Tag Archives: paypal

TVAddons and ZemTV Operators Named in US Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-and-zemtv-operators-named-in-us-lawsuit-170926/

Earlier this year, American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network targeted two well-known players in the third-party Kodi add-on ecosystem.

In a complaint filed in a federal court in Texas, add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were accused of copyright infringement. As a result, both are facing up to $150,000 for each offense.

Initially, the true identities of the defendants unknown and listed as John Does, but an amended complaint that was submitted yesterday reveal their alleged names and hometowns.

The Texas court previously granted subpoenas which allowed Dish to request information from the defendants’ accounts on services including Amazon, Github, Google, Twitter, Facebook and PayPal, which likely helped with the identification.

According to Dish ZemTV was developed by Shahjahan Durrani, who’s based in London, UK. He allegedly controlled and maintained the addon which was used to stream infringing broadcasts of Dish content.

“Durrani developed the ZemTV add-on and managed and operated the ZemTV service. Durrani used the aliases ‘Shani’ and ‘Shani_08′ to communicate with users of the ZemTV service,” the complaint reads.

The owner and operator of TVAddons is listed as Adam Lackman, who resides in Montreal, Canada. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, since Lackman is publicly listed as TVAddons’ owner on Linkedin and was previously named in a Canadian lawsuit.

While both defendants are named, the allegations against them haven’t changed substantially. Both face copyright infringement charges and potentially risk millions of dollars in damages.

Durrani directly infringed Dish’s copyrights by making the streams available, the plaintiffs note. Lackman subsequently profited from this and failed to take any action in response.

“Lackman had the legal right and actual ability to supervise and control this infringing activity because Lackman made the ZemTV add-on, which is necessary to access the ZemTV service, available for download on his websites.

“Lackman refused to take any action to stop the infringement of DISH’s exclusive rights in the programs transmitted through the ZemTV service,” the complaint adds.

TorrentFreak spoke to a TVAddons representative who refutes the copyright infringement allegations. The website sees itself as a platform for user-generated content and cites the DMCA’s safe harbor as a defense.

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

The representative states that it will be very difficult for them to defend themselves against a billion dollar company with unlimited resources, but hopes that the site will prevail.

The new TVAddons

After the original TVAddons.ag domain was seized in the Canadian lawsuit the site returned on TVaddons.co. However, hundreds of allegedly infringing add-ons are no longer listed.

The site previously relied on the DMCA to shield it from liability but apparently, that wasn’t enough. As a result, they now check all submitted add-ons carefully.

“Since complying with the law is clearly not enough to prevent frivolous legal action from being taken against you, we have been forced to implement a more drastic code vetting process,” the TVAddons representative says.

If it’s not entirely clear that an add-on is properly licensed, it won’t be submitted for the time being. This hampers innovation, according to TVAddons, and threatens many communities that rely on user-generated content.

“When you visit any given web site, how can you be certain that every piece of media you see is licensed by the website displaying it? You can assume, but it’s very difficult to be certain. That’s why the DMCA is critical to the existence of online communities.”

Now that both defendants have been named the case will move forward. This may eventually lead to an in-depth discovery process where Dish will try to find more proof that both were knowingly engaging in infringing activity.

Durrani and Lackman, on the other hand, will try to prove their innocence.

A copy of the amended complaint is available here (pdf).

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

The Things Pirates Do To Hinder Anti-Piracy Investigations

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-things-pirates-do-to-hinder-anti-piracy-outfits-170909/

Dedicated Internet pirates dealing in fresh content or operating at any significant scale can be pretty sure that rightsholders and their anti-piracy colleagues are interested in their activities at some level.

With this in mind, most pirates these days are aware of things they can do to enhance their security, with products like VPNs often get discussed on the consumer side.

This week, in a report detailing the challenges social media poses to intellectual property rights, UK anti-piracy outfit Federation Against Copyright Theft published a list of techniques deployed by pirates that hinder their investigations.

Fake/hidden website registration details

“Website registration details are often fake or hidden, which provides no further links to the person controlling the domain and its illegal activities,” the group reveals.

Protected WHOIS records are nothing new and can sometimes be uncloaked by a determined adversary via court procedures. However, in the early stages of an investigation, open records provide leads that can be extremely useful in building an early picture about who might be involved in the operation of a website.

Having them hidden is a definite plus for pirate site operators, especially when the underlying details are also fake, which is particularly common practice. And, with companies like Peter Sunde’s Njalla entering the market, hiding registrations is easier than ever.

Overseas servers

“Investigating servers located offshore cause some specific problems for FACT’s law-enforcement partners. In order to complete a full investigation into an offshore server, a law-enforcement agency must liaise with its counterpart in the country where the server is located. The difficulties of obtaining evidence from other countries are well known,” FACT notes.

While FACT no doubt corresponds with entities overseas, the anti-piracy outfit has a history of targeting UK citizens who are reportedly infringing copyright. It regularly involves UK police in its investigations (FACT itself employs former police officers) but jurisdiction is necessarily limited to the UK.

It is possible to get overseas law enforcement entities involved to seize a server, for example, but they have to be convinced of the need to do so by the police, which isn’t easy and is usually reserved for more serious cases. The bottom line is that by placing a server a long way away from a pirate’s home territory, things can be made much more difficult for local investigators.

Torrent websites and DMCA compliance

“Some torrent website operators who maintain a high DMCA compliance rate will often use this to try to appease the law, while continuing to provide infringing links,” FACT says.

This is an interesting one. Under law in both the United States and Europe, service providers are required to remove infringing content from their systems when they are notified of its existence by a rightsholder or its agent. Not doing so can render them liable, if the content is indeed infringing.

What FACT appears to be saying is that sites that comply with the law, by removing infringing content when asked to, become more difficult targets for legal action. It sounds very obvious but the underlying suggestion is that compliance on the surface is used as a protective mechanism. No example sites are mentioned but the strategy has clearly hindered FACT.

Current legislation too vague to remove infringing live sports streams

“Current legislation is insufficient to effectively tackle the issue of websites illegally offering coverage of live sports events. Section 512 (c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) states that: upon notification of claimed infringement, the service provider should ‘respond expeditiously’ to remove or disable access to the copyright-infringing material. Most live sports events are under two hours long, so such non-specific timeframes for required action are inadequate,” FACT complains.

Since government reports like these can take a long time to prepare, it appears that FACT and its partners may have already found a solution to this particular problem. Major FACT client the Premier League now has a High Court injunction in place which allows it to block infringing streams on a real-time basis. It doesn’t remove the content at its source, but it still renders it largely inaccessible in the UK.

Nevertheless, FACT calls for takedowns to be actioned more swiftly, noting that “the law needs to reflect this narrow timeframe with a specified required response period for websites offering such live feeds.”

Camming content directly from cinema screen to the cloud

“Recent advancements in technology have made this a viable option to ‘cammers’ to avoid detection. Attempts to curtail and delete illicitly recorded film footage may become increasingly difficult with the emergence of streaming apps that automatically upload recorded video to cloud services,” FACT reports.

Over the years, FACT has been involved in numerous operations to hinder those who record movies with cameras in theaters and then upload them to the Internet. Once the perpetrator has exited the theater, FACT has effectively lost the battle, but the possibility that a live upload can now take place is certainly an interesting proposition.

“While enforcing officers may delete the footage held on the device, the footage has potentially already been stored remotely on a cloud system,” FACT warns.

Equally, this could also prove a problem for those seeking to secure evidence. With a cloud upload, the person doing the recording could safely delete the footage from the local device. That could be an obstacle to proving that an offense had even been committed when a suspect is confronted in situ.

Virtual currencies

“There is great potential in virtual currencies for money launderers and illicit traders. Government and law enforcement have raised concerns on how virtual currencies can be sent anonymously, leaving little or no trail for regulators or law-enforcement agencies,” FACT writes.

For many years, pirates of all kinds have relied on systems like PayPal, Mastercard, and Visa, to shift money around. However, these payment systems are now more difficult to deploy on pirate services and are more easily traced, even when operators manage to squeeze them through the gaps.

The same cannot be said of bitcoin and similar currencies that are gaining in popularity all the time. They are harder to use, of course, but there’s little doubt accessibility issues will be innovated out of the equation at some point. Once that happens, these currencies will be a force to be reckoned with.

The UK government’s Share and Share Alike report, which examines the challenges social media poses to intellectual property rights, can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

How Much Does ‘Free’ Premier League Piracy Cost These Days?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/how-much-does-free-premier-league-piracy-cost-these-days-170902/

Right now, the English Premier League is engaged in perhaps the most aggressively innovative anti-piracy operation the Internet has ever seen. After obtaining a new High Court order, it now has the ability to block ‘pirate’ streams of matches, in real-time, with no immediate legal oversight.

If the Premier League believes a server is streaming one of its matches, it can ask ISPs in the UK to block it, immediately. That’s unprecedented anywhere on the planet.

As previously reported, this campaign caused a lot of problems for people trying to access free and premium streams at the start of the season. Many IPTV services were blocked in the UK within minutes of matches starting, with free streams also dropping like flies. According to information obtained by TF, more than 600 illicit streams were blocked during that weekend.

While some IPTV providers and free streams continued without problems, it seems likely that it’s only a matter of time before the EPL begins to pick off more and more suppliers. To be clear, the EPL isn’t taking services or streams down, it’s only blocking them, which means that people using circumvention technologies like VPNs can get around the problem.

However, this raises the big issue again – that of continuously increasing costs. While piracy is often painted as free, it is not, and as setups get fancier, costs increase too.

Below, we take a very general view of a handful of the many ‘pirate’ configurations currently available, to work out how much ‘free’ piracy costs these days. The list is not comprehensive by any means (and excludes more obscure methods such as streaming torrents, which are always free and rarely blocked), but it gives an idea of costs and how the balance of power might eventually tip.

Basic beginner setup

On a base level, people who pirate online need at least some equipment. That could be an Android smartphone and easily installed free software such as Mobdro or Kodi. An Internet connection is a necessity and if the EPL blocks those all important streams, a VPN provider is required to circumvent the bans.

Assuming people already have a phone and the Internet, a VPN can be bought for less than £5 per month. This basic setup is certainly cheap but overall it’s an entry level experience that provides quality equal to the effort and money expended.

Equipment: Phone, tablet, PC
Comms: Fast Internet connection, decent VPN provider
Overal performance: Low quality, unpredictable, often unreliable
Cost: £5pm approx for VPN, plus Internet costs

Big screen, basic

For those who like their matches on the big screen, stepping up the chain costs more money. People need a TV with an HDMI input and a fast Internet connection as a minimum, alongside some kind of set-top device to run the necessary software.

Android devices are the most popular and are roughly split into two groups – the small standalone box type and the plug-in ‘stick’ variant such as Amazon’s Firestick.

A cheap Android set-top box

These cost upwards of £30 to £40 but the software to install on them is free. Like the phone, Mobdro is an option, but most people look to a Kodi setup with third-party addons. That said, all streams received on these setups are now vulnerable to EPL blocking so in the long-term, users will need to run a paid VPN.

The problem here is that some devices (including the 1st gen Firestick) aren’t ideal for running a VPN on top of a stream, so people will need to dump their old device and buy something more capable. That could cost another £30 to £40 and more, depending on requirements.

Importantly, none of this investment guarantees a decent stream – that’s down to what’s available on the day – but invariably the quality is low and/or intermittent, at best.

Equipment: TV, decent Android set-top box or equivalent
Comms: Fast Internet connection, decent VPN provider
Overall performance: Low to acceptable quality, unpredictable, often unreliable
Cost: £30 to £50 for set-top box, £5pm approx for VPN, plus Internet

Premium IPTV – PC or Android based

At this point, premium IPTV services come into play. People have a choice of spending varying amounts of money, depending on the quality of experience they require.

First of all, a monthly IPTV subscription with an established provider that isn’t going to disappear overnight is required, which can be a challenge to find in itself. We’re not here to review or recommend services but needless to say, like official TV packages they come in different flavors to suit varying wallet sizes. Some stick around, many don’t.

A decent one with a Sky-like EPG costs between £7 and £15 per month, depending on the quality and depth of streams, and how far in front users are prepared to commit.

Fairly typical IPTV with EPG (VOD shown)

Paying for a year in advance tends to yield better prices but with providers regularly disappearing and faltering in their service levels, people are often reluctant to do so. That said, some providers experience few problems so it’s a bit like gambling – research can improve the odds but there’s never a guarantee.

However, even when a provider, price, and payment period is decided upon, the process of paying for an IPTV service can be less than straightforward.

While some providers are happy to accept PayPal, many will only deal in credit cards, bitcoin, or other obscure payment methods. That sets up more barriers to entry that might deter the less determined customer. And, if time is indeed money, fussing around with new payment processors can be pricey, at least to begin with.

Once subscribed though, watching these streams is pretty straightforward. On a base level, people can use a phone, tablet, or set-top device to receive them, using software such as Perfect Player IPTV, for example. Currently available in free (ad supported) and premium (£2) variants, this software can be setup in a few clicks and will provide a decent user experience, complete with EPG.

Perfect Player IPTV

Those wanting to go down the PC route have more options but by far the most popular is receiving IPTV via a Kodi setup. For the complete novice, it’s not always easy to setup but some IPTV providers supply their own free addons, which streamline the process massively. These can also be used on Android-based Kodi setups, of course.

Nevertheless, if the EPL blocks the provider, a VPN is still going to be needed to access the IPTV service.

An Android tablet running Kodi

So, even if we ignore the cost of the PC and Internet connection, users could still find themselves paying between £10 and £20 per month for an IPTV service and a decent VPN. While more channels than simply football will be available from most providers, this is getting dangerously close to the £18 Sky are asking for its latest football package.

Equipment: TV, PC, or decent Android set-top box or equivalent
Comms: Fast Internet connection, IPTV subscription, decent VPN provider
Overal performance: High quality, mostly reliable, user-friendly (once setup)
Cost: PC or £30/£50 for set-top box, IPTV subscription £7 to £15pm, £5pm approx for VPN, plus Internet, plus time and patience for obscure payment methods.
Note: There are zero refunds when IPTV providers disappoint or disappear

Premium IPTV – Deluxe setup

Moving up to the top of the range, things get even more costly. Those looking to give themselves the full home entertainment-like experience will often move away from the PC and into the living room in front of the TV, armed with a dedicated set-top box. Weapon of choice: the Mag254.

Like Amazon’s FireStick, PC or Android tablet, the Mag254 is an entirely legal, content agnostic device. However, enter the credentials provided by many illicit IPTV suppliers and users are presented with a slick Sky-like experience, far removed from anything available elsewhere. The device is operated by remote control and integrates seamlessly with any HDMI-capable TV.

Mag254 IPTV box

Something like this costs around £70 in the UK, plus the cost of a WiFi adaptor on top, if needed. The cost of the IPTV provider needs to be figured in too, plus a VPN subscription if the provider gets blocked by EPL, which is likely. However, in this respect the Mag254 has a problem – it can’t run a VPN natively. This means that if streams get blocked and people need to use a VPN, they’ll need to find an external solution.

Needless to say, this costs more money. People can either do all the necessary research and buy a VPN-capable router/modem that’s also compatible with their provider (this can stretch to a couple of hundred pounds) or they’ll need to invest in a small ‘travel’ router with VPN client features built in.

‘Travel’ router (with tablet running Mobdro for scale)

These devices are available on Amazon for around £25 and sit in between the Mag254 (or indeed any other wireless device) and the user’s own regular router. Once the details of the VPN subscription are entered into the router, all traffic passing through is encrypted and will tunnel through web blocking measures. They usually solve the problem (ymmv) but of course, this is another cost.

Equipment: Mag254 or similar, with WiFi
Comms: Fast Internet connection, IPTV subscription, decent VPN provider
Overall performance: High quality, mostly reliable, very user-friendly
Cost: Mag254 around £75 with WiFi, IPTV subscription £7 to £15pm, £5pm for VPN (plus £25 for mini router), plus Internet, plus patience for obscure payment methods.
Note: There are zero refunds when IPTV providers disappoint or disappear

Conclusion

On the whole, people who want a reliable and high-quality Premier League streaming experience cannot get one for free, no matter where they source the content. There are many costs involved, some of which cannot be avoided.

If people aren’t screwing around with annoying and unreliable Kodi streams, they’ll be paying for an IPTV provider, VPN and other equipment. Or, if they want an easy life, they’ll be paying Sky, BT or Virgin Media. That might sound harsh to many pirates but it’s the only truly reliable solution.

However, for those looking for something that’s merely adequate, costs drop significantly. Indeed, if people don’t mind the hassle of wondering whether a sub-VHS quality stream will appear before the big match and stay on throughout, it can all be done on a shoestring.

But perhaps the most important thing to note in respect of costs is the recent changes to the pricing of Premier League content in the UK. As mentioned earlier, Sky now delivers a sports package for £18pm, which sounds like the best deal offered to football fans in recent years. It will be tempting for sure and has all the hallmarks of a price point carefully calculated by Sky.

The big question is whether it will be low enough to tip significant numbers of people away from piracy. The reality is that if another couple of thousand streams get hit hard again this weekend – and the next – and the next – many pirating fans will be watching the season drift away for yet another month, unviewed. That’s got to be frustrating.

The bottom line is that high-quality streaming piracy is becoming a little bit pricey just for football so if it becomes unreliable too – and that’s the Premier League’s goal – the balance of power could tip. At this point, the EPL will need to treat its new customers with respect, in order to keep them feeling both entertained and unexploited.

Fail on those counts – especially the latter – and the cycle will start again.

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

Pirate Site Admin Must Pay 13 Million Euros – If Anyone Can Find Him

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-admin-must-pay-13-million-euros-if-anyone-can-find-him-170708/

Founded in 2006 by Dimitri Mader, Wawa-Mania grew into a million member strong ‘warez’ forum specializing in a broad range of ‘pirate’ content. But just three years later things were already starting to go bad.

In 2009, the Frenchman was detained by the authorities after the Association Against Audiovisual Piracy (ALPA) identified more than 3,600 films being made available via the platform without permission. In the meantime the site continued, generating income from advertising and accepting donations via PayPal.

The case dragged on for years but reached its goal in 2015. Mader was found guilty, sentenced to a year in prison, and hit with a 20,000 euro fine. But by this time the Frenchman was long gone and living with his family in the Philippines. He didn’t even attend the hearing – but things weren’t over yet.

With Mader’s guilt established, the court had to determine the level of damages payable to the plaintiffs, which included Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount, Tristar, Universal, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. The amount eventually arrived at by the court was around $15m.

“I won’t think about the penalty, it is just beyond any common sense,” Mader told TF at the time.

“I will surely not [pay anything] and even if a new court makes the penalty lower, it won’t change anything. Five million, 15 million or 30 million. What’s the difference after all?”

Being outside the country with a jail sentence and huge fines hanging over his head was a big problem for Mader, who told us that returning home after years outside the country would be a complicated affair. But things still weren’t over.

In a ruling handed down last month and just made public, the Paris Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the lower court, affirming that Mader owes the plaintiffs 13 million euros ($14.85m).

According to a report from Numerama, the court said that “the likely harm [to rightsholders] must be assessed in light of the extent of visitors to this site [at the time of the investigation], the number of creative works involved, and the ‘views’ duly established.”

The court determined that every visit to the site wouldn’t necessarily have resulted in an illegal download, but it still placed a value of two euros on every work believed to have been downloaded by users.

Mader did not attend the appeal and was not represented, so things were never likely to go his way. His current whereabouts are not clear, but it seems likely that he remains in the Philippines with his family.

Correspondence sent by TF to his encrypted email account bounced. Only time will tell whether Hollywood will have equal difficulty contacting him.

The full decision can be found here.

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

Three Men Sentenced Following £2.5m Internet Piracy Case

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/three-men-sentenced-following-2-5m-internet-piracy-case-170622/

While legal action against low-level individual file-sharers is extremely rare in the UK, the country continues to pose a risk for those engaged in larger-scale infringement.

That is largely due to the activities of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and private anti-piracy outfits such as the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). Investigations are often a joint effort which can take many years to complete, but the outcomes can often involve criminal sentences.

That was the profile of another Internet piracy case that concluded in London this week. It involved three men from the UK, Eric Brooks, 43, from Bolton, Mark Valentine, 44, from Manchester, and Craig Lloyd, 33, from Wolverhampton.

The case began when FACT became aware of potentially infringing activity back in February 2011. The anti-piracy group then investigated for more than a year before handing the case to police in March 2012.

On July 4, 2012, officers from City of London Police arrested Eric Brooks’ at his home in Bolton following a joint raid with FACT. Computer equipment was seized containing evidence that Brooks had been running a Netherlands-based server hosting more than £100,000 worth of pirated films, music, games, software and ebooks.

According to police, a spreadsheet on Brooks’ computer revealed he had hundreds of paying customers, all recruited from online forums. Using PayPal or utilizing bank transfers, each paid money to access the server. Police mentioned no group or site names in information released this week.

“Enquiries with PayPal later revealed that [Brooks] had made in excess of £500,000 in the last eight years from his criminal business and had in turn defrauded the film and TV industry alone of more than £2.5 million,” police said.

“As his criminal enterprise affected not only the film and TV but the wider entertainment industry including music, games, books and software it is thought that he cost the wider industry an amount much higher than £2.5 million.”

On the same day police arrested Brooks, Mark Valentine’s home in Manchester had a similar unwelcome visit. A day later, Craig Lloyd’s home in Wolverhampton become the third target for police.

Computer equipment was seized from both addresses which revealed that the pair had been paying for access to Brooks’ servers in order to service their own customers.

“They too had used PayPal as a means of taking payment and had earned thousands of pounds from their criminal actions; Valentine gaining £34,000 and Lloyd making over £70,000,” police revealed.

But after raiding the trio in 2012, it took more than four years to charge the men. In a feature common to many FACT cases, all three were charged with Conspiracy to Defraud rather than copyright infringement offenses. All three men pleaded guilty before trial.

On Monday, the men were sentenced at Inner London Crown Court. Brooks was sentenced to 24 months in prison, suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 140 hours of unpaid work.

Valentine and Lloyd were each given 18 months in prison, suspended for 12 months. Each was ordered to complete 80 hours unpaid work.

Detective Constable Chris Glover, who led the investigation for the City of London Police, welcomed the sentencing.

“The success of this investigation is a result of co-ordinated joint working between the City of London Police and FACT. Brooks, Valentine and Lloyd all thought that they were operating under the radar and doing something which they thought was beyond the controls of law enforcement,” Glover said.

“Brooks, Valentine and Lloyd will now have time in prison to reflect on their actions and the result should act as deterrent for anyone else who is enticed by abusing the internet to the detriment of the entertainment industry.”

While even suspended sentences are a serious matter, none of the men will see the inside of a cell if they meet the conditions of their sentence for the next 12 months. For a case lasting four years involving such large sums of money, that is probably a disappointing result for FACT and the police.

Nevertheless, the men won’t be allowed to enjoy the financial proceeds of their piracy, if indeed any money is left. City of London Police say the trio will be subject to a future confiscation hearing to seize any proceeds of crime.

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

Court Grants Subpoenas to Unmask ‘TVAddons’ and ‘ZemTV’ Operators

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-grants-subpoenas-to-unmask-tvaddons-and-zemtv-operators-170621/

Earlier this month we broke the news that third-party Kodi add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were being sued in a federal court in Texas.

In a complaint filed by American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network, both stand accused of copyright infringement, facing up to $150,000 for each offense.

While the allegations are serious, Dish doesn’t know the full identities of the defendants.

To find out more, the company requested a broad range of subpoenas from the court, targeting Amazon, Github, Google, Twitter, Facebook, PayPal, and several hosting providers.

From Dish’s request

This week the court granted the subpoenas, which means that they can be forwarded to the companies in question. Whether that will be enough to identify the people behind ‘TVAddons’ and ‘ZemTV’ remains to be seen, but Dish has cast its net wide.

For example, the subpoena directed at Google covers any type of information that can be used to identify the account holder of [email protected], which is believed to be tied to ZemTV.

The information requested from Google includes IP address logs with session date and timestamps, but also covers “all communications,” including GChat messages from 2014 onwards.

Similarly, Twitter is required to hand over information tied to the accounts of the users “TV Addons” and “shani_08_kodi” as well as other accounts linked to tvaddons.ag and streamingboxes.com. This also applies the various tweets that were sent through the account.

The subpoena specifically mentions “all communications, including ‘tweets’, Twitter sent to or received from each Twitter Account during the time period of February 1, 2014 to present.”

From the Twitter subpoena

Similar subpoenas were granted for the other services, tailored towards the information Dish hopes to find there. For example, the broadcast provider also requests details of each transaction from PayPal, as well as all debits and credits to the accounts.

In some parts, the subpoenas appear to be quite broad. PayPal is asked to reveal information on any account with the credit card statement “Shani,” for example. Similarly, Github is required to hand over information on accounts that are ‘associated’ with the tvaddons.ag domain, which is referenced by many people who are not directly connected to the site.

The service providers in question still have the option to challenge the subpoenas or ask the court for further clarification. A full overview of all the subpoena requests is available here (Exhibit 2 and onwards), including all the relevant details. This also includes several letters to foreign hosting providers.

While Dish still appears to be keen to find out who is behind ‘TVAddons’ and ‘ZemTV,’ not much has been heard from the defendants in question.

ZemTV developer “Shani” shut down his addon soon after the lawsuit was announced, without mentioning it specifically. TVAddons, meanwhile, has been offline for well over a week, without any notice in public about the reason for the prolonged downtime.

The court’s order granting the subpoenas and letters of request is available here (pdf).

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

Pirate Site Operators Caught By Money Trail, Landmark Trial Hears

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-operators-caught-by-money-trail-landmark-trial-hears-170411/

Founded half a decade ago, Swefilmer grew to become Sweden’s most popular movie and TV show streaming site. At one stage, Swefilmer and fellow streaming site Dreamfilm were said to account for 25% of all web TV viewing in Sweden.

In 2015, local man Ola Johansson took to the Internet to reveal that he’d been raided by the police under suspicion of being involved in running the site. In March 2016, a Turkish national was arrested in Germany on a secret European arrest warrant.

After a couple of false starts, one last June and another this January, the case finally got underway yesterday in Sweden.

The pair stand accused of the unlawful distribution of around 1,400 movies, owned by a dozen studios including Warner, Disney and Fox. Investigators tested 67 of the titles and ten had been made available online before their DVD release.

Anti-piracy group Rights Alliance claims that the site generated a lot of money from advertising without paying for the appropriate licenses. On the table are potential convictions for copyright infringement and money laundering.

Follow the money

In common with so many file-sharing related cases, it’s clear that the men in this case were tracked down from traces left online. Those included IP address evidence and money trails from both advertising revenues and site donations.

According to Sveriges Radio who were in court yesterday, police were able to trace two IP addresses used to operate Swefilmer back to Turkey.

In an effort to trace the bank account used by the site to hold funds, the prosecutor then sought assistance from Turkish authorities. After obtaining the name of the 26-year-old, the prosecutor was then able to link that with advertising revenue generated by the site.

Swefilmer also had a PayPal account used to receive donations and payments for VIP memberships. That account was targeted by an investigator from Rights Alliance who donated money via the same method. That allowed the group to launch an investigation with the payment processor.

The PayPal inquiry appears to have been quite fruitful. The receipt from the donation revealed the account name and from there PayPal apparently gave up the email and bank account details connected to the account. These were linked to the 26-year-old by the prosecutor.

Advertising

The site’s connections with its advertisers also proved useful to investigators. The prosecution claimed that Swefilmer received its first payment in 2013 and its last in 2015. The money generated, some $1.5m (14m kronor), was deposited in a bank account operated by the 26-year-old by a Stockholm-based ad company.

The court heard that while the CEO of the advertising company had been questioned in connection with the case, he is not suspected of crimes.

Connecting the site’s operators

While the exact mechanism is unclear, investigators from Rights Alliance managed to find an IP address used by the 22-year-old. This IP was then traced back to his parents’ home in Kungsbacka, Sweden. The same IP address was used to access the man’s Facebook page.

In court, the prosecution read out chat conversations between both men. They revealed that the men knew each other only through chat and that the younger man believed the older was from Russia.

The prosecution’s case is that the 26-year-old was the ring-leader and that his colleague was a minor player. With that in mind, the latter is required to pay back around $4,000, which is the money he earned from the site.

For the older man, the situation is much more serious. The prosecution is seeking all of the money the site made from advertising, a cool $1.5m.

The case was initially set to go ahead last year but was postponed pending a ruling from the European Court of Justice. Last September, the Court determined that it was illegal to link to copyrighted material if profit was being made.

Claes Kennedy, the lawyer for the 22-year-old, insists that his client did nothing wrong. His actions took place before the ECJ’s ruling so should be determined legal, he says.

The case continues.

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

Court Orders PayPal to Identify Pirate Site Owner

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-paypal-to-identify-pirate-site-owner-170408/

For several years PayPal has been trying to limit how much business it does with sites and services linked to copyright infringement.

The payment provider previously banned several BitTorrent sites, Usenet providers and file-hosting services to avoid any associations with piracy.

The disconnections are often the result of complaints from copyright holders who want to limit the financial resources of these platforms. In addition, the same companies are also interested in finding out who the operators are.

This puts PayPal in a more tricky position. Handing over personal details of clients is not something most financial companies would do voluntarily. In Germany, this prompted Sony Music to take the matter to court.

This week, the Hamburg District Court ruled that PayPal must hand over the information they have on the operator of an unnamed pirate site. In this case, Luxemburg’s banking secrecy provisions do not shield the website operator.

Internet and copyright lawyer Clemens Rasch, whose law firm handled the case, is happy with the outcome. He says that the ruling allows music producers, film companies and other copyright holders to identify pirates more easily, something they can use to enforce their rights.

“The decision makes it easier to identify offenders and make them liable,” the lawyer comments. The present ruling sets a precedent that could also be applied to other pirates and payment providers.

“According to the ‘follow-the-money’ approach, PayPal and any other payment service, including credit card providers, are obliged to provide information in the event of an infringement. This is the case, for example, if the web server on which the infringements occur is financed through the payment service,” Rasch adds.

In recent years copyright holders have started to rely more heavily on this “follow-the-money” approach. One of the goals is to dry up the resources of alleged copyright infringers. With the German ruling, they now have an ulterior motive to go after sites’ payment providers, at least in Germany.

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

EFF Criticizes PIPCU’s New Domain Name Policing Effort

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eff-criticizes-pipcus-new-domain-name-policing-effort-170406/

The City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is a specialist unit dedicated to the reduction of all IP-related crime, including actions against pirate sites and their operators, sellers of Kodi-type devices, and those who counterfeit luxury goods.

While at times the unit is able to take down infrastructure, it appears to have a broader strategy of disruption, making life difficult for those committing infringement in the hope that they give up or move on.

In recent years, PIPCU has been putting a lot of effort into having domains taken down or suspended. Sometimes it achieves this after applying pressure to pirate site operators, for example, but the majority of takedowns are actioned via voluntary agreements with industry players.

This week, PIPCU announced that it will begin collaborating with the International Anti Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) to take down websites in association with the IACC’s ‘RogueBlock‘ program.

RogueBlock was launched in January 2012 following rights-holder negotiations with the payment industry to develop a strategy for dealing with so-called ‘rogue’ websites. It began by focusing on sites selling counterfeits but in 2015 was expanded to deal with cyberlocker-type sites.

With MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, MoneyGram, American Express, Discover, PULSE, Diners Club and Western Union as members, the program focuses on disrupting revenue streams, such as payments for fake items or subscriptions to file-hosting sites that fail to comply with the requirements of the DMCA.

Since the program began, it claims to have terminated more than 5,300 accounts connected to a claimed 200,000 websites. Now it has a new ally in PIPCU, which will augment the program with its own Operation Ashiko, an initiative aimed at seizing allegedly infringing website domains.

“Since its inception Operation Ashiko has suspended in excess of 20,000 websites by working with our industry partners,” PIPCU says.

“This creates a safer environment for consumers to purchase genuine goods and disrupts the funding of criminals committing intellectual property crime.”

This partnership is an extension of similar industry and voluntary agreements currently gathering momentum in both Europe and the United States. Freed from the shackles of expensive and formal legal action, industry players and police now work together in order to disrupt piracy in all its forms, hitting website infrastructure and revenue collection mechanisms.

While supporters in the creative industries see such programs as nimble and effective in the fight against IP crime, critics such as the EFF are concerned by the lack of transparency and accountability.

“If a website is wrongly listed by the IACC in its RogueBlock program, thereby becoming a target for blocking by the City of London Police and the payment processors, there is no readily accessible pathway to have its inclusion reviewed and, if necessary, reversed,” the EFF says.

“This opens up much scope for websites to be wrongly listed for anti-competitive or political reasons, or simply by mistake.”

The EFF says that it would prefer that action against sites was backed up by enforcement through legal channels. However, as the group points out, that could prove complex due to the multi-jurisdictional nature of the Internet.

“The latest expansion of the program to facilitate the takedown of domains threatens to compound these problems, particularly if the City of London Police apply it against websites that are not globally infringing, or if private domain registries or registrars join the program and begin to act on claims of infringement directly,” it concludes.

While PIPCU will certainly bring something to the table, domain suspensions in the UK don’t always go smoothly. Registrars have previously declined to work with the unit to suspend torrent site domains and in 2014 it was revealed that out of 70 similar requests, just five were granted.

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

Dreamhack Organizer Arrested in Torrent Site Crackdown

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/dreamhack-organizer-arrested-in-torrent-site-crackdown-161121/

raratWhile Rarat.org is relatively unknown in most countries, it gained local fame in Sweden as one of the top private trackers.

This ended abruptly a few weeks ago when the site’s homepage was replaced with a worrying message, indicating the site’s operators were in trouble.

“The week Rarat was subject to a search, seizure, and arrest. This follows a 2013 complaint from a film company that tracked down our PayPal payments. Damages in the millions of krona are feared. The site will now be closed.”

This weekend, Rights Alliance lawyer Henrik Pontén, who represents several copyright holders, informed DN that Nordisk Film, SF, and Disney filed a criminal complaint back in 2013.

Initially, there wasn’t much progress in the case. However, a breakthrough came when PayPal, with help from Rights Alliance, identified the person who received Rarat’s donations.

With this information in hand a special unit of Sweden’s Department of National Police Operations, NOA, managed track down one of the alleged operators of the torrent site.

Interestingly, this prime suspect is also one of the organizers of the winter edition of Dreamhack, the largest computer festival in the world. The upcoming Dreamhack event, which takes place in Jönköping, is expected to draw 50,000 computer and gaming fanatics.

Earlier this month the Dreamhack organizer was arrested and taken in for questioning on suspicion of copyright infringement. In addition, several computers were seized as evidence during a house search.

“The investigation is still at an early stage, and there could be more people involved. We will now carry out a cyber forensic investigation. The suspect has been released pending a possible prosecution,” a representative of Stockholm’s Public Prosecution Office told DN.

The alleged torrent site operator denies his involvement with the site but has been put on leave from work by Dreamhack, pending the investigation.

“I’m not worried. The police have the wrong person,” the man commented, noting that the Rarat site shut down while the police were interrogating him.

Rights Alliance lawyer Henrik Pontén says that the complaint lists five films. As a result, the total scale of the damages could reach 10 million Swedish krona, which is well over a million dollars.

—-

Header photo via Dreamhack.

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

Regulation of the Internet of Things

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/11/regulation_of_t.html

Late last month, popular websites like Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and PayPal went down for most of a day. The distributed denial-of-service attack that caused the outages, and the vulnerabilities that made the attack possible, was as much a failure of market and policy as it was of technology. If we want to secure our increasingly computerized and connected world, we need more government involvement in the security of the “Internet of Things” and increased regulation of what are now critical and life-threatening technologies. It’s no longer a question of if, it’s a question of when.

First, the facts. Those websites went down because their domain name provider — a company named Dyn —­ was forced offline. We don’t know who perpetrated that attack, but it could have easily been a lone hacker. Whoever it was launched a distributed denial-of-service attack against Dyn by exploiting a vulnerability in large numbers ­— possibly millions — of Internet-of-Things devices like webcams and digital video recorders, then recruiting them all into a single botnet. The botnet bombarded Dyn with traffic, so much that it went down. And when it went down, so did dozens of websites.

Your security on the Internet depends on the security of millions of Internet-enabled devices, designed and sold by companies you’ve never heard of to consumers who don’t care about your security.

The technical reason these devices are insecure is complicated, but there is a market failure at work. The Internet of Things is bringing computerization and connectivity to many tens of millions of devices worldwide. These devices will affect every aspect of our lives, because they’re things like cars, home appliances, thermostats, light bulbs, fitness trackers, medical devices, smart streetlights and sidewalk squares. Many of these devices are low-cost, designed and built offshore, then rebranded and resold. The teams building these devices don’t have the security expertise we’ve come to expect from the major computer and smartphone manufacturers, simply because the market won’t stand for the additional costs that would require. These devices don’t get security updates like our more expensive computers, and many don’t even have a way to be patched. And, unlike our computers and phones, they stay around for years and decades.

An additional market failure illustrated by the Dyn attack is that neither the seller nor the buyer of those devices cares about fixing the vulnerability. The owners of those devices don’t care. They wanted a webcam —­ or thermostat, or refrigerator ­— with nice features at a good price. Even after they were recruited into this botnet, they still work fine ­— you can’t even tell they were used in the attack. The sellers of those devices don’t care: They’ve already moved on to selling newer and better models. There is no market solution because the insecurity primarily affects other people. It’s a form of invisible pollution.

And, like pollution, the only solution is to regulate. The government could impose minimum security standards on IoT manufacturers, forcing them to make their devices secure even though their customers don’t care. They could impose liabilities on manufacturers, allowing companies like Dyn to sue them if their devices are used in DDoS attacks. The details would need to be carefully scoped, but either of these options would raise the cost of insecurity and give companies incentives to spend money making their devices secure.

It’s true that this is a domestic solution to an international problem and that there’s no U.S. regulation that will affect, say, an Asian-made product sold in South America, even though that product could still be used to take down U.S. websites. But the main costs in making software come from development. If the United States and perhaps a few other major markets implement strong Internet-security regulations on IoT devices, manufacturers will be forced to upgrade their security if they want to sell to those markets. And any improvements they make in their software will be available in their products wherever they are sold, simply because it makes no sense to maintain two different versions of the software. This is truly an area where the actions of a few countries can drive worldwide change.

Regardless of what you think about regulation vs. market solutions, I believe there is no choice. Governments will get involved in the IoT, because the risks are too great and the stakes are too high. Computers are now able to affect our world in a direct and physical manner.

Security researchers have demonstrated the ability to remotely take control of Internet-enabled cars. They’ve demonstrated ransomware against home thermostats and exposed vulnerabilities in implanted medical devices. They’ve hacked voting machines and power plants. In one recent paper, researchers showed how a vulnerability in smart light bulbs could be used to start a chain reaction, resulting in them all being controlled by the attackers ­— that’s every one in a city. Security flaws in these things could mean people dying and property being destroyed.

Nothing motivates the U.S. government like fear. Remember 2001? A small-government Republican president created the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks: a rushed and ill-thought-out decision that we’ve been trying to fix for more than a decade. A fatal IoT disaster will similarly spur our government into action, and it’s unlikely to be well-considered and thoughtful action. Our choice isn’t between government involvement and no government involvement. Our choice is between smarter government involvement and stupider government involvement. We have to start thinking about this now. Regulations are necessary, important and complex ­— and they’re coming. We can’t afford to ignore these issues until it’s too late.

In general, the software market demands that products be fast and cheap and that security be a secondary consideration. That was okay when software didn’t matter —­ it was okay that your spreadsheet crashed once in a while. But a software bug that literally crashes your car is another thing altogether. The security vulnerabilities in the Internet of Things are deep and pervasive, and they won’t get fixed if the market is left to sort it out for itself. We need to proactively discuss good regulatory solutions; otherwise, a disaster will impose bad ones on us.

This essay previously appeared in the Washington Post.

Police Confirm Arrests of BlackCats-Games Operators

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-confirm-arrests-blackcats-games-operators-161020/

After being down for several hours, yesterday the domain of private tracker BlackCats-Games was seized by the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit.

The domain used to point to an IP address in Canada, but was later switched to a server known to be under the control of PIPCU, the UK’s leading anti-piracy force.

Following several hours of rumors, last evening sources close to the site began to confirm that the situation was serious. Reddit user Farow went public with specific details, noting that the owner of BlackCats-Games had been arrested and the site would be closing down.

Former site staff member SteWieH added that there had in fact been two arrests and it was the site’s sysops that had been taken into custody.

While both are credible sources, there was no formal confirmation from PIPCU. That came a few moments ago and it’s pretty bad news for fans of the site and its operators.

“Officers from the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) have arrested two men in connection with an ongoing investigation into the illegal distribution of copyright protected video games,” the unit said in a statement.

Police say that the raids took place on Tuesday, with officers arresting two men aged 47 and 44 years at their homes in Birmingham, West Midlands and Blyth, Northumberland. Both were arrested on suspicion of copyright infringement and money laundering offenses.

Detectives say they also seized digital media and computer hardware.

PIPCU report that the investigation into the site was launched in cooperation with UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Former staff member SteWieH says that a PayPal account operated by the site in 2013 appears to have played an important role in the arrests.

Detective Sergeant Gary Brownfrom the City of London Police Intellectual Property Unit said that their goal was to disrupt the work of “content thieves.”

“With the ever-growing consumer appetite for gaming driving the threat of piracy to the industry, our action today is essential in disrupting criminal activity and the money which drives it,” Brownfrom said.

“Those who steal copyrighted content exploit the highly skilled work and jobs supported by the gaming industry. We are working hard to tackle digital intellectual property crime and we will continue to target our enforcement activity towards those identified as content thieves whatever scale they are operating at.”

UK Interactive Entertainment welcomed the arrests.

“UKIE applauds the action taken by PIPCU against the operators of the site. Sites like this are harmful to the hard work of game creators around the world. PIPCU’s actions confirm that these sites will not be tolerated, and are subject to criminal enforcement,” a spokesman said.

Stanley Pierre-Louis, general counsel for the Entertainment Software Association, thanked PIPCU for its work.

“ESA commends PIPCU for its commitment to taking action against sites that facilitate the illegal copying and distribution of incredibly advanced works of digital art. We are grateful for PIPCU’s leadership in this area and their support of creative industries.”

Both men have been released on police bail.

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

Who Are The Alleged Top Men Behind KickassTorrents?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-alleged-top-men-behind-kickasstorrents-160826/

katThe sudden shutdown last month of KickassTorrents left a sizeable hole in the torrent landscape. KAT was the largest torrent index on the planet and much-loved by those who frequented it.

On day one of the shutdown, the United States government revealed that they had one prime suspect in their sights. Ukrainian Artem Vaulin was said to be the mastermind of KickassTorrents, coordinating an international operation through Cryptoneat, a front company in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Yesterday the United States officially indicted Vaulin (aka ‘tirm’) along with two of his alleged KickassTorrents co-conspirators – Oleksandr Radostin (aka ‘pioneer’) and Ievgen Kutsenko (aka ‘chill’). All are said to have worked at Cryptoneat but little else is known about them. Today we can put some meat on the bones.

Artem Vaulin

Artem Vaulin is a 30-year-old man from Ukraine. Born in 1985, he is married with a young son. According to an investigation carried out by Vesti, his business life had simple roots.

After graduating from school, Vaulin went on to set up a vending machine business focusing on chewing gum and soft toys.

“My parents gave me $3000. They said: ‘Cool, you do not have to count on us. Now you have your own money’,” Vaulin told reporters in 2004.

Since then, Vaulin’s business empire seems to have taken off but despite reportedly having interests in several local companies (three with registered capital of more than $8.5m total), Vaulin appears to have been able to keep a reasonably low profile.

However, it is Vaulin’s love of squash that leads us to the only images available of him online. Ukrainian squash portal Squashtime.com.ua has a full profile, indicating his date and place of birth, and even his racquet preference.

vaulin-1

Vesti approached the club where Vaulin trained but due to data protection issues it would not share any information on the businessman. However, local news resource Segodnya tracked down Vaulin’s squash coach, Evgeny Ponomarenko.

“I know it only from the positive side. Artem is a good man and a family man with a growing son,” Ponomarenko said.

Vaulin is also said to have signed petitions on the Ukranian president’s website, one requesting that the country join NATO and another seeking to allow Ukranians to receive money from abroad via PayPal.

Oleksandr (Alexander) Radostin

Alexander Radostin appears to have been a software architect and/or lead engineer at Cryptoneat but other than that, very little is known about him.

There are several references to him online in Ukraine in relation to the shutdown of KickassTorrents, but most merely speculate that as an employee of Cryptoneat, Radostin might be best placed to confirm Vaulin’s current arrest status.

Many former Cryptoneat employees have purged their social networking presence but some of Radostin’s details are still available via Ukranian-based searches, including the Linkedin image below.

radostin-linkedin-1

While almost nothing is known about the third indicted KickassTorrents operator, Ievgen Kutsenko, images of the offices from where he and his colleagues allegedly ran the site can be hunted down.

The image below shows a screenshot from a Ukranian job seeking site where Cryptoneat had a page. It lists both Vaulin and Radostin to the right of some tiny thumbnails of photographs apparently taken inside the Kickass/Cryptoneat offices.

crypto-jobs

TF managed to track down a full-size version of the third image from the left and the environment looks very nice indeed.

crypto-4

While Vaulin is currently being held in a Polish jail, the whereabouts of his alleged co-conspirators is unknown. However, if they are still in Ukraine it might not be straightforward to have them extradited to the United States.

“Ukraine and the United States do not have an extradition treaty,” the U.S. Embassy confirms on its Ukraine website.

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

KickassTorrents Crew Ask For Donations to Rebuild The Site

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kickasstorrents-crew-ask-for-donations-to-rebuild-the-site-160811/

kickasstorrents_500x500With an active community and millions of regular visitors, KickassTorrents (KAT) was much more than a site to leech the latest torrents from.

Many considered it to be their virtual home where they gathered with friends on a daily basis.

This ended abruptly last month. When the site’s alleged operator was arrested following a criminal investigation of the U.S. Government, the official site went down with him.

While it’s unlikely that the original site will return anytime soon, a group of KAT-crew members have been working hard to keep the community together.

Within a few days a new forum was launched at Katcr.to, supported by several high ranking moderators of the original site. In the weeks that followed thousands of members returned to the community, which now has plans to expand.

The site started a fundraising campaign asking for money to repair and rebuild the “authentic KAT site code.” The team is accepting donations through PayPal and a Gofundme campaign, hoping to collect several thousands dollars.

“This site we now inhabit is costing money: Money that a few individuals put up to ensure the survival of this Community. This is still not the Kat we all remember but on a daily basis it is getting closer,” Johnno23 says.

Katcr.to fundraiser

kat-donations

The big question is whether this means that the torrent download and upload functionality will be returned to its former glory. For the time being, this appears to be one of the long-term goals.

To find out more TorrentFreak spoke with Mr.Gooner aka the President, a long time KAT-crew member and one of the top admins at the original site.

Mr. Gooner explains that many of the original site staffers have returned to the community, but that funds are needed to develop and maintain it during the months to come.

While the initial focus will be on the community element, torrents are expected to return as well in the future.

“At this stage, it very much depends on pending legal action and rulings in regards to the legality of torrents in the US. However the community can be reassured that in one way or another, KAT will return to its former glory,” Mr. Gooner says.

That said, fully restoring the old site with the original database is not an option at this moment.

The site administrators and crew, all regular users at one point, were clearly separated from the people who technically and financially ran the site. This means that the people in charge of Katcr.to don’t have access to the original code and data.

“It is our understanding that the databases have been secured in such a way that the information inside would become useless if an unauthorised attempt was made to access them,” Mr. Gooner says.

So, if torrent sharing is added to the current community site, it has to be coded by new people. This will take time and money, obviously, and the current crew is not certain if that will happen anytime soon.

Fundraisers are always welcomed with a healthy dose of scepticism, which is no different this time around.

From the information we have gathered so far, it’s safe to say that people shouldn’t expect the original KAT functionality to be restored fully in the near future.

In that regard, Mr. Gooner and others still encourage people to continue uploading in the meantime, even when that’s on other torrent sites.

“Run those seedboxes and torrent clients 24/7 where possible. Just because uploading stopped at KAT we are all still pirates and we will always encourage uploading,” he says.

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

Russia Plans Social Media Piracy Crackdown

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-plans-social-media-piracy-crackdown-160810/

peopleDespite a reputation for not doing enough to thwart online piracy, Russian authorities have become unusually keen to make amends in recent years.

Site-blocking, for example, is now a common occurrence, with sites that infringe multiple times now being subjected to a permanent lifetime injunction, actioned by local ISPs.

But while users continue to flock to torrent sites and streaming portals, copyright holders and local authorities are concerned that social networking platforms are a potentially more serious threat.

In many cases, users are allowed to upload content at will, thereby creating huge libraries of infringing material, a serious headache for copyright holders.

To tackle this problem, authorities and entertainment industry groups are now in the process of drafting fresh legislation aimed at those social media platforms that allow users to upload content.

According to Izvestia, the Ministry of Culture and groups including the National Federation of the Music Industry (NFMI) and the Association of Producers of Cinema and Television (APKIT), believe that a change in the law will make it harder for social platforms to evade liability.

Under Article 1253.1 of the Civil Code, social media sites are considered “information brokers”, meaning that sites like vKontakte (Russia’s Facebook) can avoid being held liable for infringing content uploaded by their users.

Rightsholders would like that legislation to be removed or rewritten in a way that would provide them with more useful options to enforce their intellectual property rights.

Also under consideration are changes to the law that would further punish sites that have already been ordered to be blocked by the Moscow City Court. Currently, local ISPs currently put Internet blockades in place but rightsholders foresee a situation where the finances of infringing sites are put under pressure too.

On the table are proposals to ban those sites from carrying advertising. In the West, advertisers are working on voluntary schemes that aim to keep their funding away from ‘pirate’ sites but it appears that Russia is considering enshrining those principles into law.

Additionally, rightsholders are asking for sites that run on a subscription basis to be forbidden from accepting payments from their users. Again, voluntary agreements with companies such as Visa, MasterCard and PayPal are already in place in the United States and Europe, but legislation could compel Russian companies to comply.

Also continuing its path through the system is another bill designed to tackle the rise of so-called mirrors, sites that crop up after a site is blocked in order to facilitate access to the same content.

The draft bill, which also proposes an obligation to have search engines strip content from results and measures to tackle VPNs and proxies, has already been sent to the Ministry of Communications.

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

UK Government Expands Crackdown on Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-government-expands-crackdown-on-online-piracy-160510/

In various publications and reports in recent months, the UK has been described as a world leader in intellectual property enforcement. Indeed, news of various operations and dozens of arrests carried out by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) have regularly appeared in the media.

This morning the UK Government has announced that it intends to build on this reputation with the publication of a new strategy titled Protecting Creativity, Supporting Innovation: IP Enforcement 2020.

The document outlines a four-year strategy which aims to provide an environment in which UK rightsholders have access to “proportionate and effective mechanisms to resolve disputes and tackle IP infringement” both at home and overseas.

The strategy has six key points, with reducing the level of illegal online content placed at the top of the list and strengthening the law closely after. The government also wants to increase its educational programs with the aim of building respect for intellectual property.

A significant emphasis on dealing with online infringement sees the government focus on a number of key areas, from those sharing files online to the sites facilitating infringement. Search engines also come under the spotlight.

Interestingly, the main points are all framed at helping the consumer to both recognize and then avoid copyright infringing websites.

Notice and takedown, notice and trackdown

Given the Copyright Office DMCA review currently underway in the United States, it’s no surprise to find a review of notice and takedown procedures heading the list in the UK. The government says that it wants to “improve and streamline the process” while considering the scope for introducing a Code of Practice for intermediaries.

More controversially, the four-year strategy also includes the possibility of introducing a system of “notice and trackdown” which would enable rightsholders to not only send notices but also take action directly against identified infringers.

Safe harbor (or platform liability as its referred to in the report) will come under the spotlight as well, with the government seeking clarification from the EU on current rules.

Dealing with pirating Internet users

On top of the “notice and trackdown” elements detailed above (presumably for the minority who post infringing links on websites etc), the report envisions effort being placed on encouraging consumers to buy from legitimate sources. Mainly, this will be achieved through the long-delayed warning notice system under development at ISPs.

“This government will also build on progress made under our voluntary anti-piracy projects to warn internet users when they are breaching copyright and work to ensure that search engines do not link to the worst-offending sites. This is in recognition of the fact that the clear majority of consumers want to do the right thing, to abide by the law and support our creative industries,” says Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Neville-Rolfe.

“Helping those consumers to understand what is, and is not, allowed online, and helping guide them to legal content when they search, will help ensure that the vast appetite that exists for new and creative content benefits the legitimate creators, and not those criminals who cynically exploit the hard work of others.”

To help users make the right choice, the government is promising to give more support to industry initiatives such as FindanyFilm.com and the GetitRight campaign while encouraging education campaigns focused on children and students.

“We will work with intermediaries, rights holders and trade bodies to highlight all the UK’s legal sources of content,” the government says.

Targeting pirate sites, services, and their operators

In addition to honing the existing Infringing Website List (IWL), emphasis will be placed on depriving sites of their income via the “Follow the Money” approach and reducing the numbers of visitors they currently enjoy.

“We will continue to work with brand advertisers, advertising intermediaries and
law enforcement partners to highlight the value of the IWL and will support groups
such as the Digital Trading Standards group (DTSG) in promoting their UK good
practice principles,” the report notes.

Existing efforts to deprive sites of the ability to process funds will be maintained, with the government promising to seek commitments from payment processors such as PayPal, MasterCard and VISA to make it more easy for service to be declined following complaints from law enforcement.

Of course, no “pirate site” strategy would be complete without the inclusion of a blocking regime and as expected the UK government leaves no stone unturned.

“This government has also pledged to protect intellectual property by continuing to require internet service providers to block sites that carry large amounts of illegal content, including their proxies,” Baroness Neville-Rolfe explains.

“The UK has a good track record in the development of injunctive relief for online infringement, but this is something that must be preserved, and even enhanced to cope with the sheer numbers of infringing websites that spring up every month, and the new business models they employ.”

The government further sees an opportunity to make the blocking process easier to access for smaller businesses.

“We will continue our work to support businesses of any size to navigate and utilize the civil court system by improving the guidance that is currently available, including guidance on the minimum levels of evidence required for website blocking orders, and by ensuring that court judgments and cases are published on a regular and consistent basis,” the report reads.

The UK also sees potential for cooperation with the EU on injunctions, more on that in a moment.

Interestingly, it appears that ‘pirate’ set-top streaming boxes have rightsholders and by extension the government pretty rattled. They get a special mention in the report with the government noting that a greater understanding of the challenges they present is required. Furthermore, the report says that the government will consider what kind of new legislation might be needed to tackle them.

Search engines and social media

According to the report, the government will work with search engines and social media platforms to reduce the availability of infringing content. This will include a review of their current “notice and takedown” procedures and see the government considering the options for rightsholders to challenge infringers under “notice and trackdown” as detailed above.

The review process will also determine whether Codes of Practice are required for platforms including Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Overseas cooperation

While there are issues locally, the government sees the piracy problem as one to be solved cooperatively on an international basis. To this end there will be requests to partners overseas to carry out “domain and hosting enforcement action” when UK interests are at stake.

“This will include exploring with European colleagues the options for mutual recognition of the evidence required for injunctions and court orders in various member states,” the report reads.

This item is of particular interest since around 1,000 ‘pirate’ sites are already blocked by injunction in the UK. Streamlining the process EU-wide would be a major bonus for rightsholders.

The UK Government’s four-year IP enforcement strategy can be found here (pdf)

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

Portugal Blocks 330 Pirate Sites in Just Six Months

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/portugal-blocks-330-pirate-sites-in-just-six-months-160430/

One of copyright holders’ most-favored anti-piracy mechanisms in place today involves site-blocking. Censoring sites at the ISP level is effective, rightsholders insist, not to mention cheaper than direct legal action against pirate sites.

In most countries where site-blocking is already in place, authorities have previously determined that the legal system must be involved. In the UK, for example, existing legislation was deemed to offer rightsholders the tools they need. Australia, on the other hand, decided to introduce legal amendments to keep things on the straight and narrow.

Portugal decided to take a different approach, one that simply involved an agreement between rightsholders, ISPs and the government. Now, if a site is considered to be illegal by these parties, it can be blocked without stepping into a courtroom.

For copyright holders it’s the Holy Grail and they’re taking full advantage of the new system. This week during a conference in the capital, Lisbon, the Portuguese Association for the Protection of Audiovisual Works revealed the extent of the program and it’s as critics feared.

Executive Director Antonio Paulo Santos reported that Portugal is now blocking a vast range of file-sharing and related sites, offering movies, TV, shows and music to streaming sports and books. In total more than 330 sites are now being blocked by local Internet service providers.

The rate of blocking is unprecedented. In October 2015 more than 50 sites were blocked by ISPs, including KickassTorrents, ExtraTorrent, Isohunt and RARBG. The following month another 40 were added, including BitSnoop, YourBitorrent, SeedPeer, Torlock and Torrentfunk.

Since then another 240 sites have been quietly added to the list. This rapid growth means that along with the United Kingdom and Italy, Portugal is already a world leader in pirate site blockades. All this has been achieved without ever going near a court room.

It is this kind of voluntary agreement that Hollywood and the major record labels are pushing for internationally, whether they’re with Internet service providers, domain registries or companies such as PayPal, Visa and Mastercard. The process in Portugal ticks all the right boxes for the entertainment companies so expect it to be championed elsewhere.

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

Kim Dotcom Warns Mega Users to Backup Their Files

Post Syndicated from Andy original http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Torrentfreak/~3/X3Fpj-PkE74/

In 2012, a combined effort by the United States and New Zealand governments brought Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload empire to its knees. Coordinated raids in multiple locations carried out by heavily armed officers ensured that a clear message was sent to copyright infringers.

But despite the overwhelming show of force, Dotcom refused to lie down and just a year later he launched a brand new file-hosting service. Known simply as ‘Mega’, the platform launched to great fanfare in 2013.

Mega quickly became a force to be reckoned with in the hosting market, with Dotcom promoting the platform at every turn. Nevertheless, controversy was never far away.

In September 2014, Mega was branded a “piracy haven” in a Digital Citizens Alliance report into the activities of “shadowy cyberlockers.”

As a direct consequence and under pressure from the U.S. government, in early 2015 PayPal stopped processing payments for Mega. There can be little doubt that hurt the site.

But behind the scenes other matters were becoming a distraction. In May 2015, Mega’s bid for a stock listing fell through and just two months later Dotcom’s earlier praise for the company turned sour.

“Mega has experienced a hostile takeover and is no longer in the control of people who care about Internet Freedom. The New Zealand Government and Hollywood have seized a significant share of the company,” Dotcom told TorrentFreak.

“The combined shares seized by the NZ government and Hollywood were significant enough to stop our listing on the New Zealand stock exchange.”

Dotcom had already resigned as a director of Mega in September 2013 but now he was publicly warning people against using the site.

Today Dotcom repeated those calls, warning users of Mega over what he sees as the precarious position of the company.

“Mega had to survive without a credit card payment processor for almost 2 years now. The air is getting thin. Backup your Mega files,” he told users via Twitter.

But while a lack of payment processing options certainly won’t be helping Mega, Dotcom sees more danger in the reported controller of Mega, Chinese national and New Zealand citizen Bill Liu.

Back in 2009, Liu made headlines when it was revealed that despite being wanted for fraud in China, he was granted citizenship in New Zealand. Now it’s been revealed by kiwi Prime Minister John Key that Liu is ranked number five on China’s “Top 100” extradition list.

“I haven’t seen the list, but there is a list,” Key said.

“They’ve also put out a list worldwide of the Top 100. Bill Liu is number five on it,” he said of the Chinese government.

New Zealand police have already seized millions of dollars of assets that are believed to belong to Liu, including some held in Mega, although Liu denies all wrong doing. Dotcom, however, remains unconvinced.

“The 5th most wanted criminal in China is in control of Mega and he wants to float the business in HK? Good luck,” he said this morning.

As these situations go, the short history of Mega is utterly unique. Never before has a platform in the file-sharing space had two entrepreneurs each worth millions of dollars being pursued for extradition by two of the world’s most powerful governments for entirely different reasons.

It’s currently very late evening in New Zealand so we’re not expecting an immediate response from Mega to our requests for comment. We’ll add them here as soon as they arrive.

Update: Statement from Mega chairman Stephen Hall

“Mega has significant funding and strong support from shareholders so its financial position is certainly not precarious. Dotcom’s comment is factually incorrect and the motive is unknown,” Hall informs TF.

“Mega continues to experience strong growth which illustrates the global appreciation of the quality of its services. Mr Liu has a shareholding interest but has no management or board position so he certainly doesn’t control Mega.”

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

MPA: We’ve Reached a Turning Point on Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Torrentfreak/~3/8GNVhbvQArs/

mpaAfter many years of litigation aimed at forcing the world’s largest pirate sites to their knees, the situation on the ground hasn’t changed very much for Hollywood.

Despite having many important legal wins under their belts, almost every single movie is available for immediate download within a few mouse clicks. In fact in some respects the position today is much worse than it was five or even ten years ago.

But while the sites themselves continue largely as before, progress is being made with other players in the Internet ecosystem, a fact recognized by MPA Europe president Stan McCoy as he addressed colleagues in France last week.

“Protecting creativity takes commitment from a whole ecosystem of people and organizations, from theater owners and operators, to technology companies and online service providers, to retailers both large and small, to Internet intermediaries, to law enforcement authorities,” he said.

While relationships with Hollywood are somewhat fragile, Google has indeed made many gestures towards the entertainment industries by helping to make copyright-infringing content harder to find. Payment processors are also doing their part, with Visa, MasterCard and PayPal all trying to stop pirate operations from using their services.

Nevertheless, the overarching message is that Google can always do more and indeed isn’t doing enough. One only has to look at the war of words taking place over the recent Copyright Office DMCA submission process to see that the battle is far from over and more blood is yet to be spilled.

But McCoy appears optimistic and notes that those engaged indirectly in the piracy ecosystem are beginning to come round to Hollywood’s way of thinking that they must together share responsibility to solve the problem.

“I put it to the audience that we may have come to a turning point in our fight against piracy, a point where intermediaries begin to understand that the creative industry does not seek to shy away from its duties and responsibilities – and it really has not – but that instead all players in the ecosystem, which of course includes not only access providers, but also search engines and payment processors amongst others – have a role to play,” said.

If that is the case then Hollywood has probably come a long way. It certainly isn’t going to solve this problem on its own and having powerful allies on board will certainly help its cause. The emphasis these days is indeed on voluntary cooperation such as warning notices schemes but it’s unclear how much further ISPs are prepared to go and whether the notices even have much effect.

But of course one shouldn’t forget the consumers so it’s no surprise that McCoy had something to say about the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) study published last week which found that 38% of young people see nothing morally wrong in piracy.

“What is more staggering is that nearly one in four believed that they were doing nothing wrong in accessing digital content from illegal sources for personal use,” McCoy said.

“Clearly it is important that young people understand that making a film, writing a book or recording a song, the amount of time, effort and investment is more than a passion – it is also someone’s livelihood. Let’s remember that 7 million people work in the creative industry in Europe.”

But what that very same survey also found is that the number one reason (58%) for young people to stop using illegal sources would be the availability of affordable content from legal sources. The MPAA is campaigning heavily at the moment claiming it is doing just that, but there are also clear signs that the EU’s plans to outlaw geo-blocking and open up content EU-wide aren’t sitting well with the studios.

In a posting to his LinkedIn page, McCoy likens Europeans’ distrust of genetically modified food to the EU’s plan to tweak copyright law.

“Many Europeans are skeptical of genetic modification when it comes to foods. Should they also be skeptical of genetic modification of … copyright laws?” he asks.

“With its efforts to institute the Digital Single Market and the recent Proposal for a Regulation on Portability, the European Commission seems intent on tinkering with the DNA of the current copyright law. This could have uncertain results for the 7 million people in Europe’s core creative industries, whose livelihoods depend on the copyright system.”

Pointing to a study financed by the EU Commission itself, McCoy suggests there is no need to outlaw geo-blocking, since all but 10% of people are available to find everything they want online.

“The European Commission should rigorously apply its own better regulation guidelines to all copyright proposals, including ensuring that they are backed by strong evidence,” he adds.

“In cases where the evidence isn’t there, then maybe we should stay away from genetically modified rights … and stick with organic.”

Needless to say, not everyone agrees with his stance.

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