Tag Archives: notices

‘Pirate’ Kodi Addon Devs & Distributors Told to Cease-and-Desist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-kodi-addon-devs-distributors-told-to-cease-and-desist-180214/

Last November, following a year of upheaval for third-party addon creators and distributors, yet more turmoil hit the community in the form of threats from the world’s most powerful anti-piracy coalition – the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

Comprised of 30 companies including the studios of the MPAA, Amazon, Netflix, CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, Bell Canada, CBS, Hulu, Lionsgate, Foxtel, Village Roadshow, and many more, ACE warned several developers to shut down – or else.

The letter: shut down – or else

Now it appears that ACE is on the warpath again, this time targeting a broader range of individuals involved in the Kodi addon scene, from developers and distributors to those involved in the production of how-to videos on YouTube.

The first report of action came from TVAddons, who noted that the lead developer at the Noobs and Nerds repository had been targeted with a cease-and-desist notice, adding that people from the site had been “visited at their homes.”

As seen in the image below, the Noobs and Nerds website is currently down. The site’s Twitter account has also been disabled.

Noobs and Nerds – gone

While TVAddons couldn’t precisely confirm the source of the threat, information gathered from individuals involved in the addon scene all point to the involvement of ACE.

In particular, a man known online as Teverz, who develops his own builds, runs a repo, and creates Kodi-themed YouTube videos, confirmed that ACE had been in touch.

An apparently unconcerned Teverz….

“I am not a dev so they really don’t scare me lmao,” he added.

Teverz claims to be from Canada and it appears that others in the country are also facing cease and desist notices. An individual known as Doggmatic, who also identifies as Canadian and has Kodi builds under his belt, says he too was targeted.

Another target in Canada

Doggmatic, who appears to be part of the Illuminati repo, says he had someone call the people who sent the cease-and-desist but like Teverz, he doesn’t seem overly concerned, at least for now.

“I have a legal representative calling them. The letters they sent aren’t legal documents. No lawyer signed them and no law firm mentioned,” Doggmatic said.

But the threats don’t stop there. Blamo, the developer of the Neptune Rising addon accessible from the Blamo repo, also claims to have been threatened.

SpinzTV, who offers unofficial Kodi builds and an associated repository, is also under the spotlight. Unlike his Canadian counterparts, he has already thrown in the towel, according to a short announcement on Twitter.

For SpinzTV it’s all over…

TorrentFreak contacted the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, asking them if they could confirm the actions and provide any additional details. At the time of publication they had no information for us but we’ll update if and when that comes in.

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

Hosting Provider Steadfast Maintains DMCA Safe Harbor Defense For Trial

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hosting-provider-steadfast-maintains-dmca-safe-harbor-defense-for-trial-180212/

Two years ago, adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan dragged several third-party Internet services to court.

The company targeted several companies including CDN provider CloudFlare and the Chicago-based hosting company Steadfast, accusing them of copyright infringement because they offered services to pirate sites.

The case against Steadfast is getting close to trial and to start with an advantage, ALS Scan recently asked the court for partial summary judgment, determining that the hosting company contributed to copyright infringement and that it has no safe harbor protection.

ALS argued that Steadfast refused to shut down the servers of the image sharing platform Imagebam.com, which was operated by its client Flixya. ALS Scan described the site as a repeat offender, as it had been targeted with dozens of DMCA notices, and accused Steadfast of turning a blind eye to the situation.

Steadfast, for its part, fiercely denied the allegations. The hosting provider admitted that it leased servers to Flixya for ten years but said that it forwarded all notices to its client. The hosting company could not address individual infringements, other than shutting down the entire site, which would have been disproportionate in their view.

A few days ago California District Court Judge George Wu ruled on the matter, denying ALS’s motion for summary judgment.

Both sides made sensible arguments on the contributory infringement issue, but it is by no means undisputed that the hosting provider ‘contributed’ to the infringing activities. The court, therefore, left this question open for the jury to determine at trial.

“Ultimately, both sides have raised triable issues of fact with respect to material contribution. As a result, the Court would deny Plaintiff’s Motion,” Judge Wu writes.

ALS also sought summary judgment on the DMCA safe harbor protection issue, but the court denied this request as well. While it’s clear that the hosting company never terminated a customer for repeat infringements, it’s not clear whether it was ever in a situation where it needed to.

The DMCA requires Internet services to implement a meaningful repeat infringer policy, but in this case, Steadfast’s client Imagebam reportedly had a takedown policy of its own, which complicates the issue.

“While the fact Steadfast has never terminated one of its own customers for infringement is potentially damaging to its ability to fit the safe harbor, Plaintiff has not established that Steadfast faced a situation requiring it to terminate one of its users,” Judge Wu writes.

“Even in the present case it is unclear that Steadfast needed to terminate Flixya’s account given Flixya itself had a policy that was arguably successful at removing infringing images from imagebam.com.”

Judge Wu adds that safe harbor defenses are generally left to the jury, and this is what he decided as well.

As a result, ALS’s entire motion for summary judgment is denied. This is good news for Steadfast, who will have their safe harbor defense available at the upcoming trial. However, they will likely celebrate this win with caution, as the jury makes its ultimate decision.

A copy of the court’s order is available here (pdf).

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

Comcast Explains How It Deals With Persistent Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/comcast-explains-how-it-deals-with-persistent-pirates-180210/

Dating back to the turn of the last century, copyright holders have alerted Internet providers about alleged copyright infringers on their network.

While many ISPs forwarded these notices to their subscribers, most were not very forthcoming about what would happen after multiple accusations.

This vagueness was in part shaped by law. While it’s clear that the DMCA requires Internet providers to implement a meaningful “repeat infringer” policy, the DMCA doesn’t set any clear boundaries on what constitutes a repeat infringer and when one should be punished.

With the recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against Cox, it is now clear that “infringers” doesn’t imply people who are adjudicated, valid accusations from copyright holders are enough. However, an ISP still has some flexibility when it comes to the rest of its “repeat infringer” policy.

In this light, it’s interesting to see that Comcast recently published details of its repeat infringer policy online. While the ISP has previously confirmed that persistent pirates could be terminated, it has never publicly spelled out its policy in such detail.

First up, Comcast clarifies that subscribers to its Xfinity service can be flagged based on reports from rightsholders alone, which is in line with the Fourth Circuit ruling.

“Any infringement of third party copyright rights violates the law. We reserve the right to treat any customer account for whom we receive multiple DMCA notifications from content owners as a repeat infringer,” the company notes.

If Comcast receives multiple notices in a calendar month, the associated subscriber moves from one policy step to the next one. This means that the ISP will issue warnings with increased visibility.

These alerts can come in the form of emails, letters to a home address, text messages, phone calls, and also alerts sent to the subscriber’s web browser. The alerts then have to be acknowledged by the user, so it clear that he or she understands what’s at stake.

From Comcast’s repeat infringer policy

Comcast doesn’t state specifically how many alerts will trigger tougher action, but it stresses that repeat infringers risk having their accounts suspended. As a result, all devices that rely on Internet access will be interrupted or stop working.

“If your XFINITY Internet account is suspended, you will have no Internet access or service during suspension. This means any services and devices that use the Internet will not properly work or will not work at all,” Comcast states.

The suspension is applied as a last warning before the lights go out completely. Subscribers who reach this stage can still reinstate their Internet connectivity by calling Comcast. It’s unclear whether they have to take any additional action, but it could be that these subscribers have to ‘promise’ to behave.

After this last warning, the subscriber risks the most severe penalty, account termination. This is not limited to regular access to the web, but also affects XFINITY TV, XFINITY Voice, and XFINITY Home, including smart thermostats and home security equipment.

“If you reach the point of service termination, we will terminate your XFINITY Internet service and related add-ons. Unreturned equipment charges will still apply. If you also have XFINITY TV and/or XFINITY Voice services, they will also be terminated,” Comcast warns.

Comcast doesn’t specify how long the Internet termination lasts but the company states that it’s typically no less than 180 days. This means that terminated subscribers will need to find an Internet subscription elsewhere if one’s available.

The good news is that other XFINITY services can be restored after termination, without Internet access. Subscribers will have to contact Comcast to request a quote for an Internet-less package.

While this policy may sound harsh to some, Comcast has few other options if it wants to avoid liability. The good news is that the company requires users to acknowledge the warnings, which means that any measures shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There is no mention of any option to contest any copyright holder notices, which may become an issue in the future. After all, when copyright holders have the power to have people’s Internet connections terminated, their accusations have to be spot on.



Comcast’s repeat infringer policy is available here and was, according to the information we have available, quietly published around December last year.

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

Cloudflare Hit With Piracy Lawsuit After Abuse Form ‘Fails’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-hit-with-piracy-lawsuit-after-abuse-form-fails-180210/

Seattle-based artist Christopher Boffoli is no stranger when it comes to suing tech companies for aiding copyright infringement of his work.

Boffoli has filed lawsuits against Imgur, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, and others, which were dismissed and/or settled out of court under undisclosed terms.

This month he filed a new case against another intermediary, Cloudflare, which has had its fair share of piracy allegations in recent years.

In common with other companies, Cloudflare is accused of contributing to copyright infringements of Boffoli’s “Big Appetites” miniatures series. In this case, several Cloudflare customers allegedly posted these photos on their sites which were then reproduced on the servers of the CDN provider.

The lawsuit mentions that the infringing copies were posted on unique-landscape.com and baklol.com. This was also pointed out to Cloudflare by Boffoli, who sent the company DMCA takedown notices in October and November of last year.

While the photographer received an automated response, the photos in question remained online. Through the lawsuit, Boffoli hopes this will change.

“CloudFlare induced, caused, or materially contributed to the Infringing Websites’ publication,” the complaint reads. “CloudFlare had actual knowledge of the Infringing Content. Boffoli provided notice to CloudFlare in compliance with the DMCA, and CloudFlare failed to disable access to or remove the Infringing Websites.”

The photographer is asking the court to order an injunction preventing Cloudflare from making his work available. In addition, the complaint asks for actual and statutory damages for willful copyright infringement. With at least four photos in the lawsuit, the potential damages are more than half a million dollars.

While it’s not mentioned in the complaint, the email communication between Boffoli and Cloudflare goes further than just an automated response. Court records show that the photographer initially didn’t ask Cloudflare to remove the infringing photos. Instead, he asked the CDN provider to forward them to the ISP or site owner.

“I would be grateful if you would forward this DMCA takedown request to the website owner and ISP so these infringing links can immediately be removed,” it read.

Part of the email communication

From then on things escalated a bit. The emails reveal that Boffoli had trouble reporting the infringing photos through the required form.

When the photographer pointed this out in a direct email, Cloudflare urged him to try the form again as that was the only way to send the DMCA request to the designated copyright agent.

“The DMCA doesn’t require us to process reports not sent to our registered agent as per our registration with the US Copyright Office. Our registered copyright agent is the form located at cloudflare.com/abuse/form and you may proceed via that avenue,” Cloudflare wrote.

If the case moves forward, Cloudflare may use this to argue that it never received a proper DMCA takedown notice. However, Boffoli wasn’t planning on trying again and instead threatened a lawsuit, unless Cloudflare took immediate action.

“As I have said, your form did not work for me despite repeated attempts to use it. And it is insulting for you to suggest that it’s working fine when it is not. So again, this is absolutely my last attempt to get you to respond to this infringement for which you are impeding the removal,” Boffoli wrote.

“If you take no action now I will forward this to my legal team this week. It is more than enough of a burden to have to waste countless hours policing my own copyrights without organizations like Cloudflare running interference for copyright infringers. I am not averse to asking a federal judge to compel you to deal with these copyright infringements. And I will seek statutory damages for contributory infringement at that time.”

As it turns out, that was not an idle threat.

—-

A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf) and the email exhibits can be found here (pdf).

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

Chrome and Firefox Block 123movies Over “Harmful Programs”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/chrome-and-firefox-block-123movies-over-harmful-programs-180209/

With millions of visitors per day, 123movies(hub), also known as Gomovies, is one of the largest pirate streaming sites on the web.

Today, however, many visitors were welcomed by a dangerous-looking red banner instead of the usual homepage.

“The site ahead contains harmful programs,” Chrome warns its users. “Attackers on 123movieshub.to might attempt to trick you into installing programs that harm your browsing experience.”

It is not clear what the problem is in this particular case, but these type of notifications are often triggered by malicious or deceptive third-party advertising that has appeared on a site.

Warning

These warning messages are triggered by Google’s Safebrowsing algorithm which flags websites that pose a potential danger to visitors. Chrome, Firefox, and others use this service to prevent users from running into unwanted software.

In addition to the browser block, Google generally informs the site’s owners that their domain will be demoted in search results until the issue is resolved.

Google previously informed us that these kinds of warnings automatically disappear when the flagged sites no longer violate Google’s policy. This can take one or two days, but also longer.

This isn’t the first time that Google has flagged such a large website. Many pirate sites, including The Pirate Bay, have been affected by this issue in the past.

Chrome and Firefox users should be familiar with these intermittent warning notices be now. If users believe that an affected site is harmless they can always take steps (Chrome, FF) to bypass the blocks, but that’s completely at their own risk.

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

Rightscorp Has a Massive Database of ‘Repeat Infringers’ to Pursue

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-has-a-massive-database-of-repeat-infringers-to-pursue-180208/

Last week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ISPs are required to terminate ‘repeat infringers’ based on allegations from copyright holders alone, a topic that has been contested for years.

This means that copyright holders now have a bigger incentive to send takedown notices, as ISPs can’t easily ignore them. That’s music to the ears of the various piracy tracking companies, Rightscorp included.

The piracy monetization company always maintained that multiple complaints from copyright holders are enough to classify someone as a repeat infringer, without a court order, and the Fourth Circuit has now reached the same conclusion.

“After years of uncertainty on these issues, it is gratifying for the US Court of Appeals to proclaim the law on ISP liability for subscriber infringements to be essentially what Rightscorp has always said it is,” Rightscorp President Christopher Sabec says.

Rightscorp is pleased to see that the court shares its opinion since the verdict also provides new business opportunities. The company informs TorrentFreak that it’s ready to help copyright holders to hold ISPs responsible.

“Rightscorp has always stood with content holders who wish to protect their rights against ISPs that are not taking action against repeat infringers,” Sabec tells us.

“Now, with the law addressing ISP liability for subscriber infringements finally sharpened and clarified at the appellate level, we are ready to support all efforts by rights holders to compel ISPs to abide by their responsibilities under the DMCA.”

The piracy tracking company has a treasure trove of piracy data at its disposal to issue takedown requests or back lawsuits. Over the past five years, it amassed nearly a billion “records” of copyright infringements.

“Rightscorp’s data records include no less the 969,653,557 infringements over the last five years,” Sabec says.

This number includes a lot of repeat infringers, obviously. It’s made up of IP-addresses downloading the same file on several occasions and/or multiple files over time.

While it’s unlikely that account holders will be disconnected based on infringements that happened years ago, this type of historical data can be used in court cases. Rightscorp’s infringement notices are the basis of the legal action against Cox, and are being used as evidence in a separate RIAA case against ISP Grande communications as well.

Grande previously said that it refused to act on Rightcorp’s notices because it doubts their accuracy, but the tracking company contests this. That case is still ongoing and a final decision has yet to be reached.

For now, however, Rightcorp is marketing its hundreds of thousands of recorded copyright infringements as an opportunity for rightsholders. And for a company that can use some extra cash in hand, that’s good news.

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

RIAA: Cox Ruling Shows that Grande Can Be Liable for Piracy Too

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-cox-ruling-shows-that-grande-can-be-liable-for-piracy-too-180207/

Regular Internet providers are being put under increasing pressure for not doing enough to curb copyright infringement.

Last year several major record labels, represented by the RIAA, filed a lawsuit in a Texas District Court, accusing ISP Grande Communications of turning a blind eye on its pirating subscribers.

“Despite their knowledge of repeat infringements, Defendants have permitted repeat infringers to use the Grande service to continue to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights without consequence,” the RIAA’s complaint read.

Grande disagreed with this assertion and filed a motion to dismiss the case. The ISP argued that it doesn’t encourage any of its customers to download copyrighted works, and that it has no control over the content subscribers access.

The Internet provider didn’t deny that it received millions of takedown notices through the piracy tracking company Rightscorp. However, it believed that these notices are flawed and not worthy of acting upon.

The case shows a lot of similarities with the legal battle between BMG and Cox Communications, in which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important verdict last week.

The appeals court overturned the $25 million piracy damages verdict against Cox due to an erroneous jury instruction but held that the ISP lost its safe harbor protection because it failed to implement a meaningful repeat infringer policy.

This week, the RIAA used the Fourth Circuit ruling as further evidence that Grande’s motion to dismiss should be denied.

The RIAA points out that both Cox and Grande used similar arguments in their defense, some of which were denied by the appeals court. The Fourth Circuit held, for example, that an ISP’s substantial non-infringing uses does not immunize it from liability for contributory copyright infringement.

In addition, the appeals court also clarified that if an ISP wilfully blinds itself to copyright infringements, that is sufficient to satisfy the knowledge requirement for contributory copyright infringement.

According to the RIAA’s filing at a Texas District Court this week, Grande has already admitted that it willingly ‘ignored’ takedown notices that were submitted on behalf of third-party copyright holders.

“Grande has already admitted that it received notices from Rightscorp and, to use Grande’s own phrase, did not ‘meaningfully investigate’ them,” the RIAA writes.

“Thus, even if this Court were to apply the Fourth Circuit’s ‘willful blindness’ standard, the level of knowledge that Grande has effectively admitted exceeds the level of knowledge that the Fourth Circuit held was ‘powerful evidence’ sufficient to establish liability for contributory infringement.”

As such, the motion to dismiss the case should be denied, the RIAA argues.

What’s not mentioned in the RIAA’s filing, however, is why Grande chose not to act upon these takedown notices. In its defense, the ISP previously explained that Rightcorp’s notices lacked specificity and were incapable of detecting actual infringements.

Grande argued that if they acted on these notices without additional proof, its subscribers could lose their Internet access even though they are using it for legal purposes. The ISP may, therefore, counter that it wasn’t willfully blind, as it saw no solid proof for the alleged infringements to begin with.

“To merely treat these allegations as true without investigation would be a disservice to Grande’s subscribers, who would run the risk of having their Internet service permanently terminated despite using Grande’s services for completely legitimate purposes,” Grande previously wrote.

This brings up a tricky issue. The Fourth Circuit made it clear last week that ISPs require a meaningful policy against repeat infringers in respond to takedown notices from copyright holders. But what are the requirements for a proper takedown notice? Do any and all notices count?

Grande clearly has no faith in the accuracy of Rightscorp’s technology but if their case goes in the same direction as Cox’s, that might not make much of a difference.

A copy of the RIAA’s summary of supplemental authority is available here (pdf).

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

Appeals Court Throws Out $25 Million Piracy Verdict Against Cox, Doesn’t Reinstate “Safe Harbor”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/appeals-court-throws-out-25-million-piracy-verdict-against-cox-doesnt-reinstate-safe-harbor-180201/

December 2015, a Virginia federal jury ruled that Internet provider Cox Communications was responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers.

The ISP was found guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement and ordered to pay music publisher BMG Rights Management $25 million in damages.

Cox swiftly filed its appeal arguing that the District Court made several errors in the jury instructions. In addition, it asked for a clarification of the term “repeat infringer” in its favor.

Today the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled on the matter in a mixed decision which could have great consequences.

The Court ruled that the District Court indeed made a mistake in its jury instruction. Specifically, it said that the ISP could be found liable for contributory infringement if it “knew or should have known of such infringing activity.” The Court of Appeals agrees that based on the law, the “should have known” standard is too low.

When this is the case the appeals court can call for a new trial, and that is exactly what it did. This means that the $25 million verdict is off the table, and the same is true for the millions in attorney’s fees and costs BMG was previously granted.

It’s not all good news for Cox though. The most crucial matter in the case is whether Cox has safe harbor protection under the DMCA. In order to qualify, the company is required to terminate accounts of repeat infringers, when appropriate.

Cox argued that subscribers can only be seen as repeat infringers if they’ve been previously adjudicated in court, not if they merely received several takedown notices. This was still an open question, as the term repeat infringer is not clearly defined in the DMCA.

Today, however, the appeals court is pretty clear on the matter. According to Judge Motz’s opinion, shared by HWR, the language of the DMCA suggests that the term “infringer” is not limited to adjudicated infringers.

This is supported by legislative history as the House Commerce and Senate Judiciary Committee Reports both explained that “those who repeatedly or flagrantly abuse their access to the Internet through disrespect for the intellectual property rights of others should know that there is a realistic threat of losing that access.”

“The passage does not suggest that they should risk losing Internet access only once they have been sued in court and found liable for multiple instances of infringement,” Judge Motz writes in her opinion.

Losing Internet access would hardly be a “realistic threat” that would stop someone from pirating if he or she has already been punished several times in court, the argument goes.

This leads the Court of Appeals to conclude that the District Court was right: Cox is not entitled to safe harbor protection because it failed to implement a meaningful repeat infringer policy.

“Cox failed to qualify for the DMCA safe harbor because it failed to implement its policy in any consistent or meaningful way — leaving it essentially with no policy,” Judge Motz writes.

This means that, while Cox gets a new trial, it is still at a severe disadvantage. Not only that, the Court of Appeals interpretation of the repeat infringer question is also a clear signal to other Internet service providers to disconnect pirates based on repeated copyright holder complaints.

Judge Motz’s full opinion is available here (pdf).

Cloudflare is Liable For Pirate Sites & Has No Safe Harbor, Publisher Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-is-liable-for-pirate-sites-and-has-no-safe-harbor-publisher-says-180201/

As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe.

This includes thousands of “pirate” sites, including the likes of The Pirate Bay, which rely on the U.S.-based company to keep server loads down.

Many rightsholders have complained about Cloudflare’s involvement with these sites and last year adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan took it a step further by dragging the company to court.

ALS accused the CDN service of various types of copyright and trademark infringement, noting that several customers used the Cloudflare’s servers to distribute pirated content. While Cloudflare managed to have several counts dismissed, the accusation of contributory copyright infringement remains.

An upcoming trial could determine whether Cloudflare is liable or not, but ALS believes that this isn’t needed. This week, the publisher filed a request for partial summary judgment, asking the court to rule over the matter in advance of a trial.

“The evidence is undisputed,” ALS writes. “Cloudflare materially assists website operators in reproduction, distribution and display of copyrighted works, including infringing copies of ALS works. Cloudflare also masks information about pirate sites and their hosts.”

ALS anticipates that Cloudflare may argue that the company or its clients are protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor provision, but contests this claim. The publisher notes that none of the customers registered the required paperwork at the US Copyright Office.

“Cloudflare may say that the Cloudflare Customer Sites are themselves service providers entitled to DMCA protections, however, none have qualified for safe harbors by submitting the required notices to the US Copyright Office.”

Cloudflare itself has no safe harbor protection either, they argue, because it operates differently than a service provider as defined in the DMCA. It’s a “smart system” which also modifies content, instead of a “dumb pipe,” they claim.

In addition, the CDN provider is accused of failing to implement a reasonable policy that will terminate repeat offenders.

“Cloudflare has no available safe harbors. Even if any safe harbors apply, Cloudflare has lost such safe harbors for failure to adopt and reasonably implement a policy including termination of repeat infringers,” ALS writes.

Previously, the court clarified that under U.S. law the company can be held liable for caching content of copyright infringing websites. Cloudflare’s “infrastructure-level caching” cannot be seen as fair use, it ruled.

ALS now asks the court to issue a partial summary judgment ruling that Cloudflare is liable for contributory copyright infringement. If this motion is granted, a trial would only be needed to establish the damages amount.

The lawsuit is a crucial matter for Cloudflare, and not only because of the potential damages it faces in this case. If Cloudflare loses, other rightsholders are likely to make similar demands, forcing the company to actively police potential pirate sites.

Cloudflare will undoubtedly counter ALS’ claims in a future filing, so this case is far from over.

A copy of ALS Scan’s memorandum in support of the motion for partial summary judgment can be found here (pdf).

Pirate Bay Founder’s Domain Service “Mocks” NY Times Legal Threats

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-founders-domain-service-mocks-ny-times-legal-threats-180125/

Back in the day, The Pirate Bay was famous for its amusing responses to legal threats. Instead of complying with takedown notices, it sent witty responses to embarrass the senders.

Today the notorious torrent site gives copyright holders the silent treatment, but the good-old Pirate Bay spirit still lives on elsewhere.

Earlier today the anonymous domain registration service Njalla, which happens to be a venture of TPB co-founder Peter Sunde, posted a series of noteworthy responses it sent to The New York Times’ (NYT) legal department.

The newspaper warned the registration service about one of its customers, paywallnews.com, which offers the news service’s content without permission. Since this is a violation of The Times’ copyrights, according to the paper, Njalla should take action or face legal consequences.

NYT: Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately provide us with contact information — including email addresses — for both the actual owner of the paywallnew.com website, and for the hosting provider on which the paywallnew.com website is located.

If we have not heard from you within three (3) business days of receipt of this letter, we will have no choice but to pursue all available legal remedies.

Njalla is no stranger to threats of this kind but were somewhat offended by the harsh language, it seems. The company, therefore, decided to inform the NYT that there are more friendly ways to reach out.

Njalla: Thanks for that lovely e-mail. It’s always good to communicate with people that in their first e-mail use words as “we demand”, “pursue all available legal remedies” and so forth. I’d like to start out with some free (as in no cost) advice: please update your boiler threat letters to actually try what most people try first: being nice. It’s not expensive (actually the opposite) and actually it works much better than your method (source: a few tens of thousands years of human development that would not have been as efficient with threats as it would have been with cooperation).

In addition, Njalla also included a request of its own. They kindly asked (no demand) the newspaper’s legal department for proof that they are who they say they are. You can never be too cautious, after all.

Njalla: Now, back to the questions you sent us. We’re not sure who you are, so in order to move further we’d like to see a copy of your ID card, as well as a notarised power of attorney showing that you are actually representing the people you’re claiming to do.

This had the desired effect, for Njalla at least. The NYT replied with an apology for the tough language that was used, noting that they usually deal with companies that employ people who are used to reading legal documents.

The newspaper did, however, submit a notarized letter signed by the company’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, and once again asked for details on the Njalla customer.

NYT: Once again, as I mention above, the referenced website is stealing large amounts of New York Times content. If you click on this link: http://www.paywallnews.com/sites/nytimes

As this abuse — aside from being an egregious infringement of The Times’s copyright — breaches your own Terms of Service, I hope you will be able to see your way to helping me to put a stop to this practice by providing me with the name and contact information for the owner of paywallnews.com and for the ISP on which it is hosted.

This is when things started to get really interesting. Founded by someone with an extensive background in “sharing,” Njalla clearly has a different definition of stealing than the NYT’s legal department.

The reply, which is worth reading in full along with the rest of the communication, makes this quite clear.

Njalla: Stealing content seem quite harsh of this website though, didn’t know that they did that! Is there anyway you can get the stolen items back though? You should either go to the police and request them to help you get the stolen items back. Or maybe talk to your insurance company, they might help to compensate you for the loss. But a helpful idea; if they’ve stolen something and then put copies of that on a website that you can freely access, I would suggest just copying it, so that both of you have the same things. That’s a great thing with the digital world, everyone can have copies of things. I am surprised they stole something when they could just have copied it. I’m guessing it’s some older individuals that don’t know the possibilities of modern day technology to make copies.

It’s obvious that the domain registration service makes a clear distinction between copying and stealing.

Piracy vs. Theft

In addition, Njalla contests that the site is problematic at all, noting that this might be a “cultural difference.”

Njalla spotted something even more worrying though. The NYT claims that the site in question violates its terms of service. Specifically, they reference the section that prohibits sites from spreading content that is illegal according to local law.

Is the NYT perhaps spreading illegal content itself, Njalla questions?

Njalla: Deborah, I was quite shocked and appalled that you referred to this part of our ToS. It made me actually not visit the website in question even though you’ve linked it now a few times. You’re admitting to spreading illegal content at your newspaper, for profit, is that correct?

We’re quite big proponents of freedom of speech, let me assure you of that, but we also have limits. If you spread illegal content, and our customers stole that illegal content and are now handing out free copies of that, that’s a huge issue for us. Since it would be illegal for us to get those copies if they’re illegal, I’m asking you what type of content it is?

As an attachment to the reply, Njalla also sent back a “notarized” letter of their own, by simply copying the NYT letter and sticking their own logo on it, to show how easily these can be fabricated.

TorrentFreak reached out to Sunde who informed us that they never heard from The New York Times after the last reply. As a domain registrant, Njalla is not obliged to comply with takedown requests, he explains.

“If they need help from us on copyright issues, they’re totally missing what we’re doing, and that they should look somewhere else anyhow. But I think most domain services gets tons of these threat emails, and a lot of them think they’re responsible because they don’t have access to legal help and just shut customers down.

“That’s what a lot of our customers say at least, since they migrated from a shitty service which doesn’t know their own business,” Sunde adds.

The NYT is not completely without options though. If they take the case to court in Sweden and win an injunction against paywallnews.com, Njalla will comply. The same is true if a customer really violates the terms of service.

Meanwhile, paywallnews.com remains online.

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

NAFTA Negotiations Heat Up Copyright “Safe Harbor” Clash

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/nafta-negotiations-heat-up-copyright-safe-harbor-clash-180123/

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was negotiated more than 25 years ago.

Over the past quarter-century trade has changed drastically, especially online, so the United States is now planning to modernize the international deal.

One of the topics that has received a lot of interest from various experts and stakeholders are safe harbors. In the US, Internet services are shielded from copyright infringement liability under the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, but in Mexico and Canada, that’s not the case.

The latest round of NAFTA renegotiations are currently taking place in Montreal and this is heating up the debate once again. Several legal scholars and advocacy groups believe that such US-style safe harbor provisions are essential for Internet services to operate freely on the Internet.

A group of more than fifty Internet law experts and organizations made this clear in a letter sent to the negotiators this week, urging them to make safe harbors part of the new deal.

“When NAFTA was negotiated, the Internet was an obscure electronic network. Since then, the Internet has become a significant — and essential — part of our societies and our economies,” the letter reads.

“To acknowledge this, if a modernized NAFTA contains a digital trade chapter, it should contain protections for online intermediaries from liability for third party online content, similar to the United States’ ‘Section 230’.”

The safe harbors in the Communications Decency Act and the DMCA ensure that services which deal with user-generated content, including Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia, are shielded from liability.

This immunity makes it easier for new user-generated services to launch, without the fear of expensive lawsuits, the argument goes.

However, not everyone sees it this way. In a letter cited by Variety, a group of 37 industry groups urges U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate ‘strong’ safe harbor protections. Strong, in this case, means that simply responding to takedown notices is not always enough.

“If these anti-IP voices succeed, they will turn long-standing trade policy, with creativity and innovation at its core, on its head by transforming our trade agreements into blueprints for how to evade liability for IP theft,” they write.

The MPAA and RIAA, which also signed the letter, previously stressed that the current US safe harbors are not working. These industry groups believe that services such as YouTube exploit their safe harbor immunity and profit from it.

The RIAA, therefore, wants any negotiated safe harbor provisions in NAFTA to be flexible in the event that the DMCA is tightened up in response to the ongoing safe harbor rules study.

So, what should a content industry-approved safe harbor look like then?

The music industry group says that these should only be available to passive platforms that are not actively engaged in communicating and do not generate any revenue from pirated content. This would exclude YouTube and many other Internet services.

While it’s clear that the ideas of both camps are hard to unite, there’s still the question of whether there will be a new and improved NAFTA version at all. President Trump has previously threatened to terminate the agreement.

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

US Govt Brands Torrent, Streaming & Cyberlocker Sites As Notorious Markets

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-govt-brands-torrent-streaming-cyberlocker-sites-as-notorious-markets-180115/

In its annual “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets” the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has listed a long list of websites said to be involved in online piracy.

The list is compiled with high-level input from various trade groups, including the MPAA and RIAA who both submitted their recommendations (1,2) during early October last year.

With the word “allegedly” used more than two dozen times in the report, the US government notes that its report does not constitute cast-iron proof of illegal activity. However, it urges the countries from where the so-called “notorious markets” operate to take action where they can, while putting owners and facilitators on notice that their activities are under the spotlight.

“A goal of the List is to motivate appropriate action by owners, operators, and service providers in the private sector of these and similar markets, as well as governments, to reduce piracy and counterfeiting,” the report reads.

“USTR highlights the following marketplaces because they exemplify global counterfeiting and piracy concerns and because the scale of infringing activity in these marketplaces can cause significant harm to U.S. intellectual property (IP) owners, consumers, legitimate online platforms, and the economy.”

The report begins with a page titled “Issue Focus: Illicit Streaming Devices”. Unsurprisingly, particularly given their place in dozens of headlines last year, the segment focus on the set-top box phenomenon. The piece doesn’t list any apps or software tools as such but highlights the general position, claiming a cost to the US entertainment industry of $4-5 billion a year.

Torrent Sites

In common with previous years, the USTR goes on to list several of the world’s top torrent sites but due to changes in circumstances, others have been delisted. ExtraTorrent, which shut down May 2017, is one such example.

As the world’s most famous torrent site, The Pirate Bay gets a prominent mention, with the USTR noting that the site is of “symbolic importance as one of the longest-running and most vocal torrent sites. The USTR underlines the site’s resilience by noting its hydra-like form while revealing an apparent secret concerning its hosting arrangements.

“The Pirate Bay has allegedly had more than a dozen domains hosted in various countries around the world, applies a reverse proxy service, and uses a hosting provider in Vietnam to evade further enforcement action,” the USTR notes.

Other torrent sites singled out for criticism include RARBG, which was nominated for the listing by the movie industry. According to the USTR, the site is hosted in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has changed hosting services to prevent shutdowns in recent years.

1337x.to and the meta-search engine Torrentz2 are also given a prime mention, with the USTR noting that they are “two of the most popular torrent sites that allegedly infringe U.S. content industry’s copyrights.” Russia’s RuTracker is also targeted for criticism, with the government noting that it’s now one of the most popular torrent sites in the world.

Streaming & Cyberlockers

While torrent sites are still important, the USTR reserves considerable space in its report for streaming portals and cyberlocker-type services.

4Shared.com, a file-hosting site that has been targeted by dozens of millions of copyright notices, is reportedly no longer able to use major US payment providers. Nevertheless, the British Virgin Islands company still collects significant sums from premium accounts, advertising, and offshore payment processors, USTR notes.

Cyberlocker Rapidgator gets another prominent mention in 2017, with the USTR noting that the Russian-hosted platform generates millions of dollars every year through premium memberships while employing rewards and affiliate schemes.

Due to its increasing popularity as a hosting and streaming operation, Openload.co (Romania) is now a big target for the USTR. “The site is used frequently in combination with add-ons in illicit streaming devices. In November 2017, users visited Openload.co a staggering 270 million times,” the USTR writes.

Owned by a Swiss company and hosted in the Netherlands, the popular site Uploaded is also criticized by the US alongside France’s 1Fichier.com, which allegedly hosts pirate games while being largely unresponsive to takedown notices. Dopefile.pk, a Pakistan-based storage outfit, is also highlighted.

On the video streaming front, it’s perhaps no surprise that the USTR focuses on sites like FMovies (Sweden), GoStream (Vietnam), Movie4K.tv (Russia) and PrimeWire. An organization collectively known as the MovShare group which encompasses Nowvideo.sx, WholeCloud.net, NowDownload.cd, MeWatchSeries.to and WatchSeries.ac, among others, is also listed.

Unauthorized music / research papers

While most of the above are either focused on video or feature it as part of their repertoire, other sites are listed for their attention to music. Convert2MP3.net is named as one of the most popular stream-ripping sites in the world and is highlighted due to the prevalence of YouTube-downloader sites and the 2017 demise of YouTube-MP3.

“Convert2MP3.net does not appear to have permission from YouTube or other sites and does not have permission from right holders for a wide variety of music represented by major U.S. labels,” the USTR notes.

Given the amount of attention the site has received in 2017 as ‘The Pirate Bay of Research’, Libgen.io and Sci-Hub.io (not to mention the endless proxy and mirror sites that facilitate access) are given a detailed mention in this year’s report.

“Together these sites make it possible to download — all without permission and without remunerating authors, publishers or researchers — millions of copyrighted books by commercial publishers and university presses; scientific, technical and medical journal articles; and publications of technological standards,” the USTR writes.

Service providers

But it’s not only sites that are being put under pressure. Following a growing list of nominations in previous years, Swiss service provider Private Layer is again singled out as a rogue player in the market for hosting 1337x.to and Torrentz2.eu, among others.

“While the exact configuration of websites changes from year to year, this is the fourth consecutive year that the List has stressed the significant international trade impact of Private Layer’s hosting services and the allegedly infringing sites it hosts,” the USTR notes.

“Other listed and nominated sites may also be hosted by Private Layer but are using
reverse proxy services to obfuscate the true host from the public and from law enforcement.”

The USTR notes Switzerland’s efforts to close a legal loophole that restricts enforcement and looks forward to a positive outcome when the draft amendment is considered by parliament.

Perhaps a little surprisingly given its recent anti-piracy efforts and overtures to the US, Russia’s leading social network VK.com again gets a place on the new list. The USTR recognizes VK’s efforts but insists that more needs to be done.

Social networking and e-commerce

“In 2016, VK reached licensing agreements with major record companies, took steps to limit third-party applications dedicated to downloading infringing content from the site, and experimented with content recognition technologies,” the USTR writes.

“Despite these positive signals, VK reportedly continues to be a hub of infringing activity and the U.S. motion picture industry reports that they find thousands of infringing files on the site each month.”

Finally, in addition to traditional pirate sites, the US also lists online marketplaces that allegedly fail to meet appropriate standards. Re-added to the list in 2016 after a brief hiatus in 2015, China’s Alibaba is listed again in 2017. The development provoked an angry response from the company.

Describing his company as a “scapegoat”, Alibaba Group President Michael Evans said that his platform had achieved a 25% drop in takedown requests and has even been removing infringing listings before they make it online.

“In light of all this, it’s clear that no matter how much action we take and progress we make, the USTR is not actually interested in seeing tangible results,” Evans said in a statement.

The full list of sites in the Notorious Markets Report 2017 (pdf) can be found below.

– 1fichier.com – (cyberlocker)
– 4shared.com – (cyberlocker)
– convert2mp3.net – (stream-ripper)
– Dhgate.com (e-commerce)
– Dopefile.pl – (cyberlocker)
– Firestorm-servers.com (pirate gaming service)
– Fmovies.is, Fmovies.se, Fmovies.to – (streaming)
– Gostream.is, Gomovies.to, 123movieshd.to (streaming)
– Indiamart.com (e-commerce)
– Kinogo.club, kinogo.co (streaming host, platform)
– Libgen.io, sci-hub.io, libgen.pw, sci-hub.cc, sci-hub.bz, libgen.info, lib.rus.ec, bookfi.org, bookzz.org, booker.org, booksc.org, book4you.org, bookos-z1.org, booksee.org, b-ok.org (research downloads)
– Movshare Group – Nowvideo.sx, wholecloud.net, auroravid.to, bitvid.sx, nowdownload.ch, cloudtime.to, mewatchseries.to, watchseries.ac (streaming)
– Movie4k.tv (streaming)
– MP3VA.com (music)
– Openload.co (cyberlocker / streaming)
– 1337x.to (torrent site)
– Primewire.ag (streaming)
– Torrentz2, Torrentz2.me, Torrentz2.is (torrent site)
– Rarbg.to (torrent site)
– Rebel (domain company)
– Repelis.tv (movie and TV linking)
– RuTracker.org (torrent site)
– Rapidgator.net (cyberlocker)
– Taobao.com (e-commerce)
– The Pirate Bay (torrent site)
– TVPlus, TVBrowser, Kuaikan (streaming apps and addons, China)
– Uploaded.net (cyberlocker)
– VK.com (social networking)

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Are Torrent Sites Using DMCA Notices to Quash Their Competition?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/are-torrent-sites-using-dmca-notices-to-quash-their-competition-180114/

Every day, copyright holders send out millions of takedown notices to various services, hoping to protect their works.

While most of these requests are legitimate, the process is also being abused. Google prominently features examples of such dubious DMCA requests in its transparency report.

This week we were contacted by the owner of YTS.me after he noticed some unusual activity. In recent weeks his domain name has been targeted with a series of takedown notices from rather unusual people.

Senders with names such as Niklas Glockner, Michelle Williams, Maria Baader, Stefan Kuefer, Anja Herzog, and Markus Ostermann asked Google to remove thousands of YTS.me URLs.

Every notice lists just one movie title, but hundreds of links, most of which have nothing to do with the movie in question.

A few URLs from a single notice

These submitters are all relatively new and there is no sign that they are authorized by the applicable copyright holder. This, and the long list of irrelevant URLs suggest that these DMCA notices are abusive.

The owner of YTS.me believes that the senders have a clear motive. The purpose of the notices is to remove well-ranked pages and push the targeted sites down in Google’s search results.

“These all are fake people names submitting fake DMCA complaints and are not authorized to submit complaints,” the YTS.me operator notes.

“Even if they are real people they would have submitted, or are authorized to submit, complaints for only a few titles. Instead, they submit fake complaints and submit all the URLs possible on our website to degrade its ranking.”

The question that remains is, who is responsible for these notices? Looking at the list of sites that are targeted by these abusive senders we see a pattern emerge. They all target copycats of defunct sites such as YTS and ExtraTorrent.

Markus Osterman’s activity

This leads the YTS.me operator to the conclusion that one of its main competitors is sending these notices. While there is no hard evidence, it seems plausible that another YTS copycat is attempting to take the competition out of Google’s search results to gain more exposure itself.

YTS.me has a good idea of who the perpetrator(s) are – a person or group that also operates several other copycat sites. Thus far there’s no bulletproof evidence though, but it’s a likely explanation.

In any case, the DMCA takedown requests are definitely out of order and warrant further investigation by Google.

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

Dish Network Files Two Lawsuits Against Pirate IPTV Providers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dish-network-files-two-lawsuits-against-pirate-iptv-providers-180103/

In broad terms, there are two types of unauthorized online streaming of live TV. The first is via open-access websites where users can view for free. The second features premium services to which viewers are required to subscribe.

Usually available for a few dollars, euros, or pounds per month, the latter are gaining traction all around the world. Service levels are relatively high and the majority of illicit packages offer a dazzling array of programming, often putting official providers in the shade.

For this reason, commercial IPTV providers are considered a huge threat to broadcasters’ business models, since they offer a broadly comparable and accessible service at a much cheaper price. This is forcing companies such as US giant Dish Networks to court, seeking relief.

Following on from a lawsuit filed last year against Kodi add-on ZemTV and TVAddons.ag, Dish has just filed two more lawsuits targeting a pair of unauthorized pirate IPTV services.

Filed in Maryland and Texas respectively, the actions are broadly similar, with the former targeting a provider known as Spider-TV.

The suit, filed against Dima Furniture Inc. and Mohammad Yusif (individually and collectively doing business as Spider-TV), claims that the defendants are “capturing
broadcasts of television channels exclusively licensed to DISH and are unlawfully retransmitting these channels over the Internet to their customers throughout the United States, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.”

Dish claim that the defendants profit from the scheme by selling set-top boxes along with subscriptions, charging around $199 per device loaded with 13 months of service.

Dima Furniture is a Maryland corporation, registered at Takoma Park, Maryland 20912, an address that is listed on the Spider-TV website. The connection between the defendants is further supported by FCC references which identify Spider devices in the market. Mohammad Yusif is claimed to be the president, executive director, general manager, and sole shareholder of Dima Furniture.

Dish describes itself as the fourth largest pay-television provider in the United States, delivering copyrighted programming to millions of subscribers nationwide by means of satellite delivery and over-the-top services. Dish has acquired the rights to do this, the defendants have not, the broadcaster states.

“Defendants capture live broadcast signals of the Protected Channels, transcode these signals into a format useful for streaming over the Internet, transfer the transcoded content to one or more servers provided, controlled, and maintained by Defendants, and then transmit the Protected Channels to users of the Service through
OTT delivery, including users in the United States,” the lawsuit reads.

It’s claimed that in July 2015, Yusif registered Spider-TV as a trade name of Dima Furniture with the Department of Assessments and Taxation Charter Division, describing the business as “Television Channel Installation”. Since then, the defendants have been illegally retransmitting Dish channels to customers in the United States.

The overall offer from Spider-TV appears to be considerable, with a claimed 1,300 channels from major regions including the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Importantly, Dish state that the defendants know that their activities are illegal, since the provider sent at least 32 infringement notices since January 20, 2017 demanding an end to the unauthorized retransmission of its channels. It went on to send even more to the defendants’ ISPs.

“DISH and Networks sent at least thirty-three additional notices requesting the
removal of infringing content to Internet service providers associated with the Service from February 16, 2017 to the filing of this Complaint. Upon information and belief, at least some of these notices were forwarded to Defendants,” the lawsuit reads.

But while Dish says that the takedowns responded to by the ISPs were initially successful, the defendants took evasive action by transmitting the targeted channels from other locations.

Describing the defendants’ actions as “willful, malicious, intentional [and] purposeful”, Dish is suing for Direct Copyright Infringement, demanding a permanent injunction preventing the promotion and provision of the service plus statutory damages of $150,000 per registered work. The final amount isn’t specified but the numbers are potentially enormous. In addition, Dish demands attorneys’ fees, costs, and the seizure of all infringing articles.

The second lawsuit, filed in Texas, is broadly similar. It targets Mo’ Ayad Al
Zayed Trading Est., and Mo’ Ayad Fawzi Al Zayed (individually and collectively doing business as Tiger International Company), and Shenzhen Tiger Star Electronical Co., Ltd, otherwise known as Shenzhen Tiger Star.

Dish claims that these defendants also illegally capture and retransmit channels to customers in the United States. IPTV boxes costing up to $179 including one year’s service are the method of delivery.

In common with the Maryland case, Dish says it sent almost two dozen takedown notices to ISPs utilized by the defendants. These were also countered by the unauthorized service retransmitting Dish channels from other servers.

The biggest difference between the Maryland and Texas cases is that while Yusif/Spider/Dima Furniture are said to be in the US, Zayed is said to reside in Amman, Jordan, and Tiger Star is registered in Shenzhen, China. However, since the unauthorized service is targeted at customers in Texas, Dish states that the Texas court has jurisdiction.

Again, Dish is suing for Direct Infringement, demanding damages, costs, and a permanent injunction.

The complaints can be found here and here.

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Google Blocks Pirate Search Results Prophylactically

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-blocks-pirated-search-results-prophylactically-180103/

On an average day, Google processes more than three million takedown notices from copyright holders, and that’s for its search engine alone.

Under the current DMCA legislation, US-based Internet service providers are expected to remove infringing links, if a copyright holder complains.

This process shields these services from direct liability. In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about the effectiveness of the system, but Google has always maintained that it works well.

This was also highlighted by Google’s copyright counsel Caleb Donaldson, in an article he wrote for the American Bar Association’s publication Landslide.

“The DMCA provided Google and other online service providers the legal certainty they needed to grow,” Donaldson writes.

“And the DMCA’s takedown notices help us fight piracy in other ways as well. Indeed, the Web Search notice-and-takedown process provides the cornerstone of Google’s fight against piracy.”

The search engine does indeed go beyond ‘just’ removing links. The takedown notices are also used as a signal to demote domains. Websites for which it receives a lot of takedown notices will be placed lower in search results, for example.

These measures can be expanded and complemented by artificial intelligence in the future, Google’s copyright counsel envisions.

“As we move into a world where artificial intelligence can learn from vast troves of data like these, we will only get better at using the information to better fight against piracy,” Donaldson writes.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a buzz-term that has a pretty broad meaning nowadays. Donaldson doesn’t go into detail on how AI can fight piracy. It could help to spot erroneous notices, on the one hand, but can also be applied to filter content proactively.

The latter is something Google is slowly opening up to.

Over the past year, we’ve noticed on a few occasions that Google is processing takedown notices for non-indexed links. While we assumed that this was an ‘error’ on the sender’s part, it appears to be a new policy.

“Google has critically expanded notice and takedown in another important way: We accept notices for URLs that are not even in our index in the first place. That way, we can collect information even about pages and domains we have not yet crawled,” Donaldson writes.

In other words, Google blocks URLs before they appear in the search results, as some sort of piracy vaccine.

“We process these URLs as we do the others. Once one of these not-in-index URLs is approved for takedown, we prophylactically block it from appearing in our Search results, and we take all the additional deterrent measures listed above.”

Some submitters are heavily relying on the new feature, Google found. In some cases, the majority of the submitted URLs in a notice are not indexed yet.

The search engine will keep a close eye on these developments. At TorrentFreak, we also found that copyright holders sometimes target links that don’t even exist. Whether Google will also accept these takedown requests in the future, is unknown.

It’s clear that artificial intelligence and proactive filtering are becoming more and more common, but Google says that the company will also keep an eye on possible abuse of the system.

“Google will push back if we suspect a notice is mistaken, fraudulent, or abusive, or if we think fair use or another defense excuses that particular use of copyrighted content,” Donaldson notes.

Artificial intelligence and prophylactic blocking surely add a new dimension to the standard DMCA takedown procedure, but whether it will be enough to convince copyright holders that it works, has yet to be seen.

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Hosting Provider Steadfast Fights to Keep DMCA Safe Harbor

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hosting-provider-steadfast-fights-to-keep-dmca-safe-harbor-171230/

Last year, adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan dragged several third-party Internet services to court.

The company targeted several companies including CDN provider CloudFlare and the Chicago-based hosting company Steadfast, accusing them of copyright infringement because they offered services to pirate sites.

More than a year has passed and both sides have yet to resolve their differences.

ALS Scan recently asked the court for a partial summary judgment, determining that Steadfast contributed to copyright infringement and that it has no safe harbor protection. If this was granted, the hosting provider would be in serious trouble.

The copyright holder argued that Steadfast refused to shut down the servers of the image sharing platform imagebam.com, which was operated by its client Flixya. ALS Scan sees the site as a repeat offender as it was targeted with dozens of DMCA notices, and accuses Steadfast of turning a blind eye to the situation.

In a new filing submitted this month, Steadfast fiercely denies the allegations. The hosting provider indeed leased servers to Flixya for ten years but says it forwarded all notices to its client.

The hosting company could not address individual infringements, other than shutting down the entire site, which would be disproportionate in their view.

“Steadfast had no ability to terminate services to individual users of Imagebam.com other than unilaterally shutting down the entire server which would have violated the law. Imagebam.com was not a pirate site when it was operated by Flixya,” Steadfast informs the court.

“Steadfast was not a direct infringer; Steadfast’s client Flixya was not a direct infringer. The direct infringers of the ALS content were the users of Flixya’s Imagebam.com website. Discovery has shown that many, if not all the infringers of the ALS content, were actually ALS’s own members who posted ALS content with impunity.”

Interestingly, the users who posted pirated images on the site were ALS Scan’s own customers. According to Steadfast, ALS took absolutely no steps to curb these infringements themselves.

Instead, ALS hired an agent, Steve Easton, to track down infringements on external sites and issue takedown requests. Steadfast received several of these as well, but believes it responded appropriately, even though the notices were not DMCA compliant.

“Once Easton sent his legally insufficient notices to Steadfast, Steadfast immediately forwarded the notices to Flixya. In turn, Flixya disabled access to the allegedly infringing works that were hosted on imagebam.com,” the company writes.

While ALS Claims that imagebam.com was a repeat offender, Steadfast sees things differently. They point out that Flixya is a service provider as well, and that they were the ones who had to address the alleged infringements.

It would certainly not be an “appropriate circumstance” to disconnect the servers of an entire website, not in the way Congress intended the DMCA to work, the hosting provider notes.

“An ‘appropriate circumstance’ to terminate a user does not include terminating a user who follows the law. Here, the facts in the record demonstrate that Flixya did not blatantly infringe copyright,” Steadfast writes.

“Rather, the facts show that Flixya complied with the DMCA. Flixya posted the required DMCA information on its imagebam.com website, had users agree to the terms of service, and informed users that his or her account will be terminated.”

The hosting provider wants the case to be thrown out, but ALS Scan clearly disagrees. According to the copyright holder, Steadfast should have terminated the imagebam.com servers.

“Steadfast maintained its own theory that if its own client was an Internet service provider, Steadfast had no burden to terminate services to its client, or indeed take any action, in response to notifications of infringement,” ALS writes.

“The law is that a service provider must stop providing services to whomever it is providing such services as long as such services materially contribute to infringement.”

It is now up to the court to decide whether Steadfast is indeed liable. If the company loses its safe harbor, this will have implications for the broader hosting industry.

It would essentially mean that large hosting companies are responsible for the infringing content that their clients’ users upload or link to, which could get quite messy.

Steadfast’s response is available here (pdf) and ALS Scan’s reply can be found here (pdf).

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A Christmas Carol – When Piracy Became Irrelevant

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/a-christmas-carol-when-piracy-became-irrelevant-171225/

This is the story of Walter Scroogle, CEO of one of the major movie studios in Hollywood.

It begins on Christmas Eve, with Scroogle arriving home late at night. This wasn’t anything unusual, not even on a day like this. The rest of the family didn’t expect anything else and were already asleep in anticipation of the forthcoming festivities.

As Scroogle sits down he suddenly notices a pile of Amazon store boxes in the corner of the room. “Thank God, he mumbles, Christmas is saved.” But it was a close call.

It had been such a hectic week at work. So busy that Scroogle had totally forgot to get this year’s Christmas presents, one of the few things he arranges around the house. Luckily, modern day technology was there to save the day.

Amazon had everything in stock. The new bike for his son. The tablet for his daughter. The earrings for his wife, as well as many more gifts. It took Scroogle roughly fifteen minutes to get all his Christmas shopping done. And with same-day delivery, it arrived a few hours later. “Thank God,” he said again.

While a major disaster had been avoided, there were still a few presents to wrap. Apparently, there are no machines that can carefully wrap bikes. So there he was, at 2am Christmas morning, grumpily making the final preparations for the big day.
Halfway through Scroogle decided to lie on the couch for a bit. Just a short while, he promised himself, not knowing what was to come.

After a minute or two an exhausted Scroogle dozed off into his first dream.

Inspired by what had occurred earlier that day, he dreamt about forgetting the Chrismas presents. While he appeared to be his current self, the world was different. There were no Internet stores or even large malls. He had to drive to at least ten different stores to get what he wanted, and given that it was Sunday, most were closed.

Needless to say, it was a disaster.

The second dream was related to something at work. A few hours earlier he’d hosted a board meeting, discussing the new streaming platform the company had launched that morning. Scoogle was one of the pioneers. He was also the one who hastily decided to pull all their content from third-party platforms, Netflix included. “Everything will be pulled tonight. We want to be exclusive again,” he’s said.

The dream presented Scroogle with the darker side of his decision. It showed several families who, on Chrismas Eve, noticed that their favorite movies were no longer available. Christmas classics were removed without warning, forcing these families to take out another subscription. If the new service was even available in their region.

“Not the best way to spend time on Christmas,” Scroogle thought.

Scroogle was still fast asleep when the third and final dream kicked in. It was the future, apparently, as commercials for the streaming service and next year’s Christmas blockbuster were being shown on a TV. There was a Christmas tree and a family clearly amusing itself. Unfortunately for Scroogle, things didn’t turn out to be so bright.

After the commercial, the latest blockbuster played, but it was not on the company’s streaming platform. Instead, it was playing through what appeared to be some kind of piracy streaming device. “They are stealing our stuff,” he thought. “And on Christmas Day too! These people are cheapskates.”

Then, a deep-sounding voiceover became apparent.

“No, Scroogle, the family actually pays for seven streaming services already. However, their budgets are not endless. The increasing fragmentation in the current legal streaming landscape is pushing people toward these devices. If only they could get it all from under one roof.”

Then Scroogle woke up. At first, he hadn’t really processed what had happened. It was nearly 4am and he still had a few gifts to wrap, those that were so conveniently ordered a few hours earlier and delivered to his house, from one supplier. But, when it sank in, he knew that there was one thing he had to do before the family woke up.

Scroogle wrote an email to the board admitting that he was wrong. “We have to keep all our content on other services and think this through after the holidays. It’s inclusive from now on, not exclusive. People should be able to see our great films without hassle,” he typed.

Sent.

A year later the new Christmas blockbuster was indeed released. It came out together with a brand new streaming platform, one where users could watch a massive library of all the best classics from the major studios, independents, and other services under one roof. Even the latest movies could be easily played on demand for a small one-time fee.

Streaming records were broken that day, and people were smiling.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Piracy Notices Can Mess With Your Thermostat, ISP Warns

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-notices-can-mess-with-your-thermostat-isp-warns-171224/

Since the early 2000’s copyright holders have been sending ISPs takedown notices, to alert account holders that someone’s been using their connection to share copyrighted material.

The goal of these warnings is to deter people from sharing pirated material in the future.

Internet providers are not legally obliged to forward the notices, but many do. What ISPs are required to do is implement a policy to deal with frequent offenders.

Keeping pirates on board without taking any action can make the ISP liable, as Cox found out the hard way. While this case is currently on appeal, some ISPs have already put stringent measures in place.

Take Armstrong Zoom Internet, for example, which has roughly a million subscribers in the Northeastern part of the U.S. Like many other ISPs it reserves the right to terminate repeat infringers, a policy which it doesn’t hide.

Our attention was caught by a recent letter the company sent to one of its users. The ISP points out that it received multiple copyright infringement notices, urging the customer to stop, or else.

“…please be advised that, if Armstrong receives additional notifications of infringement connected With your Zoom Internet Service, Armstrong will remove you from your current service level and place you at the lowest service level.

“This will allow you to access email, but limit your speeds and affect your ability to upload or download material to the internet or use other file-sharing capabilities.”

Armstrong warning (via)

While reduced Internet speeds are bad enough, there’s another scary prospect. The reduced service level may also prevent subscribers from controlling their thermostat remotely. Not ideal during the winter.

“Please be advised that this may affect other services which you may have connected to your internet service, such as the ability to control your thermostat remotely or video monitoring services.”

Accused pirates who want their full service restored, and regain control over their thermostats, have to answer some copyright questions and read an educational piece about copyright infringement.

When they sign an agreement acknowledging that they have done so, full Internet access is restored. However, if more complaints come in later, the consequences will be more severe.

“…if Armstrong received additional notifications after you sign the Acknowledgement, your Zoom Internet Service will be terminated,” the provider writes.

Getting back in after that is only possible after signing an affidavit, so under penalty of perjury, and by paying a fee.

Only then they will regain full control over their thermostat again.

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IPTV Provider Stops Selling New Subscriptions Under Pressure From “UK Authorities”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-provider-stops-selling-new-subscriptions-under-pressure-from-uk-authorities-171224/

Over the past couple of decades, piracy of live TV has broadly taken two forms. That which relies on breaking broadcaster encryption (such as card sharing and hacked set-top boxes), and the more recent developments of P2P and IPTV-style transmission.

With the former under pressure and P2P systems such as Sopcast and AceTorrent moving along in the background, streaming from servers is now the next big thing, whether that’s for free via third-party Kodi plugins or for a small fee from premium IPTV providers.

Of course, copyright holders don’t like any of this usage but with their for-profit strategy, commercial IPTV providers have a big target on their backs. More evidence of this was revealed recently when UK-based IPTV service ACE TV announced they were taking action to avoid problems in the country.

In a message to prospective and existing customers, ACE TV said that potential legal issues were behind its decision to accept no new customers while locking down its service.

“It saddens me to announce this, but due to pressure from the authorities in the UK, we are no longer selling new subscriptions. This obviously includes trials,” the announcement reads.

Noting that it would take new order for just 24 hours more, ACE TV insisted that it wasn’t shutting down but would lock down the service while closing Facebook.

TF sources and unconfirmed rumors online suggest that the Federation Against Copyright Theft and partners the Premier League are involved. However, ACE TV didn’t respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment so we’re unable to confirm or deny the allegations.

That being said, even if the threats came directly from the police, it’s likely that the approach would’ve been initially prompted by companies connected to FACT, since the anti-piracy outfit often puts forward names of services for investigation on behalf of its partners.

Perhaps surprisingly, ACE TV is legally incorporated in the UK as Ace Hosting Limited, a fact it makes clear on its website. While easy to find, the company’s registered address is shared by dozens of other companies, indicating a mail forwarding operation rather than a place servers or staff can be found.

This proxy location may well be the reason the company feels emboldened to carry on some level of service rather than shutting down completely, but its legal basis for doing so is interesting at best, precarious at worst.

“This website, any content contained herein and any contract brought into being as a result of usage of this website are governed by and construed in accordance with English Law,” ACE TV’s website reads.

“The parties to any such contract agree to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales. All contracts are concluded in English.”

It seems likely that ACE TV has been threatened under UK law, since that’s where it’s incorporated. That would seem to explain why its concerned about UK authorities and their potential effect on the business. On the other hand, however, the service claims to operate entirely legally, but under the laws of the United States. It even has a repeat infringer policy.

“Ace Hosting operates as an intermediary to cache and deliver content hosted by others at the instruction of our subscribers. We cannot remove content hosted by others,” the company says.

“As an intermediary, we are entitled to rely upon (among other things) the DMCA safe harbor available to system caching service providers and we maintain policies and procedures to terminate subscribers that would be considered repeat infringers under the DMCA.”

Whether the notices on the site have been advised by a legal professional or are there to present an air of authenticity is unclear but it’s precarious for a service of this nature to rely solely on conduit status in order to avoid liability.

Marketing, prior conduct, and overall intent play a major role in such cases and when all of that is aired in the cold light of day, the situation can look very different to a judge, particularly in the UK, where no similar cases have been successfully defended to date.

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