Tag Archives: rightsholders

Pirate Party Urges Swedish Govt to Stop ‘Copyright Troll’ Invasion

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-party-urges-swedish-govt-to-stop-copyright-troll-invasion-180418/

In recent years, millions of file-sharers around the world have been ordered to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.

These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in several countries, with Sweden one of the latest hunting grounds.

Over the past months, tens of thousands of Swedes have been targeted in this manner.

The copyright holders go to court, armed with a list of IP-addresses, and when permission is granted they ask the associated ISPs for the account details of individual subscribers.

These suspected pirates then get a settlement demand in their mailbox, urging them to pay the equivalent of a few hundred dollars, or have their day in court.

As in many other countries, these practices are not without controversy. Several experts have spoken out against them, and ISPs have raised objections too. However, according to Swedish law, the rightsholders have the right to pursue these cases.

Despite its name, the Swedish Pirate Party has been relatively silent on the issue. However, that changed this week, as the party now calls on Justice Minister Morgan Johansson to take action.

The Pirate Party describes the copyright trolling efforts as extortion. It stresses that the evidence copyright holders rely on is far from solid, something they believe the courts should take into account.

“It is a scandal that the Swedish judicial system facilitates the mafia-like methods of copyright trolls,” says Pirate Party leader Magnus Andersson.

“To condone the sending of extortion letters without reasonable ground for suspicion of criminal activity is not acceptable. We demand the Justice Minister to do something about the situation with these copyright trolls!”

The Pirate Party sees plenty of opportunities to intervene. The Government could, for example, change how the IPRED directive is interpreted and demand higher scrutiny of the provided evidence.

Another option would be to work at the EU level to repeal the IPRED-directive in its entirety.

Besides calling on the Justice Minister to take action, the Pirate Party is also backing the anti-copyright troll initiative of Internet provider Bahnhof. Through this campaign, members of the public can voice their concerns to the Swedish Government.

Through these and other efforts, the Pirate Party hopes that something will be done to protect the public from the ‘trolling’ practices.

“We cannot accept a situation where private companies use the judicial system as a weapon of fear to extort innocent people,” Andersson tells TorrentFreak.

“This creates contempt for the judiciary and supports the view that the courts only exist to serve the state’s and the big companies’ interests,” he adds.

Thus far the copyright holders have shown no sign of backing down. They refute the “trolling” characterizations and counter that they are merely enforcing their rights. And with the courts on their side, they have little to worry about for now.

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

Roku Bans Popular Social IPTV Linking Service cCloud TV

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-bans-popular-social-iptv-linking-service-ccloud-tv-180409/

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.

Then, at the end of March, Roku suddenly banned the USTVnow channel from its platform, citing a third-party copyright complaint.

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.

As highlighted by CordCuttersNews, other channels are also suffering similar fates, such as XTV that was previously replaced with an FBI warning.

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.

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

Cloudflare Fails to Eliminate ‘Moot’ Pirate Site Blocking Threat

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-fails-eliminate-moot-pirate-site-blocking-threat/

Representing various major record labels, the RIAA filed a lawsuit against pirate site MP3Skull three years ago.

With millions of visitors per month the MP3 download site had been one of the prime sources of pirated music for a long time.

In 2016, the record labels won their case against the MP3 download portal but the site initially ignored the court order and continued to operate. This prompted the RIAA to go after third-party services including Cloudflare, demanding that they block associated domain names.

Cloudflare objected and argued that the DMCA shielded the company from the broad blocking requirements. However, the court ruled that the DMCA doesn’t apply in this case, opening the door to widespread anti-piracy filtering.

The court stressed that, before issuing an injunction against Cloudflare, it still had to be determined whether the CDN provider is “in active concert or participation” with the pirate site. However, this has yet to happen. Since MP3Skull has ceased its operations the RIAA has shown little interest in pursuing the matter any further.

While there is no longer an immediate site blocking threat, it makes it easier for rightsholders to request similar blocking requests in the future. Cloudflare, therefore, asked the court to throw the order out, arguing that since MP3Skull is no longer available the issue is moot.

This week, US District Court Judge Marcia Cooke denied that request.

Denied

This is, of course, music to the ears of the RIAA and its members.

The RIAA wants to keep the door open for similar blocking requests in the future. This potential liability for pirates sites is the main reason why the CDN provider asked the court to vacate the order, the RIAA said previously.

While the order remains in place, Judge Cooke suggests that both parties are working on some kind of compromise or clarification and gave two weeks to draft this into a new proposal.

“The parties may draft and submit a joint proposed order addressing the issues raised at the hearing on or before April 10, 2018,” Judge Cooke writes.

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

Russia Blocked 8,000 Pirate Sites in 2017, “Visits to Cinemas Up 11%”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-blocked-8000-pirate-sites-in-2017-visits-to-cinemas-up-11-180325/

Blocking sites is one of the most popular anti-piracy mechanisms of recent times. The practice is now commonplace in the UK, Europe, and Australia and, if entertainment industry groups get their way, it’ll soon be installed in Canada too.

While most regions with blocking legislation carry out their work with enthusiasm, perhaps surprisingly it’s Russia setting the standards. With almost constant amendments to copyright law, the country is able to block pirate sites, mirrors, and proxies in a very short timeframe indeed. And it has been doing so, in huge numbers.

According to data shared with Izvestia by local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor, in 2017 Russia blocked a staggering 8,000 pirate sites, more than any other country on the planet. In a clear sign of the way things are going, that figure represents a four-fold increase over the 2,000 sites that were blocked on copyright grounds in 2016.

While blocks can be authorized for infringement of copyright on everything from music to software and from books to TV shows, it is the movie industry leading the way in volume terms. In 65% of cases of site-blocking in 2017, the requests came from companies involved in the production and distribution of films.

Sheer volume aside, there’s nothing really surprising about the site-blocking movement in Russia. However, it differs from most other regions when it comes to assessing its usefulness.

Groups in many other countries have claimed that site-blocking is effective in reducing visits to pirate sites and even reducing piracy itself, but the majority steer clear of claiming that it actually does anything to increase sales. Not so Russia.

According to data from Russia’s Cinema Foundation cited by Rozcomnadzor alongside site-blocking statistics, last year “the aggregate box office of the national film distribution” grew by 10.9% amounting to 53.6 billion rubles [US$927.3m], up from 48.4 billion rubles [US$837.3m] in 2016.

In addition, the telecoms regulator said that cinema attendance across the country had increased by 11.4% over the previous year.

A court process is required to block infringing sites that fail to cooperate when rightsholders ask for content to be taken down. Those that push the boundaries by refusing to remove content on multiple occasions can find themselves blocked on a permanent basis.

In 2017, a total of 530 sites were added to Russia’s permanent blacklist, up from ‘just’ 107 sites in 2017. In addition, 459 pirate site “mirrors” were blocked by ISPs with no hope of reprieve. Following changes to the law last October, permanently blocked sites are also removed from search engine results.

But while the current system presents no significant obstacles to having many thousands of sites blocked during the course of a year, Russian authorities want more anti-piracy tools in their arsenal. New proposals would see pirate sites blocked without the need for any court process at all.

It’s already possible to have mirror sites blocked without a separate process but if the Ministry of Culture has its way, copyright complaints issued to hosting services and sites that go completely unanswered without deletion of content could suffer the same fate.

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

Google Should Begin Delisting Pirate Sites, Aussie Rightsholders Say

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-should-begin-delisting-pirate-sites-aussie-rightsholders-say-180322/

After being passed almost three years ago, in February the Australian government announced a review of its pirate site-blocking laws.

The Department of Communications asked for feedback on the effectiveness of the mechanism, from initial injunction application through to website blocking and, crucially, whether further amendments are required.

“The Department welcomes single, consolidated submissions from organizations or parties, capturing all views on the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 (Online Infringement Amendment) [pdf],” the consultation paper began.

Several responses from interested groups have been filed with the government and unsurprisingly, most come from entertainment industry groups seeking to expand on what has been achieved so far.

The most aggressive submissions come from the two companies that have made the most use of the blocking scheme so far – movie group Village Roadshow and TV provider Foxtel. Together the companies have had dozens of sites blocked in Australia by local ISPs but now they want the blocking regime expanded to online service platforms too.

Indeed, in the Roadshow and Foxtel submissions combined, Google is mentioned no less than 29 times as being part of the piracy problem Down Under.

“Village Roadshow strongly supported the original site blocking legislation and now we strongly support strengthening it,” Village Roadshow co-chief Graham Burke writes.

“With all major pirate sites blocked in Australia, the front door of the department store is shut. However, pirates, facilitated by Google and other search engines, are circumventing Australian Laws and Courts and opening a huge back door. Australia needs the power to require Google and other search engines to take reasonable steps to stop facilitating searches which lead to pirate sites.”

Burke goes on to criticize Google’s business model, which pushes tens of millions of people “searching for stolen goods” to pirate sites that hit them with “rogue advertising including illegal gambling, drugs, sex aids and prostitution.”

In a nutshell, the Village Roadshow co-chief suggests that Google’s business model involves profiting from knowingly leading consumers to illegal locations where they are ultimately ripped off.

“The analogy for Google is a Westfield Shopping Centre knowing they are getting big traffic to the center from a store that is using stolen goods to lure people and then robbing them!” he writes.

This anti-Google rant heads in a predictable direction. At the moment, Australia’s site-blocking regime only applies to ‘carriage service providers’, the home ISPs we all use. Village Roadshow wants that provision expanded to include ‘intermediary service providers’, which covers search engines, social media, and other types of internet intermediaries.

“Apart from ISP’s, many intermediaries are able to meaningfully impact traffic to infringing sites, and in fact, can and are currently used by pirates to find new locations and proxies to circumvent the ISP blocks,” Burke adds.

In other words, when served with an injunction, companies like Google and Facebook should delist results that lead people to pirate sites. This position is also championed by Foxtel, which points to a voluntary arrangement in the UK between search engines and the entertainment industries.

Under this anti-piracy code introduced last year, search engines agreed to further optimize their algorithms and processes to demote pirated content in search results. The aim is to make infringing content less visible and at a faster rate. At the same time, legal alternatives should be easier to find.

But like Village Roadshow, Foxtel doesn’t appear to be content with demotion – blocking and delisting is the aim.

“Foxtel strongly believes that extending the site blocking powers to search engines so that they must remove copyright infringing sites from search results would have a substantial impact on reducing piracy in Australia,” the company says.

“Search engines already remove URLs from site indexes to comply with local laws and product community standards and therefore, technologically Foxtel understands it would be a relatively simple exercise for search engines to comply with Australian blocking orders.”

Both Foxtel and Roadshow agree in other areas too. Currently, Australia’s site-blocking provisions apply to “online locations” situated outside Australia’s borders but both companies see a need for that restriction to be removed.

Neither company can understand why local pirate sites can’t be handled in the same way as those based overseas, with Foxtel arguing that proving an overseas element can be a costly process.

“Applicants must review individual domain locations and IP addresses and put on evidence relating to these matters to ensure that the location of the sites is established. This evidence, which we consider to be unnecessary, is produced at significant time and cost, all of which is borne by the rights holders,” Foxtel says.

While none of the above is particularly new in the global scheme of things, it’s interesting to note that even when agreements are reached and new legislation is formed, rightsholders always keep pushing for more.

That’s clearly highlighted in the Foxtel submission when the company says that the threshold for determining a pirate site should be lowered. Currently, a site must have a “primary purpose” to “infringe, or to facilitate the infringement” of copyright. Foxtel sees this as being too high.

In order to encompass general hosting sites that may also carry large quantities of infringing content, it would like to remove the term “primary purpose” and replace it with “substantial purpose or effect.” Given the recent criticisms leveled at Google and particularly YouTube for the infringing content it hosts, that request could prove difficult to push through.

Foxtel also sees a need to better tackle live streaming. In the UK, injunctions obtained by the Premier League and UEFA last year allow pirated live sports streams to be blocked in real-time. Although the injunctions are overseen by the courts, on a practical level the process is carried out between rightsholders and compliant ISPs.

Foxtel believes that Australia needs something similar.

“For site blocking to be effective in Australia in respect of live sport streaming sites which frequently change location, Foxtel anticipates that a similar process will ultimately be required to be implemented,” the company notes.

With the consultation process now over, dissenting submissions are in the minority. The most notable come from the Pirate Party (pdf) and Digital Rights Watch (pdf) although both are likely to be drowned out by the voices of rightsholders.

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

SXSW 2018 on BitTorrent: 8.24 GB of ‘Free’ Music?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sxsw-2018-on-bittorrent-8-24-gb-of-free-music-180317/

The SXSW music festival was one of the first major events to embrace BitTorrent.

In 2005, it used the then relatively new technology to share hundreds of DRM-free tracks from participating artists. It was a practical, fast, and cheap solution that worked well.

The official torrent releases continued for three years but since 2008 this task has been unofficially taken over by the public. SXSW still showcases music on their site, for sampling purposes, but no longer via torrents.

However, once it’s out on the Internet it only takes one person to make a torrent archive. For many years, the operator of SXSW Torrent has taken on this task and 2018 is no exception.

This year’s archive is released in two torrents, which consists of 1,276 tracks totaling 8.24 gigabytes of free music.

All the tracks released for the previous editions are also still available and most of these torrents remain well-seeded. The 2005 – 2018 archives now total more than 15,000 tracks and 85 gigabytes of data.

TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of SXSW Torrent who told us that it’s the tenth year in a row that the site has compiled the archive. His motivation is partly selfish, serving as preparation for his yearly SXSW Music trip, but also because many others are relying on it.

“Many people come back every year, so I can’t leave them hanging,” the SXSW Torrent operator previously told us.

Apparently, these people prefer to download everything in one go, as opposed to browsing through the SXSW site to sample the music.

It’s clear that these efforts are appreciated by the public. With tens of thousands of downloaders each year, the SXSW torrents attract quite a bit of traffic. For some, it almost makes up for not being able to attend the festival in person.

However, the term ‘free’ music has changed over time. While SXSW Torrent was never asked to take any files down, the torrents are not officially authorized. This means that some artists or rightsholders, may not like the idea of their music being shared this way

When SXSW released the torrent we happily encouraged people to download the tracks, but now that’s no longer the case.

The good news is that there are plenty other options out there. Aside from the showcases on the official website, SXSW has published official Spotify and YouTube playlists where people can enjoy the the music, without any concerns.

This year’s SXSW music festival is currently underway in Austin, Texas and ends on Sunday. The torrents, however, are expected to live on for as long as there are people sharing.

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

Vodafone Appeals Decision Forcing it to Block Pirate Streaming Site Kinox

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/vodafone-appeals-decision-forcing-it-to-block-pirate-streaming-site-kinox-180317/

Streaming site Kinox has proven hugely problematic for German authorities and international rightsholders for many years.

Last year, following a three-year manhunt, one of the site’s alleged operators was detained in Kosovo. Despite this and other actions, the site remains online.

Given the profile of the platform and its popularity in Germany, it came as no surprise when Kinox became the guinea pig for site-blocking in the country. Last month following a complaint from local film production and distribution company Constantin Film, a district court in Munich handed down a provisional injunction against Internet provider Vodafone.

In common with many similar cases across the EU, the Court cited a 2017 ruling from the European Court of Justice which found that local authorities can indeed order blockades of copyright-infringing sites. The Court ordered Vodafone to prevent its subscribers from accessing the site and shortly after the provider complied, but not willingly it seems.

According to local news outlet Golem, last week Vodafone filed an appeal arguing that there is no legal basis in Germany for ordering the blockade.

“As an access provider, Vodafone provides only neutral access to the Internet, and we believe that under current law, Vodafone cannot be required to curb copyright infringement on the Internet,” a Vodafone spokesperson told the publication.

The ISP says that not only does the blocking injunction impact its business operations and network infrastructure, it also violates the rights of its customers. Vodafone believes that blocking measures can only be put in place with an explicit legal basis and argues that no such basis exists under German law.

Noting that blockades are easily bypassed by determined users, the ISP says that such measures can also block lots of legal content, making the whole process ineffective.

“[I]nternet blocking generally runs the risk of blocking non-infringing content, so we do not see it as an effective way to make accessing illegal offers more difficult,” Vodafone’s spokesperson said.

Indeed, it appears that the Kinox blockade is a simple DNS-only effort, which means that people can bypass it by simply changing to an alternative DNS provider such as Google DNS or OpenDNS.

Given all of the above, Vodafone is demanding clarification of the earlier decision from a higher court. Whether or not the final decision will go in the ISP’s favor isn’t clear but there is plenty of case law at the European level that suggests the balance of probabilities lies with Constantin Film.

When asked to balance consumer rights versus copyrights, courts have tended to side with the latter in recent years.

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

Cloudflare’s Cache Can ‘Substantially Assist’ Copyright Infringers, Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflares-cache-can-substantially-assist-copyright-infringers-court-rules-180314/

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

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

Many rightsholders have complained about Cloudflare’s involvement with these sites and in 2016 adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan took it a step further by dragging the company to court.

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

With the case heading to trial, both sides have submitted motions for partial summary judgment on this contributory infringement claim. This week California District Court Judge George Wu ruled on the matter, denying the CDN provider’s motion in its entirety.

One of Cloudflare’s arguments was that it did not substantially assist copyright infringements because the sites would remain online even if they were terminated from the service. It can’t end the infringements entirely on its own, the company argued.

The Court disagreed with this assessment, noting that Cloudflare’s cache can be seen as a substantial infringement by itself, which is something the company has control over.

“First of all, as to the infringements that are the cache copies, Cloudflare does appear to have the master switch,” Judge Wu writes.

“Second of all, just because the infringing images will remain online, does not mean the assistance is insubstantial. If that were true, then liability based on server space would rely on whether or not an infringing site had, or could acquire a backup server.”

Cloudflare also stressed that there are no simple measures it could take in response to alleged copyright infringements. Removing a cached copy based on a takedown notice is not an option, the company argued, as that leaves sites and their users vulnerable to malicious attacks.

Judge Wu didn’t deny that terminating service to sites such as ‘bestofsexpics.com and cumonmy.com’ could cause security issues but added that this doesn’t mean that it’s okay for Cloudflare to support illegal activity.

“[I]f Cloudflare’s logic were accepted, there would be no web content too illegal, or dangerous, to justify termination of its services. While Cloudflare may do amazing things for internet security, the Court would have a hard time accepting that Cloudflare’s security features give it license to assist in any online activity,” Judge Wu writes.

From the order

Moving on to ALS’ motion, which was also denied in part, the Court brings more bad news for Cloudflare. While the CDN provider keeps its safe harbor defense at trial, the Court ruled that the existence of cache copies can be sufficient to prove that Cloudflare assisted in the alleged copyright infringements.

“The Court would find that, as a legal matter, Cloudflare’s CDN Network, to the extent it is shown to have created, stored, and delivered cache copies of infringing images, substantially assisted in infringement,” the order reads.

“The reason is straightforward: without Cloudflare’s services those cache copies would not have been created and served to end users,’ a footnote clarifies.

The order doesn’t draw any conclusions about actual infringements. However, if ALS can prove to the jury that specific images were in Cloudflare’s cache, without permission, the “substantial assistance” element required for contributory liability is established.

If that happens, the only remaining element at trial is whether Cloudflare was aware of these infringements, which is where the takedown notices would come in.

The case will soon be in the hands of the jury and can still go in either direction. However, the order puts Cloudflare at a disadvantage as it can no longer argue that cached copies of infringing content by themselves are non-infringing. This will obviously be a concerns to other CDN providers as well, which makes this a landmark case.

A copy of Judge Wu’s ruling, obtained by TorrentFreak, is available here (pdf).

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

Pirate Site Admins Receive Suspended Sentences, Still Face €60m Damages Claim

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-admins-receive-suspended-sentences-still-face-e60m-damages-claim-180313/

After being founded in 2009, French site Liberty Land (LL) made its home in Canada. At the time listed among France’s top 200 sites, Liberty Land carried an estimated 30,000 links to a broad range of unlicensed content.

Like many other indexes of its type, LL carried no content itself but hosted links to content hosted elsewhere, on sites like Megaupload and Rapidshare, for example. This didn’t save the operation from an investigation carried out by rightsholder groups SACEM and ALPA, which filed a complaint against Liberty Land with the French authorities in 2010.

Liberty Land

In May 2011 and alongside complaints from police that the people behind Liberty Land had taken extreme measures to hide themselves away, authorities arrested several men linked to the site in Marseille, near Le Havre, and in the Paris suburb of Montreuil.

Despite the men facing a possible five years in jail and fines of up to $700,000, the inquiry dragged on for nearly seven years. The trial of its alleged operators, now aged between 29 and 36-years-old, finally went ahead January 30 in Rennes.

The men faced charges that they unlawfully helped to distribute movies, TV series, games, software, music albums and e-books without permission from rightsholders. In court, one defended the site as being just like Google.

“For me, we had the same role as Google,” he said. “We were an SEO site. There is a difference between what we were doing and the distribution of pirated copies on the street.”

According to the prosecution, the site made considerable revenues from advertising, estimated at more than 300,000 euros between January 2009 and May 2011. The site’s two main administrators reportedly established an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands and a bank account in Latvia where they deposited between 100,000 and 150,000 euros each.

The prosecutor demanded fines for the former site admins and sentences of between six and 12 months in prison. Last week the Rennes Criminal Court rendered its decision, sentencing the four men to suspended sentences of between two and three months. More than 176,000 euros generated by the site was also confiscated by the Court.

While the men will no doubt be relieved that this extremely long case has reached a conclusion of sorts, it’s not over yet. 20minutes reports that the claims for damages filed by copyright groups including SACEM won’t be decided until September and they are significant, totaling 60 million euros.

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

UK Govt. Met With Copyright Holders Dozens of Times in Just Three Months

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-govt-met-with-copyright-holders-dozens-of-times-in-just-three-months-180310/

While doing business with clients and suppliers is the usual day-to-day routine for most businesses, companies in the entertainment sector seem keener than most to spend time with those in power.

Whether there’s pressure to be applied in respect of upcoming changes in policy or long-term plans for modifying legislation, at least a few times a year news breaks of rightsholders having private meetings with officials. Most of the time, however, the head-to-heads fly under the radar.

This week, however, the UK government published a response to a Freedom of Information Request which asked for details of meetings between the government and copyright owner organizations, enforcement organizations, and collection societies (think BPI, MPA, FACT, Publishers Association, PRS, etc) including times, dates and topics discussed.

The request asked for details of meetings held between May 2016 and April 2017 but the government declined to provide all of this information since the effort required to extract the information “would exceed the cost limit.”

Given the amount of data published, this isn’t a surprise. Even though the government chose to limit the response to events held between January 16, 2017 and April 17, 2017, the meetings between the government and the above groups number in their dozens.

January 2017 got off to a pretty slow start but week three and beyond saw a flurry of meetings with groups and companies such as ITV, BBC, PRS for Music, Copyright Licensing Agency and several other organizations to discuss the EU’s Digital Single Market proposals.

On January 18, 2017 Time Warner had a meeting to discuss content protection and analytics, followed a day later by the Premier League who were booked in to discuss “illicit streaming devices” (a topic mirrored in March during a meeting with the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance).

Just a few days later the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit held a “Partnership Working Group Meeting involving industry” and two days after that the police, Trading Standards, and the EU Police Agency convened to discuss enforcement activity.

January 26, 2017 saw an IP Outreach Workshop involving members of the IP Crime Group. This was potentially a big meeting. The IPCG consists of several regional police forces, PIPCU, National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Trading Standards, HMRC, IFPI, BPI, FACT, Sky TV, PRS, FAST and the Publishers Association, to name just a few.

As the first month of the year was drawing to a close, Amazon met with the government to discuss “current procedures for removing copyright, design and trademark infringing material from their platform.” A similar meeting was held with eBay on February 1 and on February 20, Facebook had its turn on the same topic.

All three companies had come in for criticism from copyright holders for not doing enough to stem the tide of infringing content available on their platforms, particularly so-called Kodi boxes that provide access to movies, shows, and live TV.

However, in the months that followed they each responded positively, with eBay, Amazon and Facebook announcing restrictions on devices sold. While all three platforms still have a problem with infringing device sales, the situation appears to have improved since last year.

On the final day of January 2017, the MPAA attended a meeting to discuss the looming Digital Economy Bill and digital TV piracy. A couple of days later they were back again for a “business awareness seminar” with other big shots including the Alliance for IP, the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, Trading Standards and the Premier League.

However, given the dozens that took place, perhaps one of the more interesting meetings in terms of the mix of those in attendance took place February 7.

Titled “Organized Crime Task Force Meeting – Belfast” it was attended by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the National Crime Agency, Trading Standards, HM Revenue and Customs, the Border Force, and (spot the odd one out) the Federation Against Copyright Theft.

This seems to suggest that FACT (a private company) is effectively embedded at the highest level of law enforcement, something that has made people very uncomfortable in the past.

Later in February, there was a roundtable meeting with the Alliance for IP, MPAA, Publishers’ Association, BPI, Premier League and Federation Against Copyright Theft (again) to discuss Brexit, the Digital Single Market, IP enforcement and industrial strategy. A similar meeting was held in March which was attended by UK Music, BPI, PRS, Featured Artists Coalition, and many more.

The full list of meetings, which number in their dozens for just a three-month period, can be found here pdf. Whether the volume is representative of other three-month periods isn’t clear but it seems reasonable to conclude that copyright organizations have the ears of government officials in the UK on an almost continual basis.

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U.S. Border Seizures of DMCA Circumvention Devices Surges

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/u-s-border-seizures-of-dmca-circumvention-devices-surges-180309/

In the United States, citizens are generally prohibited from tampering with DRM and other technological protection measures.

This means that Blu-ray rippers are not allowed, nor are mod chips for gaming consoles, and some pirate streaming boxes could fall into this category as well.

Despite possible sanctions, there are plenty of manufacturers who ship these devices to the US, often to individual consumers. To arrive at their destination, however, they first have to pass the border control.

Not all make it to their final destination. A new report released by Homeland Security shows that the number of “intellectual property” related seizures increased by 8%, from 31,560 in 2016 to 34,143 a year later.

The vast majority of these seized items are traditional counterfeit goods. This includes fake brand clothing, shoes, replica watches, toys, as well as consumer electronics.

What caught our eye, however, is a sharp increase in “circumvention devices” that were found to violate the DMCA. Last year, the number of these seized items U.S. Customs and Border Protection increased by 324%.

“CBP seized 297 shipments of circumvention devices for violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a 324 percent increase from 70 such seizures in FY 2016,” the report reads.

While the relative increase is quite dramatic, the absolute numbers are perhaps not as impressive, with less than one seized device per day. The report gives no explanation for the surge, nor is there an estimate of how many devices slip through.

What we did notice is that the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) recently framed streaming boxes as possible circumvention tools. The strong enforcement focus of rightsholders on these devices may have been communicated to border patrols as well.

When we previously reached out to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to find out more about what type of circumvention devices are seized under the DMCA, a spokesperson provided us with the following definition.

“[P]roducts, devices, components, or parts thereof that are primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing protection afforded by a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner, and have only limited commercially significant purposes or uses other than to circumvent such protection measures.”

TorrentFreak reached out to CBP again this week to ask if streaming boxes are seen as circumvention devices, but at the time of writing, we have yet to receive a response.

In a press release commenting on the news, CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said that his organization is happy with last year’s results.

“The theft of intellectual property and trade in counterfeit and pirated goods causes harm to an innovation-based economy by threatening the competitiveness of businesses and the livelihoods of workers,” McAleenan said.

“Another record-breaking year of IPR seizures highlights the vigilance of CBP and ICE personnel in preventing counterfeit goods from entering our stream of commerce and their dedication to protecting the American people,” he added.

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Rightsholders & Belgian ISPs Cooperate to Block 450 ‘Pirate’ Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightsholders-belgian-isps-cooperate-to-block-450-pirate-domains-180303/

While site-blocking on copyright infringement grounds is now widespread, in most countries it requires intervention from the courts.

The process nearly always involves rightsholders grouping together with claims that customers of ISPs are infringing their rights by using ‘pirate’ sites to obtain movies, TV shows and music. As such, it isn’t pirate sites that are targeted by rightsholder legal action, but the ISPs themselves.

Of course, none of the ISPs targeted are breaking the law by providing access to the sites. However, the demands for a blocking injunction frame the ISPs as the wrong-doers, even if there is an underlying understanding that the pirate sites themselves are the issue. For this reason, ISPs around the world have regularly found themselves in an adversarial process.

In the Netherlands, for example, ISPs took their fight to the highest court in Europe to avoid blocking but will almost certainly fail after spending large sums of money. In others, such as the UK where the blocking process has matured, ISPs rarely object to anything, smoothing the process for both them and the rightsholders.

With the knowledge that site-blocking injunctions are likely to be granted by national courts in Europe, rightsholders and ISPs in Belgium now appear to be taking a collaborative approach. Sites have been blocked in the country before but future blocking efforts will be much easier to implement if a case before the Commercial Court of Brussels runs to plan.

It involves the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA) on one side and ISPs Proximus, Telenet and VOO on the other. Rather than squabbling over the details, it appears that the parties will jointly present a list of 33 websites and 450 domain names to a judge, alongside claims that they facilitate the illegal downloading of copyrighted material.

According to a report from L’Echo (paywall), the companies hope to avoid complex and costly legal proceedings by working together and accepting the inevitability of a blocking injunction.

The case has been running for a year already but during a hearing before the Commercial Court of Brussels this week, Benoît Michaux, lawyer for the Belgian Entertainment Association, explained the new approach.

“The European legislator has put in place a mechanism that allows a national judge to request injunctions to order the providers to block access to the websites in question”, Michaux said.

After being presented to the Court, the list of sites and domains will be assessed to determine whether they’re acting illegally. Michaux said that the parties have settled on a common approach and have been able to identify “reasonable measures” that can be ordered by the Court that are consistent with case law of the European Court of Justice.

“This joint request is a little unusual, things are changing, there is a certain maturation of minds, we realize, from all sides, that we must tackle the problem of piracy by blocking measures. There is a common vision on what to do and how to handle piracy,” he said.

While the ISPs are clearly on a path of cooperation, L’Echo reports that concerns over possible breaches of the E-Commerce Directive mean that the ISPs don’t want to take action against the sites themselves without being ordered to do so by the Court.

“The responsible actors want to demonstrate that it is possible to stop piracy through procedural law,” says Benoît Van Asbroeck, lawyer for Proximus and Telenet.

The Court is expected to hand down its judgment within a month. Given the cooperation on all sides, it’s likely to be in favor of mass site-blocking.

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MPAA Wants Filmmakers to Pay Licenses, Not Rip Blu-rays

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-wants-filmmakers-to-pay-licenses-not-rip-blu-rays-180227/

Technically speaking it’s not hard to rip a DVD or Blu-ray disc nowadays, and the same is true for ripping content from Netflix or YouTube.

However, in the US people can break the law when they do this. The DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions specifically forbid it.

There are some exemptions, such as educational and other types of fair use, but the line between legal and illegal is not always clear, some argue.

Filmmakers, for example, are allowed to use small pieces of other copyrighted films under some conditions. However, this only applies to the documentary genre.

This is confusing and creates uncertainty, according to the International Documentary Association, Kartemquin Films, Independent Filmmaker Project, University of Film and Video Association, and several other organizations.

Late last year they penned a submission to the Copyright Office, which is currently considering updates to the exemptions, where they argued that all filmmakers should be allowed by break DRM and rip Blu-rays. The documentary exemptions have been in place for years now and haven’t harmed rightsholders in any way, they said.

“There is no reason this would change if the ‘documentary’ limitation were removed. All filmmakers regularly need access to footage on DVDs and without an exemption to DVDs, many non-infringing uses simply cannot be made,” the groups noted.

Not everyone agrees with this assessment though. A group of “joint creators and copyright owners” which includes Hollywood’s MPAA, the RIAA, and ESA informs the Copyright Office that such an exemption is too broad and a threat to the interests of the major movie studios.

The MPAA and the other groups point out that the exemption could be used by filmmakers to avoid paying licensing fees, which can be quite expensive.

“Many of the filmmakers who have participated in the rulemaking assert that license fees are often higher than they are willing to pay,” the Joint Creators and Copyright Owners write.

“While unfortunate, the fact that a copyright owner has chosen to make works available on terms that are not palatable to a particular user does not make that user’s proposed use fair or justify granting an exemption.”

If the filmmakers don’t have enough budget to license a video, they should look for alternatives. Simply taking it without paying would hurt the bottom line of movie studios, the filing suggests.

“Many filmmakers work licensing fees into their budgets. There is clearly a market for licensing footage from motion pictures, and it is clear that unlicensed uses harm that market.

“MPAA members actively exploit the market for licensing film clips for these types of uses. Each year, MPAA member companies license, collectively, thousands of clips for use in a variety of works,” the group writes.

The Copyright Office has limited the exemption to the documentary genre for a good reason, the creators argue, since non-documentaries are less likely to warrant a finding of fair use.

In addition, they also refute the claim that the documentary category is “vague.” They note that the International Documentary Association, which argued this, has an award ceremony for the same category, for example.

Finally, the MPAA and other creators respond to calls to extend the current exemptions to 4K content, such as AACS2 protected Ultra HD discs. They see no need for this, as the filmmakers and other groups haven’t shown that they suffer negative consequences in the current situation.

They have alternatives, such as regular Blu-ray discs, while allowing AACS2 circumvention could severely impact the Ultra HD ecosystem, they argue.

“No one has released a universal hack to all Ultra HD films protected by AACS2. The integrity of the AACS2 and Ultra HD technology is an especially important component of the ecosystem that is resulting in the increased availability of motion pictures.

“The Register and the Librarian should not undermine this integrity by authorizing widespread hacking, which could negatively impact ‘the market for or value of’ some of the industry’s most exciting products,” the Joint Creators add.

The Copyright Office will take all arguments into consideration before it makes a final decision later this year.

A copy of the Joint Creators reply is available here.

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Hollywood Commissioned Tough Jail Sentences for Online Piracy, ISP Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-commissioned-tough-jail-sentences-for-online-piracy-isp-says-180227/

According to local prosecutors who have handled many copyright infringement cases over the past decade, Sweden is nowhere near tough enough on those who commit online infringement.

With this in mind, the government sought advice on how such crimes should be punished, not only more severely, but also in proportion to the damages alleged to have been caused by defendants’ activities.

The corresponding report was returned to Minister for Justice Heléne Fritzon earlier this month by Council of Justice member Dag Mattsson. The paper proposed a new tier of offenses that should receive special punishment when there are convictions for large-scale copyright infringement and “serious” trademark infringement.

Partitioning the offenses into two broad categories, the report envisions those found guilty of copyright infringement or trademark infringement “of a normal grade” may be sentenced to fines or imprisonment up to a maximum of two years. For those at the other end of the scale, engaged in “cases of gross crimes”, the penalty sought is a minimum of six months in prison and not more than six years.

The proposals have been criticized by those who feel that copyright infringement shouldn’t be put on a par with more serious and even potentially violent crimes. On the other hand, tools to deter larger instances of infringement have been welcomed by entertainment industry groups, who have long sought more robust sentencing options in order to protect their interests.

In the middle, however, are Internet service providers such as Bahnhof, who are often dragged into the online piracy debate due to the allegedly infringing actions of some of their customers. In a statement on the new proposals, the company is clear on why Sweden is preparing to take such a tough stance against infringement.

“It’s not a daring guess that media companies are asking for Sweden to tighten the penalty for illegal file sharing and streaming,” says Bahnhof lawyer Wilhelm Dahlborn.

“It would have been better if the need for legislative change had taken place at EU level and co-ordinated with other similar intellectual property legislation.”

Bahnhof chief Jon Karlung, who is never afraid to speak his mind on such matters, goes a step further. He believes the initiative amounts to a gift to the United States.

“It’s nothing but a commission from the American film industry,” Karlung says.

“I do not mind them going for their goals in court and trying to protect their interests, but it does not mean that the state, the police, and ultimately taxpayers should put mass resources on it.”

Bahnhof notes that the proposals for the toughest extended jail sentences aren’t directly aimed at petty file-sharers. However, the introduction of a new offense of “gross crime” means that the limitation period shifts from the current five years to ten.

It also means that due to the expansion of prison terms beyond two years, secret monitoring of communications (known as HÖK) could come into play.

“If the police have access to HÖK, it can be used to get information about which individuals are file sharing,” warns Bahnhof lawyer Wilhelm Dahlborn.

“One can also imagine a scenario where media companies increasingly report crime as gross in order to get the police to do the investigative work they have previously done. Harder punishments to tackle file-sharing also appear very old-fashioned and equally ineffective.”

As noted in our earlier report, the new proposals also include measures that would enable the state to confiscate all kinds of property, both physical items and more intangible assets such as domain names. Bahnhof also takes issue with this, noting that domains are not the problem here.

“In our opinion, it is not the domain name which is the problem, it is the content of the website that the domain name points to,” the company says.

“Moreover, confiscation of a domain name may conflict with constitutional rules on freedom of expression in a way that is very unfortunate. The issues of freedom of expression and why copyright infringement is to be treated differently haven’t been addressed much in the investigation.”

Under the new proposals, damage to rightsholders and monetary gain by the defendant would also be taken into account when assessing whether a crime is “gross” or not. This raises questions as to what extent someone could be held liable for piracy when a rightsholder maintains damage was caused yet no profit was generated.

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BMG Wants Appeals Court to Rehear Cox Piracy Liability Case

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/bmg-wants-appeals-court-to-rehear-cox-piracy-liability-case-180226/

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned the $25 million piracy liability verdict against Internet provider Cox.

The panel of three judges concluded that the district court made an error in its jury instruction and ordered a new trial.

The erroneous instruction said that the ISP could be found liable for contributory infringement if it “knew or should have known of such infringing activity.” The Court of Appeals agrees that based on the law, the “should have known” standard is too low.

As a result of the ruling, music publisher BMG Rights Management and Cox would have to go head to head again in a new trial. However, according to BMG, the Court of Appeals itself made a mistake.

A few days ago the copyright holder petitioned the court for a rehearing en banc, asking for a do-over before all the judges of a court.

The music publisher argues that the appeals court judges mistakenly reached their decision based on a legal principle that applies to “inducement” of liability, while BMG was pursuing a claim of “material contribution.”

“The panel’s unprecedented application of a heightened knowledge standard creates a conflict with decisions and pattern jury instructions from other circuits as well as with the common-law rules underlying contributory infringement.

“All of those recognize that BMG’s material-contribution theory requires only constructive knowledge,” BMG’s brief adds.

Even if the appeals court persists with its assertion that the liability standard is “willful blindness” rather than “should have known,” a new trial would not be warranted, according to the music publisher.

They point out that plenty of evidence was presented which proved that Cox was wilfully blind to the copyright infringements and describe the erroneous instruction as a “harmless error of the most benign kind.”

The music publisher’s request for a rehearing is supported by the RIAA, which filed an amicus curiae brief together with the National Music Publishers Association.

Both music industry groups back BMG’s arguments and ask the appeals court to consider a rehearing, stating that it would be in the best interests of artists, songwriters, and other rightsholders.

“The level of copyright infringement that takes place over the Internet is ‘staggering,’ and it is vital that copyright owners have effective mechanisms to address it. It is also critical that copyright owners can adequately address infringement that occurs in other contexts.

“If the panel’s decision is not corrected, it would threaten the very incentives of artists, songwriters, and others to create valuable works and distribute them to the public,” the RIAA and NMPA add.

For the RIAA the case is particularly important since it filed a similar lawsuit against Internet provider Grande Communications last year.

Given what’s at stake, we can assume that Cox will protest the request for a rehearing. And it wouldn’t be a big surprise if other telecommunications companies take the same position.

BMG’s petition is available here (pdf) and a copy of the RIAA/NMPA motion can be found here (pdf).

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Dutch Continue to Curb Illegal Downloading But What About Streaming?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dutch-continue-to-curb-illegal-downloading-but-what-about-streaming-180222/

After many years of downloading content with impunity, 2014 brought a culture shock to the Dutch.

Citizens were previously allowed to obtain content for their own use due to a levy on blank media that compensated rightsholders. However, the European Court of Justice found that system to be illegal and the government quickly moved to ban downloading from unauthorized sources.

In the four years that have passed since the ban, the downloading landscape has undergone change. That’s according to a study published by the Consumer Insights panel at Telecompaper which found that while 41% of respondents downloaded movies, TV shows, music and games from unauthorized sources in 2013, the figure had plunged to 27% at the end of 2016. There was a further drop to 24% by the end of 2017.

Of the people who continue to download illegally, men are overrepresented, the study found. While 27% of men obtained media for free during the last year to October 2017, only 21% of women did likewise.

While as many as 150 million people still use P2P technologies such as BitTorrent worldwide, there is a general decline in usage and this is reflected in the report.

In 2013, 18% of Dutch respondents used torrent-like systems to download, a figure that had fallen to 8% in 2016 and 6% last year. Again, male participants were overrepresented, outnumbering women by two to one. However, people appear to be visiting P2P networks less.

“The study showed that people who reported using P2P to download content, have done so on average 37 times a year [to October 2017]. In January of 2017 it was significantly higher, 61 times,” the study notes. P2P usage in November 2015 was rated at 98 instances per year.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the oldest methods of downloading content has maintained its userbase in more recent years. Usenet, otherwise known as the newsgroups, accounted for 9% of downloaders in 2013 but after falling to around 6% of downloaders in 2016, that figure remained unchanged in 2017. Almost five times more men used newsgroups than women.

At the same time as showing a steady trend in terms of users, instances of newsgroup downloading are reportedly up in the latest count. In November 2015, people used the system an average of 98 times per year but in January 2017 that had fallen to 66 times. The latest figures find an average use of 68 times per year.

Drilling down into more obscure systems, 2% of respondents told Telecompaper that they’d used an FTP server during the past year, a method that was entirely dominated by men.

While the Dutch downloading ban in 2013 may have played some part in changing perceptions, the increased availability of legal offers cannot be ignored. Films and TV shows are now widely available on services such as Netflix and Amazon, while music is strongly represented via Spotify, Apple, Deezer and similar platforms.

Indeed, 12% of respondents said they are now downloading less illegally because it’s easier to obtain paid content, that’s versus 11% at the start of 2017 and just 3% in 2013. Interestingly, 14% of respondents this time around said their illegal downloads are down because they have more restrictions on their time.

Another interesting reason given for downloading less is that pirate content is becoming harder to find. In 2013, just 4% cited this as a cause for reduction yet in 2017, this had jumped to 8% of respondents, with blocked sites proving a stumbling block for some users.

On the other hand, 3% of respondents said that since content had become easier to find, they are now downloading more. However, that figure is down from 13% in November 2013 and 6% in January 2017.

But with legal streaming certainly making its mark in the Netherlands, the illegal streaming phenomenon isn’t directly addressed in the report. It is likely that a considerable number of citizens are now using this method to obtain their content fix in a way that’s not as easily trackable as torrent-like systems.

Furthermore, given the plans of local film distribution Dutch FilmWorks to chase and demand cash settlements from BitTorrent users, it’s likely that traffic to streaming sites will only increase in the months to come, at least for those looking to consume TV shows and movies.

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TVAddons Suffers Big Setback as Court Completely Overturns Earlier Ruling

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-suffers-big-setback-as-court-completely-overturns-earlier-ruling-180221/

On June 2, 2017 a group of Canadian telecoms giants including Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, filed a complaint in Federal Court against Montreal resident, Adam Lackman.

Better known as the man behind Kodi addon repository TVAddons, Lackman was painted as a serial infringer in the complaint. The telecoms companies said that, without gaining permission from rightsholders, Lackman communicated copyrighted TV shows including Game of Thrones, Prison Break, The Big Bang Theory, America’s Got Talent, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and dozens more, by developing, hosting, distributing and promoting infringing Kodi add-ons.

To limit the harm allegedly caused by TVAddons, the complaint demanded interim, interlocutory, and permanent injunctions restraining Lackman from developing, promoting or distributing any of the allegedly infringing add-ons or software. On top, the plaintiffs requested punitive and exemplary damages, plus costs.

On June 9, 2017 the Federal Court handed down a time-limited interim injunction against Lackman ex parte, without Lackman being able to mount a defense. Bailiffs took control of TVAddons’ domains but the most controversial move was the granting of an Anton Piller order, a civil search warrant which granted the plaintiffs no-notice permission to enter Lackman’s premises to secure evidence before it could be tampered with.

The order was executed June 12, 2017, with Lackman’s home subjected to a lengthy search during which the Canadian was reportedly refused his right to remain silent. Non-cooperation with an Anton Piller order can amount to a contempt of court, he was told.

With the situation seemingly spinning out of Lackman’s control, unexpected support came from the Honourable B. Richard Bell during a subsequent June 29, 2017 Federal Court hearing to consider the execution of the Anton Piller order.

The Judge said that Lackman had been subjected to a search “without any of the protections normally afforded to litigants in such circumstances” and took exception to the fact that the plaintiffs had ordered Lackman to spill the beans on other individuals in the Kodi addon community. He described this as a hunt for further evidence, not the task of preserving evidence it should’ve been.

Justice Bell concluded by ruling that while the prima facie case against Lackman may have appeared strong before the judge who heard the matter ex parte, the subsequent adversarial hearing undermined it, to the point that it no longer met the threshold.

As a result of these failings, Judge Bell vacated the Anton Piller order and dismissed the application for interlocutory injunction.

While this was an early victory for Lackman and TVAddons, the plaintiffs took the decision to an appeal which was heard November 29, 2017. Determined by a three-judge panel and signed by Justice Yves de Montigny, the decision was handed down Tuesday and it effectively turns the earlier ruling upside down.

The appeal had two matters to consider: whether Justice Bell made errors when he vacated the Anton Piller order, and whether he made errors when he dismissed the application for an interlocutory injunction. In short, the panel found that he did.

In a 27-page ruling, the first key issue concerns Justice Bell’s understanding of the nature of both Lackman and TVAddons.

The telecoms companies complained that the Judge got it wrong when he characterized Lackman as a software developer who came up with add-ons that permit users to access material “that is for the most part not infringing on the rights” of the telecoms companies.

The companies also challenged the Judge’s finding that the infringing add-ons offered by the site represented “just over 1%” of all the add-ons developed by Lackman.

“I agree with the [telecoms companies] that the Judge misapprehended the evidence and made palpable and overriding errors in his assessment of the strength of the appellants’ case,” Justice Yves de Montigny writes in the ruling.

“Nowhere did the appellants actually state that only a tiny proportion of the add-ons found on the respondent’s website are infringing add-ons.”

The confusion appears to have arisen from the fact that while TVAddons offered 1,500 add-ons in total, the heavily discussed ‘featured’ addon category on the site contained just 22 add-ons, 16 of which were considered to be infringing according to the original complaint. So, it was 16 add-ons out of 22 being discussed, not 16 add-ons out of a possible 1,500.

“[Justice Bell] therefore clearly misapprehended the evidence in this regard by concluding that just over 1% of the add-ons were purportedly infringing,” the appeals Judge adds.

After gaining traction with Justice Bell in the previous hearing, Lackman’s assertion that his add-ons were akin to a “mini Google” was fiercely contested by the telecoms companies. They also fell flat before the appeal hearing.

Justice de Montigny says that Justice Bell “had been swayed” when Lackman’s expert replicated the discovery of infringing content using Google but had failed to grasp the important differences between a general search engine and a dedicated Kodi add-on.

“While Google is an indiscriminate search engine that returns results based on relevance, as determined by an algorithm, infringing add-ons target predetermined infringing content in a manner that is user-friendly and reliable,” the Judge writes.

“The fact that a search result using an add-on can be replicated with Google is of little consequence. The content will always be found using Google or any other Internet search engine because they search the entire universe of all publicly available information. Using addons, however, takes one to the infringing content much more directly, effortlessly and safely.”

With this in mind, Justice de Montigny says there is a “strong prima facie case” that Lackman, by hosting and distributing infringing add-ons, made the telecoms companies’ content available to the public “at a time of their choosing”, thereby infringing paragraph 2.4(1.1) and section 27 of the Copyright Act.

On TVAddons itself, the Judge said that the platform is “clearly designed” to facilitate access to infringing material since it targets “those who want to circumvent the legal means of watching television programs and the related costs.”

Turning to Lackman, the Judge said he could not claim to have no knowledge of the infringing content delivered by the add-ons distributed on this site, since they were purposefully curated prior to distribution.

“The respondent cannot credibly assert that his participation is content neutral and that he was not negligent in failing to investigate, since at a minimum he selects and organizes the add-ons that find their way onto his website,” the Judge notes.

In a further setback, the Judge draws clear parallels with another case before the Canadian courts involving pre-loaded ‘pirate’ set-top boxes. Justice de Montigny says that TVAddons itself bears “many similarities” with those devices that are already subjected to an interlocutory injunction in Canada.

“The service offered by the respondent through the TVAddons website is no different from the service offered through the set-top boxes. The means through which access is provided to infringing content is different (one relied on hardware while the other relied on a website), but they both provided unauthorized access to copyrighted material without authorization of the copyright owners,” the Judge finds.

Continuing, the Judge makes some pointed remarks concerning the execution of the Anton Piller order. In short, he found little wrong with the way things went ahead and also contradicted some of the claims and beliefs circulated in the earlier hearing.

Citing the affidavit of an independent solicitor who monitored the order’s execution, the Judge said that the order was explained to Lackman in plain language and he was informed of his right to remain silent. He was also told that he could refuse to answer questions other than those specified in the order.

The Judge said that Lackman was allowed to have counsel present, “with whom he consulted throughout the execution of the order.” There was nothing, the Judge said, that amounted to the “interrogation” alluded to in the earlier hearing.

Justice de Montigny also criticized Justice Bell for failing to take into account that Lackman “attempted to conceal crucial evidence and lied to the independent supervising solicitor regarding the whereabouts of that evidence.”

Much was previously made of Lackman apparently being forced to hand over personal details of third-parties associated directly or indirectly with TVAddons. The Judge clarifies what happened in his ruling.

“A list of names was put to the respondent by the plaintiffs’ solicitors, but it was apparently done to expedite the questioning process. In any event, the respondent did not provide material information on the majority of the aliases put to him,” the Judge reveals.

But while not handing over evidence on third-parties will paint Lackman in a better light with concerned elements of the add-on community, the Judge was quick to bring up the Canadian’s history and criticized Justice Bell for not taking it into account when he vacated the Anton Piller order.

“[T]he respondent admitted that he was involved in piracy of satellite television signals when he was younger, and there is evidence that he was involved in the configuration and sale of ‘jailbroken’ Apple TV set-top boxes,” Justice de Montigny writes.

“When juxtaposed to the respondent’s attempt to conceal relevant evidence during the execution of the Anton Piller order, that contextual evidence adds credence to the appellants’ concern that the evidence could disappear without a comprehensive order.”

Dismissing Justice Bell’s findings as “fatally flawed”, Justice de Montigny allowed the appeal of the telecoms companies, set aside the order of June 29, 2017, declared the Anton Piller order and interim injunctions legal, and granted an interlocutory injunction to remain valid until the conclusion of the case in Federal Court. The telecoms companies were also awarded costs of CAD$50,000.

It’s worth noting that despite all the detail provided up to now, the case hasn’t yet got to the stage where the Court has tested any of the claims put forward by the telecoms companies. Everything reported to date is pre-trial and has been taken at face value.

TorrentFreak spoke with Adam Lackman but since he hadn’t yet had the opportunity to discuss the matter with his lawyers, he declined to comment further on the record. There is a statement on the TVAddons website which gives his position on the story so far.

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Canadian Pirate Site Blocks Could Spread to VPNs, Professor Warns

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/canadian-pirate-site-blocks-could-spread-to-vpns-professor-warns-180219/

ISP blocking has become a prime measure for the entertainment industry to target pirate sites on the Internet.

In recent years sites have been blocked throughout Europe, in Asia, and even Down Under.

Last month, a coalition of Canadian companies called on the local telecom regulator CRTC to establish a local pirate site blocking program, which would be the first of its kind in North America.

The Canadian deal is backed by both copyright holders and major players in the Telco industry, such as Bell and Rogers, which also have media companies of their own. Instead of court-ordered blockades, they call for a mutually agreed deal where ISPs will block pirate sites.

The plan has triggered a fair amount of opposition. Tens of thousands of people have protested against the proposal and several experts are warning against the negative consequences it may have.

One of the most vocal opponents is University of Ottawa law professor Micheal Geist. In a series of articles, processor Geist highlighted several problems, including potential overblocking.

The Fairplay Canada coalition downplays overblocking, according to Geist. They say the measures will only affect sites that are blatantly, overwhelmingly or structurally engaged in piracy, which appears to be a high standard.

However, the same coalition uses a report from MUSO as its primary evidence. This report draws on a list of 23,000 pirate sites, which may not all be blatant enough to meet the blocking standard.

For example, professor Geist notes that it includes a site dedicated to user-generated subtitles as well as sites that offer stream ripping tools which can be used for legal purposes.

“Stream ripping is a concern for the music industry, but these technologies (which are also found in readily available software programs from a local BestBuy) also have considerable non-infringing uses, such as for downloading Creative Commons licensed videos also found on video sites,” Geist writes.

If the coalition tried to have all these sites blocked the scope would be much larger than currently portrayed. Conversely, if only a few of the sites would be blocked, then the evidence that was used to put these blocks in place would have been exaggerated.

“In other words, either the scope of block list coverage is far broader than the coalition admits or its piracy evidence is inflated by including sites that do not meet its piracy standard,” Geist notes.

Perhaps most concerning is the slippery slope that the blocking efforts can turn into. Professor Geist fears that after the standard piracy sites are dealt with, related targets may be next.

This includes VPN services. While this may sound far-fetched to some, several members of the coalition, such as Bell and Rogers, have already criticized VPNs in the past since these allow people to watch geo-blocked content.

“Once the list of piracy sites (whatever the standard) is addressed, it is very likely that the Bell coalition will turn its attention to other sites and services such as virtual private networks (VPNs).

“This is not mere speculation. Rather, it is taking Bell and its allies at their word on how they believe certain services and sites constitute theft,” Geist adds.

The issue may even be more relevant in this case, since the same VPNs can also be used to circumvent pirate sites blockades.

“Further, since the response to site blocking from some Internet users will surely involve increased use of VPNs to evade the blocks, the attempt to characterize VPNs as services engaged in piracy will only increase,” Geist adds.

Potential overblocking is just one of the many issues with the current proposal, according to the law professor. Geist previously highlighted that current copyright law already provides sufficient remedies to deal with piracy and that piracy isn’t that much of a problem in Canada in the first place.

The CRTC has yet to issue its review of the proposal but now that the cat is out of the bag, rightsholders and ISPs are likely to keep pushing for blockades, one way or the other.

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Google on Collision Course With Movie Biz Over Piracy & Safe Harbor

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-on-collision-course-with-movie-biz-over-piracy-safe-harbor-180219/

Wherever Google has a presence, rightsholders are around to accuse the search giant of not doing enough to deal with piracy.

Over the past several years, the company has been attacked by both the music and movie industries but despite overtures from Google, criticism still floods in.

In Australia, things are definitely heating up. Village Roadshow, one of the nation’s foremost movie companies, has been an extremely vocal Google critic since 2015 but now its co-chief, the outspoken Graham Burke, seems to want to take things to the next level.

As part of yet another broadside against Google, Burke has for the second time in a month accused Google of playing a large part in online digital crime.

“My view is they are complicit and they are facilitating crime,” Burke said, adding that if Google wants to sue him over his comments, they’re very welcome to do so.

It’s highly unlikely that Google will take the bait. Burke’s attempt at pushing the issue further into the spotlight will have been spotted a mile off but in any event, legal battles with Google aren’t really something that Burke wants to get involved in.

Australia is currently in the midst of a consultation process for the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 which would extend the country’s safe harbor provisions to a broader range of service providers including educational institutions, libraries, archives, key cultural institutions and organizations assisting people with disabilities.

For its part, Village Roadshow is extremely concerned that these provisions may be extended to other providers – specifically Google – who might then use expanded safe harbor to deflect more liability in respect of piracy.

“Village Roadshow….urges that there be no further amendments to safe harbor and in particular there is no advantage to Australia in extending safe harbor to Google,” Burke wrote in his company’s recent submission to the government.

“It is very unlikely given their size and power that as content owners we would ever sue them but if we don’t have that right then we stand naked. Most importantly if Google do the right thing by Australia on the question of piracy then there will be no issues. However, they are very far from this position and demonstrably are facilitating crime.”

Accusations of crime facilitation are nothing new for Google, with rightsholders in the US and Europe having accused the company of the same a number of times over the years. In response, Google always insists that it abides by relevant laws and actually goes much further in tackling piracy than legislation currently requires.

On the safe harbor front, Google begins by saying that not expanding provisions to service providers will have a seriously detrimental effect on business development in the region.

“[Excluding] online service providers falls far short of a balanced, pro-innovation environment for Australia. Further, it takes Australia out of step with other digital economies by creating regulatory uncertainty for [venture capital] investment and startup/entrepreneurial success,” Google’s submission reads.

“[T]he Draft Bill’s narrow safe harbor scheme places Australian-based startups and online service providers — including individual bloggers, websites, small startups, video-hosting services, enterprise cloud companies, auction sites, online marketplaces, hosting providers for real-estate listings, photo hosting services, search engines, review sites, and online platforms —in a disadvantaged position compared with global startups in countries that have strong safe harbor frameworks, such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and other EU countries.

“Under the new scheme, Australian-based startups and service providers, unlike their international counterparts, will not receive clear and consistent legal protection when they respond to complaints from rightsholders about alleged instances of online infringement by third-party users on their services,” Google notes.

Interestingly, Google then delivers what appears to be a loosely veiled threat.

One of the key anti-piracy strategies touted by the mainstream entertainment companies is collaboration between rightsholders and service providers, including the latter providing voluntary tools to police infringement online. Google says that if service providers are given a raw deal on safe harbor, the extent of future cooperation may be at risk.

“If Australian-based service providers are carved out of the new safe harbor regime post-reform, they will operate from a lower incentive to build and test new voluntary tools to combat online piracy, potentially reducing their contributions to innovation in best practices in both Australia and international markets,” the company warns.

But while Village Roadshow argue against safe harbors and warn that piracy could kill the movie industry, it is quietly optimistic that the tide is turning.

In a presentation to investors last week, the company said that reducing piracy would have “only an upside” for its business but also added that new research indicates that “piracy growth [is] getting arrested.” As a result, the company says that it will build on the notion that “74% of people see piracy as ‘wrong/theft’” and will call on Australians to do the right thing.

In the meantime, the pressure on Google will continue but lawsuits – in either direction – won’t provide an answer.

Village Roadshow’s submission can be found here, Google’s here (pdf).

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Sweden Considers Six Years in Jail For Online Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sweden-considers-six-years-in-jail-for-online-pirates-180218/

Ever since the infamous Pirate Bay trial more than a decade ago, prosecutors in Sweden have called for a tougher approach to breaches of copyright law. In general terms, the country has been painted as soft on infringement but that could all be about to change.

After reaching the conclusion that penalties in Sweden “appear to be low” when compared to those on the international stage, the government sought advice on how such crimes can be punished, not only more severely, but also in proportion to the alleged damage caused.

In response, Minister for Justice Heléne Fritzon received a report this week. It proposes a new tier of offenses with “special” punishments to tackle large-scale copyright infringement and “serious” trademark infringement.

Presented by Council of Justice member Dag Mattsson, the report envisions new criminal designations and crime being divided into two levels of seriousness.

“A person who has been found guilty of copyright infringement or trademark infringement of a normal grade may be sentenced to fines or imprisonment up to a maximum of two years,” the government notes.

“In cases of gross crimes, a person may be convicted of gross copyright infringement or gross trademark infringement and sent to prison for at least six months and not more than six years.”

Last year the Supreme Court found that although prison sentences can be handed down in such cases, there were no legislative indications that copyright infringement should be penalized via a term of imprisonment.

For an idea of the level of change, one only need refer to The Pirate Bay case, which would undoubtedly be considered as “gross infringement” under the new proposals.

Under the new rules, defendants Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström would be sentenced to a minimum of six months and a maximum of six years. As things stood, with infringement being dealt with via fines or up to two years’ imprisonment, they were sentenced to prison terms of eight, ten and four months respectively.

Under the new proposals, damage to rightsholders and monetary gain by the defendant would be taken into account when assessing whether a crime is “gross” or not. This raises the question of whether someone sharing a single pre-release movie could be deemed a gross infringer even if no money was made.

Also of interest are proposals that would enable the state to confiscate all kinds of property, both physical items and more intangible assets such as domain names. This proposal is a clear nod towards the Pirate Bay case which dragged on for several years before the state was able to take over its thepiratebay.se domain.

“Today there is organized online piracy that has major consequences for the whole community,” Minister Fritzon said in a statement.

“Therefore, it is good that the punishments for these crimes have been reviewed, as the sentence will then be proportional to the seriousness of the crime.”

The legislative amendments are proposed to enter into force on July 1, 2019.

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