Nowadays, movie buffs and videophiles find it hard to imagine a good viewing experience without UHD content, but disc rippers and pirates have remained on the sidelines for a long time.
Protected with strong AACS 2.0 encryption, UHD Blu-ray discs have long been one of the last bastions movie pirates had yet to breach.
This year there have been some major developments on this front, as full copies of UHD discs started to leak online. While it remained unclear how these were ripped, it was a definite milestone.
Just a few months ago another breakthrough came when a Russian company released a Windows tool called DeUHD that could rip UHD Blu-ray discs. Again, the method for obtaining the keys was not revealed.
Now there’s another setback for AACS LA, the licensing outfit founded by Warner Bros, Disney, Microsoft, Intel, and others. On various platforms around the Internet, copies of 72 AACS 2.0 keys are being shared.
The first mention we can find was posted a few days ago in a ten-year-old forum thread in the Doom9 forums. Since then it has been replicated a few times, without much fanfare.
The keys in question are confirmed to work and allow people to rip UHD Blu-ray discs of movies with freely available software such as MakeMKV. They are also different from the DeUHD list, so there are more people who know how to get them.
The full list of leaked keys includes movies such as Deadpool, Hancock, Passengers, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and The Martian. Some movies have multiple keys, likely as a result of different disc releases.
The leaked keys are also relevant for another reason. Ten years ago, a hacker leaked the AACS cryptographic key “09 F9” online which prompted the MPAA and AACS LA to issue DMCA takedown requests to sites where it surfaced.
This escalated into a censorship debate when Digg started removing articles that referenced the leak, triggering a massive backlash.
Thus fas the response to the AACS 2.0 leaks has been pretty tame, but it’s still early days. A user who posted the leaked keys on MyCe has already removed them due to possible copyright problems, so it’s definitely still a touchy subject.
The question that remains now is how the hacker managed to secure the keys, and if AACS 2.0 has been permanently breached.
Towards the end of the year, movie screeners are sent out to industry insiders who cast their votes for the Oscars and other awards.
It’s a highly anticipated time for pirates who hope to get copies of the latest blockbusters early, which is traditionally what happens.
Last year the action started relatively late. It took until January before the first leak surfaced – Denzel Washington’s Fences –
but more than a dozen made their way online soon after.
Today the first leak of the new screener season started to populate various pirate sites, Louis C.K.’s “I Love You, Daddy.” It was released by the infamous “Hive-CM8” group which also made headlines in previous years.
“I Love You, Daddy” was carefully chosen, according to a message posted in the release notes. Last month distributor The Orchard chose to cancel the film from its schedule after Louis C.K. was accused of sexual misconduct. With uncertainty surrounding the film’s release, “Hive-CM8” decided to get it out.
“We decided to let this one title go out this month, since it never made it to the cinema, and nobody knows if it ever will go to retail at all,” Hive-CM8 write in their NFO.
“Either way their is no perfect time to release it anyway, but we think it would be a waste to let a great Louis C.K. go unwatched and nobody can even see or buy it,” they add.
Last year this stance was reiterated, noting that they would not leak any screeners before Christmas. Today’s release shows that this isn’t a golden rule, but it’s unlikely that they will push any big titles before they’re out in theaters.
“I Love You, Daddy” isn’t going to be seen in theaters anytime soon, but it might see an official release. This past weekend, news broke that Louis C.K. had bought back the rights from The Orchard and must pay back marketing costs, including a payment for the 12,000 screeners that were sent out.
Hive-CM8, meanwhile, suggest that they have more screeners in hand, although their collection isn’t yet complete.
“We are still missing some titles, anyone want to share for the collection? Yes we want to have them all if possible, we are collectors, we don’t want to release them all,” they write.
Finally, the group also has some disappointing news for Star Wars fans who are looking for an early copy of “The Last Jedi.” Hive-CM8 is not going to release it.
“Their will be no starwars from us, sorry wont happen,” they write.
The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.
Earlier this year, the torrent community was hit hard when another major torrent site suddenly shut its doors.
Just a few months after celebrating its tenth anniversary, ExtraTorrent’s operator threw in the towel. While an official explanation was never provided, it’s likely that he was pressed to make this decision.
The ExtraTorrent site was a safe harbor for millions of regular users, who became homeless overnight. But it was more than that. It was also the birth ground of several popular releasers and distribution groups.
ETTV and ETHD turned into well-known brands themselves. While the ET is derived from ExtraTorrent, the groups have shared TV and movie torrents on several other large torrent sites, and they still do. They even have their own site now.
With millions of people sharing their uploads every week, they’ve become icons and heroes to many. But how did this all come to be? We sat down with the team, virtually, to find out more.
“The idea for ettv/ethd was brought up by ExtraTorrent users,” the ETTV team says.
There was demand for a new group that would upload scene releases faster than the original EZTV, which was the dominant TV-torrent distribution group around 2011, when it all started.
“At the time the real EZTV was still active. They released stuff hours after it was released from the scene, leaving sites to wait very long for shows to arrive in public. In no way was ettv intended for competitive purposes. We had a lot of respect for Nova and the original EZTV operators.”
While ETTV is regularly referred to as a “group,” it was a one-person operation initially. Just a guy with a seedbox, grabbing scene releases and posting them on torrent sites.
It didn’t take long before people got wind of the new distribution ‘group,’ and interest for the torrents quickly exploded. This meant that a single seedbox was no longer sufficient, but help was not far away.
“It started off with one operator and a seedbox, but it became popular too fast. That’s when former ExtraTorrent owners stepped in to give ETTV the support and funding it needed to keep the story going.”
One of the earliest ETTV uploads on ExtraTorrent
In addition to the available disk space and bandwidth, the team itself expanded as well. At its height, a handful of people were working on the group. However, when things became more and more automated this number reduced again.
What many people don’t realize is that ETTV and ETHD are mostly run by lines of code. The entire distribution process is automated and requires minimal intervention from the people behind it.
“Ettv/Ethd is a bot, it doesn’t require human attention. It grabs what you tell the script to,” the team tells us.
The bot is set up to grab the latest copies of predefined shows from private servers where the latest scene release are posted. These are transferred to the seedbox and the torrents are then pushed out to the public – on ETTV.tv, but also on The Pirate Bay and elsewhere. Everything is automated.
Even most of the maintenance is taken care of by the ‘bot’ itself. When disk space is running out older content is purged, allowing fresh releases to come through.
“The only persons involve with the bots are the bill payers of our new home ettv.tv. All they do check bot logs to see if it has any errors and correct them,” the team explains.
One problem that couldn’t be easily solved with some code was the shutdown of ExtraTorrent. While the bills for the seedboxes were paid in advance until the end of 2017, the groups had to find a new home.
“The shutdown of ExtraTorrent didn’t affect the bots from running, it just left ettv/ethd homeless and caused fans to lose their way trying to find us. Not many knew where else we uploaded or didn’t like the other sites we uploaded to.”
After a few months had passed it became clear that they were not going anywhere. Quite the contrary, they started their very own site, ETTV.tv, where all the latest releases are published.
In the near future, the team will focus on turning the site into a new home for its followers. Just a few weeks ago it launched a new release “tag,” ETMovies, which specializes in lower resolution films with a smaller file size, for example.
“We recently introduced ETMovies which is basically for SD Movies, other than that the only plan ettv/ethd has is to give a home to the members that suffered from the sudden shut down of ExtraTorrent.”
Just this week, the site also expanded its reach by adding new categories such as music, games, software, and Books, where approved uploaders will publish content.
While they are doing their best to keep the site up and running, it’s not a given that ETTV will be around forever. As long as there are plenty of funds and no concrete legal pressure they might. But if recent history has shown us anything, it’s that there are no guarantees.
“No one is here seeking to be a millionaire, if the traffic pays the bills we keep going, if not then all we can say is (sorry we tried) we will not be the heroes that saved the day.
“Again and again, the troublesome history of torrent sites is clear. It’s a war no site owner can win. If we are ever in danger, we will choose freedom. It’s not like followers can bail you out if the worst were to happen,” the ETTV team concludes.
In early 2014, Popcorn Time turned the consumer end of the piracy world upside down. Utilizing a BitTorrent backend and a beautiful interface, Popcorn Time certainly lived up to its promise of being the Netflix for Pirates. Adopted by millions of users, it soon became a household name.
In the months and years to come, Popcorn Time grabbed hundreds of headlines. However, aside from the app’s success, much of what followed was negative in tone as the entertainment industries struggled to contain this new kid on the block.
Since then, of course, Kodi and its numerous illicit third-party addons have become massive news, stepping over Popcorn Time to become the most talked about and consumer-friendly of piracy tools. In the background, however, other applications have been making steady and indeed somewhat stealthy progress.
One of these applications is Terrarium TV. Built exclusively for the Android platform and equally at home on a phone, tablet, streaming stick or set-top box, this software has gained a cult but significant following. For those out of the loop, it will be the most important piracy app they’ve never heard of, despite its Facebook page alone attracting close to 200,000 members.
In many respects, Terrarium TV resembles Popcorn Time. It has a beautiful Netflix-style interface, pulling movie and TV show artwork and metadata from several sources to make what some consider to be the best all-in-one streaming app for Android, period. While Kodi is no doubt powerful and Popcorn Time has one hell of a reputation, Terrarium TV makes viewing simplicity itself. And it really does cater to everyone.
Terrarium TV – A category for everyone
If people are worried about Popcorn Time due to its BitTorrent-based streaming, Terrarium TV has that covered. Every single stream offered by the app is conjured up from public sources such as file-hosting sites and even GoogleVideo. On the whole, streaming is of an extremely high-quality with dozens of sources offered for most content, whether that’s the latest Hollywood movies, blockbuster TV shows, or decades-old rarities.
The quality is impressive too. While 4K rips are best left to the BitTorrent crowd with bandwidth to spare, Terrarium TV manages to conjure up a bewildering range of content in an impressive array of qualities. HD is commonplace and barely a search goes by without a corresponding source alongside. And with multi-language subtitle and Chromecast support, the icing is placed on top of what is an extremely competent cake.
But despite all the accolades, Terrarium TV has an uncertain future.
Over a week ago TerrariumTV.com – the site from where the application has been seamlessly delivered for some time – suddenly disappeared without trace. There was no announcement on Facebook, no announcement on Twitter. Even the moderators on the fairly active Terrarium TV subreddit seemed to have few ideas as to what was going on.
Theories are numerous but most center around the developer, who’s resident in Asia, going on some kind of hiatus. Why that would require the Terrarium TV website to be taken down isn’t clear. Neither does it explain why the Terrarium TV site Github repo was taken down too.
But alongside the ‘break’ theory is one that legal trouble, either actual or simply the fear of it, is what’s underlying the apparent limbo in which the app now sits. That was confirmed this week by the developer, who told one of the app’s subreddit moderators that he’d be lying low, at least for a while.
“I’ve decided to shut down the official website and maybe soon will also shut down the Github repository hosting the apk files in order to avoid any potential legal issues,” he said.
“There has been no cease and desist letters, no lawyers at the door, no seizing of the website. Ad free is not involved. It has been purely a precautionary measure. I want to take a break for a while (maybe a few weeks) first.”
After a short exchange in the summer, Terrarium TV’s developer didn’t return our recent requests for comment but if he had, we’d have certainly asked him about the future development of the app, framed around the Popcorn Time situation.
Despite many legal attacks, the open source nature of Popcorn Time allowed the project to ‘fork’ in several different directions, with various teams continuing development. Terrarium TV, on the other hand, is closed source meaning that when it’s gone, it’s possibly gone for good.
At the moment it’s still available for download from sources listed in the sidebar of its dedicated subreddit but whether the dev will decide to revisit the project again is unclear at this point. If he does not, it seems likely that the system will degrade over time although at the moment it carries out its tasks automatically, which is impressive in itself.
In the meantime, its hundreds of thousands of users will just have to cross everything – and wait.
While many people might believe CrimeStoppers to be an official extension of the police in the UK, the truth is a little more subtle.
CrimeStoppers is a charity that operates a service through which members of the public can report crime anonymously, either using a dedicated phone line or via a website. Callers are not required to give their name, meaning that for those concerned about reprisals or becoming involved in a case for other sensitive reasons, it’s the perfect buffer between them and the authorities.
The people at CrimeStoppers deal with all kinds of crime but perhaps a little surprisingly, they’ve just got involved in the set-top box controversy in the UK.
“Advances in technology have allowed us to enjoy on-screen entertainment in more ways than ever before, with ever increasing amounts of exciting and original content,” the CrimeStoppers campaign begins.
“However, some people are avoiding paying for this content by using modified streaming hardware devices, like a set-top box or stick, in conjunction with software such as illegal apps or add-ons, or illegal mobile apps which allow them to watch new movie releases, TV that hasn’t yet aired, and subscription sports channels for free.”
The campaign has been launched in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office and unnamed “industry partners”. Who these companies are isn’t revealed but given the standard messages being portrayed by the likes of ACE, Premier League and Federation Against Copyright Theft lately, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some or all of them were involved.
Those messages are revealed in a series of four video ads, each taking a different approach towards discouraging the public from using devices loaded with pirate software.
The first video clearly targets the consumer, dispelling the myth that watching pirate video isn’t against the law. It is, that’s not in any doubt, but from the constant tone of the video, one could be forgiven that it’s an extremely serious crime rather than something which is likely to be a civil matter, if anything at all.
It also warns people who are configuring and selling pirate devices that they are breaking the law. Again, this is absolutely true but this activity is clearly several magnitudes more serious than simply viewing. The video blurs the boundaries for what appears to be dramatic effect, however.
Selling and watching is illegal
The second video is all about demonizing the people and groups who may offer set-top boxes to the public.
Instead of portraying the hundreds of “cottage industry” suppliers behind many set-top box sales in the UK, the CrimeStoppers video paints a picture of dark organized crime being the main driver. By buying from these people, the charity warns, criminals are being welcomed in.
“It is illegal. You could also be helping to fund organized crime and bringing it into your community,” the video warns.
Are you funding organized crime?
The third video takes another approach, warning that set-top boxes have few if any parental controls. This could lead to children being exposed to inappropriate content, the charity warns.
“What are your children watching. Does it worry you?” the video asks.
Of course, the same can be said about the Internet, period. Web browsers don’t filter what content children have access to unless parents take pro-active steps to configure special services or software for the purpose.
There’s always the option to supervise children, of course, but Netflix is probably a safer option for those with a preference to stand off. It’s also considerably more expensive, a fact that won’t have escaped users of these devices.
Got kids? Take care….
Finally, video four picks up a theme that’s becoming increasingly common in anti-piracy campaigns – malware and identity theft.
“Why risk having your identity stolen or your bank account or home network hacked. If you access entertainment or sports using dodgy streaming devices or apps, or illegal addons for Kodi, you are increasing the risks,” the ad warns.
Perhaps of most interest is that this entire campaign, which almost certainly has Big Media behind the scenes in advisory and financial capacities, barely mentions the entertainment industries at all.
Indeed, the success of the whole campaign hinges on people worrying about the supposed ill effects of illicit streaming on them personally and then feeling persuaded to inform on suppliers and others involved in the chain.
“Know of someone supplying or promoting these dodgy devices or software? It is illegal. Call us now and help stop crime in your community,” the videos warn.
That CrimeStoppers has taken on this campaign at all is a bit of a head-scratcher, given the bigger crime picture. Struggling with severe budget cuts, police in the UK are already de-prioritizing a number of crimes, leading to something called “screening out”, a process through which victims are given a crime number but no investigation is carried out.
This means that in 2016, 45% of all reported crimes in Greater Manchester weren’t investigated and a staggering 57% of all recorded domestic burglaries weren’t followed up by the police. But it gets worse.
“More than 62pc of criminal damage and arson offenses were not investigated, along with one in three reported shoplifting incidents,” MEN reports.
Given this backdrop, how will police suddenly find the resources to follow up lots of leads from the public and then subsequently prosecute people who sell pirate boxes? Even if they do, will that be at the expense of yet more “screening out” of other public-focused offenses?
No one is saying that selling pirate devices isn’t a crime or at least worthy of being followed up, but is this niche likely to be important to the public when they’re being told that nothing will be done when their homes are emptied by intruders? “NO” says a comment on one of the CrimeStoppers videos on YouTube.
“This crime affects multi-million dollar corporations, I’d rather see tax payers money invested on videos raising awareness of crimes committed against the people rather than the 0.001%,” it concludes.
In recent years, a group of select companies have pressured hundreds of thousands of alleged pirates to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.
These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have also been a common occurrence in the United States for more than half a decade, and still are today.
While copyright holders should be able to take legitimate piracy claims to court, not all cases are as strong as they first appear. Many defendants have brought up flaws, often in relation to the IP-address evidence, but an accused pirate in Oregon takes things up a notch.
Lingfu Zhang, represented by attorney David Madden, has turned the tables on the makers of the film Fathers & Daughters. The man denies having downloaded the movie but also points out that the filmmakers have signed away their online distribution rights.
The issue was brought up in previous months, but the relevant findings were only unsealed this week. They show that the movie company (F&D), through a sales agent, sold the online distribution rights to a third party.
While this is not uncommon in the movie business, it means that they no longer have the right to distribute the movie online, a right Zhang was accused of violating. This is also what his attorney pointed out to the court, asking for a judgment in favor of his client.
“ZHANG denies downloading the movie but Defendant’s current motion for summary judgment challenges a different portion of F&D’s case: Defendant argues that F&D has alienated all of the relevant rights necessary to sue for infringement under the Copyright Act,” Madden writes.
The filmmakers opposed the request and pointed out that they still had some rights. However, this is irrelevant according to the defense, since the distribution rights are not owned by them, but by a company that’s not part of the lawsuit.
“Plaintiff claims, for example, that it still owns the right to exploit the movie on airlines and oceangoing vessels. That may or may not be true – Plaintiff has not submitted any evidence on the question – but ZHANG is not accused of showing the movie on an airplane or a cruise ship.
“He is accused of downloading it over the Internet, which is an infringement that affects only an exclusive right owned by non-party DISTRIBUTOR 2,” Madden adds.
Interestingly, an undated addendum to the licensing agreement, allegedly created after the lawsuit was started, states that the filmmakers would keep their “anti-piracy” rights, as can be seen below.
This doesn’t save the filmmaker, according to the defense. The “licensor” who keeps these anti-piracy and enforcement rights refers to the sales agent, not the filmmaker, Madden writes. In addition, the case is about copyright infringement, and despite the addendum, the filmmakers don’t have the exclusive rights that apply here.
“Plaintiff represented to this Court that it was the ‘proprietor of all copyrights and interests need to bring suit’ […] notwithstanding that it had – years earlier – transferred away all its exclusive rights under Section 106 of the Copyright Act,” the defense lawyer concludes.
“Even viewing all Plaintiff’s agreements in the light most favorable to it, Plaintiff holds nothing more than a bare right to sue, which is not a cognizable right that may be exercised in the courts of this Circuit.”
While the court has yet to decide on the motion, this case could turn into a disaster for the makers of Fathers & Daughters.
If the court agrees that they don’t have the proper rights, defendants in other cases may argue the same. It’s easy to see how their entire trolling scheme would then collapse.
The original memorandum in support of the motion for summary judgment is available here (pdf) and a copy of the reply brief can be found here (pdf).
For many years, Dutch Internet users were allowed to download copyrighted content without reprisals, provided it was for their own personal use.
In 2014, however, the European Court of Justice ruled that the country’s “piracy levy” to compensate rightsholders was unlawful. Almost immediately, the government announced a downloading ban.
In March 2016, anti-piracy outfit BREIN followed up by obtaining permission from the Dutch Data Protection Authority to track and store the personal data of alleged BitTorrent pirates. This year, movie distributor Dutch FilmWorks (DFW) made a similar application.
The company said that it would be pursuing alleged pirates to deter future infringement but many suspected that securing cash settlements was its main aim. That was confirmed in August.
“[The letter to alleged pirates] will propose a fee. If someone does not agree [to pay], the organization can start a lawsuit,” said DFW CEO Willem Pruijsserts
“In Germany, this costs between €800 and €1,000, although we find this a bit excessive. But of course it has to be a deterrent, so it will be more than a tenner or two,” he added.
But despite the grand plans, nothing would be possible without first obtaining the necessary permission from the Data Protection Authority. This Wednesday, however, that arrived.
“DFW has given sufficient guarantees for the proper and careful processing of personal data. This means that DFW has been given a green light from the Data Protection Authority to collect personal data, such as IP addresses, from people downloading from illegal sources,” the Authority announced.
Noting that it received feedback from four entities during the six-week consultation process following the publication of its draft decision during the summer, the Data Protection Authority said that further investigations were duly carried out. All input was considered before handing down the final decision.
The Authority said it was satisfied that personal data would be handled correctly and that the information collected and stored would be encrypted and hashed to ensure integrity. Furthermore, data will not be retained for longer than is necessary.
“DFW has stated…that data from users with Dutch IP addresses who were involved in the exchange of a title owned by DFW, but in respect of which there is no intention to follow up on that within three months after receipt, will be destroyed,” the decision reads.
For any cases that are active and haven’t been discarded in the initial three-month period, DFW will be allowed to hold alleged pirates’ data for a maximum of five years, a period that matches the time a company has to file a claim under the Dutch Civil Code.
“When DFW does follow up on a file, DFW carries out further research into the identity of the users of the IP addresses. For this, it is necessary to contact the Internet service providers of the subscribers who used the IP addresses found in the BitTorrent network,” the Authority notes.
According to the decision, once DFW has a person’s details it can take any of several actions, starting with a simple warning or moving up to an amicable cash settlement. Failing that, it might choose to file a full-on court case in which the distributor seeks an injunction against the alleged pirate plus compensation and costs.
Only time will tell what strategy DFW will deploy against alleged pirates but since these schemes aren’t cheap to run, it’s likely that simple warning letters will be seriously outnumbered by demands for cash settlement.
While it seems unlikely that the Data Protection Authority will change its mind at this late stage, it’s decision remains open to appeal. Interested parties have just under six weeks to make their voices heard. Failing that, copyright trolling will hit the Netherlands in the weeks and months to come.
As movie and TV show piracy has migrated from the desktop towards mobile and living room-based devices, copyright holders have found the need to adapt to a new enemy.
Dealing with streaming services is now high on the agenda, with third-party Kodi addons and various Android apps posing the biggest challenge. Alongside is the much less prevalent but rapidly growing pay IPTV market, in which thousands of premium channels are delivered to homes for a relatively small fee.
In Australia, copyright holders are treating these services in much the same way as torrent sites. They feel that if they can force ISPs to block them, the problem can be mitigated. Most recently, movie and TV show giants Village Roadshow, Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount filed an application targeting HDSubs+, a pirate IPTV operation servicing thousands of Australians.
Filed in October, the application for the injunction targets Australia’s largest ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus their subsidiaries. The movie and TV show companies want them to quickly block HDSubs+, to prevent it from reaching its audience.
HDSubs+ IPTV package
However, blocking isn’t particularly straightforward. Due to the way IPTV services are setup a number of domains need to be blocked, including their sales platforms, EPG (electronic program guide), software (such as an Android app), updates, and sundry other services. In HDSubs+ case around ten domains need to be restricted but in court today, Village Roadshow revealed that probably won’t deal with the problem.
HDSubs+ appears to be undergoing some kind of transformation, possibly to mitigate efforts to block it in Australia. ComputerWorld reports that it is now directing subscribers to update to a new version that works in a more evasive manner.
If they agree, HDSubs+ customers are being migrated over to a service called PressPlayPlus. It works in the same way as the old system but no longer uses the domain names cited in Village Roadshow’s injunction application. This means that DNS blocks, the usual weapon of choice for local ISPs, will prove futile.
Village Roadshow says that with this in mind it may be forced to seek enhanced IP address blocking, unless it is granted a speedy hearing for its application. This, in turn, may result in the normally cooperative ISPs returning to court to argue their case.
“If that’s what you want to do, then you’ll have to amend the orders and let the parties know,” Judge John Nicholas said.
“It’s only the former [DNS blocking] that carriage service providers have agreed to in the past.”
As things stand, Village Roadshow will return to court on December 15 for a case management hearing but in the meantime, the Federal Court must deal with another IPTV-related blocking request.
In common with its Australian and US-based counterparts, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) has launched a similar case asking local ISPs to block another IPTV service.
“Television Broadcasts Limited can confirm that we have commenced legal action in Australia to protect our copyright,” a TVB spokesperson told Computerworld.
TVB wants ISPs including Telstra, Optus, Vocus, and TPG plus their subsidiaries to block access to seven Android-based services named as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.
Court documents list 21 URLs maintaining the services. They will all need to be blocked by DNS or other means, if the former proves futile. Online reports suggest that there are similarities among the IPTV products listed above. A demo for the FunTV IPTV service is shown below.
ISP blocking has become a prime measure for the entertainment industry to target pirate sites on the Internet.
In recent years sites have been blocked throughout Europe, in Asia, and even Down Under.
In most countries, these blockades are ordered by local courts, which compel Internet providers to restrict access to certain websites. In Canada, however, there’s a plan in the works to allow for website blockades without judicial oversight.
A coalition of movie industry companies and ISPs, including Bell, Rogers, and Cineplex are discussing a proposal to implement such measures. The Canadian blocklist would be maintained by a new non-profit organization called “Internet Piracy Review Agency” (IPRA) and enforced through the CTRC, Canadaland reports.
The plan doesn’t come as a total surprise as Bell alluded to a nationwide blocking mechanism during a recent Government hearing. What becomes clear from the new plans, however, is that the telco is not alone.
The new proposal is being discussed by various stakeholders including ISPs and local movie companies. As in other countries, major American movie companies are also in the loop, but they will not be listed as official applicants when the plan is submitted to the CRTC.
Canadian law professor Micheal Geist is very critical of the plans. Although the proposal would only cover sites that “blatantly, overwhelmingly or structurally” engage in or facilitate copyright infringement, this can be a blurry line.
“Recent history suggests that the list will quickly grow to cover tougher judgment calls. For example, Bell has targeted TVAddons, a site that contains considerable non-infringing content,” Geist notes.
“It can be expected that many other sites disliked by rights holders or broadcasters would find their way onto the block list,” he adds.
While the full list of applicants is not ready yet, it is expected that the coalition will file its proposal to the CRTC before the end of the month.
Thus far, the Government appears to be reluctant in its response. In comments to Canadaland spokesperson Karl Sasseville stressed that Canada maintains committed to an open Internet.
“Our government supports an open internet where Canadians have the ability to access the content of their choice in accordance to Canadian laws,” Sasseville says. “While other parts of the world are focused on building walls, we’re focused on opening doors.”
As we’ve seen in the past, “net neutrality” and website blocking are not mutually exclusive. Courts around the world, also in Canada, have ordered content to be blocked, open Internet or not. However, bypassing the judicial system may prove to be a problem.
Professor Geist is happy with the Government’s comments and notes that legal basis for the proposal is thin.
He stresses that the ISPs involved in these plans should seriously consider if they want to continue down this path, which isn’t necessarily in the best interest of their customers.
“The government rightly seems dismissive of the proposal in the Canadaland report but as leading Internet providers, Bell and Rogers should be ashamed for leading the charge on such a dangerous, anti-speech and anti-consumer proposal,” Geist concludes.
Pirate video streaming sites are booming. Their relative ease of use through on-demand viewing makes them a viable alternative to P2P file-sharing, which traditionally dominated the piracy arena.
The popular movie streaming site GoMovies, formerly known as 123movies, is one of the most-used streaming sites. Despite the rebranding and several domain changes, it has built a steady base of millions of users over the past year and a half.
And it’s not done yet, we learn today.
The site, currently operating from the Gostream.is domain name, recently launched a new spinoff targeting anime fans. Animehub.to is currently promoted on GoMovies and the site’s operators aim to turn it into the leading streaming site for anime content.
Someone connected to GoMovies told us that they’ve received a lot of requests from users to add anime content. Anime has traditionally been a large niche on file-sharing sites and the same is true on streaming platforms.
Technically speaking, GoMovies could have easily filled up the original site with anime content, but the owners prefer a different outlet.
With a separate anime site, they hope to draw in more visitors, TorrentFreak was told by an insider. For one, this makes it possible to rank better in search engines. It also allows the operators to cater specifically to the anime audience, with anime specific categories and release schedules.
Anime copyright holders will not be pleased with the new initiative, that’s for sure, but GoMovies is not new to legal pressure.
Earlier this year the US Ambassador to Vietnam called on the local Government to criminally prosecute people behind 123movies, the previous iteration of the site. In addition, the MPAA reported the site to the US Government in its recent overview of notorious pirate sites.
Pressure or not, it appears that GoMovies has no intention of slowing down or changing its course, although we’ve heard that yet another rebranding is on the horizon.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the most downloaded movie again.
The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.
Glenn Gore here, Chief Architect for AWS. I’m in Las Vegas this week — with 43K others — for re:Invent 2017. We have a lot of exciting announcements this week. I’m going to post to the AWS Architecture blog each day with my take on what’s interesting about some of the announcements from a cloud architectural perspective.
Why not start at the beginning? At the Midnight Madness launch on Sunday night, we announced Amazon Sumerian, our platform for VR, AR, and mixed reality. The hype around VR/AR has existed for many years, though for me, it is a perfect example of how a working end-to-end solution often requires innovation from multiple sources. For AR/VR to be successful, we need many components to come together in a coherent manner to provide a great experience.
First, we need lightweight, high-definition goggles with motion tracking that are comfortable to wear. Second, we need to track movement of our body and hands in a 3-D space so that we can interact with virtual objects in the virtual world. Third, we need to build the virtual world itself and populate it with assets and define how the interactions will work and connect with various other systems.
There has been rapid development of the physical devices for AR/VR, ranging from iOS devices to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which provide excellent capabilities for the first and second components defined above. With the launch of Amazon Sumerian we are solving for the third area, which will help developers easily build their own virtual worlds and start experimenting and innovating with how to apply AR/VR in new ways.
Already, within 48 hours of Amazon Sumerian being announced, I have had multiple discussions with customers and partners around some cool use cases where VR can help in training simulations, remote-operator controls, or with new ideas around interacting with complex visual data sets, which starts bringing concepts straight out of sci-fi movies into the real (virtual) world. I am really excited to see how Sumerian will unlock the creative potential of developers and where this will lead.
Amazon MQ I am a huge fan of distributed architectures where asynchronous messaging is the backbone of connecting the discrete components together. Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) is one of my favorite services due to its simplicity, scalability, performance, and the incredible flexibility of how you can use Amazon SQS in so many different ways to solve complex queuing scenarios.
While Amazon SQS is easy to use when building cloud-native applications on AWS, many of our customers running existing applications on-premises required support for different messaging protocols such as: Java Message Service (JMS), .Net Messaging Service (NMS), Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP), MQ Telemetry Transport(MQTT), Simple (or Streaming) Text Orientated Messaging Protocol (STOMP), and WebSockets. One of the most popular applications for on-premise message brokers is Apache ActiveMQ. With the release of Amazon MQ, you can now run Apache ActiveMQ on AWS as a managed service similar to what we did with Amazon ElastiCache back in 2012. For me, there are two compelling, major benefits that Amazon MQ provides:
Integrate existing applications with cloud-native applications without having to change a line of application code if using one of the supported messaging protocols. This removes one of the biggest blockers for integration between the old and the new.
Remove the complexity of configuring Multi-AZ resilient message broker services as Amazon MQ provides out-of-the-box redundancy by always storing messages redundantly across Availability Zones. Protection is provided against failure of a broker through to complete failure of an Availability Zone.
I believe that Amazon MQ is a major component in the tools required to help you migrate your existing applications to AWS. Having set up cross-data center Apache ActiveMQ clusters in the past myself and then testing to ensure they work as expected during critical failure scenarios, technical staff working on migrations to AWS benefit from the ease of deploying a fully redundant, managed Apache ActiveMQ cluster within minutes.
Who would have thought I would have been so excited to revisit Apache ActiveMQ in 2017 after using SQS for many, many years? Choice is a wonderful thing.
Amazon GuardDuty Maintaining application and information security in the modern world is increasingly complex and is constantly evolving and changing as new threats emerge. This is due to the scale, variety, and distribution of services required in a competitive online world.
At Amazon, security is our number one priority. Thus, we are always looking at how we can increase security detection and protection while simplifying the implementation of advanced security practices for our customers. As a result, we released Amazon GuardDuty, which provides intelligent threat detection by using a combination of multiple information sources, transactional telemetry, and the application of machine learning models developed by AWS. One of the biggest benefits of Amazon GuardDuty that I appreciate is that enabling this service requires zero software, agents, sensors, or network choke points. which can all impact performance or reliability of the service you are trying to protect. Amazon GuardDuty works by monitoring your VPC flow logs, AWS CloudTrail events, DNS logs, as well as combing other sources of security threats that AWS is aggregating from our own internal and external sources.
The use of machine learning in Amazon GuardDuty allows it to identify changes in behavior, which could be suspicious and require additional investigation. Amazon GuardDuty works across all of your AWS accounts allowing for an aggregated analysis and ensuring centralized management of detected threats across accounts. This is important for our larger customers who can be running many hundreds of AWS accounts across their organization, as providing a single common threat detection of their organizational use of AWS is critical to ensuring they are protecting themselves.
Detection, though, is only the beginning of what Amazon GuardDuty enables. When a threat is identified in Amazon GuardDuty, you can configure remediation scripts or trigger Lambda functions where you have custom responses that enable you to start building automated responses to a variety of different common threats. Speed of response is required when a security incident may be taking place. For example, Amazon GuardDuty detects that an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance might be compromised due to traffic from a known set of malicious IP addresses. Upon detection of a compromised EC2 instance, we could apply an access control entry restricting outbound traffic for that instance, which stops loss of data until a security engineer can assess what has occurred.
Whether you are a customer running a single service in a single account, or a global customer with hundreds of accounts with thousands of applications, or a startup with hundreds of micro-services with hourly release cycle in a devops world, I recommend enabling Amazon GuardDuty. We have a 30-day free trial available for all new customers of this service. As it is a monitor of events, there is no change required to your architecture within AWS.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on AWS Media Services and Amazon Neptune.
There is little doubt that, in many countries, Netflix has become the standard for watching movies on the Internet.
Generally speaking, on-demand streaming services are convenient alternatives to piracy. However, millions of people stick to their old pirate habits, Netflix subscription or not.
Intrigued by this interplay of legal and unauthorized viewing, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Universidade Católica Portuguesa carried out an extensive study. They partnered with a major telco, which is not named, to analyze if BitTorrent downloading habits can be changed by offering legal alternatives.
The researchers used a piracy-tracking firm to get a sample of thousands of BitTorrent pirates at the associated ISP. Half of them were offered a free 45-day subscription to a premium TV and movies package, allowing them to watch popular content on demand.
To measure the effects of video-on-demand access on piracy, the researchers then monitored the legal viewing activity and BitTorrent transfers of the people who received the free offer, comparing it to a control group. The results show that piracy is harder to beat than some would expect.
Subscribers who received the free subscription watched more TV, but overall their torrenting habits didn’t change significantly.
“We find that, on average, households that received the gift increased overall TV consumption by 4.6% and reduced Internet downloads and uploads by 4.2% and 4.5%, respectively. However, and also on average, treated households did not change their likelihood of using BitTorrent during the experiment,” the researchers write.
One of the main problems was that these ‘pirates’ couldn’t get all their favorite shows and movies on the legal service, which is a common problem. For the small portion of subscribers who had access to their preferred content, the researchers did find an effect on torrent traffic.
“Households with preferences aligned with the gifted content reduced their probability of using BitTorrent during the experiment by 18% and decreased their amount of upload traffic by 45%,” the paper reads.
The video-on-demand service in the study had an average “fit” of just 12% with people’s viewing preferences, which means that they were missing a lot of content. But even Netflix, which has a library of thousands of titles, only has a fit of roughly 50%.
The researchers show that the lack of availability is partly caused by licensing windows, which makes it hard for legal video streaming services to compete with piracy.
“We show that licensing windows impose significant restrictions on the content that can be included in SVoD catalogs, which hampers the ability of content distributors to offer catalogs that cater to the preferences of pirates,” they write.
However, even if more content became available, piracy wouldn’t magically disappear. In the experiment, subscribers were offered free access to a video on demand service. In the real world, they would have to pay, which presents another barrier.
In this study, the pirate households were willing to pay at most $3.25 USD per month to access a service with a library as large as Netflix’s in the United States. That’s not enough.
This leads the researchers to the grim conclusion that video on demand services such as Netflix can’t significantly lower piracy rates. They could make a dent if they increase their content libraries while lowering the price at the same time, but that’s not going to happen.
“Together, our results show that, as a stand-alone strategy, using legal SVoD to curtail piracy will require, at the minimum, offering content much earlier and at much lower prices than those currently offered in the marketplace, changes that are likely to reduce industry revenue and that may damage overall incentives to produce new content while, at the same time, curbing only a small share of piracy,” the researchers conclude.
While Hollywood maintains that people can get pretty much anything they want legally, the current research shows that it’s not as simple as that. Most people are not going to pay for 22 separate subscriptions. Instead of more streaming services, it would be better to make more content available at the ones that are already out there.
The research was partially funded by the Carnegie Mellon University’s IDEA, which receives an unrestricted gift from the MPAA, so Hollywood will likely be clued in on the results.
New Streamlined Access Today we are introducing a new, streamlined access model for Spot Instances. You simply indicate your desire to use Spot capacity when you launch an instance via the RunInstances function, the run-instances command, or the AWS Management Console to submit a request that will be fulfilled as long as the capacity is available. With no extra effort on your part you’ll save up to 90% off of the On-Demand price for the instance type, allowing you to boost your overall application throughput by up to 10x for the same budget. The instances that you launch in this way will continue to run until you terminate them or if EC2 needs to reclaim them for On-Demand usage. At that point the instance will be given the usual 2-minute warning and then reclaimed, making this a great fit for applications that are fault-tolerant.
Unlike the old model which required an understanding of Spot markets, bidding, and calls to a standalone asynchronous API, the new model is synchronous and as easy to use as On-Demand. Your code or your script receives an Instance ID immediately and need not check back to see if the request has been processed and accepted.
We’ve made this as clean and as simple as possible, with the expectation that it will be easy to modify many current scripts and applications to request and make use of Spot capacity. If you want to exercise additional control over your Spot instance budget, you have the option to specify a maximum price when you make a request for capacity. If you use Spot capacity to power your Amazon EMR, Amazon ECS, or AWS Batch clusters, or if you launch Spot instances by way of a AWS CloudFormation template or Auto Scaling Group, you will benefit from this new model without having to make any changes.
Applications that are built around RequestSpotInstances or RequestSpotFleet will continue to work just fine with no changes. However, you now have the option to make requests that do not include the SpotPrice parameter.
Smooth Price Changes As part of today’s launch we are also changing the way that Spot prices change, moving to a model where prices adjust more gradually, based on longer-term trends in supply and demand. As I mentioned earlier, you will continue to save an average of 70-90% off the On-Demand price, and you will continue to pay the Spot price that’s in effect for the time period your instances are running. Applications built around our Spot Fleet feature will continue to automatically diversify placement of their Spot Instances across the most cost-effective pools based on the configuration you specified when you created the fleet.
Spot in Action To launch a Spot Instance from the command line; simply specify the Spot market:
Instance Hibernation If you run workloads that keep a lot of state in memory, you will love this new feature!
You can arrange for instances to save their in-memory state when they are reclaimed, allowing the instances and the applications on them to pick up where they left off when capacity is once again available, just like closing and then opening your laptop. This feature works on C3, C4, and certain sizes of R3, R4, and M4 instances running Amazon Linux, Ubuntu, or Windows Server, and is supported by the EC2 Hibernation Agent.
The in-memory state is written to the root EBS volume of the instance using space that is set-aside when the instance launches. The private IP address and any Elastic IP Addresses are also preserved across a stop/start cycle.
Instead of companies like the MPAA, Amazon, Netflix, CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, CBS, Foxtel, and Village Roadshow tackling piracy completely solo, this year they teamed up to form the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).
This massive collaboration of 30 companies represents a new front in the fight against piracy, with global players publicly cooperating to tackle the phenomenon in all its forms.
The same is true of CASBAA‘s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), a separate anti-piracy collective which to some extent shares the same members as ACE but with a sharp of focus on Asia.
This morning the groups announced the results of a joint investigation in Australia which targeted a large supplier of illicit IPTV devices. These small set-top boxes, which come in several forms, are often configured to receive programming from unauthorized sources. In this particular case, they came pre-loaded to play pirated movies, television shows, sports programming, plus other content.
The Melbourne-based company targeted by ACE and CAP allegedly sold these devices in Asia for many years. The company demanded AUS$400 (US$305) per IPTV unit and bundled each with a year’s subscription to pirated TV channels and on-demand movies from the US, EU, India and South East Asia markets.
In the past, companies operating in these areas have often been met with overwhelming force including criminal action, but ACE and CAP appear to have reached an agreement with the company and its owner, even going as far as keeping their names out of the press.
In return, the company has agreed to measures which will prevent people who have already invested in these boxes being able to access ACE and CAP content going forward. That is likely to result in a whole bunch of irritated customers.
“The film and television industry has made significant investments to provide audiences with access to creative content how, where, and when they want it,” says ACE spokesperson Zoe Thorogood.
“ACE and CAP members initiated this investigation as part of a comprehensive global approach to protect the legal marketplace for creative content, reduce online piracy, and bolster a creative economy that supports millions of workers. This latest action was part of a series of global actions to address the growth of illegal and unsafe piracy devices and apps.”
Neil Gane, General Manager of the CASBAA Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), also weighed in with what are now becoming industry-standard warnings of losses to content makers and supposed risks to consumers.
“These little black boxes are now beginning to dominate the piracy ecosystem, causing significant damage to all sectors of the content industry, from producers to telecommunication platforms,” Gane said.
“They also pose a risk to consumers who face a well-documented increase in exposure to malware. The surge in availability of these illicit streaming devices is an international issue that requires a coordinated effort between industry and government. This will be the first of many disruption and enforcement initiatives on which CAP, ACE, and other industry associations will be collaborating together.”
In September, TF revealed the secret agreement behind the ACE initiative, noting how the group’s founding members are required to commit $5m each annually to the project. The remaining 21 companies on the coalition’s Executive Committee put in $200,000 each.
While today’s IPTV announcement was very public, ACE has already been flexing its muscles behind the scenes. Earlier this month we reported on several cases where UK-based Kodi addon developers were approached by the anti-piracy group and warned to shut down – or else.
While all complied, each was warned not to reveal the terms of their agreement with ACE. This means that the legal basis for its threats remains shrouded in mystery. That being said, it’s likely that several European Court of Justice decisions earlier in the year played a key role.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the most downloaded movie.
The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.
Over the past decade, copyright holders have gone after hundreds of thousands of alleged pirates in Germany, demanding settlements ranging from a few hundred to thousands of euros.
The targeted account holder is sometimes the perpetrator, but it could just as easily be another member of the household or even a complete stranger, especially if the Wi-Fi network is unsecured.
This was brought up recently in a case before a District Court Charlottenburg, where a man was accused by the makers of the movie The Call. Law firm Waldorf Frommer demanded 1,000 euros in damages for the alleged infringement, but the defendant denied that he downloaded the film.
Several other people were in the house at the time of the alleged offense, including the man’s adult son, his adult daughter and his sister-in-law. These people all have good computer skills and could, in theory, have downloaded the movie.
The filmmakers argued that the man should be held liable for the alleged infringement on his connection, even when he denies direct involvement, but the court disagreed and denied a request for a thorough investigation.
Attorney Christian Solmecke, who represented the defendant, informs TorrentFreak that subscribers indeed have an obligation to ask household members if they have anything to do with the claimed infringement, but it pretty much ends there.
“Internet subscribers have a general duty to inquire with family members, who have also used the internet connection, about the specific accusation and submit the information to court. In other words: if a family member admits to having committed the offense, the information must be submitted to court.”
“However, if they deny any wrongdoing, the subscriber is not obliged to continue ‘investigating’ the matter. For instance, they are under no circumstances expected to search computers, tablets etc,” Solmecke adds.
The District Court of Charlottenburg agreed and decided that the father cannot be held liable for damages. The fact that he questioned the other members of the household, which yielded no results, was sufficient in this case.
In a news release, Solmecke’s law firm notes that the man’s respect for private and family life is protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. As such, he cannot be required to spy on the downloading habits of household members.
“He was not required to document the use of the Internet connection or to investigate the computers for file-sharing software. Such investigation obligations would not be reasonable for him,” the law firm stresses.
“Once again, it has been established that undisturbed marital and family life is protected from harm by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which has a massive impact on the investigation obligations of the subscribers.”
The ruling is in line with recent orders from the German Federal Court of Justice. Last year, the highest German civil court ruled that subscribers are not required to spy on the downloading habits of family members, which was confirmed in a separate order a few months ago.
Solmecke notes that while some courts have previously judged otherwise, it seems likely they will now follow the higher court’s legal view on this. This is precisely District Court of Charlottenburg has done, which is good news for accused file-sharers.
“Families, in particular, should not be intimidated by law firms. These often make demands for investigations, which the Federal Court of Justice has recently rejected,” his law firm adds.
Netflix offers a great selection of movies and TV-shows and dozens of millions of people can’t go a week without it.
Netflix is seen as an alternative to piracy. However, since Netflix’s priorities are shifting more to the production of original content, piracy is also a problem.
The streaming service now has its own anti-piracy unit and works with third-party vendors to remove unauthorized content from the Internet. This includes links to their shows in Google’s search results.
While most requests are legitimate, a recent takedown notice targeting “Stranger Things,” was a bit off. Tucked in between various pirate sites, we spotted articles from news sites Express and The Wrap.
(Update: The notice in question appears to be fake/fraudulent, see update below. This is potentially an even problematic.)
The Express article has an obvious clickbait title aimed to attract freeloaders: “Stranger Things season 2 streaming – How to watch Stranger Things online for FREE in UK.”
While there are no references to infringing content in the piece, it’s at least understandable that Netflix’ anti-piracy partner confused by it. The Wrap article, however, doesn’t even hint at anything piracy related.
That’s not all though. Netflix’s takedown request also lists the “Stranger Things” subreddit. This community page has nearly a quarter million followers and explicitly forbids any pirated content. Still, Netflix wanted it removed from Google’s search results.
Stranger Things subreddit
To give Netflix the benefit of doubt, it’s always possible that a link to pirated content slipped through at the time the notice was sent. But, if that was the case they should have at least targeted the link to the full Reddit post as well.
The more likely scenario is that there was some sort of hiccup in the automated takedown software, or perhaps a human error of some kind. Stanger things have happened.
The good news is that Google came to the rescue. After reviewing the takedown notice, the three mentioned links were discarded. This means that the subreddit is still available in Google’s search results. For now.
Reddit itself is also quite skilled at spotting faulty takedown requests. While it’s unknown whether they were contacted directly by Netflix’s anti-piracy partner, the company rejects more than half of all DMCA takedown requests it receives.
Update: A spokesman from IP Arrow, who are listed as the sender, they have nothing to do with the takedown notice. This suggests that some third party not related to IP Arrow or Netflix may have submitted it.
IP Arrow will ask Google to look into it. Strange things are clearly happening here.
Late October 2016, we reported on an alarming situation in Poland, where police had visited hundreds of homes across the country, seizing computers alleged to have been involved in the sharing of a comedy movie titled “Screwed“.
In some cases, police reportedly advised suspects to settle with copyright holders rather than face legal action, something critics felt was particularly inappropriate in an unproven copyright case. Now it appears that history is repeating itself in the region, with people being targeted over downloads of a local thriller titled “Drogówka”.
While this is of concern in itself, the alleged offenses took place via BitTorrent way back in 2013, four whole years ago. Local journalist Marcin Maj at Bezprawnik, who’s also an IT security instructor at Niebezpiecznik, has been documenting the activities of copyright trolls in Poland for some time. He picked up the story this week after he learned that police had seized an alleged file-sharer’s computer.
After speaking with local police, he subsequently discovered that 200 to 300 other people had been given the same treatment.
Maj says that after presenting a long list of questions to authorities, he learned that these seizures have been going on continuously for about a year, following a criminal complaint filed by a law firm. It’s that this point that the uncomfortable nature of this whole operation becomes apparent.
“In 2013-2014, lawyer Artur Glass-Brudziński reported numerous copyright infringements (movie sharing) to the prosecutor’s office, and the prosecutor’s office started to identify people behind the indicated IP addresses,” Maj informs TF.
“It’s important to understand that in the Polish legal system, it’s impossible to sue someone who is unknown to a plaintiff [John Doe]. But you can always start a criminal proceeding.”
Such a criminal proceeding was filed in 2014 but it appears that Glass-Brudziński used the process to gain a secondary advantage.
“As a barrister of the [copyright holder], Artur Glass-Brudziński had access to the prosecutor’s documentation. So he used this to obtain identified names and addresses, without waiting for the end of the criminal proceeding. Those people were just witnesses, but Glass-Brudziński sent thousands of letters to them, suggesting they are suspects, which was not true,” Maj says.
So, in effect, a criminal action was used to gain access to personal details that were subsequently used in civil actions. That’s completely legal and quite common in Poland but many view the process as problematic.
“Polish lawyers see this as something not quite ethical,” Maj reports. “Now Glass-Brudziński faces a disciplinary court because his letters were quite misleading. Regardless of that, however, criminal proceedings are still underway.”
A hearing took place before the Disciplinary Court November 13 but a resolution will take some time to reach since there around 80 people involved in the case. In the meantime the current criminal case continues, with several problems.
For example, it’s quite likely that many people will have changed their computers since 2013, but the police are required to seize the ones people currently have. Also, Maj reports that after speaking to people who received demands for cash payment, many report having had nothing to do with the alleged offenses. But there is a broader problem around such cases in general.
As we reported last year, prosecutors admit that they do not verify the technical processes that the copyright holders use to identify the alleged infringers, meaning that hundreds of members of the public are subjected to property seizures based on untested evidence.
“Polish prosecutors often decide to seize computers just because they got an IP address list from a lawyer. Sometimes even prosecutors don’t want to do that, but copyright owners complain to the courts, and the courts issue an order to seize machines. That’s deeply absurd,” Maj says.
“Many times I have asked prosecutors if they check the method used to track pirates. Many times I have asked prosecutors if they have found evidence on every seized computer. The answers? No. They don’t check the method of tracking pirates, and evidence is found only ‘sometimes’.”
There are clearly mounting problems in Poland with both evidence and discovery-based loopholes providing copyright holders with a significant advantage. While questionable, it’s currently all legal, so it seems likely that as long as ‘victims’ can gain access to private information via criminal cases, the cash threats will continue. It’s a topic covered in a report compiled by Maj and the Modern Poland Foundation (Polish, pdf)
“Computer seizures and our report were discussed in the lower house of the Polish parliament in 2016, at the meeting of the Commision of Digitalization, Innovation and New Technologies. Many politicians are aware of the problem and they declare we should do something to stop bullying and seizures. Unfortunately, it all ended with was declarations,” Maj concludes.
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