Despite being one of the more popular set-top box platforms, until last year Roku managed to stay completely out of the piracy conversation.
However, due to abuse of its system by third-parties, last June the Superior Court of Justice of the City of Mexico banned the importation and distribution of Roku devices in the country.
The decision followed a complaint filed by cable TV provider Cablevision, which said that some Roku channels and their users were infringing its distribution rights.
Since then, Roku has been fighting to have the ban lifted, previously informing TF that it expressly prohibits copyright infringement of any kind. That led to several more legal processes yet last month and after considerable effort, the ban was upheld, much to Roku’s disappointment.
“It is necessary for Roku to make adjustments to its software, as other online content distribution platforms do, so that violations of copyrighted content do not take place,” Cablevision said.
In a series of emails with TF, the company declined to offer further details but there is plenty of online speculation that the decision was a move towards the “adjustments” demanded by Cablevision. Today yet more fuel is being poured onto that same fire with Roku’s decision to ban the popular cCloud TV service from its platform.
For those unfamiliar with cCloud TV, it’s a video streaming platform that relies on users to contribute media links found on the web, whether they’re movie and TV shows or live sporting events.
“Project cCloud TV is known as the ‘Popcorn Time for Live TV’. The project started with 50 channels and has grown over time and now has over 4000 channels from all around the world,” its founder ‘Bane’ told TF back in 2016.
“The project was inspired by Popcorn Time and its simplicity for streaming torrents. The service works based on media links that can be found anywhere on the web and the cCloud project makes it easier for users to stream.”
Aside from the vast array of content cCloud offers, its versatility is almost unrivaled. In an addition to working via most modern web browsers, it’s also accessible using smartphones, tablets, Plex media server, Kodi, VLC, and (until recently at least) Roku.
But cCloud and USTVnow aren’t the only services suffering bans at Roku.
cCloud has had problems on Kodi too. Back in September 2017, TVAddons announced that it had been forced to remove the cCloud addon from its site.
“cCloud TV has been removed from our web site due to a complaint made by Bell, Rogers, Videotron and TVA on June 12th, 2017 as part of their lawsuit against our web site,” the site announced.
“Prior to hearing of the lawsuit, we had never received a single complaint relating to the cCloud TV addon for Kodi. cCloud TV for Kodi was developed by podgod, and was basically an interface for the community-based web service that goes by the same name.”
Last week, TVAddons went on to publish an “blacklist” that lists addons that have the potential to deliver content not authorized by rightsholders. Among many others, the list contains cCloud, meaning that potential users will now have to obtain it directly from the Kodi Bae Repository on Github instead.
At the time of publication, Roku had not responded to TorrentFreak’s request for comment.
In August 2015, police in Denmark announced they had arrested a man in his thirties said to be the operator of a Popcorn Time-focused website. Popcorntime.dk was subsequently shut down and its domain placed under the control of the state prosecutor.
“The Danish State Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime is presently conducting a criminal investigation that involves this domain name,” a seizure notice on the site reads.
“As part of the investigation the state prosecutor has requested a Danish District Court to transfer the rights of the domain name to the state prosecutor. The District Court has complied with the request.”
In a circumstance like this, it’s common to conclude that the site was offering copyright-infringing content or software. That wasn’t the case though, not even close.
PopcornTime.dk was an information resource, offering news on Popcorn Time-related developments, guides, plus tips on how to use the software while staying anonymous.
PopcornTime.dk as it appeared in 2015
Importantly, PopcornTime.dk hosted no software, preferring to link to other sites where the application could be downloaded instead. That didn’t prevent an aggressive prosecution though and now, two-and-half years later, the verdict’s in and it’s bound to raise more than a few eyebrows.
On Wednesday, a court in Odense, Denmark, handed the now 39-year-old man behind PopcornTime.dk a six-month conditional prison sentence for spreading information about the controversial movie streaming service.
Senior prosecutor Dorte Køhler Frandsen from SØIK (State Attorney for Special Economic and International Crime), who was behind the criminal proceedings, described the successful prosecution as a first-of-its-kind moment for the entire region.
“Never before has a person been convicted of helping to spread streaming services. The judgment is therefore an important step in combating illegal streaming on the Internet and will reverberate throughout Europe,” Frandsen said.
According to a statement from the prosecutor, the 39-year-old earned 506,003 Danish Krone ($83,363) in advertising revenue from his website in 2015. In addition to forfeiting this amount and having his domain confiscated, the man will also be required to complete 120 hours of community service.
“The verdict is a clear signal to those who spread illegal pirate services. The film industry and others lose billions in revenue each year because criminals illegally offer films for free. It’s a loss for everyone. Also the consumer,” Frandsen added.
The convicted man now has two weeks to decide whether he will take his appeal to the Østre Landsret, one of Denmark’s two High Courts.
While other providers in the UK and Ireland aim to compete, those requiring the absolute fastest fibre optic broadband coupled with a comprehensive TV package will probably find themselves considering Virgin Media.
Despite sporting Richard Branson’s Virgin brand, the company has been owned by US-based Liberty Global since 2013. It previously earned the title of first quad-play media company in the United Kingdom, offering broadband, TV, fixed-line and mobile telecoms packages.
Today, however, the company has a small piracy-related embarrassment to address.
Like several of the large telecoms companies in the region, Virgin Media operates a number of bricks-and-mortar stores which are used to drum up sales for Internet, TV and phone packages while offering support to new and existing customers. They typically look like the one in the image below.
Virgin Media store (credit: Virgin)
The outside windows of Virgin stores are usually covered with advertising for the company’s products and regularly carry digital displays which present the latest deals. However, one such display spotted by a passer-by carried a little extra.
In a now-deleted post on Reddit, a user explained that when out and about he’d passed a Virgin Media store which sported a digital display advertising the company’s impressive “Full House” package. However, intruding at the top of the screen was a notification from one of the most impressive piracy apps available, Terrarium TV.
Busted: Terrarium TV notification top and center (credit)
For those out of the loop, Terrarium TV is one of the most feature-rich Android-based applications available today. For reasons that aren’t exactly clear, it hasn’t received the attention of ‘rivals’ such as Popcorn Time and Showbox but its abilities are extremely impressive.
As the image shows, the notification is letting the user know that two new movies – The Star and The Stray – have been added to Terrarium’s repertoire. In other words, they’ve just been listed in the Terrarium app for streaming directly to the user’s installation (in this case one of Virgin’s own displays) for free, without permission from copyright holders.
Of course, Virgin Media definitely won’t have authorized the installation of Terrarium TV on any of its units, so it’s most likely down to someone in the store with access to the display, perhaps a staff member but possibly a mischievous customer. Whoever it was should probably uninstall it now though, if they’re able to. Virgin will not be happy about this.
The person who took the photo didn’t respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment on where it was taken but from the information available in the image, it seems likely that it’s in Ireland. Virgin Media ads elsewhere in the region are priced in pounds – not in euros – so a retail outlet in the country is the most likely location. The same 99 euro “Full House” deal is also advertised on Virgin’s .ie website.
While a display running a piracy application over the top of an advert trying to sell premium access to movies and TV shows is embarrassing enough, Virgin and other ISPs including Eircom, Sky Ireland, and Vodafone Ireland are currently subject to a court order which compels them to block several pirate sites in Ireland.
The sources used by Terrarium to supply illicit copies of movies are not part of that order but since ISPs in the region don’t contest blocking orders when rightsholders apply for them, it’s reasonable to presume they’re broadly in favor of blocking pirate sites.
Of course, that makes perfect sense if you’re a company trying to make money from selling premium access to content.
Update: We have a lengthy statement from Virgin Media:
“Virgin Media takes copyright very seriously and does not condone illegal streaming.
Our new Tallaght Store is due to officially open later this month and currently does not currently have Virgin Media network connectivity.
Over the weekend, an advertising screen display in this Store was being set up by a contractor.
The contractor took it on themselves to use their own 4G device to set up the screen, ahead of the store being connected to our fibre services this week.
At some stage, it seems an unwanted pop-up appeared on the screen from an illegal streaming site. To be clear, this was not on the Virgin Media network.
Other than as outlined above, this occurrence has no connection whatsoever with Virgin Media. We have notified the contractor regarding this incident.”
In early 2014, Popcorn Time turned the consumer end of the piracy world upside down. Utilizing a BitTorrent backend and a beautiful interface, Popcorn Time certainly lived up to its promise of being the Netflix for Pirates. Adopted by millions of users, it soon became a household name.
In the months and years to come, Popcorn Time grabbed hundreds of headlines. However, aside from the app’s success, much of what followed was negative in tone as the entertainment industries struggled to contain this new kid on the block.
Since then, of course, Kodi and its numerous illicit third-party addons have become massive news, stepping over Popcorn Time to become the most talked about and consumer-friendly of piracy tools. In the background, however, other applications have been making steady and indeed somewhat stealthy progress.
One of these applications is Terrarium TV. Built exclusively for the Android platform and equally at home on a phone, tablet, streaming stick or set-top box, this software has gained a cult but significant following. For those out of the loop, it will be the most important piracy app they’ve never heard of, despite its Facebook page alone attracting close to 200,000 members.
In many respects, Terrarium TV resembles Popcorn Time. It has a beautiful Netflix-style interface, pulling movie and TV show artwork and metadata from several sources to make what some consider to be the best all-in-one streaming app for Android, period. While Kodi is no doubt powerful and Popcorn Time has one hell of a reputation, Terrarium TV makes viewing simplicity itself. And it really does cater to everyone.
Terrarium TV – A category for everyone
If people are worried about Popcorn Time due to its BitTorrent-based streaming, Terrarium TV has that covered. Every single stream offered by the app is conjured up from public sources such as file-hosting sites and even GoogleVideo. On the whole, streaming is of an extremely high-quality with dozens of sources offered for most content, whether that’s the latest Hollywood movies, blockbuster TV shows, or decades-old rarities.
The quality is impressive too. While 4K rips are best left to the BitTorrent crowd with bandwidth to spare, Terrarium TV manages to conjure up a bewildering range of content in an impressive array of qualities. HD is commonplace and barely a search goes by without a corresponding source alongside. And with multi-language subtitle and Chromecast support, the icing is placed on top of what is an extremely competent cake.
But despite all the accolades, Terrarium TV has an uncertain future.
Over a week ago TerrariumTV.com – the site from where the application has been seamlessly delivered for some time – suddenly disappeared without trace. There was no announcement on Facebook, no announcement on Twitter. Even the moderators on the fairly active Terrarium TV subreddit seemed to have few ideas as to what was going on.
Theories are numerous but most center around the developer, who’s resident in Asia, going on some kind of hiatus. Why that would require the Terrarium TV website to be taken down isn’t clear. Neither does it explain why the Terrarium TV site Github repo was taken down too.
But alongside the ‘break’ theory is one that legal trouble, either actual or simply the fear of it, is what’s underlying the apparent limbo in which the app now sits. That was confirmed this week by the developer, who told one of the app’s subreddit moderators that he’d be lying low, at least for a while.
“I’ve decided to shut down the official website and maybe soon will also shut down the Github repository hosting the apk files in order to avoid any potential legal issues,” he said.
“There has been no cease and desist letters, no lawyers at the door, no seizing of the website. Ad free is not involved. It has been purely a precautionary measure. I want to take a break for a while (maybe a few weeks) first.”
After a short exchange in the summer, Terrarium TV’s developer didn’t return our recent requests for comment but if he had, we’d have certainly asked him about the future development of the app, framed around the Popcorn Time situation.
Despite many legal attacks, the open source nature of Popcorn Time allowed the project to ‘fork’ in several different directions, with various teams continuing development. Terrarium TV, on the other hand, is closed source meaning that when it’s gone, it’s possibly gone for good.
At the moment it’s still available for download from sources listed in the sidebar of its dedicated subreddit but whether the dev will decide to revisit the project again is unclear at this point. If he does not, it seems likely that the system will degrade over time although at the moment it carries out its tasks automatically, which is impressive in itself.
In the meantime, its hundreds of thousands of users will just have to cross everything – and wait.
Early 2014, a new craze was sweeping the piracy world. Instead of relatively cumbersome text-heavy torrent sites, people were turning to a brand new application called Popcorn Time.
Dubbed the Netflix for Pirates due to its beautiful interface, Popcorn Time was soon a smash hit all over the planet. But with that fame came trouble, with anti-piracy outfits all over the world seeking to shut it down or at least pour cold water on its popularity.
In the meantime, however, the popularity of Kodi skyrocketed, something which pushed Popcorn Time out of the spotlight for a while. Nevertheless, the application in several different forms never went away and it still enjoys an impressive following today. This means that despite earlier action in several jurisdictions, Hollywood still has it on the radar.
The latest development comes out of Norway, where Disney Entertainment, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Columbia Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios and Warner Bros. have just taken 14 local Internet service providers to court.
The studios claimed that the ISPs (including Telenor, Nextgentel, Get, Altibox, Telia, Homenet, Ice Norge, Eidsiva Bredbånd and Lynet Internet) should undertake broad blocking action to ensure that three of the most popular Popcorn Time forks (located at popcorn-time.to, popcorntime.sh and popcorn-time.is) can no longer function in the region.
Since site-blocking necessarily covers the blocking of websites, there appears to have been much discussion over whether a software application can be considered a website. However, the court ultimately found that wasn’t really an issue, since each application requires websites to operate.
“Each of the three [Popcorn Time variants] must be considered a ‘site’, even though users access Popcorn Time in a way that is technically different from the way other pirate sites provide users with access to content, and although different components of the Popcorn Time service are retrieved from different domains,” the Oslo District Court’s ruling reads.
In respect of all three releases of Popcorn Time, the Court weighed the pros and cons of blocking, including whether blocking was needed at all. However, it ultimately decided that alternative methods for dealing with the sites do not exist since the rightsholders tried and ultimately failed to get cooperation from the sites’ operators.
“All sites have as their main purpose the purpose of facilitating infringement of protected works by giving the public unauthorized access to movies and TV shows. This happens without regard to the rights of others and imposes major losses on the licensees and the cultural industry in general,” the Court writes.
The Court also supported compelling ISPs to introduce the blocks, noting that they are “an appropriate and proportionate measure” that does not interfere with the Internet service providers’ freedom to operate nor anyone’s else’s right to freedom of expression.
But while the websites in question are located in three places (popcorn-time.to, popcorntime.sh and popcorn-time.is) the Court’s blocking order goes much further. Not only does it cover these key domains but also other third-party sites that Popcorn Time utilizes, such as platforms offering subtitles.
Popcorn-time.to related domains to be blocked: popcorn-time.to, popcorn-time.xyz, popcorn-time.se, iosinstaller.com, video4time.info, thepopcorntime.net, timepopcorn.info, time-popcorn.com, the-pop-corn-time.net, timepopcorn.net, time4videostream.com, ukfrnlge.xyz, opensubtitles.org, onlinesubtitles.com, popcorntime-update.xyz, plus subdomains.
Popcorntime.sh related domains to be blocked: Popcorntime.sh, api-fetch.website, yts.ag, opensubtitles.org, plus subdomains.
Popcorn-time.is related domains to be blocked: popcorn-time.is, yts.ag, yify.is, yts.ph, api-fetch.website, eztvapi.ml and opensubtitles.org, plus subdomains.
Separately, the Court ordered the ISPs to block torrent site YTS.ag and onlinesubtitles.com, opensubtitles.org, plus their subdomains.
Since no one appeared to represent the sites and the ISPs can’t be held responsible if they cooperate, the Court found that the studios had succeeding in their action and are entitled to compensation.
“The Court’s conclusions mean that the plaintiffs have won the case and, in principle, are entitled to compensation for their legal costs from the operators of the sites,” the Court notes. “This means that the operators of sites are ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ costs.”
Those costs amount to 570,000 kr (around US$70,000), an amount which the Court chose to split equally between the three Popcorn Time forks ($23,359 each). It seems unlikely the amounts will ever be recovered although there is still an opportunity for the parties to appeal.
In the meantime the ISPs have just days left to block the sites listed above. Once they’ve been put in place, the blocks will remain in place for five years.
Without a doubt, YouTube is one of the most important websites available on the Internet today.
Its massive archive of videos brings pleasure to millions on a daily basis but its centralized nature means that owner Google always exercises control.
Over the years, people have looked to decentralize the YouTube concept and the latest project hoping to shake up the market has a particularly interesting player onboard.
Until 2015, only insiders knew that Argentinian designer Federico Abad was actually ‘Sebastian’, the shadowy figure behind notorious content sharing platform Popcorn Time.
Now he’s part of the team behind Flixxo, a BitTorrent and blockchain-powered startup hoping to wrestle a share of the video market from YouTube. Here’s how the team, which features blockchain startup RSK Labs, hope things will play out.
The Flixxo network will have no centralized storage of data, eliminating the need for expensive hosting along with associated costs. Instead, transfers will take place between peers using BitTorrent, meaning video content will be stored on the machines of Flixxo users. In practice, the content will be downloaded and uploaded in much the same way as users do on The Pirate Bay or indeed Abad’s baby, Popcorn Time.
However, there’s a twist to the system that envisions content creators, content consumers, and network participants (seeders) making revenue from their efforts.
At the heart of the Flixxo system are digital tokens (think virtual currency), called Flixx. These Flixx ‘coins’, which will go on sale in 12 days, can be used to buy access to content. Creators can also opt to pay consumers when those people help to distribute their content to others.
“Free from structural costs, producers can share the earnings from their content with the network that supports them,” the team explains.
“This way you get paid for helping us improve Flixxo, and you earn credits (in the form of digital tokens called Flixx) for watching higher quality content. Having no intermediaries means that the price you pay for watching the content that you actually want to watch is lower and fairer.”
The Flixxo team
In addition to earning tokens from helping to distribute content, people in the Flixxo ecosystem can also earn currency by watching sponsored content, i.e advertisements. While in a traditional system adverts are often considered a nuisance, Flixx tokens have real value, with a promise that users will be able to trade their Flixx not only for videos, but also for tangible and semi-tangible goods.
“Use your Flixx to reward the producers you follow, encouraging them to create more awesome content. Or keep your Flixx in your wallet and use them to buy a movie ticket, a pair of shoes from an online retailer, a chest of coins in your favourite game or even convert them to old-fashioned cash or up-and-coming digital assets, like Bitcoin,” the team explains.
The Flixxo team have big plans. After foundation in early 2016, the second quarter of 2017 saw the completion of a functional alpha release. In a little under two weeks, the project will begin its token generation event, with new offices in Los Angeles planned for the first half of 2018 alongside a premiere of the Flixxo platform.
“A total of 1,000,000,000 (one billion) Flixx tokens will be issued. A maximum of 300,000,000 (three hundred million) tokens will be sold. Some of these tokens (not more than 33% or 100,000,000 Flixx) may be sold with anticipation of the token allocation event to strategic investors,” Flixxo states.
Like all content platforms, Flixxo will live or die by the quality of the content it provides and whether, at least in the first instance, it can persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash. Only time will tell whether its content will be worth a premium over readily accessible YouTube content but with much-reduced costs, it may tempt creators seeking a bigger piece of the pie.
“Flixxo will also educate its community, teaching its users that in this new internet era value can be held and transferred online without intermediaries, a value that can be earned back by participating in a community, by contributing, being rewarded for every single social interaction,” the team explains.
Of course, the elephant in the room is what will happen when people begin sharing copyrighted content via Flixxo. Certainly, the fact that Popcorn Time’s founder is a key player and rival streaming platform Stremio is listed as a partner means that things could get a bit spicy later on.
Nevertheless, the team suggests that piracy and spam content distribution will be limited by mechanisms already built into the system.
“[A]uthors have to time-block tokens in a smart contract (set as a warranty) in order to upload content. This contract will also handle and block their earnings for a certain period of time, so that in the case of a dispute the unfair-uploader may lose those tokens,” they explain.
That being said, Flixxo also says that “there is no way” for third parties to censor content “which means that anyone has the chance of making any piece of media available on the network.” However, Flixxo says it will develop tools for filtering what it describes as “inappropriate content.”
At this point, things start to become a little unclear. On the one hand Flixxo says it could become a “revolutionary tool for uncensorable and untraceable media” yet on the other it says that it’s necessary to ensure that adult content, for example, isn’t seen by kids.
“We know there is a thin line between filtering or curating content and censorship, and it is a fact that we have an open network for everyone to upload any content. However, Flixxo as a platform will apply certain filtering based on clear rules – there should be a behavior-code for uploaders in order to offer the right content to the right user,” Flixxo explains.
To this end, Flixxo says it will deploy a centralized curation function, carried out by 101 delegates elected by the community, which will become progressively decentralized over time.
“This curation will have a cost, paid in Flixx, and will be collected from the warranty blocked by the content uploaders,” they add.
There can be little doubt that if Flixxo begins ‘curating’ unsuitable content, copyright holders will call on it to do the same for their content too. And, if the platform really takes off, 101 curators probably won’t scratch the surface. There’s also the not inconsiderable issue of what might happen to curators’ judgment when they’re incentivized to block curate content.
Finally, for those sick of “not available in your region” messages, there’s good and bad news. Flixxo insists there will be no geo-blocking of content on its part but individual creators will still have that feature available to them, should they choose.
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