Tag Archives: Opinion

Disney+ Launched and Pirates Love It, Especially Mandalorian

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/disney-launched-and-pirates-love-it-especially-mandalorian-191113/

Two years ago, when Disney announced that it would launch its own streaming service, we mused that this would keep piracy relevant.

Yes, another paid streaming service would further fragment the legitimate market. This could motivate some to keep pirating, at least part-time.

More recently research has confirmed that this is indeed a warranted concern as people have limited budgets, but money isn’t the only problem.

When Disney confirmed that the initial rollout would be limited to the United States, Canada and the Netherlands, the piracy lure only became stronger. Star Wars fans in most parts of the world currently can’t watch the highly anticipated Mandalorian series, unless they pirate.

With this in mind, we kept a close eye on the official Disney+ launch this week. There was an enormous amount of media coverage which, undoubtedly, led to a lot of legitimate subscriptions. But, at the same time, pirate sites were buzzing too.

Shortly after Disney+ opened shop the first pirated releases started to spread. First through private communities and then over at public torrent sites, cyberlockers, and not-so-legal streaming platforms. After a few hours, pirated copies of the Mandalorian were everywhere.

This doesn’t really come as a surprise. Disney+ currently uses Widevine encryption, which is similar to what other streaming services use. Downloading or ‘ripping’ these videos doesn’t appear to be too hard.

And indeed, a quick glance at various pirate sites reveals that the first Mandalorian episode, which is exclusive to Disney+, is widely available in various formats.

Over the past two days, Mandalorian has already become the most pirated TV-show, with hundreds of thousands of downloads and streams, if not more. While it is far from becoming the next “Game of Thrones,” the potential is certainly there.

The fact that Disney+ isn’t available in many countries is similar to HBO’s situation when Game of Thrones first came out. This serves as a piracy incentive. After all, people who want to watch Mandalorian in the UK, Australia, and elsewhere, have few other options than to pirate.

The limited release of Disney+ may actually breed some new pirates. Even worse, there is a chance that many of these pirates may not go legal when the streaming service officially launches in their country.

For now, Disney’s anti-piracy efforts appear to be focused elsewhere though. The company has sent takedown requests for thousands of URLs that host or link to unauthorized copies of Mandalorian. This includes notices that were sent to Google, with requests to delist these pages.

As one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, these piracy concerns shouldn’t come as a surprise to Disney. The company probably weighed the pros and cons of its actions, including the limited geographical release, as well as entering an already fragmented streaming landscape.

In today’s online streaming business, piracy is a given. Disney probably believes that running its own streaming platform will ultimately bring in more money. Piracy or not.

They may very well be right, but it will happen at the expense of others. That may include some of Disney’s competitors, but also consumers who are not willing to pirate, and those who can’t afford another subscription.

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

Have Pirate IPTV Sellers on YouTube Lost Their Minds?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/have-pirate-iptv-sellers-on-youtube-lost-their-minds-191103/

Anyone who has followed piracy and copyright infringement issues for years or even decades, few developments fall into the ‘WOW’ category anymore.

That torrent and streaming services are still getting sued or raided is frankly daily fodder and after the military-style raid on Kim Dotcom hit the headlines, pretty much anything is possible.

Over the past couple of years, however, something so bizarre – so ridiculous – has been developing on sites like YouTube to make even the most outspoken of pirates raise an eyebrow or two. We’re talking about the rise of the IPTV seller and reseller ‘celebrities’ who are openly promoting their businesses like a regular company might.

As reported this week, IPTV reseller company Boom Media LLC is getting sued by DISH Networks and NagraStar in the United States. That another one of these outfits is being targeted isn’t a shock. However, when promotional YouTube videos are produced in court evidence, with the alleged owner of the company personally appearing in them stating that “it’s pirated f**cking streams. It’s no different than buying f**king knockoff shoes. It’s black market shit,” one has to wonder what the hell is going on.

So, just one person has allegedly done something reckless or ill-considered, right? Wrong. This type of behavior is neither isolated or rare.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sitting through hours of YouTube videos produced by people selling or reselling ‘pirate’ IPTV packages. In a worrying number, particularly given the popularity of their services, owners, founders, or ’employees’ of these outfits appear in person.

Their names are publicly known and in some cases, even their addresses. These are not small players, not by any stretch. In some cases, we’re talking huge numbers of followers and many hundreds of thousands of views, selling well-recognized services.

While in some cases hyperbole is clearly part of the pitch, it’s child’s play to find operators of these companies bragging about how much money they’ve made or are making, and how many customers they have. They speak to their subscribers, in person via live-streams, conduct detailed Q&A sessions, while ‘confirming’ the supposed legality of what they’re doing.

In a surprising number of cases, negative comments by users concerning legality are passed off as ridiculous, with sellers describing the sale of pirate IPTV subscriptions as residing in a gray area with the law powerless to do anything about it. While we could have a detailed argument here about the intricacies of any number of laws, both criminal and civil, and any potential defenses to them, these people appear to be missing the point.

Just this week, Openload – a true Internet giant with considerable resources – was pummeled into submission by dozens of the world’s largest content companies after agreeing to pay substantial damages. This was a file-hosting goliath being beaten up dozens of bigger goliaths. No face on YouTube required.

Another example can be found in Kim Dotcom, who says he has spent upwards of $40m in legal fees, even though, on the surface, many argue he has a solid legal basis for mounting a successful defense in the United States. But that’s $40,000,0000 already, before trial, an amount that will no doubt skyrocket in the event he ever gets sent there.

But here’s the thing. The majority of these IPTV ‘celebrities’, for want of a better term, are actually living in the United States already. It’s not necessary to name any of them, they do enough of that themselves. But in addition to their self-declared IPTV empires, some have significant and legitimate additional business interests too, which could all be put in jeopardy, one way or another, should the proverbial hit the fan.

In a piracy world where many are discussing anonymity, encryption, proxies, cryptocurrency payments, to name just a few, these people are deliberately making their identities known. They are not hiding away and as a result, they are known by anti-piracy groups who probably can’t believe their luck.

They not only have their real names and their own faces splashed across their own IPTV-based YouTube channels, but also channels that cover other aspects of their sometimes flamboyant lives. Anti-piracy groups don’t need investigators to find out who they are anymore, it’s common knowledge. An alias? Not parading yourself on the modern equivalent of TV? That’s soooo 1999, apparently.

The big question is whether these people really have lost their minds, or do they actually know something that most other people don’t? When did putting your own face in multiple videos, selling access to an admittedly pirated product via a company in your own name, become part of a solid business plan? It’s truly bizarre and cannot end well.

Welcome to 2019, it’s a truly strange place to be.

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

‘Sharing is Caring’ Once Described Piracy But Things Have Probably Changed

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sharing-is-caring-once-described-piracy-but-things-have-probably-changed-191020/

For those old enough to remember, the early days of what would become mainstream Internet piracy were an enlightening time to be around.

With few, if any, legal alternatives available, sharing music and later movies online offered an early and exciting glimpse into the future of media consumption.

The entertainment industries hated all kinds of piracy back then and they still hate it now, that’s not up for debate. But today, almost 20 years after peer-to-peer burst onto the scene, there’s mixed opinion even among pirates as to whether things have changed for the better.

TorrentFreak recently caught up with the former operator of a BitTorrent tracker that launched to the public in 2005. The site itself shut down before 2010, ostensibly after its operators decided family life was more important. Its founder tells us that was only part of the story – money was the real issue.

“When we got into this we started a quiet private club where people could share (and I do mean SHARE) stuff with each other,” he explains.

“The staff and members were squirrels gathering up nuts and whatnot and sharing them on the tracker. All of us could snatch what we wanted and didn’t even feel obliged to return the favor but we all did because we knew each other already and it just worked. Guess giving felt good as getting.”

With a few thousand members at its peak, the site was intentionally never big. Hosted on a free shared server with two other sites thanks to a friendly website designer, the limitations were in place right from the start. Unfortunately, the site’s users became restless. Other trackers were bigger, faster, easier to seed on, but more crucially had a wider range of content.

“Can’t tell you when precisely (a few years later) but we started to tear ourselves apart. Some of the best uploaders found other sites and drifted off which had a big effect on the rest of the site. We managed to find a couple of people who were willing to upload but they wanted new stuff in return and we didn’t have it.

“Someone with access to a pay dump offered to help but they wanted paying as well and I noped right out of paying for warez. Most of our rivals did and it hurt us.”

Even when the site got fresh content, that didn’t really help things either, the former admin says. Users with access to other sites uploaded the content on those immediately and some members didn’t like it and wanted it stopped. That didn’t sit right with the admin because behind the scenes his people were doing exactly the same. What they really needed was money to improve the site to get more people in, who would hopefully bring content with them.

“We stuck out for years not asking for donations but at the end of the day we were in limbo. You build this thing and you’re watching it die. There’s still no question in my mind that we should’ve let it die gracefully in its sleep but hindsight and all that.”

The donations helped for a while but the former admin says that things were never the same. He says that most of the time the amount coming in exceeded the running costs of the site which then made it “morally hard” to keep asking for money. However, he said donations were still requested regularly because when people got out of the habit of giving, they were hard to get back, especially when other sites were offering bang for their buck.

“Pay to leech. That was the beginning of the end for me and I still get emotional about it now. To keep up with [site names redacted] we had to boost [sharing] ratios. It was wrong. We’d gone from a family affair to barely more than a pay site. The older members felt they didn’t know us anymore but the newer ones seemed to want it and cultures clashed and I got the blame.”

So-called ‘pay-to-leech’ is a term most often used to explain how a torrent site can raise revenue by manipulating sharing ratios. If a site has enough seeders and excess upload bandwidth, users can pay to be exempted from strict sharing rules. While rules on various sites differ, in general terms it means that members can download content with relative impunity without giving back, i.e not sharing.

The former admin didn’t want to go into detail about what happened in the wake of the decision to start accepting donations but things didn’t go well. What he did reveal is that it changed the mood on the site. In exchange for their money, people flat-out demanded better service and became more and more vocal when they didn’t get it. They felt they’d paid for a service.

“We had angry posts in the forums with people pasting details of their donations and even private conversations about them with the moderators. I had my wee baby crying downstairs, a pissed-off girlfriend who I never saw and man babies crying on the site over a pittance. I took it and took it and took it and then one day a five minute chat on IRC later with another admin and i’d gone. ‘Here’s the keys to the frontdoor.’ Best thing i’d ever done.”

The striking thing about our discussion with the former admin is that he says that while arguments are commonplace on the Internet these days, they were the exception when his site was first launched. He says there was a sense of belonging to something special and people didn’t want to spoil it because they were not only part of it, they’d helped to create and maintain it too. These days, he complains, things are different because ‘sharing and caring’ have been forgotten.

“Is there a file-sharing family anymore because if there is I don’t know where to find them. People still share alright but it’s pictures of them or their food on Facebook and Instagram. You can’t find people sharing files for fun as we did back in the day because the cat’s out of the bag and it’s an earner and you can’t turn back the clock. Why do you think all the kids dumped torrents for upload sites unless it was about the payback?

“I don’t know if it’s me that’s stuck in the past and this had to happen for piracy to exist as it does now but it’s a shame because all I see now is greed. You tell me, but is sharing out of kindness almost dead?” he asked.

With an entirely different experience, millions of users and uploaders to The Pirate Bay and similar sites would probably beg to differ.

After more than 15 years online, people are still uploading content as they did in the early days, each with their own reason for doing so. The site is still widely accessible and people can take whatever they like for free. The site obviously makes money though, using ads and a crypto-miner, so money remains part of the loop.

More elitist and/or discerning users will always point to professionally organized private trackers as being more community-based, more reliable, much better organized, and with greater emphasis placed on quality control. Old-style sharing can still be found on many but they are certainly not immune to change and the pressures of commerce.

Invites, when they become available, are sometimes handed out for free but in an increasing number of cases, sites charge for the privilege. One can’t make sweeping statements about all of them because there are many and they’re secretive. However, there can be no doubt that a significant number have developed into money-making machines, both for their operators and in some cases their uploaders too.

That raises the question: is there any way to turn back the clock? Is there a way to remove money or other financial incentives out of the equation? With streaming, the most popular form of piracy currently, apparently not.

“You are not realistic,” the operator of a streaming site told TF.

“You write it every day that someone is arrested or blocked or PayPal closed. I can do this for nothing then. Nobody is doing this for nothing. Servers are free so show me where I can buy?”

The owner of a smaller public torrent site (who has operated several other piracy-focused sites in the past) was more talkative.

“My motivation is purely money related. I would not run any piracy related sites if they didn’t earn anything. Just too much risk involved,” he explained.

“Personal issues left me to rely on income from the sites to support my family. I would simply not run the sites if they didn’t make anything. Making money from piracy is so easy so that’s why I think people do it. Rarely you’ll see a site not using any ads. When I was younger things felt a lot different to what they do now. They don’t do it for the love now. But for the money.”

We posed similar questions to a long-standing major site operator – what motivates people to run torrent, hosting and streaming sites these days? He told us that the latter pair make “lots of money” but in respect of torrent sites, he believes there’s no point in running one anymore. The only exception would be for small sites that might still operate for ‘fun’ or on a break-even basis.

“[Some people might run] some small ones [for no profit] – sure – but the user base will be small because the time spent on development will be low,” he said.

For anyone running a bigger site, making nothing or even breaking even isn’t a realistic option, he added. Costs increase every month and if you don’t keep balancing the books, “it won’t work out.”

Ultimately, the operator insisted that going completely back to old-style “sharing is caring” won’t be possible. There’s a new type of demanding consumer out there that is very difficult and increasingly expensive to keep happy.

“That’s never going to happen. The Netflix generation is used to content ready to use, they don’t think about what’s involved in the process of reaching them.”

Tim Kuik of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN says that he hasn’t seen platforms that aren’t in it for the money for a long time.

“Even if there are uploaders or subtitlers who do it for the kudos, the platforms they post on are making money out of it. We see illegal link aggregators that are supported by platforms that make money off downloaders or streamers by selling them higher download speed,” he says.

But for anti-piracy groups like BREIN, motivation probably doesn’t make much difference to the end result. Piracy is piracy and whatever drives it, it still means illegal content ends up online for free.

“Even if it were for a hobby, would that make it alright to cause damage with it?” Kuik asks.

But ultimately, in the final reckoning, do today’s consumers of pirated content even care what goes on behind the scenes financially, as long as they get it free or at least on the cheap?

One can’t put words into the mouths of millions of individuals but given the popularity of online piracy, especially the astronomic growth of premium IPTV, the suggestion is that largely, people don’t. In fact, for newer entrants to the piracy scene, the fact that people make money is probably the accepted standard.

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

International Day Against DRM 2019 Focuses on Education

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/international-day-against-drm-2019-focuses-on-education-191012/

The Free Software Foundation’s Defective by Design campaign International Day Against Digital Restrictions Management is here again.

It’s been 12 months since the campaign celebrated the 12th anniversary of its quest to prompt, pressure and prevent companies from restricting what we can do with legitimately bought content and products.

This year the main focus is perhaps the noblest to date – the right to an education.

“Defective by Design is calling on you to stand up against Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) on the International Day Against DRM (IDAD) on October 12th, 2019,” the campaign site reads.

“This year we will be focusing specifically on everyone’s right to read, particularly by urging publishers to free students and educators from the unnecessary and cumbersome restrictions that make their access to necessary course materials far more difficult.”

The campaign homes-in on publishers including Pearson, which individually stands accused of placing “digital handcuffs” on students with a “Netflix-like” textbook model that requires constant Internet connections to validate purchases, limits how many pages of a title that can be read at a time, and monitors reading habits.

Defective By Design wants publishers to remove every piece of DRM from their educational materials, a lofty but particularly noble aim. There can be few students or educators out there who still believe that locking up papers, studies and similar material is the best way to impart knowledge and as a result, improve society.

Only time will tell whether that particular quest will bear fruit but reading the campaign’s notes one can’t help but feel there’s a mountain to climb in respect of the broader picture. While those with plenty of energy are invited to join in the chorus or even stage their own events, the section detailing how people can offer basic support is unintentionally depressing.

“The easiest way to participate is to join us in going a Day Without DRM, and resolve to spend an entire day (or longer!) without Netflix, Hulu, and other restricted services to show your support of the movement,” it reads.

“Document your experiences on social media using the tags ‘#idad’ or ‘#dbd,’ and let us know at [email protected] if you have a special story you’d like us to share.”

While a day without Netflix should be achievable, the site lists plenty of other companies that should be avoided, if one wants to seriously protest the spread of DRM. Doing without all of them will be a herculean task for any digital native.

For example, the black hole left by Netflix abstinence cannot be filled by listening to Spotify or Amazon Music, which are labeled by the campaign as “worst offenders” when it comes to DRM. Even with the benefit of music-free silence, people are encouraged not to use Amazon’s Kindle either.

It’s at this point you begin to realize how deeply entrenched DRM is and how difficult it will be to extract ourselves from it. The situation is further compounded when the list reveals that we should avoid using an iPad or indeed any Apple or Microsoft products.

Considering most desktop users are running Windows and millions of mobile users are Apple-based, spreading the hashtags ‘#idad’ or ‘#dbd’ on social media while strictly following the “boycott if possible” rules could rule out millions of participants. That is not what is needed today but so compromises will have to be made.

The moderately good news is that Android isn’t on the list as a “worst offender” but unfortunately it still incorporates DRM. And its developer, Google, has a page all of its own on the Defective By Design site, called out for being a promoter of DRM and for lobbying in favor of restrictive web standards.

We wish the International Day Against Digital Restrictions Management every success because very few people are still fighting this battle and the education element, in particular, is hard to understate. But in a world where profit trumps moral ideals at every turn, this war becomes more difficult to win with every passing year.

And in many cases, it’s arguably our own fault.

Support the 2019 campaign by visiting Defective By Design here

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

The Day Shall Come…When Content Companies Address the Streaming Farce

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-day-shall-come-when-content-companies-address-the-streaming-farce-191006/

Image result for chris morris
Credit: Petr Novák

British writer, director, and satirical genius Chris Morris has been body-slamming the media and establishment with biting dark, satirical comedy for decades in the UK.

With his groundbreaking The Day Today series and the polarizing but brilliant Brass Eye, Morris has established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

For those out of the loop, this is a man who managed to convince Conservative MP David Amess — who was later appointed chair of the Psychoactive Substances Bill Committee — to bring up the horrors of a new street drug in a Parliamentary debate. The drug was a giant dinner plate-sized yellow pill called ‘Cake’ and it didn’t even exist.

Adding to his notoriety, Morris also flashed a message containing one of the world’s most offensive words during the eventual TV airing of a show canceled by the UK’s Channel 4, declaring the channel’s then-chief executive to be that four-letter uttering. Morris is scared of no one, and that’s why people love him.

So, after waiting nine long years for Morris to follow up on his daring and unflinching 2010 terrorism-farce movie masterpiece Four Lions, you might understand why the build-up to his new movie The Day Shall Come has been excruciating for his fans, especially those who want to financially support him.

“Based on 100 true stories, the explosive new film from Chris Morris (Four Lions, Brass Eye) is an emotionally gripping, laugh out loud thriller that exposes the dark farce at the heart of the homeland security project: It is harder to catch a real terrorist than it is to manufacture your own,” the movie’s homepage reads.

Sadly, I — one of Morris’s most enduring and fervent fans — will have to take his word for it. I shall indeed be in the UK when the movie goes on general theatrical release on October 11 but as I write this on Tuesday, Oct 1, frustration has set in like never before. And that really shouldn’t have happened.

On my regular news-tour of torrent sites I could see that the movie had already appeared online. It’s a so-called WEBRip release, meaning that it was ripped from a legitimate streaming service. Considering that Morris has built his celluloid history and fanbase, not to mention infamy in the UK, that means it must have been ripped from a UK source and available to buy, right?

Industry anti-piracy initiatives such as the UK’s GetitRight (from a Genuine Site) are 100% targeted at people who have the ability to pirate but might be persuaded to part with their money instead, so this was a great opportunity to test the system with something I actually care about.

So, with cash in hand, seeking out a source for a legitimate purchase, I headed off to the portal. It couldn’t help me directly and I was subsequently directed to FindAnyFilm.com, where the movie is indeed listed.

With options to ‘Buy to Own’ turning up nothing for Blu-ray, DVD, or Digital, the ‘Watch Now’ option (streaming) seemed the final but perfect option. Unfortunately, both ‘buy’ and ‘rent’ turned up absolutely nothing. No options whatsoever, with no idea provided when they might become available.

It’s not FindAnyFilm’s fault, it’s not GetitRight’s fault, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. I was already two websites into this mission and it was not going well.

A direct search on Amazon.co.uk did reveal a DVD listing for £10.00 but that was accompanied by a message stating that “This title has not yet been released. You may pre-order it now and we will deliver it to you when it arrives.” Even if I wanted a DVD, which I do not, no release date was provided. Which is absolutely useless. Three websites in.

After various inquiries it soon became clear that Amazon.com was the only straightforwardly obvious place where Morris’s new film might be streamed in the UK. So I tried to log in and surprise — Amazon.com didn’t like it one bit.

The company sent me a one-time validation code, to prove I am indeed me, which I used after receiving it via email. Once logged-in I tried to ‘rent’ the movie but of course, it was unavailable for purchase because I wasn’t in the United States and my payment method was apparently “invalid”. It wasn’t, I’d used it minutes earlier. Four websites in, and an email. No movie.

In my opinion, the steps taken above go way beyond reasonable. Exactly how many hoops do these companies, that combine to present these content distribution machines to the public, expect people to jump through to willingly part themselves from their money in order to support the industry?

For those who know Morris and appreciate his work, this is the kind of ridiculous situation he himself might dismantle with glee, particularly considering The Day Shall Come was in part funded by the UK National Lottery/BFI Film Fund. The citizens of that country, who helped to fund it, cannot see it online at the same time as their US counterparts.

There will be pirates out there laughing to themselves wondering why I didn’t click on the magnet link I saw earlier and simply download the movie, there and then, and save all the headaches. After all, that would’ve been one site visited, one movie watched. For free.

But for someone who actually wants to support Chris Morris and in industry-speak, “make sure he can make more movies in the future”, why shouldn’t I be able to pay if I want to?

The answer is simple: ‘they’ — whoever they are — won’t let me. The Day Shall Come when this nonsense gets sorted out but people’s patience may have run out by then, if they can be bothered to expend any at all. The content is available legally so for the sake of sanity, let us — the fans — buy it.

Our Shatner’s Bassoons — even without Cake — can’t take any more.

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

Facebook Takes Down TorrentFreak Post Over ‘Infringing’ Meme

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/facebook-takes-down-torrentfreak-post-over-infringing-meme-190929/

When the EU Copyright Directive protests were in full swing earlier this year, many people warned that upload filters would “kill memes.”

We weren’t particularly fond of this oversimplification, but the problems with upload filters are obvious, with or without the new EU directive.

In fact, even without automated filters copyright enforcement efforts can be quite problematic. Today we present a rather unusual example, where one of the “memes” we published in the past, was effectively taken down by Facebook.

To put things in a proper context, we take you back to 2014. At the time we reported that photographer Christoffer Boffoli had filed a lawsuit against the popular image sharing site Imgur, which allegedly ignored his takedown requests.

Boffoli hoped to protect his copyrights, but this effort soon backfired. A few weeks after he filed the complaint someone uploaded an archive of 20,754 of his photos to The Pirate Bay, specifically mentioning the lawsuit against Imgur. The torrent in question remains online today.

In recent years we haven’t heard much from the photographer, until this week, when someone alerted us to a rather unusual issue. The person in question, who prefers not to be named, had one of his Facebook posts removed over alleged copyright infringement.

The post in question was a link to our news article covering the Pirate Bay ‘issue.’ At the time, this was by default shared with a portrait of Boffoli that someone turned into a meme, as can be seen below (meme text cropped).

The Facebook notice mentions that the content in question was “disabled” due to a third-party copyright complaint. While it didn’t specify what the infringing content was, our article was listed as the “source,” and the link and the associated image were indeed removed.

Since Boffoli doesn’t own any copyrights to our work, and since we didn’t link to the Pirate Bay archive, we assume that the takedown notice is targeted at the meme image, which includes the photographer’s portrait. Whether it’s justified is another question though.

Memes are generally seen as fair use. As such, people can share them without repercussions. A photographer may contend this, and fight it out in court, but in this case that could prove difficult.

When looking into the matter, we noticed that the original portrait has been hosted by Wikipedia for more than 15 years. This shows that the photo is credited to Boffoli himself, and shared with a public domain ‘license’, allowing anyone to use it freely.

This means that creating a meme out of it is certainly not a problem. But perhaps there was another reason for the takedown?

Since Facebook doesn’t share any further details, and our own original Facebook posting is still up, we can’t be 100% sure what the alleged infringement is. However, looking through Facebook’s archive we see that another user had the meme image removed as well (TF link remains online here), suggesting that this is indeed the problem.

So there we have it. Facebook effectively ‘killed’ removed a meme. In at least once instance, it removed a link to a perfectly legitimate news article, based on a takedown request that doesn’t seem to hold water. The meme isn’t quite dead yet though, it’s on the Internet after all.

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

Kodi is Sick of Pirate Addons But Banning Them is Not an Option

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-is-sick-of-pirate-addons-but-banning-them-is-not-an-option-190926/

Streaming has become the preferred way for pirates to enjoy movies and TV-shows which, unwittingly, boosted the profile of the Kodi media center.

The term “Kodi” often shows up in piracy-related headlines and was even banned by Amazon’s app store and removed from Google’s autocomplete suggestions for its links to copyright infringement.

Those who don’t know better may think that Kodi itself is illegal but that’s certainly not the case. The bad reputation is the result of dozens of unofficial addons and builds, which can turn the software into a piracy tool, something the Kodi team can do little about.

While this is well-known to insiders, the people behind Kodi are faced with the piracy stigma pretty much every day. Questions like “is Kodi legal” are often asked and this week the Kodi team makes an effort to answer this question as clearly as it can.

Kodi’s Darren Hill notes that the piracy associations are in large part driven by sources that fail to make the distinction between the Kodi media center and third-party addons. Kodi itself doesn’t offer access to pirated media, but third-party addons can.

“Due to various 3rd party addons, the app has gained an unwanted reputation as being a way to get movies and TV shows for free. This is not helped at all by certain unscrupulous websites and YouTube bloggers who encourage and perpetuate the myth, simply to increase their traffic from web users and earn more cash from the site sponsors,” Hill writes.

Indeed, Kodi related searches on either Google or YouTube return plenty of results that feature its ‘piracy’ capabilities, which are of great interest to a certain audience. On YouTube, there are entire channels dedicated to Kodi piracy, which get millions of views.

Some Kodi related videos

The Kodi team isn’t happy with this situation. They stress that their media player is meant to play people’s locally stored media files or to use any of the Kodi-vetted addons. There are no piracy traces or options in the default software.

“As we supply it, Kodi is totally legal,” Hill clarifies.

People who do want to use third-party addons have the option to do so. However, this capability is disabled by default. Those who enable it, do it at their own risk, which, based on the usage numbers, millions of people are willing to take.

That begs the question. If third-party addons are causing all this trouble, why not ban them altogether?

While that seems like a simple step, it’s also one that goes against the very nature of the Kodi project. The Kodi team informs TorrentFreak that it believes in an open ecosystem, much like Android and Windows. Especially since Kodi itself is open-source software (OSS).

“Similar to how Android allows you to install any APK, which can provide 3rd party store access we have a similar belief/idea,” Kodi’s Keith Herrington tells us.

“Our purpose isn’t to be a gatekeeper of how folks use our software. Most OSS is designed to remove these restrictions and barriers to entry, leveling the playing field so anyone can utilize technology how they wish to see it,” he adds.

The intention was never to make Kodi a ‘consumable’ product, although it can be. As an open ecosystem, it’s first and foremost something others can build upon and enjoy. It’s a breeding ground for developers, many of whom contribute to the project.

That there are bad actors is a given by now. Theoretically, Kodi could restrict ‘unsigned’ addons but it doesn’t believe that there’s a safe and constructive manner to do so. Other have tried this, but often without success.

“Google has tried, failed, and then gave up on this, so if a billion-dollar+ company can’t figure this out, I doubt our loosely organized group of volunteers doing this all for fun can, either,” Herrington says.

The last part is something most people forget. Kodi is created and supported by volunteers – it’s not a for-profit operation. While many outsiders have built businesses, legal or not, based on the software, those who code and support the media center do it for free. And people promoting piracy addons are ruining Kodi’s image in the process.

“It’s sad how many ‘social media influencers’ think they’ve ‘helped us’ in some way, by getting us ‘more followers’. That isn’t how this works,” Herrington notes. “Nobody is paid here. Many others are making money off the backs of our hard work, and its a struggle, and it sucks to see how the media treats us.”

The Kodi team does accept donations and every now and then users send over $5 or $10, or even a bit more. This helps the core team to meet up and go to conferences and pay for administrative costs, but not much more than that.

Keep Kodi Great

In fact, while we are writing this piece the main Kodi website is down because its “sponsor” Acquia pulled the plug as it was using too many resources. One dedicated server can easily run the website, but apparently that’s already a challenge to get.

Coming back to the third-party addon issue, Kodi’s Darren Hill informs TorrentFreak that the team believes in freedom of choice. Kodi shouldn’t police its users, nor does it intend to.

“We specifically do not tell the user what to do and how to use Kodi, that should be up to them. All we ask is that their choice is an enlightened one, and they fully understand what they are doing. Equally, if there are any repercussions from their actions, then those too are entirely their responsibility,” Hill says.

That outsiders are hurting Kodi’s image is unfortunate, but that doesn’t stop the team from continuing its work. While some rightsholders have threatened legal action, there’s also a growing group that’s better informed and doesn’t blame the media center.

Just recently, the Copyright Alliance made this pretty clear in a submission to the US Customs and Border Protection Bureau.

“While the Kodi system itself is a legitimate media center, the system is open source – meaning that just about anybody can use the device’s original blueprint to create software that configures Kodi boxes to access illegal streams of films and shows that are available online – and unfortunately, they do,” the group wrote.

So, while the Kodi team cautions users to be aware of unlawful third-party addons it’s not going to try to ban them anytime soon. Instead, it will focus on making the media center better. That includes the official addon library, which can use some extra addons.

“We hope someday our curated addon repo will be so good and have so much content that everything a user could want would be available. This is not the case today. We’ve made great strides with our PVR addons, but we’d love to work with any content provider out there, and hope more will reach out,” Kodi’s Keith Herrington concludes.

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

Pirate Bay is Not Getting Rich From Bitcoin Donations…

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-is-not-getting-rich-from-bitcoin-donations-or-190922/

The Pirate Bay has been both an early adopter and a pioneer when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

The popular torrent site first embraced Bitcoin in 2013 and soon after many other pirate sites followed suit.

The advantage of bitcoin donations is that they are relatively anonymous. This is an upside for the operators, but also a major concern for rightsholders who feared that it may become a stable revenue stream that can’t be touched.

The RIAA, for example, previously told the U.S. Trade Representative that Bitcoin could make it harder to crack down on pirate sites.

“There are no central authority or banks involved which makes it very difficult to seize or trace Bitcoin funds,” the music industry group wrote in a letter.

While it’s no secret that Bitcoin is indeed fueling some criminal operations, The Pirate Bay’s donations certainly can’t keep the notorious torrent site afloat. Today, more than six years after the site first accepted cryptocurrency donations, it adds up to little more than a small daily tip.

If we take a look at The Pirate Bay’s most recent Bitcoin legacy address, which it started advertising late 2017, we see that a total of 0.49 Bitcoin was received. Translated to US dollars (current value for simplicity purposes), this is $4,838, or $7.63 per day.

The Bitcoin Segwit address looks more promising. Here we see a total of 1.48 BTC coming in. However, on closer inspection, most of that comes from one transaction which was sent by TPB’s old Bitcoin wallet, so we scrapped that.

This leaves us with 0.33, or $3,255, which adds another $5.13 per day. It’s worth noting that more than half of this came from one donation. It came from a rather generous person apparently, as he or she also sent roughly the same amount to ProtonMail.

Bitcoin is not the only cryptocurrency The Pirate Bay accepts of course. The torrent site also lists a Litecoin and Monero address. Monero can’t be tracked, but the Litecoin address received 3.40 LTC, or $252, which is $0.40 per day.

When we add up all these figures we come to a total of $13.16 per day, which clearly can’t keep The Pirate Bay afloat.

That said, the Bitcoin donation income is relatively stable. When we did the same calculations a few years ago, we arrived at a donation average of $9.34 per day. At the time, one Bitcoin was about $425, so if the site didn’t sell any, the value will have gone up remarkably.

That brings us to the unavoidable “what if.” Looking back further, we see other Pirate Bay Bitcoin wallets dating back as far as 2013, which received dozens of BTC. At the time that wasn’t worth that much (1BTC ~ $120, May 2013), but the position is different today. If the team kept those, of course.

Perhaps that’s TPB’s long-term exit strategy. If one Bitcoin eventually reaches a value of over a million dollars, The Pirate Bay crew may start thinking of their retirement and buying an island. Sealand anyone?

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

UK ‘Pirate’ IPTV Users’ Favorite Channels “Are Free-to-Air”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-pirate-iptv-users-favorite-channels-are-free-to-air-190915/

While the TV licensing system in the UK is viewed as an unpopular tax by many citizens, millions hand over money every year in order to receive broadcasts into their homes.

For the sum of £154.50 for a color TV license and £52 for a black and white equivalent, residents can potentially obtain access to dozens of channels via satellite (Freesat) or antenna (Freeview), none of which come with a subscription charge. In fact, those who don’t pay the license fee can still receive them, just not entirely legally.

Of course, those subscribing to a ‘pirate’ IPTV provider gain access to thousands of channels, including all the premium channels that would otherwise add hundreds of pounds of costs to the average bill.

There’s no doubt that gaining access to Sky’s premium offerings for next to nothing is an attractive proposition for customers. However, a UK-based IPTV provider informs TorrentFreak that these aren’t always the most popular channels with his subscribers.

Perhaps surprisingly, when looking at the Top 10 most-watched channels on the service, BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all get a prominent position. Every single one is not only available for free (license permitting) via satellite or antenna but also available via the Internet for UK residents.

TF was able to review data from the IPTV provider’s panel which listed the service’s most popular streams from a few weeks ago. It showed that the most-viewed channel was ITV HD with just over 16%, with BBC1 HD in second place with close to 13%. National Geographic, a non-free to air channel, sat in third with just under 10%, closely followed by free to air Channel 4 HD.

Of the top 12 most popular channels listed in a provided chart, six are already free to air – ITV, BBC1 One, Channel 4, BBC Two, 4seven, Channel 5, ITV2, E4, Quest Red, and Quest. So why the inflated interest in channels already covered by a TV license and free-to-air?

The IPTV provider said it polled some customers, with a number of interesting reasons reportedly coming up, most of which appear to center around service-related issues. Firstly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, users of Freeview complained about not being able to get a good enough signal.

The digital Freeview service is supposedly available to 98% of the population but anecdotal evidence suggests that many are left with a poor signal, a reduced channel offering, picture break up, or not being able to receive the service at all.

Freesat (satellite) users can usually overcome most of these issues but many televisions don’t come with an appropriate tuner and in all cases, an external satellite dish must be installed, which presents another barrier to entry.

IPTV services, on the other hand, require a broadband connection and a cheap subscription, no external equipment (satellite dishes, antenna, or tuners) required.

It could be countered that several of the main BBC channels can be acquired via the Internet using the BBC iPlayer, which unquestionably provides a first-class service. However, online offerings from ITV (ITV Hub), Channel 4 (All 4), and Channel 5 (My5) only come in SD quality and in some cases, that’s a best-case scenario.

Most of the rest of the channels in the ‘free’ range (outside the regular TV license fee) have no online offer at all but an IPTV service can provide them all, in most cases in HD quality.

Only adding to the hassle of going legal is the fact that most if not all of the above channels’ online offerings now require registration, meaning that users have to have accounts with them all to receive them on a TV. On the other side, a subscription with an IPTV provider requires a single sign-up.

According to the provider, users don’t like to have accounts with all of these different official suppliers and they don’t enjoy the low-quality images on offer from their online portals, even if they are free to access. They also prefer the flexibility of being able to watch channels on any device they like, rather than being restricted to the platforms supported by various providers.

A UK user with experience of all of the systems above confirmed that while having Freeview or Freesat is a nice option, switching from app to app to receive other channels on various devices is a sub-standard experience when compared to that offered by unlicensed providers. He also questioned whether “any harm was being done” to the legitimate providers by accessing their channels from an IPTV provider.

“I pay my license for the BBC and I don’t use up any of their Internet [bandwidth]. I watch all the adverts on everything else same as everyone. Where’s the negative, I don’t see any?” he said.

In common with the provider we spoke with, the TV viewer pointed out that having everything in one place (a single IPTV subscription) is much more convenient than having to switch around various sources, even if that means paying a few pounds per month.

So while some people clearly latch on to unlicensed IPTV subscriptions for premium content usually offered by companies such as Sky, it seems that at least, in this case, convenience is also playing a big factor.

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

Plex is a Pirate’s Dream But Could Also Build Bridges to Legal Content

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/plex-is-a-pirates-dream-but-could-also-build-bridges-to-legal-content-190914/

A little while back, Bijan Stephen over at The Verge published a well-received piece on the topic of Plex, the popular media server software. It’s well worth a read for those who aren’t already familiar with this incredibly sleek tool.

For those in need of a quick summary, Plex comes in two parts. A server component that does all the hard work behind the scenes on the host computer and a client, which can be typically run on a smart TV, Firestick-like device, tablet, phone or indeed another computer. The latter is used to access the former.

In brief (and from a video consumption perspective) people can dump all of their properly named movies and TV shows into a folder, adjust a few settings, wait a minute or three and have this uninspiring bleak landscape…

Before…

….transformed into something like this:

After…

Users of software like Popcorn Time or Showbox will probably wonder what all the fuss is about – but that’s only if they haven’t used Plex.

When properly configured (and it isn’t hard) its search and curation features blow Netflix’s out of the water. Search by genre, actor, director, running time – almost anything is possible. As a bonus, Plex has one of the most beautiful interfaces ever made for media consumption.

What Plex doesn’t have, when people first install it, is any movie or TV show content in its library – especially of the kind shown above. The company behind Plex is completely above board, providing a tool that’s no more responsible for piracy than Windows or Android. Nevertheless, plenty of users build their own self-hosted Netflix-beaters with Plex, sometimes with the help of others.

The article in The Verge explains how some Plex users solve this problem by teaming up with other Plex users to share their own libraries. It a system that operates in a manner not dissimilar to the way smaller BBS admins of yesteryear traded and obtained content for their own platforms.

As The Verge put it, “as streaming offerings become more expensive and convoluted, people are setting up their own smaller, more intimate platforms.” And indeed they are, but there’s more to this rodeo.

There is a side to Plex use (copyright holders and indeed Plex itself will argue ‘abuse’) that isn’t small at all. It doesn’t involve sharing any of your own content either, it’s a simple case of handing over a few dollars, euros, or pounds and suddenly everything is a click away.

If one knows where to look, so-called P4S (Plex For Share) services are available that make Netflix’s multi-billion dollar offering look like a second-class citizen. And after handing over the cash or requesting a free trial, users can be accessing huge – HUGE – libraries of content in a matter of minutes.

The smaller and cheaper shares (a few hundred movies and TV shows, a handful of simultaneous users) are probably being run on home connections. The bigger and more expensive ones are entirely more professional, offering thousands of video files to many concurrent users.

Just as an example, one particular service (for less than $10) per month, lists more than 11,000 movies in HD and above (including 4K) plus 2,000 TV shows. Others prefer to list content in terabytes, with more than 200TB not being particularly uncommon. These big boys utilize CDNs to ensure content is delivered seamlessly to subscribers, wherever they may be.

The big deal here isn’t just the volume of content available, it’s the nature and breadth. Given that professional P4S offers don’t have politics to deal with or business models to protect, the movies on offer range from old classics to the very latest blockbusters. And Friends will not be removed because somebody offered a better deal.

The world of Plex shares is nothing new and for those thinking that their existence should be kept under the radar, it’s already too late. Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN, which is affiliated with Hollywood studios, has already taken action against people offering these services to the public. The cat is well and truly out of the bag, it’s just a question of how far it will run.

But while Plex might be a pirate’s dream, the company is doing some very interesting things to ensure that rightsholders get in on the act. Late last month, Plex announced it had struck a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution to supply free, ad-supported movies and TV shows to Plex users.

The company reportedly has plans for its software to become a “one-stop-shop” for content and has grand plans to begin reselling subscription content in 2020 along with video on demand products. This opens up the possibility of introducing pirates to premium products in an interface they are already very familiar with.

While some will naturally object, this could be clever bridge-building in action. Big content companies would never try to tempt pirates by putting movies or TV shows on The Pirate Bay, for example, but Plex and the company behind it are so neutral, politics can be kept to a minimum. Let’s see how it plays out, things could get very interesting.

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

The Solution to Music Piracy in Nigeria is No Joke – Or is It?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-solution-to-music-piracy-in-nigeria-is-no-joke-or-is-it-190908/

Even when one has visited many countries around the world, subtleties of cultural differences can be difficult to grasp.

What’s funny or makes sense in one country may draw a blank expression in another, which is why a recent set of stories from Nigeria catch the eye.

Music industry group IFPI describes Africa as a whole as an emerging opportunity for business, with digital music services sometimes available alongside mobile phone services. Nevertheless, the physical music market, while dwindling, is still going strong – even if piracy remains a big problem.

Enter stage left popular musician and comedian Koffi Idowu, who in sits on the board of the Copyright Society of Nigeria. COSON, as it’s known locally, describes itself as Africa’s fastest-growing copyright collective management organization.

While ‘Koffi’ is known locally for his comedy, one might think that joking about piracy would be off-limits, considering his position. However, it’s almost impossible for outsiders to determine whether his recent comments are serious or not.

Content leaks from manufacturing and distribution processes can sometimes be tackled using watermarking, for example. However, Koffi is publicly advocating the use of a “modern technology” that actually debuted in the 1970s.

“Modern trends need to be applied by the right commissions to successfully combat piracy. People in the creative industry need to start barcoding their works,” he said, according to several local sources.

“We also need to start tracing these works from the sources where they were being stolen. We cannot monitor them physically but with technology, we can go a long way,” he added.

Without being disrespectful to Nigeria’s position as an emerging nation (and, of course, presuming this isn’t a joke that doesn’t translate across borders), it seems bizarre to think that a barcode could prevent music piracy in any way. One CD out, and it gets copied, barcode or not.

But then Koffi advocates getting the military involved to deal with the problem.

“When we discover warehouses where piracy is being carried out, arrests and sanctions can only be done by the appropriate officials,” he said.

It all sounds real enough, but it’s only when one takes a look at articles on Nigeria’s market published in the West that one gets a grip on just how different things are in the African nation. Not just different, but also bizarre.

An article in Billboard published in April describes how local digital music streaming service uduX is making progress in Nigeria. We’re all used to installing apps for music and banking, for example, but what if they were the same thing?

“Through GTBank’s Habari app, a platform for shopping and lifestyle content, uduX, whose name derives from a musical instrument played in Nigeria called udu, will gain access to a community of 16.8 million users,” the Billboard piece reads.

“Since consumers have already entered their banking information, they can subscribe to the streaming platform in a few clicks.”

Now while this makes sense on a basic level, the privacy-conscious among us might be thinking “what could possibly go wrong?” As it turns out, those fears appear to be not only well-founded but considered a feature in Nigeria.

That’s according to Chidi Okeke, the CEO of Groove Platforms, the company behind uduX.

“I want to get people to pay for my service and for that, I just needed to be close to where the money is,” Okeke said.

And thanks to the partnership with the bank, the streaming service can get information on the bank’s customers, including their ages and location, and perhaps a whole lot more.

“We know how they spend their money, so it’s easier for us to target people,” said Okeke.

That doesn’t sound like a joke. But the barcodes and military are up for debate, potentially. Or maybe not.

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

IPTV Providers Reject Claims of Links to Drugs, Weapons, People Trafficking

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-providers-reject-claims-of-links-to-drugs-weapons-people-trafficking-190825/

For as long as piracy and counterfeiting have existed, there have been claims that groups engaged in the practices have links to other, more serious crimes.

Over the past couple of decades the claims have persisted but even the most serious legal cases (ones for which people have been jailed for many years) have failed to turn up evidence that people running pirate sites, services, and similar platforms are connected to even more serious crimes.

This week, however, following news from FACT that it had targeted numerous IPTV sellers and providers in the UK, Lesley Donovan – the National Coordinator for the multi-agency Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) – repeated similar claims.

Referencing even the smaller players – those who re-sell access to larger IPTV providers – Donovan said that they are contributing to what many people consider to be some of the most serious crimes.

“This type of activity is also often a cog in a larger criminal machine, often ultimately funding drugs, weapons and people trafficking,” Donovan said.

Clearly, most members of the general public wouldn’t want to feel that they’re funding drug supply, helping to encourage the flow of weapons, or contributing to the suffering of those trafficked illegally across or even within borders.

However, these claims are rarely (if ever) backed up with references to cases where people can see evidence of that happening for themselves in Internet cases. And with the word “often” being used twice in the GAIN statement, one might be forgiven for thinking it’s commonplace.

Several weeks ago, while in discussion with the operator of an IPTV service based in Europe, this very topic raised its head. Our contact, while acknowledging that what goes on the IPTV space isn’t exactly legal, bemoaned claims that links to wider crime are rampant.

“The truth is that most IPTV services that I know of only do IPTV. The other half have normal jobs that they do day in, day out,” he explained.

Indeed, TF is informed from several sources that IT professionals, both former and current (and particularly those in the networking space), have close interests in supplying IPTV services to the public. “A natural progression and salary supplement,” is how one described it recently.

Interestingly, one provider spoke of how supplying IPTV to the public has actually become an alternative option for those who may have become involved in other types of crime. Nevertheless, gun-running and people trafficking aren’t part of the equation.

“I’m not saying they are whiter than white but they certainly aren’t some mobster gangsters involved in human trafficking,” he said.

Another thing that seems to have irritated IPTV suppliers is the claim by anti-piracy groups that members of the public open themselves up to being stolen from when they deal with ‘pirate’ IPTV providers.

It’s often claimed that handing over personal information along with payment details can result in people being deprived of their cash through ancillary fraudulent transactions. But again, this is something rarely reported in public by any alleged victims, or backed up by evidence from law enforcement.

“Nobody is forced to give real details when signing up [to an IPTV service]. In fact we don’t care what name or address you put as we aren’t going verify the information,” one source told TF.

“We use third-party gateways for payment such as PayPal or Stripe and so on, so none of us ever see card details [enabling us to] commit fraud.”

Of course, it could also be argued that in common with the thus-far unsubstantiated claims that IPTV providers are involved in more serious crime, the claims of these providers are also without supporting evidence.

Nevertheless, they seem keen to distance themselves from the claims and in the main, approached us first to dispel the narrative they’re involved in anything other than the supply of illegal streams.

In the interim, it will be for the public to decide who to believe and a court case showing otherwise to run its course and reveal if such connections are both real and substantiated. Until then, the business will remain in the shadows, with both claims and counterclaims up for debate.

Finally, we spoke to one lower-tier reseller and asked him about the recent involvement of organized crime units and whether “organized crime” was an accurate description of his reseller sideline.

“I’ve got about 250 customers,” he told TF. “It’s too many for me really and if it is crime it’s VERY disorganized. So no.”

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

Will Cloudflare Kicking 8chan Undermine Pirate Sites?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/will-cloudflare-kicking-8chan-undermine-pirate-sites-190805/

Another day, another senseless mass shooting in the United States, claiming the lives of yet more innocent victims.

While the authorities attempt to sift through this catastrophe and work out what drives people to carry out such terrible acts, attention is being placed on how their messages of evil are spread. Somewhat inevitably, parts of the Internet are set to shoulder at least some of the blame.

Not at all unsurprisingly, service providers are usually reluctant to take any responsibility for the actions of their users or some cases, customers. However, in an announcement early this morning, CDN company Cloudflare said it would cease its work with 8chan, the “cesspool of hate” messaging board where it’s alleged the shooter shared his manifesto.

“8chan is among the more than 19 million Internet properties that use Cloudflare’s service. We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time,” CEO Matthew Prince wrote in a statement.

“The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.”

While other publications will quite rightly focus on the human aspect of this weekend’s awful events, our reporting of issues affecting Cloudflare always center on the company’s involvement in copyright infringement actions. And there are several, almost every month.

Cloudflare is not a copyright infringer and always acts within the law but if 8chan is guilty of violating “the spirit” of the law and ripe for termination, it will be no surprise that copyright-focused groups will now be quietly rubbing their hands in anticipation.

The Pirate Bay, perhaps the most high-profile ‘pirate’ customer of Cloudflare, provides the most obvious example of a site with a stated aim of violating the law – copyright law, to be specific.

Yet to date nothing has been done to prevent the site from being a Cloudflare customer, because from Cloudflare’s side – perhaps counterintuitively – the CDN service itself hasn’t broken any laws. A similar argument can be made for the many hundreds or even thousands of comparable ‘pirate’ platforms which use Cloudflare in the same way.

It would be distasteful to compare the events of this past weekend with the sharing of movies, TV shows, and music, but copyright holders have had no problem using that as leverage in the past.

In a case brought against Cloudflare by ALS Scan, the adult publisher reminded the court that Cloudflare had previously terminated its business dealings with the Daily Stormer but hadn’t terminated its pirate site customers. Cloudflare didn’t want that discussion to take place at trial but its arguments were rejected by the judge.

In the end, Cloudflare and ALS Scan agreed to settle their case, meaning that a claim for contributory copyright infringement – through the prism of the Daily Stormer disconnection – didn’t get placed in front of a jury. But here we are, a little over a year later, with 8chan also having been terminated by Cloudflare under broadly similar circumstances.

In his message this morning, CEO Matthew Prince highlighted the fact that Cloudflare realizes that having policies that are more conservative than those of their customers would undermine customers’ abilities to run their ships as they see fit. This, the CEO says, means that the company sometimes has to bite its tongue – up to a point.

“We reluctantly tolerate content that we find reprehensible, but we draw the line at platforms that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design. 8chan has crossed that line. It will therefore no longer be allowed to use our services,” Prince added.

Copyright holders regularly argue that pirate sites are “lawless” by their very nature but none have ever caused or inspired the kind of tragic events inflicted upon innocents in recent times.

All that being said, Cloudflare’s decision to terminate a site it states may have only violated “the spirit” of the law will eventually come back to haunt it, even if it was absolutely right to do so. No brand wants to be associated with those reveling in murder, but the clock is already ticking to see which copyright holder brings it up first, to support a case against Cloudflare and its customers.

It’s happened once, it will surely happen again.

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

Inside the UK’s ‘Pirate’ IPTV Blocking System

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/inside-the-uks-secret-pirate-iptv-blocking-system-190728/

Millions of people in the UK cite football (soccer for those over the pond) as their favorite sport. Every week, huge numbers head off to grounds far and wide but for the travel averse, watching matches on TV is the only option.

Broadcasters like Sky and BT Sport would like consumers to choose their premium offerings but that can be prohibitively expensive. Even then, the Premier League’s top games played on a Saturday afternoon are banned from TV, thanks to the somewhat archaic “3pm blackout“.

As a result, pirate IPTV services, which all but eliminate high costs while completely ignoring the blackout, are thriving. In response, the Premier League obtained a pioneering injunction from the High Court in 2017 that compelled the largest ISPs to block ‘pirate’ servers for a season. It has obtained permission to continue along the same lines twice since.

Based on information made available in the initial injunction, we previously provided a rough guide on how the system operates. However, the High Court also accepted that other details were secret and agreed to them not being detailed in public.

Since then, TF has received various pieces of information about how the blocking system works in practice but recently a new source came forward offering much more detail, from both the perspective of IPTV providers dealing with the technology and based on information that we’re told was leaked from inside an anti-piracy company.

TF was able to review copies of some of the information. We have been unable to confirm the manner in which the leaks allegedly took place but a secondary source, who has proven reliable in the past, acknowledged that a leak had taken place. It therefore seems likely that the company in question, which we have also chosen not to name, is already familiar with the circumstances.

We’re told that the original source of the leaks, with whom TF has had no contact and whose identity is unknown to us, went AWOL a number of months ago and stopped providing data. Exactly why is unclear but at this point, the details aren’t particularly important.

Inside the Blocking System

In a detailed analysis, our source explained that, unsurprisingly, the anti-piracy company first needs to become a customer of the providers it targets. That means signing up to services in the usual manner and handing over money to what are essentially illegal services.

Documents reviewed by TF also suggest the use of fake online social media accounts which solicit IPTV providers for trials. One particular account, created less than a week before the new season began in August 2017, had nothing but these kinds of requests in its timeline. At least one provider responded in public, apparently unaware of the nature of his potential customer.

Other information supplied suggests that in some instances PayPal accounts with fake details were used to sign up to IPTV providers. This, the source says, probably caused problems because the details on the accounts didn’t match real people’s identities, so they would eventually fail PayPal’s checks and become much less useful.

Once signed up, the anti-piracy company could act like any other subscriber but this didn’t go unnoticed. TF was shown a screenshot from an IPTV service’s customer panel, dated sometime in 2018, which revealed a suspect subscriber who had been a member for many months. The last login was actioned from a particular IP address which, according to current public WHOIS information, remains registered to the anti-piracy company in question.

An invoice for between 10 and 20 euros, dated 2019, which the source says was issued to one of the anti-piracy accounts, gave a name plus an address in London. The supplied postcode relates to an address in another country of the UK. When all put together it is clearly a fake account, although we weren’t able to positively link it to a specific anti-piracy operative.

Nevertheless, it seems clear from the supplied channel surfing logs (which we were told were retained and supplied by a cooperative third-party IPTV provider) that a normal human viewer almost certainly wasn’t behind the subscription.

The logs show that sports channels were systematically selected, presumably to be analyzed back at base, and then skipped to fresh channels over pretty precise set periods. According to our source, these durations were sometimes varied, in his opinion to avoid detection as a computerized system.

Of course, not all attempts at subscribing to channels for anti-piracy purposes are spotted early by the affected IPTV providers. Once in, we’re informed that the preferred method of scanning for infringement is via the humble .m3u playlist file, with channels to be monitored being captured for set periods and then rotated.

The scanning system reportedly allows for a VPN to be assigned to each .m3u line/account, in order to make detection more difficult. VPNs are also sometimes used to sign up and/or used for contact via customer support services offered by the providers.

According to the source, captured frames from ‘pirate’ streams are compared with a direct source from the original content. If there’s an automatic match (sometimes manual intervention is required) then the source server’s IP address is logged and sent to the big six ISPs in the UK for blocking.

We’re told that an email is also sent to the hosting companies of the servers informing them of the block, accompanied by a link to the High Court order. Often these notices aren’t passed on to the operators of IPTV services.

According to one IPTV provider, the process for checking for infringing streams begins around 15 minutes before a match begins and continues for 15 minutes after. Further checks are conducted in the interim to catch any IP address or other network changes carried out by the providers.

However, while infringing streams are apparently blocked in just a “few seconds”, it can take a couple of hours for them to become unblocked by ISPs after the games have finished.

While reports online indicate that some services have been affected by this type of blocking, it has also had some unintended consequences that may have made IPTV providers more resilient and more adept at countering the blocking program. We’ll cover some of those next time.

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

Is Innovation Making Casual Pirates Less Knowledgable?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/is-innovation-making-casual-pirates-less-knowledgable-190721/

Anyone with a technically-minded older relative happy to reminisce over their particular ‘golden age’ of motoring is likely to dwell for a moment on a particular train of thought.

Cars today are oversized computers, ones that are designed to be mechanically inaccessible to the regular Joe. Unlike their predecessors, elders argue, they often require specialist tools for repairs, adding that today’s vehicles are not made like they used to be.

Whether one agrees with these points is an individual matter, but it’s difficult to argue that in the face of rising technology, regular motorists are now less likely than ever to tackle even a basic oil change, previously the most simple of maintenance tasks.

In many respects, the same can be said of today’s consumer computing environments.

Enthusiasts of yesteryear had to be well-versed in languages like MS-DOS or BASIC simply to get by, which helped them to understand a great deal more about how their machines actually worked. Today’s graphical interfaces have all but demolished those barriers to entry, meaning there are now millions of people who class clicking icons as the height of ‘programming’ expertise.

For today’s casual pirates, this could be a ticking timebomb.

This week, Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director of the MPA in Europe, published an interesting piece titled “Piracy Went from Geeky to Easy. What’s Next?”

“[W]hile the makers innovate, so do the takers,” McCoy wrote.

“In the last 15 years, piracy went from geeky to easy. Transmission technologies improved with the advent of streaming, and delivery via new apps and devices bridged the divide between the PC and the living room.

“Today’s piracy has become a very different type of organized crime: more sophisticated, tech intensive, very elusive, and massive in scale. Where will it go next? Increasingly, industry antipiracy efforts are bending the trajectory from geeky, to easy, to … broken.”

McCoy’s argument goes as follows;

Piracy was once the realm of the technically minded but as technologies developed – pirate streaming sites, Kodi add-ons, dedicated apps, IPTV – it became very easy and more accessible to the masses. However, with numerous anti-piracy initiatives underway, piracy is more easily broken.

Add-ons suddenly fail, app creators and their tools ‘mysteriously’ disappear, IPTV platforms become less reliable. In this new and somewhat dumbed-down piracy world, access can be switched off in an instant, sometimes by hitting just one component in a system.

At this point, the more seasoned pirate will argue that none of these things present a problem for them. Add-ons can be reconfigured, new sites pop up to replace the last, new app makers fill in the gaps, and so on and so forth. Which, generally speaking, is correct. However, for the less well informed, these things are much more of a headache.

Casual pirates – the friend or colleague who bought a “loaded Firestick” off Craigslist or eBay – make up a huge proportion of today’s pirating masses. And the vast majority haven’t a clue how anything really works. To cite McCoy, “95 percent of TV piracy is driven by purpose-built set-top boxes.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that 100% of these boxes are owned by tech-illiterates, far from it. However, it seems very likely that the screaming majority have little to no idea how their device works, or what to do when it all goes wrong. The ‘blame’ for this can be placed squarely at the feet of technology and plug-and-play culture.

As piracy has grown more sophisticated, partly due to evolution and partly due to anti-piracy measures, much of the brainpower has become entrenched behind the scenes. Like the people who fix modern cars using a laptop and a ‘black magic’ cable, many pirates rely completely on the wizardry of a tiny minority to get them out of a jam.

To put it another way, Joe Public’s ability to carry out the equivalent of a simple oil change is being lost, largely due to pirated content being presented to them as a sophisticated pre-cooked meal on a plate, made using a recipe that few know about or even care to understand.

To an extent, piracy has always been like this. In general terms, the brains have always been at the top while those at the bottom take what’s available. That said, today’s prevalence of “click-and-get” apps and services means that few have the motivation to learn anything technical while those that do can run into trouble.

Thanks to pirate sites and apps being downranking and removed from search results (sometimes after a lawsuit), combined with the opportunism of the malicious-minded, it’s now harder than ever for the novice to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“Try looking for alternatives on a search engine and you’re more likely than ever to get malware and clickbait sites posing as pirates. Are you feeling lucky?” McCoy asked this week.

While the more technically advanced will dismiss the above paragraph as scare tactics, McCoy’s comments can hold true for the casual user. It’s becoming a minefield out there for novices and unless people take the time to study and do their own research, bad things always have the potential to happen.

It will probably take many more years for the piracy ‘brain drain’ to show its full effects but the popularity and ease of today’s ultra-simple and feature-rich pirate apps and services could potentially end up as a positive for entertainment companies.

Will the casual pirating masses spend days, months or years learning how to do piracy the ‘old school’ way when things go pear-shaped, or dump a few dollars a month into a couple of legal services and get the headaches over and done with?

As usual, time will tell.

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

UK Pirate Site Blocking Requests Have Stopped, For Now

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-pirate-site-blocking-requests-have-stopped-for-now-190715/

Website blocking is without a doubt one of the favorite anti-piracy tools of the entertainment industries.

The UK has been a leader on this front. Since 2011, the High Court has ordered ISPs to block access to many popular pirate sites.

Over time the number of blocked URLs in the UK has grown steadily to well over 1,000. This includes many popular torrent, streaming, and direct download sites, which remain barred today.

We have covered these efforts extensively here at TorrentFreak. However, since late 2016 something appears to have changed. The movie industry’s MPA(A) and the music industry’s BPI suddenly stopped submitting new requests.

The latest regular blocking order dates back nearly three years. While the Premier League did request some “dynamic” blockades of streaming related IP-addresses more recently, there have been no new efforts targeting traditional pirate sites.

This lack of new blocking requests is striking, especially since the UK model is often used as a prime example of anti-piracy enforcement around the world. Just a few months ago, MPAA and RIAA argued that it should become part of a possible US-UK trade deal.

“Website blocking has been successful in the United Kingdom with 63 music sites being ordered to be blocked following music right holders’ initiatives. On average this produces a reduction in the use of those sites by UK users by approximately 75 percent,” the RIAA said at the time.

Despite this effectiveness, UK piracy site-blocking efforts have been rather stagnant. While older court order are sill updated with new domain names, no new sites have been targeted by the MPA(A) and BPI in years. As such, new pirate sites can flourish.

TorrentFreak reached out to the MPA and BPI for a comment on this apparent slowdown. Neither organization gave a concrete reason for the absence of recent applications.

MPA informed TorrentFreak that it will continue to use a range of different methods for its enforcement efforts around the world. That includes working with local enforcement agencies to refer criminal cases, offering consumers new and innovative ways to access content, as well as seeking court orders to block access to pirate sites.

“The MPA will continue to use this range of methods as appropriate in the UK as we do around the world. Ensuring that filmmakers everywhere are compensated for their work and that revenues can be reinvested in new productions continues to be the number one priority for the MPA,” the group said.

BPI also stressed that site-blocking remains part of its anti-piracy toolbox.

“There are a very wide range of effective and complementary tools we use to reduce music piracy – site blocking is just a part of these,” a BPI spokesperson told us.

BPI’s other tools include delisting infringing URLs from search engines, site demotion under the search engine Voluntary Code of Practice, direct litigation against sites, criminal investigations, disrupting money flows to pirate sites, anti-piracy partnerships with online platforms, and consumer education.

The music group didn’t provide any details that explain why no new blocking orders were requested in recent years. However, it suggests that other tools are more appropriate at the current time.

“The mix of techniques we use varies over time and reflects the most appropriate strategy for dealing with a given problem at a given time,” the BPI spokesperson says.

“Having obtained High Court orders to block many of the major pirate brands, over the last few years other approaches have been effective to continue the reduction in music piracy. However, website blocking remains part of the mix and we will continue to use it in appropriate cases.”

The question remains why site blocking is seen as less appropriate. Perhaps the rightsholders feel that requesting additional blockades is not worth the resources, compared to other anti-piracy initiatives.

Part of the reason may be that the blocking orders can be quite expensive. Previously, it was estimated that  an unopposed application for a section 97A blocking order is roughly £14,000 per website, while maintaining it costs an additional £3,600 per year.

With well over a hundred sites blocked, the costs are quite significant, to say the least.

While there haven’t been any new requests, the previously ordered blockades are still in place, of course. That being said, we have to note that these are not effective everywhere. When we tried to access The Pirate Bay on a Virgin connection this week, it was freely accessible.

While the notorious pirate site may still be blocked on other ISPs, workarounds are not hard to find. At the time of writing PirateProxy.ch, a TPB proxy,  is among the 150 most-visited websites in the UK.

That said, rightsholders were never under the illusion that they can prevent the most determined pirates from accessing these sites. They simply want to dissuade casual pirates, and they feel that the current site blocking efforts are doing their job.

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

Magnificent BitTorrent Speed or Half-Baked Magic Beans?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/magnificent-bittorrent-speed-or-half-baked-magic-beans-190714/

By now most people will be familiar with the news that BitTorrent Inc. recently released a new version of its dominant uTorrent client.

The claims are that this will revolutionize torrenting, with people able to earn BTT in exchange for seeding. The plan is that this will make swarms more healthy because there is more bandwidth available. This, in turn, should speed up downloads — for BTT-spending uTorrent users, at least.

The idea of a torrent client allocating bandwidth to peers via financial discrimination is contrary to the broad aims of the original BitTorrent protocol. As such it is a divisive and sensitive topic. Nevertheless, we wanted to find out more because if it does work, loyalty to tradition might be a thing of the past.

As reported during launch week, all downloaders of the new uTorrent were gifted 10 BTT to bootstrap the system. One way or another, we were determined to make this value change. However, despite extensive seeding of in-demand and low-seeded torrents alike, it stubbornly remained the same, despite the client insisting that there were plenty of BTT-enabled peers in the swarms.

Meanwhile, crypto-focused people appearing in BitTorrent CEO Justin Sun’s Twitter feed were apparently having huge success, raking in more than a dollar’s worth of BTT after seeding dozens of torrents during the first day.

This success raised a few eyebrows because one of our sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told us July 10 that after running two instances of the software, one with 6.5TB seeded and another with 1.1TB downloaded, he hadn’t made or lost a penny, with his BTT stubbornly sitting at 10 BTT. Some people just can’t catch a break, it seems.

Of course, these uploads and downloads have to be made to and from BTT-enabled peers to count, so it’s possible (although a little improbable) that not a single uTorrent user with the feature enabled entered any of the swarms being serviced by the expert torrent user mentioned above.

However, the crypto-minded Twitter user in Sun’s feed was kind enough to hand out some advice, including getting torrents from BitTorrent’s own ‘Now‘ index. That felt like a good idea since users of that resource might be more likely to be running uTorrent with BTT enabled than random torrent users elsewhere. Particularly those who prefer open-source software rather than the proprietary offering from BitTorrent.

To allow us to do some tests over a number of minutes, we needed a reasonably-sized torrent from the Now resource. We picked a 416MB file called “Live From Brixton and Beyond” since most of the other files were too small to measure beyond a few seconds.

Our aim was to find plenty of BTT-powered uTorrent users ready to boost our download speeds, spend some of our own BTT, potentially earn some BTT back, and test out exactly how much faster these downloads can go with this new system promising to change the world.

To do this we downloaded the file detailed above six times in total — three times with BitTorrent Speed enabled and three times without. Each Speed-enabled download was followed by a non-Speed transfer directly after, to ensure that the swarm conditions stayed roughly the same throughout.

Each ‘Speed’ download initiated would enable us to see the number of BTT-enabled peers in the swarm prepared to connect to us (the client provides this number), see the promised speed boost (it also provides that), then compare the promised boosts with the results of an equal number of downloads with everything turned off.

The rough images below show the following: Our download reference number at the top, BTT balance, promised Speed boost in MB/s, number of peers (we allowed this to reach a minimum of 15 before taking a screenshot) followed by the percentage Speed boost.

Underneath that are two further screenshots showing stats from the uTorrent client. The first reveals the download time elapsed with Speed turned on, the second with Speed turned off. All screenshots of transfers were taken as close to one second remaining as possible to show that no transfers were extended beyond the downloading phase, which would distort download times.

Downloads 1 and 2

As the image above shows, 24 BTT-enabled peers wanted to do business with the promise of increasing download speeds massively. However, the “download speed increase” bar is next to useless as a measurement tool (particularly when a torrent is just starting) and as the final elapsed times show, the Speed boost — if there is any at all as a result of spending BTT — is pretty small.

So, on to Downloads 3 and 4, the first with Speed, the second without. Again, it’s exactly the same file and as close to the same swarm as possible by executing both transfers immediately after the first batch.

Downloads 3 and 4

The results show that the Speed-enabled transfer took 28 seconds less than the one without, but given the promises of massive speed boosts when the torrent first started, we can conclude that the figures in the client are misleading at best. So, onto downloads 5 and 6 as quickly as possible, to ensure a consistent swarm.

Downloads 5 and 6

As the transfer stats for Download 5 show, the elapsed time (6m 16s) is remarkably consistent when compared to Download 1 (6m 14s) and Download 4 (6m 12s), a testament to the stability of the swarm. It’s worth noting that Download 4 (the fastest of the three) was a test with Speed turned off.

Importantly, we can also see that during this final test the results were reversed over the previous one, with the non-Speed Download 6 trumping the BTT-powered Download 5 by 43 seconds.

Finally, we decided to put two torrent clients into exactly the same swarm. One of the clients was uTorrent with Speed turned on, the other was a basic Deluge client. We loaded the same torrent into both and gave uTorrent a small head start, basically the time it took to move the mouse over to Deluge and trigger the start. This is what uTorrent promised as a boost;

More than 320% speed increase offered…

As the video below shows, uTorrent managed to connect to many more seeders than Deluge and the performance of each client differed quite a bit in other areas too. Crucially, however, the downloads in both clients finished within a second of each other.

It’s important to note that there are many moving parts in any torrent swarm but the bottom line here is that when a BTT-enabled uTorrent client was placed in a swarm with many other clients with the same ability, it performed no better than one without, despite lofty claims to the contrary.

Of course, we should also remind people that with Deluge (in this case) people won’t earn any BTT for seeding but we’ve already established that the figure of 10 BTT that we began with has never changed since the client was installed.

Magic beans? People should taste them themselves before making their own minds up. Maybe they’ll taste better in future….we’ll see.

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

Fake MPAA Asks Google to Remove Thousands of URLs, Including MPAA.org

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/fake-mpaa-asks-google-to-remove-thousands-of-urls-including-mpaa-org-190714/

In 2012, Google first published a Transparency Report for search-related copyright takedown notices.

This rather enlightening database allows outsiders to check what URLs copyright holders want removed from the search engine.

In recent years Google has processed more than four billion URLs. While most of these requests are legitimate, there have also been plenty of errors, mistakes, and in some instances; clear abuse.

Most of the cases we covered in the past dealt with rightsholders targeting perfectly legal content, ranging from news articles, through open-source software, to Facebook’s homepage. Over the past year, however, we’ve noticed a different but equally disturbing trend.

Among the millions of notices Google receives on a weekly basis, there are now quite a few ‘fake’ submissions. Fake, in this case, means that the submitter pretends to be or represent someone else. Someone who it clearly isn’t.

We first spotted this late last year when imposters targeted many pirate sites with suspicious takedown requests. These were presumably sent by competing pirate sites, trying to remove the competition from Google’s search results. More recently, imposters even tried to remove a Netflix listing.

Today we have another example that’s perhaps even more blatant. It involves the name of Hollywood’s very own anti-piracy group, the MPAA.

In recent weeks Google received a flood of notices claiming to be from the Hollywood group. While the MPAA is based in the U.S., the notices in question are sent on behalf of “MPAA UK” and “MPAA Member Studios DE”. 

However, none of the listings below, including “MPAA Member Studios US,” are legitimate. It appears that someone is pretending to be the MPAA, sending takedown requests for tens of thousands of URLs. 

Fake MPAA’s

Looking more closely at the takedown requests, we see a familar pattern emerge. The notices mainly target a small group of ‘pirate’ sites. For example, over 10,000 URLs of the Turkish movie streaming site Filmifullizle.tv were targeted in just one week, with most notices coming from fake MPAA’s.

Filmmodu.com, and other Turkish streaming portals such as Yabancidizi.org, Fullhdfilmizleten.org, and Filmionlineizle.tv, get the same treatment, either by a fake MPAA or another scammer.

Interestingly, these imposters are rather sloppy at times. On several occasions they put the infringing URLs in the “original works” box, labeling the MPAA’s homepage as the infringing content. Luckily for the real MPAA, Google didn’t remove it.  

Pirate MPAA?

As we have highlighted in the past, these imposters are likely to be competing pirate sites, who want to take out the competition by making their opponents’ sites unfindable in Google’s search results. A clear case of abuse. 

At the time of writing, Google has complied with several of the fake takedown requests, removing the allegedly-infringing URLs. However, the search engine does appear to be aware of the problem, and has labeled some submissions as being fake. 

The imposter situation definitely doesn’t help the credibility of the takedown process. Google has its hands full and we imagine that the MPAA isn’t happy with the misuse of its name either. 

That said, the Hollywood group certainly isn’t alone in this. Several other rightsholders and anti-piracy organizations have imposters as well, including Marvel, Warner Bros., MarkMonitor, DigiGuardians, Marketly, and many others.

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

The Scene: Pirates Ripping Content From Amazon & Netflix

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-scene-pirates-ripping-content-from-amazon-netflix-190707/

In recent weeks, TF was able to speak to a member of The Scene, the shadowy network of individuals and groups sitting right at the apex of the so-called ‘piracy pyramid’.

If the tip of this polyhedron represents the exclusive few, the progressively larger and lower portions constitute the increasing masses, all enjoying the pirated content flooding down, albeit without the consent of those at the very top.

Our introduction dealt with a selection of the basics, from how The Scene is structured to who takes on various roles. Our contact – “Source” – runs his own release group, something we were able to verify by having a unique marker placed in a Scene release. However, he also touched on something that’s rarely discussed in public.

So-called WEB releases are videos obtained from streaming services, particularly Netflix and Amazon. Not to be confused with WEBRip content, which is obtained using technology such as hardware capture cards or software-based ‘capping’ tools, WEB releases involve downloading the raw video files to a computer or server.

“Source” describes himself as a programmer with involvement with WEB releases. For security reasons he wasn’t prepared to identify which groups he’s affiliated with but he did provide an overview of the process.

“Content for WEB releases are obtained by downloading the source content. Whenever you stream a video online, you are downloading chunks of a video file to your computer. Sceners simply save that content and attempt to decrypt it for non-DRM playback later,” he says.

When accessing the content, legitimate premium accounts are used, often paid for using prepaid credit cards supported by bogus identities. It takes just a few minutes to download a video file since they’re served by CDNs with gigabits of bandwidth.

“Once files are downloaded from the streaming platform, however, they are encrypted in the .mp4 container. Attempting to view such video will usually result in a blank screen and nothing else – streams from these sites are protected by DRM.

“The most common, and hard to crack DRM is called Widevine. The way the Scene handles WEB-releases is by using specialized tools coded by The Scene, for The Scene. These tools are extremely private, and only a handful of people in the world have access to the latest version(s),” “Source” notes.

“Without these tools, releasing Widevine content is extremely difficult, if not impossible for most. The tools work by downloading the encrypted video stream from the streaming site, and reverse engineering the encryption.”

Our contact says that decryption is a surprisingly quick process, taking just a few minutes. After starting with a large raw file, the finalized version ready for release is around 30% smaller, around 7GB for a 1080p file. Subtitle files, which can be numerous on a typical WEB release, are not encrypted, meaning there’s nothing further to do.

Although evasive over the name of the WEB groups he’s affiliated with, “Source” told us his role involves creating scripts for downloading content in an automated manner from Widevine-protected sites.

“A simple example is a bot, where you feed a stream URL and a release gets downloaded, packed and uploaded to topsites fully automatically, with no human interaction needed,” he explains.

“Source” says that the decryption tools he’s familiar with mainly target protected content using Windows tools and Google Chrome. He also mentioned exploits for Smart TVs and other platforms but wasn’t able to provide additional details on those or the apparent exploit of iTunes which saw 4K content leak online earlier this year.

However, he did reveal that, in an attempt to ensure that Scene decryption tools don’t leak out to the wider public, some versions of the Scene’s tools only work server-side and are protected by Hardware ID (HWID). The aim here is to restrict which machines are capable of running the software.

Perhaps surprisingly, “Source” went on to send us screenshots of what he said were two Widevine decrypter tools in action. One of them, which has been redacted to hide some sensitive information, is shown below.

Since we’re always protective of our sources, the supply of these screenshots raised alarm bells with us. If these decryption tools are so secretive, why would he put himself at risk by allowing us to publish images of them?

It transpires that in common with other ‘pirate’ content, Scene-only tools sometimes leak out too. “Source” told us that the screenshots he provided were culled from older tools that were leaked and subsequently offered for sale on the wider Internet, so that’s why he is comfortable with them being published.

“There are countless other tools,” he added, “but I can’t publicly say about them.”

He did, however, point us to an online platform where the tools had been offered in exchange for bitcoin.

We spent some time looking around but couldn’t immediately match the screenshots to any specific software on offer. Surprisingly, part of the problem was the sheer number of Netflix and Amazon ripping tools being offered by various anonymous parties.

Given the high prices being attached to these products and their illegal nature (circumvention, in this case, would constitute a breach of the DMCA), we weren’t prepared to buy or test them. However, it is clear that this is an area ripe for exploitation, with several buyers claiming that supplied tools do not work as advertised.

As a result, we can’t say for sure whether any of the software being offered in public is real, currently works, or indeed ever worked. It is obvious, considering the number of releases being made, that tools inside The Scene are working as intended, something that may have been underlined by the recent release of 4K video sourced from Netflix.

But for pirates, this may not be the case for much longer. “Source” says that the flood of WEB releases (also known as WEB-DL in the P2P arena) may start to dry up – at least for a while.

“Widevine is expected to update their DRM, and the only working Windows-based crack (I’m aware of) is strictly regulated, and most groups won’t get access to it, compared to the current older tools not requiring any sort of server-side or hardware verification for use,” he concludes.

Part 3 of this series, dealing with the technical aspects of The Scene, is a work in progress.

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

Pirates: So You Want to Join ‘The Scene’?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-so-you-want-to-join-the-scene-part-1-190630/

Anyone involved in the piracy ecosystem could stake claim to being ‘in the scene’ but for those with a discerning interest in pirate matters, terminology is all important.

After decades of existence, The Scene has attained mythical status among pirates. It’s not a site, a place, a person, or a group. ‘The Scene’ is all of these things, combined in a virtual world to which few people ever gain access.

In basic terms, The Scene is a collection of both loose and tight-knit individuals and groups, using Internet networks as meeting places and storage vessels, in order to quickly leak as much pirated content as possible. From movies, TV shows and music, to software, eBooks and beyond. Almost anything digital is fair game for piracy at the most elite level.

These people – “Sceners” – are as protective of ‘their’ content as they are meticulous of their privacy but that doesn’t stop huge volumes of ‘their’ material leaking out onto the wider Internet. And occasionally – very occasionally – one of their members breaking ranks to tell people about it.

TorrentFreak recently made contact with one such individual who indicated a willingness to pull back the veil. However, verifying that ‘Sceners’ are who they say they are is inherently difficult. In part, we tackled this problem by agreeing for a pre-determined character string to be planted inside a Scene release.

With a fairly quick turnaround and as promised, the agreed characters appeared in a specific release. That the release had been made was confirmed by the standard accompanying text-based NFO file, which collectively are both widely and publicly available.

In respect of the group’s identity, we were asked to say that it has been active since 2018, but nothing more. We can confirm, however, that it already has dozens of releases thus far in 2019.

Our contact, who we will call “Source”, also claims to work with groups involved with so-called WEB releases, such as video content obtained and decrypted using sources including Netflix and Prime Video.

For security reasons, he wasn’t prepared to prove membership of that niche in the same fashion. However, the information he provided on those activities (to be covered in an upcoming part 2 of this article) is very interesting indeed. But first, an introduction to the basics, for those unfamiliar with how The Scene operates.

Basics of ‘The Scene’ – “Source’s” summary (in his own words)

  • Topsites: Top-secret, highly protected FTP servers storing up to hundreds or thousands of terabytes of copyrighted material. Users have to be authorized to the topsite by pre-existing members, and the users can only connect from specific IP-ranges.
  • Topsites usually always have an IRC channel where they announce the releases made on the specific topsite, alongside other things such as newly traded releases, requests and chat. These IRC chatrooms are encrypted using encryption tools on top of SSL.
  • Topsites can either be home hosted or rented. Rented sites are avoided by members of The Scene who are higher up in the food chain, since those are generally riskier due to being located at hosting companies’ datacenters. Users of a topsite are usually one of the following:
    • Traders / Racers
    • Release Groups (Affiliates)
    • Site Operator: User who owns or administrates a topsite
  • Release Groups (Affiliates): A single or group of users, who work together to download/rip, prepare, pack and pre a release. These groups usually compete against each other to get a release out as fast as possible, beating other groups.
  • Traders / Racers: A user who moves releases between topsites. For example: As soon as the group -XYZ releases an MP3 album on topsite -ASD, multiple traders instantly grab the new release and transfer it to their other topsites. When the release lands on the other topsites, traders there start sharing it further and further until every single topsite has the release. In some cases it only takes minutes for every single topsite to have the release in question.

Becoming a member of The Scene

Despite “Source’s” own group being relatively new, he says his history with The Scene dates back three years. Intrigued at the possibility of becoming a member but with no prior experience, he contacted a Scene group using an email address inside an NFO, offering his coding skills.

“I was able to convince the group to slowly adopt me into The Scene by providing them scripts and tools to make their job easier and faster, alongside other programming related tasks. The thing with Scene groups is that they don’t trust outsiders,” he explains.

Given that not granting access to the wrong people is fundamental to the security of The Scene, we asked how this “vetting” took place. “Source” explained that it was conducted over a period of time (around four months), with a particular Scene group carrying out its own investigations to ensure he wasn’t lying about himself or his abilities.

“The groups who vet new members also often try their best to dox the recruit, to make sure that the user is secure. If you’re able to be doxed (based on the info you give, your IP-addresses, anything really) you will lose your chances to join. The group won’t actually do anything with your personal info,” he adds, somewhat reassuringly.

Once the group was satisfied with his credentials, “Source” gained access to his very first topsite, which he describes as small and tight-knit. Topsites often use IRC (Internet Relay Chat) for communications so from there it was a matter of being patient while simultaneously attempting to gain the trust of others in the channel.

“Most Sceners are very cautious of new users, even after being vetted in, due to the risk of a user still being insecure, an undercover officer or generally unwanted in terms of behavior. Once you’ve been idling in the chats and such for months, you slowly start gaining some basic recognition and trust,” he says.

Branching out

Once he’d gained access via the first topsite, “Source” says he decided to branch out on his own by creating his own Scene group and gathering content to release. From there he communicated with other users on the topsite in an effort to gain access to additional topsites as an affiliate.

As mentioned earlier, his own releases via his own group (the name of which we aren’t disclosing here) number in the dozens over the past several months alone. They are listed on publicly available ‘pre-databases‘ which archive information and NFO files which provide information related to Scene releases.

However, his own group isn’t the only string to the Source bow. Of particular interest is his involvement with so-called WEB releases, i.e pirate releases of originally protected video content obtained from platforms like Netflix and Prime Video.

“Content for WEB releases are obtained by downloading the source content. Whenever you stream a video online, you are downloading chunks of a video file to your computer. Sceners simply save that content and attempt to decrypt it for non-DRM playback later,” Source explains.

“Streams from these sites are protected by DRM. The most common, and hard to crack DRM is called Widevine. The way the Scene handles WEB-releases is by using specialized tools coded by The Scene, for The Scene.”

This is a particularly sensitive area, not least since Source says he’s acted as a programmer for multiple Scene groups making these releases. He’s understandably cautious so until next week (when we’ll continue with more detail specifically about WEB content) he leaves an early cautionary note for anyone considering joining The Scene.

“You can become Sceners with friends, but not friends with Sceners,” he concludes.

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