Tag Archives: Netflix

Netflix, Amazon and Hollywood Sue “SET TV” Over IPTV Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-amazon-and-hollywood-sue-set-tv-over-iptv-piracy-180422/

In recent years, piracy streaming tools and services have become a prime target for copyright enforcers.

This is particularly true for the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership forged between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies.

After taking action against Kodi-powered devices Tickbox and Dragonbox, key ACE members have now filed a similar lawsuit against the Florida-based company Set Broadcast, LLC, which sells the popular IPTV service SET TV.

The complaint, filed at a California federal court on Friday, further lists company owner Jason Labbosiere and employee Nelson Johnson among the defendants.

According to the movie companies, the Set TV software is little more than a pirate tool, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content.

“Defendants market and sell subscriptions to ‘Setvnow,’ a software application that Defendants urge their customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted motion pictures and television shows,” the complaint reads.

In addition to the software, the company also offers a preloaded box. Both allow users to connect to live streams of TV channels and ‘on demand’ content. The latter includes movies that are still in theaters, which SET TV allegedly streams through third-party sources.

“For its on-demand options, Setvnow relies on third-party sources that illicitly reproduce copyrighted works and then provide streams of popular content such as movies still exclusively in theaters and television shows.”

From the complaint

The intended use of SET TV is clear, according to the movie companies. They frame it as a pirate service and believe that this is the main draw for consumers.

“Defendants promote the use of Setvnow for overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, infringing purposes, and that is how their customers use Setvnow,” the complaint reads.

Interestingly, the complaint also states that SET TV pays for sponsored reviews to reach a broader audience. The videos, posted by popular YouTubers such as Solo Man, who is quoted in the complaint, advertise the IPTV service.

“[The] sponsored reviewer promotes Setvnow as a quick and easy way to access on demand movies: ‘You have new releases right there and you simply click on the movie … you click it and click on play again and here you have the movie just like that in 1 2 3 in beautiful HD quality’.”

The lawsuit aims to bring an end to this. The movie companies ask the California District for an injunction to shut down the infringing service and impound all pre-loaded devices. In addition, they’re requesting statutory damages which could go up to several million dollars.

At the time of writing the SET TV website is still in the air, selling subscriptions. The company itself has yet to comment on the allegations.

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

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

Pirates Taunt Amazon Over New “Turd Sandwich” Prime Video Quality

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-taunt-amazon-over-new-turd-sandwich-prime-video-quality-180419/

Even though they generally aren’t paying for the content they consume, don’t fall into the trap of believing that all pirates are eternally grateful for even poor quality media.

Without a doubt, some of the most quality-sensitive individuals are to be found in pirate communities and they aren’t scared to make their voices known when release groups fail to come up with the best possible goods.

This week there’s been a sustained chorus of disapproval over the quality of pirate video releases sourced from Amazon Prime. The anger is usually directed at piracy groups who fail to capture content in the correct manner but according to a number of observers, the problem is actually at Amazon’s end.

Discussions on Reddit, for example, report that episodes in a single TV series have been declining in filesize and bitrate, from 1.56 GB in 720p at a 3073 kb/s video bitrate for episode 1, down to 907 MB in 720p at just 1514 kb/s video bitrate for episode 10.

Numerous theories as to why this may be the case are being floated around, including that Amazon is trying to save on bandwidth expenses. While this is a possibility, the company hasn’t made any announcements to that end.

Indeed, one legitimate customer reported that he’d raised the quality issue with Amazon and they’d said that the problem was “probably on his end”.

“I have Amazon Prime Video and I noticed the quality was always great for their exclusive shows, so I decided to try buying the shows on Amazon instead of iTunes this year. I paid for season pass subscriptions for Legion, Billions and Homeland this year,” he wrote.

“Just this past weekend, I have noticed a significant drop in details compared to weeks before! So naturally I assumed it was an issue on my end. I started trying different devices, calling support, etc, but nothing really helped.

“Billions continued to look like a blurry mess, almost like I was watching a standard definition DVD instead of the crystal clear HD I paid for and have experienced in the past! And when I check the previous episodes, sure enough, they look fantastic again. What the heck??”

With Amazon distancing itself from the issues, piracy groups have already begun to dig in the knife. Release group DEFLATE has been particularly critical.

“Amazon, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to start fucking with the quality of their encodes. They’re now reaching Netflix’s subpar 1080p.H264 levels, and their H265 encodes aren’t even close to what Netflix produces,” the group said in a file attached to S02E07 of The Good Fight released on Sunday.

“Netflix is able to produce drastic visual improvements with their H265 encodes compared to H264 across every original. In comparison, Amazon can’t decide whether H265 or H264 is going to produce better results, and as a result we suffer for it.”

Arrr! The quality be fallin’

So what’s happening exactly?

A TorrentFreak source (who tells us he’s been working in the BluRay/DCP authoring business for the last 10 years) was kind enough to give us two opinions, one aimed at the techies and another at us mere mortals.

“In technical terms, it appears [Amazon has] increased the CRF [Constant Rate Factor] value they use when encoding for both the HEVC [H265] and H264 streams. Previously, their H264 streams were using CRF 18 and a max bitrate of 15Mbit/s, which usually resulted in file sizes of roughly 3GB, or around 10Mbit/s. Similarly with their HEVC streams, they were using CRF 20 and resulting in streams which were around the same size,” he explained.

“In the past week, the H264 streams have decreased by up to 50% for some streams. While there are no longer any x264 headers embedded in the H264 streams, the HEVC streams still retain those headers and the CRF value used has been increased, so it does appear this change has been done on purpose.”

In layman’s terms, our source believes that Amazon had previously been using an encoding profile that was “right on the edge of relatively good quality” which kept bitrates relatively low but high enough to ensure no perceivable loss of quality.

“H264 streams encoded with CRF 18 could provide an acceptable compromise between quality and file size, where the loss of detail is often negligible when watched at regular viewing distances, at a desk, or in a lounge room on a larger TV,” he explained.

“Recently, it appears these values have been intentionally changed in order to lower the bitrate and file sizes for reasons unknown. As a result, the quality of some streams has been reduced by up to 50% of their previous values. This has introduced a visual loss of quality, comparable to that of viewing something in standard definition versus high definition.”

With the situation failing to improve during the week, by the time piracy group DEFLATE released S03E14 of Supergirl on Tuesday their original criticism had transformed into flat-out insults.

“These are only being done in H265 because Amazon have shit the bed, and it’s a choice between a turd sandwich and a giant douche,” they wrote, offering these images as illustrative of the problem and these indicating what should be achievable.

With DEFLATE advising customers to start complaining to Amazon, the memes have already begun, with unfavorable references to now-defunct group YIFY (which was often chastized for its low quality rips) and even a spin on one of the most well known anti-piracy campaigns.

You wouldn’t download stream….

TorrentFreak contacted Amazon Prime for comment on both the recent changes and growing customer complaints but at the time of publication we were yet to receive a response.

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

TV Broadcaster Wants App Stores Blocked to Prevent Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tv-broadcaster-wants-app-stores-blocked-to-prevent-piracy-180416/

After first targeting torrent and regular streaming platforms with blocking injunctions, last year Village Roadshow and studios including Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount began looking at a new threat.

The action targeted HDSubs+, a reasonably popular IPTV service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee. The application was filed during October 2017 and targeted Australia’s largest ISPs.

In parallel, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) launched a similar action, demanding that the same ISPs (including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus subsidiaries) block several ‘pirate’ IPTV services, named in court as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

Due to the similarity of the cases, both applications were heard in Federal Court in Sydney on Friday. Neither case is as straightforward as blocking a torrent or basic streaming portal, so both applicants are having to deal with additional complexities.

The TVB case is of particular interest. Up to a couple of dozen URLs maintain the services, which are used to provide the content, an EPG (electronic program guide), updates and sundry other features. While most of these appear to fit the description of an “online location” designed to assist copyright infringement, where the Android-based software for the IPTV services is hosted provides an interesting dilemma.

ComputerWorld reports that the apps – which offer live broadcasts, video-on-demand, and catch-up TV – are hosted on as-yet-unnamed sites which are functionally similar to Google Play or Apple’s App Store. They’re repositories of applications that also carry non-infringing apps, such as those for Netflix and YouTube.

Nevertheless, despite clear knowledge of this dual use, TVB wants to have these app marketplaces blocked by Australian ISPs, which would not only render the illicit apps inaccessible to the public but all of the non-infringing ones too. Part of its argument that this action would be reasonable appears to be that legal apps – such as Netflix’s for example – can also be freely accessed elsewhere.

It will be up to Justice Nicholas to decide whether the “primary purpose” of these marketplaces is to infringe or facilitate the infringement of TVB’s copyrights. However, TVB also appears to have another problem which is directly connected to the copyright status in Australia of its China-focused live programming.

Justice Nicholas questioned whether watching a stream in Australia of TVB’s live Chinese broadcasts would amount to copyright infringement because no copy of that content is being made.

“If most of what is occurring here is a reproduction of broadcasts that are not protected by copyright, then the primary purpose is not to facilitate copyright infringement,” Justice Nicholas said.

One of the problems appears to be that China is not a party to the 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations. However, TVB is arguing that it should still receive protection because it airs pre-recorded content and the live broadcasts are also archived for re-transmission via catch-up services.

The question over whether unchoreographed live broadcasts receive protection has been raised in other regions but in most cases, a workaround has been found. The presence of broadcaster logos on screen (which receive copyright protection) is a factor and it’s been reported that broadcasters are able to record the ‘live’ action and transmit a copy just a couple of seconds later, thereby broadcasting an already-copyrighted work.

While TVB attempts to overcome its issues, Village Roadshow is facing some of its own in its efforts to take down HDSubs+.

It appears that at least partly in response to the Roadshow legal action, the service has undergone some modifications, including a change of brand to ‘Press Play Extra’. As reported by ZDNet, there have been structural changes too, which means that Roadshow can no longer “see under the hood”.

According to Justice Nicholas, there is no evidence that the latest version of the app infringes copyright but according to counsel for Village Roadshow, the new app is merely transitional and preparing for a possible future change.

“We submit the difference to be drawn is reactive to my clients serving on the operators a notice,” counsel for Roadshow argued, with an expert describing the new app as “almost like a placeholder.”

In short, Roadshow still wants all of the target domains in its original application blocked because the company believes there’s a good chance they’ll be reactivated in the future.

None of the ISPs involved in either case turned up to the hearings on Friday, which removes one layer of complexity in what appears thus far to be less than straightforward cases.

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

Piracy Falls 6%, in Spain, But It’s Still a Multi-Billion Euro Problem

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-falls-6-in-spain-but-its-still-a-multi-billion-euro-problem-180409/

The Coalition of Creators and Content Industries, which represents Spain’s leading entertainment industry companies, is keeping a close eye on the local piracy landscape.

The outfit has just published its latest Piracy Observatory and Digital Content Consumption Habits report, carried out by the independent consultant GFK, and there is good news to report on headline piracy figures.

During 2017, the report estimates that people accessed unlicensed digital content just over four billion times, which equates to almost 21.9 billion euros in lost revenues. While this is a significant number, it’s a decrease of 6% compared to 2016 and an accumulated decrease of 9% compared to 2015, the coalition reports.

Overall, movies are most popular with pirates, with 34% helping themselves to content without paying.

“The volume of films accessed illegally during 2017 was 726 million, with a market value of 5.7 billion euros, compared to 6.9 billion in 2016. 35% of accesses happened while the film was still on screens in cinema theaters, while this percentage was 33% in 2016,” the report notes.

TV shows are in a close second position with 30% of users gobbling up 945 million episodes illegally during 2017. A surprisingly high 24% of users went for eBooks, with music relegated to fourth place with ‘just’ 22%, followed by videogames (11%) and football (10%).

The reasons given by pirates for their habits are both varied and familiar. 51% said that original content is too expensive while 43% said that taking the illegal route “is fast and easy”. Half of the pirates said that simply paying for an internet connection was justification for getting content for free.

A quarter of all pirates believe that they aren’t doing anyone any harm, with the same number saying they get content without paying because there are no consequences for doing so. But it isn’t just pirates themselves in the firing line.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the current climate, the report heavily criticizes search engines for facilitating access to infringing content.

“With 75%, search engines are the main method of accessing illegal content and Google is used for nine out of ten accesses to pirate content,” the report reads.

“Regarding social networks, Facebook is the most used method of access (83%), followed by Twitter (42%) and Instagram (34%). Therefore it is most valuable that Facebook has reached agreements with different industries to become a legal source and to regulate access to content.”

Once on pirate sites, some consumers reported difficulties in determining whether they’re legal or not. Around 15% said that they had “big difficulties” telling whether a site is authorized with 44% saying they had problems “sometimes”.

That being said, given the amount of advertising on pirate sites, it’s no surprise that most knew a pirate site when they visited one and, according to the report, advertising placement is only on the up.

Just over a quarter of advertising appearing on pirate sites features well-known brands, although this is a reduction from more than 37% in 2016. This needs to be further improved, the coalition says, via collaboration between all parties involved in the industry.

A curious claim from the report is that 81% of pirate site users said they were required to register in order to use a platform. This resulted in “transferring personal data” to pirate site operators who gather it in databases that are used for profitable “e-marketing campaigns”.

“Pirate sites also get much more valuable data than one could imagine which allow them to get important economic benefits, as for example, Internet surfing habits, other websites visited by consumers, preferences, likes, and purchase habits,” the report states.

So what can be done to reduce consumer reliance on pirate sites? The report finds that consumers are largely in line with how the entertainment industries believe piracy should or could be tackled.

“The most efficient measures against piracy would be, according to the internet users’ own view, blocking access to the website offering content (78%) and penalizing internet providers (73%),” the report reads.

“Following these two, the best measure to reduce infringements would be, according to consumers, to promote social awareness campaigns against piracy (61%). This suggests that increased collaboration between the content sector and the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) could count on consumers’ support and positive assessment.”

Finally, consumers in Spain are familiar with the legal options, should they wish to take that route in future. Netflix awareness in the country is at 91%, Spotify at 81%, with Movistar+ and HBO at 80% and 68% respectively.

“This invalidates the reasons given by pirate users who said they did so because of the lack of an accessible legal offer at affordable prices,” the report adds.

However, those who take the plunge into the legal world don’t always kick the pirate habit, with the paper stating that users of pirates sites tend to carry on pirating, although they do pirate less in some sectors, notably music. The study also departs from findings in other regions that pirates can also be avid consumers of legitimate content.

Several reports, from the UK, Sweden, Australia, and even from Hollywood, have clearly indicated that pirates are the entertainment industries’ best customers.

In Spain, however, the situation appears to be much more pessimistic, with only 8% of people who access illegal digital content paying for legal content too. That seems low given that Netflix alone had more than a million Spanish subscribers at the end of 2017 and six million Spanish households currently subscribe to other pay TV services.

The report is available here (Spanish, pdf)

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

Obscure E-Mail Vulnerability

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/04/obscure_e-mail_.html

This vulnerability is a result of an interaction between two different ways of handling e-mail addresses. Gmail ignores dots in addresses, so [email protected] is the same as [email protected] is the same as [email protected] (Note: I do not own any of those email addresses — if they’re even valid.) Netflix doesn’t ignore dots, so those are all unique e-mail addresses and can each be used to register an account. This difference can be exploited.

I was almost fooled into perpetually paying for Eve’s Netflix access, and only paused because I didn’t recognize the declined card. More generally, the phishing scam here is:

  1. Hammer the Netflix signup form until you find a gmail.com address which is “already registered”. Let’s say you find the victim jameshfisher.
  2. Create a Netflix account with address james.hfisher.
  3. Sign up for free trial with a throwaway card number.
  4. After Netflix applies the “active card check”, cancel the card.
  5. Wait for Netflix to bill the cancelled card. Then Netflix emails james.hfisher asking for a valid card.
  6. Hope Jim reads the email to james.hfisher, assumes it’s for his Netflix account backed by jameshfisher, then enters his card **** 1234.
  7. Change the email for the Netflix account to [email protected], kicking Jim’s access to this account.
  8. Use Netflix free forever with Jim’s card **** 1234!

Obscure, yes? A problem, yes?

James Fisher, who wrote the post, argues that it’s Google’s fault. Ignoring dots might give people an enormous number of different email addresses, but it’s not a feature that people actually want. And as long as other sites don’t follow Google’s lead, these sorts of problems are possible.

I think the problem is more subtle. It’s an example of two systems without a security vulnerability coming together to create a security vulnerability. As we connect more systems directly to each other, we’re going to see a lot more of these. And like this Google/Netflix interaction, it’s going to be hard to figure out who to blame and who — if anyone — has the responsibility of fixing it.

Backblaze Announces B2 Compute Partnerships

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/introducing-cloud-compute-services/

Backblaze Announces B2 Compute Partnerships

In 2015, we announced Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage — the most affordable, high performance storage cloud on the planet. The decision to release B2 as a service was in direct response to customers asking us if they could use the same cloud storage infrastructure we use for our Computer Backup service. With B2, we entered a market in direct competition with Amazon S3, Google Cloud Services, and Microsoft Azure Storage. Today, we have over 500 petabytes of data from customers in over 150 countries. At $0.005 / GB / month for storage (1/4th of S3) and $0.01 / GB for downloads (1/5th of S3), it turns out there’s a healthy market for cloud storage that’s easy and affordable.

As B2 has grown, customers wanted to use our cloud storage for a variety of use cases that required not only storage but compute. We’re happy to say that through partnerships with Packet & ServerCentral, today we’re announcing that compute is now available for B2 customers.

Cloud Compute and Storage

Backblaze has directly connected B2 with the compute servers of Packet and ServerCentral, thereby allowing near-instant (< 10 ms) data transfers between services. Also, transferring data between B2 and both our compute partners is free.

  • Storing data in B2 and want to run an AI analysis on it? — There are no fees to move the data to our compute partners.
  • Generating data in an application? — Run the application with one of our partners and store it in B2.
  • Transfers are free and you’ll save more than 50% off of the equivalent set of services from AWS.

These partnerships enable B2 customers to use compute, give our compute partners’ customers access to cloud storage, and introduce new customers to industry-leading storage and compute — all with high-performance, low-latency, and low-cost.

Is This a Big Deal? We Think So

Compute is one of the most requested services from our customers Why? Because it unlocks a number of use cases for them. Let’s look at three popular examples:

Transcoding Media Files

B2 has earned wide adoption in the Media & Entertainment (“M&E”) industry. Our affordable storage and download pricing make B2 great for a wide variety of M&E use cases. But many M&E workflows require compute. Content syndicators, like American Public Television, need the ability to transcode files to meet localization and distribution management requirements.

There are a multitude of reasons that transcode is needed — thumbnail and proxy generation enable M&E professionals to work efficiently. Without compute, the act of transcoding files remains cumbersome. Either the files need to be brought down from the cloud, transcoded, and then pushed back up or they must be kept locally until the project is complete. Both scenarios are inefficient.

Starting today, any content producer can spin up compute with one of our partners, pay by the hour for their transcode processing, and return the new media files to B2 for storage and distribution. The company saves money, moves faster, and ensures their files are safe and secure.

Disaster Recovery

Backblaze’s heritage is based on providing outstanding backup services. When you have incredibly affordable cloud storage, it ends up being a great destination for your backup data.

Most enterprises have virtual machines (“VMs”) running in their infrastructure and those VMs need to be backed up. In a disaster scenario, a business wants to know they can get back up and running quickly.

With all data stored in B2, a business can get up and running quickly. Simply restore your backed up VM to one of our compute providers, and your business will be able to get back online.

Since B2 does not place restrictions, delays, or penalties on getting data out, customers can get back up and running quickly and affordably.

Saving $74 Million (aka “The Dropbox Effect”)

Ten years ago, Backblaze decided that S3 was too costly a platform to build its cloud storage business. Instead, we created the Backblaze Storage Pod and our own cloud storage infrastructure. That decision enabled us to offer our customers storage at a previously unavailable price point and maintain those prices for over a decade. It also laid the foundation for Netflix Open Connect and Facebook Open Compute.

Dropbox recently migrated the majority of their cloud services off of AWS and onto Dropbox’s own infrastructure. By leaving AWS, Dropbox was able to build out their own data centers and still save over $74 Million. They achieved those savings by avoiding the fees AWS charges for storing and downloading data, which, incidentally, are five times higher than Backblaze B2.

For Dropbox, being able to realize savings was possible because they have access to enough capital and expertise that they can build out their own infrastructure. For companies that have such resources and scale, that’s a great answer.

“Before this offering, the economics of the cloud would have made our business simply unviable.” — Gabriel Menegatti, SlicingDice

The questions Backblaze and our compute partners pondered was “how can we democratize the Dropbox effect for our storage and compute customers? How can we help customers do more and pay less?” The answer we came up with was to connect Backblaze’s B2 storage with strategic compute partners and remove any transfer fees between them. You may not save $74 million as Dropbox did, but you can choose the optimal providers for your use case and realize significant savings in the process.

This Sounds Good — Tell Me More About Your Partners

We’re very fortunate to be launching our compute program with two fantastic partners in Packet and ServerCentral. These partners allow us to offer a range of computing services.

Packet

We recommend Packet for customers that need on-demand, high performance, bare metal servers available by the hour. They also have robust offerings for private / customized deployments. Their offerings end up costing 50-75% of the equivalent offerings from EC2.

To get started with Packet and B2, visit our partner page on Packet.net.

ServerCentral

ServerCentral is the right partner for customers that have business and IT challenges that require more than “just” hardware. They specialize in fully managed, custom cloud solutions that solve complex business and IT challenges. ServerCentral also has expertise in managed network solutions to address global connectivity and content delivery.

To get started with ServerCentral and B2, visit our partner page on ServerCentral.com.

What’s Next?

We’re excited to find out. The combination of B2 and compute unlocks use cases that were previously impossible or at least unaffordable.

“The combination of performance and price offered by this partnership enables me to create an entirely new business line. Before this offering, the economics of the cloud would have made our business simply unviable,” noted Gabriel Menegatti, co-founder at SlicingDice, a serverless data warehousing service. “Knowing that transfers between compute and B2 are free means I don’t have to worry about my business being successful. And, with download pricing from B2 at just $0.01 GB, I know I’m avoiding a 400% tax from AWS on data I retrieve.”

What can you do with B2 & compute? Please share your ideas with us in the comments. And, for those attending NAB 2018 in Las Vegas next week, please come by and say hello!

The post Backblaze Announces B2 Compute Partnerships appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Why Did The World’s Largest Streaming Site Suddenly Shut Down?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/why-did-the-worlds-largest-streaming-site-suddenly-shut-down-180401/

With sites like The Pirate Bay still going great guns in the background, streaming sites are now all the rage. With their Netflix style interfaces and almost instant streaming, these platforms provide the kind of instant fix impatient pirates long for.

One of the most successful was 123Movies, which over the past 18 months and several rebrandings (123movieshub, GoMovies) later managed to build a steady base of millions of users.

Had such a site made its base in the US or Europe, it’s likely that authorities would’ve been breathing down its neck somewhat sooner. However, the skyrocketing platform was allegedly based in Vietnam, a country not exactly known for its staunch support of intellectual property rights. Nevertheless, the tentacles of Hollywood and its friends in government are never far away.

In March 2017, US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius called on the local Government to criminally prosecute the people behind movie streaming site 123movies, Kisscartoon, and a Putlocker variant.

Osius had a meeting with Truong Minh Tuan, Vietnam’s Minister of Information and Communications, after which the Minister assured the Ambassador that Vietnam wanted to protect copyrights. He reportedly told Osius that a decision would soon be made on how to deal with the pirate streaming sites. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, during the discussions 123Movies suffered a significant period of downtime.

Almost exactly a year later, the MPAA piled on the pressure again when it branded 123Movies as the “most popular illegal site in the world”, noting that its 98 million monthly visitors were being serviced from Vietnam.

Then, around March 19, 2018, 123Movies announced that it would be shutting down for good. A notice on the site was accompanied by a countdown timer, predicting the end of the site in five days. When the timer ran out, so did the site and it remains down to this day. But was its closure entirely down to the MPAA?

For the past couple of years, Vietnam has been seeking to overhaul its intellectual property laws, not least due to pressure from countries like the United States. Then, last October, Vietnamese Ambassador Duong Chi Dung was voted in as chairman of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) General Assembly for the 2018-19 tenure.

It was the first time in 12 years that the Asia-Pacific region had had one of its representatives serving as chairperson of the WIPO General Assembly. Quite an honor considering the diplomat enjoyed the backing of 191 member nations during the Assembly’s 49th session in Geneva, Switzerland.

Then in February, local media began publishing stories detailing how Vietnam was improving its stance towards intellectual property. Citing the sixth annual International IP Index released that month by the US Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), it was noted that Vietnam’s score was on the increase.

“Vietnam has taken some positive steps forward towards strengthening its IP framework to compete more closely with its Southeast Asian peers, increasing its score,” said Patrick Kilbride, vice president of GIPC.

“With continued investment in strong IP rights, Vietnam can harness this positive momentum to become a leader in the region, stimulate its domestic capacity for innovation, and enhance its global competitiveness.”

The Vietnam government was also credited with passing legislation to “strengthen the criminal standards for IP infringement”, a move set to “strengthen the enforcement environment” in the country.

Amid the positive developments, it was noted that Vietnam has a way to go. Early March a report in Vietnam News cited a deputy chief inspector of the Ministry of Science and Technology as saying that while an intellectual property court is “in sight”, it isn’t yet clear when one will appear.

“There needs be an intellectual property court in Vietnam, but we don’t know when it will be established,” Nguyễn Như Quỳnh said. That, it appears, is happily being exploited, both intentionally and by those who don’t know any better.

“Several young people are making tonnes of money out of their online businesses without having to have capital, just a few tricks to increase the number of ‘fans’ on their Facebook pages,” she said. “But a lot of them sell fake stuff, which is considered an infringement.”

Come April 10, 2018, there will be new IP regulations in place in Vietnam concerning local and cross-border copyright protection. Additionally, amendments made last year to the Penal Code, which took effect this year, mean that IP infringements carried out by businesses will now be subject to criminal prosecution.

“Article 225 of the Penal Code stipulates that violations of IPR and related rights by private individuals carries a non-custodial sentence of three years or a jail term of up to three years,” Vietnamnet.vn reports.

“Businesses found guilty will be fined VND300 million to VND1 billion (US$13,000-43,800) for the first offense. If the offense is repeated, the penalty will be a fine of VND3 billion ($130,000) or suspension of operations for up to two years.”

The threshold for criminality appears to be quite low. Previously, infringements had to be carried out “on a commercial scale” to qualify but now all that is required is an illicit profit of around US$500.

How this soup of intellectual property commitments, legislative change, hopes, dreams and promises will affect the apparent rise and fall of streaming platforms in Vietnam is unclear. All that being said, it seems likely that all of these factors are playing their part to ratchet up the pressure.

And, with the US currently playing hardball with China over a lack of respect for IP rights, Vietnam will be keen to be viewed as a cooperative nation.

As for 123Movies, it’s unknown whether it will reappear anytime soon, if at all, given the apparent shifting enthusiasm towards protecting IP in Vietnam. Perhaps against the odds its sister site, Animehub, which was launched in December 2017, is still online. But that could be gone in the blink of an eye too, if recent history is anything to go by.

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

Forty Percent of All Mexican Roku Users are Pirates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iflix Sees Piracy as Main Competitor, Not Netflix

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/iflix-sees-piracy-as-main-competitor-not-netflix-180330/

While Netflix is without a doubt the most used paid video streaming service worldwide, there are dozens of smaller players fighting for a piece of the pie.

Iflix is one of these companies. The service is available in 25 countries across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, streaming movies and TV-shows to 6.5 million subscribers.

In the coming years, the streaming service hopes to expand its reach by offering a better product than its competition. This includes the likes of Netflix and Amazon, but iflix sees piracy as its main adversary.

“That is really the big player,” Sherwin dela Cruz, iflix’s country manager, says in an interview with ANC’s The Boss.

“The sooner we get people to pay for our service and watch content in one of the real services, I think that’s when we can say that the market is really growing.”

Dela Cruz sees the music industry as a good example, where services such as Spotify offer a relatively complete alternative to piracy. As a result, illegal downloading has decreased in countries where it became available.

“That’s sort of like the aspiration for us – to get more people to have just one, two or three services and just watch what they want to watch on their mobile phones without really looking at pirated content,” dela Cruz says.

Interestingly, iflix doesn’t only see piracy as a problem that needs to be quashed. At the moment, they also use it as market intelligence to find out what content local audiences are interested in.

Iflix uses the German company TECXIPIO, which is known to actively monitor BitTorrent traffic, to track local piracy trends. In addition, they also buy pirated DVDs from street vendors to find out what people want.

This information is used to license the content people are most interested in, so it can offer the best possible alternative to piracy.

The company previously informed us that they believe that piracy is a signal from the public that they can’t get what they want through legal options. Going forward, Iflix hopes to grow its user base by directly competing with piracy.

“We believe that people in emerging markets do not actively want to steal content, they do so because there is no better alternative,” iflix concludes.

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

EU Content Rules to Improve Access & Reduce Piracy Start April 1

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-content-rules-to-improve-access-reduce-piracy-start-april-1-180328/

Any subscriber of a service like Netflix will tell you that where you live can have a big impact on the content made available. Customers in the US enjoy large libraries while less populous countries are treated less well.

For many years and before Netflix largely closed the loophole, customers would bypass these restrictions, using VPNs to trick Netflix into thinking they were elsewhere. Some wouldn’t bother with the complication, choosing to pirate content instead.

But for citizens of the EU, things were even more complex. While the EU mandates free movement of people, the same can’t be said about licensing deals. While a viewer in the Netherlands could begin watching a movie at home, he could travel to France for a weekend break only to find that the content he paid for is not available, or only in French.

Last May, this problem was addressed by the European Parliament with an agreement to introduce new ‘Cross-border portability’ rules that will give citizens the freedom to enjoy their media wherever they are in the EU, without having to resort to piracy or VPNs – if they can find one that still works for any length of time with the service.

Now, almost 11 months on, the rules are about to come into force. From Sunday, content portability in the EU will become a reality.

“Citizens are at the core of all our digital initiatives. As of 1 April, wherever you are traveling to in the EU, you will no longer miss out on your favorite films, TV series, sports broadcasts, games or e-books, that you have digitally subscribed to at home,” European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip said in a statement.

“Removing the boundaries that prevented Europeans from traveling with digital media and content subscriptions is yet another success of the Digital Single Market for our citizens, following the effective abolition of roaming charges that consumers all over Europe have enjoyed since June 2017.”

This is how it will work. Consumers in the EU who buy or subscribe to films, sports broadcasts, music, e-books or games in their home Member States will now be able to access this content when they reside temporarily in another EU country.

So, if a person in the UK purchases Netflix to gain access to a TV show to watch in their home country, Netflix will have to add this content to the customer’s library so they can still access it wherever they travel in the EU, regardless of its general availability elsewhere.

“[P]roviders of paid-for online content services (such as online movie, TV or music streaming services) have to provide their subscribers with the same service wherever the subscriber is in the EU,” the Commission explains.

“The service needs to be provided in the same way in other Member States, as in the Member State of residence. So for Netflix for example, you will have access to the same selection (or catalog) anywhere in the EU, if you are temporarily abroad, just as if you were at home.”

The same should hold true for all other digital content. If it’s available at home, it must be made available elsewhere in Europe in order to comply with the regulations. In doing so, providers are allowed some freedom, provided it’s in the customer’s favor. If they want to give customers additional access to full home and overseas catalogs when they’re traveling, for example, that is fine.

There’s also a plus in there for content providers. While a company like Netflix will sometimes acquire rights on a per country basis, when a citizen travels abroad within the EU they will not be required to obtain licenses for those other territories where their subscribers stay temporarily.

There is, however, a question of what “temporarily” means since it’s not tightly defined in the regulations. The term will cover business trips and holidays, for example, but providers will be required to clearly inform their customers of their precise terms and conditions.

Providers will also need to determine a customer’s home country, something that will be established when a customer signs up or renews his contract. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including via payment details, a contract for an Internet or telephone connection, verifying a home address, or using a simple IP address check.

For providers of free online services, which are allowed to choose whether they want to be included in the new rules or not, there are special conditions in place.

“Once they opt-in and allow portability under the Regulation, all rules will apply to them in the same manner as for the paid services. This means that the subscribers will have to log-in to be able to access and use content when temporarily abroad, and service providers will have to verify the Member State of residence of the subscriber,” the Commission explains.

“If providers of free of charge online content services decide to make use of the new portability rules, they are required to inform their subscribers about this decision prior to providing the service. Such information could, for example, be announced on the providers’ websites.”

The good news for consumers is that providers will not be able to charge for offering content portability and if they don’t provide it as required, they’ll be in breach of EU rules. The EU believes that all providers are ready to meet the standard – the public will find out on Sunday.

The new rules can be found here (pdf)

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

Геоблокиране в ЕС: границите остават

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/geobl-2/

Влиза в сила Регламентът за трансграничната преносимост на услугите за онлайн съдържание.

Малки стъпки напред към единен цифров пазар.

Федерацията на германските потребителски организации напомня това, което Юлия Реда обяснява в сайта си – и след Регламента за геоблокирането  границите остават.

Във Франция потребителите могат да гледат Netflix, но не и ARD и ZDF – това трябва да приключи, казват германските понтребители. 

Исканията на федерацията

 

Online Piracy Is More Popular Than Ever, Research Suggests

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/online-piracy-is-more-popular-than-ever-research-suggests-180321/

Despite the growing availability of legal options, online piracy remains rampant. Every day pirate sites are visited hundreds of millions of times.

Piracy tracking outfit MUSO has documented the piracy landscape with data from tens of thousands of the largest global piracy sites.

In its latest report, the company recorded more than 300 billion visits to pirate sites last year alone. This is an increase of 1.6 percent compared to 2016.

More than half of all these visits (53%) are going to streaming sites, making that the most popular piracy tool. Torrent sites and direct download portals still have a significant user base, but follow at a respectable distance.

Most of the pirate visits came from the United States, followed by India and Brazil. Despite the various pirate site blockades, the UK also secured a spot in the top ten, ranked at the bottom with nine billion visits.

The top ten list favors large countries and with this in mind, there is a large player missing. China, which is often portrayed as a country where piracy is rampant, ended up in 18th place with ‘only’ 4.6 billion visits.

Visits per country

# Country Billion visits
Data from Muso
1 United States 27.9
2 Russia 20.6
3 India 17.0
4 Brazil 12.7
5 Turkey 11.1
6 Japan 10.6
7 France 10.5
8 Indonesia 10.4
9 Germany 10.2
10 United kingdom 9.0

Muso tracks piracy trends across various media categories and has spotted some interesting trends. TV-shows remain the most popular among pirates with 106.9 billion visits last year, followed by music (73.9 billion) and film (53.2 billion).

Mobile piracy is on the rise as well. For the first time, more people were accessing pirated TV content via mobile devices (52%) where desktops used to be the favorite device. In the music category, this difference is even more pronounced, with 87% using mobile devices.

Last year desktops were still preferred among movie pirates, but MUSO expects this will change in 2018.

According to MUSO co-founder and CEO Andy Chatterley, these data show that piracy remains a sizable threat, something we also hinted at in the recent past.

“There is a belief that the rise in popularity of on-demand services – such as Netflix and Spotify – have solved piracy, but that theory simply doesn’t stack up. Our data suggest that piracy is more popular than ever,” Chatterley says.

While it’s hard to make historical comparisons without good data, it’s clear that piracy is still rampant. And with more people coming online year after year, the potential audience keeps growing.

Also, it is worth noting that the total piracy landscape is even larger than MUSO shows. In recent years many people have switched to pirate streaming boxes. These are not included in MUSO’s dataset, which relies on data provided by SimilarWeb, among other sources.

That said, the overall conclusion that the piracy audience is massive, and not to be ignored, remains the same.

“The piracy audience is huge and yet for the most part, it’s an opportunity that’s completely ignored,” Chatterley says.

“It’s important that the content industries embrace the trends emerging from this data, not only in strategic content protection, but also in understanding the profile of the piracy ‘consumer’ for better business insight and monetizing these audiences,“ MUSO’s CEO adds.

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

KeepVid Site No Longer Allows Users to ‘Keep’ Videos

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/keepvid-site-no-longer-allows-users-to-keep-videos-180320/

For many years, KeepVid has been a prime destination for people who wanted to download videos from YouTube, Dailymotion, Facebook, Vimeo, and dozens of other sites.

The web application was free and worked without any hassle. This was still the case earlier this month when the site advertised itself as follows:

“KeepVid Video Downloader is a free web application that allows you to download videos from sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch.Tv, Vimeo, Dailymotion and many more.”

However, a few days ago the site radically changed its course. While the motivation is unknown at the time, KeepVid took its popular video download service offline without prior notice.

The old KeepVid

Today, people can no longer use the KeepVid site to download videos. On the contrary, the site warns that using video download and conversion tools might get people in trouble.

“Video downloading from the Internet will become more and more difficult, and KeepVid encourages people to download videos via the correct and legal ways,” the new KeepVid reads.

While the site already made some changes over the years, such as restricting YouTube downloads to only “shared” videos, turning the download service into a cautioning educational page is rather unexpected.

The new KeepVid

The site now lists several alternative options to enjoy videos and music, including Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Pandora.

The KeepVid team isn’t commenting on the overhaul. When we asked the site about the reason for the turnaround, it confirmed that the downloading feature won’t return, but that’s about it.

“KeepVid won’t provide video/audio downloading feature from now on,” a KeepVid representative informed TorrentFreak, adding that they will focus on developing other audio and video tools going forward.

Our follow-up question asking whether the move was motivated by legal pressure remains unanswered.

As a tiny glimmer of hope, the site mentions downloading videos could become possible again if video download tools and video sharing platforms “reach an agreement” in the future.

For now, however, it’s clear that, as a download service, the site is done.

Interestingly, the paid KeepVid pro software is still available. The same is true for the video conversion software and several other tools KeepVid offers elsewhere. The KeepVid pro ‘buy’ link is no longer working though, and the team informs us that this application will also “come to its destination.”

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

Setting Up Cassandra With Priam

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/setting-cassandra-priam/

I’ve previously explained how to setup Cassandra in AWS. The described setup works, but in some cases it may not be sufficient. E.g. it doesn’t give you an easy way to make and restore backups, and adding new nodes relies on a custom python script that randomly selects a seed.

So now I’m going to explain how to setup Priam, a Cassandra helper tool by Netflix.

My main reason for setting it up is the backup/restore functionality that it offers. All other ways to do backups are very tedious, and Priam happens to have implemented the important bits – the snapshotting and the incremental backups.

Priam is a bit tricky to get running, though. The setup guide is not too detailed and not easy to find (it’s the last, not immediately visible item in the wiki). First, it has one branch per Cassandra version, so you have to checkout the proper branch and build it. I immediately hit an issue there, as their naming doesn’t allow eclipse to import the gradle project. Within 24 hours I reported 3 issues, which isn’t ideal. Priam doesn’t support dynamic SimpleDB names, and doesn’t let you override bundled properties via the command line. I hope there aren’t bigger issues. The ones that I encountered, I fixed and made a pull request.

What does the setup look like?

  • Append a javaagent to the JVM options
  • Run the Priam web
  • It automatically replaces most of cassandra.yaml, including the seed provider (i.e. how does the node find other nodes in the cluster)
  • Run Cassandra
  • It fetches seed information (which is stored in AWS SimpleDB) and connects to a cluster

I decided to run the war file with a standalone jetty runner, rather than installing tomcat. In terms of shell scripts, the core bits look like that (in addition to the shell script in the original post that is run on initialization of the node):

# Get the Priam war file and jar file
aws s3 cp s3://$BUCKET_NAME/priam-web-3.12.0-SNAPSHOT.war ~/
aws s3 cp s3://$BUCKET_NAME/priam-cass-extensions-3.12.0-SNAPSHOT.jar /usr/share/cassandra/lib/priam-cass-extensions.jar
# Set the Priam agent
echo "-javaagent:/usr/share/cassandra/lib/priam-cass-extensions.jar" >> /etc/cassandra/conf/jvm.options

# Download jetty-runner to be able to run the Priam war file from the command line
wget http://central.maven.org/maven2/org/eclipse/jetty/jetty-runner/9.4.8.v20171121/jetty-runner-9.4.8.v20171121.jar
nohup java -Dpriam.clustername=LogSentinelCluster -Dpriam.sdb.instanceIdentity.region=$EC2_REGION -Dpriam.s3.bucket=$BACKUP_BUCKET \
-Dpriam.sdb.instanceidentity.domain=$INSTANCE_IDENTITY_DOMAIN -Dpriam.sdb.properties.domain=$PROPERTIES_DOMAIN \
-Dpriam.client.sslEnabled=true -Dpriam.internodeEncryption=all -Dpriam.rpc.server.type=sync \
-Dpriam.partitioner=org.apache.cassandra.dht.Murmur3Partitioner -Dpriam.backup.retention.days=7 \
-Dpriam.backup.hour=$BACKUP_HOUR -Dpriam.vnodes.numTokens=256 -Dpriam.thrift.enabled=false \
-jar jetty-runner-9.4.8.v20171121.jar --path /Priam ~/priam-web-3.12.0-SNAPSHOT.war &

while ! echo exit | nc $BIND_IP 8080; do sleep 10; done

echo "Started Priam web package"

service cassandra start
chkconfig cassandra on

while ! echo exit | nc $BIND_IP 9042; do sleep 10; done

BACKUP_BUCKET, PROPERTIES_DOMAIN and INSTANCE_DOMAIN are supplied via a CloudFormation script (as we can’t know the exact names in advance – especially for SimpleDB). Note that these properties won’t work in the main repo – I added them in my pull request.

In order for that to work, you need to have the two SimpleDB domains created (e.g. by CloudFormation). It is possible that you could replace SimpleDB with some other data storage (and not rely on AWS), but that’s out of scope for now.

The result of running Priam would be that you have your Cassandra nodes in SimpleDB (you can browse it using this chrome extension as AWS doesn’t offer any UI) and, of course, backups will be automatically created in the backup S3 Bucket.

You can then restore a backup by logging to each node and executing:

curl http://localhost:8080/Priam/REST/v1/restore?daterange=201803180000,201803191200&region=eu-west-1&keyspaces=your_keyspace

You specify the time range for the restore. Still not ideal, as one would hope to have a one-click restore, but much better than rolling out your own backup & restore infrastructure.

One very important note here – vnodes are not supported. My original cluster had a default of 256 vnodes per machine and now it has just 1, because Priam doesn’t support anything other than 1. That’s a pity, since vnodes are the recommended way to setup Cassandra. Apparently Netflix don’t use those, however. There’s a work-in-progress branch for that that was abandoned 5 years ago. Fortunately, there’s a fresh pull request with Vnode support that can be used in conjunction with my pull request from this branch.

Priam replaces some Cassandra defaults with other values so you might want to compare your current setup and the newly generated cassandra.yaml. Overall it doesn’t feel super-production ready, but apparently it is, as Netflix is using it in production.

The post Setting Up Cassandra With Priam appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds like big news….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spanish Netflix Competitor Filmin Partnered With Leading Pirate Site

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/spanish-netflix-competitor-partnered-leading-pirate-site-180310/

In 2011 Hollywood’s MPAA highlighted SeriesYonkis as one of the most prolific pirate sites on the Internet.

“With a worldwide Alexa rank of 855, Seriesyonkis.com is one the most visited websites in the world for locating and streaming unauthorized copies of motion picture and television content,” Hollywood’s industry group informed the US Government.

While the MPAA was calling for tough enforcement actions, film industry partners in Spain came up with a different plan. They signed an unprecedented deal with the pirate site in 2011, hoping to convert its users into paying customers.

The main figures in this unusual episode are Juan Carlos Tous, the founder of the legal streaming platform Filmin, and SeriesYonkis owner Alexis Hoepfner, who operated the pirate site under his company Burn Media.

With help from lawyer Andy Ramos they negotiated a unique deal that would ‘merge’ both businesses. According to local newspaper El Confidencial, which has seen a copy of the agreement, SeriesYonkis company would get a 23% stake in Filmin, on the condition that pirate links were replaced with legal ones within a set period.

The entire agreement was kept secret by a confidentiality clause, which worked well until a few days ago.

SeriesYonkis also made two loans of 250,000 euros available, which were convertible into shares. In addition to the above, Filmin also offered compensation for every pirate it converted, up to 10 euros per user that signed up for an annual subscription.

The agreement further stipulated that SeriesYonkis had to apologize for its pirate ways. Point five stressed that SeriesYonkis and other Burn Media sites had to “carry out communication and awareness actions so that the users of the websites understand the need to legally access audiovisual content.”

Interestingly, SeriesYonkis wasn’t planning to go down and let other pirate sites take its traffic. The agreement included a clause that obligated Filmin to spend 25,000 euros to shut down or reduce traffic to other pirate sites.

The episode took place when Spain was about to implement its Sinde law, which would make it hard for local pirate sites in a country that was considered a “safe haven” at the time. However, not everything went according to plan.

The Sinde law didn’t destroy all Spanish pirate sites and six months after signing the agreement, SeriesYonkis stopped deleting pirate links. Even worse, its owner launched several new pirate sites, such as SeriesCoco and SeriesKiwi.

Filmin’s founder was outraged and sent an email demanding answers.

“I would like to hear your opinion on the progress and explanation of your plan with SeriesCoco! I do not understand anything! I thought you were going to decrease, and I see that you are opening portals!! WTF!” Tous wrote.

The deal eventually fell apart. Filmin kept its shares and stopped paying for new referrals. SeriesYonkis’ company Burn Media filed a lawsuit to get back its money, but thus far that hasn’t happened.

According to an insider close to the deal, the idea was brilliant. SeriesYonkis reportedly earned millions of euros at the time, more than Filmin, and used this money to go legal and destroy the competition ahead of a tough new anti-piracy law.

“The pirate not only abandons its weapons, but is integrated into the industry, and uses capital earned from piracy to fight against it,” a source told El Confidencial.

“It was a winning deal for everyone,” another source added, regretting that it didn’t work out. “It was a very bold agreement, something unusual in this sector, that would have changed the scenario if it had worked.”

Today, roughly seven years after the agreement was set into motion, Filmin is one of the larger streaming platforms in Spain. SeriesYonkis is also still around, but was sold by Hoefner in 2016 and no longer links to pirated content.

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

ACE Warns Kodi Addon Developer to Sign Settlement Agreement, Or Else

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ace-warns-kodi-addon-developer-to-sign-settlement-agreement-or-else-180306/

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a coalition of 30 companies that reads like a who’s who of the global entertainment market.

All of the major Hollywood studios are members, plus Amazon, Netflix, BBC, Hulu, and Village Roadshow, to name a few.

ACE was launched last year to present a united front against online infringement and since then has been involved in various anti-piracy actions.

ACE has made the third-party Kodi addon scene one of its early priorities, targeting developers with home visits and lengthy letters demanding that they cease and desist their activities. This has led to several pulling back from the scene but in some instances, this doesn’t appear to have been enough for ACE.

The letters received by the developers also include a requirement for them to sign a settlement agreement which binds them to a particular course of future behavior set out by ACE. It’s unclear how many developers have signed but TorrentFreak is aware that several have not.

One of those is JSergio123 who last November announced he would be discontinuing development of several Kodi addons after being targeted by ACE.

“Sorry to say but I am stopping all development of the urlresolver, metahandler, and my other addons,” he said.

JSergio123’s reluctance to sign an agreement with ACE hasn’t gone unnoticed by the anti-piracy group. In a letter dated March 5, 2018 and signed by Kelly Klaus of US-based lawfirm Munger, Tolles & Olson, the developer is reminded of what transpired last year and what is expected of him moving forward.

“I understand that ACE counsel have discussed with you various of your “Addon” software applications and related software and services, including URLResolver (collectively, the “[redacted] Addons”) and other actions you have undertaken to induce and contribute to the mass infringement of the ACE members’ copyrighted works,” Klaus writes.

“I also understand that ACE counsel have provided you with a proposed settlement agreement, pursuant to which you would end your infringing activities and provide cooperation and other consideration in exchange for ACE agreeing not to pursue legal action against you arising out of your infringing activities. To date, you have not signed the settlement agreement.”

JSergio123’s precise reasons for not signing the settlement agreement aren’t being made public. However, TorrentFreak understands that some of the terms presented to addon developers last year have caused considerable concern. In some cases they are difficult to meet, not to mention unpalatable to the people involved.

They include promises to ensure that specified addons and indeed any developed in the future can no longer infringe copyright. For those that scrape third-party sources, this could prove impossible to absolutely guarantee. This could effectively put developers out of the addon game – legitimate or otherwise – for good.

TF is also informed that ACE demanded a high-level of cooperation, including that the developers should supply what amounts to a full confession, detailing all the projects they’ve been involved in, past and present.

Furthermore, the ACE agreement reportedly requires developers to inform on their colleagues by providing personal information such as identities and contact details. There’s also a requirement to indicate whether and how developers been making money from their activities.

The new letter from ACE, which is shown below after being published by JSergio, refers to a “most recent draft of the settlement agreement that ACE members would be willing to sign.”

Whether this contains any amendments from the settlement agreements sent out last year isn’t clear but Mr Klaus, who is a veteran of several large infringement lawsuits in the US, says that JSergio should take the offer seriously.

“I strongly urge you to consider the gravity of this situation and sign the agreement,” the lawyer concludes.

ACE Letter (credit: JSergio123)


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Torrent Seedbox Veterans Bow Out of Changing Market

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/torrent-seedbox-veterans-bow-out-of-changing-market-180304/

BitTorrent users today have several basic ways to download content. The most popular is via a dedicated torrent client installed on a Windows, Linux, Android or similar operating system at home.

While this kind of activity is necessarily ‘local’, power users over the years have turned to systems that enable them to download and share potentially huge quantities of data.

Essentially computer servers running torrent client software in remote locations, these so-called ‘seedboxes’ became a must-have for anyone looking to stand out in the torrent world as a sharing sensation.

While widespread, companies selling access to seedboxes haven’t really generated much noise publicly over the years. However, this week an announcement from one of the longer-standing companies caught our attention. After being founded eight years ago, popular provider SeedStuff.ca has decided to exit the seedbox business.

“We originally opened in 2010, however we have seen an ever changing climate in the industry and as new technologies emerge and people shift to more conventional means of file sharing our services have seen a steady decline over the past few years,” the company said in a statement published on its website.

“At this time, it simply is no longer viable to continue offering the services we do.”

Considering BitTorrent itself made its mark as a disruptive technology, it’s interesting that a company like SeedStuff would have its business disrupted by other file-sharing methods. So, we asked the provider a little more about its history and its ultimate decision to close down.

“We started from the backroom IRC channels on 56k connections, so torrents have always been a blessing,” a spokesperson said.

“Between 2005 and 2010, I think the rise of ‘Private’ trackers really started to make the scene shine. You were able to find and connect with the content you wanted as well as the communities of people who shared interests as well.

“The private trackers gamified seeding and rewarded their best members, this is what really paved the way for seedboxes. The users felt a need to compete and often did not have access to the means to do so, but could contract these machines out to help them succeed. The demand for seedboxes started in about 2010, which I think you will see coincided with a huge spike of private tracker activity.”

SeedStuff says its initial aim was to improve user experience by not following the decision by many existing providers to “stuff as many users as possible” into each server. Restricting each unit to a maximum of four users and accepting just a small profit on each, the service grew while gaining support from customers.

“At our peak, we serviced over 4000 customers per month. Our total email database was well over 10,000 customer accounts. We did not monitor bandwidth or user activities as we felt this to be intrusive. We only dealt with server providers who offered unlimited bandwidth so that we were able to allow for the best user experience without limits,” the company explains.

But after several years of growth, SeedStuff noticed a change. In addition to suffering a painful database crash caused by a host and a failed backup regime, in 2015 the company observed a shift in user patterns.

“We noticed around this time that streaming services had started to become mainstream in almost every home and people were simply not using our services anymore. The main cancellation reason for the last three years has been ‘Not needed anymore’,” SeedStuff notes.

“I think torrenting developed for many reasons including ease of use, availability and cost to access media. Many of these issues have been improved by current systems so there is no need for consumers to use torrents for half their content, but we aren’t there yet and the industry seems to be dialing it back again.”

SeedStuff believes that while there will be a steady decline in torrent usage, the protocol will remain relevant for a long time to come. It could even enjoy a resurgence if distribution companies restrict availability or require multiple accounts to access all content.

“If a customer needs dedicated Netflix, HBO, CBS and Hulu accounts to access the shows they want, they might see these costs as too much compared to a decent torrenting connection,” the company says.

Of course, market changes can always have an effect on a company’s direction but SeedStuff says that in addition to tackling a myriad of technical issues, in the end there were also problems with team members migrating to other areas.

“Some of our team also moved on to new projects and started new companies which are now more exciting to them. Everything compounded and eventually lead us to split and go our separate ways. We just wanted to thank everyone who remained a customer through the years and are sorry we had to shut down,” the company concludes.

While there are plenty of other seedbox providers around, it seems fairly clear that things aren’t what they used to be, with streaming and other technologies all helping to disrupt the market. SeedStuff points towards IPFS as yet another potential torrent disrupter of the future. Time will tell.

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MPAA Wants Filmmakers to Pay Licenses, Not Rip Blu-rays

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-wants-filmmakers-to-pay-licenses-not-rip-blu-rays-180227/

Technically speaking it’s not hard to rip a DVD or Blu-ray disc nowadays, and the same is true for ripping content from Netflix or YouTube.

However, in the US people can break the law when they do this. The DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions specifically forbid it.

There are some exemptions, such as educational and other types of fair use, but the line between legal and illegal is not always clear, some argue.

Filmmakers, for example, are allowed to use small pieces of other copyrighted films under some conditions. However, this only applies to the documentary genre.

This is confusing and creates uncertainty, according to the International Documentary Association, Kartemquin Films, Independent Filmmaker Project, University of Film and Video Association, and several other organizations.

Late last year they penned a submission to the Copyright Office, which is currently considering updates to the exemptions, where they argued that all filmmakers should be allowed by break DRM and rip Blu-rays. The documentary exemptions have been in place for years now and haven’t harmed rightsholders in any way, they said.

“There is no reason this would change if the ‘documentary’ limitation were removed. All filmmakers regularly need access to footage on DVDs and without an exemption to DVDs, many non-infringing uses simply cannot be made,” the groups noted.

Not everyone agrees with this assessment though. A group of “joint creators and copyright owners” which includes Hollywood’s MPAA, the RIAA, and ESA informs the Copyright Office that such an exemption is too broad and a threat to the interests of the major movie studios.

The MPAA and the other groups point out that the exemption could be used by filmmakers to avoid paying licensing fees, which can be quite expensive.

“Many of the filmmakers who have participated in the rulemaking assert that license fees are often higher than they are willing to pay,” the Joint Creators and Copyright Owners write.

“While unfortunate, the fact that a copyright owner has chosen to make works available on terms that are not palatable to a particular user does not make that user’s proposed use fair or justify granting an exemption.”

If the filmmakers don’t have enough budget to license a video, they should look for alternatives. Simply taking it without paying would hurt the bottom line of movie studios, the filing suggests.

“Many filmmakers work licensing fees into their budgets. There is clearly a market for licensing footage from motion pictures, and it is clear that unlicensed uses harm that market.

“MPAA members actively exploit the market for licensing film clips for these types of uses. Each year, MPAA member companies license, collectively, thousands of clips for use in a variety of works,” the group writes.

The Copyright Office has limited the exemption to the documentary genre for a good reason, the creators argue, since non-documentaries are less likely to warrant a finding of fair use.

In addition, they also refute the claim that the documentary category is “vague.” They note that the International Documentary Association, which argued this, has an award ceremony for the same category, for example.

Finally, the MPAA and other creators respond to calls to extend the current exemptions to 4K content, such as AACS2 protected Ultra HD discs. They see no need for this, as the filmmakers and other groups haven’t shown that they suffer negative consequences in the current situation.

They have alternatives, such as regular Blu-ray discs, while allowing AACS2 circumvention could severely impact the Ultra HD ecosystem, they argue.

“No one has released a universal hack to all Ultra HD films protected by AACS2. The integrity of the AACS2 and Ultra HD technology is an especially important component of the ecosystem that is resulting in the increased availability of motion pictures.

“The Register and the Librarian should not undermine this integrity by authorizing widespread hacking, which could negatively impact ‘the market for or value of’ some of the industry’s most exciting products,” the Joint Creators add.

The Copyright Office will take all arguments into consideration before it makes a final decision later this year.

A copy of the Joint Creators reply is available here.

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Most Users of Exclusive Torrent Site Also Pay For Services Like Netflix or Prime

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/most-users-of-exclusive-torrent-site-also-pay-for-services-like-netflix-or-prime-180225/

Despite a notable move to unlicensed streaming portals, millions of people still use public torrent sites every day to obtain the latest movies and TV shows. The process is easy, relatively quick, and free.

While these open-to-all platforms are undoubtedly popular, others prefer to use so-called ‘private trackers’, torrent sites with a private members’ club feel. Barriers to entry are much higher and many now require either an invitation from someone who is already a member or the passing of what amounts to an entrance exam.

Once accepted as a member, however, the rewards can be great. While public sites are a bit of a free-for-all, private trackers tend to take control of the content on offer, weeding out poor quality releases and ensuring only the best reach the user. Seeders are also plentiful, meaning that downloads complete in the fastest times.

On the flipside, some of the most exclusive trackers are almost impossible to join. A prime example is HDBits, a site that at last count wouldn’t accept more than 21,000 users yet keeps actual memberships down to around the 18,000 mark. Invites are extremely rare and those already inside tend to guard their accounts with their lives.

Second chances are rare on a site indexing more than 234,000 high-quality releases seeded by more than 950,000 peers and one of the broadest selection of Blu-ray offerings around. That’s what makes the results of a survey currently being carried out on the site even more remarkable.

In a poll launched by site staff, HDBits members – who by definition are already part of one of the most exclusive pirate haunts around – were asked whether they also pay for legal streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

At the time of writing more than 5,300 members have responded, with a surprising 57% (3,036) stating that they do indeed subscribe to at least one legal streaming service. When questioned on usage, more than a quarter of respondents said they actually use the legal service MORE than they use HDBits, which for a site of that caliber is quite a revelation.

HDBits poll – 57% of pirates pay for legal services

Keeping in mind that the site is creeping towards a quarter of a million torrents and is almost impossible to get into, it’s perhaps no surprise that unscrupulous people with access to an invitation on the site are selling them (against the site’s wishes) for up to $350 each online.

Let that sink in. For access to a pirate service, people are being asked to pay the equivalent of three years’ worth of Netflix subscriptions. Yet of those that are already members, more than a quarter use their Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime account more than they do HDBits. That’s a huge feather in the cap for the legal platforms that have nowhere near the selection that HDBits does.

One commenter in the HDBits survey thread gave his opinion on why Netflix might be winning the war.

“A thread several years ago like this was why I bought Netflix stock. Stunned not just that people here would actually pay for streaming 1 year old content in poor quality, but that almost everyone seemed to be doing it. If Netflix can win over [HDBits] then it is clearly a solution that will win over everyone,” he wrote.

Of course, perhaps the most important thing here is that even the most hardcore pirates have no problem purchasing official content, when the environment is right.

Unlike other surveys that can scare people away from admitting they’re breaking the law, most people on HDBits have nothing to hide from their peers. They know they’re pirates and aren’t afraid to admit it, yet almost 60% of them are happy to pay for legal content on top.

Entertainment companies often like to put pirates in one box and legitimate customers in another. Once again it’s now being made clear that such neatly defined barriers aren’t easy to come by.

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