Tag Archives: Google Play

TV Broadcaster Wants App Stores Blocked to Prevent Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tv-broadcaster-wants-app-stores-blocked-to-prevent-piracy-180416/

After first targeting torrent and regular streaming platforms with blocking injunctions, last year Village Roadshow and studios including Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount began looking at a new threat.

The action targeted HDSubs+, a reasonably popular IPTV service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee. The application was filed during October 2017 and targeted Australia’s largest ISPs.

In parallel, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) launched a similar action, demanding that the same ISPs (including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus subsidiaries) block several ‘pirate’ IPTV services, named in court as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

Due to the similarity of the cases, both applications were heard in Federal Court in Sydney on Friday. Neither case is as straightforward as blocking a torrent or basic streaming portal, so both applicants are having to deal with additional complexities.

The TVB case is of particular interest. Up to a couple of dozen URLs maintain the services, which are used to provide the content, an EPG (electronic program guide), updates and sundry other features. While most of these appear to fit the description of an “online location” designed to assist copyright infringement, where the Android-based software for the IPTV services is hosted provides an interesting dilemma.

ComputerWorld reports that the apps – which offer live broadcasts, video-on-demand, and catch-up TV – are hosted on as-yet-unnamed sites which are functionally similar to Google Play or Apple’s App Store. They’re repositories of applications that also carry non-infringing apps, such as those for Netflix and YouTube.

Nevertheless, despite clear knowledge of this dual use, TVB wants to have these app marketplaces blocked by Australian ISPs, which would not only render the illicit apps inaccessible to the public but all of the non-infringing ones too. Part of its argument that this action would be reasonable appears to be that legal apps – such as Netflix’s for example – can also be freely accessed elsewhere.

It will be up to Justice Nicholas to decide whether the “primary purpose” of these marketplaces is to infringe or facilitate the infringement of TVB’s copyrights. However, TVB also appears to have another problem which is directly connected to the copyright status in Australia of its China-focused live programming.

Justice Nicholas questioned whether watching a stream in Australia of TVB’s live Chinese broadcasts would amount to copyright infringement because no copy of that content is being made.

“If most of what is occurring here is a reproduction of broadcasts that are not protected by copyright, then the primary purpose is not to facilitate copyright infringement,” Justice Nicholas said.

One of the problems appears to be that China is not a party to the 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations. However, TVB is arguing that it should still receive protection because it airs pre-recorded content and the live broadcasts are also archived for re-transmission via catch-up services.

The question over whether unchoreographed live broadcasts receive protection has been raised in other regions but in most cases, a workaround has been found. The presence of broadcaster logos on screen (which receive copyright protection) is a factor and it’s been reported that broadcasters are able to record the ‘live’ action and transmit a copy just a couple of seconds later, thereby broadcasting an already-copyrighted work.

While TVB attempts to overcome its issues, Village Roadshow is facing some of its own in its efforts to take down HDSubs+.

It appears that at least partly in response to the Roadshow legal action, the service has undergone some modifications, including a change of brand to ‘Press Play Extra’. As reported by ZDNet, there have been structural changes too, which means that Roadshow can no longer “see under the hood”.

According to Justice Nicholas, there is no evidence that the latest version of the app infringes copyright but according to counsel for Village Roadshow, the new app is merely transitional and preparing for a possible future change.

“We submit the difference to be drawn is reactive to my clients serving on the operators a notice,” counsel for Roadshow argued, with an expert describing the new app as “almost like a placeholder.”

In short, Roadshow still wants all of the target domains in its original application blocked because the company believes there’s a good chance they’ll be reactivated in the future.

None of the ISPs involved in either case turned up to the hearings on Friday, which removes one layer of complexity in what appears thus far to be less than straightforward cases.

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

Spotify’s Two Million Unauthorized Users Hammered Google For Alternatives

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spotifys-two-million-unauthorized-users-hammered-google-for-alternatives-180326/

It is now common knowledge that Spotify launched its service more than a decade ago with the aim of attracting pirates.

With the disruption of The Pirate Bay ringing in the music industry’s ears, Spotify set out to capture the hearts and minds of music fans, particularly those with an aversion to paying.

Although it is yet to turn a profit, there can be little doubt that Spotify is a rampant success, at least as far as user numbers go. With premium and ad-supported free tiers available, the service is superbly accessible, no matter the depth of one’s pockets.

Naturally, those who pay get a better and smoother service so it’s no surprise that many free tier users aspire to that level of access. But while some pay the extra, others prefer to hack their way to music utopia.

How many people were accessing Spotify’s service using mainly hacked Android APK files has remained a mystery, but late last week, as part of the company’s IPO, Spotify dropped the bombshell.

“On March 21, 2018, we detected instances of approximately two million users as of December 31, 2017, who have been suppressing advertisements without payment,” Spotify wrote.

“We previously included such users in calculations for certain of our key performance indicators, including MAUs [Monthly Active Users], Ad-Supported Users, Content Hours, and Content Hours per MAU.”

Two million users is hardly an insignificant number and it appears Spotify felt the need to disclose them since up to January 1, 2017, the company had been including these users in its accounting. A couple of million users on the free tier is great, but not if they’re riding ad-free and therefore less likely to upgrade to premium, the suggestion goes.

Earlier this month, with its IPO process underway, Spotify clearly had these freeloading users on its mind. As previously reported, the company started to send out emails to people using hacked installation files, largely on Android, putting them on notice that their activities were not going unnoticed.

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

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

At the time it became apparent that this email had gone out to a large number of people, with significant volumes of users reporting problems with their accounts. It also seemed to target users fairly methodically, in that some countries’ users retained access while others suffered, only to be hit later on as more and more waves were sent out.

As the chart below from Google Trends shows, it appears that Spotify began taking action on March 1, which drove people to start searching for Spotify APK files that were still working.

By March 3, search volumes had doubled on the index and on March 7, Google searches for ‘Spotify APK’ reached a dramatic peak never before witnessed in the history of the search term. That’s quite an achievement given how many people use these pieces of software.

No prizes for guessing when Spotify got tough….

But after a flurry of activity, on March 22 search volumes were back down to March 3 levels, which is quite interesting in itself.

Although various modified APKs are still managing to evade Spotify’s ban, there doesn’t seem to be a dominant modified client proving popular enough to stop hundreds of thousands of people from continuing to search for an APK solution. So, presuming these ‘banned’ people still want the music offered by Spotify, where have they gone?

Aside from those using the APKs that have slipped through the net, reports suggest others have migrated to Deezer downloading solutions, which are also being targeted by Deezer. Others are using tools to convert their Spotify playlists to use with other pirate services or even YouTube.

The big question then is whether hitting the ban button to potentially eject up to two million users has resulted in a net positive for Spotify?

There’s no doubt it lowered the bandwidth bill for the growing company but how many former freeloaders traded the pirate high seas for an ad-supported account or even the premium service? Only Spotify has the numbers, and it won’t be sharing those yet – if ever.

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

Spotify Emails Warning to ‘Pirates’ Using Hacked Apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The warning email from Spotify

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dogfood is done on Github

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

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

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

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

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

XDA DMCA takedown

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

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

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

Tickbox Must Remove Pirate Streaming Addons From Sold Devices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tickbox-remove-pirate-streaming-addons-180214/

Online streaming piracy is on the rise and many people now use dedicated media players to watch content through their regular TVs.

This is a thorn in the side of various movie companies, who have launched a broad range of initiatives to curb this trend.

One of these initiatives is the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies.

Last year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company Tickbox TV, which sells Kodi-powered set-top boxes that stream a variety of popular media.

ACE sees these devices as nothing more than pirate tools so the coalition asked the court for an injunction to prevent Tickbox from facilitating copyright infringement, demanding that it removes all pirate add-ons from previously sold devices.

Last month, a California federal court issued an initial injunction, ordering Tickbox to keep pirate addons out of its box and halt all piracy-inducing advertisements going forward. In addition, the court directed both parties to come up with a proper solution for devices that were already sold.

The movie companies wanted Tickbox to remove infringing addons from previously sold devices, but the device seller refused this initially, equating it to hacking.

This week, both parties were able to reach an ‘agreement’ on the issue. They drafted an updated preliminary injunction which replaces the previous order and will be in effect for the remainder of the lawsuit.

The new injunction prevents Tickbox from linking to any “build,” “theme,” “app,” or “addon” that can be indirectly used to transmit copyright-infringing material. Web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox are specifically excluded.

In addition, Tickbox must also release a new software updater that will remove any infringing software from previously sold devices.

“TickBox shall issue an update to the TickBox launcher software to be automatically downloaded and installed onto any previously distributed TickBox TV device and to be launched when such device connects to the internet,” the injunction reads.

“Upon being launched, the update will delete the Subject [infringing] Software downloaded onto the device prior to the update, or otherwise cause the TickBox TV device to be unable to access any Subject Software downloaded onto or accessed via that device prior to the update.”

All tiles that link to copyright-infringing software from the box’s home screen also have to be stripped. Going forward, only tiles to the Google Play Store or to Kodi within the Google Play Store are allowed.

In addition, the agreement also allows ACE to report newly discovered infringing apps or addons to Tickbox, which the company will then have to remove within 24-hours, weekends excluded.

“This ruling sets an important precedent and reduces the threat from piracy devices to the legal market for creative content and a vibrant creative economy that supports millions of workers around the world,” ACE spokesperson Zoe Thorogood says, commenting on the news.

The new injunction is good news for the movie companies, but many Tickbox customers will not appreciate the forced changes. That said, the legal battle is far from over. The main question, whether Tickbox contributed to the alleged copyright infringements, has yet to be answered.

Ultimately, this case is likely to result in a landmark decision, determining what sellers of streaming boxes can and cannot do in the United States.

A copy of the new Tickbox injunction is available here (pdf).

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

Google Won’t Take Down ‘Pirate’ VLC With Five Million Downloads

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-wont-take-down-pirate-vlc-with-five-million-downloads-180206/

VLC is the media player of choice for Internet users around the globe. Downloaded for desktop at least 2,493,000,000 times since February 2005, VLC is an absolute giant. And those figures don’t even include GNU/Linux, iOS, Android, Chrome OS or Windows Phone downloads either.

Aside from its incredible functionality, VLC (operated by the VideoLAN non-profit) has won the hearts of Internet users for other key reasons, not least its commitment to being free and open source software. While it’s true to say that VLC doesn’t cost a penny, the term ‘free’ actually relates to the General Public License (GPL) under which it’s distributed.

The GPL aims to guarantee that software under it remains ‘free’ for all current and future users. To benefit from these protections, the GPL requires people who modify and redistribute software to afford others the same freedoms by informing them of the requirement to make source code available.

Since VLC is extremely popular and just about as ‘free’ as software can get, people get extremely defensive when they perceive that a third-party is benefiting from the software without adhering to the terms of the generous GPL license. That was the case beginning a few hours ago when veteran Reddit user MartinVanBallin pointed out a piece of software on the Google Play Store.

“They took VLC, put in ads, didn’t attribute VLC or follow the open source license, and they’re using Media Player Classics icon,” MartinVanBallin wrote.

The software is called 321 Media Player and has an impressive 4.5 score from more than 101,000 reviews. Despite not mentioning VLC or the GPL, it is based completely on VLC, as the image below (and other proof) shows.

VLC Media Player 321 Media Player

TorrentFreak spoke with VideoLAN President Jean-Baptiste Kempf who confirmed that the clone is in breach of the GPL.

“The Android version of VLC is under the license GPLv3, which requires everything inside the application to be open source and sharing the source,” Kempf says.

“This clone seems to use a closed-source advertisement component (are there any that are open source?), which is a clear violation of our copyleft. Moreover, they don’t seem to share the source at all, which is also a violation.”

Perhaps the most amazing thing is the popularity of the software. According to stats provided by Google, 321 Media Player has amassed between five and ten million downloads. That’s not an insignificant amount when one considers that unlike VLC, 321 Media Player contains revenue-generating ads.

Using GPL-licensed software for commercial purposes is allowed providing the license terms are strictly adhered to. Kempf informs TF that VideoLAN doesn’t mind if this happens but in this case, the GPL is not being respected.

“A fork application which changes some things is an interesting thing, because they maybe have something to give back to our community. The application here, is just a parasite, and I think they are useless and dangerous,” Kempf says.

All that being said, turning VLC itself into adware is something the VideoLAN team is opposed to. In fact, according to questions answered by Kempf last September, the team turned down “several tens of millions of euros” to turn their media player into an ad-supported platform.

“Integrating crap, adware and spyware with VLC is not OK,” Kempf informs TF.

TorrentFreak contacted the developer of 321 Media Player for comment but at the time of publication, we were yet to receive a response. We also asked for a copy of the source code for 321 Media Player as the GPL requires, but that wasn’t forthcoming either.

In the meantime, it appears that a small army of Reddit users are trying to get something done about the ‘rogue’ app by reporting it as an “inappropriate copycat” to Google. Whether this will have any effect remains to be seen but according to Kempf, tackling these clone versions has proven extremely difficult in the past.

“We reported this application already more than three times and Google refuses to take it down,” he says.

“Our experience is that it is very difficult to take these kinds of apps down, even if they embed spyware or malware. Maybe it is because it makes money for Google.”

Finally, Kempf also points to the obviously named “Indian VLC Player” on Google Play. Another VLC clone with up to 500,000 downloads, this one appears to breach both copyright and trademark law.

“We remove applications that violate our policies, such as apps that are illegal,” a Google spokesperson informs TorrentFreak.

“We don’t comment on individual applications; you can check out our policies for more information.”

Update: The app has now been removed from Google Play

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

Thor Ragnarok Furiously Pirated After iTunes Pre-Order Blunder

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/thor-ragnarok-furiously-pirated-after-itunes-pre-order-blunder-180122/

When perfect copies of movies leak out onto the Internet in advance of their official release dates, there’s usually an element of skullduggery at play.

This can sometimes involve people intercepting, stealing, or borrowing DVD screener discs, for example. However, other problems can unexpectedly raise their heads.

Case in point – the pre-release leak of Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok this past weekend.

With a disc release planned for February 26th just four months after the superhero movie’s theatrical debut, digital distribution on iTunes was set to go ahead on February 19th.

However, due to what appears to be a significant blunder at Apple, the $180 million movie is now being furiously pirated all over the Internet. A small sample of the latest leak (all releases with an upload date of ‘today’) can be seen in the screenshot below, sourced from The Pirate Bay.

Plenty of choice for pirates….

So what went wrong? According to a user on Reddit who has since deleted his post, a legal pre-order purchase was incorrectly made available for download a month early.

“I pre-ordered Thor Ragnarok on Vudu yesterday and it links it to my iTunes also,” the user explained.

“But curiously it showed up in my iTunes library this morning (pre-orders shouldn’t). And now I can watch the full movie in HD. I obviously downloaded it right away. I know its supposed to come out February 20th.”

The precise mechanism behind the movie incorrectly appearing on iTunes isn’t clear but the user reported that he didn’t buy it on the platform. Instead, he purchased the 4K version on Vudu, which was linked to his MoviesAnywhere account, which was in turn linked to iTunes.

For anyone unaware, MoviesAnywhere is a completely free service that allows people to watch their iTunes, Vudu, Google Play and Amazon movies in one place, on Apple, Android, Roku, Amazon and Chromecast devices.

Shortly after, other users noted that after purchasing the movie using the same process, they achieved the same result.

“Just tried the same way as you and it is now available for viewing on iTunes,” one reported.

Of course, one can’t simply share iTunes movies with others online but there are people out there prepared to put in the effort to make that possible. Release group ‘EVO’, which has the most popular torrent of Thor Ragnarok out there at the moment, took the time to explain the headaches it gave them.

“More than 10 hours working in a way to remove this fucking protection finally come to a end,” the group said.

“Casualties: 1 account banned. Lol. But it was worth it. Enjoy fellas. Have a good weekend. No VIP required. No pennies needed. All free.”

From a piracy perspective, illegal downloads are now metaphorically flying off the shelves. It won’t be what Marvel wanted so getting to the bottom of who is to blame will now be a top priority.

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