Tag Archives: Kodi

Hollywood and Netflix Ask Court to Seize Tickbox Streaming Devices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-and-netflix-ask-court-to-seize-tickbox-streaming-devices-171209/

More and more people are starting to use Kodi-powered set-top boxes to stream video content to their TVs.

While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons give it a bad reputation.

According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors.

Earlier this year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The Tickbox devices use the Kodi media player and come with instructions on how to add various add-ons.

According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. “TickBox promotes and distributes TickBox TV for infringing use, and that is exactly the result of its use,” they told court this week.

After the complaint was filed in October, Tickbox made some cosmetic changes to the site, removing some allegedly inducing language. The streaming devices are still for sale, however, but not for long if it’s up to the media giants.

This week ACE submitted a request for a preliminary injunction to the court, hoping to stop Tickbox’s sales activities.

“TickBox is intentionally inducing infringement, pure and simple. Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court enter a preliminary injunction that requires TickBox to halt its flagrantly illegal conduct immediately,” they write in their application.

The companies explain that that since Tickbox is causing irreparable harm, all existing devices should be impounded.

“[A]ll TickBox TV devices in the possession of TickBox and all of its officers, directors, agents, servants, and employees, and all persons in active concert or participation or in privity with any of them are to be impounded and shall be retained by Defendant until further order of the Court,” the proposed order reads.

In addition, Tickbox should push out a software update which remove all infringing add-ons from the devices that were previously sold.

“TickBox shall, via software update, remove from all distributed TickBox TV devices all Kodi ‘Themes,’ ‘Builds,’ ‘Addons,’ or any other software that facilitates the infringing public performances of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works.”

Among others, the list of allegedly infringing add-ons and themes includes Spinz, Lodi Black, Stream on Fire, Wookie, Aqua, CMM, Spanish Quasar, Paradox, Covenant, Elysium, UK Turk, Gurzil, Maverick, and Poseidon.

The filing shows that ACE is serious about its efforts to stop the sale of these type of streaming devices. Tickbox has yet to reply to the original complaint or the injunction request.

While this is the first US lawsuit of its kind, the anti-piracy conglomerate has been rather active in recent weeks. The group has successfully pressured several addon developers to quit and has been involved in enforcement actions around the globe.

A copy of the proposed preliminary injunction is available here (pdf).

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

CrimeStoppers Campaign Targets Pirate Set-Top Boxes & Their Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/crimestoppers-campaign-targets-pirate-set-top-boxes-their-users-171209/

While many people might believe CrimeStoppers to be an official extension of the police in the UK, the truth is a little more subtle.

CrimeStoppers is a charity that operates a service through which members of the public can report crime anonymously, either using a dedicated phone line or via a website. Callers are not required to give their name, meaning that for those concerned about reprisals or becoming involved in a case for other sensitive reasons, it’s the perfect buffer between them and the authorities.

The people at CrimeStoppers deal with all kinds of crime but perhaps a little surprisingly, they’ve just got involved in the set-top box controversy in the UK.

“Advances in technology have allowed us to enjoy on-screen entertainment in more ways than ever before, with ever increasing amounts of exciting and original content,” the CrimeStoppers campaign begins.

“However, some people are avoiding paying for this content by using modified streaming hardware devices, like a set-top box or stick, in conjunction with software such as illegal apps or add-ons, or illegal mobile apps which allow them to watch new movie releases, TV that hasn’t yet aired, and subscription sports channels for free.”

The campaign has been launched in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office and unnamed “industry partners”. Who these companies are isn’t revealed but given the standard messages being portrayed by the likes of ACE, Premier League and Federation Against Copyright Theft lately, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some or all of them were involved.

Those messages are revealed in a series of four video ads, each taking a different approach towards discouraging the public from using devices loaded with pirate software.

The first video clearly targets the consumer, dispelling the myth that watching pirate video isn’t against the law. It is, that’s not in any doubt, but from the constant tone of the video, one could be forgiven that it’s an extremely serious crime rather than something which is likely to be a civil matter, if anything at all.

It also warns people who are configuring and selling pirate devices that they are breaking the law. Again, this is absolutely true but this activity is clearly several magnitudes more serious than simply viewing. The video blurs the boundaries for what appears to be dramatic effect, however.

Selling and watching is illegal

The second video is all about demonizing the people and groups who may offer set-top boxes to the public.

Instead of portraying the hundreds of “cottage industry” suppliers behind many set-top box sales in the UK, the CrimeStoppers video paints a picture of dark organized crime being the main driver. By buying from these people, the charity warns, criminals are being welcomed in.

“It is illegal. You could also be helping to fund organized crime and bringing it into your community,” the video warns.

Are you funding organized crime?

The third video takes another approach, warning that set-top boxes have few if any parental controls. This could lead to children being exposed to inappropriate content, the charity warns.

“What are your children watching. Does it worry you?” the video asks.

Of course, the same can be said about the Internet, period. Web browsers don’t filter what content children have access to unless parents take pro-active steps to configure special services or software for the purpose.

There’s always the option to supervise children, of course, but Netflix is probably a safer option for those with a preference to stand off. It’s also considerably more expensive, a fact that won’t have escaped users of these devices.

Got kids? Take care….

Finally, video four picks up a theme that’s becoming increasingly common in anti-piracy campaigns – malware and identity theft.

“Why risk having your identity stolen or your bank account or home network hacked. If you access entertainment or sports using dodgy streaming devices or apps, or illegal addons for Kodi, you are increasing the risks,” the ad warns.

Danger….Danger….

Perhaps of most interest is that this entire campaign, which almost certainly has Big Media behind the scenes in advisory and financial capacities, barely mentions the entertainment industries at all.

Indeed, the success of the whole campaign hinges on people worrying about the supposed ill effects of illicit streaming on them personally and then feeling persuaded to inform on suppliers and others involved in the chain.

“Know of someone supplying or promoting these dodgy devices or software? It is illegal. Call us now and help stop crime in your community,” the videos warn.

That CrimeStoppers has taken on this campaign at all is a bit of a head-scratcher, given the bigger crime picture. Struggling with severe budget cuts, police in the UK are already de-prioritizing a number of crimes, leading to something called “screening out”, a process through which victims are given a crime number but no investigation is carried out.

This means that in 2016, 45% of all reported crimes in Greater Manchester weren’t investigated and a staggering 57% of all recorded domestic burglaries weren’t followed up by the police. But it gets worse.

“More than 62pc of criminal damage and arson offenses were not investigated, along with one in three reported shoplifting incidents,” MEN reports.

Given this backdrop, how will police suddenly find the resources to follow up lots of leads from the public and then subsequently prosecute people who sell pirate boxes? Even if they do, will that be at the expense of yet more “screening out” of other public-focused offenses?

No one is saying that selling pirate devices isn’t a crime or at least worthy of being followed up, but is this niche likely to be important to the public when they’re being told that nothing will be done when their homes are emptied by intruders? “NO” says a comment on one of the CrimeStoppers videos on YouTube.

“This crime affects multi-million dollar corporations, I’d rather see tax payers money invested on videos raising awareness of crimes committed against the people rather than the 0.001%,” it concludes.

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

Resilient TVAddons Plans to Ditch Proactive ‘Piracy’ Screening

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/resilient-tvaddons-plans-to-ditch-proactive-piracy-screening-171207/

After years of smooth sailing, this year TVAddons became a poster child for the entertainment industry’s war on illicit streaming devices.

The leading repository for unofficial Kodi addons was sued for copyright infringement in the US by satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network. Around the same time, a similar case was filed by Bell, TVA, Videotron, and Rogers in Canada.

The latter case has done the most damage thus far, as it caused the addon repository to lose its domain names and social media accounts. As a result, the site went dead and while many believed it would never return, it made a blazing comeback after a few weeks.

Since the original TVAddons.ag domain was seized, the site returned on TVaddons.co. And that was not the only difference. A lot of the old add-ons, for which it was unclear if they linked to licensed content, were no longer listed in the repository either.

TVAddons previously relied on the DMCA to shield it from liability but apparently, that wasn’t enough. As a result, they took the drastic decision to check all submitted add-ons carefully.

“Since complying with the law is clearly not enough to prevent frivolous legal action from being taken against you, we have been forced to implement a more drastic code vetting process,” a TVAddons representative told us previously.

Despite the absence of several of the most used add-ons, the repository has managed to regain many of its former users. Over the past month, TVAddons had over 12 million unique users. These all manually installed the new repository on their devices.

“We’re not like one of those pirate sites that are shut down and opens on a new domain the next day, getting users to actually manually install a new repo isn’t an easy feat,” a TVAddons representative informs TorrentFreak.

While it’s still far away from the 40 million unique users it had earlier this year, before the trouble began, it’s still a force to be reckoned with.

Interestingly, the vast majority of all TVAddons traffic comes from the United States. The UK is second at a respectable distance, followed by Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands.

While many former users have returned, the submission policy changes didn’t go unnoticed. The relatively small selection of add-ons is a major drawback for some, but that’s about to change as well, we are informed.

TVAddons plans to return to the old submission model where developers can upload their code more freely. Instead of proactive screening, TVAddons will rely on a standard DMCA takedown policy, relying on copyright holders to flag potentially infringing content.

“We intend on returning to a standard DMCA compliant add-on submission policy shortly, there’s no reason why we should be held to a higher standard than Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Reddit given the fact that we don’t even host any form of streaming content in the first place.

“Our interim policy isn’t pragmatic, it’s nearly impossible for us to verify the global licensing of all forms of protected content. When you visit a website, there’s no way of verifying licensing beyond trusting them based on reputation.”

The upcoming change doesn’t mean that TVAddons will ignore its legal requirements. If they receive a legitimate takedown notice, proper action will be taken, as always. As such, they would operate in the same fashion as other user-generated sites.

“Right now our interim addon submission policy is akin to North Korea. We always followed the law and will always continue to do so. Anytime we’ve received a legitimate complaint we’ve acted upon it in an expedited manner.

“Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other online communities would have never existed if they were required to approve the contents of each user’s submissions prior to public posting.”

The change takes place while the two court cases are still pending. TVAddons is determined to keep up this fight. Meanwhile, they are also asking the public to support the project financially.

While some copyright holders, including those who are fighting the service in court, might not like the change, TVAddons believes that this is well within their rights. And with support from groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, they don’t stand alone in this.

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

Movie & TV Companies Tackle Pirate IPTV in Australia Federal Court

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/movie-tv-companies-tackle-pirate-iptv-in-australia-federal-court-171207/

As movie and TV show piracy has migrated from the desktop towards mobile and living room-based devices, copyright holders have found the need to adapt to a new enemy.

Dealing with streaming services is now high on the agenda, with third-party Kodi addons and various Android apps posing the biggest challenge. Alongside is the much less prevalent but rapidly growing pay IPTV market, in which thousands of premium channels are delivered to homes for a relatively small fee.

In Australia, copyright holders are treating these services in much the same way as torrent sites. They feel that if they can force ISPs to block them, the problem can be mitigated. Most recently, movie and TV show giants Village Roadshow, Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount filed an application targeting HDSubs+, a pirate IPTV operation servicing thousands of Australians.

Filed in October, the application for the injunction targets Australia’s largest ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus their subsidiaries. The movie and TV show companies want them to quickly block HDSubs+, to prevent it from reaching its audience.

HDSubs+ IPTV package
However, blocking isn’t particularly straightforward. Due to the way IPTV services are setup a number of domains need to be blocked, including their sales platforms, EPG (electronic program guide), software (such as an Android app), updates, and sundry other services. In HDSubs+ case around ten domains need to be restricted but in court today, Village Roadshow revealed that probably won’t deal with the problem.

HDSubs+ appears to be undergoing some kind of transformation, possibly to mitigate efforts to block it in Australia. ComputerWorld reports that it is now directing subscribers to update to a new version that works in a more evasive manner.

If they agree, HDSubs+ customers are being migrated over to a service called PressPlayPlus. It works in the same way as the old system but no longer uses the domain names cited in Village Roadshow’s injunction application. This means that DNS blocks, the usual weapon of choice for local ISPs, will prove futile.

Village Roadshow says that with this in mind it may be forced to seek enhanced IP address blocking, unless it is granted a speedy hearing for its application. This, in turn, may result in the normally cooperative ISPs returning to court to argue their case.

“If that’s what you want to do, then you’ll have to amend the orders and let the parties know,” Judge John Nicholas said.

“It’s only the former [DNS blocking] that carriage service providers have agreed to in the past.”

As things stand, Village Roadshow will return to court on December 15 for a case management hearing but in the meantime, the Federal Court must deal with another IPTV-related blocking request.

In common with its Australian and US-based counterparts, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) has launched a similar case asking local ISPs to block another IPTV service.

“Television Broadcasts Limited can confirm that we have commenced legal action in Australia to protect our copyright,” a TVB spokesperson told Computerworld.

TVB wants ISPs including Telstra, Optus, Vocus, and TPG plus their subsidiaries to block access to seven Android-based services named as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

Court documents list 21 URLs maintaining the services. They will all need to be blocked by DNS or other means, if the former proves futile. Online reports suggest that there are similarities among the IPTV products listed above. A demo for the FunTV IPTV service is shown below.

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

New Piracy Scaremongering Video Depicts ‘Dangerous’ Raspberry Pi

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-piracy-scaremongering-video-depicts-dangerous-raspberry-pi-171202/

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll be aware that online streaming of video is a massive deal right now.

In addition to the successes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, for example, unauthorized sources are also getting a piece of the digital action.

Of course, entertainment industry groups hate this and are quite understandably trying to do something about it. Few people have a really good argument as to why they shouldn’t but recent tactics by some video-affiliated groups are really starting to wear thin.

From the mouth of Hollywood itself, the trending worldwide anti-piracy message is that piracy is dangerous. Torrent sites carry viruses that will kill your computer, streaming sites carry malware that will steal your identity, and ISDs (that’s ‘Illegal Streaming Devices’, apparently) can burn down your home, kill you, and corrupt your children.

If anyone is still taking notice of these overblown doomsday messages, here’s another one. Brought to you by the Hollywood-funded Digital Citizens Alliance, the new video rams home the message – the exact same message in fact – that set-top boxes providing the latest content for free are a threat to, well, just about everything.

While the message is probably getting a little old now, it’s worth noting the big reveal at ten seconds into the video, where the evil pirate box is introduced to the viewer.

As reproduced in the left-hand image below, it is a blatantly obvious recreation of the totally content-neutral Raspberry Pi, the affordable small computer from the UK. Granted, people sometimes use it for Kodi (the image on the right shows a Kodi-themed Raspberry Pi case, created by official Kodi team partner FLIRC) but its overwhelming uses have nothing to do with the media center, or indeed piracy.

Disreputable and dangerous device? Of course not

So alongside all the scary messages, the video succeeds in demonizing a perfectly innocent and safe device of which more than 15 million have been sold, many of them directly to schools. Since the device is so globally recognizable, it’s a not inconsiderable error.

It’s a topic that the Kodi team itself vented over earlier this week, noting how the British tabloid media presented the recent wave of “Kodi Boxes Can Kill You” click-bait articles alongside pictures of the Raspberry Pi.

“Instead of showing one of the many thousands of generic black boxes sold without the legally required CE/UL marks, the media mainly chose to depict a legitimate Rasbperry Pi clothed in a very familiar Kodi case. The Pis originate from Cambridge, UK, and have been rigorously certified,” the team complain.

“We’re also super-huge fans of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and the proceeds of Pi board sales fund the awesome work they do to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in schools. The Kodi FLIRC case has also been a hit with our Raspberry Pi users and sales contribute towards the cost of events like Kodi DevCon.”

“It’s insulting, and potentially harmful, to see two successful (and safe) products being wrongly presented for the sake of a headline,” they conclude.

Indeed, it seems that both press and the entertainment industry groups that feed them have been playing fast and loose recently, with the Raspberry Pi getting a particularly raw deal.

Still, if it scares away some pirates, that’s the main thing….

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

ACE and CAP Shut Down Aussie Pirate IPTV Operation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swiss Copyright Law Proposals: Good News for Pirates, Bad For Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/swiss-copyright-law-proposals-good-news-for-pirates-bad-for-pirate-sites-171124/

While Switzerland sits geographically in the heart of Europe, the country is not part of the European Union, meaning that its copyright laws are often out of touch with those of the countries encircling it.

For years this has meant heavy criticism from the United States, whose trade representative has put Switzerland on the Watch List, citing weaknesses in the country’s ability to curb online copyright infringement.

“The decision to place Switzerland on the Watch List this year is premised on U.S. concerns regarding specific difficulties in Switzerland’s system of online copyright protection and enforcement,” the USTR wrote in 2016.

Things didn’t improve in 2017. Referencing the so-called Logistep Decision, which found that collecting infringers’ IP addresses is unlawful, the USTR said that Switzerland had effectively deprived copyright holders of the means to enforce their rights online.

All of this criticism hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. For the past several years, Switzerland has been deeply involved in consultations that aim to shape future copyright law. Negotiations have been prolonged, however, with the Federal Council aiming to improve the situation for creators without impairing the position of consumers.

A new draft compromise tabled Wednesday is somewhat of a mixed bag, one that is unlikely to please the United States overall but could prove reasonably acceptable to the public.

First of all, people will still be able to ‘pirate’ as much copyrighted material as they like, as long as that content is consumed privately and does not include videogames or software, which are excluded. Any supposed losses accrued by the entertainment industries will be compensated via a compulsory tax of 13 Swiss francs ($13), levied on media playback devices including phones and tablets.

This freedom only applies to downloading and streaming, meaning that any uploading (distribution) is explicitly ruled out. So, while grabbing some streaming content via a ‘pirate’ Kodi addon is just fine, using BitTorrent to achieve the same is ruled out.

Indeed, rightsholders will be able to capture IP addresses of suspected infringers in order to file a criminal complaint with authorities. That being said, there will no system of warning notices targeting file-sharers.

But while the authorization of unlicensed downloads will only frustrate an already irritated United States, the other half of the deal is likely to be welcomed.

Under the recommendations, Internet services will not only be required to remove infringing content from their platforms, they’ll also be compelled to prevent that same content from reappearing. Failure to comply will result in prosecution. It’s a standard that copyright holders everywhere are keen for governments to adopt.

Additionally, the spotlight will fall on datacenters and webhosts that have a reputation for being popular with pirate sites. It’s envisioned that such providers will be prevented from offering services to known pirate sites, with the government clearly stating that services with piracy at the heart of their business models will be ripe for action.

But where there’s a plus for copyright holders, the Swiss have another minus. Previously it was proposed that in serious cases authorities should be able to order the ISP blocking of “obviously illegal content or sources.” That proposal has now been dropped, meaning no site-blocking will be allowed.

Other changes in the draft envision an extension of the copyright term from 50 to 70 years and improved protection for photographic works. The proposals also feature increased freedoms for researchers and libraries, who will be able to use copyrighted works without obtaining permission from rightsholders.

Overall the proposals are a pretty mixed bag but as Minister of Justice Simonetta Sommaruga said Wednesday, if no one is prepared to compromise, no one will get anything.

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

UK Government Publishes Advice on ‘Illicit Streaming Devices’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-government-publishes-advice-on-illicit-streaming-devices-171120/

With torrents and other methods of obtaining content simmering away in the background, unauthorized streaming is the now the method of choice for millions of pirates around the globe.

Previously accessible only via a desktop browser, streaming is now available on a wide range of devices, from tablets and phones through to dedicated set-top box. These, collectively, are now being branded Illicit Streaming Devices (ISD) by the entertainment industries.

It’s terminology the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office has adopted this morning. In a new public advisory, the IPO notes that illicit streaming is the watching of content without the copyright owner’s permission using a variety of devices.

“Illicit streaming devices are physical boxes that are connected to your TV or USB sticks that plug into the TV such as adapted Amazon Fire sticks and so called ‘Kodi’ boxes or Android TV boxes,” the IPO reports.

“These devices are legal when used to watch legitimate, free to air, content. They become illegal once they are adapted to stream illicit content, for example TV programmes, films and subscription sports channels without paying the appropriate subscriptions.”

The IPO notes that streaming devices usually need to be loaded with special software add-ons in order to view copyright-infringing content. However, there are now dedicated apps available to view movies and TV shows which can be loaded straight on to smartphones and tablets.

But how can people know if the device they have is an ISD or not? According to the IPO it’s all down to common sense. If people usually charge for the content you’re getting for free, it’s illegal.

“If you are watching television programmes, films or sporting events where you would normally be paying to view them and you have not paid, you are likely to be using an illicit streaming device (ISD) or app. This could include a film recently released in the cinema, a sporting event that is being broadcast by BT Sport or a television programme, like Game of Thrones, that is only available on Sky,” the IPO says.

In an effort to familiarize the public with some of the terminology used by ISD sellers on eBay, Amazon or Gumtree, for example, the IPO then wanders into a bit of a minefield that really needs much greater clarification.

First up, the government states that ISDs are often described online as being “Fully loaded”, which is a colloquial term for a device with addons already installed. Although they won’t all be infringing, it’s very often the case that the majority are intended to be, so no problems here.

However, the IPO then says that people should keep an eye out for the term ‘jail broken’, which many readers will understand to be the process some hardware devices, such as Apple products, are put through in order for third-party software to be run on them. On occasion, some ISD sellers do put this term on Android devices, for example, but it’s incorrect, in a tiny minority, and of course misleading.

The IPO also warns people against devices marketed as “Plug and Play” but again this is a dual-use term and shouldn’t put consumers off a purchase without a proper investigation. A search on eBay this morning for that exact term didn’t yield any ISDs at all, only games consoles that can be plugged in and played with a minimum of fuss.

“Subscription Gift”, on the other hand, almost certainly references an illicit IPTV or satellite card-sharing subscription and is rarely used for anything else. 100% illegal, no doubt.

The government continues by giving reasons why people should avoid ISDs, not least since their use deprives the content industries of valuable revenue.

“[The creative industries] provide employment for more than 1.9 million people and contributes £84.1 billion to our economy. Using illicit streaming devices is illegal,” the IPO writes.

“If you are not paying for this content you are depriving industry of the revenue it needs to fund the next generation of TV programmes, films and sporting events we all enjoy. Instead it provides funds for the organized criminals who sell or adapt these illicit devices.”

Then, in keeping with the danger-based narrative employed by the entertainment industries’ recently, the government also warns that ISDs can have a negative effect on child welfare, not to mention on physical safety in the home.

“These devices often lack parental controls. Using them could expose children or young people to explicit or age inappropriate content,” the IPO warns.

“Another important reason for consumers to avoid purchasing these streaming devices is from an electrical safety point of view. Where devices and their power cables have been tested, some have failed EU safety standards and have the potential to present a real danger to the public, causing a fire in your home or premises.”

While there can be no doubt whatsoever that failing EU electrical standards in any way is unacceptable for any device, the recent headlines stating that “Kodi Boxes Can Kill Their Owners” are sensational at best and don’t present the full picture.

As reported this weekend, simply not having a recognized branding on such devices means that they fail electrical standards, with non-genuine phone chargers presenting a greater risk around the UK.

Finally, the government offers some advice for people who either want to get off the ISD gravy train or ensure that others don’t benefit from it.

“These devices can be used legally by removing the software. If you are unsure get advice to help you use the device legally. If you wish to watch content that’s only available via subscription, such as sports, you should approach the relevant provider to find out about legal ways to watch,” the IPO advises.

Get it Right from a Genuine Site helps you get the music, TV, films, games, books, newspapers, magazines and sport that you love from genuine services.”

And, if the public thinks that people selling such devices deserve a visit from the authorities, people are asked to report them to the Crimestoppers charity via an anonymous hotline.

The government’s guidance is exactly what one might expect, given that the advisory is likely to have been strongly assisted by companies including the Federation Against Copyright Theft, Premier League, and Sky, who have taken the lead in this area during the past year or so.

The big question is, however, whether many people using these devices really believe that obtaining subscription TV, movies, and sports for next to free is 100% legal. If there are people out there they must be in the minority but at least the government itself is now putting them on the right path.

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

Kodi-Addon Developer Launches Fundraiser to Fight “Copyright Bullies”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-addon-developer-launches-fundraiser-to-fight-copyright-bullies-171120/

Earlier this year, American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network targeted two well-known players in the third-party Kodi add-on ecosystem.

In a complaint filed in a federal court in Texas, add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were accused of copyright infringement. As a result, both are facing up to $150,000 for each offense.

While the case was filed in Texas, neither of the defendants live there, or even in the United States. The owner and operator of TVAddons is Adam Lackman, who resides in Montreal, Canada. ZemTV’s developer Shahjahan Durrani is even further away in London, UK.

Over the past few months, Lackman has spoken out in public on several occasions, but little was known about the man behind ZemTV. Today, however, he also decided to open up, asking for support in his legal battle against the Dish Network.

Shahjahan Durrani, Shani for short, doesn’t hide the fact that he was the driving force behind the Kodi-addons ZemTV, LiveStreamsPro, and F4MProxy. While the developer has never set foot in Texas, he is willing to defend himself. Problem is, he lacks the funds to do so.

“I’ve never been to Texas in my life, I’m from London, England,” Shani explains. “Somehow a normal chap like me is expected to defend himself against a billion dollar media giant. I don’t have the money to fight this on my own, and hope my friends will help support my fight against the expansion of copyright liability.”

Shani’s fundraiser went live a few hours ago and the first donations are now starting to come in. He has set a target of $8,500 set for his defense fund so there is still a long way to go.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Shani explains that he got into Kodi addon development to broaden his coding skills and learn Python. ZemTV was a tool to watch recorded shows from zemtv.com, which he always assumed were perfectly legal, on his Apple TV. Then, he decided to help others to do the same.

“The reason why I published the addon was that I saw it as a community helping each other out, and this was my way to give back. I never received any money from anybody and I wanted to keep it pure and free,” Shani tells us.

ZemTV was a passive service, simply scraping content from a third party source, he explains. The addon provided an interface but did not host or control any allegedly infringing content directly.

“I had no involvement nor control over any of the websites or content sources that were allegedly accessible through ZemTV. I did not host nor take part in the sharing of any form of streaming media. As an open source developer, I should not be held liable for the potential abuse of my code,” the developer stresses.

Dish Network sees things differently, of course. In its complaint, the company accused Shani of illegally retransmitting their copyright protected channels while asking for donations to maintain the project.

The case is perhaps not as straightforward as either side presents it. However, it is in the best interests of the general public that both sides are properly heard. This is the first case against a Kodi-addon developer and the outcome will set an important precedent.

“This lawsuit is part of a targeted effort to destroy the Kodi addon community. The fight is rigged against the little guy, they are trying to make something illegal that shouldn’t be illegal. They tried to do it with the VCR, and now years and years later they are trying to do it with Kodi.

“Since I am the only addon developer to date who is actually fighting the wrath of big media bullies, it is crucial that I win my case,” Shani adds.

Going forward, the ZemTV developer believes that copyright holders are better off going after the content providers directly. If the sources are down, any problematic addons will also stop working. Rightholders can even work with addon developers and use addons to find infringing content providers.

“I think the copyright holders should target the sources, it’s as simple as that,” Shani tells us.

The fundraiser campaign is now public on Generosity.com. At the time of writing the ticker sits at $50, so there is still a long way to go before the developer can organize a proper defense.

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

Kodi Addon Dev Says “Show of Force” Will Be Met With Defiance

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-addon-dev-says-show-force-will-met-defiance-171119/

For many years, the members of the MPAA have flexed their muscles all around the globe, working to prevent people from engaging in online piracy. If the last 17 years ‘progress’ is anything to go by, it’s a war that will go on indefinitely.

With Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner on board, the MPAA has historically relied on sheer power to intimidate opponents. That has certainly worked in many large piracy cases but for many peripheral smaller-scale pirates, their presence is largely ignored.

This week, however, several players in the Kodi scene discovered that these giants – and more besides – have the ability to literally turn up at their front door. As reported Thursday, UK-based Kodi addon developer The_Alpha received a hand-delivered cease-and-desist letter from all of the above, accompanied by new faces Netflix, Amazon and Sky TV.

These companies are part of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a massive and recently-formed anti-piracy coalition comprised of 30 global entertainment brands. TorrentFreak reached out to The_Alpha for his thoughts on coming under such a dazzling spotlight but perhaps understandably he didn’t want to comment.

The leader of the Ares Project was willing to go on the record, however, after he too received a hand-delivered threat during the week. His decision was to immediately comply and shutdown but TF is informed that others might not be so willing to follow suit.

A Kodi addon developer living in the UK who spoke to us on condition of anonymity told us that most people operating in the scene expected some kind of trouble – just not on this scale.

“Did you see the [company logos] across the top of Alpha’s letter? That’s some serious shit right there. The film companies are no surprise but Amazon delivers my groceries so I don’t expect this shit from them,” he said.

When the ACE partnership was formed earlier this year, it seemed pretty clear that the main drive was towards the pooling of anti-piracy resources to be more effective and efficient. However, it can’t have escaped ACE that such a broad and powerful alliance could also have a profound psychological effect on its adversaries.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re turning up mob-handed to put the shits up people like Alpha and the rest of us,” the developer said. “It’s hardly a fair dust-up is it? What have we got to fight back with, a giro [state benefits]? It’s a show of force, ‘look how important we are’!”

Interestingly, however, the dev told us that it isn’t necessarily the size of the coalition that has him most concerned. What caught his eye was the inclusion of two influential UK-based companies in the alliance.

“Having Sly [a local derogatory nickname for Sky TV] and the Premier League on the letter makes it much more serious to me than seeing Warner or whatever,” he commented.

“I don’t get involved in footie but Sly is everywhere round here and I think it’s something the Brit dev scene might take notice of, even if most say ‘fuck it’ and carry on anyway.”

When questioned whether that’s likely, our source said that while ACE might be able to tackle some of the bigger targets like Ares Project or Colossus, they fundamentally misunderstand how the Kodi scene works.

“If you want a good example of a scattered pirate scene, I give you Kodi. They can bomb the base or whatever but nobody lives there,” he explained.

“There’s some older blokes like me who can do without the stress but a lot of younger coders, builders and YouTubers who thrive on it. They’re used to running around council estates with real-life problems. A faffy letter from some toff in a suit means literally nothing. Like I said, all they have to lose is a giro.”

Whether this is just bravado will remain to be seen, but our earlier discussions with others in the scene indicate a particular weakness in the UK, with many players vulnerable to being found after failing to hide their identities in the past. To a point, our source agrees that this is a problem.

“People are saying that Alpha was found after trying to raise some charity money related to his disabled son but I don’t know for sure and nor does anybody else. What strikes me is that none of us really thought things would get this on top here because all you ever hear about is America this, Canada that, whatever. Does this means that more of us are getting done in England? You tell me,” he said.

Only time will tell but stamping out the pirate Kodi scene is going to be hard work.

Within hours of several projects disappearing Wednesday and Thursday, YouTube and myriad blogs were being flooded with guides detailing immediate replacements. This ad-hoc network of enthusiasts makes the exchange of information happen at an alarming rate and it’s hard to see how any company – no matter how powerful – will ever be able to keep up.

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

The Truth Behind the “Kodi Boxes Can Kill Their Owners” Headlines

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-truth-behind-the-kodi-boxes-can-kill-their-owners-headlines-171118/

Another week, another batch of ‘Kodi Box Armageddon’ stories. This time it hasn’t been directly about the content they can provide but the physical risks they pose to their owners.

After being primed in advance, the usual British tabloids jumped into action early Thursday, noting that following tests carried out on “illicit streaming devices” (aka Android set-top devices), 100% of them failed to meet UK national electrical safety regulations.

The tests were carried out by Electrical Safety First, a charity which was prompted into action by anti-piracy outfit Federation Against Copyright Theft.

“A series of product safety tests on popular illicit streaming devices entering the UK have found that 100% fail to meet national electrical safety regulations,” a FACT statement reads.

“The news is all the more significant as the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) estimates that more than one million of these illegal devices have been sold in the UK in the last two years, representing a significant risk to the general public.”

After reading many sensational headlines stating that “Kodi Boxes Might Kill Their Owners”, please excuse us for groaning. This story has absolutely nothing – NOTHING – to do with Kodi or any other piece of software. Quite obviously, software doesn’t catch fire.

So, suspecting that there might be more to this than meets the eye, we decided to look beyond the press releases into the actual Electrical Safety First (ESF) report. While we have no doubt that ESF is extremely competent in its field (it is, no question), the front page of its report is disappointing.

Despite the items sent for testing being straightforward Android-based media players, the ESF report clearly describes itself as examining “illicit streaming devices”. It’s terminology that doesn’t describe the subject matter from an electrical, safety or technical perspective but is pretty convenient for FACT clients Sky and the Premier League.

Nevertheless, the full picture reveals rather more than most of the headlines suggest.

First of all, it’s important to know that ESF tested just nine devices out of the million or so allegedly sold in the UK during the past two years. Even more importantly, every single one of those devices was supplied to ESF by FACT.

Now, we’re not suggesting they were hand-picked to fail but it’s clear that the samples weren’t provided from a neutral source. Also, as we’ll learn shortly, it’s possible to determine in advance if an item will fail to meet UK standards simply by looking at its packaging and casing.

But perhaps even more intriguing is that the electrical testing carried out by ESF related primarily not to the set-top boxes themselves, but to their power supplies. ESF say so themselves.

“The product review relates primarily to the switched mode power supply units for the connection to the mains supply, which were supplied with the devices, to identify any potential risks to consumers such as electric shocks, heating and resistance to fire,” ESF reports.

The set-top boxes themselves were only assessed “in terms of any faults in the marking, warnings and instructions,” the group adds.

So, what we’re really talking about here isn’t dangerous illicit streaming devices set-top boxes, but the power supply units that come with them. It might seem like a small detail but we’ll come to the vast importance of this later on.

Firstly, however, we should note that none of the equipment supplied by FACT complied with Schedule 1 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. This means that they failed to have the “Conformité Européene” or CE logo present. That’s unacceptable.

In addition, none of them lived up the requirements of Schedule 3 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 either, which in part requires the manufacturer’s brand name or trademark to be “clearly printed on the electrical equipment or, where that is not possible, on the packaging.” (That’s how you can tell they’ll definitely fail UK standards, before sending them for testing)

Also, none of the samples were supplied with “sufficient safety or warning information to ensure the safe and correct use, assembly, installation or maintenance of the equipment.” This represents ‘a technical breach’ of the regulations, ESF reports.

Finally, several of the samples were considered to be a potential risk to their users, either via electric shock and/or fire. That’s an important finding and people who suspect they have such devices at home should definitely take note.

However, the really important point isn’t mentioned in the tabloids, probably since it distracts from the “Kodi Armageddon” narrative which underlies the whole study and subsequent reports.

ESF says that one of the key issues is that the set-top boxes come unbranded, something which breaches safety regulations while making it difficult for consumers to assess whether they’re buying a quality product. Crucially, this is not exclusively a set-top box problem, it is much, MUCH bigger.

“Issues with power supply units or unbranded and counterfeit chargers go beyond illicit streaming devices. In the last year, issues have been reported with other consumer electrical devices, such as laptop chargers and counterfeit phone chargers,” the same ESF report reveals.

“The total annual online sales of mains plug-in chargers is estimated to be in the region of 1.8 million and according to Electrical Safety First, it is likely that most of these sales involve cheap, unbranded chargers.”

So, we looked into this issue of problem power supplies and chargers generally, to see where this report fits into the bigger picture. It transpires it’s a massive problem, all over the UK, across a wide range of products. In fact, Trading Standards reports that 99% of non-genuine Apple chargers bought online “fail a basic safety test”.

But buying from reputable High Street retailers doesn’t help either.

During the past year, Poundworld was fined for selling – wait for it – 72,000 dangerous chargers. Home Bargains was also fined for selling “thousands” of power adaptors that fail to meet UK standards.

“All samples provided failed to comply with Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations and were not marked with the manufacturer’s name,” Trading Standards reports.

That sounds familiar.

So, there you have it. Far from this being an isolated “Kodi Box Crisis” as some have proclaimed, this is a broad issue affecting imported electrical items in general. On this basis, one can’t help but think the tabloids missed a trick here. Think of the power of this headline:

ALL UNBRANDED ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT CAN KILL, DISCONNECT EVERYTHING

or, alternatively:

PIRATES URGED TO SWITCH TO BRANDED AMAZON FIRESTICKS, SAFER FOR KODI

Perhaps not….

The ESF report can be found here (pdf)

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

Ares Kodi Project Calls it Quits After Hollywood Cease & Desist

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

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

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

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

The mighty Ares Wizard in action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hollywood Studios Force ISPs to Block Popcorn Time & Subtitle Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-isps-to-block-popcorn-time-subtitle-websites-171113/

Early 2014, a new craze was sweeping the piracy world. Instead of relatively cumbersome text-heavy torrent sites, people were turning to a brand new application called Popcorn Time.

Dubbed the Netflix for Pirates due to its beautiful interface, Popcorn Time was soon a smash hit all over the planet. But with that fame came trouble, with anti-piracy outfits all over the world seeking to shut it down or at least pour cold water on its popularity.

In the meantime, however, the popularity of Kodi skyrocketed, something which pushed Popcorn Time out of the spotlight for a while. Nevertheless, the application in several different forms never went away and it still enjoys an impressive following today. This means that despite earlier action in several jurisdictions, Hollywood still has it on the radar.

The latest development comes out of Norway, where Disney Entertainment, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Columbia Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios and Warner Bros. have just taken 14 local Internet service providers to court.

The studios claimed that the ISPs (including Telenor, Nextgentel, Get, Altibox, Telia, Homenet, Ice Norge, Eidsiva Bredbånd and Lynet Internet) should undertake broad blocking action to ensure that three of the most popular Popcorn Time forks (located at popcorn-time.to, popcorntime.sh and popcorn-time.is) can no longer function in the region.

Since site-blocking necessarily covers the blocking of websites, there appears to have been much discussion over whether a software application can be considered a website. However, the court ultimately found that wasn’t really an issue, since each application requires websites to operate.

“Each of the three [Popcorn Time variants] must be considered a ‘site’, even though users access Popcorn Time in a way that is technically different from the way other pirate sites provide users with access to content, and although different components of the Popcorn Time service are retrieved from different domains,” the Oslo District Court’s ruling reads.

In respect of all three releases of Popcorn Time, the Court weighed the pros and cons of blocking, including whether blocking was needed at all. However, it ultimately decided that alternative methods for dealing with the sites do not exist since the rightsholders tried and ultimately failed to get cooperation from the sites’ operators.

“All sites have as their main purpose the purpose of facilitating infringement of protected works by giving the public unauthorized access to movies and TV shows. This happens without regard to the rights of others and imposes major losses on the licensees and the cultural industry in general,” the Court writes.

The Court also supported compelling ISPs to introduce the blocks, noting that they are “an appropriate and proportionate measure” that does not interfere with the Internet service providers’ freedom to operate nor anyone’s else’s right to freedom of expression.

But while the websites in question are located in three places (popcorn-time.to, popcorntime.sh and popcorn-time.is) the Court’s blocking order goes much further. Not only does it cover these key domains but also other third-party sites that Popcorn Time utilizes, such as platforms offering subtitles.

Popcorn-time.to related domains to be blocked: popcorn-time.to, popcorn-time.xyz, popcorn-time.se, iosinstaller.com, video4time.info, thepopcorntime.net, timepopcorn.info, time-popcorn.com, the-pop-corn-time.net, timepopcorn.net, time4videostream.com, ukfrnlge.xyz, opensubtitles.org, onlinesubtitles.com, popcorntime-update.xyz, plus subdomains.

Popcorntime.sh related domains to be blocked: Popcorntime.sh, api-fetch.website, yts.ag, opensubtitles.org, plus subdomains.

Popcorn-time.is related domains to be blocked: popcorn-time.is, yts.ag, yify.is, yts.ph, api-fetch.website, eztvapi.ml and opensubtitles.org, plus subdomains.

Separately, the Court ordered the ISPs to block torrent site YTS.ag and onlinesubtitles.com, opensubtitles.org, plus their subdomains.

Since no one appeared to represent the sites and the ISPs can’t be held responsible if they cooperate, the Court found that the studios had succeeding in their action and are entitled to compensation.

“The Court’s conclusions mean that the plaintiffs have won the case and, in principle, are entitled to compensation for their legal costs from the operators of the sites,” the Court notes. “This means that the operators of sites are ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ costs.”

Those costs amount to 570,000 kr (around US$70,000), an amount which the Court chose to split equally between the three Popcorn Time forks ($23,359 each). It seems unlikely the amounts will ever be recovered although there is still an opportunity for the parties to appeal.

In the meantime the ISPs have just days left to block the sites listed above. Once they’ve been put in place, the blocks will remain in place for five years.

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

MPAA Lobbies US Congress on Streaming Piracy Boxes

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-lobbies-us-congress-on-streaming-piracy-boxes-171112/

As part of its quest to reduce piracy, the MPAA continues to spend money on its lobbying activities, hoping to sway lawmakers in its direction.

While the lobbying talks take place behind closed doors, quarterly disclosure reports provide some insight into the items under discussion.

The MPAA’s most recent lobbying disclosure form features several new topics that weren’t on the agenda last year.

Among other issues, the Hollywood group lobbied the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives on set-top boxes, preloaded streaming piracy devices, and streaming piracy in general.

The details of these discussions remain behind closed doors. The only thing we know for sure is what Hollywood is lobbying on, but it doesn’t take much imagination to take an educated guess on the ‘why’ part.

Just over a year ago streaming piracy boxes were hardly mentioned in anti-piracy circles, but today they are on the top of the enforcement list. The MPAA is reporting these concerns to lawmakers, to see whether they can be of assistance in curbing this growing threat.

Some of the lobbying topics

It’s clear that pirate streaming players are a prime concern for Hollywood. MPA boss Stan McCoy recently characterized the use of these devices as “Piracy 3.0” and a coalition of industry players sued a US-based seller of streaming boxes earlier this month.

The lobbying efforts themselves are nothing new of course. Every year the MPAA spends around $4 million to influence the decisions of lawmakers, both directly and through external lobbying firms such as Covington & Burling, Capitol Tax Partners, and Sentinel Worldwide.

While piracy streaming boxes are new on the agenda this year, they are not the only topics under discussion. Other items include trade deals such as the TPP, TTIP, and NAFTA, voluntary domain name initiatives, EU digital single market proposals, and cybersecurity.

TorrentFreak reached out to the MPAA for more information on the streaming box lobbying efforts, but we have yet to hear back.

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

Spanish Police Arrest Seven in Pirate Sports Streaming Crackdown

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spanish-police-arrest-seven-in-pirate-sports-streaming-crackdown-171111/

While most large broadcasters around the world now offer comprehensive sports packages to their customers, subscriptions are often quite expensive.

This has led to the proliferation of pirate services, each dedicated to bringing live sports to the masses at massively reduced prices or even completely free.

As a result, it’s now possible to watch almost any sport from a pirate source, whether that’s via a website, an augmented Kodi setup, or a premium IPTV provider. Today, however, there’s one less pirate service available after a series of raids in Spain.

According to the National Police, raids took place in Madrid, Alicante, Albacete, Gandía, and the Valencian cities of Xátiva and Antequera this week. In total, seven people were arrested for illegally broadcasting football matches.

Unusually in such cases, the suspects are alleged to have offered matches via a number of mechanisms, including direct download, streaming, subscription streaming, and peer-to-peer distribution. This, the police say, allowed them to have the broadest possible access to the market.

The group’s servers were scattered around the world; some located in Spain, others in France, with the remainder in the United States and Canada.

The investigation began in 2016 following a complaint from La Liga, the top professional association in Spanish football. The group alleged that a total of 13 websites were illegally offering lists of links which enabled visitors to access content to which it holds the exclusive rights.

Police say the operation was well organized, with matches presented to Internet users with schedules ordered by championships. Revenue was generated via advertising which appeared on the various pages viewed by visitors.

It’s claimed that the sites’ operators also attempted to make their scattered servers harder to find by utilizing intermediary companies, including those that offer server location anonymization services.

Across the country, eight house searches reportedly yielded a trove of evidence, both digital and physical, detailing the pirate operation and the profit obtained from it.

At this early stage, police estimate the “economic benefit” to the defendants from subscriptions and advertising to be in the region of 1.4 million euros, although it’s unclear whether those are actual historic or projected gains.

Following the raids, seven websites were ordered to be blocked and three bank accounts, said to be linked to the pirate operation, were frozen. Police say that the investigation continues so further arrests and website blockades can’t be ruled out.

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

Sky: People Can’t Pirate Live Soccer in the UK Anymore

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sky-people-cant-pirate-live-soccer-in-the-uk-anymore-171108/

The commotion over the set-top box streaming phenomenon is showing no signs of dying down and if day one at the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) Conference 2017 was anything to go by, things are only heating up.

Held at Studio City in Macau, the conference has a strong anti-piracy element and was opened by Joe Welch, CASBAA Board Chairman and SVP Public Affairs Asia, 21st Century Fox. He began Tuesday by noting the important recent launch of a brand new anti-piracy initiative.

“CASBAA recently launched the Coalition Against Piracy, funded by 18 of the region’s content players and distribution partners,” he said.

TF reported on the formation of the coalition mid-October. It includes heavyweights such as Disney, Fox, HBO, NBCUniversal and BBC Worldwide, and will have a strong focus on the illicit set-top box market.

Illegal streaming devices (or ISDs, as the industry calls them), were directly addressed in a segment yesterday afternoon titled Face To Face. Led by Dr. Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright & IP Enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office, the session detailed the “onslaught of online piracy” and the rise of ISDs that is apparently “shaking the market”.

Given the apparent gravity of those statements, the following will probably come as a surprise. According to Lynch, the UK IPO sought the opinion of UK-based rightsholders about the pirate box phenomenon a while back after being informed of their popularity in the East. The response was that pirate boxes weren’t an issue. It didn’t take long, however, for things to blow up.

“The UKIPO provides intelligence and evidence to industry and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in London who then take enforcement actions,” Lynch explained.

“We first heard about the issues with ISDs from [broadcaster] TVB in Hong Kong and we then consulted the UK rights holders who responded that it wasn’t a problem. Two years later the issue just exploded.”

The evidence of that in the UK isn’t difficult to find. In addition to millions of devices with both free Kodi addon and subscription-based systems deployed, the app market has bloomed too, offering free or near to free content to all.

This caught the eye of the Premier League who this year obtained two pioneering injunctions (1,2) to tackle live streams of football games. Streams are blocked by local ISPs in real-time, making illicit online viewing a more painful experience than it ever has been. No doubt progress has been made on this front, with thousands of streams blocked, but according to broadcaster Sky, the results are unprecedented.

“Site-blocking has moved the goalposts significantly,” said Matthew Hibbert, head of litigation at Sky UK.

“In the UK you cannot watch pirated live Premier League content anymore,” he said.

While progress has been good, the statement is overly enthusiastic. TF sources have been monitoring the availability of pirate streams on around dozen illicit sites and services every Saturday (when it is actually illegal to broadcast matches in the UK) and service has been steady on around half of them and intermittent at worst on the rest.

There are hundreds of other platforms available so while many are definitely affected by Premier League blocking, it’s safe to assume that live football piracy hasn’t been wiped out. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to suggest that no progress has been made, in this and other related areas.

Kevin Plumb, Director of Legal Services at The Premier League, said that pubs showing football from illegal streams had also massively dwindled in numbers.

“In the past 18 months the illegal broadcasting of live Premier League matches in pubs in the UK has been decimated,” he said.

This result is almost certainly down to prosecutions taken in tandem with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), that have seen several landlords landed with large fines. Indeed, both sides of the market have been tackled, with both licensed premises and IPTV device sellers being targeted.

“The most successful thing we’ve done to combat piracy has been to undertake criminal prosecutions against ISD piracy,” said FACT chief Kieron Sharp yesterday. “Everyone is pleading guilty to these offenses.”

Most if not all of FACT-led prosecutions target device and subscription sellers under fraud legislation but that could change in the future, Lynch of the Intellectual Property Office said.

“While the UK works to update its legislation, we can’t wait for the new legislation to take enforcement actions and we rely heavily on ‘conspiracy to defraud’ charges, and have successfully prosecuted a number of ISD retailers,” she said.

Finally, information provided yesterday by network company CISCO shine light on what it costs to run a subscription-based pirate IPTV operation.

Director of Intelligence & Security Operations Avigail Gutman said a pirate IPTV server offering 1,000 channels to around 1,000 subscribers can cost as little as 2,000 euros per month to run but can generate 12,000 euros in revenue during the same period.

“In April of 2017, ten major paid TV and content providers had relinquished 3.09 million euros per month to 285 ISD-based streaming pirate syndicates,” she said.

There’s little doubt that IPTV piracy, both paid and free, is here to stay. The big question is how it will be tackled short and long-term and whether any changes in legislation will have any unintended knock-on effects.

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

MPAA: Almost 70% of 38 Million Kodi Users Are Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-almost-70-of-38-million-kodi-users-are-pirates-171104/

As torrents and other forms of file-sharing resolutely simmer away in the background, it is the streaming phenomenon that’s taking the Internet by storm.

This Tuesday, in a report by Canadian broadband management company Sandvine, it was revealed that IPTV traffic has grown to massive proportions.

Sandvine found that 6.5% of households in North American are now communicating with known TV piracy services. This translates to seven million subscribers and many more potential viewers. There’s little doubt that IPTV and all its variants, Kodi streaming included, are definitely here to stay.

The topic was raised again Wednesday during a panel discussion hosted by the Copyright Alliance in conjunction with the Creative Rights Caucus. Titled “Copyright Pirates’ New Strategies”, the discussion’s promotional graphic indicates some of the industry heavyweights in attendance.

The Copyright Alliance tweeted points from the discussion throughout the day and soon the conversation turned to the streaming phenomenon that has transformed piracy in recent times.

Previously dubbed Piracy 3.0 by the MPAA, Senior Vice President, Government and Regulatory Affairs Neil Fried was present to describe streaming devices and apps as the latest development in TV and movie piracy.

Like many before him, Fried explained that the Kodi platform in its basic form is legal. However, he noted that many of the add-ons for the media player provide access to pirated content, a point proven in a big screen demo.

Kodi demo by the MPAA via Copyright Alliance

According to the Copyright Alliance, Fried then delivered some interesting stats. The MPAA believes that there are around 38 million users of Kodi in the world, which sounds like a reasonable figure given that the system has been around for 15 years in various guises, including during its XBMC branding.

However, he also claimed that of those 38 million, a substantial 26 million users have piracy addons installed. That suggests around 68.5% or seven out of ten of all Kodi users are pirates of movies, TV shows, and other media. Taking the MPAA statement to its conclusion, only 12 million Kodi users are operating the software legitimately.

TorrentFreak contacted XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen for his stance on the figures but he couldn’t shine much light on usage.

“Unfortunately I do not have an up to date number on users, and because we don’t watch what our users are doing, we have no way of knowing how many do what with regards to streaming. [The MPAA’s] numbers could be completely correct or totally made up. We have no real way to know,” Betzen said.

That being said, the team does have the capability to monitor overall Kodi usage, even if they don’t publish the stats. This was revealed back in June 2011 when Kodi was still called XBMC.

“The addon system gives us the opportunity to measure the popularity of addons, measure user base, estimate the frequency that people update their systems, and even, ultimately, help users find the more popular addons,” the team wrote.

“Most interestingly, for the purposes of this post, is that we can get a pretty good picture of how many active XBMC installs there are without having to track what each individual user does.”

Using this system, the team concluded there were roughly 435,000 active XBMC instances around the globe in April 2011, but that figure was to swell dramatically. Just three months later, 789,000 XBMC installations had been active in the previous six weeks.

What’s staggering is that in 2017, the MPAA claims that there are now 38 million users of Kodi, of which 26 million are pirates. In the absence of any figures from the Kodi team, TF asked Kodi addon repository TVAddons what they thought of the MPAA’s stats.

“We’ve always banned the use of analytics within Kodi addons, so it’s really impossible to make such an estimate. It seems like the MPAA is throwing around numbers without much statistical evidence while mislabelling Kodi users as ‘pirate’ in the same way that they have mislabelled legitimate services like CloudFlare,” a spokesperson said.

“As far as general addon use goes, before our repository server (which contained hundreds of legitimate addons) was unlawfully seized, it had about 39 million active users per month, but even we don’t know how many users downloaded which addons. We never allowed for addon statistics for users because they are invasive to privacy and breed unhealthy competition.”

So, it seems that while there is some dispute over the number of potential pirates, there does at least appear to be some consensus on the number of users overall. The big question, however, is how groups like the MPAA will deal with this kind of unauthorized infringement in future.

At the moment the big push is to paint pirate platforms as dangerous places to be. Indeed, during the discussion this week, Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid claimed that users of pirate services are “28 times more likely” to be infected with malware.

Whether that strategy will pay off remains unclear but it’s obvious that at least for now, Piracy 3.0 is a massive deal, one that few people saw coming half a decade ago but is destined to keep growing.

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

IPTV Piracy Generates More Internet Traffic Than Torrents

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-piracy-generates-more-internet-traffic-than-torrents-171101/

Increasingly, people are trading in their expensive cable subscriptions, opting to use cheaper or free Internet TV instead.

This is made easy and convenient with help from a variety of easy-to-use set-top boxes, many of which are specifically configured to receive pirated content.

Following this trend, there has also been an uptick in the availability of unlicensed TV subscriptions, with dozens of vendors offering virtually any channel imaginable. Either for free or in exchange for a small fee.

Until now the true scope of this piracy ecosystem was largely unknown, but a new report published by Canadian broadband management company Sandvine reveals that it’s massive.

The company monitored traffic across multiple fixed access tier-1 networks in North America and found that 6.5% of households are communicating with known TV piracy services. This translates to seven million subscribers and many more potential viewers.

One of the interesting aspects of IPTV piracy is that most services charge money, around $10 per month. This means that there’s a lot of money involved. If the seven million figure is indeed accurate, these IPTV vendors would generate roughly $800 million in North America alone.

“TV piracy could quickly become almost a billion dollar a year industry for pirates,” Sandvine writes in its report, noting that the real rightsholders are being substantially harmed.

Pirate subscription TV ecosystem

According to Sandvine, roughly 95% of the IPTV subscriptions run off custom set-top boxes. Kodi-powered devices and Roku boxes follow at a respectable distance with 3% and 2% of the market, respectively.

With millions of viewers, there’s undoubtedly a large audience of pirate subscription TV viewers. This is also reflected in the bandwidth these services consume. During peak hours, 6.5% of all downstream traffic on fixed networks is generated by TV piracy services.

To put this into perspective; this is more than all BitTorrent traffic during the peak hours, which was “only” 1.73% last year, and dropping.

The pirate IPTV numbers are quite impressive, also when compared to Netflix and YouTube. While the two video giants still have a larger share of overall Internet traffic on fixed networks, pirate TV subscriptions are not that far behind.

Internet traffic share throughout the day

The graph above points out another issue. It highlights that many IPTV services continue to stream data even when they’re not actively used (tuned into a channel with the TV off). As a result, they have a larger share of the overall traffic during the night when most people don’t use Netflix or YouTube.

This wasted traffic is referred to as “phantom bandwidth” and can be as high as one terabyte per month for a single connection. Physically powering off the box is often the only way to prevent this.

Needless to say, “phantom bandwidth” increases IPTV traffic numbers, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that all this traffic is actively consumed.

Finally, Sandvine looked at the different types of content people are streaming with these pirate subscriptions. Live sporting events are popular, as we’ve seen with the megafight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. The same is true for news channels and premium TV such as HBO and international broadcasts.

The most viewed of all in North America, with 4.6% of all pirated TV traffic, is the Indian Star Plus HD.

All and all it is safe to conclude that IPTV piracy is making up a large part of the pirate ecosystem. This hasn’t gone unnoticed to copyright holders of course. In recent months we have seen enforcement actions against several providers and if this trend continues, more are likely to follow.

Looking ahead, it would be interesting to see some numbers of the “on demand” piracy streaming websites and devices as well. IPTV subscriptions are substantial, but it would be no surprise if pirate streaming boxes and sites generate even more traffic.

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