Tag Archives: set-top box

Hollywood and Netflix Ask Court to Seize Tickbox Streaming Devices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-and-netflix-ask-court-to-seize-tickbox-streaming-devices-171209/

More and more people are starting to use Kodi-powered set-top boxes to stream video content to their TVs.

While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons give it a bad reputation.

According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors.

Earlier this year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The Tickbox devices use the Kodi media player and come with instructions on how to add various add-ons.

According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. “TickBox promotes and distributes TickBox TV for infringing use, and that is exactly the result of its use,” they told court this week.

After the complaint was filed in October, Tickbox made some cosmetic changes to the site, removing some allegedly inducing language. The streaming devices are still for sale, however, but not for long if it’s up to the media giants.

This week ACE submitted a request for a preliminary injunction to the court, hoping to stop Tickbox’s sales activities.

“TickBox is intentionally inducing infringement, pure and simple. Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court enter a preliminary injunction that requires TickBox to halt its flagrantly illegal conduct immediately,” they write in their application.

The companies explain that that since Tickbox is causing irreparable harm, all existing devices should be impounded.

“[A]ll TickBox TV devices in the possession of TickBox and all of its officers, directors, agents, servants, and employees, and all persons in active concert or participation or in privity with any of them are to be impounded and shall be retained by Defendant until further order of the Court,” the proposed order reads.

In addition, Tickbox should push out a software update which remove all infringing add-ons from the devices that were previously sold.

“TickBox shall, via software update, remove from all distributed TickBox TV devices all Kodi ‘Themes,’ ‘Builds,’ ‘Addons,’ or any other software that facilitates the infringing public performances of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works.”

Among others, the list of allegedly infringing add-ons and themes includes Spinz, Lodi Black, Stream on Fire, Wookie, Aqua, CMM, Spanish Quasar, Paradox, Covenant, Elysium, UK Turk, Gurzil, Maverick, and Poseidon.

The filing shows that ACE is serious about its efforts to stop the sale of these type of streaming devices. Tickbox has yet to reply to the original complaint or the injunction request.

While this is the first US lawsuit of its kind, the anti-piracy conglomerate has been rather active in recent weeks. The group has successfully pressured several addon developers to quit and has been involved in enforcement actions around the globe.

A copy of the proposed preliminary injunction is available here (pdf).

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

CrimeStoppers Campaign Targets Pirate Set-Top Boxes & Their Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/crimestoppers-campaign-targets-pirate-set-top-boxes-their-users-171209/

While many people might believe CrimeStoppers to be an official extension of the police in the UK, the truth is a little more subtle.

CrimeStoppers is a charity that operates a service through which members of the public can report crime anonymously, either using a dedicated phone line or via a website. Callers are not required to give their name, meaning that for those concerned about reprisals or becoming involved in a case for other sensitive reasons, it’s the perfect buffer between them and the authorities.

The people at CrimeStoppers deal with all kinds of crime but perhaps a little surprisingly, they’ve just got involved in the set-top box controversy in the UK.

“Advances in technology have allowed us to enjoy on-screen entertainment in more ways than ever before, with ever increasing amounts of exciting and original content,” the CrimeStoppers campaign begins.

“However, some people are avoiding paying for this content by using modified streaming hardware devices, like a set-top box or stick, in conjunction with software such as illegal apps or add-ons, or illegal mobile apps which allow them to watch new movie releases, TV that hasn’t yet aired, and subscription sports channels for free.”

The campaign has been launched in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office and unnamed “industry partners”. Who these companies are isn’t revealed but given the standard messages being portrayed by the likes of ACE, Premier League and Federation Against Copyright Theft lately, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some or all of them were involved.

Those messages are revealed in a series of four video ads, each taking a different approach towards discouraging the public from using devices loaded with pirate software.

The first video clearly targets the consumer, dispelling the myth that watching pirate video isn’t against the law. It is, that’s not in any doubt, but from the constant tone of the video, one could be forgiven that it’s an extremely serious crime rather than something which is likely to be a civil matter, if anything at all.

It also warns people who are configuring and selling pirate devices that they are breaking the law. Again, this is absolutely true but this activity is clearly several magnitudes more serious than simply viewing. The video blurs the boundaries for what appears to be dramatic effect, however.

Selling and watching is illegal

The second video is all about demonizing the people and groups who may offer set-top boxes to the public.

Instead of portraying the hundreds of “cottage industry” suppliers behind many set-top box sales in the UK, the CrimeStoppers video paints a picture of dark organized crime being the main driver. By buying from these people, the charity warns, criminals are being welcomed in.

“It is illegal. You could also be helping to fund organized crime and bringing it into your community,” the video warns.

Are you funding organized crime?

The third video takes another approach, warning that set-top boxes have few if any parental controls. This could lead to children being exposed to inappropriate content, the charity warns.

“What are your children watching. Does it worry you?” the video asks.

Of course, the same can be said about the Internet, period. Web browsers don’t filter what content children have access to unless parents take pro-active steps to configure special services or software for the purpose.

There’s always the option to supervise children, of course, but Netflix is probably a safer option for those with a preference to stand off. It’s also considerably more expensive, a fact that won’t have escaped users of these devices.

Got kids? Take care….

Finally, video four picks up a theme that’s becoming increasingly common in anti-piracy campaigns – malware and identity theft.

“Why risk having your identity stolen or your bank account or home network hacked. If you access entertainment or sports using dodgy streaming devices or apps, or illegal addons for Kodi, you are increasing the risks,” the ad warns.

Danger….Danger….

Perhaps of most interest is that this entire campaign, which almost certainly has Big Media behind the scenes in advisory and financial capacities, barely mentions the entertainment industries at all.

Indeed, the success of the whole campaign hinges on people worrying about the supposed ill effects of illicit streaming on them personally and then feeling persuaded to inform on suppliers and others involved in the chain.

“Know of someone supplying or promoting these dodgy devices or software? It is illegal. Call us now and help stop crime in your community,” the videos warn.

That CrimeStoppers has taken on this campaign at all is a bit of a head-scratcher, given the bigger crime picture. Struggling with severe budget cuts, police in the UK are already de-prioritizing a number of crimes, leading to something called “screening out”, a process through which victims are given a crime number but no investigation is carried out.

This means that in 2016, 45% of all reported crimes in Greater Manchester weren’t investigated and a staggering 57% of all recorded domestic burglaries weren’t followed up by the police. But it gets worse.

“More than 62pc of criminal damage and arson offenses were not investigated, along with one in three reported shoplifting incidents,” MEN reports.

Given this backdrop, how will police suddenly find the resources to follow up lots of leads from the public and then subsequently prosecute people who sell pirate boxes? Even if they do, will that be at the expense of yet more “screening out” of other public-focused offenses?

No one is saying that selling pirate devices isn’t a crime or at least worthy of being followed up, but is this niche likely to be important to the public when they’re being told that nothing will be done when their homes are emptied by intruders? “NO” says a comment on one of the CrimeStoppers videos on YouTube.

“This crime affects multi-million dollar corporations, I’d rather see tax payers money invested on videos raising awareness of crimes committed against the people rather than the 0.001%,” it concludes.

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

New Piracy Scaremongering Video Depicts ‘Dangerous’ Raspberry Pi

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-piracy-scaremongering-video-depicts-dangerous-raspberry-pi-171202/

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll be aware that online streaming of video is a massive deal right now.

In addition to the successes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, for example, unauthorized sources are also getting a piece of the digital action.

Of course, entertainment industry groups hate this and are quite understandably trying to do something about it. Few people have a really good argument as to why they shouldn’t but recent tactics by some video-affiliated groups are really starting to wear thin.

From the mouth of Hollywood itself, the trending worldwide anti-piracy message is that piracy is dangerous. Torrent sites carry viruses that will kill your computer, streaming sites carry malware that will steal your identity, and ISDs (that’s ‘Illegal Streaming Devices’, apparently) can burn down your home, kill you, and corrupt your children.

If anyone is still taking notice of these overblown doomsday messages, here’s another one. Brought to you by the Hollywood-funded Digital Citizens Alliance, the new video rams home the message – the exact same message in fact – that set-top boxes providing the latest content for free are a threat to, well, just about everything.

While the message is probably getting a little old now, it’s worth noting the big reveal at ten seconds into the video, where the evil pirate box is introduced to the viewer.

As reproduced in the left-hand image below, it is a blatantly obvious recreation of the totally content-neutral Raspberry Pi, the affordable small computer from the UK. Granted, people sometimes use it for Kodi (the image on the right shows a Kodi-themed Raspberry Pi case, created by official Kodi team partner FLIRC) but its overwhelming uses have nothing to do with the media center, or indeed piracy.

Disreputable and dangerous device? Of course not

So alongside all the scary messages, the video succeeds in demonizing a perfectly innocent and safe device of which more than 15 million have been sold, many of them directly to schools. Since the device is so globally recognizable, it’s a not inconsiderable error.

It’s a topic that the Kodi team itself vented over earlier this week, noting how the British tabloid media presented the recent wave of “Kodi Boxes Can Kill You” click-bait articles alongside pictures of the Raspberry Pi.

“Instead of showing one of the many thousands of generic black boxes sold without the legally required CE/UL marks, the media mainly chose to depict a legitimate Rasbperry Pi clothed in a very familiar Kodi case. The Pis originate from Cambridge, UK, and have been rigorously certified,” the team complain.

“We’re also super-huge fans of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and the proceeds of Pi board sales fund the awesome work they do to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in schools. The Kodi FLIRC case has also been a hit with our Raspberry Pi users and sales contribute towards the cost of events like Kodi DevCon.”

“It’s insulting, and potentially harmful, to see two successful (and safe) products being wrongly presented for the sake of a headline,” they conclude.

Indeed, it seems that both press and the entertainment industry groups that feed them have been playing fast and loose recently, with the Raspberry Pi getting a particularly raw deal.

Still, if it scares away some pirates, that’s the main thing….

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

Seven Years of Hadopi: Nine Million Piracy Warnings, 189 Convictions

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/seven-years-of-hadopi-nine-million-piracy-warnings-189-convictions-171201/

More than seven years ago, it was predicted that the next big thing in anti-piracy enforcement would be the graduated response scheme.

Commonly known as “three strikes” or variants thereof, these schemes were promoted as educational in nature, with alleged pirates receiving escalating warnings designed to discourage further infringing behavior.

In the fall of 2010, France became one of the pioneers of the warning system and now almost more than seven years later, a new report from the country’s ‘Hadopi’ anti-piracy agency has revealed the extent of its operations.

Between July 2016 and June 2017, Hadopi sent a total of 889 cases to court, a 30% uplift on the 684 cases handed over during the same period 2015/2016. This boost is notable, not least since the use of peer-to-peer protocols (such as BitTorrent, which Hadopi closely monitors) is declining in favor of streaming methods.

When all the seven years of the scheme are added together ending August 31, 2017, the numbers are even more significant.

“Since the launch of the graduated response scheme, more than 2,000 cases have been sent to prosecutors for possible prosecution,” Hadopi’s report reads.

“The number of cases sent to the prosecutor’s office has increased every year, with a significant increase in the last two years. Three-quarters of all the cases sent to prosecutors have been sent since July 2015.”

In all, the Hadopi agency has sent more than nine million first warning notices to alleged pirates since 2012, with more than 800,000 follow-up warnings on top, 200,000 of them during 2016-2017. But perhaps of most interest is the number of French citizens who, despite all the warnings, carried on with their pirating behavior and ended up prosecuted as a result.

Since the program’s inception, 583 court decisions have been handed down against pirates. While 394 of them resulted in a small fine, a caution, or other community-based punishment, 189 citizens walked away with a criminal conviction.

These can include fines of up to 1,500 euros or in more extreme cases, up to three years in prison and/or a 300,000 euro fine.

While this approach looks set to continue into 2018, Hadopi’s report highlights the need to adapt to a changing piracy landscape, one which requires a multi-faceted approach. In addition to tracking pirates, Hadopi also has a mission to promote legal offerings while educating the public. However, it is fully aware that these strategies alone won’t be enough.

To that end, the agency is calling for broader action, such as faster blocking of sites, expanding to the blocking of mirror sites, tackling unauthorized streaming platforms and, of course, dealing with the “fully-loaded” set-top box phenomenon that’s been sweeping the world for the past two years.

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf, French)

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

ACE and CAP Shut Down Aussie Pirate IPTV Operation

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ace-and-cap-shut-down-aussie-pirate-iptv-operation-171128/

Instead of companies like the MPAA, Amazon, Netflix, CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, CBS, Foxtel, and Village Roadshow tackling piracy completely solo, this year they teamed up to form the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

This massive collaboration of 30 companies represents a new front in the fight against piracy, with global players publicly cooperating to tackle the phenomenon in all its forms.

The same is true of CASBAA‘s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), a separate anti-piracy collective which to some extent shares the same members as ACE but with a sharp of focus on Asia.

This morning the groups announced the results of a joint investigation in Australia which targeted a large supplier of illicit IPTV devices. These small set-top boxes, which come in several forms, are often configured to receive programming from unauthorized sources. In this particular case, they came pre-loaded to play pirated movies, television shows, sports programming, plus other content.

The Melbourne-based company targeted by ACE and CAP allegedly sold these devices in Asia for many years. The company demanded AUS$400 (US$305) per IPTV unit and bundled each with a year’s subscription to pirated TV channels and on-demand movies from the US, EU, India and South East Asia markets.

In the past, companies operating in these areas have often been met with overwhelming force including criminal action, but ACE and CAP appear to have reached an agreement with the company and its owner, even going as far as keeping their names out of the press.

In return, the company has agreed to measures which will prevent people who have already invested in these boxes being able to access ACE and CAP content going forward. That is likely to result in a whole bunch of irritated customers.

“The film and television industry has made significant investments to provide audiences with access to creative content how, where, and when they want it,” says ACE spokesperson Zoe Thorogood.

“ACE and CAP members initiated this investigation as part of a comprehensive global approach to protect the legal marketplace for creative content, reduce online piracy, and bolster a creative economy that supports millions of workers. This latest action was part of a series of global actions to address the growth of illegal and unsafe piracy devices and apps.”

Neil Gane, General Manager of the CASBAA Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), also weighed in with what are now becoming industry-standard warnings of losses to content makers and supposed risks to consumers.

“These little black boxes are now beginning to dominate the piracy ecosystem, causing significant damage to all sectors of the content industry, from producers to telecommunication platforms,” Gane said.

“They also pose a risk to consumers who face a well-documented increase in exposure to malware. The surge in availability of these illicit streaming devices is an international issue that requires a coordinated effort between industry and government. This will be the first of many disruption and enforcement initiatives on which CAP, ACE, and other industry associations will be collaborating together.”

In September, TF revealed the secret agreement behind the ACE initiative, noting how the group’s founding members are required to commit $5m each annually to the project. The remaining 21 companies on the coalition’s Executive Committee put in $200,000 each.

While today’s IPTV announcement was very public, ACE has already been flexing its muscles behind the scenes. Earlier this month we reported on several cases where UK-based Kodi addon developers were approached by the anti-piracy group and warned to shut down – or else.

While all complied, each was warned not to reveal the terms of their agreement with ACE. This means that the legal basis for its threats remains shrouded in mystery. That being said, it’s likely that several European Court of Justice decisions earlier in the year played a key role.

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

UK Government Publishes Advice on ‘Illicit Streaming Devices’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-government-publishes-advice-on-illicit-streaming-devices-171120/

With torrents and other methods of obtaining content simmering away in the background, unauthorized streaming is the now the method of choice for millions of pirates around the globe.

Previously accessible only via a desktop browser, streaming is now available on a wide range of devices, from tablets and phones through to dedicated set-top box. These, collectively, are now being branded Illicit Streaming Devices (ISD) by the entertainment industries.

It’s terminology the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office has adopted this morning. In a new public advisory, the IPO notes that illicit streaming is the watching of content without the copyright owner’s permission using a variety of devices.

“Illicit streaming devices are physical boxes that are connected to your TV or USB sticks that plug into the TV such as adapted Amazon Fire sticks and so called ‘Kodi’ boxes or Android TV boxes,” the IPO reports.

“These devices are legal when used to watch legitimate, free to air, content. They become illegal once they are adapted to stream illicit content, for example TV programmes, films and subscription sports channels without paying the appropriate subscriptions.”

The IPO notes that streaming devices usually need to be loaded with special software add-ons in order to view copyright-infringing content. However, there are now dedicated apps available to view movies and TV shows which can be loaded straight on to smartphones and tablets.

But how can people know if the device they have is an ISD or not? According to the IPO it’s all down to common sense. If people usually charge for the content you’re getting for free, it’s illegal.

“If you are watching television programmes, films or sporting events where you would normally be paying to view them and you have not paid, you are likely to be using an illicit streaming device (ISD) or app. This could include a film recently released in the cinema, a sporting event that is being broadcast by BT Sport or a television programme, like Game of Thrones, that is only available on Sky,” the IPO says.

In an effort to familiarize the public with some of the terminology used by ISD sellers on eBay, Amazon or Gumtree, for example, the IPO then wanders into a bit of a minefield that really needs much greater clarification.

First up, the government states that ISDs are often described online as being “Fully loaded”, which is a colloquial term for a device with addons already installed. Although they won’t all be infringing, it’s very often the case that the majority are intended to be, so no problems here.

However, the IPO then says that people should keep an eye out for the term ‘jail broken’, which many readers will understand to be the process some hardware devices, such as Apple products, are put through in order for third-party software to be run on them. On occasion, some ISD sellers do put this term on Android devices, for example, but it’s incorrect, in a tiny minority, and of course misleading.

The IPO also warns people against devices marketed as “Plug and Play” but again this is a dual-use term and shouldn’t put consumers off a purchase without a proper investigation. A search on eBay this morning for that exact term didn’t yield any ISDs at all, only games consoles that can be plugged in and played with a minimum of fuss.

“Subscription Gift”, on the other hand, almost certainly references an illicit IPTV or satellite card-sharing subscription and is rarely used for anything else. 100% illegal, no doubt.

The government continues by giving reasons why people should avoid ISDs, not least since their use deprives the content industries of valuable revenue.

“[The creative industries] provide employment for more than 1.9 million people and contributes £84.1 billion to our economy. Using illicit streaming devices is illegal,” the IPO writes.

“If you are not paying for this content you are depriving industry of the revenue it needs to fund the next generation of TV programmes, films and sporting events we all enjoy. Instead it provides funds for the organized criminals who sell or adapt these illicit devices.”

Then, in keeping with the danger-based narrative employed by the entertainment industries’ recently, the government also warns that ISDs can have a negative effect on child welfare, not to mention on physical safety in the home.

“These devices often lack parental controls. Using them could expose children or young people to explicit or age inappropriate content,” the IPO warns.

“Another important reason for consumers to avoid purchasing these streaming devices is from an electrical safety point of view. Where devices and their power cables have been tested, some have failed EU safety standards and have the potential to present a real danger to the public, causing a fire in your home or premises.”

While there can be no doubt whatsoever that failing EU electrical standards in any way is unacceptable for any device, the recent headlines stating that “Kodi Boxes Can Kill Their Owners” are sensational at best and don’t present the full picture.

As reported this weekend, simply not having a recognized branding on such devices means that they fail electrical standards, with non-genuine phone chargers presenting a greater risk around the UK.

Finally, the government offers some advice for people who either want to get off the ISD gravy train or ensure that others don’t benefit from it.

“These devices can be used legally by removing the software. If you are unsure get advice to help you use the device legally. If you wish to watch content that’s only available via subscription, such as sports, you should approach the relevant provider to find out about legal ways to watch,” the IPO advises.

Get it Right from a Genuine Site helps you get the music, TV, films, games, books, newspapers, magazines and sport that you love from genuine services.”

And, if the public thinks that people selling such devices deserve a visit from the authorities, people are asked to report them to the Crimestoppers charity via an anonymous hotline.

The government’s guidance is exactly what one might expect, given that the advisory is likely to have been strongly assisted by companies including the Federation Against Copyright Theft, Premier League, and Sky, who have taken the lead in this area during the past year or so.

The big question is, however, whether many people using these devices really believe that obtaining subscription TV, movies, and sports for next to free is 100% legal. If there are people out there they must be in the minority but at least the government itself is now putting them on the right path.

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

The Truth Behind the “Kodi Boxes Can Kill Their Owners” Headlines

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-truth-behind-the-kodi-boxes-can-kill-their-owners-headlines-171118/

Another week, another batch of ‘Kodi Box Armageddon’ stories. This time it hasn’t been directly about the content they can provide but the physical risks they pose to their owners.

After being primed in advance, the usual British tabloids jumped into action early Thursday, noting that following tests carried out on “illicit streaming devices” (aka Android set-top devices), 100% of them failed to meet UK national electrical safety regulations.

The tests were carried out by Electrical Safety First, a charity which was prompted into action by anti-piracy outfit Federation Against Copyright Theft.

“A series of product safety tests on popular illicit streaming devices entering the UK have found that 100% fail to meet national electrical safety regulations,” a FACT statement reads.

“The news is all the more significant as the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) estimates that more than one million of these illegal devices have been sold in the UK in the last two years, representing a significant risk to the general public.”

After reading many sensational headlines stating that “Kodi Boxes Might Kill Their Owners”, please excuse us for groaning. This story has absolutely nothing – NOTHING – to do with Kodi or any other piece of software. Quite obviously, software doesn’t catch fire.

So, suspecting that there might be more to this than meets the eye, we decided to look beyond the press releases into the actual Electrical Safety First (ESF) report. While we have no doubt that ESF is extremely competent in its field (it is, no question), the front page of its report is disappointing.

Despite the items sent for testing being straightforward Android-based media players, the ESF report clearly describes itself as examining “illicit streaming devices”. It’s terminology that doesn’t describe the subject matter from an electrical, safety or technical perspective but is pretty convenient for FACT clients Sky and the Premier League.

Nevertheless, the full picture reveals rather more than most of the headlines suggest.

First of all, it’s important to know that ESF tested just nine devices out of the million or so allegedly sold in the UK during the past two years. Even more importantly, every single one of those devices was supplied to ESF by FACT.

Now, we’re not suggesting they were hand-picked to fail but it’s clear that the samples weren’t provided from a neutral source. Also, as we’ll learn shortly, it’s possible to determine in advance if an item will fail to meet UK standards simply by looking at its packaging and casing.

But perhaps even more intriguing is that the electrical testing carried out by ESF related primarily not to the set-top boxes themselves, but to their power supplies. ESF say so themselves.

“The product review relates primarily to the switched mode power supply units for the connection to the mains supply, which were supplied with the devices, to identify any potential risks to consumers such as electric shocks, heating and resistance to fire,” ESF reports.

The set-top boxes themselves were only assessed “in terms of any faults in the marking, warnings and instructions,” the group adds.

So, what we’re really talking about here isn’t dangerous illicit streaming devices set-top boxes, but the power supply units that come with them. It might seem like a small detail but we’ll come to the vast importance of this later on.

Firstly, however, we should note that none of the equipment supplied by FACT complied with Schedule 1 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. This means that they failed to have the “Conformité Européene” or CE logo present. That’s unacceptable.

In addition, none of them lived up the requirements of Schedule 3 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 either, which in part requires the manufacturer’s brand name or trademark to be “clearly printed on the electrical equipment or, where that is not possible, on the packaging.” (That’s how you can tell they’ll definitely fail UK standards, before sending them for testing)

Also, none of the samples were supplied with “sufficient safety or warning information to ensure the safe and correct use, assembly, installation or maintenance of the equipment.” This represents ‘a technical breach’ of the regulations, ESF reports.

Finally, several of the samples were considered to be a potential risk to their users, either via electric shock and/or fire. That’s an important finding and people who suspect they have such devices at home should definitely take note.

However, the really important point isn’t mentioned in the tabloids, probably since it distracts from the “Kodi Armageddon” narrative which underlies the whole study and subsequent reports.

ESF says that one of the key issues is that the set-top boxes come unbranded, something which breaches safety regulations while making it difficult for consumers to assess whether they’re buying a quality product. Crucially, this is not exclusively a set-top box problem, it is much, MUCH bigger.

“Issues with power supply units or unbranded and counterfeit chargers go beyond illicit streaming devices. In the last year, issues have been reported with other consumer electrical devices, such as laptop chargers and counterfeit phone chargers,” the same ESF report reveals.

“The total annual online sales of mains plug-in chargers is estimated to be in the region of 1.8 million and according to Electrical Safety First, it is likely that most of these sales involve cheap, unbranded chargers.”

So, we looked into this issue of problem power supplies and chargers generally, to see where this report fits into the bigger picture. It transpires it’s a massive problem, all over the UK, across a wide range of products. In fact, Trading Standards reports that 99% of non-genuine Apple chargers bought online “fail a basic safety test”.

But buying from reputable High Street retailers doesn’t help either.

During the past year, Poundworld was fined for selling – wait for it – 72,000 dangerous chargers. Home Bargains was also fined for selling “thousands” of power adaptors that fail to meet UK standards.

“All samples provided failed to comply with Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations and were not marked with the manufacturer’s name,” Trading Standards reports.

That sounds familiar.

So, there you have it. Far from this being an isolated “Kodi Box Crisis” as some have proclaimed, this is a broad issue affecting imported electrical items in general. On this basis, one can’t help but think the tabloids missed a trick here. Think of the power of this headline:

ALL UNBRANDED ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT CAN KILL, DISCONNECT EVERYTHING

or, alternatively:

PIRATES URGED TO SWITCH TO BRANDED AMAZON FIRESTICKS, SAFER FOR KODI

Perhaps not….

The ESF report can be found here (pdf)

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

MPAA Lobbies US Congress on Streaming Piracy Boxes

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-lobbies-us-congress-on-streaming-piracy-boxes-171112/

As part of its quest to reduce piracy, the MPAA continues to spend money on its lobbying activities, hoping to sway lawmakers in its direction.

While the lobbying talks take place behind closed doors, quarterly disclosure reports provide some insight into the items under discussion.

The MPAA’s most recent lobbying disclosure form features several new topics that weren’t on the agenda last year.

Among other issues, the Hollywood group lobbied the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives on set-top boxes, preloaded streaming piracy devices, and streaming piracy in general.

The details of these discussions remain behind closed doors. The only thing we know for sure is what Hollywood is lobbying on, but it doesn’t take much imagination to take an educated guess on the ‘why’ part.

Just over a year ago streaming piracy boxes were hardly mentioned in anti-piracy circles, but today they are on the top of the enforcement list. The MPAA is reporting these concerns to lawmakers, to see whether they can be of assistance in curbing this growing threat.

Some of the lobbying topics

It’s clear that pirate streaming players are a prime concern for Hollywood. MPA boss Stan McCoy recently characterized the use of these devices as “Piracy 3.0” and a coalition of industry players sued a US-based seller of streaming boxes earlier this month.

The lobbying efforts themselves are nothing new of course. Every year the MPAA spends around $4 million to influence the decisions of lawmakers, both directly and through external lobbying firms such as Covington & Burling, Capitol Tax Partners, and Sentinel Worldwide.

While piracy streaming boxes are new on the agenda this year, they are not the only topics under discussion. Other items include trade deals such as the TPP, TTIP, and NAFTA, voluntary domain name initiatives, EU digital single market proposals, and cybersecurity.

TorrentFreak reached out to the MPAA for more information on the streaming box lobbying efforts, but we have yet to hear back.

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

Sky: People Can’t Pirate Live Soccer in the UK Anymore

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sky-people-cant-pirate-live-soccer-in-the-uk-anymore-171108/

The commotion over the set-top box streaming phenomenon is showing no signs of dying down and if day one at the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) Conference 2017 was anything to go by, things are only heating up.

Held at Studio City in Macau, the conference has a strong anti-piracy element and was opened by Joe Welch, CASBAA Board Chairman and SVP Public Affairs Asia, 21st Century Fox. He began Tuesday by noting the important recent launch of a brand new anti-piracy initiative.

“CASBAA recently launched the Coalition Against Piracy, funded by 18 of the region’s content players and distribution partners,” he said.

TF reported on the formation of the coalition mid-October. It includes heavyweights such as Disney, Fox, HBO, NBCUniversal and BBC Worldwide, and will have a strong focus on the illicit set-top box market.

Illegal streaming devices (or ISDs, as the industry calls them), were directly addressed in a segment yesterday afternoon titled Face To Face. Led by Dr. Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright & IP Enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office, the session detailed the “onslaught of online piracy” and the rise of ISDs that is apparently “shaking the market”.

Given the apparent gravity of those statements, the following will probably come as a surprise. According to Lynch, the UK IPO sought the opinion of UK-based rightsholders about the pirate box phenomenon a while back after being informed of their popularity in the East. The response was that pirate boxes weren’t an issue. It didn’t take long, however, for things to blow up.

“The UKIPO provides intelligence and evidence to industry and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in London who then take enforcement actions,” Lynch explained.

“We first heard about the issues with ISDs from [broadcaster] TVB in Hong Kong and we then consulted the UK rights holders who responded that it wasn’t a problem. Two years later the issue just exploded.”

The evidence of that in the UK isn’t difficult to find. In addition to millions of devices with both free Kodi addon and subscription-based systems deployed, the app market has bloomed too, offering free or near to free content to all.

This caught the eye of the Premier League who this year obtained two pioneering injunctions (1,2) to tackle live streams of football games. Streams are blocked by local ISPs in real-time, making illicit online viewing a more painful experience than it ever has been. No doubt progress has been made on this front, with thousands of streams blocked, but according to broadcaster Sky, the results are unprecedented.

“Site-blocking has moved the goalposts significantly,” said Matthew Hibbert, head of litigation at Sky UK.

“In the UK you cannot watch pirated live Premier League content anymore,” he said.

While progress has been good, the statement is overly enthusiastic. TF sources have been monitoring the availability of pirate streams on around dozen illicit sites and services every Saturday (when it is actually illegal to broadcast matches in the UK) and service has been steady on around half of them and intermittent at worst on the rest.

There are hundreds of other platforms available so while many are definitely affected by Premier League blocking, it’s safe to assume that live football piracy hasn’t been wiped out. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to suggest that no progress has been made, in this and other related areas.

Kevin Plumb, Director of Legal Services at The Premier League, said that pubs showing football from illegal streams had also massively dwindled in numbers.

“In the past 18 months the illegal broadcasting of live Premier League matches in pubs in the UK has been decimated,” he said.

This result is almost certainly down to prosecutions taken in tandem with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), that have seen several landlords landed with large fines. Indeed, both sides of the market have been tackled, with both licensed premises and IPTV device sellers being targeted.

“The most successful thing we’ve done to combat piracy has been to undertake criminal prosecutions against ISD piracy,” said FACT chief Kieron Sharp yesterday. “Everyone is pleading guilty to these offenses.”

Most if not all of FACT-led prosecutions target device and subscription sellers under fraud legislation but that could change in the future, Lynch of the Intellectual Property Office said.

“While the UK works to update its legislation, we can’t wait for the new legislation to take enforcement actions and we rely heavily on ‘conspiracy to defraud’ charges, and have successfully prosecuted a number of ISD retailers,” she said.

Finally, information provided yesterday by network company CISCO shine light on what it costs to run a subscription-based pirate IPTV operation.

Director of Intelligence & Security Operations Avigail Gutman said a pirate IPTV server offering 1,000 channels to around 1,000 subscribers can cost as little as 2,000 euros per month to run but can generate 12,000 euros in revenue during the same period.

“In April of 2017, ten major paid TV and content providers had relinquished 3.09 million euros per month to 285 ISD-based streaming pirate syndicates,” she said.

There’s little doubt that IPTV piracy, both paid and free, is here to stay. The big question is how it will be tackled short and long-term and whether any changes in legislation will have any unintended knock-on effects.

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

Aussie ‘Pirate’ Blocking Efforts Switch to Premium IPTV

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/aussie-pirate-blocking-efforts-switch-to-premium-iptv-171106/

Website blocking has become one of the leading anti-piracy mechanisms in recent years and is particularly prevalent across Europe, where thousands of sites are now off-limits by regular means.

More recently the practice spread to Australia, where movie and music industry bodies have filed several applications at the Federal Court. This has rendered dozens of major torrent and streaming inaccessible in the region, after local ISPs complied with orders compelling them to prevent subscriber access.

While such blocking is now commonplace, Village Roadshow and a coalition of movie studios have now switched tack, targeting an operation offering subscription-based IPTV services.

The action targets HDSubs+, a fairly well-known service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee, at least versus the real deal.

A small selection of channels in the HDSubs+ package

ComputerWorld reports that the application for the injunction was filed last month. In common with earlier requests, it targets Australia’s largest ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus the subsidiaries.

Access to HDSubs.com appears to be limited, possibly by the platform’s operators, so that visitors from desktop machines are redirected back to Google. However, access to the platform is available by other means and that reveals a fairly pricey IPTV offering.

As seen in the image below, the top package (HD Subs+), which includes all the TV anyone could need plus movies and TV shows on demand, weighs in at US$239.99 per year, around double the price of similar packages available elsewhere.

Broad selection of channels but quite pricey

If the court chooses to grant the injunction, ISPs will not only have to block the service’s main domain (HDSubs.com) but also a range of others which provide the infrastructure for the platform.

Unlike torrent and streaming sites which tend to be in one place (if we discount proxies and mirrors), IPTV services like HD Subs often rely on a number of domains to provide a sales platform, EPG (electronic program guide), software (such as an Android app), updates, and sundry other services.

As per CW, in the HD Subs case they are: ois001wfr.update-apk.com, ois005yfs.update-apk.com, ois003slp.update-apk.com, update002zmt.hiddeniptv.com, apk.hiddeniptv.com, crossepg003uix.hiddeniptv.com, crossepg002gwj.hiddeniptv.com, mpbs001utb.hiddeniptv.com, soft001rqv.update-apk.com and hdsubs.com.

This switch in tactics by Village Roadshow and the other studios involved is subtle but significant. While torrent and streaming sites provide a largely free but fragmented experience, premium IPTV services are direct commercial competitors, often providing a more comprehensive range of channels and services than the broadcasters themselves.

While quality may not always be comparable with their licensed counterparts, presentation is often first class, giving the impression of an official product which is comfortably accessed via a living room TV. This is clearly a concern to commercial broadcasters.

As reported last week, global IPTV traffic is both huge and growing, so expect more of these requests Down Under.

Previous efforts to block IPTV services include those in the UK, where the Premier League takes targeted action against providers who provide live soccer. These measures only target live streams when matches are underway and as far as we’re aware, there are no broader measures in place against any provider.

This could mean that the action in Australia, to permanently block a provider in its entirety, is the first of its kind anywhere.

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

IPTV Piracy Generates More Internet Traffic Than Torrents

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-piracy-generates-more-internet-traffic-than-torrents-171101/

Increasingly, people are trading in their expensive cable subscriptions, opting to use cheaper or free Internet TV instead.

This is made easy and convenient with help from a variety of easy-to-use set-top boxes, many of which are specifically configured to receive pirated content.

Following this trend, there has also been an uptick in the availability of unlicensed TV subscriptions, with dozens of vendors offering virtually any channel imaginable. Either for free or in exchange for a small fee.

Until now the true scope of this piracy ecosystem was largely unknown, but a new report published by Canadian broadband management company Sandvine reveals that it’s massive.

The company monitored traffic across multiple fixed access tier-1 networks in North America and found that 6.5% of households are communicating with known TV piracy services. This translates to seven million subscribers and many more potential viewers.

One of the interesting aspects of IPTV piracy is that most services charge money, around $10 per month. This means that there’s a lot of money involved. If the seven million figure is indeed accurate, these IPTV vendors would generate roughly $800 million in North America alone.

“TV piracy could quickly become almost a billion dollar a year industry for pirates,” Sandvine writes in its report, noting that the real rightsholders are being substantially harmed.

Pirate subscription TV ecosystem

According to Sandvine, roughly 95% of the IPTV subscriptions run off custom set-top boxes. Kodi-powered devices and Roku boxes follow at a respectable distance with 3% and 2% of the market, respectively.

With millions of viewers, there’s undoubtedly a large audience of pirate subscription TV viewers. This is also reflected in the bandwidth these services consume. During peak hours, 6.5% of all downstream traffic on fixed networks is generated by TV piracy services.

To put this into perspective; this is more than all BitTorrent traffic during the peak hours, which was “only” 1.73% last year, and dropping.

The pirate IPTV numbers are quite impressive, also when compared to Netflix and YouTube. While the two video giants still have a larger share of overall Internet traffic on fixed networks, pirate TV subscriptions are not that far behind.

Internet traffic share throughout the day

The graph above points out another issue. It highlights that many IPTV services continue to stream data even when they’re not actively used (tuned into a channel with the TV off). As a result, they have a larger share of the overall traffic during the night when most people don’t use Netflix or YouTube.

This wasted traffic is referred to as “phantom bandwidth” and can be as high as one terabyte per month for a single connection. Physically powering off the box is often the only way to prevent this.

Needless to say, “phantom bandwidth” increases IPTV traffic numbers, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that all this traffic is actively consumed.

Finally, Sandvine looked at the different types of content people are streaming with these pirate subscriptions. Live sporting events are popular, as we’ve seen with the megafight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. The same is true for news channels and premium TV such as HBO and international broadcasts.

The most viewed of all in North America, with 4.6% of all pirated TV traffic, is the Indian Star Plus HD.

All and all it is safe to conclude that IPTV piracy is making up a large part of the pirate ecosystem. This hasn’t gone unnoticed to copyright holders of course. In recent months we have seen enforcement actions against several providers and if this trend continues, more are likely to follow.

Looking ahead, it would be interesting to see some numbers of the “on demand” piracy streaming websites and devices as well. IPTV subscriptions are substantial, but it would be no surprise if pirate streaming boxes and sites generate even more traffic.

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

Tech Giants Warn Against Kodi Scapegoating

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tech-giants-warn-kodi-scapegoating-171022/

At the beginning of October, several entertainment industry groups shared their piracy concerns with the US Government’s Trade Representative (USTR).

Aside from pointing towards traditional websites, pirate streaming boxes were also brought up, by the MPAA among others.

“An emerging global threat is streaming piracy which is enabled by piracy devices preloaded with software to illicitly stream movies and television programming and a burgeoning ecosystem of infringing add-ons,” the MPAA noted.

This week the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which includes members such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix, notes that the USTR should be careful not to blame an open source media player such as Kodi, for the infringing actions of others.

CCIA wrote a rebuttal clarifying that Kodi and similar open source players are not the problem here.

“Another example of commenters raising concerns about generalized technology is the MPAA’s characterization of customizable, open-source set-top boxes utilizing the Kodi multimedia player application along with websites that allegedly ‘enable one-click installation of modified software onto set-top boxes or other internet-connected devices’,” CCIA writes.

While the MPAA itself also clearly mentioned that “Kodi is not itself unlawful,” CCIA stresses that any enforcement actions should be aimed at those who are breaking the law. The real targets include vendors who sell streaming boxes pre-loaded with infringing addons.

“These enforcement activities should focus on the infringers themselves, however, not a general purpose technology, such as an operating system for set-top boxes, which may be used in both lawful and unlawful ways.

“Open-source software designed for operating a home electronics device is unquestionably legitimate, and capable of substantial non-infringing uses,” CCIA adds in its cautionary letter the USTR.

While the MPAA’s submission was not trying to characterize Kodi itself as illegal, it did call out TVAddons.ag as a “piracy add-on repository.” The new incarnation of TVAddons wasn’t happy with this label and previously scolded the movie industry group for its comments, pointing out that it only received a handful of DMCA takedown notices in recent years.

“…in the entire history of TV ADDONS, XBMC HUB and OffshoreGit, we only received a total of about five DMCA notices in all; two of which were completely bogus. None of which came from a MPAA affiliate.”

While it’s obvious to most that Kodi isn’t the problem, as CCIA is highlighting, to many people it’s still unclear where the line between infringing and non-infringing is drawn. Lawsuits, including those against TVAddons and TickBox, are expected to bring more clarity.

CCIA’s full submission is available here (pdf).

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

Hollywood Giants Sue Kodi-powered ‘TickBox TV’ Over Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-giants-sue-kodi-powered-tickbox-tv-over-piracy-171014/

Online streaming piracy is booming and many people use dedicated media players to bring this content to their regular TVs.

The bare hardware is not illegal and neither is media player software such as Kodi. When these devices are loaded with copyright-infringing addons, however, they turn into an unprecedented piracy threat.

It becomes even more problematic when the sellers of these devices market their products as pirate tools. This is exactly what TickBox TV does, according to Hollywood’s major movie studios, Netflix, and Amazon.

TickBox is a Georgia-based provider of set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The company’s devices use the Kodi media player and come with instructions on how to add various add-ons.

In a complaint filed in a California federal court yesterday, Universal, Columbia Pictures, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Amazon, and Netflix accuse Tickbox of inducing and contributing to copyright infringement.

“TickBox sells ‘TickBox TV,’ a computer hardware device that TickBox urges its customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted motion pictures and television shows,” the complaint, picked up by THR, reads.

While the device itself does not host any infringing content, users are informed where they can find it.

The movie and TV studios stress that Tickbox’s marketing highlights its infringing uses with statements such as “if you’re tired of wasting money with online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.”

Sick of paying high monthly fees?

“TickBox promotes the use of TickBox TV for overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, infringing purposes, and that is how its customers use TickBox TV. TickBox advertises TickBox TV as a substitute for authorized and legitimate distribution channels such as cable television or video-on-demand services like Amazon Prime and Netflix,” the studios’ lawyers write.

The complaint explains in detail how TickBox works. When users first boot up their device they are prompted to download the “TickBox TV Player” software. This comes with an instruction video guiding people to infringing streams.

“The TickBox TV instructional video urges the customer to use the ‘Select Your Theme’ button on the start-up menu for downloading addons. The ‘Themes’ are curated collections of popular addons that link to unauthorized streams of motion pictures and television shows.”

“Some of the most popular addons currently distributed — which are available through TickBox TV — are titled ‘Elysium,’ ‘Bob,’ and ‘Covenant’,” the complaint adds, showing screenshots of the interface.

Covenant

The movie and TV studios, which are the founding members of the recently launched ACE anti-piracy initiative, want TickBox to stop selling their devices. In addition, they demand compensation for the damages they’ve suffered. Requesting the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per copyright infringement, this can run into the millions.

The involvement of Amazon, albeit the content division, is notable since the online store itself sells dozens of similar streaming devices, some of which even list “infringing” addons.

The TickBox lawsuit is the first case in the United States where a group of major Hollywood players is targeting a streaming device. Earlier this year various Hollywood insiders voiced concerns about the piracy streaming epidemic and if this case goes their way, it probably won’t be the last.

A copy of the full complaint is available here (pdf)

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

‘China Should Crack Down on Pirate Streaming Box Distributors’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/china-should-crack-down-on-pirate-streaming-box-distributors-171001/

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has informed the U.S. Government that China must step up its game to better protect the interests of copyright holders.

The US Trade Representative is reviewing whether China has done enough to comply with its WTO obligations, but IIPA members including RIAA and MPAA believe there is still work to be done.

One of the areas to which the Chinese Government should pay more attention is enforcement. Although a lot of progress has been made in recent years, especially in combating music piracy, new threats have emerged.

One of the areas highlighted by IIPA is the streaming box ecosystem, aptly dubbed as “piracy 3.0” by the Motion Picture Association. This appeals to a new breed of pirates who rely on set-top boxes which are filled with pirate add-ons.

Industry groups often refer to these boxes as Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs) and they see China as a major hub through which these are shipped around the world.

“ISDs are media boxes, set-top boxes or other devices that allow users, through the use of piracy apps, to stream, download, or otherwise access unauthorized content from the Internet,” IIPA writes.

“These devices have emerged as a significant means through which pirated motion picture and television content is accessed on televisions in homes in China as well as elsewhere in Asia and increasingly around the world. China is a hub for the manufacture of these devices.”

Although the hardware and media players are perfectly legal, things get problematic when they’re loaded with pirate add-ons and promoted as tools to facilitate copyright infringement.

IIPA states that the Chinese Government should do more to stop these devices from being sold. Cracking down on the main distribution points would be a good start, they say.

“However it is done, the Chinese government must increase enforcement efforts, including cracking down on piracy apps and on device retailers and/or distributors who preload the devices with apps that facilitate infringement.

“Moreover, because China is the main source of this problem spreading across Asia, the Chinese government should take immediate actions against key distribution points for devices that are being used illegally,” IIPA adds.

In addition to pirate boxes, the industry groups also want China to beef up its enforcement against online journal piracy, pirate apps, unauthorized camcording, and unlicensed streaming platforms.

IIPA intends to explain the above and several other shortcomings in detail during a hearing in Washington, DC, next Wednesday. The group has submitted an overview of its testimony to the Trade Representative, which is available here (pdf).

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

Roku Is Building Its Own Anti-Piracy Team

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-building-anti-piracy-team/

Online streaming piracy is on the rise and many people use dedicated media players to watch unauthorized content through their regular TV.

Although the media players themselves can be used for perfectly legal means, third-party add-ons turn them into pirate machines, providing access to movies, TV-shows and more.

The entertainment industry isn’t happy with this development and is trying to halt further growth wherever possible.

Just a few months ago, Roku was harshly confronted with this new reality when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. This legal battle is still ongoing, but it’s clear that Roku itself is now taking a more proactive role.

While Roku never permitted any infringing content, the company is taking steps to better deal with the problem. The company has already begun warning users of copyright-infringing third-party channels, but that was only the beginning.

Two new job applications posted by Roku a few days ago reveal that the company is putting together an in-house anti-piracy team to keep the problem under control.

One of the new positions is that of Director Anti-Piracy and Content Security. Roku stresses that this is a brand new position, which involves shaping the company’s anti-piracy strategy.

“The Director, Anti-Piracy and Content Security is responsible for defining the technology roadmap and overseeing implementation of anti-piracy and content security initiatives at Roku,” the application reads.

“This role requires ability to benchmark Roku against best practices (i.e. MPAA, Studio & Customer) but also requires an emphasis on maintaining deep insight into the evolving threat landscape and technical challenges of combating piracy.”

The job posting

The second job listed by Roku is that of an anti-piracy software engineer. One of the main tasks of this position is to write software for the Roku to monitor and prevent piracy.

“In this role, you will be responsible for implementing anti-piracy and content protection technology as it pertains to Roku OS,” the application explains.

“This entails developing software features, conducting forensic investigations and mining Roku’s big data platform and other threat intelligence sources for copyright infringement activities on and off platform.”

While a two-person team is relatively small, it’s possible that this will grow in the future, if there aren’t people in a similar role already. What’s clear, however, is that Roku takes piracy very seriously.

With Hollywood closely eyeing the streaming box landscape, the company is doing its best to keep copyright holders onside.

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

A Million ‘Pirate’ Boxes Sold in the UK During The Last Two Years

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/a-million-pirate-boxes-sold-in-the-uk-during-the-last-two-years-170919/

With the devices hitting the headlines on an almost weekly basis, it probably comes as no surprise that ‘pirate’ set-top boxes are quickly becoming public enemy number one with video rightsholders.

Typically loaded with the legal Kodi software but augmented with third-party addons, these often Android-based pieces of hardware drag piracy out of the realm of the computer savvy and into the living rooms of millions.

One of the countries reportedly most affected by this boom is the UK. The consumption of these devices among the general public is said to have reached epidemic proportions, and anecdotal evidence suggests that terms like Kodi and Showbox are now household terms.

Today we have another report to digest, this time from the Federation Against Copyright Theft, or FACT as they’re often known. Titled ‘Cracking Down on Digital Piracy,’ the report provides a general overview of the piracy scene, tackling well-worn topics such as how release groups and site operators work, among others.

The report is produced by FACT after consultation with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, Intellectual Property Office, Police Scotland, and anti-piracy outfit Entura International. It begins by noting that the vast majority of the British public aren’t involved in the consumption of infringing content.

“The most recent stats show that 75% of Brits who look at content online abide by the law and don’t download or stream it illegally – up from 70% in 2013. However, that still leaves 25% who do access material illegally,” the report reads.

The report quickly heads to the topic of ‘pirate’ set-top boxes which is unsurprising, not least due to FACT’s current focus as a business entity.

While it often positions itself alongside government bodies (which no doubt boosts its status with the general public), FACT is a private limited company serving The Premier League, another company desperate to stamp out the use of infringing devices.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to argue with some of the figures cited in the report.

“At a conservative estimate, we believe a million set-top boxes with software added
to them to facilitate illegal downloads have been sold in the UK in the last couple
of years,” the Intellectual Property Office reveals.

Interestingly, given a growing tech-savvy public, FACT’s report notes that ready-configured boxes are increasingly coming into the country.

“Historically, individuals and organized gangs have added illegal apps and add-ons onto the boxes once they have been imported, to allow illegal access to premium channels. However more recently, more boxes are coming into the UK complete with illegal access to copyrighted content via apps and add-ons already installed,” FACT notes.

“Boxes are often stored in ‘fulfillment houses’ along with other illegal electrical items and sold on social media. The boxes are either sold as one-off purchases, or with a monthly subscription to access paid-for channels.”

While FACT press releases regularly blur the lines when people are prosecuted for supplying set-top boxes in general, it’s important to note that there are essentially two kinds of products on offer to the public.

The first relies on Kodi-type devices which provide on-going free access to infringing content. The second involves premium IPTV subscriptions which are a whole different level of criminality. Separating the two when reading news reports can be extremely difficult, but it’s a hugely important to recognize the difference when assessing the kinds of sentences set-top box suppliers are receiving in the UK.

Nevertheless, FACT correctly highlights that the supply of both kinds of product are on the increase, with various parties recognizing the commercial opportunities.

“A significant number of home-grown British criminals are now involved in this type of crime. Some of them import the boxes wholesale through entirely legal channels, and modify them with illegal software at home. Others work with sophisticated criminal networks across Europe to bring the boxes into the UK.

“They then sell these boxes online, for example through eBay or Facebook, sometimes managing to sell hundreds or thousands of boxes before being caught,” the company adds.

The report notes that in some cases the sale of infringing set-top boxes occurs through cottage industry, with suppliers often working on their own or with small groups of friends and family. Invetiably, perhaps, larger scale operations are reported to be part of networks with connections to other kinds of crime, such as dealing in drugs.

“In contrast to drugs, streaming devices provide a relatively steady and predictable revenue stream for these criminals – while still being lucrative, often generating hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, they are seen as a lower risk activity with less likelihood of leading to arrest or imprisonment,” FACT reports.

While there’s certainly the potential to earn large sums from ‘pirate’ boxes and premium IPTV services, operating on the “hundreds of thousands of pounds a year” scale in the UK would attract a lot of unwanted attention. That’s not saying that it isn’t already, however.

Noting that digital piracy has evolved hugely over the past three or four years, the report says that the cases investigated so far are just the “tip of the iceberg” and that many other cases are in the early stages and will only become known to the public in the months and years ahead.

Indeed, the Intellectual Property Office hints that some kind of large-scale enforcement action may be on the horizon.

“We have identified a significant criminal business model which we have discussed and shared with key law enforcement partners. I can’t go into detail on this, but as investigations take their course, you will see the scale,” an IPO spokesperson reveals.

While details are necessarily scarce, a source familiar with this area told TF that he would be very surprised if the targets aren’t the growing handful of commercial UK-based IPTV re-sellers who offer full subscription TV services for a few pounds per month.

“They’re brazen. Watch this space,” he said.

FACT’s full report, Cracking Down on Digital Piracy, can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

Kodi ‘Trademark Troll’ Has Interesting Views on Co-Opting Other People’s Work

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-trademark-troll-has-interesting-views-on-co-opting-other-peoples-work-170917/

The Kodi team, operating under the XBMC Foundation, announced last week that a third-party had registered the Kodi trademark in Canada and was using it for their own purposes.

That person was Geoff Gavora, who had previously been in communication with the Kodi team, expressing how important the software was to his sales.

“We had hoped, given the positive nature of his past emails, that perhaps he was doing this for the benefit of the Foundation. We learned, unfortunately, that this was not the case,” XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen said.

According to the Kodi team, Gavora began delisting Amazon ads placed by companies selling Kodi-enabled products, based on infringement of Gavora’s trademark rights.

“[O]nly Gavora’s hardware can be sold, unless those companies pay him a fee to stay on the store,” Betzen explained.

Predictably, Gavora’s move is being viewed as highly controversial, not least since he’s effectively claiming licensing rights in Canada over what should be a free and open source piece of software. TF obtained one of the notices Amazon sent to a seller of a Kodi-enabled device in Canada, following a complaint from Gavora.

Take down Kodi from Amazon, or pay Gavora

So who is Geoff Gavora and what makes him tick? Thanks to a 2016 interview with Ali Salman of the Rapid Growth Podcast, we have a lot of information from the horse’s mouth.

It all began in 2011, when Gavora began jailbreaking Apple TVs, loading them with XBMC, and selling them to friends.

“I did it as a joke, for beer money from my friends,” Gavora told Salman.

“I’d do it for $25 to $50 and word of mouth spread that I was doing this so we could load on this media center to watch content and online streams from it.”

Intro to the interview with Ali Salman

Soon, however, word of mouth caused the business to grow wings, Gavora claims.

“So they started telling people and I start telling people it’s $50, and then I got so busy so I start telling people it’s $75. I’m getting too busy with my work and with this. And it got to the point where I was making more jailbreaking these Apple TVs than I was at my career, and I wasn’t very happy at my career at that time.”

Jailbreaking was supposed to be a side thing to tide Gavora over until another job came along, but he had a problem – he didn’t come from a technical background. Nevertheless, what Gavora did have was a background in marketing and with a decent knowledge of how to succeed in customer service, he majored on that front.

Gavora had come to learn that while people wanted his devices, they weren’t very good at operating XBMC (Kodi’s former name) which he’d loaded onto them. With this in mind, he began offering web support and phone support via a toll-free line.

“I started receiving calls from New York, Dallas, and then Australia, Hong Kong. Everyone around the world was calling me and saying ‘we hear there’s some kid in Calgary, some young child, who’s offering tech support for the Apple TV’,” Gavora said.

But with things apparently going well, a wrench was soon thrown into the works when Apple released the third variant of its Apple TV and Gavorra was unable to jailbreak it. This prompted him to market his own Linux-based set-top device and his business, Raw-Media, grew from there.

While it seems likely that so-called ‘Raw Boxes’ were doing reasonably well with consumers, what was the secret of their success? Podcast host Salman asked Gavora for his ‘networking party 10-second pitch’, and the Canadian was happy to oblige.

“I get this all the time actually. I basically tell people that I sell a box that gives them free TV and movies,” he said.

This was met with laughter from the host, to which Gavora added, “That’s sort of the three-second pitch and everyone’s like ‘Oh, tell me more’.”

“Who doesn’t like free TV, come on?” Salman responded. “Yeah exactly,” Gavora said.

The image below, taken from a January 2016 YouTube unboxing video, shows one of the products sold by Gavora’s company.

Raw-Media Kodi Box packaging (note Kodi logo)

Bearing in mind the offer of free movies and TV, the tagline on the box, “Stop paying for things you don’t want to watch, watch more free tv!” initially looks quite provocative. That being said, both the device and Kodi are perfectly capable of playing plenty of legal content from free sources, so there’s no problem there.

What is surprising, however, is that the unboxing video shows the device being booted up, apparently already loaded with infamous third-party Kodi addons including PrimeWire, Genesis, Icefilms, and Navi-X.

The unboxing video showing the Kodi setup

Given that Gavora has registered the Kodi trademark in Canada and prints the official logo on his packaging, this runs counter to the official Kodi team’s aggressive stance towards boxes ready-configured with what they categorize as banned addons. Matters are compounded when one visits the product support site.

As seen in the image below, Raw-Media devices are delivered with a printed card in the packaging informing people where to get the after-sales services Gavora says he built his business upon. The cards advise people to visit No-Issue.ca, a site setup to offer text and video-based support to set-top box buyers.

No-Issue.ca (which is hosted on the same server as raw-media.ca and claimed officially as a sister site here) now redirects to No-Issue.is, as per a 2016 announcement. It has a fairly bland forum but the connected tutorial videos, found on No Issue’s YouTube channel, offer a lot more spice.

Registered under Gavora’s online nickname Gombeek (which is also used on the official Kodi forums), the channel is full of videos detailing how to install and use a wide range of addons.

The No-issue YouTube Channel tutorials

But while supplying tutorial videos is one thing, providing the actual software addons is another. Surprisingly, No-Issue does that too. Filed away under the URL http://solved.no-issue.is/ is a Kodi repository which distributes a wide range of addons, including many that specialize in infringing content, according to the Kodi team.

The No-Issue repository

A source familiar with Raw-Media’s devices informs TF that they’re no longer delivered with addons installed. However, tools hosted on No-Issue.is automate the installation process for the customer, with unlisted YouTube Videos (1,2) providing the instructions.

XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen says that situation isn’t ideal.

“If that really is his repo it is disappointing to see that Gavora is charging a fee or outright preventing the sale of boxes with Kodi installed that do not include infringing add-ons, while at the same time he is distributing boxes himself that do include the infringing add-ons like this,” Betzen told TF.

While the legality of this type of service is yet to be properly tested in Canada and may yet emerge as entirely permissible under local law, Gavora himself previously described his business as operating in a gray area.

“If I could go back in time four years, I would’ve been more aggressive in the beginning because there was a lot of uncertainty being in a gray market business about how far I could push it,” he said.

“I really shouldn’t say it’s a gray market because everything I do is completely above board, I just felt it was more gray market so I was a bit scared,” he added.

But, legality aside (which will be determined in due course through various cases 1,2), the situation is still problematic when it comes to the Kodi trademark.

The official Kodi team indicate they don’t want to be associated with any kind of questionable addon or even tutorials for the same. Nevertheless, several of the addons installed by No-Issue (including PrimeWire, cCloud TV, Genesis, Icefilms, MoviesHD, MuchMovies and Navi-X, to name a few), are present on the Kodi team’s official ban list.

The fact remains, however, that Gavora successfully registered the trademark in Canada (one month later it was transferred to a brand new company at the same address), and Kodi now have no control over the situation in the country, short of a settlement or some kind of legal action.

Kodi matters aside, though, we get more insight into Gavora’s attitudes towards intellectual property after learning that he studied gemology and jewelry at school. He’s a long-standing member of jewelry discussion forum Ganoskin.com (his profile links to Gavora.com, a domain Gavora owns, as per information supplied by Amazon).

Things get particularly topical in a 2006 thread titled “When your work gets ripped“. The original poster asked how people feel when their jewelry work gets copied and Gavora made his opinions known.

“I think that what most people forget to remember is that when a piece from Tiffany’s or Cartier is ripped off or copied they don’t usually just copy the work, they will stamp it with their name as well,” Gavora said.

“This is, in fact, fraud and they are deceiving clients into believing they are purchasing genuine Tiffany’s or Cartier pieces. The client is in fact more interested in purchasing from an artist than they are the piece. Laying claim to designs (unless a symbol or name is involved) is outrageous.”

Unless that ‘design’ is called Kodi, of course, then it’s possible to claim it as your own through an administrative process and begin demanding licensing fees from the public. That being said, Gavora does seem to flip back and forth a little, later suggesting that being copied is sometimes ok.

“If someone copies your design and produces it under their own name, I think one should be honored and revel in the fact that your design is successful and has caused others to imitate it and grow from it,” he wrote.

“I look forward to the day I see one of my original designs copied, that is the day I will know my design is a success.”

From their public statements, this opinion isn’t shared by the Kodi team in respect of their product. Despite the Kodi name, software and logo being all their own work, they now find themselves having to claw back rights in Canada, in order to keep the product free in the region. For now, however, that seems like a difficult task.

TorrentFreak wrote to Gavora and asked him why he felt the need to register the Kodi trademark, but we received no response. That means we didn’t get the chance to ask him why he’s taking down Amazon listings for other people’s devices, or about something else that came up in the podcast.

“My biggest weakness, I guess, is that I’m too ethical about how I do my business,” he said, referring to how he deals with customers.

Only time will tell how that philosophy will affect Gavora’s attitudes to trademarks and people’s desire not to be charged for using free, open source software.

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

Kodi Declares ‘War’ on Trademark Trolls

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-declares-war-on-trademark-trolls-170908/

More and more people are starting to use Kodi-powered set-top boxes to stream video content to their TVs.

While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, unauthorized add-ons give it a bad name. This is one of the reasons why the Kodi team is actively going after vendors who sell “fully loaded” pirate boxes and YouTubers who misuse their name to promote copyright infringement.

However, these “pirates” are not the only intellectual property problem the team is facing; trademark trolls are a serious threat as well.

When XBMC changed its name to Kodi, they noticed that several parties swiftly registered the Kodi trademark around the world, presumably to make money off it. This came as a total surprise to the foundation, which never faced any trademark issues before, and it continues to cause problems today.

The Kodi team has since convinced some of these “trolls” to hand over the trademarks, but not all are willing to give in. This is causing problems, particularly in Canada, where the local trademark owner is actively blackmailing hardware vendors and removing content from Amazon, the Kodi team says.

The Canadian trademark is owned by Geoff Gavora, who is no stranger to the XBMC Foundation. Before the trouble started, Gavora had already sent several emails to the Kodi team, expressing how important the software was to his sales. After the trademark registration, however, the friendly tone changed.

“We had hoped, given the positive nature of his past emails, that perhaps he was doing this for the benefit of the Foundation. We learned, unfortunately, that this was not the case,” XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen notes.

“Instead, companies like Mygica and our sponsor Minix have been delisted by Gavora on Amazon, so that only Gavora’s hardware can be sold, unless those companies pay him a fee to stay on the store,” he adds.

Gavora is actively using his trademark to stop the sales of other Kodi based devices in Canada, the XBMC Foundation warns. This means that people who buy a Kodi product in the local Amazon store may end up filling the pocket of the local trademark owner.

“Now, if you do a search for Kodi on Amazon.ca, there’s a very real chance that every box you see is giving Gavora money to advertise that they can run what should be the entirely free and open Kodi. Gavora and his company are behaving in true trademark troll fashion,” Betzen writes.

There are several reasons why the Kodi team is making this problem public now. For one, they want the public to be aware of the situation. At some point, trademark trolls may even try to stop Kodi from distributing the software through their own site, they warn.

However, the foundation is not going to let this happen without a fight. They are ready to deal with the problem head on. Trademark trolls should not be allowed to exploit the Kodi name for financial profit.

“We want to let the trolls know that we have caught on to this game and will not accept it. We are actively taking the necessary steps to ensure that the Kodi trademark trolls are dealt with appropriately. There is no value proposition in trolling the Kodi name,’ Betzen writes.

If this means that the foundation has to go to court, they are prepared to do so, hoping that the community will have their back.

“While our goal has always been to avoid going to the court to ensure Kodi remains free in countries where trolls are attempting to get rich off of the Kodi name, we will not back down from protecting the free, open source nature of our software.

“If that time comes for legal action, we hope to have the community’s support,” Betzen concludes.

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

New UK IP Crime Report Reveals Continued Focus on ‘Pirate’ Kodi Boxes

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-uk-ip-crime-report-reveals-continued-focus-on-pirate-kodi-boxes-170908/

The UK’s Intellectual Property Office has published its annual IP Crime Report, spanning the period 2016 to 2017.

It covers key events in the copyright and trademark arenas and is presented with input from the police and trading standards, plus private entities such as the BPI, Premier League, and Federation Against Copyright Theft, to name a few.

The report begins with an interesting statistic. Despite claims that many millions of UK citizens regularly engage in some kind of infringement, figures from the Ministry of Justice indicate that just 47 people were found guilty of offenses under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act during 2016. That’s down on the 69 found guilty in the previous year.

Despite this low conviction rate, 15% of all internet users aged 12+ are reported to have consumed at least one item of illegal content between March and May 2017. Figures supplied by the Industry Trust for IP indicate that 19% of adults watch content via various IPTV devices – often referred to as set-top, streaming, Android, or Kodi boxes.

“At its cutting edge IP crime is innovative. It exploits technological loopholes before they become apparent. IP crime involves sophisticated hackers, criminal financial experts, international gangs and service delivery networks. Keeping pace with criminal innovation places a burden on IP crime prevention resources,” the report notes.

The report covers a broad range of IP crime, from counterfeit sportswear to foodstuffs, but our focus is obviously on Internet-based infringement. Various contributors cover various aspects of online activity as it affects them, including music industry group BPI.

“The main online piracy threats to the UK recorded music industry at present are from BitTorrent networks, linking/aggregator sites, stream-ripping sites, unauthorized streaming sites and cyberlockers,” the BPI notes.

The BPI’s website blocking efforts have been closely reported, with 63 infringing sites blocked to date via various court orders. However, the BPI reports that more than 700 related URLs, IP addresses, and proxy sites/ proxy aggregators have also been rendered inaccessible as part of the same action.

“Site blocking has proven to be a successful strategy as the longer the blocks are in place, the more effective they are. We have seen traffic to these sites reduce by an average of 70% or more,” the BPI reports.

While prosecutions against music pirates are a fairly rare event in the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Specialist Fraud Division highlights that their most significant prosecution of the past 12 months involved a prolific music uploader.

As first revealed here on TF, Wayne Evans was an uploader not only on KickassTorrents and The Pirate Bay, but also some of his own sites. Known online as OldSkoolScouse, Evans reportedly cost the UK’s Performing Rights Society more than £1m in a single year. He was sentenced in December 2016 to 12 months in prison.

While Evans has been free for some time already, the CPS places particular emphasis on the importance of the case, “since it provided sentencing guidance for the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, where before there was no definitive guideline.”

The CPS says the case was useful on a number of fronts. Despite illegal distribution of content being difficult to investigate and piracy losses proving tricky to quantify, the court found that deterrent sentences are appropriate for the kinds of offenses Evans was accused of.

The CPS notes that various factors affect the severity of such sentences, not least the length of time the unlawful activity has persisted and particularly if it has done so after the service of a cease and desist notice. Other factors include the profit made by defendants and/or the loss caused to copyright holders “so far as it can accurately be calculated.”

Importantly, however, the CPS says that beyond issues of personal mitigation and timely guilty pleas, a jail sentence is probably going to be the outcome for others engaging in this kind of activity in future. That’s something for torrent and streaming site operators and their content uploaders to consider.

“[U]nless the unlawful activity of this kind is very amateur, minor or short-lived, or in the absence of particularly compelling mitigation or other exceptional circumstances, an immediate custodial sentence is likely to be appropriate in cases of illegal distribution of copyright infringing articles,” the CPS concludes.

But while a music-related trial provided the highlight of the year for the CPS, the online infringement world is still dominated by the rise of streaming sites and the now omnipresent “fully-loaded Kodi Box” – set-top devices configured to receive copyright-infringing live TV and VOD.

In the IP Crime Report, the Intellectual Property Office references a former US Secretary of Defense to describe the emergence of the threat.

“The echoes of Donald Rumsfeld’s famous aphorism concerning ‘known knowns’ and ‘known unknowns’ reverberate across our landscape perhaps more than any other. The certainty we all share is that we must be ready to confront both ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’,” the IPO writes.

“Not long ago illegal streaming through Kodi Boxes was an ‘unknown’. Now, this technology updates copyright infringement by empowering TV viewers with the technology they need to subvert copyright law at the flick of a remote control.”

While the set-top box threat has grown in recent times, the report highlights the important legal clarifications that emerged from the BREIN v Filmspeler case, which found itself before the European Court of Justice.

As widely reported, the ECJ determined that the selling of piracy-configured devices amounts to a communication to the public, something which renders their sale illegal. However, in a submission by PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, box sellers are said to cast a keen eye on the legal situation.

“Organised criminals, especially those in the UK who distribute set-top boxes, are aware of recent developments in the law and routinely exploit loopholes in it,” PIPCU reports.

“Given recent judgments on the sale of pre-programmed set-top boxes, it is now unlikely criminals would advertise the devices in a way which is clearly infringing by offering them pre-loaded or ‘fully loaded’ with apps and addons specifically designed to access subscription services for free.”

With sellers beginning to clean up their advertising, it seems likely that detection will become more difficult than when selling was considered a gray area. While that will present its own issues, PIPCU still sees problems on two fronts – a lack of clear legislation and a perception of support for ‘pirate’ devices among the public.

“There is no specific legislation currently in place for the prosecution of end users or sellers of set-top boxes. Indeed, the general public do not see the usage of these devices as potentially breaking the law,” the unit reports.

“PIPCU are currently having to try and ‘shoehorn’ existing legislation to fit the type of criminality being observed, such as conspiracy to defraud (common law) to tackle this problem. Cases are yet to be charged and results will be known by late 2017.”

Whether these prosecutions will be effective remains to be seen, but PIPCU’s comments suggest an air of caution set to a backdrop of box-sellers’ tendency to adapt to legal challenges.

“Due to the complexity of these cases it is difficult to substantiate charges under the Fraud Act (2006). PIPCU have convicted one person under the Serious Crime Act (2015) (encouraging or assisting s11 of the Fraud Act). However, this would not be applicable unless the suspect had made obvious attempts to encourage users to use the boxes to watch subscription only content,” PIPCU notes, adding;

“The selling community is close knit and adapts constantly to allow itself to operate in the gray area where current legislation is unclear and where they feel they can continue to sell ‘under the radar’.”

More generally, pirate sites as a whole are still seen as a threat. As reported last month, the current anti-piracy narrative is that pirate sites represent a danger to their users. As a result, efforts are underway to paint torrent and streaming sites as risky places to visit, with users allegedly exposed to malware and other malicious content. The scare strategy is supported by PIPCU.

“Unlike the purchase of counterfeit physical goods, consumers who buy unlicensed content online are not taking a risk. Faulty copyright doesn’t explode, burn or break. For this reason the message as to why the public should avoid copyright fraud needs to be re-focused.

“A more concerted attempt to push out a message relating to malware on pirate websites, the clear criminality and the links to organized crime of those behind the sites are crucial if public opinion is to be changed,” the unit advises.

But while the changing of attitudes is desirable for pro-copyright entities, PIPCU says that winning over the public may not prove to be an easy battle. It was given a small taste of backlash itself, after taking action against the operator of a pirate site.

“The scale of the problem regarding public opinion of online copyright crime is evidenced by our own experience. After PIPCU executed a warrant against the owner of a streaming website, a tweet about the event (read by 200,000 people) produced a reaction heavily weighted against PIPCU’s legitimate enforcement action,” PIPCU concludes.

In summary, it seems likely that more effort will be expended during the next 12 months to target the set-top box threat, but there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of confidence in existing legislation to tackle all but the most egregious offenders. That being said, a line has now been drawn in the sand – if the public is prepared to respect it.

The full IP Crime Report 2016-2017 is available here (pdf)

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