Tag Archives: piracy

Japan: Piracy Warning Popups Could Violate Privacy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/japan-piracy-warning-popups-could-violate-privacy-190806/

In many countries around Europe and further afield, blocking pirate sites is carried out with permission from the courts.

The process is often long and expensive in the first instance but once a precedent has been set, subsequent blocking of additional sites should – at least in theory – be a much more simple affair.

Japan has been struggling to introduce a similar system for some time now but has continually come up against opposition from those who believe that monitoring Internet users’ traffic in order to block various domains amounts to a privacy breach.

The Telecommunications Business Act guarantees privacy of communications and prevents censorship, as does Article 21 of the Constitution.

Additional proposals suggested that Internet users could be confronted with popup warnings when they visit pirate sites, either as an alternative to blocking, a deterrent, or to help people differentiate them from legal offerings. However, that plan is being viewed as a potential invasion of privacy too.

A report compiled this week by an expert panel with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has concluded that such popup warnings could infringe citizens’ right to secrecy of communications.

Asahi reports that in order to make this kind of system work, Internet service providers would first need to obtain consent from their subscribers so that monitoring their attempts to access certain sites would remain legal.

The publication says that after the panel sought opinions from the public on the proposal, it was “bombarded by emails” sent by people calling for the plan to be rejected on privacy grounds.

Given that ISPs in other regions have complained that they shouldn’t bear the costs associated with blocking and similar regimes, it’s no surprise that some in Japan are taking a similar stance. Other providers indicate that they’re not ready from a technological standpoint, which of course is also closely connected with costs.

Nevertheless, some ISPs have agreed to begin trialing a popup warning system during the fall, in order to assess its effectiveness. That will mean them first having to explain to their users that they wish to monitor their online behavior and then obtain legal permission to do so.

Given a choice between being monitored by their ISP or not, it seems unlikely that many Internet users – if they actually understand the proposition – will willingly have someone watch over their communications.

And surely, visitors to pirate sites – the obvious targets of the campaign – will reject the offer immediately, if the purpose of the offer is made to clear to them in the beginning. That calls into question the entire point of the campaign, which is to assess whether warnings on pirate sites will deter their use.

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

Premier League & UEFA Obtain Court Orders to Block Piracy in 2019/20

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/premier-league-uefa-obtain-court-orders-to-block-piracy-in-2019-20-190729/

While rightsholders and anti-piracy groups often deploy multiple strategies for dealing with online copyright infringement, blocking websites, streams, and servers is now one of the most common.

The Premier League broke new ground on this front in 2017, after it obtained a pioneering injunction which enabled it to track live ‘pirate’ streams and have them blocked by leading ISPs BT, Virgin Media, EE, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk in real-time.

With backing from the High Court, the Premier League deployed its system during the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. We can now confirm that the Court recently granted permission for the efforts to continue during the 2019/20 campaign.

A High Court order signed off July 15, 2019, by Justice Arnold, but as yet unannounced by the Premier League or the Court, will be the basis for the blocking mechanism during the upcoming season. Thus far, one ISP has confirmed the existence of the order.

“A number of unidentified servers associated with infringing Premier League match footage will be blocked until the end of the 2019/20 Premier League season,” Sky notes.

Unlike other blocking orders targeting torrent sites or streaming platforms with a fixed domain, the servers streaming Premier League content are “unidentified” until its anti-piracy partners are able to locate them a few minutes before matches begin. The relevant IP addresses are then forwarded to the ISPs who block them under the authority of the Court.

TorrentFreak has been able to confirm that other ISPs are aware of the new Premier League order but are yet to make a public statement.

Late 2017, UEFA followed in the footsteps of the Premier League by obtaining a similar order covering the period February 13, 2018, to May 26, 2018, in an effort to protect European matches. A month later in July 2018, UEFA was given permission by the High Court to expand and extend its campaign until July 12, 2019.

Earlier this month, UEFA obtained permission from the High Court to continue. As yet, no associated documents have been published by the Court but both Sky and Virgin have confirmed they will be blocking ‘pirate’ servers again, with the Court’s authorization, until 2021.

“A number of unidentified servers associated with infringing UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Nations League, UEFA European Qualifiers and UEFA Friendlies match footage will be blocked until the end of the 2020/21 Champions League or Europa League competitions,” Sky notes.

Virgin states that it will block “Various Target Servers notified to Virgin Media by UEFA or its appointed agent for the duration of the UEFA 2019/2020 & 2020/2021 competition seasons.”

The technical details of the blocking systems deployed by both the Premier League and UEFA (TF understands they’re managed by different anti-piracy companies) are largely secret although some insiders have recently been prepared to talk more about what happens behind the scenes.

As the new season progresses, we expect to report more on how this digital game of cat-and-mouse is playing out.

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

Law Council of Australia Warns Data Retention Regime Could Affect Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/law-council-of-australia-warns-data-retention-regime-could-affect-pirates/

Retention of telecommunications metadata is increasingly viewed by governments as a valuable tool to fight serious crimes, including terrorism.

Communications systems, such as telephone networks and the Internet, can provide the ability to collect information revealing who contacted who and when.

However, when such sensitive data is collected on a broad scale, who can get access to that data becomes a serious concern. In Australia, a review of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA Act) has generated warnings that data supposedly being collected to fight serious crime is falling into broader hands.

The Communications Alliance, for example, highlights (pdf) that while there’s a perception that data will only be available to a limited number of law enforcement and security agencies, large numbers of other organizations have sought access to the data. They include a sports anti-doping authority, at least two illegal dumping groups, plus veterinary and fisheries authorities.

The availability of this data seems to be a magnet for many groups seeking to solve their own problems and according to the Law Council of Australia, that has the potential to include copyright holders in the future. While noting that some of its concerns that data will not be used by civil litigants have been addressed, there remains a concern that data collected now could be used for other purposes later on.

“[T]here is still the potential for ‘function creep’ under the regime due to the lack of prescription as to what purpose telecommunications data retained under the regime may be used for, potentially allowing for information collected for one reason to be later used for other purposes,” the Council’s submission reads (pdf).

Specifically, The Law Council says that earlier amendments to sections 280 and 281 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 may still have limitations that would allow file-sharers (typically BitTorrent users) to be scooped up, if there is a change of heart over the seriousness of their offenses.

“[T]here remains the potential for telecommunications data retained under the scheme to be used in matters of online piracy as telecommunications data may provide an irrefutable download history,” the Council warns.

“Former Attorney-General Brandis and the former AFP Commissioner have stated that the regime will not be used to tackle digital piracy, but should digital piracy offenses of individual consumers become criminalized in the future (currently piracy is only a criminal offense when at a commercial scale) it is possible that this position would be reassessed by the Government of the day.”

While a change in the law could potentially increase access to metadata in respect of pirates, copyright trolls are already on record trying to convince courts that their behavior is much more serious than it first appears. In 2017 in the United States, LHF Productions characterized five file-sharers as being part of a worldwide criminal conspiracy.

“While the actions of each individual participant may seem innocuous, their collective action amounts to one of the largest criminal enterprises ever seen on earth,” the lawsuit claimed.

“The Defendants are participants in a global piracy ring composed of one hundred fifty million members – a ring that threatens to tear down fundamental structures of intellectual property.”

Whether such a claim would ever gain credibility in Australia remains to be seen but it’s clear that tracking every action carried out by Internet users – file-sharers included – and recording them in a database for potential action is an extremely attractive proposition for copyright trolls.

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

Scammer Targets Reddit Users With Premium Account Racket

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/scammer-targets-reddit-users-with-premium-account-racket-190722/

Reddit’s /r/piracy sub-Reddit is home to more than 402,000 subscribers hoping to hear about the latest news and developments in the world of digital piracy.

By its very nature, users are likely to be interested in getting something for free, so it’s no surprise that scammers are targeting its users offering just that.

Over the weekend, users of the sub-Reddit began commenting that they’d received unsolicited direct messages offering them a great deal. All they had to do was download a free piece of software called PremiumGet and in return, they would be given free premium accounts for use on Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, NordVPN and several other services.

The direct message: Ignore

It wasn’t initially clear why some users were getting the messages and others weren’t. However, a user one particular thread noted that immediately after posting in a discussion about ‘PremiumGet’, he received a message in his inbox advertising the scam. We had that theory tested and sure enough, the same message appeared.

The message contains a link to file-hosting platform Mediafire, where the suspiciously large 51.76MB file can be downloaded. According to the uploader, who engaged in disputes with other users elsewhere on Reddit about the tool, it doesn’t trigger alerts in anti-malware software so must be safe.

Not a virus – probably

The accompanying video, if anyone cares to view it, can be found here. Those who prefer not to inflate the view count on YouTube can see a screenshot below, which shows the screen directly after the one that prompts users to enter their Google or Facebook usernames and passwords.

We have zero intentions of download, installing, or otherwise testing the software, we’ll let the security specialists do their job there. However, there is a really simple rule for those still mulling it over, and we’ve seen a few of those this morning.

Random people on the Internet offering expensive stuff for free, requiring you to install software and then asking for your existing usernames and passwords to services that may have massive control over your entire digital life, never have your best interests at heart. Ever.

Walk away. Nothing good here.

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

Scammers Abuse Steam to Attract Would-Be Movie Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/scammers-abuse-steam-to-trap-would-be-movie-pirates-190623/

According to an October 2018 report, Steam has around 90 million active monthly users, making it the largest digital distribution platform for PC games.

Steam user accounts overall are many times more numerous. In April, PCGamesN indicated that the platform had attracted its billionth account, noting that “a significant number of these are undoubtedly spam, scam, alt, and bot accounts.”

Indeed, an activity that appears to have taken root on the platform over the past few months shows that accounts don’t have to be limited to just one type of the above suspicious activity. Steam is the last place one might expect to find links to pirate movies, but that’s part of the trap.

As the image below shows, this Steam page is supposedly offering the movie Escape Room “for FREE online” but that certainly isn’t the case.

Beware

Users who scroll down to the bottom find extremely lengthy hyperlinks hidden under a pair of “Watch Now” and “Download” buttons. Since this is clearly some kind of dodgy activity, we truncated those links in order to visit only their final destination.

That led us to another site called “Daily Movie” which appeared to begin playing not Escape Room, but Avengers: Infinity War. After viewing what seemed to be a real movie intro (the lion of MGM in this case), neither movie was presented. Instead, we got the following;

Don’t give them a penny

Needless to say, in the context of the offer on Steam (recent Hollywood movies) most of the claims in the above statement are a lie. The ‘continue’ link goes to a subscription content service (Dontra) that has none of the movies previously promised and will only leave users disappointed – after earning the Steam spammer some commission, of course.

Another page, which claims to offer Aquaman for download, contains hyperlinks to what appears to be a full ‘pirate’ streaming site called Cinemago. While the links are not directly functional (and Steam helpfully warns that these go to an external site), it does send users to the Cinemago platform, as shown below.

CinemaNO

This site, unsurprisingly, does not offer pirate movies. Instead, when users click any of the film covers they are introduced to a similar “sign up” window and are then re-directed to a site called Funwraith. It is absolutely identical to Dontra and as such has none of the movies offered.

This bait-and-switch subscription trap is repeated on dozens of Steam pages too numerous to outline here. However, if readers want to see more of them (not recommended), typing site:steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/ “full movie” into Google will bring up pages and pages of results.

While unusual, legitimate platforms have been abused for piracy and scam schemes in the past. Facebook, Google, Google Maps and even Change.org have all been repurposed in similar fashion.

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

Video Piracy Study Estimates Billions in Lost Revenue, But Misses Crucial Data

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/video-piracy-study-estimates-billions-in-lost-revenue-but-misses-crucial-data-190620/

Despite the growing availability of legal options, online piracy remains rampant. Every day pirate sites and services are used by millions of people worldwide.

This is a serious problem for major content producers, Hollywood included. At the same time, it’s also seen a threat to the wider U.S. economy, which generates hundreds of billions of dollars from video entertainment.

How copyright infringement affects the economy in actual numbers is hard to measure, especially since the piracy landscape changes rapidly. That said, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center, in partnership with NERA Economic Consulting, attempted an estimate.

In a report titled “Impacts of Digital Piracy on the U.S. Economy” they combine multiple data sources, paired with a broad range of assumptions, to estimate how much revenue video piracy is costing the U.S. economy.

In order to calculate how much piracy costs, the researchers first had to determine the global piracy volume. They did so by combining data from two known piracy tracking firms.

Specifically, the number of pirated movies and TV-shows are estimated using data from the German BitTorrent tracking outfit Tecxipo. These are then extrapolated to estimate the volume of other piracy sources, such as streaming and direct downloads, based on data from the UK outfit MUSO.

In addition, the researchers use academic studies to approximate the displacement rate. This is a crucial variable, as it estimates the percentage of pirated files that can be counted as a lost sale. The report settled on a lower bound of 14%, which means that roughly one in seven pirate downloads or streams are seen as lost revenue.

All this information, paired with location data, the average price per source, and a variety of other variables, ultimately leads the researchers to conclude that in 2017 online video piracy resulted in a revenue loss of at least $29.2 billion.

“The study shows that all of the benefits that streaming brings to our economy have been artificially capped by digital piracy. Using macroeconomic modeling of digital piracy, the study estimates that global online piracy costs the U.S. economy at least $29.2 billion in lost revenue each year,” the report reads.

In raw numbers, the researchers put the number of pirated  U.S.-produced movies at $26.6 billion, while they estimate that roughly 126.7 billion U.S.-produced TV episodes are pirated digitally each year. This piracy takes place mostly from outside the United States. 

The impact on the broader economy is even larger. According to the researchers, online video piracy costs the U.S. economy between 230,000 and 560,000 jobs and between $47.5 billion and $115.3 billion in reduced gross domestic product (GDP) each year.

Jobs ‘lost’

Not all types of piracy are the same of course. A pirated Netflix movie results in lower losses than a Hollywood blockbuster. Similarly, a pirated Bollywood film doesn’t impact the U.S. economy much.

Interestingly, the report notes that piracy by U.S. citizens doesn’t necessarily have to be detrimental to the economy. The money these people ‘save’ by pirating is likely spent locally, which, depending on various factors, could even be beneficial to the economy as a whole.

Or as the researchers put it:

“Consumers spend the income gained from displaced legal consumption on other goods and services, many of which are produced in the U.S. Therefore, the net effect on the U.S. economy of this component of piracy could be either positive or negative, depending on the relative magnitudes of the multipliers for the revenue losses and the revenue gains.”

The most significant impact comes from foreigners who pirate U.S. content, as the money they save is likely not being spent in America.

Overall the report provides a detailed overview of the potential revenue losses. Displacement rates are complex, of course, as there are probably hundreds of other variables that could have been taken into account, but it looks like the researchers did a good job at factoring in the most crucial elements.

Unfortunately, however, there is a glaring error that can’t easily be ignored.

The report specifically set out to provide an up-to-date overview of the new piracy ecosystem, one that includes apps and illicit streaming devices. No surprise, as dedicated streaming boxes are generally seen as the biggest threat to Hollywood.

“These rapid changes necessitate up-to-date estimates of the impact of digital piracy,” the report notes. 

The problem, however, is that most app and streaming device piracy isn’t covered by the study. The report relies on category data from MUSO, which only covers regular browser visits to pirate sites.

This typically excludes most apps and pirate set-top boxes. Also, the boom in IPTV piracy isn’t covered by these data either.

TorrentFreak reached out to the researchers, who informed us that they weren’t aware of this. This means that their overall estimate of the impact of video piracy is even more reserved than they initially assumed. Needless to say, that has not been left out intentionally.

Whether it’s complete or not, these types of studies are generally welcomed by rightsholders. As such, the report will likely be mentioned frequently in future lobbying campaigns.

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

VidAngel Must Pay $62.4 Million for Ripping and Streaming ‘Pirated’ Movies

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/vidangel-must-pay-62-4-million-for-ripping-and-streaming-pirated-movies-190618/

Founded in 2013, Utah-based startup VidAngel entered the video streaming market with a rather innovative business model. 

The company allowed its users to rent popular movies and TV-shows, with the option to filter out violence, sex, profanity, and other objectionable content.

While there was plenty of demand for the service, it operated without permission from the major movie studios. Instead, the company acquired DVDs, which it would then rip using AnyDVD, so they could be streamed online. 

Users interested in a movie were able to rent it for $20, and then sell it back after a day for $19. This made rentals as cheap as $1 per streamed movie, effectively beating all legal competitors.

VidAngel made sure that it would have physical DVDs in its archive for all movies and TV-shows that were rented out at any given time. This resulted in a rather extensive library of duplicate discs, as the massive collection of “The Revenant” DVDs below shows. 

“Thousands” of The Revenant DVDs (credit: VidAngel)

After operating its service for a few months, VidAngel drew the attention of several major movie studios including Disney and Warner Bros. In 2016, they teamed up to file a lawsuit against VidAngel, accusing it of copyright infringement and violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.

“VidAngel does not have permission to copy Plaintiffs’ movies and television shows or to stream them to VidAngel’s users,” the studios’ complaint read.

“Instead, VidAngel appears to circumvent the technological protection measures on DVDs and Blu-ray discs to create unauthorized copies and then uses those copies to stream Plaintiffs’ works to the public without authorization.”

VidAngel was convinced, however, that its business was legal. It argued that it was protected by the Family Movie Act, which allows consumers to skip objectionable movie content without committing copyright infringement.

The movie studios disagreed and earlier this year were backed by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The Court granted summary judgment, ruling that VidAngel is liable for violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision and committing copyright infringement.

The only question that remained was the scale of the damages. This was determined yesterday, following a multi-day trial where the jury concluded that a $62.4 million damages award was appropriate.

The bulk of the damages, $61.4 million, is for copyright infringement. With 819 titles mentioned in the suit, this amounts to $75,000 per infringed work, half of the maximum statutory damages. 

The additional million in damages is for circumventing the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions by ripping the DVDs. This cost VidAngel $1,250 per title.

The movie studios are happy with the outcome. In a joint statement, they state that it sends a clear message to others who might consider operating a similar service.

“The jury today found that VidAngel acted willfully, and imposed a damages award that sends a clear message to others who would attempt to profit from unlawful infringing conduct at the expense of the creative community,” the studios note.

VidAngel, however, vows to fight on and is likely to appeal the case. 

“We find today’s ruling unfortunate, but it has not lessened our resolve to save filtering for families. VidAngel plans to appeal the District Court ruling, and explore options in the bankruptcy court.

“Our court system has checks and balances, and we are pursuing options on that front as well,” VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon adds.

As KSL’s excellent timeline shows, VidAngel filed for bankruptcy in 2017 to protect itself from the lawsuit. However, the company isn’t going anywhere just yet.

VidAngel’s original video streaming operation was shut down following a permanent injunction, but it later introduced a new service that allows users to “filter” Netflix, HBO and Amazon content for a fixed monthly subscription.

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

Flight Sim Company Threatens Reddit Mods Over “Libelous” DRM Posts

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/flight-sim-company-threatens-reddit-mods-over-libellous-drm-posts-180604/

Earlier this year, in an effort to deal with piracy of their products, flight simulator company FlightSimLabs took drastic action by installing malware on customers’ machines.

The story began when a Reddit user reported something unusual in his download of FlightSimLabs’ A320X module. A file – test.exe – was being flagged up as a ‘Chrome Password Dump’ tool, something which rang alarm bells among flight sim fans.

As additional information was made available, the story became even more sensational. After first dodging the issue with carefully worded statements, FlightSimLabs admitted that it had installed a password dumper onto ALL users’ machines – whether they were pirates or not – in an effort to catch a particular software cracker and launch legal action.

It was an incredible story that no doubt did damage to FlightSimLabs’ reputation. But the now the company is at the center of a new storm, again centered around anti-piracy measures and again focused on Reddit.

Just before the weekend, Reddit user /u/walkday reported finding something unusual in his A320X module, the same module that caused the earlier controversy.

“The latest installer of FSLabs’ A320X puts two cmdhost.exe files under ‘system32\’ and ‘SysWOW64\’ of my Windows directory. Despite the name, they don’t open a command-line window,” he reported.

“They’re a part of the authentication because, if you remove them, the A320X won’t get loaded. Does someone here know more about cmdhost.exe? Why does FSLabs give them such a deceptive name and put them in the system folders? I hate them for polluting my system folder unless, of course, it is a dll used by different applications.”

Needless to say, the news that FSLabs were putting files into system folders named to make them look like system files was not well received.

“Hiding something named to resemble Window’s “Console Window Host” process in system folders is a huge red flag,” one user wrote.

“It’s a malware tactic used to deceive users into thinking the executable is a part of the OS, thus being trusted and not deleted. Really dodgy tactic, don’t trust it and don’t trust them,” opined another.

With a disenchanted Reddit userbase simmering away in the background, FSLabs took to Facebook with a statement to quieten down the masses.

“Over the past few hours we have become aware of rumors circulating on social media about the cmdhost file installed by the A320-X and wanted to clear up any confusion or misunderstanding,” the company wrote.

“cmdhost is part of our eSellerate infrastructure – which communicates between the eSellerate server and our product activation interface. It was designed to reduce the number of product activation issues people were having after the FSX release – which have since been resolved.”

The company noted that the file had been checked by all major anti-virus companies and everything had come back clean, which does indeed appear to be the case. Nevertheless, the critical Reddit thread remained, bemoaning the actions of a company which probably should have known better than to irritate fans after February’s debacle. In response, however, FSLabs did just that once again.

In private messages to the moderators of the /r/flightsim sub-Reddit, FSLabs’ Marketing and PR Manager Simon Kelsey suggested that the mods should do something about the thread in question or face possible legal action.

“Just a gentle reminder of Reddit’s obligations as a publisher in order to ensure that any libelous content is taken down as soon as you become aware of it,” Kelsey wrote.

Noting that FSLabs welcomes “robust fair comment and opinion”, Kelsey gave the following advice.

“The ‘cmdhost.exe’ file in question is an entirely above board part of our anti-piracy protection and has been submitted to numerous anti-virus providers in order to verify that it poses no threat. Therefore, ANY suggestion that current or future products pose any threat to users is absolutely false and libelous,” he wrote, adding:

“As we have already outlined in the past, ANY suggestion that any user’s data was compromised during the events of February is entirely false and therefore libelous.”

Noting that FSLabs would “hate for lawyers to have to get involved in this”, Kelsey advised the /r/flightsim mods to ensure that no such claims were allowed to remain on the sub-Reddit.

But after not receiving the response he would’ve liked, Kelsey wrote once again to the mods. He noted that “a number of unsubstantiated and highly defamatory comments” remained online and warned that if something wasn’t done to clean them up, he would have “no option” than to pass the matter to FSLabs’ legal team.

Like the first message, this second effort also failed to have the desired effect. In fact, the moderators’ response was to post an open letter to Kelsey and FSLabs instead.

“We sincerely disagree that you ‘welcome robust fair comment and opinion’, demonstrated by the censorship on your forums and the attempted censorship on our subreddit,” the mods wrote.

“While what you do on your forum is certainly your prerogative, your rules do not extend to Reddit nor the r/flightsim subreddit. Removing content you disagree with is simply not within our purview.”

The letter, which is worth reading in full, refutes Kelsey’s claims and also suggests that critics of FSLabs may have been subjected to Reddit vote manipulation and coordinated efforts to discredit them.

What will happen next is unclear but the matter has now been placed in the hands of Reddit’s administrators who have agreed to deal with Kelsey and FSLabs’ personally.

It’s a little early to say for sure but it seems unlikely that this will end in a net positive for FSLabs, no matter what decision Reddit’s admins take.

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

When Joe Public Becomes a Commercial Pirate, a Little Knowledge is Dangerous

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/joe-public-becomes-commercial-pirate-little-knowledge-dangerous-180603/

Back in March and just a few hours before the Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker fight, I got chatting with some fellow fans in the local pub. While some were intending to pay for the fight, others were going down the Kodi route.

Soon after the conversation switched to IPTV. One of the guys had a subscription and he said that his supplier would be along shortly if anyone wanted a package to watch the fight at home. Of course, I was curious to hear what he had to say since it’s not often this kind of thing is offered ‘offline’.

The guy revealed that he sold more or less exclusively on eBay and called up the page on his phone to show me. The listing made interesting reading.

In common with hundreds of similar IPTV subscription offers easily findable on eBay, the listing offered “All the sports and films you need plus VOD and main UK channels” for the sum of just under £60 per year, which is fairly cheap in the current market. With a non-committal “hmmm” I asked a bit more about the guy’s business and surprisingly he was happy to provide some details.

Like many people offering such packages, the guy was a reseller of someone else’s product. He also insisted that selling access to copyrighted content is OK because it sits in a “gray area”. It’s also easy to keep listings up on eBay, he assured me, as long as a few simple rules are adhered to. Right, this should be interesting.

First of all, sellers shouldn’t be “too obvious” he advised, noting that individual channels or channel lists shouldn’t be listed on the site. Fair enough, but then he said the most important thing of all is to have a disclaimer like his in any listing, written as follows:

“PLEASE NOTE EBAY: THIS IS NOT A DE SCRAMBLER SERVICE, I AM NOT SELLING ANY ILLEGAL CHANNELS OR CHANNEL LISTS NOR DO I REPRESENT ANY MEDIA COMPANY NOR HAVE ACCESS TO ANY OF THEIR CONTENTS. NO TRADEMARK HAS BEEN INFRINGED. DO NOT REMOVE LISTING AS IT IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH EBAY POLICIES.”

Apparently, this paragraph is crucial to keeping listings up on eBay and is the equivalent of kryptonite when it comes to deflecting copyright holders, police, and Trading Standards. Sure enough, a few seconds with Google reveals the same wording on dozens of eBay listings and those offering IPTV subscriptions on external platforms.

It is, of course, absolutely worthless but the IPTV seller insisted otherwise, noting he’d sold “thousands” of subscriptions through eBay without any problems. While a similar logic can be applied to garlic and vampires, a second disclaimer found on many other illicit IPTV subscription listings treads an even more bizarre path.

“THE PRODUCTS OFFERED CAN NOT BE USED TO DESCRAMBLE OR OTHERWISE ENABLE ACCESS TO CABLE OR SATELLITE TELEVISION PROGRAMS THAT BYPASSES PAYMENT TO THE SERVICE PROVIDER. RECEIVING SUBSCRIPTION/BASED TV AIRTIME IS ILLEGAL WITHOUT PAYING FOR IT.”

This disclaimer (which apparently no sellers displaying it have ever read) seems to be have been culled from the Zgemma site, which advertises a receiving device which can technically receive pirate IPTV services but wasn’t designed for the purpose. In that context, the disclaimer makes sense but when applied to dedicated pirate IPTV subscriptions, it’s absolutely ridiculous.

It’s unclear why so many sellers on eBay, Gumtree, Craigslist and other platforms think that these disclaimers are useful. It leads one to the likely conclusion that these aren’t hardcore pirates at all but regular people simply out to make a bit of extra cash who have received bad advice.

What is clear, however, is that selling access to thousands of otherwise subscription channels without permission from copyright owners is definitely illegal in the EU. The European Court of Justice says so (1,2) and it’s been backed up by subsequent cases in the Netherlands.

While the odds of getting criminally prosecuted or sued for reselling such a service are relatively slim, it’s worrying that in 2018 people still believe that doing so is made legal by the inclusion of a paragraph of text. It’s even more worrying that these individuals apparently have no idea of the serious consequences should they become singled out for legal action.

Even more surprisingly, TorrentFreak spoke with a handful of IPTV suppliers higher up the chain who also told us that what they are doing is legal. A couple claimed to be protected by communication intermediary laws, others didn’t want to go into details. Most stopped responding to emails on the topic. Perhaps most tellingly, none wanted to go on the record.

The big take-home here is that following some important EU rulings, knowingly linking to copyrighted content for profit is nearly always illegal in Europe and leaves people open for targeting by copyright holders and the authorities. People really should be aware of that, especially the little guy making a little extra pocket money on eBay.

Of course, people are perfectly entitled to carry on regardless and test the limits of the law when things go wrong. At this point, however, it’s probably worth noting that IPTV provider Ace Hosting recently handed over £600,000 rather than fight the Premier League (1,2) when they clearly had the money to put up a defense.

Given their effectiveness, perhaps they should’ve put up a disclaimer instead?

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

ISP Questions Impartiality of Judges in Copyright Troll Cases

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-questions-impartiality-of-judges-in-copyright-troll-cases-180602/

Following in the footsteps of similar operations around the world, two years ago the copyright trolling movement landed on Swedish shores.

The pattern was a familiar one, with trolls harvesting IP addresses from BitTorrent swarms and tracing them back to Internet service providers. Then, after presenting evidence to a judge, the trolls obtained orders that compelled ISPs to hand over their customers’ details. From there, the trolls demanded cash payments to make supposed lawsuits disappear.

It’s a controversial business model that rarely receives outside praise. Many ISPs have tried to slow down the flood but most eventually grow tired of battling to protect their customers. The same cannot be said of Swedish ISP Bahnhof.

The ISP, which is also a strong defender of privacy, has become known for fighting back against copyright trolls. Indeed, to thwart them at the very first step, the company deletes IP address logs after just 24 hours, which prevents its customers from being targeted.

Bahnhof says that the copyright business appeared “dirty and corrupt” right from the get go, so it now operates Utpressningskollen.se, a web portal where the ISP publishes data on Swedish legal cases in which copyright owners demand customer data from ISPs through the Patent and Market Courts.

Over the past two years, Bahnhof says it has documented 76 cases of which six are still ongoing, 11 have been waived and a majority 59 have been decided in favor of mainly movie companies. Bahnhof says that when it discovered that 59 out of the 76 cases benefited one party, it felt a need to investigate.

In a detailed report compiled by Bahnhof Communicator Carolina Lindahl and sent to TF, the ISP reveals that it examined the individual decision-makers in the cases before the Courts and found five judges with “questionable impartiality.”

“One of the judges, we can call them Judge 1, has closed 12 of the cases, of which two have been waived and the other 10 have benefitted the copyright owner, mostly movie companies,” Lindahl notes.

“Judge 1 apparently has written several articles in the magazine NIR – Nordiskt Immateriellt Rättsskydd (Nordic Intellectual Property Protection) – which is mainly supported by Svenska Föreningen för Upphovsrätt, the Swedish Association for Copyright (SFU).

“SFU is a member-financed group centered around copyright that publishes articles, hands out scholarships, arranges symposiums, etc. On their website they have a public calendar where Judge 1 appears regularly.”

Bahnhof says that the financiers of the SFU are Sveriges Television AB (Sweden’s national public TV broadcaster), Filmproducenternas Rättsförening (a legally-oriented association for filmproducers), BMG Chrysalis Scandinavia (a media giant) and Fackförbundet för Film och Mediabranschen (a union for the movie and media industry).

“This means that Judge 1 is involved in a copyright association sponsored by the film and media industry, while also judging in copyright cases with the film industry as one of the parties,” the ISP says.

Bahnhof’s also has criticism for Judge 2, who participated as an event speaker for the Swedish Association for Copyright, and Judge 3 who has written for the SFU-supported magazine NIR. According to Lindahl, Judge 4 worked for a bureau that is partly owned by a board member of SFU, who also defended media companies in a “high-profile” Swedish piracy case.

That leaves Judge 5, who handled 10 of the copyright troll cases documented by Bahnhof, waiving one and deciding the remaining nine in favor of a movie company plaintiff.

“Judge 5 has been questioned before and even been accused of bias while judging a high-profile piracy case almost ten years ago. The accusations of bias were motivated by the judge’s membership of SFU and the Swedish Association for Intellectual Property Rights (SFIR), an association with several important individuals of the Swedish copyright community as members, who all defend, represent, or sympathize with the media industry,” Lindahl says.

Bahnhof hasn’t named any of the judges nor has it provided additional details on the “high-profile” case. However, anyone who remembers the infamous trial of ‘The Pirate Bay Four’ a decade ago might recall complaints from the defense (1,2,3) that several judges involved in the case were members of pro-copyright groups.

While there were plenty of calls to consider them biased, in May 2010 the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, a fact Bahnhof recognizes.

“Judge 5 was never sentenced for bias by the court, but regardless of the court’s decision this is still a judge who shares values and has personal connections with [the media industry], and as if that weren’t enough, the judge has induced an additional financial aspect by participating in events paid for by said party,” Lindahl writes.

“The judge has parties and interest holders in their personal network, a private engagement in the subject and a financial connection to one party – textbook characteristics of bias which would make anyone suspicious.”

The decision-makers of the Patent and Market Court and their relations.

The ISP notes that all five judges have connections to the media industry in the cases they judge, which isn’t a great starting point for returning “objective and impartial” results. In its summary, however, the ISP is scathing of the overall system, one in which court cases “almost looked rigged” and appear to be decided in favor of the movie company even before reaching court.

In general, however, Bahnhof says that the processes show a lack of individual attention, such as the court blindly accepting questionable IP address evidence supplied by infamous anti-piracy outfit MaverickEye.

“The court never bothers to control the media company’s only evidence (lists generated by MaverickMonitor, which has proven to be an unreliable software), the court documents contain several typos of varying severity, and the same standard texts are reused in several different cases,” the ISP says.

“The court documents show a lack of care and control, something that can easily be taken advantage of by individuals with shady motives. The findings and discoveries of this investigation are strengthened by the pure numbers mentioned in the beginning which clearly show how one party almost always wins.

“If this is caused by bias, cheating, partiality, bribes, political agenda, conspiracy or pure coincidence we can’t say for sure, but the fact that this process has mainly generated money for the film industry, while citizens have been robbed of their personal integrity and legal certainty, indicates what forces lie behind this machinery,” Bahnhof’s Lindahl concludes.

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

GoDaddy to Suspend ‘Pirate’ Domain Following Music Industry Complaints

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/godaddy-to-suspend-pirate-domain-following-music-industry-complaints-180601/

Most piracy-focused sites online conduct their business with minimal interference from outside parties. In many cases, a heap of DMCA notices filed with Google represents the most visible irritant.

Others, particularly those with large audiences, can find themselves on the end of a web blockade. Mostly court-ordered, blocking measures restrict the ability of Internet users to visit a site due to ISPs restricting traffic.

In some regions, where copyright holders have the means to do so, they choose to tackle a site’s infrastructure instead, which could mean complaints to webhosts or other service providers. At times, this has included domain registries, who are asked to disable domains on copyright grounds.

This is exactly what has happened to Fox-MusicaGratis.com, a Spanish-language music piracy site that incurred the wrath of IFPI member UNIMPRO – the Peruvian Union of Phonographic Producers.

Pirate music, suspended domain

In a process that’s becoming more common in the region, UNIMPRO initially filed a complaint with the Copyright Commission (Comisión de Derecho de Autor (CDA)) which conducted an investigation into the platform’s activities.

“The CDA considered, among other things, the irreparable damage that would have been caused to the legitimate rights owners, taking into account the large number of users who could potentially have visited said website, which was making available endless musical recordings for commercial purposes, without authorization of the holders of rights,” a statement from CDA reads.

The administrative process was carried out locally with the involvement of the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property (Indecopi), an autonomous public body tasked with handling anti-competitive behavior, unfair competition, and intellectual property matters.

Indecopi HQ

The matter was decided in favor of the rightsholders and a subsequent ruling included an instruction for US-based domain name registry GoDaddy to suspend Fox-MusicaGratis.com. According to the copyright protection entity, GoDaddy agreed to comply, to prevent further infringement.

This latest action involving a music piracy site registered with GoDaddy follows on the heels of a similar enforcement process back in March.

Mp3Juices-Download-Free.com, Melodiavip.net, Foxmusica.site and Fulltono.me were all music sites offering MP3 content without copyright holders’ permission. They too were the subject of an UNIMPRO complaint which resulted in orders for GoDaddy to suspend their domains.

In the cases of all five websites, GoDaddy was given the chance to appeal but there is no indication that the company has done so. GoDaddy did not respond to a request for comment.

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

Majority of Canadians Consume Online Content Legally, Survey Finds

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/majority-of-canadians-consume-online-content-legally-survey-finds-180531/

Back in January, a coalition of companies and organizations with ties to the entertainment industries called on local telecoms regulator CRTC to implement a national website blocking regime.

Under the banner of Fairplay Canada, members including Bell, Cineplex, Directors Guild of Canada, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Movie Theatre Association of Canada, and Rogers Media, spoke of an industry under threat from marauding pirates. But just how serious is this threat?

The results of a new survey commissioned by Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) in collaboration with the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH) aims to shine light on the problem by revealing the online content consumption habits of citizens in the Great White North.

While there are interesting findings for those on both sides of the site-blocking debate, the situation seems somewhat removed from the Armageddon scenario predicted by the entertainment industries.

Carried out among 3,301 Canadians aged 12 years and over, the Kantar TNS study aims to cover copyright infringement in six key content areas – music, movies, TV shows, video games, computer software, and eBooks. Attitudes and behaviors are also touched upon while measuring the effectiveness of Canada’s copyright measures.

General Digital Content Consumption

In its introduction, the report notes that 28 million Canadians used the Internet in the three-month study period to November 27, 2017. Of those, 22 million (80%) consumed digital content. Around 20 million (73%) streamed or accessed content, 16 million (59%) downloaded content, while 8 million (28%) shared content.

Music, TV shows and movies all battled for first place in the consumption ranks, with 48%, 48%, and 46% respectively.

Copyright Infringement

According to the study, the majority of Canadians do things completely by the book. An impressive 74% of media-consuming respondents said that they’d only accessed material from legal sources in the preceding three months.

The remaining 26% admitted to accessing at least one illegal file in the same period. Of those, just 5% said that all of their consumption was from illegal sources, with movies (36%), software (36%), TV shows (34%) and video games (33%) the most likely content to be consumed illegally.

Interestingly, the study found that few demographic factors – such as gender, region, rural and urban, income, employment status and language – play a role in illegal content consumption.

“We found that only age and income varied significantly between consumers who infringed by downloading or streaming/accessing content online illegally and consumers who did not consume infringing content online,” the report reads.

“More specifically, the profile of consumers who downloaded or streamed/accessed infringing content skewed slightly younger and towards individuals with household incomes of $100K+.”

Licensed services much more popular than pirate haunts

It will come as no surprise that Netflix was the most popular service with consumers, with 64% having used it in the past three months. Sites like YouTube and Facebook were a big hit too, visited by 36% and 28% of content consumers respectively.

Overall, 74% of online content consumers use licensed services for content while 42% use social networks. Under a third (31%) use a combination of peer-to-peer (BitTorrent), cyberlocker platforms, or linking sites. Stream-ripping services are used by 9% of content consumers.

“Consumers who reported downloading or streaming/accessing infringing content only are less likely to use licensed services and more likely to use peer-to-peer/cyberlocker/linking sites than other consumers of online content,” the report notes.

Attitudes towards legal consumption & infringing content

In common with similar surveys over the years, the Kantar research looked at the reasons why people consume content from various sources, both legal and otherwise.

Convenience (48%), speed (36%) and quality (34%) were the most-cited reasons for using legal sources. An interesting 33% of respondents said they use legal sites to avoid using illegal sources.

On the illicit front, 54% of those who obtained unauthorized content in the previous three months said they did so due to it being free, with 40% citing convenience and 34% mentioning speed.

Almost six out of ten (58%) said lower costs would encourage them to switch to official sources, with 47% saying they’d move if legal availability was improved.

Canada’s ‘Notice-and-Notice’ warning system

People in Canada who share content on peer-to-peer systems like BitTorrent without permission run the risk of receiving an infringement notice warning them to stop. These are sent by copyright holders via users’ ISPs and the hope is that the shock of receiving a warning will turn consumers back to the straight and narrow.

The study reveals that 10% of online content consumers over the age of 12 have received one of these notices but what kind of effect have they had?

“Respondents reported that receiving such a notice resulted in the following: increased awareness of copyright infringement (38%), taking steps to ensure password protected home networks (27%), a household discussion about copyright infringement (27%), and discontinuing illegal downloading or streaming (24%),” the report notes.

While these are all positives for the entertainment industries, Kantar reports that almost a quarter (24%) of people who receive a notice simply ignore them.

Stream-ripping

Once upon a time, people obtaining music via P2P networks was cited as the music industry’s greatest threat but, with the advent of sites like YouTube, so-called stream-ripping is the latest bogeyman.

According to the study, 11% of Internet users say they’ve used a stream-ripping service. They are most likely to be male (62%) and predominantly 18 to 34 (52%) years of age.

“Among Canadians who have used a service to stream-rip music or entertainment, nearly half (48%) have used stream-ripping sites, one-third have used downloader apps (38%), one-in-seven (14%) have used a stream-ripping plug-in, and one-in-ten (10%) have used stream-ripping software,” the report adds.

Set-Top Boxes and VPNs

Few general piracy studies would be complete in 2018 without touching on set-top devices and Virtual Private Networks and this report doesn’t disappoint.

More than one in five (21%) respondents aged 12+ reported using a VPN, with the main purpose of securing communications and Internet browsing (57%).

A relatively modest 36% said they use a VPN to access free content while 32% said the aim was to access geo-blocked content unavailable in Canada. Just over a quarter (27%) said that accessing content from overseas at a reasonable price was the main motivator.

One in ten (10%) of respondents reported using a set-top box, with 78% stating they use them to access paid-for content. Interestingly, only a small number say they use the devices to infringe.

“A minority use set-top boxes to access other content that is not legal or they are unsure if it is legal (16%), or to access live sports that are not legal or they are unsure if it is legal (11%),” the report notes.

“Individuals who consumed a mix of legal and illegal content online are more likely to use VPN services (42%) or TV set-top boxes (21%) than consumers who only downloaded or streamed/accessed legal content.”

Kantar says that the findings of the report will be used to help policymakers evaluate how Canada’s Copyright Act is coping with a changing market and technological developments.

“This research will provide the necessary information required to further develop copyright policy in Canada, as well as to provide a foundation to assess the effectiveness of the measures to address copyright infringement, should future analysis be undertaken,” it concludes.

The full report can be found here (pdf)

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FCC Asks Amazon & eBay to Help Eliminate Pirate Media Box Sales

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fcc-asks-amazon-ebay-to-help-eliminate-pirate-media-box-sales-180530/

Over the past several years, anyone looking for a piracy-configured set-top box could do worse than search for one on Amazon or eBay.

Historically, people deploying search terms including “Kodi” or “fully-loaded” were greeted by page after page of Android-type boxes, each ready for illicit plug-and-play entertainment consumption following delivery.

Although the problem persists on both platforms, people are now much less likely to find infringing devices than they were 12 to 24 months ago. Under pressure from entertainment industry groups, both Amazon and eBay have tightened the screws on sellers of such devices. Now, however, both companies have received requests to stem sales from a completetey different direction.

In a letter to eBay CEO Devin Wenig and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first spotted by Ars, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly calls on the platforms to take action against piracy-configured boxes that fail to comply with FCC equipment authorization requirements or falsely display FCC logos, contrary to United States law.

“Disturbingly, some rogue set-top box manufacturers and distributors are exploiting the FCC’s trusted logo by fraudulently placing it on devices that have not been approved via the Commission’s equipment authorization process,” O’Rielly’s letter reads.

“Specifically, nine set-top box distributors were referred to the FCC in October for enabling the unlawful streaming of copyrighted material, seven of which displayed the FCC logo, although there was no record of such compliance.”

While O’Rielly admits that the copyright infringement aspects fall outside the jurisdiction of the FCC, he says it’s troubling that many of these devices are used to stream infringing content, “exacerbating the theft of billions of dollars in American innovation and creativity.”

As noted above, both Amazon and eBay have taken steps to reduce sales of pirate boxes on their respective platforms on copyright infringement grounds, something which is duly noted by O’Rielly. However, he points out that devices continue to be sold to members of the public who may believe that the devices are legal since they’re available for sale from legitimate companies.

“For these reasons, I am seeking your further cooperation in assisting the FCC in taking steps to eliminate the non-FCC compliant devices or devices that fraudulently bear the FCC logo,” the Commissioner writes (pdf).

“Moreover, if your company is made aware by the Commission, with supporting evidence, that a particular device is using a fraudulent FCC label or has not been appropriately certified and labeled with a valid FCC logo, I respectfully request that you commit to swiftly removing these products from your sites.”

In the event that Amazon and eBay take action under this request, O’Rielly asks both platforms to hand over information they hold on offending manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers.

Amazon was quick to respond to the FCC. In a letter published by Ars, Amazon’s Public Policy Vice President Brian Huseman assured O’Rielly that the company is not only dedicated to tackling rogue devices on copyright-infringement grounds but also when there is fraudulent use of the FCC’s logos.

Noting that Amazon is a key member of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) – a group that has been taking legal action against sellers of infringing streaming devices (ISDs) and those who make infringing addons for Kodi-type systems – Huseman says that dealing with the problem is a top priority.

“Our goal is to prevent the sale of ISDs anywhere, as we seek to protect our customers from the risks posed by these devices, in addition to our interest in protecting Amazon Studios content,” Huseman writes.

“In 2017, Amazon became the first online marketplace to prohibit the sale of streaming media players that promote or facilitate piracy. To prevent the sale of these devices, we proactively scan product listings for signs of potentially infringing products, and we also invest heavily in sophisticated, automated real-time tools to review a variety of data sources and signals to identify inauthentic goods.

“These automated tools are supplemented by human reviewers that conduct manual investigations. When we suspect infringement, we take immediate action to remove suspected listings, and we also take enforcement action against sellers’ entire accounts when appropriate.”

Huseman also reveals that since implementing a proactive policy against such devices, “tens of thousands” of listings have been blocked from Amazon. In addition, the platform has been making criminal referrals to law enforcement as well as taking civil action (1,2,3) as part of ACE.

“As noted in your letter, we would also appreciate the opportunity to collaborate further with the FCC to remove non-compliant devices that improperly use the FCC logo or falsely claim FCC certification. If any FCC non-compliant devices are identified, we seek to work with you to ensure they are not offered for sale,” Huseman concludes.

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

Hong Kong Customs Arrest Pirate Streaming Device Vendors

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hong-kong-customs-arrest-pirate-streaming-device-vendors-180529/

As Internet-capable set-top boxes pour into homes across all populated continents, authorities seem almost powerless to come up with a significant response to the growing threat.

In standard form these devices, which are often Android-based, are entirely legal. However, when configured with specialist software they become piracy powerhouses providing access to all content imaginable, often at copyright holders’ expense.

A large proportion of these devices come from Asia, China in particular, but it’s relatively rare to hear of enforcement action in that part of the world. That changed this week with an announcement from Hong Kong customs detailing a series of raids in the areas of Sham Shui Po and Wan Chai.

After conducting an in-depth investigation with the assistance of copyright holders, on May 25 and 26 Customs and Excise officers launched Operation Trojan Horse, carrying out a series of raids on four premises selling suspected piracy-configured set-top boxes.

During the operation, officers arrested seven men and one woman aged between 18 and 45. Four of them were shop owners and the other four were salespeople. Around 354 suspected ‘pirate’ boxes were seized with an estimated market value of HK$320,000 (US$40,700).

“In the past few months, the department has stepped up inspections of hotspots for TV set-top boxes,” a statement from authorities reads.

“We have discovered that some shops have sold suspected illegal set-top boxes that bypass the copyright protection measures imposed by copyright holders of pay television programs allowing people to watch pay television programs for free.”

Some of the devices seized by Hong Kong Customs

During a press conference yesterday, a representative from the Customs Copyright and Trademark Investigations (Action) Division said that in the run up to the World Cup in 2018, measures against copyright infringement will be strengthened both on and online.

The announcement was welcomed by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia’s (CASBAA) Coalition Against Piracy, which is back by industry heavyweights including Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, Astro, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, TV5MONDE, Viacom International, and others.

“We commend the great work of Hong Kong Customs in clamping down on syndicates who profit from the sale of Illicit Streaming Devices,” said General Manager Neil Gane.

“The prevalence of ISDs in Hong Kong and across South East Asia is staggering. The criminals who sell ISDs, as well as those who operate the ISD networks and pirate websites, are profiting from the hard work of talented creators, seriously damaging the legitimate content ecosystem as well as exposing consumers to dangerous malware.”

Malware warnings are very prevalent these days but it’s not something the majority of set-top box owners have a problem with. Indeed, a study carried by Sycamore Research found that pirates aren’t easily deterred by such warnings.

Nevertheless, there are definite risks for individuals selling devices when they’re configured for piracy.

Recent cases, particularly in the UK, have shown that hefty jail sentences can hit offenders while over in the United States (1,2,3), lawsuits filed by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) have the potential to end in unfavorable rulings for multiple defendants.

Although rarely reported, offenders in Hong Kong also face stiff sentences for this kind of infringement including large fines and custodial sentences of up to four years.

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

Pirate IPTV Sellers Sign Abstention Agreements Under Pressure From BREIN

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-sellers-sign-abstention-agreement-under-pressure-from-brein-180528/

Earlier this month, Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN revealed details of its case against Netherlands-based company Leaper Beheer BV.

BREIN’s complaint, which was filed at the Limburg District Court in Maastricht, claimed that
Leaper sold access to unlicensed live TV streams and on-demand movies. Around 4,000 live channels and 1,000 movies were included in the package, which was distributed to customers in the form of an .M3U playlist.

BREIN said that distribution of the playlist amounted to a communication to the public in contravention of the EU Copyright Directive. In its defense, Leaper argued that it is not a distributor of content itself and did not make anything available that wasn’t already public.

In a detailed ruling the Court sided with BREIN, noting that Leaper communicated works to a new audience that wasn’t taken into account when the content’s owners initially gave permission for their work to be distributed to the public.

The Court ordered Leaper to stop providing access to the unlicensed streams or face penalties of 5,000 euros per IPTV subscription sold, link offered, or days exceeded, to a maximum of one million euros. Further financial penalties were threatened for non-compliance with other aspects of the ruling.

In a fresh announcement Friday, BREIN revealed that three companies and their directors (Leaper included) have signed agreements to cease-and-desist, in order to avert summary proceedings. According to BREIN, the companies are the biggest sellers of pirate IPTV subscriptions in the Netherlands.

In addition to Leaper Beheer BV, Growler BV, DITisTV and their respective directors are bound by a number of conditions in their agreements but primarily to cease-and-desist offering hyperlinks or other technical means to access protected works belonging to BREIN’s affiliates and their members.

Failure to comply with the terms of the agreement will see the companies face penalties of 10,000 euros per infringement or per day (or part thereof).

DITisTV’s former website now appears to sell shoes and a search for the company using Google doesn’t reveal many flattering results. Consumer website Consumentenbond.nl enjoys the top spot with an article reporting that it received 300 complaints about DITisTV.

“The complainants report that after they have paid, they have not received their order, or that they were not given a refund if they sent back a malfunctioning media player. Some consumers have been waiting for their money for several months,” the article reads.

According to the report, DiTisTV pulled the plug on its website last June, probably in response to the European Court of Justice ruling which found that selling piracy-configured media players is illegal.

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

BPI Wants Piracy Dealt With Under New UK Internet ‘Clean-Up’ Laws

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bpi-wants-music-piracy-dealt-with-under-uk-internet-clean-up-laws-180523/

For the past several years, the UK Government has expressed a strong desire to “clean up” the Internet.

Strong emphasis has been placed on making the Internet safer for children but that’s just the tip of a much larger iceberg.

This week, the Government published its response to the Internet Safety Strategy green paper, stating unequivocally that more needs to be done to tackle “online harm”.

Noting that six out of ten people report seeing inappropriate or harmful content online, the Government said that work already underway with social media companies to protect users had borne fruit but overall industry response has been less satisfactory.

As a result, the Government will now carry through with its threat to introduce new legislation, albeit with the assistance of technology companies, children’s charities and other stakeholders.

“Digital technology is overwhelmingly a force for good across the world and we must always champion innovation and change for the better,” said Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

“At the same time I have been clear that we have to address the Wild West elements of the Internet through legislation, in a way that supports innovation. We strongly support technology companies to start up and grow, and we want to work with them to keep our citizens safe.”

While emphasis is being placed on hot-button topics such as cyberbullying and online child exploitation, the Government is clear that it wishes to tackle “the full range” of online harms. That has been greeted by UK music group BPI with a request that the Government introduces new measures to tackle Internet piracy.

In a statement issued this week, BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor welcomed the move towards legislative change and urged the Government to encompass the music industry and beyond.

“This is a vital opportunity to protect consumers and boost the UK’s music and creative industries. The BPI has long pressed for internet intermediaries and online platforms to take responsibility for the content that they promote to users,” Taylor said.

“Government should now take the power in legislation to require online giants to take effective, proactive measures to clean illegal content from their sites and services. This will keep fans away from dodgy sites full of harmful content and prevent criminals from undermining creative businesses that create UK jobs.”

The BPI has published four initial requests, each of which provides food for thought.

The demand to “establish a new fast-track process for blocking illegal sites” is not entirely unexpected, particularly given the expense of launching applications for blocking injunctions at the High Court.

“The BPI has taken a large number of actions against individual websites – 63 injunctions are in place against sites that are wholly or mainly infringing and whose business is simply to profit from criminal activity,” the BPI says.

Those injunctions can be expanded fairly easily to include new sites operating under similar banners or facilitating access to those already covered, but it’s clear the BPI would like something more streamlined. Voluntary schemes, such as the one in place in Portugal, could be an option but it’s unclear how troublesome that could be for ISPs. New legislation could solve that dilemma, however.

Another big thorn in the side for groups like the BPI are people and entities that post infringing content. The BPI is very good at taking these listings down from sites and search engines in particular (more than 600 million requests to date) but it’s a game of whac-a-mole the group would rather not engage in.

With that in mind, the BPI would like the Government to impose new rules that would compel online platforms to stop content from being re-posted after it’s been taken down while removing the accounts of repeat infringers.

Thirdly, the BPI would like the Government to introduce penalties for “online operators” who do not provide “transparent contact and ownership information.” The music group isn’t any more specific than that, but the suggestion is that operators of some sites have a tendency to hide in the shadows, something which frustrates enforcement activity.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the BPI is calling on the Government to legislate for a new “duty of care” for online intermediaries and platforms. Specifically, the BPI wants “effective action” taken against businesses that use the Internet to “encourage” consumers to access content illegally.

While this could easily encompass pirate sites and services themselves, this proposal has the breadth to include a wide range of offenders, from people posting piracy-focused tutorials on monetized YouTube channels to those selling fully-loaded Kodi devices on eBay or social media.

Overall, the BPI clearly wants to place pressure on intermediaries to take action against piracy when they’re in a position to do so, and particularly those who may not have shown much enthusiasm towards industry collaboration in the past.

“Legislation in this Bill, to take powers to intervene with respect to operators that do not co-operate, would bring focus to the roundtable process and ensure that intermediaries take their responsibilities seriously,” the BPI says.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Home Office will now work on a White Paper, to be published later this year, to set out legislation to tackle “online harms”. The BPI and similar entities will hope that the Government takes their concerns on board.

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

Despite US Criticism, Ukraine Cybercrime Chief Receives Few Piracy Complaints

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/despite-us-criticism-ukraine-cybercrime-chief-receives-few-piracy-complaints-180522/

On a large number of occasions over the past decade, Ukraine has played host to some of the world’s largest pirate sites.

At various points over the years, The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents, ExtraTorrent, Demonoid and raft of streaming portals could be found housed in the country’s data centers, reportedly taking advantage of laws more favorable than those in the US and EU.

As a result, Ukraine has been regularly criticized for not doing enough to combat piracy but when placed under pressure, it does take action. In 2010, for example, the local government expressed concerns about the hosting of KickassTorrents in the country and in August the same year, the site was kicked out by its host.

“Kickasstorrents.com main web server was shut down by the hosting provider after it was contacted by local authorities. One way or another I’m afraid we must say goodbye to Ukraine and move the servers to other countries,” the site’s founder told TF at the time.

In the years since, Ukraine has launched sporadic action against pirate sites and has taken steps to tighten up copyright law. The Law on State Support of Cinematography came into force during April 2017 and gave copyright owners new tools to combat infringement by forcing (in theory, at least) site operators and web hosts to respond to takedown requests.

But according to the United States and Europe, not enough is being done. After the EU Commission warned that Ukraine risked damaging relations with the EU, last September US companies followed up with another scathing attack.

In a recommendation to the U.S. Government, the IIPA, which counts the MPAA, RIAA, and ESA among its members, asked U.S. authorities to suspend or withdraw Ukraine’s trade benefits until the online piracy situation improves.

“Legislation is needed to institute proper notice and takedown provisions, including a requirement that service providers terminate access to individuals (or entities) that have repeatedly engaged in infringement, and the retention of information for law enforcement, as well as to provide clear third party liability regarding ISPs,” the IIPA wrote.

But amid all the criticism, Ukraine cyber police chief Sergey Demedyuk says that while his department is committed to tackling piracy, it can only do so when complaints are filed with him.

“Yes, we are engaged in piracy very closely. The problem is that piracy is a crime of private accusation. So here we deal with them only in cases where we are contacted,” Demedyuk said in an Interfax interview published yesterday.

Surprisingly, given the number of dissenting voices, it appears that complaints about these matters aren’t exactly prevalent. So are there many at all?

“Unfortunately, no. In the media, many companies claim that their rights are being violated by pirates. But if you count the applications that come to us, they are one,” Demedyuk reveals.

“In general, we are handling Ukrainian media companies, who produce their own product and are worried about its fate. Also on foreign films, the ‘Anti-Piracy Agency’ refers to us, but not as intensively as before.”

Why complaints are going down, Demedyuk does not know, but when his unit is asked to take action it does so, he claims. Indeed, Demedyuk cites two particularly significant historical operations against a pair of large ‘pirate’ sites.

In 2012, Ukraine shut down EX.ua, a massive cyberlocker site following a six-month investigation initiated by international tech companies including Microsoft, Graphisoft and Adobe. Around 200 servers were seized, together hosting around 6,000 terabytes of data.

Then in November 2016, following a complaint from the MPAA, police raided FS.to, one of Ukraine’s most popular pirate sites. Initial reports indicated that 60 servers were seized and 19 people were arrested.

“To see the effect of combating piracy, this should not be done at the level of cyberpolicy, but at the state level,” Demedyuk advises.

“This requires constant close interaction between law enforcement agencies and rights holders. Only by using all these tools will we be able to effectively counteract copyright infringements.”

Meanwhile, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has maintained Ukraine’s position on the Priority Watchlist of its latest Special 301 Report and there a no signs it will be leaving anytime soon.

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

Singapore ISPs Block 53 Pirate Sites Following MPAA Legal Action

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/singapore-isps-block-53-pirate-sites-following-mpaa-legal-action-180521/

Under increasing pressure from copyright holders, in 2014 Singapore passed amendments to copyright law that allow ISPs to block ‘pirate’ sites.

“The prevalence of online piracy in Singapore turns customers away from legitimate content and adversely affects Singapore’s creative sector,” said then Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.

“It can also undermine our reputation as a society that respects the protection of intellectual property.”

After the amendments took effect in December 2014, there was a considerable pause before any websites were targeted. However, in September 2016, at the request of the MPA(A), Solarmovie.ph became the first website ordered to be blocked under Singapore’s amended Copyright Act. The High Court subsequently ordering several major ISPs to disable access to the site.

A new wave of blocks announced this morning are the country’s most significant so far, with dozens of ‘pirate’ sites targeted following a successful application by the MPAA earlier this year.

In total, 53 sites across 154 domains – including those operated by The Pirate Bay plus KickassTorrents and Solarmovie variants – have been rendered inaccessible by ISPs including Singtel, StarHub, M1, MyRepublic and ViewQwest.

“In Singapore, these sites are responsible for a major portion of copyright infringement of films and television shows,” an MPAA spokesman told The Straits Times (paywall).

“This action by rights owners is necessary to protect the creative industry, enabling creators to create and keep their jobs, protect their works, and ensure the continued provision of high-quality content to audiences.”

Before granting a blocking injunction, the High Court must satisfy itself that the proposed online locations meet the threshold of being “flagrantly infringing”. This means that a site like YouTube, which carries a lot of infringing content but is not dedicated to infringement, would not ordinarily get caught up in the dragnet.

Sites considered for blocking must have a primary purpose to infringe, a threshold that is tipped in copyright holders’ favor when the sites’ operators display a lack of respect for copyright law and have already had their domains blocked in other jurisdictions.

The Court also weighs a number of additional factors including whether blocking would place an unacceptable burden on the shoulders of ISPs, whether the blocking demand is technically possible, and whether it will be effective.

In common with other regions such as the UK and Australia, for example, sites targeted for blocking must be informed of the applications made against them, to ensure they’re given a chance to defend themselves in court. No fully-fledged ‘pirate’ site has ever defended a blocking application in Singapore or indeed any jurisdiction in the world.

Finally, should any measures be taken by ‘pirate’ sites to evade an ISP blockade, copyright holders can apply to the Singapore High Court to amend the blocking order. This is similar to the Australian model where each application must be heard on its merits, rather than the UK model where a more streamlined approach is taken.

According to a recent report by Motion Picture Association Canada, at least 42 countries are now obligated to block infringing sites. In Europe alone, 1,800 sites and 5,300 domains have been rendered inaccessible, with Portugal, Italy, the UK, and Denmark leading the way.

In Canada, where copyright holders are lobbying hard for a site-blocking regime of their own, there’s pressure to avoid the “uncertain, slow and expensive” route of going through the courts.

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

Roku Displays FBI Anti-Piracy Warning to Legitimate YouTube & Netflix Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-displays-fbi-anti-piracy-warning-to-legitimate-youtube-netflix-users-180516/

In 2018, dealing with copyright infringement claims is a daily issue for many content platforms. The law in many regions demands swift attention and in order to appease copyright holders, most platforms are happy to oblige.

While it’s not unusual for ‘pirate’ content and services to suddenly disappear in response to a DMCA or similar notice, the same is rarely true for entire legitimate services.

But that’s what appeared to happen on the Roku platform during the night, when YouTube, Netflix and other channels disappeared only to be replaced with an ominous anti-piracy warning.

As the embedded tweet shows, the message caused confusion among Roku users who were only using their devices to access legal content. Messages replacing Netflix and YouTube seemed to have caused the greatest number of complaints but many other services were affected.

FoxSportsGo, FandangoNow, and India-focused YuppTV and Hotstar were also blacked out. As were the yoga and transformational videos specialists over at Gaia, the horror buffs at ChillerFlix, and UK TV service BritBox.

But while users scratched their heads, with some misguidedly blaming Roku for not being diligent enough against piracy, Roku took to Twitter to reveal that rather than anti-piracy complaints against the channels in question, a technical hitch was to blame.

However, a subsequent statement to CNET suggested that while blacking out Netflix and YouTube might have been accidental, Roku appears to have been taking anti-piracy action against another channel or channels at the time, with the measures inadvertently spilling over to innocent parties.

“We use that warning when we detect content that has violated copyright,” Roku said in a statement.

“Some channels in our Channel Store displayed that message and became inaccessible after Roku implemented a targeted anti-piracy measure on the platform.”

The precise nature of the action taken by Roku is unknown but it’s clear that copyright infringement is currently a hot topic for the platform.

Roku is currently fighting legal action in Mexico which ordered its products off the shelves following complaints that its platform is used by pirates. That led to an FBI warning being shown for what was believed to be the first time against the XTV and other channels last year.

This March, Roku took action against the popular USTVNow channel following what was described as a “third party” copyright infringement complaint. Just a couple of weeks later, Roku followed up by removing the controversial cCloud channel.

With Roku currently fighting to have sales reinstated in Mexico against a backdrop of claims that up to 40% of its users are pirates, it’s unlikely that Roku is suddenly going to go soft on piracy, so more channel outages can be expected in the future.

In the meantime, the scary FBI warnings of last evening are beginning to fade away (for legitimate channels at least) after the company issued advice on how to fix the problem.

“The recent outage which affected some channels has been resolved. Go to Settings > System > System update > Check now for a software update. Some channels may require you to log in again. Thank you for your patience,” the company wrote in an update.

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

Police Launch Investigation into Huge Pirate Manga Site Mangamura

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-launch-investigation-into-huge-pirate-manga-site-mangamura-180514/

Back in March, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government was considering measures to prohibit access to pirate sites.

While protecting all content is the overall aim, it became clear that the government was determined to protect Japan’s successful manga and anime industries.

It didn’t take long for a reaction. On Friday April 13, the government introduced emergency website blocking measures, seeking cooperation from the country’s ISPs.

NTT Communications Corp., NTT Docomo Inc. and NTT Plala Inc., quickly announced they would block three leading pirate sites – Mangamura, AniTube! and MioMio which have a huge following in Japan. However, after taking the country by storm during the past two years, Mangamura had already called it quits.

On April 17, in the wake of the government announcement, Mangamura disappeared. It’s unclear whether its vanishing act was directly connected to recent developments but a program on national public broadcasting organization NHK, which claimed to have traced the site’s administrators back to the United States, Ukraine, and other regions, can’t have helped.

Further details released this morning reveal the intense pressure Mangamura was under. With 100 million visits a month it was bound to attract attention and according to Mainichi, several publishing giants ran out of patience last year and reported the platform to the authorities.

Kodansha, Japan’s largest publisher, and three other companies filed criminal complaints with Fukuoka Prefectural Police, Oita Prefectural Police, and other law enforcement departments, claiming the site violated their rights.

“The complaints, which were lodged against an unknown suspect or suspects, were filed on behalf of manga artists who are copyright holders to the pirated works, including Hajime Isayama and Eiichiro Oda, known for their wildly popular ‘Shingeki no Kyojin’ (‘Attack on Titan,’ published by Kodansha) and ‘One Piece’ (Shueisha Inc.), respectively,” the publication reports.

Mangamura launch in January 2016 and became a huge hit in Japan. Anti-piracy group Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA), which counts publishing giant Kodansha among its members, reports that between September 2017 and February 2018, the site was accessed 620 million times.

Based on a “one visit, one manga title read” formula, CODA estimates that the site caused damages to the manga industry of 319.2 billion yen – around US$2.91 billion.

As a result, police are now stepping up their efforts to identify Mangamura’s operators. Whether that will prove fruitful will remain to be seen but in the meantime, Japan’s site-blocking efforts continue to cause controversy.

As reported last month, lawyer and NTT customer Yuichi Nakazawa launched legal action against NTT, demanding that the corporation immediately end its site-blocking operations.

“NTT’s decision was made arbitrarily on the site without any legal basis. No matter how legitimate the objective of copyright infringement is, it is very dangerous,” Nakazawa told TorrentFreak.

“I felt that ‘freedom,’ which is an important value of the Internet, was threatened. Actually, when the interruption of communications had begun, the company thought it would be impossible to reverse the situation, so I filed a lawsuit at this stage.”

Japan’s Constitution and its Telecommunications Business Act both have “no censorship” clauses, meaning that site-blocking has the potential to be ruled illegal. It’s also illegal in Japan to invade the privacy of Internet users’ communications, which some observers have argued is necessary if users are to be prevented from accessing pirate sites.

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