time.
Protected with strong AACS 2.0 encryption, UHD Blu-ray discs have long been one of the last bastions movie pirates had yet to breach.
This year there have been some major developments on this front, as full copies of UHD discs started to leak online. While it remained unclear how these were ripped, it was a definite milestone.
Just a few months ago another breakthrough came when a Russian company released a Windows tool called DeUHD that could rip UHD Blu-ray discs. Again, the method for obtaining the keys was not revealed.
Now there’s another setback for AACS LA, the licensing outfit founded by Warner Bros, Disney, Microsoft, Intel, and others. On various platforms around the Internet, copies of 72 AACS 2.0 keys are being shared.
The first mention we can find was posted a few days ago in a ten-year-old forum thread in the Doom9 forums. Since then it has been replicated a few times, without much fanfare.
The keys in question are confirmed to work and allow people to rip UHD Blu-ray discs of movies with freely available software such as MakeMKV. They are also different from the DeUHD list, so there are more people who know how to get them.
The full list of leaked keys includes movies such as Deadpool, Hancock, Passengers, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and The Martian. Some movies have multiple keys, likely as a result of different disc releases.
The leaked keys are also relevant for another reason. Ten years ago, a hacker leaked the AACS cryptographic key “09 F9” online which prompted the MPAA and AACS LA to issue DMCA takedown requests to sites where it surfaced.
This escalated into a censorship debate when Digg started removing articles that referenced the leak, triggering a massive backlash.
Thus fas the response to the AACS 2.0 leaks has been pretty tame, but it’s still early days. A user who posted the leaked keys on MyCe has already removed them due to possible copyright problems, so it’s definitely still a touchy subject.
The question that remains now is how the hacker managed to secure the keys, and if AACS 2.0 has been permanently breached.
After more than a decade and a half in existence, public pirate sites, services, and apps remain a thorn in the side of entertainment industry groups who are determined to close them down.
That trend continued last week when French anti-piracy group ALPA teamed up with police in the Bordeaux region to raid and arrest the founder and administrator of piracy service ARTV.
According to the anti-piracy group, the ARTV.watch website first appeared during April 2017 but quickly grew to become a significant source of streaming TV piracy. Every month the site had around 150,000 visitors and in less than eight months amassed 800,000 registered users.
“Artv.watch was a public site offering live access to 176 free and paid French TV channels that are members of ALPA: Canal + Group, M6 Group, TF1 Group, France Télévision Group, Paramount, Disney, and FOX. Other thematic and sports channels were broadcast,” an ALPA statement reads.
This significant offering was reportedly lucrative for the site’s operator. While probably best taken with a grain of salt, ALPA estimates the site generated around 3,000 euros per month from advertising revenue. That’s a decent amount for anyone but even more so when one learns that ARTV’s former operator is just 16 years old.
“ARTV.WATCH it’s over. ARTV is now closed for legal reasons. Thank you for your understanding! The site was indeed illegal,” a notice on the site now reads.
“Thank you all for this experience that I have acquired in this project. And thanks to you who have believed in me.”
Closure formalities aside, ARTV’s founder also has a message for anyone else considering launching a similar platform.
“Notice to anyone wanting to do a site of the same kind, I strongly advise against it. On the criminal side, the punishment can go up to three years of imprisonment and a 300,000 euro fine. If [individual] complaints of channels (or productions) are filed against you, it will be more complicated to determine,” ARTV’s owner warns.
ALPA says that in addition to closing down the site, ARTV’s owner also deactivated the site’s Android app, which had been available for download on Google Play. The anti-piracy group adds that this action against IPTV and live streaming was a first in France.
For anyone who speaks French, the 16-year-old has published a video on YouTube talking about his predicament.
Towards the end of the year, movie screeners are sent out to industry insiders who cast their votes for the Oscars and other awards.
It’s a highly anticipated time for pirates who hope to get copies of the latest blockbusters early, which is traditionally what happens.
Last year the action started relatively late. It took until January before the first leak surfaced – Denzel Washington’s Fences –
but more than a dozen made their way online soon after.
Today the first leak of the new screener season started to populate various pirate sites, Louis C.K.’s “I Love You, Daddy.” It was released by the infamous “Hive-CM8” group which also made headlines in previous years.
“I Love You, Daddy” was carefully chosen, according to a message posted in the release notes. Last month distributor The Orchard chose to cancel the film from its schedule after Louis C.K. was accused of sexual misconduct. With uncertainty surrounding the film’s release, “Hive-CM8” decided to get it out.
“We decided to let this one title go out this month, since it never made it to the cinema, and nobody knows if it ever will go to retail at all,” Hive-CM8 write in their NFO.
“Either way their is no perfect time to release it anyway, but we think it would be a waste to let a great Louis C.K. go unwatched and nobody can even see or buy it,” they add.
Last year this stance was reiterated, noting that they would not leak any screeners before Christmas. Today’s release shows that this isn’t a golden rule, but it’s unlikely that they will push any big titles before they’re out in theaters.
“I Love You, Daddy” isn’t going to be seen in theaters anytime soon, but it might see an official release. This past weekend, news broke that Louis C.K. had bought back the rights from The Orchard and must pay back marketing costs, including a payment for the 12,000 screeners that were sent out.
Hive-CM8, meanwhile, suggest that they have more screeners in hand, although their collection isn’t yet complete.
“We are still missing some titles, anyone want to share for the collection? Yes we want to have them all if possible, we are collectors, we don’t want to release them all,” they write.
Finally, the group also has some disappointing news for Star Wars fans who are looking for an early copy of “The Last Jedi.” Hive-CM8 is not going to release it.
“Their will be no starwars from us, sorry wont happen,” they write.
The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.
Earlier this year, the torrent community was hit hard when another major torrent site suddenly shut its doors.
Just a few months after celebrating its tenth anniversary, ExtraTorrent’s operator threw in the towel. While an official explanation was never provided, it’s likely that he was pressed to make this decision.
The ExtraTorrent site was a safe harbor for millions of regular users, who became homeless overnight. But it was more than that. It was also the birth ground of several popular releasers and distribution groups.
ETTV and ETHD turned into well-known brands themselves. While the ET is derived from ExtraTorrent, the groups have shared TV and movie torrents on several other large torrent sites, and they still do. They even have their own site now.
With millions of people sharing their uploads every week, they’ve become icons and heroes to many. But how did this all come to be? We sat down with the team, virtually, to find out more.
“The idea for ettv/ethd was brought up by ExtraTorrent users,” the ETTV team says.
There was demand for a new group that would upload scene releases faster than the original EZTV, which was the dominant TV-torrent distribution group around 2011, when it all started.
“At the time the real EZTV was still active. They released stuff hours after it was released from the scene, leaving sites to wait very long for shows to arrive in public. In no way was ettv intended for competitive purposes. We had a lot of respect for Nova and the original EZTV operators.”
While ETTV is regularly referred to as a “group,” it was a one-person operation initially. Just a guy with a seedbox, grabbing scene releases and posting them on torrent sites.
It didn’t take long before people got wind of the new distribution ‘group,’ and interest for the torrents quickly exploded. This meant that a single seedbox was no longer sufficient, but help was not far away.
“It started off with one operator and a seedbox, but it became popular too fast. That’s when former ExtraTorrent owners stepped in to give ETTV the support and funding it needed to keep the story going.”
One of the earliest ETTV uploads on ExtraTorrent
In addition to the available disk space and bandwidth, the team itself expanded as well. At its height, a handful of people were working on the group. However, when things became more and more automated this number reduced again.
What many people don’t realize is that ETTV and ETHD are mostly run by lines of code. The entire distribution process is automated and requires minimal intervention from the people behind it.
“Ettv/Ethd is a bot, it doesn’t require human attention. It grabs what you tell the script to,” the team tells us.
The bot is set up to grab the latest copies of predefined shows from private servers where the latest scene release are posted. These are transferred to the seedbox and the torrents are then pushed out to the public – on ETTV.tv, but also on The Pirate Bay and elsewhere. Everything is automated.
Even most of the maintenance is taken care of by the ‘bot’ itself. When disk space is running out older content is purged, allowing fresh releases to come through.
“The only persons involve with the bots are the bill payers of our new home ettv.tv. All they do check bot logs to see if it has any errors and correct them,” the team explains.
One problem that couldn’t be easily solved with some code was the shutdown of ExtraTorrent. While the bills for the seedboxes were paid in advance until the end of 2017, the groups had to find a new home.
“The shutdown of ExtraTorrent didn’t affect the bots from running, it just left ettv/ethd homeless and caused fans to lose their way trying to find us. Not many knew where else we uploaded or didn’t like the other sites we uploaded to.”
After a few months had passed it became clear that they were not going anywhere. Quite the contrary, they started their very own site, ETTV.tv, where all the latest releases are published.
In the near future, the team will focus on turning the site into a new home for its followers. Just a few weeks ago it launched a new release “tag,” ETMovies, which specializes in lower resolution films with a smaller file size, for example.
“We recently introduced ETMovies which is basically for SD Movies, other than that the only plan ettv/ethd has is to give a home to the members that suffered from the sudden shut down of ExtraTorrent.”
Just this week, the site also expanded its reach by adding new categories such as music, games, software, and Books, where approved uploaders will publish content.
While they are doing their best to keep the site up and running, it’s not a given that ETTV will be around forever. As long as there are plenty of funds and no concrete legal pressure they might. But if recent history has shown us anything, it’s that there are no guarantees.
“No one is here seeking to be a millionaire, if the traffic pays the bills we keep going, if not then all we can say is (sorry we tried) we will not be the heroes that saved the day.
“Again and again, the troublesome history of torrent sites is clear. It’s a war no site owner can win. If we are ever in danger, we will choose freedom. It’s not like followers can bail you out if the worst were to happen,” the ETTV team concludes.
In early 2014, Popcorn Time turned the consumer end of the piracy world upside down. Utilizing a BitTorrent backend and a beautiful interface, Popcorn Time certainly lived up to its promise of being the Netflix for Pirates. Adopted by millions of users, it soon became a household name.
In the months and years to come, Popcorn Time grabbed hundreds of headlines. However, aside from the app’s success, much of what followed was negative in tone as the entertainment industries struggled to contain this new kid on the block.
Since then, of course, Kodi and its numerous illicit third-party addons have become massive news, stepping over Popcorn Time to become the most talked about and consumer-friendly of piracy tools. In the background, however, other applications have been making steady and indeed somewhat stealthy progress.
One of these applications is Terrarium TV. Built exclusively for the Android platform and equally at home on a phone, tablet, streaming stick or set-top box, this software has gained a cult but significant following. For those out of the loop, it will be the most important piracy app they’ve never heard of, despite its Facebook page alone attracting close to 200,000 members.
In many respects, Terrarium TV resembles Popcorn Time. It has a beautiful Netflix-style interface, pulling movie and TV show artwork and metadata from several sources to make what some consider to be the best all-in-one streaming app for Android, period. While Kodi is no doubt powerful and Popcorn Time has one hell of a reputation, Terrarium TV makes viewing simplicity itself. And it really does cater to everyone.
Terrarium TV – A category for everyone
If people are worried about Popcorn Time due to its BitTorrent-based streaming, Terrarium TV has that covered. Every single stream offered by the app is conjured up from public sources such as file-hosting sites and even GoogleVideo. On the whole, streaming is of an extremely high-quality with dozens of sources offered for most content, whether that’s the latest Hollywood movies, blockbuster TV shows, or decades-old rarities.
The quality is impressive too. While 4K rips are best left to the BitTorrent crowd with bandwidth to spare, Terrarium TV manages to conjure up a bewildering range of content in an impressive array of qualities. HD is commonplace and barely a search goes by without a corresponding source alongside. And with multi-language subtitle and Chromecast support, the icing is placed on top of what is an extremely competent cake.
But despite all the accolades, Terrarium TV has an uncertain future.
Over a week ago TerrariumTV.com – the site from where the application has been seamlessly delivered for some time – suddenly disappeared without trace. There was no announcement on Facebook, no announcement on Twitter. Even the moderators on the fairly active Terrarium TV subreddit seemed to have few ideas as to what was going on.
Theories are numerous but most center around the developer, who’s resident in Asia, going on some kind of hiatus. Why that would require the Terrarium TV website to be taken down isn’t clear. Neither does it explain why the Terrarium TV site Github repo was taken down too.
But alongside the ‘break’ theory is one that legal trouble, either actual or simply the fear of it, is what’s underlying the apparent limbo in which the app now sits. That was confirmed this week by the developer, who told one of the app’s subreddit moderators that he’d be lying low, at least for a while.
“I’ve decided to shut down the official website and maybe soon will also shut down the Github repository hosting the apk files in order to avoid any potential legal issues,” he said.
“There has been no cease and desist letters, no lawyers at the door, no seizing of the website. Ad free is not involved. It has been purely a precautionary measure. I want to take a break for a while (maybe a few weeks) first.”
After a short exchange in the summer, Terrarium TV’s developer didn’t return our recent requests for comment but if he had, we’d have certainly asked him about the future development of the app, framed around the Popcorn Time situation.
Despite many legal attacks, the open source nature of Popcorn Time allowed the project to ‘fork’ in several different directions, with various teams continuing development. Terrarium TV, on the other hand, is closed source meaning that when it’s gone, it’s possibly gone for good.
At the moment it’s still available for download from sources listed in the sidebar of its dedicated subreddit but whether the dev will decide to revisit the project again is unclear at this point. If he does not, it seems likely that the system will degrade over time although at the moment it carries out its tasks automatically, which is impressive in itself.
In the meantime, its hundreds of thousands of users will just have to cross everything – and wait.
More and more people are starting to use Kodi-powered set-top boxes to stream video content to their TVs.
While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons give it a bad reputation.
According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors.
Earlier this year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The Tickbox devices use the Kodi media player and come with instructions on how to add various add-ons.
According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. “TickBox promotes and distributes TickBox TV for infringing use, and that is exactly the result of its use,” they told court this week.
After the complaint was filed in October, Tickbox made some cosmetic changes to the site, removing some allegedly inducing language. The streaming devices are still for sale, however, but not for long if it’s up to the media giants.
This week ACE submitted a request for a preliminary injunction to the court, hoping to stop Tickbox’s sales activities.
“TickBox is intentionally inducing infringement, pure and simple. Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court enter a preliminary injunction that requires TickBox to halt its flagrantly illegal conduct immediately,” they write in their application.
The companies explain that that since Tickbox is causing irreparable harm, all existing devices should be impounded.
“[A]ll TickBox TV devices in the possession of TickBox and all of its officers, directors, agents, servants, and employees, and all persons in active concert or participation or in privity with any of them are to be impounded and shall be retained by Defendant until further order of the Court,” the proposed order reads.
In addition, Tickbox should push out a software update which remove all infringing add-ons from the devices that were previously sold.
“TickBox shall, via software update, remove from all distributed TickBox TV devices all Kodi ‘Themes,’ ‘Builds,’ ‘Addons,’ or any other software that facilitates the infringing public performances of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works.”
Among others, the list of allegedly infringing add-ons and themes includes Spinz, Lodi Black, Stream on Fire, Wookie, Aqua, CMM, Spanish Quasar, Paradox, Covenant, Elysium, UK Turk, Gurzil, Maverick, and Poseidon.
The filing shows that ACE is serious about its efforts to stop the sale of these type of streaming devices. Tickbox has yet to reply to the original complaint or the injunction request.
While this is the first US lawsuit of its kind, the anti-piracy conglomerate has been rather active in recent weeks. The group has successfully pressured several addon developers to quit and has been involved in enforcement actions around the globe.
A copy of the proposed preliminary injunction is available here (pdf).
While many people might believe CrimeStoppers to be an official extension of the police in the UK, the truth is a little more subtle.
CrimeStoppers is a charity that operates a service through which members of the public can report crime anonymously, either using a dedicated phone line or via a website. Callers are not required to give their name, meaning that for those concerned about reprisals or becoming involved in a case for other sensitive reasons, it’s the perfect buffer between them and the authorities.
The people at CrimeStoppers deal with all kinds of crime but perhaps a little surprisingly, they’ve just got involved in the set-top box controversy in the UK.
“Advances in technology have allowed us to enjoy on-screen entertainment in more ways than ever before, with ever increasing amounts of exciting and original content,” the CrimeStoppers campaign begins.
“However, some people are avoiding paying for this content by using modified streaming hardware devices, like a set-top box or stick, in conjunction with software such as illegal apps or add-ons, or illegal mobile apps which allow them to watch new movie releases, TV that hasn’t yet aired, and subscription sports channels for free.”
The campaign has been launched in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office and unnamed “industry partners”. Who these companies are isn’t revealed but given the standard messages being portrayed by the likes of ACE, Premier League and Federation Against Copyright Theft lately, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some or all of them were involved.
Those messages are revealed in a series of four video ads, each taking a different approach towards discouraging the public from using devices loaded with pirate software.
The first video clearly targets the consumer, dispelling the myth that watching pirate video isn’t against the law. It is, that’s not in any doubt, but from the constant tone of the video, one could be forgiven that it’s an extremely serious crime rather than something which is likely to be a civil matter, if anything at all.
It also warns people who are configuring and selling pirate devices that they are breaking the law. Again, this is absolutely true but this activity is clearly several magnitudes more serious than simply viewing. The video blurs the boundaries for what appears to be dramatic effect, however.
Selling and watching is illegal
The second video is all about demonizing the people and groups who may offer set-top boxes to the public.
Instead of portraying the hundreds of “cottage industry” suppliers behind many set-top box sales in the UK, the CrimeStoppers video paints a picture of dark organized crime being the main driver. By buying from these people, the charity warns, criminals are being welcomed in.
“It is illegal. You could also be helping to fund organized crime and bringing it into your community,” the video warns.
Are you funding organized crime?
The third video takes another approach, warning that set-top boxes have few if any parental controls. This could lead to children being exposed to inappropriate content, the charity warns.
“What are your children watching. Does it worry you?” the video asks.
Of course, the same can be said about the Internet, period. Web browsers don’t filter what content children have access to unless parents take pro-active steps to configure special services or software for the purpose.
There’s always the option to supervise children, of course, but Netflix is probably a safer option for those with a preference to stand off. It’s also considerably more expensive, a fact that won’t have escaped users of these devices.
Got kids? Take care….
Finally, video four picks up a theme that’s becoming increasingly common in anti-piracy campaigns – malware and identity theft.
“Why risk having your identity stolen or your bank account or home network hacked. If you access entertainment or sports using dodgy streaming devices or apps, or illegal addons for Kodi, you are increasing the risks,” the ad warns.
Perhaps of most interest is that this entire campaign, which almost certainly has Big Media behind the scenes in advisory and financial capacities, barely mentions the entertainment industries at all.
Indeed, the success of the whole campaign hinges on people worrying about the supposed ill effects of illicit streaming on them personally and then feeling persuaded to inform on suppliers and others involved in the chain.
“Know of someone supplying or promoting these dodgy devices or software? It is illegal. Call us now and help stop crime in your community,” the videos warn.
That CrimeStoppers has taken on this campaign at all is a bit of a head-scratcher, given the bigger crime picture. Struggling with severe budget cuts, police in the UK are already de-prioritizing a number of crimes, leading to something called “screening out”, a process through which victims are given a crime number but no investigation is carried out.
This means that in 2016, 45% of all reported crimes in Greater Manchester weren’t investigated and a staggering 57% of all recorded domestic burglaries weren’t followed up by the police. But it gets worse.
“More than 62pc of criminal damage and arson offenses were not investigated, along with one in three reported shoplifting incidents,” MEN reports.
Given this backdrop, how will police suddenly find the resources to follow up lots of leads from the public and then subsequently prosecute people who sell pirate boxes? Even if they do, will that be at the expense of yet more “screening out” of other public-focused offenses?
No one is saying that selling pirate devices isn’t a crime or at least worthy of being followed up, but is this niche likely to be important to the public when they’re being told that nothing will be done when their homes are emptied by intruders? “NO” says a comment on one of the CrimeStoppers videos on YouTube.
“This crime affects multi-million dollar corporations, I’d rather see tax payers money invested on videos raising awareness of crimes committed against the people rather than the 0.001%,” it concludes.
In recent years, a group of select companies have pressured hundreds of thousands of alleged pirates to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.
These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have also been a common occurrence in the United States for more than half a decade, and still are today.
While copyright holders should be able to take legitimate piracy claims to court, not all cases are as strong as they first appear. Many defendants have brought up flaws, often in relation to the IP-address evidence, but an accused pirate in Oregon takes things up a notch.
Lingfu Zhang, represented by attorney David Madden, has turned the tables on the makers of the film Fathers & Daughters. The man denies having downloaded the movie but also points out that the filmmakers have signed away their online distribution rights.
The issue was brought up in previous months, but the relevant findings were only unsealed this week. They show that the movie company (F&D), through a sales agent, sold the online distribution rights to a third party.
While this is not uncommon in the movie business, it means that they no longer have the right to distribute the movie online, a right Zhang was accused of violating. This is also what his attorney pointed out to the court, asking for a judgment in favor of his client.
“ZHANG denies downloading the movie but Defendant’s current motion for summary judgment challenges a different portion of F&D’s case: Defendant argues that F&D has alienated all of the relevant rights necessary to sue for infringement under the Copyright Act,” Madden writes.
The filmmakers opposed the request and pointed out that they still had some rights. However, this is irrelevant according to the defense, since the distribution rights are not owned by them, but by a company that’s not part of the lawsuit.
“Plaintiff claims, for example, that it still owns the right to exploit the movie on airlines and oceangoing vessels. That may or may not be true – Plaintiff has not submitted any evidence on the question – but ZHANG is not accused of showing the movie on an airplane or a cruise ship.
“He is accused of downloading it over the Internet, which is an infringement that affects only an exclusive right owned by non-party DISTRIBUTOR 2,” Madden adds.
Interestingly, an undated addendum to the licensing agreement, allegedly created after the lawsuit was started, states that the filmmakers would keep their “anti-piracy” rights, as can be seen below.
This doesn’t save the filmmaker, according to the defense. The “licensor” who keeps these anti-piracy and enforcement rights refers to the sales agent, not the filmmaker, Madden writes. In addition, the case is about copyright infringement, and despite the addendum, the filmmakers don’t have the exclusive rights that apply here.
“Plaintiff represented to this Court that it was the ‘proprietor of all copyrights and interests need to bring suit’ […] notwithstanding that it had – years earlier – transferred away all its exclusive rights under Section 106 of the Copyright Act,” the defense lawyer concludes.
“Even viewing all Plaintiff’s agreements in the light most favorable to it, Plaintiff holds nothing more than a bare right to sue, which is not a cognizable right that may be exercised in the courts of this Circuit.”
While the court has yet to decide on the motion, this case could turn into a disaster for the makers of Fathers & Daughters.
If the court agrees that they don’t have the proper rights, defendants in other cases may argue the same. It’s easy to see how their entire trolling scheme would then collapse.
The original memorandum in support of the motion for summary judgment is available here (pdf) and a copy of the reply brief can be found here (pdf).
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.
After years of smooth sailing, this year TVAddons became a poster child for the entertainment industry’s war on illicit streaming devices.
The leading repository for unofficial Kodi addons was sued for copyright infringement in the US by satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network. Around the same time, a similar case was filed by Bell, TVA, Videotron, and Rogers in Canada.
The latter case has done the most damage thus far, as it caused the addon repository to lose its domain names and social media accounts. As a result, the site went dead and while many believed it would never return, it made a blazing comeback after a few weeks.
Since the original TVAddons.ag domain was seized, the site returned on TVaddons.co. And that was not the only difference. A lot of the old add-ons, for which it was unclear if they linked to licensed content, were no longer listed in the repository either.
TVAddons previously relied on the DMCA to shield it from liability but apparently, that wasn’t enough. As a result, they took the drastic decision to check all submitted add-ons carefully.
“Since complying with the law is clearly not enough to prevent frivolous legal action from being taken against you, we have been forced to implement a more drastic code vetting process,” a TVAddons representative told us previously.
Despite the absence of several of the most used add-ons, the repository has managed to regain many of its former users. Over the past month, TVAddons had over 12 million unique users. These all manually installed the new repository on their devices.
“We’re not like one of those pirate sites that are shut down and opens on a new domain the next day, getting users to actually manually install a new repo isn’t an easy feat,” a TVAddons representative informs TorrentFreak.
While it’s still far away from the 40 million unique users it had earlier this year, before the trouble began, it’s still a force to be reckoned with.
Interestingly, the vast majority of all TVAddons traffic comes from the United States. The UK is second at a respectable distance, followed by Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands.
While many former users have returned, the submission policy changes didn’t go unnoticed. The relatively small selection of add-ons is a major drawback for some, but that’s about to change as well, we are informed.
TVAddons plans to return to the old submission model where developers can upload their code more freely. Instead of proactive screening, TVAddons will rely on a standard DMCA takedown policy, relying on copyright holders to flag potentially infringing content.
“We intend on returning to a standard DMCA compliant add-on submission policy shortly, there’s no reason why we should be held to a higher standard than Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Reddit given the fact that we don’t even host any form of streaming content in the first place.
“Our interim policy isn’t pragmatic, it’s nearly impossible for us to verify the global licensing of all forms of protected content. When you visit a website, there’s no way of verifying licensing beyond trusting them based on reputation.”
The upcoming change doesn’t mean that TVAddons will ignore its legal requirements. If they receive a legitimate takedown notice, proper action will be taken, as always. As such, they would operate in the same fashion as other user-generated sites.
“Right now our interim addon submission policy is akin to North Korea. We always followed the law and will always continue to do so. Anytime we’ve received a legitimate complaint we’ve acted upon it in an expedited manner.
“Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other online communities would have never existed if they were required to approve the contents of each user’s submissions prior to public posting.”
The change takes place while the two court cases are still pending. TVAddons is determined to keep up this fight. Meanwhile, they are also asking the public to support the project financially.
While some copyright holders, including those who are fighting the service in court, might not like the change, TVAddons believes that this is well within their rights. And with support from groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, they don’t stand alone in this.
As movie and TV show piracy has migrated from the desktop towards mobile and living room-based devices, copyright holders have found the need to adapt to a new enemy.
Dealing with streaming services is now high on the agenda, with third-party Kodi addons and various Android apps posing the biggest challenge. Alongside is the much less prevalent but rapidly growing pay IPTV market, in which thousands of premium channels are delivered to homes for a relatively small fee.
In Australia, copyright holders are treating these services in much the same way as torrent sites. They feel that if they can force ISPs to block them, the problem can be mitigated. Most recently, movie and TV show giants Village Roadshow, Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount filed an application targeting HDSubs+, a pirate IPTV operation servicing thousands of Australians.
Filed in October, the application for the injunction targets Australia’s largest ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus their subsidiaries. The movie and TV show companies want them to quickly block HDSubs+, to prevent it from reaching its audience.
HDSubs+ IPTV package
However, blocking isn’t particularly straightforward. Due to the way IPTV services are setup a number of domains need to be blocked, including their sales platforms, EPG (electronic program guide), software (such as an Android app), updates, and sundry other services. In HDSubs+ case around ten domains need to be restricted but in court today, Village Roadshow revealed that probably won’t deal with the problem.
HDSubs+ appears to be undergoing some kind of transformation, possibly to mitigate efforts to block it in Australia. ComputerWorld reports that it is now directing subscribers to update to a new version that works in a more evasive manner.
If they agree, HDSubs+ customers are being migrated over to a service called PressPlayPlus. It works in the same way as the old system but no longer uses the domain names cited in Village Roadshow’s injunction application. This means that DNS blocks, the usual weapon of choice for local ISPs, will prove futile.
Village Roadshow says that with this in mind it may be forced to seek enhanced IP address blocking, unless it is granted a speedy hearing for its application. This, in turn, may result in the normally cooperative ISPs returning to court to argue their case.
“If that’s what you want to do, then you’ll have to amend the orders and let the parties know,” Judge John Nicholas said.
“It’s only the former [DNS blocking] that carriage service providers have agreed to in the past.”
As things stand, Village Roadshow will return to court on December 15 for a case management hearing but in the meantime, the Federal Court must deal with another IPTV-related blocking request.
In common with its Australian and US-based counterparts, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) has launched a similar case asking local ISPs to block another IPTV service.
“Television Broadcasts Limited can confirm that we have commenced legal action in Australia to protect our copyright,” a TVB spokesperson told Computerworld.
TVB wants ISPs including Telstra, Optus, Vocus, and TPG plus their subsidiaries to block access to seven Android-based services named as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.
Court documents list 21 URLs maintaining the services. They will all need to be blocked by DNS or other means, if the former proves futile. Online reports suggest that there are similarities among the IPTV products listed above. A demo for the FunTV IPTV service is shown below.
As part of an emerging crackdown on tools and systems with the ability to bypass China’s ‘Great Firewall’, during the summer Chinese government pressure began to affect Apple.
During the final days of July, Apple was forced to remove many of the most-used VPN applications from its Chinese App Store. In a short email from the company, VPN providers and software developers were told that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.
“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.
While the position on the ground doesn’t appear to have changed in the interim, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook today expressed optimism that the VPN apps would eventually be restored to their former positions on China’s version of the App Store.
“My hope over time is that some of the things, the couple of things that’s been pulled, come back,” Cook said. “I have great hope on that and great optimism on that.”
According to Reuters, Cook said that he always tries to find ways to work together to settle differences and if he gets criticized for that “so be it.”
Speaking at the Fortune Forum in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, Cook said that he believes strongly in freedoms. But back home in the US, Apple has been strongly criticized for not doing enough to uphold freedom of speech and communication in China.
Back in October, two US senators wrote to Cook asking why the company had removed the VPN apps from the company’s store in China.
“VPNs allow users to access the uncensored Internet in China and other countries that restrict Internet freedom. If these reports are true, we are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet,” senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy wrote.
“While Apple’s many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to ‘speak up’.”
They were comments Senator Leahy underlined again yesterday.
“American tech companies have become leading champions of free expression. But that commitment should not end at our borders,” Leahy told CNBC.
“Global leaders in innovation, like Apple, have both an opportunity and a moral obligation to promote free expression and other basic human rights in countries that routinely deny these rights.”
Whether the optimism expressed by Cook today is based on discussions with the Chinese government is unknown. However, it seems unlikely that authorities would be willing to significantly compromise on their dedication to maintaining the Great Firewall, which not only controls access to locally controversial content but also seeks to boost the success of Chinese companies.
On a regular basis, major media companies and their associates seek assistance from the authorities in order to curb copyright infringement.
In some cases, this has resulted in special police units that have piracy among their main objectives, such as The City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in the UK.
Over in Denmark, the Government greenlighted a similar initiative last week. Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen approved a new task force that will operate under police wings, with an exclusive focus on intellectual property crimes.
“This is the culmination of a joint effort among Danish trade organizations’ calls for public engagement in the enforcement of IP crime in Denmark,” Maria Fredenslund, CEO of the local anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen (Rights Alliance) tells TorrentFreak.
“Similar to the PIPCU unit in the UK the task force will be specialized in IP crime and will handle existing cases and develop digital enforcement,” she adds.
The new unit will consist of five or six investigators, who will be assisted by prosecutors. The main goal will be to tackle organized crime on as many levels as possible.
The new police task force will first operate on a trial basis. After the first half year, the Government will evaluate its progress and decide if the project will continue. If that happens, the unit may also get involved in website blocking efforts.
Pirate site blockades are not new in Denmark, but thus far these have been the result of civil procedures initiated by copyright holders. According to new plans, which still have to be approved, legislation that’s currently used to block terrorist content may be used against pirate sites as well.
“The Government will look into the possibility to give the police authority to carry out blockades of infringing websites,” Fredenslund says.
This would be possible under a provision in the Administration of Justice Act, which the Danish Parliament recently adopted. While the blocking requests would be submitted by the police unit, instead of copyright holders, a court still has to approve them.
“The decision to block a website is made with a court order by request of the police. The court order shall list the specific circumstances that prove the conditions for the blocking of the website have been met. The court order may be revoked at any time,” the relevant provision reads.
For the time being, the new anti-piracy task force will focus on handling other copyright infringement cases, which these are plenty of.
Rights Alliance is happy with the help they are getting. The anti-piracy group has been working on their own “piracy disruption machine” in recent months and with assistance from law enforcement, they hope to achieve some good results soon.
For now, however, the private blocking requests are continuing as well.
Just yesterday the District Court in Frederiksberg issued an order (pdf) in favor of the Rights Alliance, requiring a local ISP to block dozens of Popcorn Time related domain names. As part of a voluntary agreement, this block will be implemented by other Internet providers as well.
Due to a supposed drafting error in Australia’s implementation of the Australia – US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), copyright safe harbor provisions currently only apply to commercial Internet service providers.
This means that while local ISPs such as Telstra receive protection from copyright infringement complaints, services such as Google, Facebook and YouTube face legal uncertainty.
Proposed amendments to the Copyright Act earlier this year would’ve seen enhanced safe harbor protections for such platforms but they were withdrawn at the eleventh hour so that the government could consider “further feedback” from interested parties.
Shortly after the government embarked on a detailed consultation with entertainment industry groups. They accuse platforms like YouTube of exploiting safe harbor provisions in the US and Europe, which forces copyright holders into an expensive battle to have infringing content taken down. They do not want that in Australia and at least for now, they appear to have achieved their aims.
According to a report from AFR (paywall), the Australian government is set to introduce new legislation Wednesday which will expand safe harbors for some organizations but will exclude companies such as Google, Facebook, and similar platforms.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield confirmed the exclusions while noting that additional safeguards will be available to institutions, libraries, and organizations in the disability, archive and culture sectors.
“The measures in the bill will ensure these sectors are protected from legal liability where they can demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to deal with copyright infringement by users of their online platforms,” Senator Fifield told AFR.
“Extending the safe harbor scheme in this way will provide greater certainty to institutions in these sectors and enhance their ability to provide more innovative and creative services for all Australians.”
According to the Senator, the government will continue its work with stakeholders to further reform safe harbor provisions, before applying them to other service providers.
The news that Google, Facebook, and similar platforms are to be denied access to the new safe harbor rules will be seen as a victory for rightsholders. They’re desperately trying to tighten up legislation in other regions where such safeguards are already in place, arguing that platforms utilizing user-generated content for profit should obtain appropriate licensing first.
ISP blocking has become a prime measure for the entertainment industry to target pirate sites on the Internet.
In recent years sites have been blocked throughout Europe, in Asia, and even Down Under.
In most countries, these blockades are ordered by local courts, which compel Internet providers to restrict access to certain websites. In Canada, however, there’s a plan in the works to allow for website blockades without judicial oversight.
A coalition of movie industry companies and ISPs, including Bell, Rogers, and Cineplex are discussing a proposal to implement such measures. The Canadian blocklist would be maintained by a new non-profit organization called “Internet Piracy Review Agency” (IPRA) and enforced through the CTRC, Canadaland reports.
The plan doesn’t come as a total surprise as Bell alluded to a nationwide blocking mechanism during a recent Government hearing. What becomes clear from the new plans, however, is that the telco is not alone.
The new proposal is being discussed by various stakeholders including ISPs and local movie companies. As in other countries, major American movie companies are also in the loop, but they will not be listed as official applicants when the plan is submitted to the CRTC.
Canadian law professor Micheal Geist is very critical of the plans. Although the proposal would only cover sites that “blatantly, overwhelmingly or structurally” engage in or facilitate copyright infringement, this can be a blurry line.
“Recent history suggests that the list will quickly grow to cover tougher judgment calls. For example, Bell has targeted TVAddons, a site that contains considerable non-infringing content,” Geist notes.
“It can be expected that many other sites disliked by rights holders or broadcasters would find their way onto the block list,” he adds.
While the full list of applicants is not ready yet, it is expected that the coalition will file its proposal to the CRTC before the end of the month.
Thus far, the Government appears to be reluctant in its response. In comments to Canadaland spokesperson Karl Sasseville stressed that Canada maintains committed to an open Internet.
“Our government supports an open internet where Canadians have the ability to access the content of their choice in accordance to Canadian laws,” Sasseville says. “While other parts of the world are focused on building walls, we’re focused on opening doors.”
As we’ve seen in the past, “net neutrality” and website blocking are not mutually exclusive. Courts around the world, also in Canada, have ordered content to be blocked, open Internet or not. However, bypassing the judicial system may prove to be a problem.
Professor Geist is happy with the Government’s comments and notes that legal basis for the proposal is thin.
He stresses that the ISPs involved in these plans should seriously consider if they want to continue down this path, which isn’t necessarily in the best interest of their customers.
“The government rightly seems dismissive of the proposal in the Canadaland report but as leading Internet providers, Bell and Rogers should be ashamed for leading the charge on such a dangerous, anti-speech and anti-consumer proposal,” Geist concludes.
Pirate video streaming sites are booming. Their relative ease of use through on-demand viewing makes them a viable alternative to P2P file-sharing, which traditionally dominated the piracy arena.
The popular movie streaming site GoMovies, formerly known as 123movies, is one of the most-used streaming sites. Despite the rebranding and several domain changes, it has built a steady base of millions of users over the past year and a half.
And it’s not done yet, we learn today.
The site, currently operating from the Gostream.is domain name, recently launched a new spinoff targeting anime fans. Animehub.to is currently promoted on GoMovies and the site’s operators aim to turn it into the leading streaming site for anime content.
Someone connected to GoMovies told us that they’ve received a lot of requests from users to add anime content. Anime has traditionally been a large niche on file-sharing sites and the same is true on streaming platforms.
Technically speaking, GoMovies could have easily filled up the original site with anime content, but the owners prefer a different outlet.
With a separate anime site, they hope to draw in more visitors, TorrentFreak was told by an insider. For one, this makes it possible to rank better in search engines. It also allows the operators to cater specifically to the anime audience, with anime specific categories and release schedules.
Anime copyright holders will not be pleased with the new initiative, that’s for sure, but GoMovies is not new to legal pressure.
Earlier this year the US Ambassador to Vietnam called on the local Government to criminally prosecute people behind 123movies, the previous iteration of the site. In addition, the MPAA reported the site to the US Government in its recent overview of notorious pirate sites.
Pressure or not, it appears that GoMovies has no intention of slowing down or changing its course, although we’ve heard that yet another rebranding is on the horizon.
Earlier this year, major industry players including Disney, HBO, Netflix, Amazon and NBCUniversal formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a huge coalition set to tackle piracy on a global scale.
Shortly after the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) was announced. With a focus on Asia and backed by CASBAA, CAP counts Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, Viacom International, and others among its members.
In several recent reports, CAP has homed in on the piracy situation in Singapore. Describing the phenomenon as “rampant”, the group says that around 40% of locals engage in the practice, many of them through unlicensed streaming. Now CAP, in line with its anti-streaming stance, wants the government to do more – much more.
Since a large proportion of illicit streaming takes place through set-top devices, CAP’s 21 members want the authorities to block the software inside them that enables piracy, Straits Times reports.
“Within the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the worst in terms of availability of illicit streaming devices,” said CAP General Manager Neil Gane.
“They have access to hundreds of illicit broadcasts of channels and video-on-demand content.”
There are no precise details on CAP’s demands but it is far from clear how any government could effectively block software.
Blocking access to the software package itself would prove all but impossible, so that would leave blocking the infrastructure the software uses. While that would be relatively straightforward technically, the job would be large and fast-moving, particularly when dozens of apps and addons would need to be targeted.
However, CAP is also calling on the authorities to block pirate streams from entering Singapore. The country already has legislation in place that can be used for site-blocking, so that is not out of the question. It’s notable that the English Premier League is part of the CAP coalition and following legal action taken in the UK earlier this year, now has plenty of experience in blocking streams, particularly of live broadcasts.
While that is a game of cat-and-mouse, TorrentFreak sources that have been monitoring the Premier League’s actions over the past several months report that the soccer outfit has become more effective over time. Its blocks can still be evaded but it can be hard work for those involved. That kind of expertise could prove invaluable to CAP.
“The Premier League is currently engaged in its most comprehensive global anti-piracy programme,” a spokesperson told ST. “This includes supporting our broadcast partners in South-east Asia with their efforts to prevent the sale of illicit streaming devices.”
In common with other countries around the world, the legality of using ‘pirate’ streaming boxes is somewhat unclear in Singapore. A Bloomberg report cites a local salesman who reports sales of 10 to 20 boxes on a typical weekend, rising to 300 a day during electronic fairs. He believes the devices are legal, since they don’t download full copies of programs.
While that point is yet to be argued in court (previously an Intellectual Property Office of Singapore spokesperson said that copyright owners could potentially go after viewers), it seems unlikely that those selling the devices will be allowed to continue completely unhindered. The big question is how current legislation can be successfully applied.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the most downloaded movie again.
The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.
Nearly five years ago, US lawmakers agreed to carry out a comprehensive review of United States copyright law.
In the following years, the House Judiciary Committee held dozens of hearings on various topics, from DMCA reform and fair use exemptions to the possibility of a small claims court for copyright offenses.
While many of the topics never got far beyond the discussion stage, there’s now a new bill on the table that introduces a small claims process for copyright offenses.
The CASE Act, short for Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement, proposes to establish a small claims court to resolve copyright disputes outside the federal courts. This means that legal costs will be significantly reduced.
The idea behind the bill is to lower the barrier for smaller copyright holders with limited resources, who usually refrain from going to court. Starting a federal case with proper representation is quite costly, while the outcome is rather uncertain.
While this may sound noble, digital rights groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge, warn that the bill could do more harm than good.
One of the problems they signal is that the proposed “Copyright Claims Board” would be connected to the US Copyright Office. Given this connection, the groups fear that the three judges might be somewhat biased towards copyright holders.
“Unfortunately, the Copyright Office has a history of putting copyright holders’ interests ahead of other important legal rights and policy concerns. We fear that any small claims process the Copyright Office conducts will tend to follow that pattern,” EFF’s Mitch Stoltz warns.
The copyright claims board will have three judges who can hear cases from all over the country. They can award damages awards of up to $15,000 per infringement, or $30,000 per case.
Participation is voluntary and potential defendants can opt-out. However, if they fail to do so, any order against them can still be binding and enforceable through a federal court.
An opt-in system would be much better, according to EFF, as that would prevent abuse by copyright holders who are looking for cheap default judgments.
“[A]n opt-in approach would help ensure that both participants affirmatively choose to litigate their dispute in this new court, and help prevent copyright holders from abusing the system to obtain inexpensive default judgments that will be hard to appeal.”
While smart defendants would opt-out in certain situations, those who are less familiar with the law might become the target of what are essentially copyright parking tickets.
“Knowledgeable defendants will opt out of such proceedings, while legally unsophisticated targets, including ordinary Internet users, could find themselves committed to an unfair, accelerated process handing out largely unappealable $5,000 copyright parking tickets,” EFF adds.
In its current form, the small claims court may prove to be an ideal tool for copyright trolls, including those who made a business out of filing federal cases against alleged BitTorrent pirates.
This copyright troll issue angle highlighted by both EFF and Public Knowlege, who urge lawmakers to revise the bill.
“[I]t’s not hard to see how trolls and default judgments could come to dominate the system,” Public Knowledge says.
“Instead of creating a reliable, fair mechanism for independent artists to pursue scaled infringement claims online, it would establish an opaque, unaccountable legislation mill that will likely get bogged down by copyright trolls and questionable claimants looking for a payout,” they conclude.
Various copyright holder groups are more positive about the bill. The Copyright Alliance, for example, says that it will empower creators with smaller budgets to protect their rights.
“The next generation of creators deserves copyright protection that is as pioneering and forward-thinking as they are. They deserve practical solutions to the real-life problems they face as creators. This bill is the first step.”
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