There are dozens of apps available online today that act as straightforward players of IPTV streams. These usually cause no copyright infringement issues for their operators as they come with no pre-loaded content.
While many can be configured with a premium subscription so that infringing content can be received at the direction of users, others blur the lines by attempting to aggregate links to streams that exist in open form on the Internet.
One of these players was known as UlangoTV. Previously available via Google Play, Amazon, CNET, and many other third-party download sites, variants of the UlangoTV app acted as a search engine for live IPTV streams, which were color-coded to provide additional information.
“Every day thousands of new stream URLs are found, analyzed and classified,” the publisher’s description on CNET reads.
“For the safety of users and for the protection of the content owners, the search results are flagged with color codes: Yellow streams have been known to us for more than 6 months. Typically these ‘official’ streams are without license problems. All registered users can see these streams freely. Blue streams have been known to us for more than 6 weeks. Also these are usually ‘official’ streams without license problems.”
However, as acknowledged by its publisher, not all streams made available in the app could be considered trouble-free.
“Magenta streams are usually short-lived and have only been known to us recently. These streams are likely to originate from unlicensed sources,” the developer noted.
This type of link aggregation teeters fairly close to the edge of legality but with UlangoTV+, a premium and premium plus subscription option offered by the same developer, broadcasters may have considered the line had been crossed.
“So in this app UlangoTV+ we introduced a new option called Premium Plus, which is only available to a few users who want to pay a premium price and now receive handpicked streams with tightly controlled connectivity,” the marketing added.
With no user shortage for the popular app, during October last year an unexpected message appeared on UlangoTV’s Twitter account which indicated that the project had come to an end.
The tweet gave no clear indication of the reason behind the decision to close but now, several months later, we have the strongest message yet that legal threats from entertainment industry groups played a key role.
Users who visit the Ulango.TV domain today get an all-too-familiar message that due to claims of copyright infringement, the site and associated app have been shut down by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.
After the usual countdown timer expires, visitors are redirected to the ACE anti-piracy portal. There is no mention there of the shutdown which tends to suggest that a relatively peaceful agreement was reached with the app’s developer, which would’ve included shutting down and handing over the Ulango domain.
Indeed, domain records show that Ulango.tv is now owned by the Motion Picture Association, which adds to a growing list of dozens of domains taken over as part of the Alliance’s ongoing anti-piracy activities.
For the past several weeks, some ‘pirate’ IPTV services have been subjected to ‘hacks’ carried out by as-yet unidentified people.
In early December, Helix Hosting became the first reported case. Its homepage was defaced with a message explaining that the service had been asked to pay a ransom or face having its customer database leaked online.
Just a few days later, PrimeStreams became the victim of similar blackmail efforts. Its operator revealed that a weak password had been exploited and that 10 bitcoin was being demanded in order to prevent the service’s confidential data from being exposed to the world.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that other services were also targeted in December, which may or may not have settled in the face of similar threats. However, PrimeStreams’ situation appears to be ongoing as a quick visit to what used to be its main servicing domain (PrimeStreams.store) reveals a rather ominous message.
This countdown-timer message usually indicates that a domain has been taken over by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the global anti-piracy coalition headed up by the MPA. It is currently displayed on dozens of file-sharing and IPTV platforms, commonly after they have reached some kind of settlement with the world’s largest entertainment groups. Vaders and Openload are two of the most obvious examples.
Of course, seeing that message will probably be enough to send many customers running for the hills but the truth is relatively easy to uncover. This isn’t a domain seizure carried out by ACE but most probably the work of a malicious actor, as a dive into the domain’s details reveal.
As the image above shows, at the time of writing the PrimeStreams domain is using the services of Njalla, the domain registration and hosting service closely associated with Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde. That doesn’t mean that Njalla has anything to do with the issue, of course, but it does indicate in a particularly clear way that ACE isn’t the entity in control here.
When ACE does take control of a domain, Openload.co for example, there are many tell-tale signs that the seizure is legitimate, including the use of the MPA’s own nameservers, redirection to certain banks of servers in the United States, not to mention contact details that relate to bodies and individuals at the MPA.
If we rule out the highly unlikely possibility that the operator of PrimeStreams redirected his own domain to ACE’s anti-piracy servers, then we’re left with a situation that was most probably engineered by a malicious actor. Whether that was the same person who threatened the site in December is unknown but losing a domain to an unauthorized third-party is an extremely serious matter.
The double-edged sword here is the involvement of Njalla. While there’s a possibility that there might be an element of sympathy at the sight of an unlawful hack (not to mention that some of the team were previously involved in The Pirate Bay and Piratbyrån), Njalla is utterly militant when it comes to the privacy of its users so may not even be able to help.
That might have played a part in PrimeStreams’ decision to dump this domain entirely and transfer to a new one. The big question, however, was whether the service had any more big security headaches waiting to kick in. Sure enough, within hours of going live, incredibly that domain was ‘hacked’ as well.
For as long as there have been torrent sites, streaming platforms, ‘pirate’ apps, download sites, services, and any variation thereof, there have been lawsuits attempting to hinder, paralyze, or shut them down.
It’s hardly breaking news to state that defending such legal action can be a punishing affair, not just emotionally but financially too. Usually brought by powerful entertainment companies and broadcasters, anyone tackling the above needs not only a steely disposition but also the deepest of deep pockets.
As a result, people facing lawsuits for operating such platforms have regularly run fundraisers, invariably claiming that they need huge sums of money to battle what are frequently depicted as marauding copyright bullies intent on destroying the free Internet.
While in some cases that might be at least partially true, many rely on the same language as their aggressors in an effort to rally the masses to part with their cash. In some cases people have a reasonable argument. In others they do not.
Nevertheless, these situations are always interesting, particularly when one factors in the response from the public.
Platforms that have always provided a free service, for example, are often considered more worthy of a donation when it comes to fighting ‘Goliath’. The same can be said of those who operated in a perceived gray area, such as unblocking platforms that have never offered any copyright works, or dual-use open-source projects.
Indeed, one rarely needs to be in receipt of a law degree to assess a platform and decide whether the litigation at hand is warranted or a true case of bullying that warrants a bit of moral and financial support. Equally, spotting the most ridiculous of ’causes’ shouldn’t be hard for anyone.
For example, take the matter of iStreamItAll that is currently trying to raise $10,000 via a GoFundMe campaign to battle Hollywood and the US Government.
“We need all the help we can to fight Hollywood, and the federal charges brought upon one of the owners Darryl Polo. Any help would be appreciated and will go towards our legal defense,” it reads.
Ignoring the not insignificant fact that the defendants have already pleaded guilty, $10,000 won’t go anywhere in a case like this. It would take perhaps several hundred thousand dollars to fight in any meaningful way but it would be money down the drain – people do not easily win cases like this in the US. That’s why there are others that are aiming higher – a lot higher.
A couple of months ago we reported on the case of Boom Media, a full-blown pirate IPTV reselling business that is now being sued by DISH Networks in the United States. Boom Media is asking for $250,000 in donations to get things started in what is being portrayed as a battle to prevent DISH getting its hands on subscriber data.
If the broadcaster does get what it wants (and to be fair this seems likely) that could mean subscribers to the service receiving demands for cash settlements. This, of course, is somewhat akin to copyright-trolling, with low-level users being pursued for thousands of dollars to make supposed lawsuits go away.
That’s why the response to this plea for donations was of particular interest. Even when scouring the usual ‘pirate’ haunts, discussions, forums and chats, finding a supporting voice for the fundraiser is particularly hard.
The general consensus seems to be that this was a business that has never shared a single penny of its profits with its users yet is now asking for donations to fight off a lawsuit on the basis that doing so will prevent subscribers’ details ending up on the desks of DISH lawyers. The irony, particularly when viewed in the light of copyright trolls’ actions in general, is not difficult to spot.
Companies like Boom Media knew very well what they were doing. They knew the consequences of running a pirate IPTV service or selling access to one. Lawsuits like this one should’ve been expected, prepared for, with litigation costs factored in as a cost of doing business. You know, like regular properly-run businesses do every day.
That the costs of keeping user data safe should now fall to the users of those services, some of whom will have had no idea that Boom wasn’t legitimate, is as offensive to users as the copyright holders complaining about their activities. But for other users, who knew they were buying into a cheap “black market” service (Boom’s own words), there should be zero surprises that this was a potential outcome.
Paying the company’s legal fees, which will then get swallowed up by lawyers in a case that cannot be reasonably won, is the choice of the donor. But the fact is that these fundraisers rarely raise any notable funds and in every case – every case – donors get absolutely nothing back, not even a free subscription in the million to once chance the service reappears offering the same thing.
This isn’t really about fighting for freedom, for the Internet, or helping David beat an evil Goliath, it’s about supporting people who knew from the start that what they were doing was illegal and now want yet more money to bail them out of a hole. And from the dozens of posts we’ve read on the topic, pirates everywhere know that and do not appreciate it.
All pirates have their causes, from the lowly “media is too expensive” to the militant “sticking it to the man”. But funding a for-profit ‘pirate’ LLC’s fight against a for-profit broadcaster which is also an LLC is clearly not on most pirates’ agendas.
For years, downloading movies and TV shows has been enough for many online pirates but the broad availability of illicit live streaming services is now a huge draw.
No longer limited to watching after-the-fact recorded content, streaming websites and IPTV services now offer packages that compete and even out-do traditional cable and satellite providers, with the added bonus of being delivered at almost pocket-money prices.
While consumers reap the benefits of low costs and a broader choice of content, suppliers of illicit IPTV products are lured by the proposition of making good money. In Europe alone, the market is edging towards an estimated billion euros per year and there is no shortage of people looking for a piece of the pie.
UK-based Steven Underwood was one of those streaming entrepreneurs but in January this year, things came crashing down. Following an investigation by the Federation Against Copyright Theft and Cornwall Trading Standards, the Police Regional Organised Crime Unit entered Underwood’s home with a search warrant.
An investigation revealed that the Redruth man had sold around £400,000 worth of subscriptions to his IPTV service. The platform was never named publicly named but it’s believed to have been in operation for at least two years, supplying illegal streams of Sky, BT, and Premier League content, among others.
It is relatively rare for these types of cases to go to trial and this one was no exception. In November, Underwood appeared before Truro Magistrates Court, pleading guilty to copyright and fraud offenses. All that remained was a hearing to determine his punishment.
At a sentencing hearing yesterday, the Court heard that between December 2016 and January 2019, 34-year-old Underwood admitted communicating a copyrighted work to the public for personal gain, contrary to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, and further admitted an offense under the Fraud Act 2006.
Prosecutor Harry Ahuja told the Court that Underwood “had specific skills in IT” and used them to obtain illegal streams that were uploaded to remote servers, which cost the Cornwall man between £6,000 and £8,000 a month to maintain.
“You were engaged in a highly profitable piece of completely illegal activity,” Judge Bob Linford told Underwood.
Labeling the crimes as “extremely serious”, the Judge handed Underwood a one-year prison sentence suspended for two years, a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement (to lessen the likelihood of future offending), and made him the subject of a £10 confiscation order, Falmouth Packet reports.
“We are constantly working to remove sellers of illegal streaming subscriptions from the market and bring them to justice,” said Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT, commenting on the sentencing.
“The message is clear – if you are tempted to sell access to content that is not licensed or owned by you, you risk facing a criminal conviction.”
Just one week ago, customers and resellers of ‘pirate’ IPTV service Helix Hosting were handed bad news via the service’s homepage.
A message, placed there by a hacker, warned that Helix had been hacked and its operator had been given the option to either pay a ransom or face the personal details of his subscribers being leaked out onto the Internet.
Initial reports suggested that Helix refused to pay but precisely what went on behind the scenes was hard to confirm. Nevertheless, just a week later, a second IPTV service has found itself in a similar position and has cast some additional light on the earlier attack against Helix.
Last evening the operator of IPTV service PrimeStreams made an announcement to its customers that it too had suffered a hack, albeit not a very complex one. The attacker exploited a password on the service’s billing panel and then advised the service through its own ticketing system what had happened.
“Well you have changed the password so it is obvious you have ready my ticket [sic],” a communication from the hacker read, according to a screenshot of the discussion. “Do I not get a reply or a thank you.”
The operator of PrimeStreams was polite in response, thanked the hacker for the heads-up, and offered a free account for advising the vulnerability. But that wasn’t enough.
“The bad news for yourselves is that this mistake is going to cost you,” the person replied.
Detailing internal information about how many subscribers’ the service has on the books, including around 121,000 with active subscriptions, the attacker went on to state that the business had a responsibility to protect its customers “and this is a responsibility you have failed.”
PrimeStreams’ operator did the responsible thing and didn’t attempt to hide anything from his customers. Knowing that the information would probably leak out anyway, he took full responsibility for the breach.
“100% my fault and I accept 100% responsibility,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, the attacker wanted to make PrimeStreams pay. Claiming that he/she was the same person that had targeted Helix last week, the person demanded that PrimeStreams should either shut down or pay a significant ransom.
“They are now demanding 10BTC from me 70K lol,” PrimeStreams’ operator wrote. “I have no idea if it’s the same person, I have no idea if they actually were able to use the info in the store site to get into the [database] and download it, I will say that it would be possible though.”
Interestingly the brief chat with the hacker also revealed two further pieces of information. Firstly, it claims that Helix tried to “outsmart” the attacker last week so, in response, the attacker “made a leak to torrentfreak that destroyed there business [sic].”
While we have no information about Helix’s actions behind the scenes, we can categorically deny the claim that any leak of any kind was made to TF. All of the information in our earlier report came from the notice placed by the attacker on Helix’s homepage or was culled from other public sources. At no time have we been offered, seen, or published any private information relating to the alleged hack.
The final detail is that Helix allegedly paid the ransom after the attacker began leaking information online, claims that we have been unable to confirm. Equally, we have been unable to confirm whether PrimeStreams paid a ransom after they were given just six hours to pay a huge amount in bitcoin or shut down their business.
Last evening, PrimeStreams was said to be “working diligently” to see if any logs could be found to indicate what the attacker may have downloaded or had obtained access to. This, its operator said, was to see “if this is a legit threat or just someone trolling.”
The outcome of that work isn’t clear but the latest report from PrimeStreams indicates that the issue has now been sorted out.
Given this is the second time in a week that an IPTV provider has suffered a security breach, questions will no doubt be raised about security at other suppliers.
We spoke to someone involved in the IPTV supply chain who informs us that while he prefers not to comment on operational security matters at specific providers, at the bare minimum customers should be signing up to services with a fake name and address, using a ‘clean’ email address, while avoiding PayPal, whenever possible.
“It won’t stop these low-level attacks but if they happen again only less useful info will be dumped,” he concludes.
While most people behind unlicensed IPTV services prefer to sit in the shadows, popular YouTube celebrity OMI IN A HELLCAT took an entirely different approach.
Real name Omar Carrasquillo, OMI flaunted massive wealth in his videos, many featuring his beautiful houses, huge supercar collection, not to mention masses of jewelry. Last month, however, OMI revealed that a combination of his position as founder of IPTV service Gears Reloaded, an unpaid tax bill, and allegations of money laundering, had led to an unwelcome visit from the FBI “who took pretty much everything.”
Right from the very beginning, a small number of vocal individuals took to YouTube and social media platforms declaring that the whole thing was either a giant publicity stunt or an elaborate scam designed to fool the masses. However, around a week after the news was first reported, a reporter from local TV outlet Fox 29 appeared on air with some of OMI’s neighbors who witnessed the whole thing.
Despite there being no obvious reason why OMI would immerse himself in a month-long multi-level lie laid out in many more videos published since the authorities came in November, he says he’s still under pressure to show that he isn’t lying about the whole thing. That resulted in a new statement over the weekend where he attempted, once again, to provide irrefutable evidence.
“I don’t let things bother me, I’m not that kind of person to listen to outside noise. But the one thing that does bother me is that my life is in jeopardy and there are a lot of people who believe that this shit is fake,” OMI said.
“Like I don’t get it, I don’t understand it. There are so many people affected by this: 30 employees, good families – people who right now aren’t going to have Christmas.”
OMI says he believes the FBI is sitting back and laughing at his YouTube videos. He says they want people to believe that what happened is fake and they don’t want the attention. According to him, however, there will be plenty of attention very soon due to an upcoming high-profile interview. In the meantime, he’s been providing more detail on what happened last month.
“My friends…we all got hit simultaneously. I got hit in this house [Philadelphia], my kids’ mom got hit in the house in Swedesboro where they took all my cars. Here, they took my Mercedes, my Bentley, my work van. They took the Dodge Caravan [used by OMI’s video guy],” OMI explains.
“They went to one of my friend’s house a few blocks away from the house I’m currently living in. I sold him a Jeep Trackhawk a while ago and we never transferred it to his name and they took that from their house.”
According to OMI’s statement, the impact of what happened stretches far beyond him. The FBI allegedly took another friend’s car and then had to give it back. OMI says his nephew, who worked for him in construction, also had his car seized and all of his money and savings. But that wasn’t the end.
“They hit my friend Wolfie in Los Angeles. They hit some of the houses in Philly trying to look for servers and all this other stuff,” he added.
OMI’s long video statement (linked below) also contains CCTV footage that OMI says was given to him by his neighbors which apparently shows the FBI arriving at one of the addresses in several SUVs, cars, and pickup trucks. Shouts of “FBI, police,” can be heard after officers approached an address (identified as 3412 N Hope St, Philadelphia) after blocking a nearby street with their vehicles.
OMI says the show of force was extreme, with around 60 FBI agents and police officers targeting the address detailed above. The commotion in the street was recorded by at least one witness who uploaded the footage to the Internet and later shown briefly on OMI’s channel. Around 30 officers and agents raided OMI’s property in Philadelphia, which according to him was a terrifying experience.
“Can you imagine looking out this door, watching this whole driveway full of cars, and all these agents right here with their guns drawn?” he asks.
In his video, a clearly exasperated OMI explains that he feels the need to prove this isn’t an elaborate scam. However, since he hasn’t actually been charged with anything yet, he doesn’t want to release his case number in public. That being said, he believes the authorities’ strategy is to take everything he has so that he can’t afford to defend himself and ensure that he doesn’t run away. He will not do that, he insists.
Included in a five-page Department of Justice receipt detailing the many cars, pieces of jewelry, electronic and other sundry items seized, appears two items described as “lists of channels and email accounts” plus bank account information under the name “Bill Castillo” linked to “streaming video”.
“The only thing I have now is my YouTube [channel],” OMI says. “Honestly speaking, everything else is shut down. I have nothing else. My assistant hasn’t been paid, my secretary hasn’t been paid, my manager hasn’t got paid, my right-hand man in construction hasn’t got paid.
“And everyone’s like ‘But what did they do? He was committing fraud’. I never committed fraud a day in my damn life. This is for not paying taxes on a service. A service, not a Ponzi scheme, none of that shit. On a service.”
Interestingly, OMI claims that the FBI told him not to talk about the case in public but he refused to agree to that. But keeping things quiet wouldn’t be possible, not least since someone on Instagram posted a video of a convoy of his vehicles being taken away on trucks, including a Lamborghini that OMI previously had wrapped in very distinctive Power Ranger graphics.
Finally, in addition to all of the physical items that were seized, the FBI was looking for OMI’s money. He doesn’t reveal exactly how much was taken but he did show a screenshot from just one of his accounts that shows that on the day of the raid, more than $5.2m was removed, a transaction that left him in the red.
A second account, the details of which weren’t revealed, was also the subject of a seizure according to OMI. The ‘transaction’ reportedly left him $126,000 “in the negative”.
While all of the items presented in evidence can still be disputed, it seems unthinkable that OMI would destroy the most valuable thing he has left – the trust of his still-loyal fanbase. The authorities still refuse to confirm or deny any action against the YouTuber but at some point, they will probably have to go on the record, one way or another.
When a massive police operation in Italy took down IPTV management outfit Xtream-Codes in September 2019, a large proportion of the pirate market was thrown into turmoil.
According to figures obtained by TorrentFreak from network equipment company Sandvine, overall pirate streaming traffic dropped by 50%. But three months is an awfully long time on the Internet and today the market seems to have largely recovered, with providers and sellers finding alternative solutions and users relatively happy once again.
Nevertheless, when chaos reigned back in September, there can be little doubt that customers left high and dry turned to search engines in order to find a replacement. It’s certainly not the best strategy to find a reliable supplier but if Comcast-owned broadcaster Sky has anything to do with it, it won’t be an easy option either.
Back in March, we reported that the broadcaster had been sending thousands of takedown notices to Google in an effort to remove IPTV suppliers’ entire websites from the search provider’s indexes. That effort has not only continued but also been stepped up in recent weeks.
Just as an example, a notice sent in November contains 495 URLs and attempts to delist the entire websites of three suppliers – miglioriptv.net, iptvthebest.ws, migliorstreaming.net – from Google. But that is just the tip of a pretty large iceberg.
The delisting efforts are considerable and target many thousands of URLs (e.g 1,2,3,4). The majority of notices were previously filed on behalf of Sky in Italy but Sky in the UK are also getting in on the act.
As the notice above shows, Sky UK goes down the classic route of claiming that the sites in question directly infringe its rights by providing access to its licensed content. While that may be the case in some instances, it’s far more likely that the services use completely different URLs to deliver that content so at best, the above domains might be considered as facilitating infringement, rather than directly infringing Sky’s rights.
However, when it comes to Sky Italy’s notices, the company has a more detailed approach that may prove even more effective.
“The reported sites illegally provide external links with which users can access and/or download unauthorized copyrighted contents, exclusively owned by broadcaster Sky Italia,” the notices state.
“Reported URLs pages are using without any authorization copyrighted images and logos owned by Sky Italia, which are used to promote and selling unauthorized IPTV services or video-on-demand library with show schedules or video catalogs owned by Sky Italia.”
In this context, the use of Sky graphics to promote and sell pirate IPTV packages to consumers is a slam dunk for the company when it comes to the DMCA. Hundreds of platforms not only use official logos in this manner but also images of Sky box controllers, culled from Sky’s own sites.
Having sites delisted from Google on those grounds alone should be relatively simple for the broadcaster. Copyright infringement of logos and graphics is much easier to determine than IPTV seller site URLs that may (but probably do not) contain any copyright-infringing material.
Offering cut-price access to otherwise subscription TV channels, PPVs, and video-on-demand archives, customers have flocked to them in their millions.
One popular provider operating in the space is Helix Hosting but if a message that appeared on the service’s homepage is anything to go by, the Christmas period may become memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The statement, published hours ago on the official Helix Hosting homepage, claimed that Helix had been hacked and was being held to ransom. The implication of the message was typical: Helix should pay up to appease the attackers or face potential damage to their business.
“Helix Hosting Has Been Hacked – They have had the option to pay a small amount to protect its customers or have all customer details leaked online putting you all at risk,” the message read.
“They have chosen to not accept this offer and would prefer your details to be leaked online.”
The overall threat was to release the personal details of all customers and resellers of Helix but to “make it fair”, the proposed leak would also expose “at the least” one owner and/or staff member of the service along with their name, address, phone numbers, and IP addresses.
While someone had clearly placed the message on the front page of the site, other areas of the Helix site remained functional for a while. At the time the ‘hacked’ notice appeared, Helix’s app and repo indexes were functioning normally and its web player login page was also accessible.
However, as the minutes passed by, other aspects of the web portal were apparently disabled and the ransom message disappeared too. This morning, however, the ‘hacked’ message is back for all to see.
Only time will tell how this episode will end and whether the threats to go nuclear on Helix over its failure to “pay a small amount” will be carried out. It’s also unclear what information Helix holds and what use that information would be to third-parties, even if it was leaked online.
The warning currently on display still mentions a 23:00 deadline to pay the ransom but there is no indication of which day, country, or time zone that refers to. So, depending on the timing, the leak could’ve happened already, could be about to happen, or may not even happen at all.
That said, giving in to blackmail is a big decision to make, especially when copies of data are easily made leaving attackers in a position to have a second bite at the cherry on a whim.
Until recently, Boom Media was one of the most active and recognizable ‘pirate’ IPTV reseller brands available to the public.
Operating in the United States under the name Boom Media LLC, the company acted as a reseller for IPTV subscription services including MFG TV, Beast TV, Nitro TV, Murica Streams, Epic IPTV, Vader Streams, and OK2.
As reported early November, this attracted the unwanted attention of DISH Network and partner NagraStar, who teamed up to sue Boom Media LLC and son and mother team John and Debra Henderson.
The broadcaster claimed that the Boom Media service, which was allegedly operated from John’s home, received payments from customers via accounts operated by mother Debra. This operation, DISH said, resulted in willful violations of the company’s rights under the Federal Communications Act.
While some of DISH’s similar lawsuits have dragged on for some time in court, there’s evidence to suggest that in addition to obtaining cash settlements from targets such as Boom, the broadcaster views such litigation as a stepping-stone to further litigation against their associates. And, of course, more settlements.
John Henderson certainly believes this is the case. In an expletive-ridden video posted to YouTube this week, he says that DISH and NagraStar want to break him down in their hunt for information on others involved in the IPTV supply and consumption chain.
He says he’s not comfortable with that at all so he wants to take the fight to DISH in order to prevent that from happening. But of course, that will take money – lots of money – and he wants that to be donated by former customers and other interested parties.
“I set up a GoFundMe to help me pay for legal fees. The point of that is i’m gonna take this shit to a trial by jury, that’s my intent. So basically, the lawyer just to start is $15,000,” he says.
“The basic point is in order for me to get any kind of settlement, I have to turn over information on fucking everything, everything I’ve ever known, and I’m just not comfortable doing that. Yeah, so you bought [subscriptions to IPTV services through Boom] but they have the right to subpoena Google and PayPal.”
The $15,000 to get started is, well, just that. The GoFundMe currently has a target of $250,000 but whether that sizeable amount will cover the costs of lengthy litigation is up for debate. Nevertheless, Henderson says that by biting back, he can stop DISH from getting his customers’ details and sending them demands for cash settlements for alleged piracy.
“What they’ve done with these cookie-cutter lawsuits is that they’ve turned them into a stream of revenue for themselves. This isn’t really about fucking lawsuits and protecting anything at this point, it’s about getting information to send you a fucking letter demanding $3,500, which is what they’ve been doing with everyone.
“Everyone has settled, no one has taken them to trial, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it unfolds,” he says.
Henderson acknowledges that the legal process is going to cost “a shit-load of money” but if people don’t want to support him, “that’s fine”. However, he warns that these types of cases can set a precedent and handing over the information is something he wants to avoid, to protect everyone in the supply and consumption chain.
“I think I have some valid points why they shouldn’t be able to get that information at all. That’s really all there is to it, I’m asking for support. I think resellers across the fucking globe should be jumping on this because whatever happens to me, does affect you because now they can say ‘we got this from Boom Media’, this is the way it worked out, now you must settle,” he adds.
Henderson believes that IPTV providers themselves should also take an interest in a successful outcome to the case because if resellers are no longer a legal target, they won’t have any reason to give up information on their suppliers.
“The only reason that people are getting snitched on is because resellers are pussies, I mean that’s just the way it is,” he claims.
“I have [the GoFundMe] up for $250,000. I know that when TVAddons was going through this, that’s pretty much how it went. They just bled them dry,” Henderson says.
While TVAddons did have a huge legal dispute with DISH that undoubtedly cost founder Adam Lackman a lot of money, Lackman insists that he never handed over his users’ data to DISH. That suggests there may be a way out of Henderson’s situation without compromising his suppliers and former customers but only time will tell if a jury trial can deliver the type of victory that avoids that.
If it even gets that far, that is.
While a quarter of a million dollars is a significant sum, Henderson fully expects to face tactics designed to break his ability to fight back. Already he claims that DISH is attempting to get a gag order to prevent him from telling the world “what garbage they are for suing an innocent woman, my mother, knowing goddamn well she had nothing to do with anything.”
Until he gets served with a gag order, however, he’s not shutting up at all, he insists. Meanwhile, he says that DISH is generating money from a “stupid tax”, a reference to all the IPTV and IKS (Internet Key Sharing) users to whom DISH sends letters and receives settlements in return.
“They [DISH] want everything from me. They want my soul, they want all the information, they want me to roll on everyone, which isn’t even really possible but I’m not gonna do it,” Henderson adds.
“I’m fully prepared to go to war over this shit but I’m gonna need financial help. Obviously, everyone knows I’m out of business, that’s the way it is. I’m not a millionaire, I’m not a billionaire, I’m barely a thousandaire.”
Henderson doesn’t provide any proof, but claims that Vader Streams – a pirate IPTV provider that was targeted by the MPA-backed Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment earlier this year, “snitched on everyone, they snitched and they rolled over and they gave up everything.” Prior to the settlement agreement, Vader said it would not compromise customers.
Henderson says he doesn’t want to go down the disclosure route but DISH is on record wanting Boom Media to do just that. In addition to a permanent injunction against the company, it wants Boom’s domain name plus “all hard copy and electronic records” regarding persons involved in the entire “Rebroadcasting Scheme”.
At the time of writing, the GoFundMe has raised $700 of its $250,000 target.
The original complaint against Boom Media can be found here (pdf)
Increasingly, people are canceling their expensive cable subscriptions, opting to use cheaper Internet TV instead.
While there are plenty of legal options available, there’s also a broad offer of easy-to-use set-top boxes, sites, and apps that are specifically configured to deliver pirated content.
There are some free alternatives, but high-quality pirate IPTV services are often sold through a monthly or yearly subscription. This has created an industry that’s worth a lot of money. According to a new report from the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), nearly €1 billion in Europe alone.
This is the result of an in-depth study of the IPTV ecosystem published by the EUIPO this week. The research reveals the prevalence of IPTV piracy, who the main players are, how they operate, and what business models are used.
EUIPO looked at hundreds of allegedly illegal IPTV services and combined this with data from the Eurostat household survey data. Based on these figures, it estimates that pirate IPTV services generated €941.7 million annual unlawful revenue in the EU during 2018.
The research further finds that IPTV piracy is a problem across all EU member states. On average, 3.1% of the EU population access these unauthorized services. This translates to a customer base of 13.7 million users.
However, the scale of the problem varies from country to country. The Netherlands and Sweden have the highest percentage of pirate IPTV users, with 8.9% and 8.5% respectively. In Romania and Bulgaria, it’s far less common with 0.7% and 1.3% respectively.
The average subscriber pays a little over five euros per month for a subscription, with rates varying across Europe. Most revenue is generated in the UK, France, and Germany. Together these three countries deliver more than half of the total income, €532 million.
These statistics show that IPTV piracy is a major problem. EUIPO acknowledges this and provides a detailed overview of various actors in the ecosystem, as well as the legal remedies and enforcement options that are available.
EUIPO’s definition of IPTV appears to be quite broad, as cyberlockers and the BitTorrent-powered Popcorn Time are mentioned as well. In general, however, most traditional IPTV services rely on direct streaming feeds and playlists.
Regarding enforcement, EUIPO points out that EU law provides the means to go after developers, operators, and vendors of infringing services. Through civil and criminal actions against the alleged offenders, for example, or website blocking injunctions.
In addition, facilitators could technically face legal problems as well. This includes blogs and YouTube channels that show people how to configure pirate devices, for example.
“Depending on the level of involvement in the provision of illegal services, the facilitator can be co-liable for IPR infringement and can be prosecuted for aiding and abetting,” EUIPO notes.
Whether individual IPTV users can be easily targeted remains an open question. According to EUIPO, requiring operators of illegal IPTV services to disclose information on their users could be incompatible with EU data protection law.
The study is the most elaborate research into the illegal IPTV market to date. While it doesn’t arrive at any concrete recommendations, EUIPO’s Executive Director, Christian Archambeau, believes that understanding the ecosystem will help to raise awareness.
“This is a market area in which infringing business models change quickly as they adapt to new technology and business opportunities. This research clarifies the technology used, the complex supply chains and legal issues.
“It also casts much-needed light on a hidden area of an everyday activity, which is being exploited by organized crime, and should help raise awareness among EU citizens,” Archambeau adds.
In addition to the IPTV study, EUIPO also released new data on the use of pirated content in EU countries. This reveals that there was a 15% decrease from 2017 to 2018. Music piracy, in particular, dropped very fast, 32% on average across the EU
It is not uncommon for anti-piracy groups to state that some ‘pirates’ make a lot of money.
However, whenever that is the case, there’s a tendency for most in the piracy world to maintain a low profile.
Take that position, multiply it by a million. You’re now just halfway to the crazy world of YouTube sensation OMI IN A HELLCAT.
Regularly seen on his channel adding yet another supercar to his huge collection (a recent addition was a McLaren 720s Spider), OMI — real name Omar Carrasquillo — is the founder and owner of ‘pirate’ IPTV service Gears Reloaded.
There’s no suggestion that all of OMI’s rumored $50m fortune came from piracy (he reportedly owns real estate, a restaurant, and several other businesses) but it seems highly likely that the Gears Reloaded gig is well and truly over.
Starting early yesterday, users of the Gears Reloaded IPTV service reported rare downtime. The website connected to the service displays a message indicating ‘down for maintenance’ but according to OMI himself, that’s only part of the story.
“This ain’t clickbait. This ain’t fake, this is not fake. This is 100% real,” OMI said in a noticeably subdued live Q&A with his fans a couple of hours ago, streamed from a friend’s house in Philadelphia.
“I’m gonna let you guys know exactly…and by the way, the FBI is in here [the channel] watching right now as we speak. What i’m gonna need you guys to do for me, i’m gonna need you to buy that merch when it drops,” the persistent entrepreneur began.
“Pretty much they seized all my cars. One thing they didn’t seize was the things I was able to sell a few weeks ago, even a few days ago before this shit happened. A few cars and shit.
“When I tell you they took ‘everything’, they took every SD card, every camera, every television in my house — HOUSES. They took every car. They took ALL my Hellcats. They only thing they didn’t take was my dick because it’s attached to my balls.”
Describing himself for the benefit of newcomers, OMI insisted that his wealth isn’t the result of selling drugs. He began as an app developer for Kodi, one that “got hacked early on.” He then answered the million-dollar question — what happened with the FBI?
“It was pretty much IPTV and taxes and shit and hiring the wrong CPA [accountant]. This is really important for you guys, make sure your taxes are paid for,” he said.
That “taxes and shit” is apparently a reference to pending tax evasion and money laundering charges following a two-year IRS investigation. This is particularly interesting when one considers that OMI has regularly and persistently described pirate IPTV as legal.
“I hit a great area and exploited it and they just didn’t like it. I made a ton of money but at the same time a lot of the money I made super-legit,” he told the Q&A.
“I felt that what I was doing wasn’t illegal. Streaming is totally legal, it’s just the way they’re trying to word it, it’s a little different. But streaming isn’t illegal. It was never live television, it was always delayed television and there’s no laws against it. There’s no laws against it.
“This is Napster 2.0. This wasn’t killing anybody. If anything I saved hundreds of thousands of people [with] cheaper cable. IPTV is not illegal in the US. It isn’t. It isn’t. It’s illegal in other countries but it’s not illegal in the US.
“The [Copyright Act] has nothing to do with streaming and when they seize those servers and they realize there’s nothing being stored on these servers, you have nothing on me. Streaming is not illegal. I saw a window, I saw an opportunity, I exploited the fuck out of it. That’s all it is.”
In earlier videos, OMI said that he previously made lots of money from hosting services, including Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto servers. He also talked about selling huge numbers of Firesticks. Generally, it’s difficult to find a video where the amount of money he’s made isn’t either the sole topic of conversation or at least heavily featured.
But according to OMI, that might be more difficult in the future.
“[My friend] had to lend me a phone because I don’t have a phone. They seized millions of dollars out of all my accounts. They took all the cash I had laying around,” he says. “They took all my jewelry [a recent video has OMI apparently buying $300K’s worth], kids’ things, they took Xboxes, they took computers, laptops, cellphones. They didn’t even leave drones.”
Having previously watched a good number of OMI’s videos, his optimism and positivity have always shone through. That wasn’t the case during this Q&A. By his own estimation, he’s going to prison “for a few years” although he says he’ll also take the rap for those who worked with him.
Another particular point of interest is that OMI insists that entertainment companies never sued him.
“I could’ve dealt with the MPA or the NFL suing me, that never happened. They never gave me fair warning, which by law they have to. Especially when it comes down to a crime like this, when it comes down to ‘copyright infringement’. They were supposed to hit me with a seize operation, or a cease and desist.
“They never hit me with that. I would’ve took it right down,” he adds.
However, OMI also admits that he had been receiving takedown notices issued from the UK on behalf of “the European leagues”, which seems like a reference to either Premier League or UEFA blocking efforts. He also acknowledges receiving notices from Sky, HBO, and similar “fucking stupid channels.”
If there is a point where a defendant in a serious criminal case should stop talking and consult a lawyer, OMI doesn’t seem to know where that point is. He told viewers that the FBI is accusing him of “stealing channels” but he insists he always paid for his — before capturing them and distributing them to his customers.
“I paid for my channels. I did things the old school way. I used capture cards. I take full responsibility so anybody on my team and shit, I pretty much hope you guys don’t ever go to jail now,” he explained.
According to OMI, he knew an investigation was underway since an associate he names as ‘Hector Fuentes’ was a CI (an informant).
“So he used to come around and shit, with a little wire on and could see the wire through his fucking shirt and would say dumb shit to see how far it would get him. The mother-fucker was a confidential informant. The whole time, he was putting people in jail for a long time,” OMI claimed.
Considering this was a Q&A streamed live on YouTube, things then got dark, very dark indeed. OMI says that after being detained by the FBI and being run to the station, all he could think of was killing himself, live on YouTube.
“I’m gonna go on live….and i’m going to kill myself. I’m gonna go on live, express how I feel and then shoot myself on live.”
Thankfully, for everyone’s sake, that didn’t happen.
Raids, shutdowns, legal action, settlements, and even technical issues have caused many sellers of ‘pirate’ IPTV to shut down in recent months.
The end to the problem for broadcasters, however, seems as far away as ever, with large numbers of providers and sellers managing to service the illicit market, despite serious setbacks.
Hoping to make a dent in the supply chain, police in Spain say they have carried out an operation to “dismantle” a service that sourced raw TV streams and distributed them, supplied VOD content, and then sold packages to clients.
The investigation began in 2017 when officers of the Central Cybercrime Unit became aware of a Facebook page where access to pirate TV was being offered.
Investigators determined that those behind the operation were capturing channels broadcast by the major TV outfits and uploading them to servers operated by different companies abroad. At the same time, they operated a sales and marketing division, to sell their product to the public.
In total, 12 people were identified as suspects, with four people said to have been in charge of capturing the broadcast signals and distributing them, managing access to content, attracting customers, and collecting the cash through various platforms.
The remaining eight were considered resellers of the services. These individuals obtained access to the main platform from the four operators at a reduced cost in order to market these subscriptions to their own customers in Spain and overseas.
The two-year investigation came to head last Friday when the 12 suspects were arrested when raids were carried out on addresses in Madrid, Toledo, Alicante, Murcia, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and other locations.
Seven websites and two social media profiles were shut down and 86 decoders, 15 hard drives, 10 computers, NAS drives, 17 mobile phones, a ‘high-end’ vehicle and more than 22,000 euros in cash were seized.
According to police, the as-yet-unnamed service generated an estimated 1,000,000 euros for its operators who are now charged with various offenses including intellectual property crimes, belonging to a criminal organization, and money laundering.
From its relatively basic and humble roots back in the 1990s, Internet-based distribution of copyright-infringing content underwent a renaissance at the turn of the century.
Peer-to-peer technologies, including the now omnipresent BitTorrent protocol, brought file-sharing to the masses and with it a huge problem for the content industries.
Twenty years on – a lifetime in technology – BitTorrent still attracts hundreds of millions of users but the immediacy of streaming, including movies, TV series, live TV and sports, is now considered one of the greatest threats facing copyright holders and distribution platforms.
This week, in remarks made at the Thirteenth Law Enforcement and Industry Meeting on Intellectual Property Enforcement in Washington, DC, the Department of Justice weighed in on these dramatic changes in the piracy landscape over the past decade.
“Copyright pirates have moved from peddling individual copies of movies, music, and software on street corners or offering individual downloads online, to operating technologically advanced, multi-national streaming services that generate millions of dollars in illicit profits,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski.
While online streaming of pirated content is nothing new, in more recent years there has been a noticeable shift in the professionalism of those providing and distributing content, with highly organized unlicensed IPTV providers and ‘pirate’ CDN operations presenting new challenges to entertainment companies and law enforcement alike.
Piracy-enabled set-top boxes, which in many cases draw their content from the type of services referenced by Benczkowski, remain high on the agenda. The Assistant Attorney General also referenced the recent charges against eight Las Vegas residents who allegedly ran two of the largest platforms in the country.
“One of the services – known as Jetflicks – allegedly obtained infringing television programs by using sophisticated computer scripts to scour pirate websites around the world and collect the television shows,” Benczkowski said.
“It then made the programming available for paying Jetflicks subscribers to stream and download, often just one day after the original episodes aired. The scheme, as charged, resulted in the loss of millions of dollars by television program and motion picture copyright owners.”
This leveraging of technology to provide content quickly and at scale is a concern for the USDOJ, which indicates it will continue to pursue “high-impact cases” to deter IP crime. However, Benczkowski noted that changes to the law or creative legal strategies may be required to reel in the more elusive offenders.
“Existing laws do not always address the conduct that IP criminals are engaging in today. Or, put differently, smart criminals may seek to avoid serious repercussions by developing new technologies or security measures to skirt legal authorities,” he said.
“We need to be creative and cooperative in thinking about possible solutions, whether through looking at additional charging strategies, or considering legislative amendments.”
What those strategies might be is open to question but Benczkowski believes law enforcement will “never” be in a position to solve the IP crime problem through prosecution alone.
Nevertheless, through cooperation and the enhancement of relationships with overseas law enforcement entities to target the “worst actors”, he believes that it’s possible to significantly reduce the profits available to those engaged in criminal copyright infringement.
Anyone who has followed piracy and copyright infringement issues for years or even decades, few developments fall into the ‘WOW’ category anymore.
That torrent and streaming services are still getting sued or raided is frankly daily fodder and after the military-style raid on Kim Dotcom hit the headlines, pretty much anything is possible.
Over the past couple of years, however, something so bizarre – so ridiculous – has been developing on sites like YouTube to make even the most outspoken of pirates raise an eyebrow or two. We’re talking about the rise of the IPTV seller and reseller ‘celebrities’ who are openly promoting their businesses like a regular company might.
As reported this week, IPTV reseller company Boom Media LLC is getting sued by DISH Networks and NagraStar in the United States. That another one of these outfits is being targeted isn’t a shock. However, when promotional YouTube videos are produced in court evidence, with the alleged owner of the company personally appearing in them stating that “it’s pirated f**cking streams. It’s no different than buying f**king knockoff shoes. It’s black market shit,” one has to wonder what the hell is going on.
So, just one person has allegedly done something reckless or ill-considered, right? Wrong. This type of behavior is neither isolated or rare.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sitting through hours of YouTube videos produced by people selling or reselling ‘pirate’ IPTV packages. In a worrying number, particularly given the popularity of their services, owners, founders, or ’employees’ of these outfits appear in person.
Their names are publicly known and in some cases, even their addresses. These are not small players, not by any stretch. In some cases, we’re talking huge numbers of followers and many hundreds of thousands of views, selling well-recognized services.
While in some cases hyperbole is clearly part of the pitch, it’s child’s play to find operators of these companies bragging about how much money they’ve made or are making, and how many customers they have. They speak to their subscribers, in person via live-streams, conduct detailed Q&A sessions, while ‘confirming’ the supposed legality of what they’re doing.
In a surprising number of cases, negative comments by users concerning legality are passed off as ridiculous, with sellers describing the sale of pirate IPTV subscriptions as residing in a gray area with the law powerless to do anything about it. While we could have a detailed argument here about the intricacies of any number of laws, both criminal and civil, and any potential defenses to them, these people appear to be missing the point.
Just this week, Openload – a true Internet giant with considerable resources – was pummeled into submission by dozens of the world’s largest content companies after agreeing to pay substantial damages. This was a file-hosting goliath being beaten up dozens of bigger goliaths. No face on YouTube required.
Another example can be found in Kim Dotcom, who says he has spent upwards of $40m in legal fees, even though, on the surface, many argue he has a solid legal basis for mounting a successful defense in the United States. But that’s $40,000,0000 already, before trial, an amount that will no doubt skyrocket in the event he ever gets sent there.
But here’s the thing. The majority of these IPTV ‘celebrities’, for want of a better term, are actually living in the United States already. It’s not necessary to name any of them, they do enough of that themselves. But in addition to their self-declared IPTV empires, some have significant and legitimate additional business interests too, which could all be put in jeopardy, one way or another, should the proverbial hit the fan.
In a piracy world where many are discussing anonymity, encryption, proxies, cryptocurrency payments, to name just a few, these people are deliberately making their identities known. They are not hiding away and as a result, they are known by anti-piracy groups who probably can’t believe their luck.
They not only have their real names and their own faces splashed across their own IPTV-based YouTube channels, but also channels that cover other aspects of their sometimes flamboyant lives. Anti-piracy groups don’t need investigators to find out who they are anymore, it’s common knowledge. An alias? Not parading yourself on the modern equivalent of TV? That’s soooo 1999, apparently.
The big question is whether these people really have lost their minds, or do they actually know something that most other people don’t? When did putting your own face in multiple videos, selling access to an admittedly pirated product via a company in your own name, become part of a solid business plan? It’s truly bizarre and cannot end well.
Welcome to 2019, it’s a truly strange place to be.
Selling ‘pirate’ IPTV packages and subscriptions to the public is a growing market, with the obvious potential to end badly for anyone involved.
With that in mind, there’s a growing trend for so-called IPTV resellers to be extremely open about their activities, utilizing highly active social media accounts and particularly YouTube channels, where they promote their services, describe them as illegal, and then have their own faces front and center.
For Boom Media, a prominent reseller of various ‘pirate’ IPTV services, this business model has attracted the wrong type of attention. The company, which trades as Boom Media LLC in North Carolina, is now being sued by DISH Network and NagraStar for illegally offering their content to the public.
Alongside the LLC, John Henderson of New York and Debra Henderson of North Carolina are also named as defendants.
The lawsuit, filed in a New York district court, states that Boom Media is run from John’s home and he is the sole member of the company. Together with his mother, Debra, it’s alleged they sell “access codes” (a common term used in DISH lawsuits to reference IPTV subscriptions) which are designed to enable subscribers to illegally receive DISH programming via the Internet.
“The codes are designed and produced to enable a set-top box or other Internet-enabled device to access servers used to transmit DISH programming to customers of the MFG TV, Beast TV, Nitro TV, Murica Streams, Epic IPTV, Vader Streams and OK2 services,” the complaint reads.
Noting that Vader Streams and OK2 are no longer on offer from Boom Media (likely due to the former being shut down by ACE earlier this year), the lawsuit notes that the defendants also promote their service to access channels such as HBO and Showtime, plus PPV events associated with UFC, WWE, and various boxing promotions.
In common with similar suits filed recently, DISH says it was able to determine that the channels were sourced from its service due to watermarks embedded in its broadcasts. These were then resold from the above-listed IPTV suppliers by Boom Media, which charged customers between $10 and $20 per month with an option to buy a “pre-loaded” set-top box for $150.
While DISH points the finger firmly at John Henderson for the running of Boom Media, the broadcaster claims that it is his mother, Debra, who receives payment from Boom’s customers.
As previously mentioned, Boom Media has a YouTube channel which it uses to promote the various packages it sells. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by DISH, which highlights some of the language used by Boom Media in its videos.
“In a video posted to the Boom Media YouTube channel, Defendant John Henderson informed customers that “[y]ou guys are buying pirated streams, this shit is not Hulu, it’s not Netflix, it’s pirated f**cking streams. It’s no different than buying f**king knockoff shoes. It’s black market shit,” DISH writes in its complaint.
In common with other similar lawsuits, DISH hasn’t gone down the copyright infringement route with this action, instead opting for willful violations of the Federal Communications Act.
The company demands a permanent injunction to prevent the ongoing behavior and seizure of all devices and equipment used to facilitate the violations. It also wants to seize the Boommedia.org domain name (and any others involved in the scheme) plus “all hard copy and electronic records” regarding persons involved in the entire “Rebroadcasting Scheme”.
At this stage it’s difficult to put a figure on the final amount DISH will demand in damages but even hundreds of thousands of dollars could be a conservative estimate.
Right up until early this month, IPTV Smarters, one of the most popular and impressive IPTV players, was available from Google’s Play Store.
The software, which is available for Android and iOS, allows people to watch IPTV streams but, at the time of delivery, carries no content. If users want to view anything, they have to add login details for their service of choice.
While the software can be used for legitimate means in the same manner as a torrent client, for example, some IPTV Smarters users utilize the software to access infringing content. As a result, on October 7, 2019, the developer of the software received a copyright complaint which led to Google removing it from Google Play.
At the time, the company behind the software, New Spark Technology, told TorrentFreak that this was the third time it had received a complaint about its player and that its legal team would sort out the issue. That has now resulted in the software being reinstated by Google.
Speaking with TF, Amanpreet Singh declined to mention the name of the company behind the complaint but did reveal that it was based on copyright law and alleged breaches of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).
“Our lawyer has handled this case with Google and the company that claimed. We have clarified to them that we are not offering content and not infringing copyright. As all know, we are not offering any kind of media content – streams, subscriptions, channels, etc. The user must have their own content,” Singh said.
The outcome of the claim, according to Singh, is that this should never happen again, at least when it comes to any future complaints from the unnamed company.
“I have discussed with my lawyer, they will work on it to prevent it from happening again. But the same group/company can’t complain anymore I assure you,” he added.
“In the end, we have got our application back as we promised. There was no evidence so it was a false complaint.”
While many app developers are small teams without the resources to fight back against dubious claims, that’s not the case with the company behind IPTV Smarters. Singh says it’s a pretty big development operation with 67 staff members.
Meanwhile, an apparently similar complaint, against the IPTV player Perfect Player, is still ongoing. That tool was removed from Google Play just a few days ago and remains unavailable via the platform.
‘Pirate’ IPTV services make the news every week, mostly in connection with streaming movies, TV shows, and sports without obtaining permission from rightsholders.
Enforcement actions against these entities are certainly on the increase and in most instances it’s easy to see why copyright holders have a problem with them. However, it’s clear that some companies either don’t understand what they’re dealing with or simply don’t care.
Case in point, the popular Android app Perfect Player. This software is effectively a network-capable media player that enables users to enter a playlist from an IPTV provider and watch video, no matter what the source. In common with Windows Media Player, it doesn’t involve itself with end-user conduct and can be used to watch legitimate streams.
This week, however, the software – which has in excess of a million downloads from Google Play – was removed by Google because of a copyright complaint. It was filed by a major pay-TV provider, the name of which we’ve agreed not to publish while the complaint is ongoing.
It states that the software allows users to watch channels from unauthorized sources and is therefore illegal. However, there appears to be a considerable flaw in the pay-TV company’s arguments.
In common with the developers behind various torrent clients, Perfect Player’s developer doesn’t dictate how the software is used because no control can be exercised over that. Just like Windows Media Player, uTorrent, or even VLC (which has similar capabilities), it can be used for entirely legal purposes – or not, depending on the choice of the user.
To support its complaint, we understand that the pay-TV provider supplied screenshots showing Perfect Player playing content to which the company holds the rights. This is particularly odd because any content being played is actioned by and is the responsibility of the user.
To have received the content in the first place, the company (or whoever they obtained the app from) must’ve actively configured Perfect Player to infringe by loading it with the playlist from an illicit IPTV provider. Perfect Player contains no playlists when supplied directly from Google Play, it’s content-neutral.
To strike an analogy, you can’t put a bullet in a gun, shoot someone in the head, and then blame the gun manufacturer. Likewise, if you don’t want illicit streams turning up in a software player, don’t have someone load it with infringing playlists from third-parties and then blame a software developer.
“These guys told me that they own ‘Premier’ channels and we should stop transmitting these channels. I answered that the app doesn’t contain any content or channels,” Perfect Player’s developer informs TorrentFreak.
“They then sent another email with a screenshot, showing that they are able to watch their channels in the app.”
TorrentFreak contacted the TV company’s anti-piracy team asking why they chose to target Perfect Player while gently pointing out the playlist issue detailed above. Unfortunately, at the time of publication, the company had not responded to our request for comment.
Giving the TV company the benefit of the doubt for a moment, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that it acquired a ready-configured copy of Perfect Player from a third-party that already contained a URL for a ‘pirate’ service. That could give the impression it’s a dedicated pirate app.
That being said, downloading a copy from Google Play would’ve highlighted the important differences between a non-configured player and one set up for piracy. That’s impossible now, of course, because Google has taken Perfect Player down.
With the help of a lawyer, the developer is now filing a DMCA counter-notice with Google Play which will require the pay-TV company to either double down or back off. Unless Google chooses to restore Perfect Player in the meantime, of course.
Earlier this month, Google also took down the IPTV Smarters app from its Play Store following a “false complaint”, according to its developer. The company’s lawyers are reportedly working to have the software restored but at the time of writing, it remains unavailable on copyright grounds.
When they don’t use protection such as VPNs, pirates who use BitTorrent-like peer-to-peer systems are relatively easy to track down. Their IP addresses are publicly viewable meaning that one subpoena later, content companies can obtain their names and addresses from ISPs.
The situation is quite different when it comes to users of regular ‘pirate’ IPTV services. Their IP addresses and personal details are usually only known to their provider, so proving infringement is more difficult. Of course, if the IPTV provider itself is targeted by a company like DISH, it may decide to squeal to lessen the pain of its own demise.
In the summer it was revealed that NagraStar had been sending out settlement letters to people it accused of pirating DISH and Bell content using pirate IPTV services. The company reportedly asked for around $3,500 in compensation to make a potential lawsuit disappear.
Now, according to sources cited by CordCutters News, NagraStar and DISH are upping the tempo by threatening yet more IPTV users with lawsuits.
The publication says that it has received multiple reports of people who have been tracked down and provided with copies of their PayPal transactions which showed they purchased a subscription from illicit IPTV services.
Which IPTV services are involved this time around isn’t currently public knowledge but a user of RocketIPTV was previously forced to apologize on NagraStar’s website as part of a settlement.
None of this should come as a surprise. There are plenty of stories from users around the web indicating that NagraStar has obtained their records from a ‘pirate’ supplier, whether that was an IPTV provider or, more commonly, someone dealing in Internet Key Sharing (IKS) servers or codes.
In fact, when examining some of DISH’s ongoing lawsuits last week, TF noticed a statement from the broadcaster clearly indicating that it had obtained business records from a company called Digital TV that was helping it to sue. An excerpt from the case (pdf), filed on October 1, 2019, provides the details.
While this is a new case, other cases involving DISH, NagraStar, NFusion Private Server, and its resellers have been ongoing for a very long time.
One case, which dates back six years, shows that handing over information to NagraStar is part of the plan and that the company is very thorough in chasing people right down the chain.
While obtaining satellite programming using IKS was once rampant and is still an issue for broadcasters, IPTV is arguably a bigger problem today. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that DISH and its partners are branching out to target customers of IPTV services in the same manner.
And with IPTV resellers being asked to pay around $7,500 in settlements, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when they hand over subscribers’ personal details either. After all, the skin-saving game is hardly new when people are faced with damages claims in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
TorrentFreak was previously informed that most providers rarely care whether people supply their correct information when signing up for a service. But when PayPal addresses are involved, in most cases DISH is already too close to home.
If the figures that were cited following the recent international police operation against Xtream Codes are any yardstick, providers and sellers of ‘pirate’ IPTV providers currently number in their thousands.
While there are relatively few sources at the very top of the pyramid, there could be in excess of 5,000 players selling IPTV subscriptions to the public, which by recent estimates could dwarf even the five million accounts cited by the authorities.
In common with the task of removing every torrent, streaming and similar site from the Internet, the possibility of handing a death blow to the entire IPTV industry seems a distant dream for content providers. But that doesn’t mean incremental efforts aren’t underway.
As previously documented, the massive Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, which comprises dozens of the world’s largest content companies, is quietly taking down sellers and providers of IPTV. Today we can reveal that another four have had their domains commandeered by MPA America, the organization previously known as the MPAA.
VStreamTV.com first appeared to gain traction back in 2015, selling an inconspicuous set-top box to the public. Promising no contract and no monthly fees, the $349 device boasted 100,000 movies and TV shows, plus 1,000 channels of live entertainment.
By 2019, the site was offering its latest ‘VS4+’ device, promising unlimited entertainment to customers looking to permanently cut the cord. Then, a few weeks ago, it all came to an end. The site shut down without notice after its domain was taken over by the MPA. Like many before it, it now directs to the anti-piracy portal operated by ACE.
According to web records, MaxTVLive.com only appeared on the scene in 2018. Among other things, the site seems to have offered a custom Android APK to be installed on users’ own devices. For the price of $25 per month, Max TV users could enjoy live TV and other content on a single device, with extra devices costing an extra $5 per month.
However in common with VStreamTV, a few weeks ago the party came to an abrupt end. It seems likely that ACE came knocking with demands to shut down the business as the service’s website is now owned by the MPA and redirects to the ACE portal.
What ultimately happened with MyIQXTV.com isn’t in question – it was taken over by the MPA and now redirects to the ACE portal. We weren’t able to recover a copy of the operation’s website but if it was in any way connected to the IXQtv service (note subtle difference in spelling), it’s no surprise it appeared on the MPA/ACE radar.
IXQtv shut down August 1st and was no ordinary operation. While many IPTV providers operate via resellers, IXQtv operated a ridiculously full-blown multi-level-marketing (MLM) scheme which paid affiliates not only on sales of streaming packages but also commissions for recruiting yet more affiliates. Think Amway for IPTV.
Finally, the obviously-named JailbrokenBlackBox.co takes last place on today’s update of recent domain takeovers. Information on precisely what packages, services or tools the site offered isn’t clear but like the others, it clearly attracted the negative attention of the world’s biggest entertainment companies.
Details of earlier domain takeovers carried out by ACE and the MPA against IPTV-related operations can be found here (1,2,3,4)
People who want to view IPTV services on their mobile or set-top devices need a software player with which to do so.
IPTV Smarters is one of the most impressive and popular applications in the niche and is used by large numbers of users on both Android and iOS-based devices.
Up until today, people could just head off to Google’s Play Store to download a copy. However, visitors to the page are now advised that the URL no longer exists, a pretty clear indication that IPTV Smarters has been deleted from the service.
Given the popularity of the software, TorrentFreak spoke with New Spark Technology, the company behind IPTV Smarters. Amanpreet Singh, who is listed as the person behind the Android app, says that the tool was indeed removed from Google Play following a complaint.
Singh says that he prefers not to share the details of the complaint, or reveal who sent it, because “it’s just a false complaint as usual.” The developer informs TF that this is the third time that the app has been deleted from Google Play and the company’s legal team is on the case.
“It’s normal [to receive such complaints] and [it has] happened three times so far. We had it sorted out last time and this time. We have executed the same procedure with the help of our lawyers,” he says.
The last time the app was taken down earlier this year it remained offline for 10 days. This time the company says it will “try to get it back as soon as possible.”
“As it’s just a video player, that’s why it will be back very soon,” Singh says.
While many people understand that IPTV Smarters doesn’t provide any content or IPTV streams to users, there are plenty out there who don’t seem to appreciate how it all works. They see IPTV Smarters getting recommended as a good IPTV-viewing solution and then expect the company to provide the streams as well.
In response, the company says it added a popup disclaimer to its site a few days ago, unconnected to the current disappearance of its app from Google Play, explaining that it doesn’t “endorse or guarantee” the use of its software by third parties “for streaming and subscriptions.”
“We respects the Intellectual Property rights of others and does not endorse any of the Intellectual Property violation by third parties. Linking of New Spark Technology, WHMCS & IPTV softwares to any of the third party links or platforms does not constitute any of the its endorsement or sponsorships [sic], it reads.”
“We put the disclaimer on our website because many users keep asking for a subscription ( username / password and url ), that is what we don’t offer,” Singh informs TF.
“Also, many customers keep asking us why their channels are not working blah blah blah. So, to prevent us getting unnecessary questions, we updated the disclaimer.”
At the time of writing, the App Store variant for Apple devices is still online via the web and installable on iOS devices, suggesting that the problem is, at least for now, isolated to the Android variant.
Precisely when that will return for download is uncertain but Singh appears confident it won’t take too long.
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