Tag Archives: media player

Tickbox Must Remove Pirate Streaming Addons From Sold Devices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VLC Media Player 321 Media Player

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: The app has now been removed from Google Play

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

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.

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

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).

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

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).

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

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.”

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

Tech Giants Warn Against Kodi Scapegoating

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tech-giants-warn-kodi-scapegoating-171022/

At the beginning of October, several entertainment industry groups shared their piracy concerns with the US Government’s Trade Representative (USTR).

Aside from pointing towards traditional websites, pirate streaming boxes were also brought up, by the MPAA among others.

“An emerging global threat is streaming piracy which is enabled by piracy devices preloaded with software to illicitly stream movies and television programming and a burgeoning ecosystem of infringing add-ons,” the MPAA noted.

This week the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which includes members such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix, notes that the USTR should be careful not to blame an open source media player such as Kodi, for the infringing actions of others.

CCIA wrote a rebuttal clarifying that Kodi and similar open source players are not the problem here.

“Another example of commenters raising concerns about generalized technology is the MPAA’s characterization of customizable, open-source set-top boxes utilizing the Kodi multimedia player application along with websites that allegedly ‘enable one-click installation of modified software onto set-top boxes or other internet-connected devices’,” CCIA writes.

While the MPAA itself also clearly mentioned that “Kodi is not itself unlawful,” CCIA stresses that any enforcement actions should be aimed at those who are breaking the law. The real targets include vendors who sell streaming boxes pre-loaded with infringing addons.

“These enforcement activities should focus on the infringers themselves, however, not a general purpose technology, such as an operating system for set-top boxes, which may be used in both lawful and unlawful ways.

“Open-source software designed for operating a home electronics device is unquestionably legitimate, and capable of substantial non-infringing uses,” CCIA adds in its cautionary letter the USTR.

While the MPAA’s submission was not trying to characterize Kodi itself as illegal, it did call out TVAddons.ag as a “piracy add-on repository.” The new incarnation of TVAddons wasn’t happy with this label and previously scolded the movie industry group for its comments, pointing out that it only received a handful of DMCA takedown notices in recent years.

“…in the entire history of TV ADDONS, XBMC HUB and OffshoreGit, we only received a total of about five DMCA notices in all; two of which were completely bogus. None of which came from a MPAA affiliate.”

While it’s obvious to most that Kodi isn’t the problem, as CCIA is highlighting, to many people it’s still unclear where the line between infringing and non-infringing is drawn. Lawsuits, including those against TVAddons and TickBox, are expected to bring more clarity.

CCIA’s full submission is available here (pdf).

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

Hollywood Giants Sue Kodi-powered ‘TickBox TV’ Over Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-giants-sue-kodi-powered-tickbox-tv-over-piracy-171014/

Online streaming piracy is booming and many people use dedicated media players to bring this content to their regular TVs.

The bare hardware is not illegal and neither is media player software such as Kodi. When these devices are loaded with copyright-infringing addons, however, they turn into an unprecedented piracy threat.

It becomes even more problematic when the sellers of these devices market their products as pirate tools. This is exactly what TickBox TV does, according to Hollywood’s major movie studios, Netflix, and Amazon.

TickBox is a Georgia-based provider of set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The company’s devices use the Kodi media player and come with instructions on how to add various add-ons.

In a complaint filed in a California federal court yesterday, Universal, Columbia Pictures, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Amazon, and Netflix accuse 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, picked up by THR, reads.

While the device itself does not host any infringing content, users are informed where they can find it.

The movie and TV studios stress that Tickbox’s marketing highlights its infringing uses with statements such as “if you’re tired of wasting money with online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.”

Sick of paying high monthly fees?

“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 studios’ lawyers write.

The complaint explains in detail how TickBox works. When users first boot up their device they are prompted to download the “TickBox TV Player” software. This comes with an instruction video guiding people to infringing streams.

“The TickBox TV instructional video urges the customer to use the ‘Select Your Theme’ button on the start-up menu for downloading addons. The ‘Themes’ are curated collections of popular addons that link to unauthorized streams of motion pictures and television shows.”

“Some of the most popular addons currently distributed — which are available through TickBox TV — are titled ‘Elysium,’ ‘Bob,’ and ‘Covenant’,” the complaint adds, showing screenshots of the interface.

Covenant

The movie and TV studios, which are the founding members of the recently launched ACE anti-piracy initiative, want TickBox to stop selling their devices. In addition, they demand compensation for the damages they’ve suffered. Requesting the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per copyright infringement, this can run into the millions.

The involvement of Amazon, albeit the content division, is notable since the online store itself sells dozens of similar streaming devices, some of which even list “infringing” addons.

The TickBox lawsuit is the first case in the United States where a group of major Hollywood players is targeting a streaming device. Earlier this year various Hollywood insiders voiced concerns about the piracy streaming epidemic and if this case goes their way, it probably won’t be the last.

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

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

Roku Shows FBI Warning to Pirate Channel Users

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-shows-fbi-warning-to-pirate-channel-users-171009/

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 at the same time millions of people are streaming from unauthorized sources, often paired with perfectly legal streaming platforms and devices.

Hollywood insiders have dubbed this trend “Piracy 3.0” and are actively working with stakeholders to address the threat. One of the companies rightsholders are working with is Roku, known for its easy-to-use media players.

Earlier this year a Mexican court ordered retailers to take the Roku media player off the shelves. This legal battle is still ongoing, but it was a clear signal to the company, which now has its own anti-piracy team.

Several third-party “private” channels have been removed from the player in recent weeks as they violate Roku’s terms and conditions. These include the hugely popular streaming channel XTV, which offered access to infringing content.

After its removal, XTV briefly returned as XTV 2, but that didn’t last for long. The infringing channel was soon removed again, this time showing the FBI’s anti-piracy seal followed by a rather ominous message.

“FBI Anti-Piracy Warning: Unauthorized copying is punishable under federal law,” it reads. “Roku has removed this unauthorized service due to repeated claims of copyright infringement.”

FBI Warning (via Cordcuttersnews)

The unusual warning was picked up by Cordcuttersnews and states that Roku itself removed the channel.

To some it may seem that the FBI is cracking down on Roku channels, but this is not the case. The anti-piracy seal and associated warning are often used in cases where the organization is not actively involved, to add extra weight. The FBI supports this, as long as certain standards are met.

A Roku spokesperson confirmed to TorrentFreak that they’re using it on their own accord here.

“We want to send a clear message to Roku customers and to publishers that any publication of pirated content on our platform is a violation of law and our platform rules,” the company says.

“We have recently expanded the messaging that we display to customers that install non-certified channels to alert them to the associated risks, and we display the FBI’s publicly available warning when we remove channels for copyright violations.”

The strong language shows that Roku is taking its efforts to crack down on infringing channels very seriously. A few weeks ago the company started to warn users that pirate channels may be removed without prior notice.

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

MPAA Reports Pirate Sites, Hosts and Ad-Networks to US Government

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-reports-pirate-sites-hosts-and-ad-networks-to-us-government-171004/

Responding to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the MPAA has submitted an updated list of “notorious markets” that it says promote the illegal distribution of movies and TV-shows.

These annual submissions help to guide the U.S. Government’s position towards foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement.

What stands out in the MPAA’s latest overview is that it no longer includes offline markets, only sites and services that are available on the Internet. This suggests that online copyright infringement is seen as a priority.

The MPAA’s report includes more than two dozen alleged pirate sites in various categories. While this is not an exhaustive list, the movie industry specifically highlights some of the worst offenders in various categories.

“Content thieves take advantage of a wide constellation of easy-to-use online technologies, such as direct download and streaming, to create infringing sites and applications, often with the look and feel of legitimate content distributors, luring unsuspecting consumers into piracy,” the MPAA writes.

According to the MPAA, torrent sites remain popular, serving millions of torrents to tens of millions of users at any given time.

The Pirate Bay has traditionally been one of the main targets. Based on data from Alexa and SimilarWeb, the MPAA says that TPB has about 62 million unique visitors per month. The other torrent sites mentioned are 1337x.to, Rarbg.to, Rutracker.org, and Torrentz2.eu.

MPAA calls out torrent sites

The second highlighted category covers various linking and streaming sites. This includes the likes of Fmovies.is, Gostream.is, Primewire.ag, Kinogo.club, MeWatchSeries.to, Movie4k.tv and Repelis.tv.

Direct download sites and video hosting services also get a mention. Nowvideo.sx, Openload.co, Rapidgator.net, Uploaded.net and the Russian social network VK.com. Many of these services refuse to properly process takedown notices, the MPAA claims.

The last category is new and centers around piracy apps. These sites offer mobile applications that allow users to stream pirated content, such as IpPlayBox.tv, MoreTV, 3DBoBoVR, TVBrowser, and KuaiKa, which are particularly popular in Asia.

Aside from listing specific sites, the MPAA also draws the US Government’s attention to the streaming box problem. The report specifically mentions that Kodi-powered boxes are regularly abused for infringing purposes.

“An emerging global threat is streaming piracy which is enabled by piracy devices preloaded with software to illicitly stream movies and television programming and a burgeoning ecosystem of infringing add-ons,” the MPAA notes.

“The most popular software is an open source media player software, Kodi. Although Kodi is not itself unlawful, and does not host or link to unlicensed content, it can be easily configured to direct consumers toward unlicensed films and television shows.”

Pirate streaming boxes

There are more than 750 websites offering infringing devices, the Hollywood group notes, adding that the rapid growth of this problem is startling. Interestingly, the report mentions TVAddons.ag as a “piracy add-on repository,” noting that it’s currently offline. Whether the new TVAddons is also seen a problematic is unclear.

The MPAA also continues its trend of calling out third-party intermediaries, including hosting providers. These companies refuse to take pirate sites offline following complaints, even when the MPAA views them as blatantly violating the law.

“Hosting companies provide the essential infrastructure required to operate a website,” the MPAA writes. “Given the central role of hosting providers in the online ecosystem, it is very concerning that many refuse to take action upon being notified…”

The Hollywood group specifically mentions Private Layer and Netbrella as notorious markets. CDN provider CloudFlare is also named. As a US-based company, the latter can’t be included in the list. However, the MPAA explains that it is often used as an anonymization tool by sites and services that are mentioned in the report.

Another group of intermediaries that play a role in fueling piracy (mentioned for the first time) are advertising networks. The MPAA specifically calls out the Canadian company WWWPromoter, which works with sites such as Primewire.ag, Projectfreetv.at and 123movies.to

“The companies connecting advertisers to infringing websites and inadvertently contribute to the prevalence and prosperity of infringing sites by providing funding to the operators of these sites through advertising revenue,” the MPAA writes.

The MPAA’s full report is available here (pdf). The USTR will use this input above to make up its own list of notorious markets. This will help to identify current threats and call on foreign governments to take appropriate action.

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

EFF Warns Against Abusive Lawsuits Targeting Kodi Add-on Repository

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/eff-warns-against-abusive-lawsuits-targeting-kodi-add-on-repository-171002/

The popular Kodi add-on repository TVAddons was dragged into two seperate lawsuits in recent months, in both Canada and the United States.

TV broadcasters such as Bell, Rogers, and Dish accuse the platform of inducing or contributing to copyright infringement by making ‘pirate’ add-ons to the public.

TVAddons itself has always maintained its innocence. A site representative recently told us that they rely on the safe harbor protection laws, available both in the US and Canada, which they believed would shield them from copyright infringement liability for merely distributing add-ons.

“TV ADDONS is not a piracy site, it’s a platform for developers of open source add-ons for the Kodi media center. As a community platform filled with user-generated content, we have always acted in accordance with the law and swiftly complied whenever we received a DMCA takedown notice.”

While both cases are still in an early stage, TVAddons is receiving support from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who warn against abusive lawsuits targeting neutral add-on distributors.

According to the digital rights group, holding platforms such as TVAddons liable for infringement users may commit after they download an add-on from the site goes too far.

“The lawsuit against TVAddons seeks to skirt that important [safe harbor] protection by arguing that by merely hosting, distributing and promoting Kodi add-ons, the TVAddons administrator is liable for inducing or authorizing copyright infringements later committed using those add-ons.

“This argument, were it to succeed, would create new uncertainty and risk for distributors of any software that could be used to engage in copyright infringement,” EFF adds.

The US case, started by Dish Networks, tries to expand copyright liability according to EFF. This lawsuit also targets the developers of the Zem TV add-on. While the latter may have crossed a line, TVAddons should be protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor when they merely host third-party content.

“Vicarious copyright liability requires that the defendant have the ‘right and ability to supervise’ the conduct of the direct infringer, and benefit financially. Dish claims only that the TVAddons site made ZemTV ‘available for download.’ That’s not enough to show an ability to supervise,” EFF notes.

The complaint in question goes a bit further than the “download” argument alone though. It also accuses TVAddons’ operator of having induced and encouraged Zem TV’s developer to retransmit popular television programs, which is of a different order.

However, EFF informs TorrentFreak that this allegation is not specific enough for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss. If TVAddons’ operator indeed took some purposeful, knowing action to induce copyright infringement, it should be spelled out, they say.

According to the digital rights group, the goal of the current cases is to expand the borders of copyright infringement liability, calling on copyright holders to stop such abusive lawsuits.

“These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem.

“The courts should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits,” EFF concludes.

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

‘China Should Crack Down on Pirate Streaming Box Distributors’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/china-should-crack-down-on-pirate-streaming-box-distributors-171001/

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has informed the U.S. Government that China must step up its game to better protect the interests of copyright holders.

The US Trade Representative is reviewing whether China has done enough to comply with its WTO obligations, but IIPA members including RIAA and MPAA believe there is still work to be done.

One of the areas to which the Chinese Government should pay more attention is enforcement. Although a lot of progress has been made in recent years, especially in combating music piracy, new threats have emerged.

One of the areas highlighted by IIPA is the streaming box ecosystem, aptly dubbed as “piracy 3.0” by the Motion Picture Association. This appeals to a new breed of pirates who rely on set-top boxes which are filled with pirate add-ons.

Industry groups often refer to these boxes as Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs) and they see China as a major hub through which these are shipped around the world.

“ISDs are media boxes, set-top boxes or other devices that allow users, through the use of piracy apps, to stream, download, or otherwise access unauthorized content from the Internet,” IIPA writes.

“These devices have emerged as a significant means through which pirated motion picture and television content is accessed on televisions in homes in China as well as elsewhere in Asia and increasingly around the world. China is a hub for the manufacture of these devices.”

Although the hardware and media players are perfectly legal, things get problematic when they’re loaded with pirate add-ons and promoted as tools to facilitate copyright infringement.

IIPA states that the Chinese Government should do more to stop these devices from being sold. Cracking down on the main distribution points would be a good start, they say.

“However it is done, the Chinese government must increase enforcement efforts, including cracking down on piracy apps and on device retailers and/or distributors who preload the devices with apps that facilitate infringement.

“Moreover, because China is the main source of this problem spreading across Asia, the Chinese government should take immediate actions against key distribution points for devices that are being used illegally,” IIPA adds.

In addition to pirate boxes, the industry groups also want China to beef up its enforcement against online journal piracy, pirate apps, unauthorized camcording, and unlicensed streaming platforms.

IIPA intends to explain the above and several other shortcomings in detail during a hearing in Washington, DC, next Wednesday. The group has submitted an overview of its testimony to the Trade Representative, which is available here (pdf).

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

EFF: The War on General-Purpose Computing Turns on the Streaming Media Box Community

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/735166/rss

The EFF highlights
a number of attacks
against distributors of add-ons for the Kodi streaming media system.
These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to
expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force
major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and
discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on
the few bad actors in that ecosystem. The courts should reject these
expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target
neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits.