Tag Archives: media player

Fully-Loaded Kodi Box Sellers Receive Hefty Jail Sentences

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fully-loaded-kodi-box-sellers-receive-hefty-jail-sentences-180524/

While users of older peer-to-peer based file-sharing systems have to work relatively hard to obtain content, users of the Kodi media player have things an awful lot easier.

As standard, Kodi is perfectly legal. However, when augmented with third-party add-ons it becomes a media discovery powerhouse, providing most of the content anyone could desire. A system like this can be set up by the user but for many, buying a so-called “fully-loaded” box from a seller is the easier option.

As a result, hundreds – probably thousands – of cottage industries have sprung up to service this hungry market in the UK, with regular people making a business out of setting up and selling such devices. Until three years ago, that’s what Michael Jarman and Natalie Forber of Colwyn Bay, Wales, found themselves doing.

According to reports in local media, Jarman was arrested in January 2015 when police were called to a disturbance at Jarman and Forber’s home. A large number of devices were spotted and an investigation was launched by Trading Standards officers. The pair were later arrested and charged with fraud offenses.

While 37-year-old Jarman pleaded guilty, 36-year-old Forber initially denied the charges and was due to stand trial. However, she later changed her mind and like Jarman, pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent business. Forber also pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property by shifting cash from the scheme through various bank accounts.

The pair attended a sentencing hearing before Judge Niclas Parry at Caernarfon Crown Court yesterday. According to local reporter Eryl Crump, the Court heard that the couple had run their business for about two years, selling around 1,000 fully-loaded Kodi-enabled devices for £100 each via social media.

According to David Birrell for the prosecution, the operation wasn’t particularly sophisticated but it involved Forber programming the devices as well as handling customer service. Forber claimed she was forced into the scheme by Jarman but that claim was rejected by the prosecution.

Between February 2013 and January 2015 the pair banked £105,000 from the business, money that was transferred between bank accounts in an effort to launder the takings.

Reporting from Court via Twitter, Crump said that Jarman’s defense lawyer accepted that a prison sentence was inevitable for his client but asked for the most lenient sentence possible.

Forber’s lawyer pointed out she had no previous convictions. The mother-of-two broke up with Jarman following her arrest and is now back in work and studying at college.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Niclas Parry described the offenses as a “relatively sophisticated fraud” carried out over a significant period. He jailed Jarman for 21 months and Forber for 16 months, suspended for two years. She must also carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

The pair will also face a Proceeds of Crime investigation which could see them paying large sums to the state, should any assets be recoverable.

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

YouTube Won’t Put Up With Blatant Piracy Tutorials Forever

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-wont-put-up-with-blatant-piracy-tutorials-forever-180506/

Once upon a time, Internet users’ voices would be heard in limited circles, on platforms such as Usenet or other niche platforms.

Then, with the rise of forum platforms such as phpBB in 2000 and Invision Power Board in 2002, thriving communities could gather in public to discuss endless specialist topics, including file-sharing of course.

When dedicated piracy forums began to gain traction, it was pretty much a free-for-all. People discussed obtaining free content absolutely openly. Nothing was taboo and no one considered that there would be any repercussions. As such, moderation was limited to keeping troublemakers in check.

As the years progressed and lawsuits against both sites and services became more commonplace, most sites that weren’t actually serving illegal content began to consider their positions. Run by hobbyists, most didn’t want the hassle of a multi-million dollar lawsuit, so links to pirate content began to diminish and the more overt piracy tutorials began to disappear underground.

Those that remained in plain sight became much more considered. Tutorials on how to pirate specific Hollywood blockbusters were no longer needed, a plain general tutorial would suffice. And, as communities matured and took time to understand the implications of their actions, those without political motivations realized that drawing attention to potential criminality was neither required nor necessary.

Then YouTube and social media happened and almost overnight, no one was in charge and anyone could say whatever they liked.

In this new reality, there were no irritating moderator-type figures removing links to this and that, and nobody warning people against breaking rules that suddenly didn’t exist anymore. In essence, previously tight-knit and street-wise file-sharing and piracy communities not only became fragmented, but also chaotic.

This meant that anyone could become a leader and in some cases, this was the utopia that many had hoped for. Not only couldn’t the record labels or Hollywood tell people what to do anymore, discussion site operators couldn’t either. For those who didn’t abuse the power and for those who knew no better, this was a much-needed breath of fresh air. But, like all good things, it was unlikely to last forever.

Where most file-sharing of yesterday was carried out by hobbyist enthusiasts, many of today’s pirates are far more casual. They’re just as thirsty for content, but they don’t want to spend hours hunting for it. They want it all on a plate, at the flick of a switch, delivered to their TV with a minimum of hassle.

With online discussions increasingly seen as laborious and old-fashioned, many mainstream pirates have turned to easy-to-consume videos. In support of their Kodi media player habits, YouTube has become the educational platform of choice for millions.

As a result, there is now a long line of self-declared Kodi piracy specialists scooping up millions of views on YouTube. Their videos – which in many cases are thinly veiled advertisements for third party addons, Kodi ‘builds’, illegal IPTV services, and obscure Android APKs – are now the main way for a new generation to obtain direct advice on pirating.

Many of the videos are incredibly blatant, like the past 15 years of litigation never happened. All the lessons learned by the phpBB board operators of yesteryear, of how to achieve their goals of sharing information without getting shut down, have been long forgotten. In their place, a barrage of daily videos designed to generate clicks and affiliate revenue, no matter what the cost, no matter what the risk.

It’s pretty clear that these videos are at least partly responsible for the phenomenal uptick in Kodi and Android-based piracy over the past few years. In that respect, many lovers of free content will be eternally grateful for the service they’ve provided. But like many piracy movements over the years, people shouldn’t get too attached to them, at least in their current form.

Thanks to the devil-may-care approach of many influential YouTubers, it won’t be long before a whole new set of moderators begin flexing their muscles. While your average phpBB moderator could be reasoned with in order to get a second chance, a determined and largely faceless YouTube will eject offenders without so much as a clear explanation.

When this happens (and it’s only a question of time given the growing blatancy of many tutorials) YouTubers will not only lose their voices but their revenue streams too. While YouTube’s partner programs bring in some welcome cash, the profitable affiliate schemes touted on these channels for external products will also be under threat.

Perhaps the most surprising thing in this drama-waiting-to-happen is that many of the most popular YouTubers can hardly be considered young and naive. While some are of more tender years, most – with their undoubted skill, knowledge and work ethic – should know better for their 30 or 40 years on this planet. Yet not only do they make their names public, they feature their faces heavily in their videos too.

Still, it’s likely that it will take some big YouTube accounts to fall before YouTubers respond by shaving the sharp edges off their blatant promotion of illegal activity. And there’s little doubt that those advertising products (which is most of them) will have to do so sooner rather than later.

Just this week, YouTube made it clear that it won’t tolerate people making money from the promotion of illegal activities.

“YouTube creators may include paid endorsements as part of their content only if the product or service they are endorsing complies with our advertising policies,” YouTube told the BBC.

“We will be working with creators going forward so they better understand that in video promotions [they] must not promote dishonest activity.”

That being said, like many other players in the piracy and file-sharing space over the past 18 years, YouTubers will eventually begin to learn that not only can the smart survive, they can flourish too.

Sure, there will be people out there who’ll protest that free speech allows citizens to express themselves in a manner of their choosing. But try PM’ing that to YouTube in response to a strike, and see how that fares.

When they say you’re done, the road back is a long one.

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

Canadian BitTorrent Traffic Tanked, But Video Piracy is Still Hot

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/canadian-bittorrent-traffic-tanked-but-video-piracy-is-still-hot-180403/

Piracy has become a hot topic in Canada now that there are calls to implement the first website blocking scheme in North America.

One outfit that’s kept a close eye on piracy-related developments in recent years is Ontario-based broadband management company Sandvine.

For years, Sandvine has monitored Internet traffic trends throughout the world. Some of these developments are, at least partially, linked to piracy. This includes the market share of BitTorrent traffic.

In recent years the percentage of BitTorrent-related Internet traffic has dropped significantly and newly released data by Sandvine shows that this is no different in Canada.

Between 2014 and 2017 the aggregate daily traffic share of BitTorrent dropped from 15.1% to a measly 1.6% on fixed networks. This suggests that absolute traffic also took a significant hit.

BitTorrent aggregate daily traffc share (Sandvine)

While Sandvine believes that most torrent traffic was infringement related, the drop doesn’t mean that video piracy is no longer an issue. A lot of this activity has moved to streaming sites and dedicated streaming boxes.

In its report, the company specifically highlights the issue of fully-loaded Kodi boxes. While the Kodi media player itself is perfectly legal, when paired with pirate add-ons it causes problems for copyright holders.

In Canada, it is estimated that nearly 10% of all households have access to a Kodi-powered device. More than two-thirds of these (71%) have their devices configured to access pirated content.

This brings the total of Canadian households with access to ‘pirate’ Kodi addons to 7%, which is slightly higher than the 6% in the US. This figure should not be underestimated, according to Sandvine.

“Sandvine believes that emergent forms of piracy such as the ‘Fully-Loaded’ Kodi ecosystem and subscription television piracy represent a real threat to the revenue streams of network operators,” the company says.

“Not only because the content is being stolen, but because in some instance subscribers are paying to pirate these services, with no money going into the pockets of the content creators or rights holders.”

It is worth noting that Sandvine doesn’t measure the traffic that’s generated by regular pirate streaming sites or other devices. So the total percentage of streaming pirates is much higher.

Finally, we have to mention that the Canadian company is not a neutral party in the blocking debate. As a company that sells blocking solutions, it could possibly benefit from the website blocking plans that triggered the release of these data.

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

Forty Percent of All Mexican Roku Users are Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/forty-percent-of-all-mexican-roku-users-are-pirates-180332/

In recent years it has become much easier to stream movies and TV-shows over the Internet.

Legal services such as Netflix and HBO are flourishing, but there’s also a darker side to this streaming epidemic.

Millions of people are streaming from unauthorized sources, often paired with perfectly legal streaming platforms and devices. This issue has become particularly problematic for Roku, which sells easy-to-use media players.

Last week federal judges in Mexico City and Torreón decided that Roku sales should remain banned there, keeping last year’s suspension in place. While the ruling can still be appealed, it hurts Roku’s bottom line.

The company has more than a million users in Mexico according to statistics released by the Competitive Intelligence Unit (CIU), a local market research firm. That’s a significant number, but so is the percentage of pirating Roku users in Mexico.

“Roku has 1.1 million users in the country, of which 40 percent use it to watch content illegally,” Gonzalo Rojon, ICU’s director of ICT research, writes.

“There are 575 thousand users who access the illegal content and that is comparable to the number of subscribers a small pay-TV operator has,” he adds.

While this is indeed a significant number, that doesn’t make the Roku boxes illegal by default. There are millions who use Windows to pirate stuff, or web browsers like Chrome and Firefox, but these are generally not seen as problematic.

Still, several Mexican judges have ruled that sales should be banned so for the time being it remains that way.

According to Rojon, these type of measures are imperative to ensure that copyright holders are protected from online piracy, now that more and more content is moving online.

“Although for some people this type of action seems radical, I think it is very important that the shift towards more digitalization is accompanied by copyright and intellectual property protection, so it continues to promote innovation and a healthy competitive environment in the digital world,” he notes.

Roku clearly disagrees and last week the company told us that it will do everything in its power to have the current sales ban overturned.

“While Roku’s devices have always been and remain legal to use in Mexico, the current ban harms consumers, the retail sector and the industry. We will vigorously pursue further legal actions with the aim of restoring sales of Roku devices in Mexico,” the company said.

Meanwhile, Roku is working hard to shake the piracy elements off its platform. Last year it began showing FBI warnings to users of ‘pirate channels’ and just this week removed the entire USTVnow service from its platform.

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

Roku Removes USTVnow Service Following “3rd Party” Copyright Complaint

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-removes-ustvnow-service-following-3rd-party-copyright-complaint-180329/

Earlier this week, customers of the popular Roku streaming media player began complaining about a problem with the product, specifically in connection with USTVnow.

USTVnow promotes itself as a service targeted at American expats and the military, offering “a wide range of live American channels to watch on their computer, mobile device or television.”

Indeed, USTVnow offers a fairly comprehensive service, with eight channels (including ABC and FOX) on its free tier and 24 channels on its premium $29.00 per month package.

USTVnow’s top package

Having USTVnow available via Roku helps to spread the free tier and drive business to the paid tier but, as of this week, that’s stopped happening. USTVnow has been completely removed from the Roku platform, much to the disappointment of customers.

“I spoke to Roku support and [they told me] that USTVNOW is no longer available for Roku at this time,” a user in Roku’s forums complained.

In response, a Roku engineer said that “Roku has been asked to remove this channel by the content rights owner”, which was as confusing as it was informative.

USTVnow endorses the Roku product, actively promotes it on the front page of its site, and provides helpful setup guides.

So, in an effort to get to the bottom of the problem, TorrentFreak contacted Roku, asking for details. The company responded quickly.

“Yes, that is correct, the channel was removed from our platform,” Roku spokesperson Tricia Misfud confirmed.

“When we receive a notice regarding copyright infringement we are swift to review which in this case resulted in us removing the channel.”

Roku pointed us to its copyright infringement page which details its policies and actions when a complaint is received. However, that didn’t really help to answer why it would remove USTVnow when USTVnow promotes the Roku service.

So we asked Roku again to elaborate on who filed the notice and on what grounds.

“The notice was in regards to the copyright of the content,” came the response.

While not exactly clear, this suggested that USTVnow wasn’t the problem but someone else. Was it a third-party perhaps? If so, who, and what was the content being complained about?

“It was from a third party,” came the vague response.

With USTVnow completely unavailable via Roku, there are some pretty annoyed customers out there. However, it seems clear that at least for now, the company either can’t or won’t reveal the precise details of the complaint.

It could conceivably be from one of the major channels offered in the USTVnow package but equally, it could be a DMCA notice from a movie or TV show copyright holder who objects to their content being distributed on the device, or even USTVnow itself.

USTVnow has a deal with Nittany Media to provide streaming services based on Nittany’s product but there is always a potential for a licensing problem somewhere, potentially big ones too.

We’ll update this article if and when more information becomes available.

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

Google Adds ‘Kodi’ to Autocomplete Piracy Filter

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-adds-kodi-to-autocomplete-piracy-filter-180328/

In recent years entertainment industry groups have repeatedly urged Google to ramp up its anti-piracy efforts.

These remarks haven’t fallen on deaf ears and Google has made several changes to its search algorithms to make copyright-infringing material less visible.

The company demotes results from domain names for which it receives many DMCA takedown notices, for example, and it has also removed several piracy-related terms from its autocomplete feature.

The latter means that when one types “pirate ba” it won’t suggest pirate bay. Instead, people see “pirate bays” or “pirate books” as suggestions. Whether that’s very effective is up for debate, but it’s intentional.

“Google has taken steps to prevent terms closely associated with piracy from appearing in Autocomplete and Related Search,” the company previously explained.

“This is similar to the approach we have taken for a narrow class of terms related to pornography, violence, and hate speech.”

When the piracy filter was first implemented, several seemingly neutral terms such as BitTorrent and uTorrent were also targeted. While these were later reinstated, we recently noticed another autocomplete ban that’s rather broad.

It turns out that Google has recently removed the term “Kodi” from its autocomplete results. While Kodi can be abused through pirate add-ons, the media player software itself is perfectly legal, which makes it an odd decision.

Users who type in “Kod” get a list of suggestions including “Kodak” and “Kodiak,” but not the much more popular search term Kodi.

Kodiak?

Similarly, when typing “addons for k” Google suggests addons for Kokotime and Krypton 17.6. While the latter is a Kodi version, the name of the media player itself doesn’t come up as a suggestion.

Once users type the full Kodi term and add a space, plenty of suggestions suddenly appear, which is similar to other banned terms.

Kokotime

Ironically enough, the Kokotime app is frequently used by pirates as well. Also, the names of all of the pirate Kodi addons we checked still show up fine in the autosuggest feature.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t document its autocomplete removal decisions, nor does it publish the full list of banned words. However, the search engine confirms that Kodi’s piracy stigma is to blame here.

“Since 2011, we have been filtering certain terms closely associated with copyright infringement from Google Autocomplete. This action is consistent with that long-standing strategy,” a spokesperson told us.

The Kodi team, operated by the XBMC Foundation, is disappointed with the decision and points out that their software does not cross any lines.

“We are surprised and disappointed to discover Kodi has been removed from autocomplete, as Kodi is perfectly legal open source software,” XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen told us.

The Kodi team has been actively trying to distance itself from pirate elements. They enforce their trademark against sellers of pirate boxes and are in good contact with Hollywood’s industry group, the MPAA.

“We have a professional relationship with the MPAA, who have specifically made clear in the past their own position that Kodi is legal software,” Betzen notes.

“We hope Google will reconsider this decision in the future, or at a minimum limit their removal to search terms where the legality is actually in dispute.”

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

McAfee Security Experts Weigh-in Weirdly With “Fresh Kodi Warning”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mcafee-security-experts-weigh-in-weirdly-with-fresh-kodi-warning-180311/

Over the past several years, the last couple in particular, piracy has stormed millions of homes around the world.

From being a widespread but still fairly geeky occupation among torrenters, movie and TV show piracy can now be achieved by anyone with the ability to click a mouse or push a button on a remote control. Much of this mainstream interest can be placed at the feet of the Kodi media player.

An entirely legal platform in its own right, Kodi can be augmented with third-party add-ons that enable users to access an endless supply of streaming media. As such, piracy-configured Kodi installations are operated by an estimated 26 million people, according to the MPAA.

This popularity has led to much interest from tabloid newspapers in the UK which, for reasons best known to them, choose to both promote and demonize Kodi almost every week. While writing about news events is clearly par for the course, when one considers some of the reports, their content, and what inspired them, something doesn’t seem right.

This week The Express, which has published many overly sensational stories about Kodi in recent times, published another. The title – as always – promised something special.

Sounds like big news….

Reading the text, however, reveals nothing new whatsoever. The piece simply rehashes some of the historic claims that have been leveled at Kodi that can easily apply to any Internet-enabled software or system. But beyond that, some of its content is pretty weird.

The piece is centered on comments from two McAfee security experts – Chief Scientist Raj Samani and Chief Consumer Security Evangelist Gary Davis. It’s unclear whether The Express approached them for comment (if they did, there is no actual story for McAfee to comment on) or whether McAfee offered the comments and The Express built a story around them. Either way, here’s a taster.

“Kodi has been pretty open about the fact that it’s a streaming site but my view has always been if I use Netflix I know that I’m not going to get any issues, if I use Amazon I’m not going to get any issues,” Samani told the publication.

Ok, stop right there. Kodi admits that it’s a streaming site? Really? Kodi is a piece of software. It’s a media player. It can do many things but Kodi is not a streaming site and no one at Kodi has ever labeled it otherwise. To think that neither McAfee nor the publication caught that one is a bit embarrassing.

The argument that Samani was trying to make is that services like Netflix and Amazon are generally more reliable than third-party sources and there are few people out there who would argue with that.

“Look, ultimately you’ve got to do the research and you’ve got to decide if it’s right for you but personally I don’t use [Kodi] and I know full well that by not using [Kodi] I’m not going to get any issues. If I pay for the service I know exactly what I’m going to get,” he said.

But unlike his colleague who doesn’t use Kodi, Gary Davis has more experience.

McAfee’s Chief Consumer Security Evangelist admits to having used Kodi in the past but more recently decided not to use it when the security issues apparently got too much for him.

“I did use [Kodi] but turned it off as I started getting worried about some of the risks,” he told The Express.

“You may search for something and you may get what you are looking for but you may get something that you are not looking for and that’s where the problem lies with Kodi.”

This idea, that people search for a movie or TV show yet get something else, is bewildering to most experienced Kodi users. If this was indeed the case, on any large scale, people wouldn’t want to use it anymore. That’s clearly not the case.

Also, incorrect content appearing is not the kind of security threat that the likes of McAfee tend to be worried about. However, Davis suggests things can get worse.

“I’m not saying they’ve done anything wrong but if somebody is able to embed code to turn on a microphone or other things or start sending data to a place it shouldn’t go,” he said.

The sentence appears to have some words missing and struggles to make sense but the suggestion is that someone’s Kodi installation could be corrupted to the point that someone people could hijack the user’s microphone.

We are not aware of anything like that happening, ever, via Kodi. There are instances where that has happened completely without it in a completely different context, but that seems here nor there. By the same count, everyone should stop using Windows perhaps?

The big question is why these ‘scary’ Kodi non-stories keep getting published and why experts are prepared to weigh-in on them?

It would be too easy to quickly put it down to some anti-piracy agenda, even though there are plenty of signs that anti-piracy groups have been habitually feeding UK tabloids with information on that front. Indeed, a source at a UK news outlet (that no longer publishes such stories) told TF that they were often prompted to write stories about Kodi and streaming in general, none with a positive spin.

But if it was as simple as that, how does that explain another story run in The Express this week heralding the launch of Kodi’s ‘Leia’ alpha release?

If Kodi is so bad as to warrant an article telling people to avoid it FOREVER on one day, why is it good enough to be promoted on another? It can only come down to the number of clicks – but the clickbait headline should’ve given that away at the start.

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

Tickbox Must Remove Pirate Streaming Addons From Sold Devices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VLC Media Player 321 Media Player

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: The app has now been removed from Google Play

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New Kodi Addon Tool Might Carry Interesting Copyright Liability Implications

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-kodi-addon-tool-might-carry-interesting-copyright-liability-implications-180124/

Kodi is the now ubiquitous media player taking the world by storm. In itself it’s a great piece of software but augmented with third-party software it can become a piracy powerhouse.

This software, known collectively as ‘add-ons’, enables Kodi to do things it was never designed for such as watching pirated movies, TV shows, and live sports. As a result, it’s the go-to media platform for millions around the globe, but for those distributing the add-ons, there can be risks attached.

As one of the most prominent Kodi-related sites around, TVAddons helped to distribute huge numbers of add-ons. The platform insists that if any add-on infringed copyright, it was only too willing to remove them under a DMCA-like regime. Last year, however, it became clear that copyright holders would prefer to sue TVAddons (1,2) than ask for takedowns.

With those lawsuits still ongoing, the site was left with a dilemma. Despite add-ons being developed and uploaded by third-parties, rightsholders are still trying to hold TVAddons responsible for what those add-ons can do. It’s a precarious situation that has led to TVAddons not having its own repository/repo (a place where the addons are stored for users to download) since the site ran into trouble last summer.

Now, however, the site has just launched a new tool which not only provides some benefits for users looking for addons, but also attempts to shift some liability for potential infringement away from the service and onto a company with much broader shoulders.

TVAddons’ Github Browser was released yesterday and is available via the platform’s Indigo tool. Its premise is simple.

Since many third-party Kodi add-ons are developed and first made available on Github, the world’s leading software development platform, why don’t users install them directly from there instead?

The idea is that this might reduce liability for distributors like TVAddons but could also present benefits for users, as they can be assured that they’re getting add-ons directly from the source.

Github Browser welcome screen

“Before the GitHub Browser, when an end user wanted to install a particular addon, they’d first have to download the necessary repository from either Fusion Installer or an alternative,” a TV addons spokesperson informs TF.

“This new feature gives the end user the ability to easily install any Kodi addon, and empowers developers to distribute their addons independently, without having to align themselves with a particular release group or web site.”

Aside from the benefits to users, it also means that TVAddons can provide its users with access to third-party add-ons without having to curate, store, or distribute them itself. In future, storage and distribution aspects can be carried out by Github, which has actually been the basic behind-the-scenes position for some time.

“GitHub has always been the leading host of Kodi addons, and also respects the law. The difference is, they are big enough to not be bullied by draconian legal maneuvers used by big corporations to censor the internet. We also felt that developers should be able to develop without having to comply with our rules, or any other Kodi web site’s rules for that matter,” TVAddons explain.

The screenshot of the Github Browser below reveals a text-heavy interface that will probably mean little to the low-level user of Kodi who bought his device already setup from a seller. However, those more familiar with the way Kodi functions will recognize that the filenames relate to add-ons which can now be directly installed via the browser.

The Github Browser

While the approach may seem basic or even inaccessible at first view, that wrongfully discounts the significant resources available to the sprawling third-party Kodi add-on community.

Dozens of specialist blogs and thousands of YouTube videos report in detail on the most relevant addons, providing all of the details users will need to identify and locate the required software. Developer usernames could be a good starting point, TVAddons suggests.

“We have already seen many social media posts, blogs and developers advertising their GitHub usernames in order to make it easier for users to find them,” the site explains.

From our tests, it appears that users really have to do all the work themselves. There doesn’t appear to be any add-on curation and users must know what they’re looking for in advance. Indeed, entering the Github usernames of developers who produce software that has nothing to do with Kodi can still present zip file results in the browser. Whether this will prove problematic later on will remain to be seen.

While most keen users won’t have a problem using the Github Browser, there is the question of whether redirecting the focus to the development platform will cause copyright holders to pay more attention to Github.

This has certainly happened in the past, such as when the Federation Against Copyright Theft targeted the SportsDevil add-on and had it removed from Github. It’s also worth noting that Github doesn’t appear to challenge takedown requests, so add-ons could be vulnerable if the heat gets turned up.

Nevertheless, TVAddons believes that the open source nature of most addons coupled with Github’s relative strength means that they’ll be able to stand up to most threats.

“Open source code lives on forever, it’s impossible to scrub the internet of freely distributed legitimate code. I think that GitHub is in a better position to legitimately assess and enforce the DMCA than us. They won’t be sued out of nowhere in circumvention of the DMCA in similar fashion to what we have been the victim of,” TVAddons says.

Several years ago, when The Pirate Bay got rid of torrents and relied on magnet links instead, the platform became much more compact, thus saving on bandwidth. The lack of a repository at TVAddons has also had benefits for the site. Previously it was consuming around 3PB (3,000,000 gigabytes) of bandwidth a month, with a hosting provider demanding $25,000 per month not to discontinue business.

Finally, the team says it is working on new browser features for the future, including repository distribution over torrents. Only time will tell how this new system will be viewed by copyright holders but even with add-on hosting taken care of externally, any form of curation could be instantly frowned upon, with serious consequences.

Details of the browser can be found here.

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Tickbox Clearly Promotes and Facilitates Piracy, Hollywood Tells Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tickbox-clearly-promotes-and-facilitates-piracy-hollywood-tells-court-180115/

The rising popularity of piracy streaming boxes has turned into Hollywood’s main piracy concern in recent months.

While the hardware and media players such as Kodi are not a problem, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons turn them into fully-fledged piracy machines.

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

Last 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 comes 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. The coalition, therefore, asked the court for a permanent injunction to remove all infringing add-ons from previously sold devices.

Tickbox maintained its innocence, however. The company informed the court that its box is a simple computer like any other, which is perfectly legal.

According to Tickbox, they don’t have anything to do with the infringing “Themes” that users can select on their device. These themes feature several addons that link to infringing content.

This explanation doesn’t sit well with the movie companies, which submitted a reply to the court late last week. They claim that Tickbox is deliberately downplaying their own role, as they are the ones who decided to make these themes accessible through their boxes.

“TickBox falsely claims that the presence of these ‘Themes’ on TickBox devices ‘have nothing to do with Defendant’,” ACE’s reply reads.

“To the contrary, TickBox intentionally chooses which ‘Themes’ to include on its ‘Select your Theme’ menu for the TickBox TV interface, and TickBox pushes out automatic software updates to its customers’ TickBox TV devices.”

The movie companies also dispute Tickbox’s argument that they don’t induce copyright infringement because their device is “simply a small computer” that has many legitimate uses.

This liability question isn’t about whether Tickbox stores any infringing material or runs pirate streams through their servers, they counter. It’s about the intended use and how Tickbox promotes its product.

“TickBox’s liability arises based on its advertising and promoting TickBox TV as a tool for infringing use, and from designing and including software on the device that encourages access to infringing streams from third-party sources.”

ACE notes that, unlike Tickbox claims, the current case shows a lot of parallels with previous landmark cases including Grokster and Fung [isoHunt].

The isoHunt website didn’t store and infringing material, nor was it crucial in the torrent piracy ecosystem. However, it was liable because the operator willingly facilitated copyright infringing activity. This is what Tickbox does too, according to ACE.

“TickBox ‘competes’ with legitimate services by telling customers that they can access the same content available from legitimate distributors ‘ABSOLUTELY FREE’ and that customers therefore ‘will find that you no longer need those subscriptions’.”

The movie companies therefore ask the court to issue the requested injunction. They want all existing devices to be impounded and Tickbox should, through an update, remove infringing addons from already sold devices.

Tickbox argued that this would require them to “hack into” their customers’ boxes and delete content. ACE, however, says that this is a simple update and nothing different from what the company has done in the past.

“The proposed injunction would merely obligate TickBox to make good on its halfhearted and ineffective efforts to do what it claims to have already done: remove Kodi builds with illicit addons from TickBox TV,” ACE writes.

“As demonstrated by TickBox’s own, repeated software updates since the filing of Plaintiffs’ Complaint, TickBox has the means and ability to easily and remotely change what options users see and can access on their TickBox TVs.”

After having heard the arguments from both sides, it’s now up to the California federal court to decide who’s right.

The current case should set an important precedent. In addition to Tickbox, ACE also filed a similar lawsuit against Dragon Box. Clearly, the coalition is determined to get these alleged pirate devices off the market.

A copy of ACE’s reply is available here (pdf).

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Netflix, Amazon and Hollywood Sue Kodi-Powered Dragon Box Over Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-amazon-and-hollywood-sue-kodi-powered-dragon-box-over-piracy-180111/

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.

In recent months these boxes have become the prime target for copyright enforcers, including the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies.

After suing Tickbox last year a group of key ACE members have now filed a similar lawsuit against Dragon Media Inc, which sells the popular Dragon Box. The complaint, filed at a California federal court, also lists the company’s owner Paul Christoforo and reseller Jeff Williams among the defendants.

According to ACE, these type of devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. That also applies to Dragon Box, they inform the court.

“Defendants market and sell ‘Dragon Box,’ a computer hardware device that Defendants urge their customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of the copyrighted motion pictures and television shows,” the complaint, picked up by HWR, reads.

The movie companies note that the defendants distribute and promote the Dragon Box as a pirate tool, using phrases such as “Watch your Favourites Anytime For FREE” and “stop paying for Netflix and Hulu.”

Dragon Box

When users follow the instructions Dragon provides they get free access to copyrighted movies, TV-shows and live content, ACE alleges. The complaint further points out that the device uses the open source Kodi player paired with pirate addons.

“The Dragon Media application provides Defendants’ customers with a customized configuration of the Kodi media player and a curated selection of the most popular addons for accessing infringing content,” the movie companies write.

“These addons are designed and maintained for the overarching purpose of scouring the Internet for illegal sources of copyrighted content and returning links to that content. When Dragon Box customers click those links, those customers receive unauthorized streams of popular motion pictures and television shows.”

One of the addons that are included with the download and installation of the Dragon software is Covenant.

This addon can be accessed through a preinstalled shortcut which is linked under the “Videos” menu. Users are then able to browse through a large library of curated content, including a separate category of movies that are still in theaters.

In theaters

According to a statement from Dragon owner Christoforo, business is going well. The company claims to have “over 250,000 customers in 50 states and 4 countries and growing” as well as “374 sellers” across the world.

With this lawsuit, however, the company’s future has suddenly become uncertain.

The movie companies ask the California District for an injunction to shut down the infringing service and impound all Dragon Box devices. In addition, they’re requesting statutory damages which can go up to several million dollars.

At the time of writing the Dragon Box website is still in on air and the company has yet to comment on the allegations.

A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf).

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Is Your Kodi Setup Being Spied On?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/is-your-kodi-setup-being-spied-on-180101/

As quite possibly the most people media player on earth, Kodi is installed on millions of machines – around 38 million according to the MPAA. The software has a seriously impressive range of features but one, if not configured properly, raises security issues for Kodi users.

For many years, Kodi has had a remote control feature, whereby the software can be remotely managed via a web interface.

This means that you’re able to control your Kodi setup installed on a computer or set-top box using a convenient browser-based interface on another device, from the same room or indeed anywhere in the world. Earlier versions of the web interface look like the one in the image below.

The old Kodi web-interface – functional but basic

But while this is a great feature, people don’t always password-protect the web-interface, meaning that outsiders can access their Kodi setups, if they have that person’s IP address and a web-browser. In fact, the image shown above is from a UK Kodi user’s setup that was found in seconds using a specialist search engine.

While the old web-interface for Kodi was basically a remote control, things got more interesting in late 2016 when the much more functional Chorus2 interface was included in Kodi by default. It’s shown in the image below.

Chorus 2 Kodi Web-Interface

Again, the screenshot above was taken from the setup of a Kodi user whose setup was directly open to the Internet. In every way the web-interface of Kodi acts as a web page, allowing anyone with the user’s IP address (with :8080 appended to the end) to access the user’s setup. It’s no different than accessing Google with an IP address (216.58.216.142), instead of Google.com.

However, Chorus 2 is much more comprehensive that its predecessors which means that it’s possible for outsiders to browse potentially sensitive items, including their addons if a password hasn’t been enabled in the appropriate section in Kodi.

Kodi users probably don’t want this seen in public

While browsing someone’s addons isn’t the most engaging thing in the world, things get decidedly spicier when one learns that the Chorus 2 interface allows both authorized and unauthorized users to go much further.

For example, it’s possible to change Kodi’s system settings from the interface, including mischievous things such as disabling keyboards and mice. As seen (or not seen) in the redacted section in the image below, it can also give away system usernames, for example.

Access to Kodi settings – and more

But aside from screwing with people’s settings (which is both pointless and malicious), the Chorus 2 interface has a trick up its sleeve. If people’s Kodi setups contain video or music files (which is what Kodi was originally designed for), in many cases it’s possible to play these over the web interface.

In basic terms, someone with your IP address can view the contents of your video library on the other side of the world, with just a couple of clicks.

The image below shows that a Kodi setup has been granted access to some kind of storage (network or local disk, for example) and it can be browsed, revealing movies. (To protect the user, redactions have been made to remove home video titles, network, and drive names)

Network storage accessed via Chorus 2

The big question is, however, whether someone accessing a Kodi setup remotely can view these videos via a web browser. Answer: Absolutely.

Clicking through on each piece of media reveals a button to the right of its title. Clicking that reveals two options – ‘Queue in Kodi’ (to play on the installation itself) or ‘Download’, which plays/stores the content via a remote browser located anywhere in the world. Chrome works like a charm.

Queue to Kodi or watch remotely in a browser

While this is ‘fun’ and potentially useful for outsiders looking for content, it’s not great if it’s your system that’s open to the world. The good news is that something can be done about it.

In their description for Chorus 2, the Kodi team explain all of its benefits of the interface but it appears many people don’t take their advice to introduce a new password. The default password and username are both ‘kodi’ which is terrible for security if people leave things the way they are.

If you run Kodi, now is probably the time to fix the settings, disable the web interface if you don’t use it, or enable stronger password protection if you do.

Change that password – now

Just recently, Kodi addon repository TVAddons issued a warning to people using jailbroken Apple TV 2 devices. That too was a default password issue and one that can be solved relatively easily.

“People need to realize that their Kodi boxes are actually mini computers and need to be treated as such,” a TVAddons spokesperson told TF.

“When you install a build, or follow a guide from an unreputable source, you’re opening yourself up to potential risk. Since Kodi boxes aren’t normally used to handle sensitive data, people seem to disregard the potential risks that are posed to their network.”

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Kodi Returns to Its Roots, Now Available on Xbox One

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-returns-to-its-roots-now-available-on-xbox-one-171229/

The Kodi media player software has seen a massive surge in popularity over the past few years.

With help from a wide range of third-party add-ons, some of which offer access to pirated content, millions of people now use Kodi as their main source of entertainment.

The Kodi software itself is perfectly legal, however, and has been around for more than 15 years. The roots of Kodi are directly connected to the Xbox, as the first iterations of the project were called the “Xbox Media Player.”

As time went by XBMP became XBMC, and eventually Kodi. The last name change made sense as the software was no longer being developed for Xbox, but for other devices, running on Linux, Windows, OSX, and Android.

While the broader public was perfectly happy with this, the sentimental few were missing the Xbox connection. For them, and many others, Kodi has a surprise in store today after returning to its roots.

“Let us end the year 2017 with a blast including a nostalgic reference to the past,” the Kodi team announced.

“It has long been asked for by so many and now it finally happened. Kodi for Xbox One is available worldwide through Windows and Xbox Store.”

The Kodi team provides quite a bit of history and context to the Xbox return in a detailed blog post. At the same time, it also cautions users to keep in mind that this is just the initial release, which still has some very rough edges.

“What you should really understand and keep remembering is that it is still in early stages of development and has very rough edges, might not be as stable as the regular version and may even be missing some functions,” they write.

Kodi’s look and feel on the Xbox One are very familiar though. Anyone who had Kodi installed on a different platform should have no issue navigating the interface. The usual add-ons should work fine as well.

With the new Xbox One release, Kodi has come full circle. After 15 years they are back where things began.

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Our ‘Kodi Box’ Is Legal & Our Users Don’t Break the Law, TickBox Tells Hollywood

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/our-kodi-box-is-legal-our-users-dont-break-the-law-tickbox-tells-hollywood-171229/

Georgia-based TickBox TV is a provider of set-top boxes that allow users to stream all kinds of popular content. Like other similar devices, Tickboxes use the popular Kodi media player alongside instructions how to find and use third-party addons.

Of course, these types of add-ons are considered a thorn in the side of the entertainment industries and as a result, Tickbox found itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit in the United States.

Filed in a California federal court in October, Universal, Columbia Pictures, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Amazon, and Netflix accused Tickbox of inducing and contributing to copyright infringement.

“TickBox sells ‘TickBox TV,’ a computer hardware device that TickBox urges its customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted motion pictures and television shows,” the complaint reads.

“TickBox promotes the use of TickBox TV for overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, infringing purposes, and that is how its customers use TickBox TV. TickBox advertises TickBox TV as a substitute for authorized and legitimate distribution channels such as cable television or video-on-demand services like Amazon Prime and Netflix.”

The copyright holders reference a TickBox TV video which informs customers how to install ‘themes’, more commonly known as ‘builds’. These ‘builds’ are custom Kodi-setups which contain many popular add-ons that specialize in supplying pirate content. Is that illegal? TickBox TV believes not.

In a response filed yesterday, TickBox underlined its position that its device is not sold with any unauthorized or illegal content and complains that just because users may choose to download and install third-party programs through which they can search for and view unauthorized content, that’s not its fault. It goes on to attack the lawsuit on several fronts.

TickBox argues that plaintiffs’ claims, that TickBox can be held secondarily liable under the theory of contributory infringement or inducement liability as described in the famous Grokster and isoHunt cases, is unlikely to succeed. TickBox says the studios need to show four elements – distribution of a device or product, acts of infringement by users of Tickbox, an object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, and causation.

“Plaintiffs have failed to establish any of these four elements,” TickBox’s lawyers write.

Firstly, TickBox says that while its device can be programmed to infringe, it’s the third party software (the builds/themes containing addons) that do all the dirty work, and TickBox has nothing to do with them.

“The Motion spends a great deal of time describing these third-party ‘Themes’ and how they operate to search for and stream videos. But the ‘Themes’ on which Plaintiffs so heavily focus are not the [TickBox], and they have absolutely nothing to do with Defendant. Rather, they are third-party modifications of the open-source media player software [Kodi] which the Box utilizes,” the response reads.

TickBox says its device is merely a small computer, not unlike a smartphone or tablet. Indeed, when it comes to running the ‘pirate’ builds listed in the lawsuit, a device supplied by one of the plaintiffs can accomplish the same task.

“Plaintiffs have identified certain of these thirdparty ‘builds’ or ‘Themes’ which are available on the internet and which can be downloaded by users to view content streamed by third-party websites; however, this same software can be installed on many different types of devices, even one distributed by affiliates of Plaintiff Amazon Content Services, LLC,” the company adds.

Referencing the Grokster case, TickBox states that particular company was held liable for distributing a device (the Grokster software) “with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright.” In the isoHunt case, it argues that the provision of torrent files satisfied the first element of inducement liability.

“In contrast, Defendant’s product – the Box – is not software through which users can access unauthorized content, as in Grokster, or even a necessary component of accessing unauthorized content, as in Fung [isoHunt],” TickBox writes.

“Defendant offers a computer, onto which users can voluntarily install legitimate or illegitimate software. The product about which Plaintiffs complain is third-party software which can be downloaded onto a myriad of devices, and which Defendant neither created nor supplies.”

From defending itself, TickBox switches track to highlight weaknesses in the studios’ case against users of its TickBox device. The company states that the plaintiffs have not presented any evidence that buyers of the TickBox streaming unit have actually accessed any copyrighted material.

Interestingly, however, the company also notes that even if people had streamed ‘pirate’ content, that might not constitute infringement.

First up, the company notes that there are no allegations that anyone – from TickBox itself to TickBox device owners – ever violated the plaintiffs’ exclusive right to perform its copyrighted works.

TickBox then further argues that copyright law does not impose liability for viewing streaming content, stating that an infringer is one who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder, in this case, the right to “perform the copyrighted work publicly.”

“Plaintiffs do not allege that Defendant, Defendant’s product, or the users of Defendant’s product ‘transmit or otherwise communicate a performance’ to the public; instead, Plaintiffs allege that users view streaming material on the Box.

“It is clear precedent [Perfect 10 v Google] in this Circuit that merely viewing copyrighted material online, without downloading, copying, or retransmitting such material, is not actionable.”

Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, TickBox insists that if its users aren’t infringing copyright, it’s impossible to argue that TickBox induced its customers to violate the plaintiffs’ rights. In that respect, plaintiffs’ complaints that TickBox failed to develop “filtering tools” to diminish its customers’ infringing activity are moot, since in TickBox’s eyes no infringement took place.

TickBox also argues that unlike in Grokster, where the defendant profited when users’ accessed infringing content, it does not. And, just to underline the earlier point, it claims that its place in the market is not to compete with entertainment companies, it’s actually to compete with devices such as Amazon’s Firestick – another similar Android-powered device.

Finally, TickBox notes that it has zero connection with any third-party sites that transmit copyrighted works in violation of the plaintiffs’ rights.

“Plaintiff has not alleged any element of contributory infringement vis-à-vis these unknown third-parties. Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendant has distributed any product to those third parties, that Defendant has committed any act which encourages those third parties’ infringement, or that any act of Defendant has, in fact, caused those third parties to infringe,” its response adds.

But even given the above defenses, TickBox says that it “voluntarily took steps” to remove links to the allegedly infringing Kodi builds from its device, following the plaintiffs’ lawsuit. It also claims to have modified its advertising and webpage “to attempt to appease Plaintiffs and resolve their complaint amicably.”

Given the above, TickBox says that the plaintiffs’ application for injunction is both vague and overly broad and would impose “imperssible hardship” on the company by effectively shutting it down while requiring it to “hack into and delete content” which TickBox users may have downloaded to their boxes.

TickBox raises some very interesting points around some obvious weaknesses so it will be intriguing to see how the Court handles its claims and what effect that has on the market for these devices in the US. In particular, the thorny issue of how they are advertised and promoted, which is nearly always the final stumbling block.

A copy of Tickbox’s response is available here (pdf), via Variety

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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

170 ‘Pirate’ IPTV Vendors Throw in the Towel Facing Legal Pressure

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/170-pirate-iptv-vendors-throw-the-in-the-towel-facing-legal-pressure-171121/

Pirate streaming boxes are all the rage this year. Not just among the dozens of millions of users, they are on top of the anti-piracy agenda as well.

Dubbed Piracy 3.0 by the MPAA, copyright holders are trying their best to curb this worrisome trend. In the Netherlands local anti-piracy group BREIN is leading the charge.

Backed by the major film studios, the organization booked a significant victory earlier this year against Filmspeler. In this case, the European Court of Justice ruled that selling or using devices pre-configured to obtain copyright-infringing content is illegal.

Paired with the earlier GS Media ruling, which held that companies with a for-profit motive can’t knowingly link to copyright-infringing material, this provides a powerful enforcement tool.

With these decisions in hand, BREIN previously pressured hundreds of streaming box vendors to halt sales of hardware with pirate addons, but it didn’t stop there. This week the group also highlighted its successes against vendors of unauthorized IPTV services.

“BREIN has already stopped 170 illegal providers of illegal media players and/or IPTV subscriptions. Even providers that only offer illegal IPTV subscriptions are being dealt with,” BREIN reports.

In addition to shutting down the trade in IPTV services, the anti-piracy group also removed 375 advertisements for such services from various marketplaces.

“This is illegal commerce. If you wait until you are warned, you are too late,” BREIN director Tim Kuik says.

“You can be held personally liable. You can also be charged and criminally prosecuted. Willingly committing commercial copyright infringement can lead to a 82,000 euro fine and 4 years imprisonment,” he adds.

While most pirate IPTV vendors threw in the towel voluntarily, some received an extra incentive. Twenty signed a settlement with BREIN for varying amounts, up to tens of thousands of euros. They all face further penalties if they continue to sell pirate subscriptions.

In some cases, the courts were involved. This includes the recent lawsuit against MovieStreamer, that was ordered to stop its IPTV hyperlinking activities immediately. Failure to do so will result in a 5,000 euro per day fine. In addition, the vendor was also ordered to pay legal costs of 17,527 euros.

While BREIN has booked plenty of successes already, as exampled here, the pirate streaming box problem is far from solved. The anti-piracy group currently has one case pending in court, but more are likely to follow in the near future.

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

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

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.