Tag Archives: sports

Boston Red Sox Caught Using Technology to Steal Signs

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/boston_red_sox_.html

The Boston Red Sox admitted to eavesdropping on the communications channel between catcher and pitcher.

Stealing signs is believed to be particularly effective when there is a runner on second base who can both watch what hand signals the catcher is using to communicate with the pitcher and can easily relay to the batter any clues about what type of pitch may be coming. Such tactics are allowed as long as teams do not use any methods beyond their eyes. Binoculars and electronic devices are both prohibited.

In recent years, as cameras have proliferated in major league ballparks, teams have begun using the abundance of video to help them discern opponents’ signs, including the catcher’s signals to the pitcher. Some clubs have had clubhouse attendants quickly relay information to the dugout from the personnel monitoring video feeds.

But such information has to be rushed to the dugout on foot so it can be relayed to players on the field — a runner on second, the batter at the plate — while the information is still relevant. The Red Sox admitted to league investigators that they were able to significantly shorten this communications chain by using electronics. In what mimicked the rhythm of a double play, the information would rapidly go from video personnel to a trainer to the players.

This is ridiculous. The rules about what sorts of sign stealing are allowed and what sorts are not are arbitrary and unenforceable. My guess is that the only reason there aren’t more complaints is because everyone does it.

The Red Sox responded in kind on Tuesday, filing a complaint against the Yankees claiming that the team uses a camera from its YES television network exclusively to steal signs during games, an assertion the Yankees denied.

Boston’s mistake here was using a very conspicuous Apple Watch as a communications device. They need to learn to be more subtle, like everyone else.

Pirates Are Not Easily Deterred by Viruses and Malware, Study Finds

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-are-not-easily-deterred-by-viruses-and-malware-study-finds-170913/

Despite the widespread availability of legal streaming services, piracy remains rampant around the world.

This is the situation in Singapore where a new study commissioned by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) found that 39% of all Singaporeans download or stream movies, TV shows, or live sports illegally.

The survey, conducted by Sycamore Research, polled the opinions and behaviors of a weighted sample of 1,000 respondents. The research concludes that nearly half of the population regularly pirates and also found that these people are not easily deterred.

Although the vast majority of the population knows that piracy is against the law, the lure of free content is often hard to ignore. Many simply see it as socially acceptible behavior.

“The notion that piracy is something that everybody does nowadays turns it into a socially acceptable behavior”, Sycamore Research Director Anna Meadows says, commenting on the findings.

“Numerous studies have shown that what we perceive others to be doing has a far stronger influence on our behavior than what we know we ‘ought’ to do. People know that they shouldn’t really pirate, but they continue to do so because they believe those around them do as well.”

One of the main threats pirates face is the availability of malware and malicious ads that are present on some sites. This risk is recognized by 74% of the active pirates, but they continue nonetheless.

The dangers of malware and viruses, which is a key talking point among industry groups nowadays, do have some effect. Among those who stopped pirating, 40% cited it as their primary reason. That’s more than the availability of legal services, which is mentioned in 37% of cases.

Aside from traditional download and streaming sites, the growing popularity of pirate media boxes is clearly present in Singapore was well. A total of 14% of Singaporeans admit to having such a device in their home.

So why do people continue to pirate despite the risks?

The answer is simple; because it’s free. The vast majority (63%) mention the lack of financial costs as their main motivation to use pirate sites. The ability to watch something whenever they want and a lack of legal options follow at a distance, both at 31%.

“There are few perceived downsides to piracy,” Meadows notes.

“Whilst the risk of devices being infected with viruses or malware is understood, it is underweighted. In the face of the benefit of free content, people appear to discount the risks, as the idea of getting something for nothing is so psychologically powerful.”

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

The Things Pirates Do To Hinder Anti-Piracy Investigations

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

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

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

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

Fake/hidden website registration details

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

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

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

Overseas servers

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

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

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

Torrent websites and DMCA compliance

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

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

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

Current legislation too vague to remove infringing live sports streams

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

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

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

Camming content directly from cinema screen to the cloud

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

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

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

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

Virtual currencies

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic beginner setup

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

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

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

Big screen, basic

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

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

A cheap Android set-top box

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

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

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

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

Premium IPTV – PC or Android based

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

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

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

Fairly typical IPTV with EPG (VOD shown)

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

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

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

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

Perfect Player IPTV

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

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

An Android tablet running Kodi

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

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

Premium IPTV – Deluxe setup

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

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

Mag254 IPTV box

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Pirate’ Site Uses DMCA to Remove Pirated Copy from Github

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-uses-dmca-to-remove-pirated-copy-from-github-170902/

Every day, copyright holders send out millions of takedown notices to various services, hoping to protect their works.

Pirate sites are usually at the receiving end of these requests but apparently, they can use it to their advantage as well.

A few days ago the operators of sports streaming site soccerstreams.net informed the developer platform GitHub that a copy of their code was being made available without permission.

The targeted repository was created by “mmstart007,” who allegedly copied it from Bitbucket without permission. The operator of the streaming site wasn’t happy with this and sent a DMCA takedown notice to GitHub asking to take the infringing code offline.

“It’s not an open source work its [a] private project we [are] using on our site and that was a private repo on bitbucket and that guy got unauthorized access to it,” Soccerstreams writes.

The operators stress that the repository “must be taken down as soon as possible,” adding the mandatory ‘good faith’ statement.

“I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above on the infringing web pages is not authorized by the copyright owner, or its agent, or the law. I have taken fair use into consideration,” the complaint reads.

GitHub responded swiftly to the request and pulled the repository offline. Those who try to access it today see the following notification instead.

The people running the Soccer Streams site, which is linked with a similarly named Reddit community, are certainly no strangers to takedown requests themselves. The website and the Reddit community was recently targeted by the Premier League recently for example, which accused it of providing links to copyrighted streams.

While soccerstreams.net regularly links to unauthorized streams and is seen as a pirate site by rightsholders, the site doesn’t believe that it’s doing anything wrong.

It has a dedicated DMCA page on its site stating that all streams are submitted by its users and that they cannot be held liable for any infringements.

While it’s a bit unusual for sites and tools with a “pirate” stigma to issue takedown requests, it’s not unique. Just a few weeks ago one of the popular Sickrage forks was removed from GitHub, following a complaint from another fork.

This episode caused a bit of a stir, but the owner of the targeted Sickrage repository eventually managed to get the project restored after a successful counter-notice.

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

Renowned Kodi Addon Developer MetalKettle Calls it Quits

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/renowned-kodi-addon-developer-metalkettle-calls-it-quits-170829/

After dominating the piracy landscape for more than a decade, BitTorrent now shares the accolades with web streaming. The latter is often easier to understand for novices, which has led to its meteoric rise.

Currently, software like Kodi grabs most of the headlines. The software is both free and legal but when it’s augmented with third-party addons, it’s transformed into a streaming piracy powerhouse. As a result, addon developers and distributors are coming under pressure these days.

Numerous cases are already underway, notably against addon repository TVAddons and the developer behind third-party addon ZemTV. Both are being sued in the United States by Dish Networks but the case filed against TVAddons in Canada is the most controversial. It’s already proven massively costly for its operator, who has been forced to ask the public for donations to keep up the fight.

With this backdrop of legal problems for prominent players, it’s no surprise that other people involved in the addon scene are considering their positions. This morning brings yet more news of retirement, with one of the most respected addon developers and distributors deciding to call it a day.

Over the past three to four years, the name MetalKettle has become synonymous not only with high-quality addons but also the MetalKettle addon repository, which was previously a leading go-to location for millions of Kodi users.

But now, ‘thanks’ to the increased profile of the Kodi addon scene, the entire operation will shrink away to avoid further negative attention. (Statement published verbatim)

“Over the past year or so Kodi has become more mainstream and public we’ve all seen the actions of others become highlighted legally, with authorities determined to target 3rd party addons making traction. This has eventually caused me to consider ‘what if?’ – the result of which never ends well in my mind,” MetalKettle writes.

“With all this said I have decided to actively give up 3rd party addon development (at least for the time being) and concentrate on being a husband and father.”

The news that MetalKettle will now fall silent will be sad news for the Kodi scene, after hosting plenty of addons over the years including UK Turks, UKTV Again, Xmovies8, Cartoons8, Toonmania, TV Mix, Sports Mix, Live Mix, Watch1080p, and MovieHut, to name just a few.

The distribution of these addons and others ultimately placed MetalKettles on the official Kodi repository blacklist, banned for providing access to premium content without authorization.

More recently, however, MetalKettle joined the Colossus Kodi repository but it seems likely that particular alliance will now come to an end. Whether other developers will take on any of the existing MetalKettle addons is unclear.

Signing off to his fans during the past few hours, MetalKettle (MK) thanked everyone for their support over the past several years.

“It’s much appreciated and made this all worthwhile,” MK said.

While plenty of people contribute to the Kodi scene, it can be quite a hostile environment for those who step out of line. The same cannot be said of MK, as evidenced by the outpouring of gratitude from his associates on Twitter.

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

Live Mayweather v McGregor Streams Will Thrive On Torrents Tonight

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/live-mayweather-v-mcgregor-streams-will-thrive-on-torrents-tonight-170826/

Tonight, August 26, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will finally meet UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor in what is being billed as the biggest fight in boxing history.

Although tickets for inside the arena are still available for those with a lot of money to burn, most fans will be viewing on a screen of some kind, whether that’s in a cinema, sports bar, or at home in front of a TV.

The fight will be available on Showtime in the United States but the promoters also say they’ve done their best to make it accessible to millions of people in dozens of countries, with varying price tags dependent on region. Nevertheless, due to generally high prices, it’s likely that untold thousands around the world will attempt to watch the fight without paying.

That will definitely be possible. Although Showtime has won a pre-emptive injunction to stop some sites offering the fight, many hundreds of others are likely to fill in the gaps, offering generally lower-quality streams to the eager masses. Whether all of these sites will be able to cope with what could be unprecedented demand will remain to be seen, but there is one method that will thrive under the pressure.

Torrent technology is best known for offering content after it’s aired, whether that’s the latest episode of Game of Thrones or indeed a recording of the big fight scheduled for the weekend. However, what most ‘point-and-click’ file-sharers won’t know is that there’s a torrent-based technology that offers live sporting events week in, week out.

Without going into too many technical details, AceStream / Ace Player HD is a torrent engine built into the ever-popular VLC media player. It’s available on Windows, Android and Linux, costs nothing to install, and is incredibly easy to use.

Where regular torrent clients handle both .torrent files and magnet links, AceStream relies on an AceStream Content ID to find streams to play instead. This ID is a hash value (similar to one seen in magnet links, but prefaced with ‘acestream://’) which relates to the stream users want to view.

Once found, these can be copied to the user’s clipboard and pasted into the ‘Open Ace Stream Content ID’ section of the player’s file menu. Click ‘play’ and it’s done – it really is that simple.

AceStream is simplicity itself

Of course, any kind of content – both authorized and unauthorized – can be streamed and shared using AceStream and there are hundreds of live channels available, some in very high quality, 24/7. Inevitably, however, there’s quite an emphasis on premium content from sports broadcasters around the world, with fresh links to content shared on a daily basis.

The screenshot below shows a typical AceStream Content ID indexing site, with channels on the left, AceStream Content IDs in the center, plus language and then stream speed on the far right. (Note: TF has redacted the links since many will still be live at time of publication)

A typical AceSteam Content ID listing

While streams of most major TV channels are relatively easy to find, specialist channels showing PPV events are a little bit more difficult to discover. For those who know where to look, however, the big fight will be only a cut-and-paste away and in much better quality than that found on most web-based streaming portals.

All that being said, for torrent enthusiasts the magic lies in the ability of the technology to adapt to surging demand. While websites and streams wilt under the load Saturday night, it’s likely that AceStream streams will thrive under the pressure, with viewers (downloaders/streamers) also becoming distributors (uploaders) to others watching the event unfold.

With this in mind, it’s worth noting that while AceStream is efficient and resilient, using it to watch infringing content is illegal in most regions, since simultaneous uploading also takes place. Still, that’s unlikely to frighten away enthusiasts, who will already be aware of the risks and behind a VPN.

Ace Streams do have an Achilles heel though. Unlike a regular torrent swarm, where the initial seeder can disappear once a full copy of the movie or TV show is distributed around other peers, AceStreams are completely reliant on the initial stream seeder at all times. If he or she disappears, the live stream dies and it is all over. For this reason, people looking to stream often have a couple of extra stream hashes standing by.

But for big fans (who also have the money to spend, of course), the decision to pirate rather than pay is one not to be taken lightly. The fight will be a huge spectacle that will probably go down in history as the biggest combat sports event of all time. If streams go down early, that moment will be gone forever, so forget telling your kids about the time you watched McGregor knock out Mayweather in Round Two.

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

Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit Secures Funding Until 2019

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-intellectual-property-crime-unit-secures-funding-until-2019-170823/

When compared to the wide range of offenses usually handled by the police, copyright infringement is a relatively rare offense.

Historically most connected to physical counterfeiting, in recent years infringement has regularly featured a significant online component.

Formed four years ago and run by the City of London Police, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has a mission to tackle IP crime wherever it may take place but with a special online focus. It is tightly linked to the music, movie, and publishing industries so can most often be viewed protecting their products from infringement.

PIPCU announced its arrival in the summer of 2013 and officially launched a few months later in December 2013, complete with £2.56million in funding from the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO). However, the unit had been already in operation for some time, writing warning letters to torrent and streaming site advising them to shut down – or else.

PIPCU’s initial funding secured the future of the unit until June 2015 but in October 2014, well in advance of that deadline, PIPCU secured another £3m from the IPO to fund the unit to September 2017.

Having received £5.56 million in public funds over three years, PIPCU needed to show some bang for its buck. As a result, the unit publicised numerous actions including streaming arrests, attempted domain seizures, torrent site closures and advertising disruptions. PIPCU also shut down several sports streaming and ebook sites plus a large number of proxies

With August 2017 already upon us, PIPCU should be officially out of funds in a month’s time but according to the Law Gazette, the unit is going nowhere.

An Intellectual Property Office (IPO) spokesperson told the publication that PIPCU has received £3.32m in additional funding from the government which runs from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2019 – the unit’s sixth anniversary.

Much of PIPCU’s more recent activity appears to have been focused in two key areas, both operated under its ‘Operation Creative’ banner. The first concerns PIPCU’s Infringing Website List, which aims to deter advertisers from inadvertently finding ‘pirate’ sites.

Earlier this year, PIPCU claimed success after revealing a 64% drop in “mainstream advertising” revenue on 200 unauthorized platforms between January 2016 and January 2017. More recently, PIPCU revealed that gambling advertising, which is often seen on ‘pirate’ platforms, had reduced by 87% on IWL sites over the previous 12 months.

Finally, PIPCU has been taking action alongside local police forces, FACT, Sky, Virgin, BT, and The Premier League, against suppliers of so-called ‘fully loaded’ set-top boxes, many featuring Kodi bundled with illicit third party addons. However, after a fairly sustained initial flurry, the last publicized operation was in February 2017.

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

Showtime Seeks Injunction to Stop Mayweather v McGregor Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/showtime-seeks-injunction-to-stop-mayweather-v-mcgregor-piracy-170816/

It’s the fight that few believed would become reality but on August 26, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will duke it out with UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor.

Despite being labeled a freak show by boxing purists, it is set to become the biggest combat sports event of all time. Mayweather, undefeated in his professional career, will face brash Irishman McGregor, who has gained a reputation for accepting fights with anyone – as long as there’s a lot of money involved. Big money is definitely the theme of the Mayweather bout.

Dubbed “The Money Fight”, some predict it could pull in a billion dollars, with McGregor pocketing $100m and Mayweather almost certainly more. Many of those lucky enough to gain entrance on the night will have spent thousands on their tickets but for the millions watching around the world….iiiiiiiit’s Showtimmme….with hefty PPV prices attached.

Of course, not everyone will be handing over $89.95 to $99.99 to watch the event officially on Showtime. Large numbers will turn to the many hundreds of websites set to stream the fight for free online, which has the potential to reduce revenues for all involved. With that in mind, Showtime Networks has filed a lawsuit in California which attempts to preemptively tackle this piracy threat.

The suit targets a number of John Does said to be behind a network of dozens of sites planning to stream the fight online for free. Defendant 1, using the alias “Kopa Mayweather”, is allegedly the operator of LiveStreamHDQ, a site that Showtime has grappled with previously.

“Plaintiff has had extensive experience trying to prevent live streaming websites from engaging in the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of Plaintiff’s copyrighted works in the past,” the lawsuit reads.

“In addition to bringing litigation, this experience includes sending cease and desist demands to LiveStreamHDQ in response to its unauthorized live streaming of the record-breaking fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.”

Showtime says that LiveStreamHDQ is involved in the operations of at least 41 other sites that have been set up to specifically target people seeking to watch the fight without paying. Each site uses a .US ccTLD domain name.

Sample of the sites targeted by the lawsuit

Showtime informs the court that the registrant email and IP addresses of the domains overlap, which provides further proof that they’re all part of the same operation. The TV network also highlights various statements on the sites in question which demonstrate intent to show the fight without permission, including the highly dubious “Watch From Here Mayweather vs Mcgregor Live with 4k Display.”

In addition, the lawsuit is highly critical of efforts by the sites’ operator(s) to stuff the pages with fight-related keywords in order to draw in as much search engine traffic as they can.

“Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have engaged in such keyword stuffing as a form of search engine optimization in an effort to attract as much web traffic as possible in the form of Internet users searching for a way to access a live stream of the Fight,” it reads.

While site operators are expected to engage in such behavior, Showtime says that these SEO efforts have been particularly successful, obtaining high-ranking positions in major search engines for the would-be pirate sites.

For instance, Showtime says that a Google search for “Mayweather McGregor Live” results in four of the target websites appearing in the first 100 results, i.e the first 10 pages. Interestingly, however, to get that result searchers would need to put the search in quotes as shown above, since a plain search fails to turn anything up in hundreds of results.

At this stage, the important thing to note is that none of the sites are currently carrying links to the fight, because the fight is yet to happen. Nevertheless, Showtime is convinced that come fight night, all of the target websites will be populated with pirate links, accessible for free or after paying a fee. This needs to be stopped, it argues.

“Defendants’ anticipated unlawful distribution will impair the marketability and profitability of the Coverage, and interfere with Plaintiff’s own authorized distribution of the Coverage, because Defendants will provide consumers with an opportunity to view the Coverage in its entirety for free, rather than paying for the Coverage provided through Plaintiff’s authorized channels.

“This is especially true where, as here, the work at issue is live coverage of a one-time live sporting event whose outcome is unknown,” the network writes.

Showtime informs the court that it made efforts to contact the sites in question but had just a single response from an individual who claimed to be sports blogger who doesn’t offer streaming services. The undertone is one of disbelief.

In closing, Showtime demands a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction, prohibiting the defendants from making the fight available in any way, and/or “forming new entities” in order to circumvent any subsequent court order. Compensation for suspected damages is also requested.

Showtime previously applied for and obtained a similar injunction to cover the (hugely disappointing) Mayweather v Pacquiao fight in 2015. In that case, websites were ordered to be taken down on the day before the fight.

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

New Premier League Blocking Disrupts Pirate IPTV Providers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-premier-league-blocking-disrupts-pirate-iptv-providers-170814/

Top tier football in the UK is handled by the English Premier League (EPL) and broadcasting partners Sky and BT Sport. All face considerable problems with Internet piracy, through free web or Kodi-based streaming and premium IPTV feeds.

To mitigate the threat, earlier this year the Premier League obtained a unique High Court injunction which required ISPs such as Sky, BT, and Virgin to block ‘pirate’ football streams in real-time.

Although the success of the program was initially up for debate, the EPL reported it was able to block 5,000 server IP addresses that were streaming its content. When that temporary injunction ran out, the EPL went back to court for a new one, valid for the season that began this past weekend. There are signs the EPL may have upped its game.

As soon as the matches began on Saturday, issues were reported at several of the more prominent IPTV providers. Within minutes of the match streams going live, subscribers to affected services were met with black screens, causing anger and frustration. While some clearly knew that action was on the cards, relatively few had an effective plan in place.

One provider, which targets subscribers in the UK, scrambled to obtain new domain names, thinking that the existing domains had been placed on some kind of Premier League blacklist. While that may have indeed been the case, making a service more obscure in that sense was never going to outwit the systems deployed by the anti-piracy outfits involved.

Indeed, the provider in question was subjected to much chaos over both Saturday and Sunday, since it’s clear that large numbers of subscribers had absolutely no idea what was going on. Even if they understood that the EPL was blocking, the change of domain flat-footed the rest. The subsequent customer service chaos was not a pretty sight but would’ve been a pleasure for the EPL to behold.

An interesting side effect of this EPL action is that even if IPTV subscribers don’t care about football, many were affected this past weekend anyway.

TF is aware of at least three services (there are probably many more) that couldn’t service their UK customers with any other channels whatsoever while the Premier League games were being aired. This suggests that the IP addresses hit by the EPL and blocked by local ISPs belonged to the same servers carrying the rest of the content offered by the IPTV providers.

When the High Court handed down its original injunction it accepted that some non-Premier League content could be blocked at the same time but since that “consists almost exclusively of [infringing] commercial broadcast content such as other sports, films, and television programs,” there was little concern over collateral damage.

So the big question now is what can IPTV providers and/or subscribers do to tackle the threat?

The first interesting thing to note is not all of the big providers were affected this past weekend, so for many customers the matches passed by as normal. It isn’t clear whether EPL simply didn’t have all of the providers on the list or whether steps were taken to mitigate the threat, but that was certainly the case in a handful of cases.

Information passed to TF shows that at least a small number of providers were not only waiting for the EPL action but actually had a backup plan in place. This appears to have resulted in a minimum of disruption for their customers, something that will prove of interest to the many frustrated subscribers looking for a new service this morning.

While the past few days have been somewhat chaotic, other issues have been muddying the waters somewhat.

TF has learned that at least two, maybe three suppliers, were subjected to DDoS attacks around the time the matches were due to air. It seems unlikely that the EPL has been given permission to carry out such an attack but since the High Court injunction is secret in every way that describes its anti-piracy methods, that will remain a suspicion. In the meantime, rival IPTV services remain possible suspects.

Also, a major IPTV stream ‘wholesaler’ is reported to have had technical issues on Saturday, which affected its ability to serve lower-tier providers. Whether that was also linked to the Premier League action is unknown and TF couldn’t find any source willing to talk about the provider in any detail.

So, sports fans who rely on IPTV for their fix are wondering how things will pan out later this week. If this last weekend is anything to go by, disruption is guaranteed, but it will be less of a surprise given the problems of the last few days. While some don’t foresee huge problems, several providers are already advising customers that VPNs will be necessary.

An IPTV provider suggesting the use of VPNs

While a VPN will indeed solve the problem in most cases, for many subscribers that will amount to an additional expense, not to mention more time spent learning about VPNs, what they can do, and how they can be setup on the hardware they’re using for IPTV.

For users on Android devices running IPTV apps or Kodi-type setups, VPNs are both easy to install and use. However, Mag Box STB users cannot run a VPN directly on the device, meaning that they’ll need either a home router that can run a VPN or a smaller ‘travel’ type router with OpenVPN capabilities to use as a go-between.

Either way, costs are beginning to creep up, if IPTV providers can’t deal with the EPL’s blocking efforts. That makes the new cheaper football packages offered by various providers that little bit more attractive. But that was probably the plan all along.

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

Controlling Millions of Potential Internet Pirates Won’t Be Easy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/controlling-millions-of-potential-internet-pirates-wont-be-easy-170813/

For several decades the basic shape of the piracy market hasn’t changed much. At the top of the chain there has always been a relatively small number of suppliers. At the bottom, the sprawling masses keen to consume whatever content these suppliers make available, while sharing it with everyone else.

This model held in the days of tapes and CDs and transferred nicely to the P2P file-sharing era. For nearly two decades people have been waiting for those with the latest content to dump it onto file-sharing networks. After grabbing it for themselves, people share that content with others.

For many years, the majority of the latest music, movies, and TV shows appeared online having been obtained by, and then leaked from, ‘The Scene’. However, with the rise of BitTorrent and an increase in computer skills demonstrated by the public, so-called ‘P2P release groups’ began flexing their muscles, in some cases slicing the top of the piracy pyramid.

With lower barriers to entry, P2P releasers can be almost anyone who happens to stumble across some new content. That being said, people still need the skill to package up that content and make it visible online, on torrent sites for example, without getting caught.

For most people that’s prohibitively complex, so it’s no surprise that Average Joe, perhaps comforted by the air of legitimacy, has taken to uploading music and movies to sites like YouTube instead. These days that’s nothing out of the ordinary and perhaps a little boring by piracy standards, but people still have the capacity to surprise.

This week a man from the United States, without a care in the world, obtained a login for a STARZ press portal, accessed the final three episodes of ‘Power’, and then streamed them on Facebook using nothing but a phone and an Internet connection.

From the beginning, the whole thing was ridiculous, comical even. The man in question, whose name and personal details TF obtained in a matter of minutes, revealed how he got the logins and even recorded his own face during one of the uploaded videos.

He really, really couldn’t have cared any less but he definitely should have. After news broke of the leaks, STARZ went public confirming the breach and promising to do something about it.

“The final three episodes of Power’s fourth season were leaked online due to a breach of the press screening room,” Starz said in a statement. “Starz has begun forensic investigations and will take legal action against the responsible parties.”

At this point, we should consider the magnitude of what this guy did. While we all laugh at his useless camera skills, the fact remains that he unlawfully distributed copyright works online, in advance of their commercial release. In the United States, that is a criminal offense, one that can result in a prison sentence of several years.

It would be really sad if the guy in question was made an example of since his videos suggest he hadn’t considered the consequences. After all, this wasn’t some hi-tech piracy group, just a regular guy with a login and a phone, and intent always counts for something. Nevertheless, the situation this week nicely highlights how new technology affects piracy.

In the past, the process of putting an unreleased movie or TV show online could only be tackled by people with expertise in several areas. These days a similar effect is possible with almost no skill and no effort. Joe Public, pre-release TV/movie/sports pirate, using nothing but a phone, a Facebook account, and an urge?

That’s the reality today and we won’t have to wait too long for a large scale demonstration of what can happen when millions of people with access to these ubiquitous tools have an urge to share.

In a little over two weeks’ time, boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr fights UFC lightweight champion, Conor McGregor. It’s set to be the richest combat sports event in history, not to mention one of the most expensive for PPV buyers. That means it’s going to be pirated to hell and back, in every way possible. It’s going to be massive.

Of course, there will be high-quality paid IPTV productions available, more grainy ‘Kodi’ streams, hundreds of web portals, and even some streaming torrents, for those that way inclined. But there will also be Average Joes in their hundreds, who will point their phones at Showtime’s PPV with the intent of live streaming the biggest show on earth to their friends, family, and the Internet. For free.

Quite how this will be combatted remains to be seen but it’s fair to say that this is a problem that’s only going to get bigger. In ten years time – in five years time – many millions of people will have the ability to become pirate releasers on a whim, despite knowing nothing about the occupation.

Like ‘Power’ guy, the majority won’t be very good at it. Equally, some will turn it into an art form. But whatever happens, tackling millions of potential pirates definitely won’t be easy for copyright holders. Twenty years in, it seems the battle for control has only just begun.

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

Seller of ‘Fully Loaded’ Kodi Boxes Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/seller-of-fully-loaded-kodi-boxes-pleads-guilty-to-money-laundering-170806/

In June 2015, police and Trading Standards officers in the UK carried out raids on sellers of Android boxes configured to receive unauthorized content. One seller, operating from GeekyKit.com, told customers that his physical shops would be shutting down.

“As you may be aware we were visited yesterday by Sky [television] in conjunction with Trading Standards. Whilst we continue to investigate our position the stores will remain closed and support will remain suspended. Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused,” he explained.

Julian Allen was arrested after raids at ‘Geeky Kit’ premises in Billingham and Middlesbrough in the north of England. One of the locations is pictured below.

Despite the seriously incriminating storefront claims, Allen insisted that his businesses couldn’t be held responsible for copyrighted TV shows, movies and sports received by customers on boxes his company supplied.

“We do not control the content that is accessible on the internet via the product that we sell. We are currently working with Trading Standards to ensure that we can sell our products whilst adhering to UK copyright laws,” he said.

This January, Allen appeared before Teesside Crown Court charged with laundering £135,173, money said to have been generated via the sale of pre-loaded set-top boxes and premium packages over a 30-month period.

Allen was expected to appear for a week-long trial scheduled to start this Monday but that was scrapped after the 40-year-old pleaded guilty to using or acquiring criminal property.

According to Gazette Live, a proceeds of crime hearing has been scheduled for next year. In the meantime, Allen was granted unconditional bail until sentencing on October 20, where he faces a potential jail sentence.

“I don’t know what the sentence will be until all the matters are known,” the judge said.

Ever since a European Court of Justice ruling earlier this year that found that selling “fully-loaded” streaming boxes are illegal, people in a similar position to Allen have seen their cases take a turn for the worse.

One such case, involving Middlesbrough shopkeeper Brian Thompson, appears to be progressing under different legislation, however. Thompson stands accused of two offenses under section 296ZB of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, which deals with devices and services designed to circumvent technological measures.

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

TV Box Seller Emails Sky TV Bosses With ‘Pirate’ Offer, Gets Sued for $1m

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tv-box-seller-emails-sky-tv-bosses-with-pirate-offer-gets-sued-for-1m-170804/

After relatively quiet treatment in the media, last year press in New Zealand began reporting on the booming ‘pirate’ set-top box business sweeping the world.

Often based around legal Kodi software boosted with third-party addons, the devices are known for providing free movies, TV shows, and sports.

Last November, ‘My Box NZ’ owner Krish Reddy, who said he would take on Sky in its own backyard with his custom streaming boxes, hit the headlines. The 27-year-old told NZHerald that “it seemed like a great idea so we decided to do it ourselves.”

The boxes offered some local free-to-air channels but also the all-important premium offerings from Sky, including Sky Movies and Sky Sports, an expensive proposition for an official subscriber.

“Why pay $80 minimum per month for Sky when for one payment you can have it free for good?” Reddy’s advertising said.

Reddy was confident in the abilities of his product but was also confident he wasn’t breaking the law.

“I don’t see why [Sky] would contact me but if they do contact me and … if there’s something of theirs that they feel I’ve unlawfully taken then yeah … but as it stands I don’t [have any concerns],” he told the Herald.

As things moved on, Reddy’s business really took off. He admitted to having sold 8,000 of the devices and then April this year, Sky appeared to ruh out of patience. In a letter from its lawyers, the pay TV company said Reddy’s devices breached copyright law and the Fair Trading Act. Reddy responded by calling the TV giant “a playground bully” and denied again that he was breaking the law.

“From a legal perspective, what we do is completely within the law. We advertise Sky television channels being available through our website and social media platforms as these are available via streams which you can find through My Box,” he said.

“The content is already available, I’m not going out there and bringing the content so how am I infringing the copyright… the content is already there, if someone uses the box to search for the content, that’s what it is.”

Stuff reports that the initial compensation demand from Sky against Reddy’s company My Box runs to NZD$1.4m (US$1m), an amount that could “rise by millions” by the time a judgment is reached.

“They have given us until September 24 to respond. We are not going to sit and take it,” Reddy told the publication. “How many people can say they went up against a multimillion dollar giant like Sky?”

And it seems that Reddy is absolutely determined to fight back. Earlier this year he said that his father always encouraged him as a child to seek out the big guy for a fight, something that is now playing out with one of the world’s biggest broadcasters.

“[Sky’s] point of view is they own copyright and I’m destroying the market by giving people content for free. To me it is business; I have got something that is new … that’s competition,” he said.

In Europe, where these kinds of cases have already been tested at the highest level, comments like these would be extremely ill-advised and enough to give any defending lawyer a high temperature, but Reddy really doesn’t seem to care.

In fact, a bulk email he sent out to 50,000 people advertising his product as “being better than Sky”, actually found the inboxes of 50 Sky TV staff and directors. He believes this triggered the legal action from the company.

While Reddy was on Sky’s radar long before the mailshot, the blatancy of his advertising and its targets won’t have helped his case one bit. Sky, for its part, is determined to get a ruling against a large player and Reddy seems the perfect catch.

“Anyone selling these boxes are within our sights. You have got to go after the big fish first,” said Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way.

No case like this has ever gone to court in New Zealand so it could be important for setting the ground rules on several aspects of copyright law, including the making available right.

In addition to prosecutions, Way told Stuff that it could also be possible to introduce site-blocking laws such as those already in place in Australia and the UK. These would aim to render Kodi-powered devices less effective at providing copyrighted content from unauthorized sources.

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

TVAddons Returns, But in Ugly War With Canadian Telcos Over Kodi Addons

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-returns-ugly-war-canadian-telcos-kodi-addons-170801/

After Dish Network filed a lawsuit against TVAddons in Texas, several high-profile Kodi addons took the decision to shut down. Soon after, TVAddons itself went offline.

In the weeks that followed, several TVAddons-related domains were signed over (1,2) to a Canadian law firm, a mysterious situation that didn’t dovetail well with the US-based legal action.

TorrentFreak can now reveal that the shutdown of TVAddons had nothing to do with the US action and everything to do with a separate lawsuit filed in Canada.

The complaint against TVAddons

Two months ago on June 2, a collection of Canadian telecoms giants including Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, filed a complaint in Federal Court against Montreal resident, Adam Lackman, the man behind TVAddons.

The 18-page complaint details the plaintiffs’ case against Lackman, claiming that he communicated copyrighted TV shows including Game of Thrones, Prison Break, The Big Bang Theory, America’s Got Talent, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and dozens more, to the public in breach of copyright.

The key claim is that Lackman achieved this by developing, hosting, distributing or promoting Kodi add-ons.

Adam Lackman, the man behind TVAddons (@adam.lackman on Instagram)

A total of 18 major add-ons are detailed in the complaint including 1Channel, Exodus, Phoenix, Stream All The Sources, SportsDevil, cCloudTV and Alluc, to name a few. Also under the spotlight is the ‘FreeTelly’ custom Kodi build distributed by TVAddons alongside its Kodi configuration tool, Indigo.

“[The defendant] has made the [TV shows] available to the public by telecommunication in a way that allows members of the public to have access to them from a place and at a time individually chosen by them…consequently infringing the Plaintiffs’ copyright…in contravention of sections 2.4(1.1), 3(1)(f) and 27(1) of the Copyright Act,” the complaint reads.

The complaint alleges that Lackman “induced and/or authorized users” of the FreeTelly and Indigo tools to carry out infringement by his handling and promotion of infringing add-ons, including through TVAddons.ag and Offshoregit.com, in contravention of sections 3(1)(f) and 27(1) of the Copyright Act.

“Approximately 40 million unique users located around the world are actively using Infringing Addons hosted by TVAddons every month, and approximately 900,000 Canadian households use Infringing Add-ons to access television content. The amount of users of Infringing add-ons hosted TVAddons is constantly increasing,” the complaint adds.

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

The interim injunction and Anton Piller Order

Following the filing of the complaint, on June 9 the Federal Court handed down a time-limited interim injunction against Lackman which restrained him from various activities in respect of TVAddons. The process took place ex parte, meaning in secret, without Lackman being able to mount a defense.

The Court also authorized a bailiff and computer forensics experts to take control of Internet domains including TVAddons.ag and Offshoregit.com plus social media and hosting provider accounts for a period of 14 days. These were transferred to Daniel Drapeau at DrapeauLex, an independent court-appointed supervising counsel.

The order also contained an Anton Piller order, a civil search warrant that grants plaintiffs no-notice permission to enter a defendant’s premises in order to secure and copy evidence to support their case, before it can be destroyed or tampered with.

The order covered not only data related to the TVAddons platform, such as operating and financial details, revenues, and banking information, but everything in Lackman’s possession.

The Court ordered the telecoms companies to inform Lackman that the case against him is a civil proceeding and that he could deny entry to his property if he wished. However, that option would put him in breach of the order and would place him at risk of being fined or even imprisoned. Catch 22 springs to mind.

The Court did, however, put limits on the number of people that could be present during the execution of the Anton Piller order (ostensibly to avoid intimidation) and ordered the plaintiffs to deposit CAD$50,000 with the Court, in case the order was improperly executed. That decision would later prove an important one.

The search and interrogation of TVAddons’ operator

On June 12, the order was executed and Lackman’s premises were searched for more than 16 hours. For nine hours he was interrogated and effectively denied his right to remain silent since non-cooperation with an Anton Piller order amounts to contempt of court. The Court’s stated aim of not intimidating Lackman failed.

The TVAddons operator informs TorrentFreak that he heard a disturbance in the hallway outside and spotted several men hiding on the other side of the door. Fearing for his life, Lackman called the police and when they arrived he opened the door. At this point, the police were told by those in attendance to leave, despite Lackman’s protests.

Once inside, Lackman was told he had an hour to find a lawyer, but couldn’t use any electronic device to get one. Throughout the entire day, Lackman says he was reminded by the plaintiffs’ lawyer that he could be held in contempt of court and jailed, even though he was always cooperating.

“I had to sit there and not leave their sight. I was denied access to medication,” Lackman told TorrentFreak. “I had a doctor’s appointment I was forced to miss. I wasn’t even allowed to call and cancel.”

In papers later filed with the court by Lackman’s team, the Anton Piller order was described as a “bombe atomique” since TVAddons had never been served with so much as a copyright takedown notice in advance of this action.

The Anton Piller controversy

Anton Piller orders are only valid when passing a three-step test: when there is a strong prima facie case against the respondent, the damage – potential or actual – is serious for the applicant, and when there is a real possibility that evidence could be destroyed.

For Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, serious problems emerged on at least two of these points after the execution of the order.

For example, TVAddons carried more than 1,500 add-ons yet only 1% of those add-ons were considered to be infringing, a tiny number in the overall picture. Then there was the not insignificant problem with the exchange that took place during the hearing to obtain the order, during which Lackman was not present.

Clearly, the securing of existing evidence wasn’t the number one priority.

Plaintiffs: We want to destroy TVAddons

And the problems continued.

No right to remain silent, no right to consult a lawyer

The Anton Piller search should have been carried out between 8am and 8pm but actually carried on until midnight. As previously mentioned, Adam Lackman was effectively denied his right to remain silent and was forbidden from getting advice from his lawyer.

None of this sat well with the Honourable B. Richard Bell during a subsequent Federal Court hearing to consider the execution of the Anton Piller order.

“It is important to note that the Defendant was not permitted to refuse to answer questions under fear of contempt proceedings, and his counsel was not permitted to clarify the answers to questions. I conclude unhesitatingly that the Defendant was subjected to an examination for discovery without any of the protections normally afforded to litigants in such circumstances,” the Judge said.

“Here, I would add that the ‘questions’ were not really questions at all. They took the form of orders or directions. For example, the Defendant was told to ‘provide to the bailiff’ or ‘disclose to the Plaintiffs’ solicitors’.”

Evidence preservation? More like a fishing trip

But shockingly, the interrogation of Lackman went much, much further. TorrentFreak understands that the TVAddons operator was given a list of 30 names of people that might be operating sites or services similar to TVAddons. He was then ordered to provide all of the information he had on those individuals.

Of course, people tend to guard their online identities so it’s possible that the information provided by Lackman will be of limited use, but Judge Bell was not happy that the Anton Piller order was abused by the plaintiffs in this way.

“I conclude that those questions, posed by Plaintiffs’ counsel, were solely made in furtherance of their investigation and constituted a hunt for further evidence, as opposed to the preservation of then existing evidence,” he wrote in a June 29 order.

But he was only just getting started.

Plaintiffs unlawfully tried to destroy TVAddons before trial

The Judge went on to note that from their own mouths, the Anton Piller order was purposely designed by the plaintiffs to completely shut down TVAddons, despite the fact that only a tiny proportion of the add-ons available on the site were allegedly used to infringe copyright.

“I am of the view that [the order’s] true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the Defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defense to the claim made against him, and to provide an opportunity for discovery of the Defendant in circumstances where none of the procedural safeguards of our civil justice system could be engaged,” Judge Bell wrote.

As noted, plaintiffs must also have a “strong prima facie case” to obtain an Anton Piller order but Judge Bell says he’s not convinced that one exists. Instead, he praised the “forthright manner” of Lackman, who successfully compared the ability of Kodi addons to find content in the same way as Google search can.

So why the big turn around?

Judge Bell said that while the prima facie case may have appeared strong before the judge who heard the matter ex parte (without Lackman being present to defend himself), the subsequent adversarial hearing undermined it, to the point that it no longer met the threshold.

As a result of these failings, Judge Bell declared the Anton Piller order unlawful. Things didn’t improve for the plaintiffs on the injunction front either.

The Judge said that he believes that Lackman has “an arguable case” that he is not violating the Copyright Act by merely providing addons and that TVAddons is his only source of income. So, if an injunction to close the site was granted, the litigation would effectively be over, since the plaintiffs already admitted that their aim was to neutralize the platform.

If the platform was neutralized, Lackman could no longer earn money from the site, which would harm his ability to mount a defense.

“In considering the balance of convenience, I also repeat that the plaintiffs admit that the vast majority of add-ons are non-infringing. Whether the remaining approximately 1% are infringing is very much up for debate. For these reasons, I find the balance of convenience favors the defendant, and no interlocutory injunction will be issued,” the Judge declared.

With the Anton Piller order declared unlawful and no interlocutory injunction (one effective until the final determination of the case) handed down, things were about to get worse for the telecoms companies.

They had paid CAD$50,000 to the court in security in case things went wrong with the Anton Piller order, so TVAddons was entitled to compensation from that amount. That would be helpful, since at this point TVAddons had already run up CAD$75,000 in legal expenses.

On top, the Judge told independent counsel to give everything seized during the Anton Piller search back to Lackman.

The order to return items previously seized

But things were far from over. Within days, the telecoms companies took the decision to the Court of Appeal, asking for a stay of execution (a delay in carrying out a court order) to retain possession of items seized, including physical property, domains, and social media accounts.

Mid-July the appeal was granted and certain confidentiality clauses affecting independent counsel (including Daniel Drapeau, who holds the TVAddons’ domains) were ordered to be continued. However, considering the problems with the execution of the Anton Piller order, Bell Canada, TVA, Videotron and Rogers et al, were ordered to submit an additional security bond of CAD$140,000, on top of the CAD$50,000 already deposited.

So the battle continues, and continue it will

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Adam Lackman says that he has no choice but to fight the telcoms companies since not doing so would result in a loss by default judgment. Interestingly, both he and one of the judges involved in the case thus far believe he has an arguable case.

Lackman says that his activities are protected under the Canadian Copyright Act, specifically subparagraph 2.4(1)(b) which states as follows:

A person whose only act in respect of the communication of a work or other subject-matter to the public consists of providing the means of telecommunication necessary for another person to so communicate the work or other subject-matter does not communicate that work or other subject-matter to the public;

Of course, finding out whether that’s indeed the case will be a costly endeavor.

“It all comes down to whether we will have the financial resources necessary to mount our defense and go to trial. We won’t have ad revenue coming in, since losing our domain names means that we’ll lose the majority of our traffic for quite some time into the future,” Lackman told TF in a statement.

“We’re hoping that others will be as concerned as us about big companies manipulating the law in order to shut down what they see as competition. We desperately need help in financially supporting our legal defense, we cannot do it alone.

“We’ve run up a legal bill of over $100,000 to date. We’re David, and they are four Goliaths with practically unlimited resources. If we lose, it will mean that new case law is made, case law that could mean increased censorship of the internet.”

In the hope of getting support, TVAddons has launched a fundraiser campaign and in the meantime, a new version of the site is back on a new domain, TVAddons.co.

Given TVAddons’ line of defense, the nature of both the platform and Kodi addons, and the fact that there has already been a serious abuse of process during evidence preservation, this is now one of the most interesting and potentially influential copyright cases underway anywhere today.

TVAddons is being represented by Éva Richard , Hilal Ayoubi and Karim Renno in Canada, plus Erin Russell and Jason Sweet in the United States.

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

BulkyIPTV Operator Was Arrested For Fraud, Money Laundering

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bulkyiptv-operator-was-arrested-for-fraud-money-laundering-170724/

For many years, video-focused Internet piracy was all about obtaining pre-recorded content such as movies and TV shows. Now, however, the rise of streaming is enabling a massive uptake of live ‘pirate’ programming.

At the forefront of this movement are web streaming portals, dedicated Kodi add-ons, and premium IPTV services. The latter, which can rival official services, tend to offer a better quality service but with a price tag attached. This has resulted in a whole new market for people seeking to generate revenue from piracy.

One of those outfits was UK-based BulkyIPTV, but as first reported here on TF, last week the entire operation was shut down after police arrested its operator.

“Hi all. Today I was arrested. Everything has been shut down,” its operator confirmed Wednesday.

“They took everything – phone, laptop, PC and cash, as well as other stuff to gather evidence against me. I’m sorry it has come to this but i’m looking at a stretch inside.”

Soon after the news was made public, many people on Facebook speculated that the arrest never happened and that BulkyIPTV’s operator had conjured up a story in order to “do a runner” with his customers’ subscription money.

However, a source close to the situation insisted that an arrest had been made in the Derby area of the UK in connection with live TV piracy, a fact we reported in our article.

For a few days things went silent, but in a joint statement with the Federation Against Copyright Theft, Derbyshire Police have now confirmed that they executed a warrant at a Derby property last week.

“The warrant took place on Tuesday (18th July) as part of ongoing work to stop the use of the illegal set top boxes, which are tampered with to enable them to offer a range of premium subscription services such as Sky TV and BT Sport without paying for them,” the police statement reads.

While the police don’t specifically mention BulkyIPTV in their press release, everything points to the operator of the service being the person who was targeted last week.

BulkyGifts.co.uk, a site connected to BulkyIPTV that sold a product which enabled people to access cable and satellite programming cheaply, was initially registered to the address that police targeted on Tuesday in Grenfell Avenue, Sunny Hill. The name of the person who registered the domain is also a perfect match with Electoral Roll records and social media profiles across numerous sites.

Police confirmed that a 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, and copyright offenses. Electronic equipment was seized along with a “large amount” of cash.

In a statement, Kieron Sharp, CEO of the Federation Against Copyright Theft, reminded sellers and buyers of these services that their actions are illegal.

“This collaboration between Derbyshire police and FACT is another step forward in disrupting the sale of illegal streaming devices,” Sharp said.

“People may think there is nothing wrong with having one of these devices and streaming premium pay-for channels for free, such as live sports. However, this is illegal and you would be breaking the law.”

As highlighted in our opinion piece last week, some service providers appear to be playing fast and loose with their security. If that trend continues, expect FACT and the police to keep taking these services down.

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

Three Months On, eBay’s “Total Kodi Ban” Doesn’t Exist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/three-months-on-ebays-total-kodi-ban-doesnt-exist-170711/

Over the past twelve months, the sale of ‘pirate’ set-top devices in the UK has reached epidemic proportions.

Augmented Kodi setups are now the talk of both the Internet and the street, with unauthorized streaming sources now commonplace in British homes.

Many of these devices, which are often Android-based, were sold through platforms such as eBay and Amazon. Buyers have been spoilt for choice, with every hardware format and software configuration just a few clicks and a quick delivery away. However, at the end of March, things appeared to change.

As first reported by TF, Amazon updated its terms and conditions to effectively ban any devices capable of, or even suggesting, infringing purposes.

“Products offered for sale on Amazon should not promote, suggest the facilitation of, or actively enable the infringement of or unauthorized access to digital media or other protected content,” the policy reads.

“Any streaming media player or other device that violates this policy is prohibited from sale on Amazon.”

Then, a couple of weeks later, UK tabloid The Sun published an article with the headline “eBay follows Amazon’s lead and issues total ban on Kodi box which lets Brits stream sports and films for free.”

The breathless tone of the headline was nothing new but the content came as a bit of a surprise. The article claimed that eBay had decided to “wipe any Kodi boxes claiming to be ‘fully loaded’ (with access to illegal streams) from its site.”

Given eBay’s traditional stance, that it is not responsible for potentially infringing listings until advised of their existence by authorized rightsholders or their representatives, it seemed unlikely that the company was about to embark on a sudden spring cleaning session.

Indeed, comments from an eBay spokesperson suggested that in respect of business policy, little had changed.

“We run several initiatives designed to combat the infringement of intellectual property rights, including the Verified Rights Owner Program (VeRO),” the spokesperson said.

“We work with the police and regulators to ensure that all listings on eBay comply with the law. There are blocks in place to prevent the listing of illegal items, but we also constantly monitor our marketplace. Anyone found to be knowingly selling items that don’t comply with the law will be investigated and could face account restrictions or suspension.”

Today, that announcement is exactly three months old and from even a cursory search of the platform, ‘pirate’ Kodi and similar setups are still a huge problem. In fact, if one wants to purchase a device, it’s not only just as easy as before, but prices appear to have fallen too.

“Kodi Box” search on eBay UK, first result

Indeed, no matter which searches one uses, whether that refers to the software installations (Kodi, Showbox, etc) or terms like “fully loaded”, all roads point to either infringing devices or devices which strongly suggest in their descriptions that infringement is the aim.

But while some might point to eBay as the problem here (in much the same way that rightsholders quickly level blame at Google), there seems to be a fairly straightforward solution to the problem. In fact, eBay mentioned it themselves, three months ago.

eBay’s Verified Rights Owner Program (VeRO) enables rightsholders and their representatives to have infringing eBay listings taken down if they contain infringing logos or other IP, or advertise items that infringe intellectual property rights.

Once an infringing listing is found, rightsholders can manually submit a Notice of Claimed Infringement (NOCI) in the first instance and via a dedicated tool thereafter. If the complaint is upheld by eBay the listing will be removed, and if sellers are guilty of multiple offenses, their accounts could be suspended or even closed.

Given the large number of infringing listings still present on the site, one might think that the big rightsholders aren’t making use of the NOCI system, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. eBay actually publishes a huge list of participating companies on its site and all the big ones are there.

The MPAA has its own page, for example, as do companies like Versace, who are worried about counterfeiting.

But being more UK specific, since that’s where most of the “Kodi” complaints originate, we can also see that the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) has its own VeRO account, as does key partner the English Premier League.

Given that both eBay, Amazon and even Facebook have been criticized for allowing sales of ‘pirate’ boxes on their platforms, it seems unusual that despite the grand announcements, devices are still so prolific and easy to find.

Whether a full three months hasn’t been long enough for rightsholders to file appropriate complaints is unknown, but it would probably be preferable to go down that route first, before threatening the man in the street with a criminal prosecution.

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

Could Pirate TV Box Users Be Prosecuted For Fraud?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/could-pirate-tv-box-users-be-prosecuted-for-fraud-170709/

With the issue of piracy-enabled set-top boxes still making the headlines, the English Premier League (EPL) has emerged as the most likely organization to prosecute sellers of infringing boxes in the UK.

However, last month the Federation Against Copyright Theft, who provide anti-piracy services for the EPL, revealed that mere users of boxes (such as those containing augmented Kodi setups) could be targeted for prosecution sometime in the future.

As noted in our earlier coverage, people who merely stream pirated content into their own homes are difficult to track online. They pose much greater challenges than BitTorrent users, for example, who can lead investigators straight to their door. But for FACT chief executive Kieron Sharp, there are opportunities to find people via non-technical means.

“When we’re working with the police against a company that’s selling IPTV boxes or illicit streaming devices on a large scale, they have records of who they’ve sold them to,” Sharp said.

The suggestion here is that box sellers’ customer lists contain the personal details of people who obtain Premier League and other content for free so, once identified, could be open to prosecution.

With conventional thinking under copyright law, prosecuting a set-top box/Kodi user for streaming content to his own home is a bit of a daunting prospect, not to mention an expensive one. Copyright cases are notoriously complicated and an individual putting up a spirited defense could cause problems for the prosecution. The inevitable light sentence wouldn’t provide much of a deterrent either.

With all that in mind, it appears that FACT is more interested in prosecuting under other legislation.

During an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Chris Warburton this week, Sharp said that people streaming into their own homes are committing a criminal offense, i.e., something that could interest the police and attract a fine or custodial sentence.

“The law has always been the case that people who are doing something illegal, streaming in their own homes, through these devices, are committing a crime. What’s happened recently is that’s been clarified by an EU judge in one case and by a civil judge in another,” Sharp said.

The EU case was BREIN v Filmspeler, which in part determined that people who stream content from an illegal source do so in breach of copyright law. The judge in the civil case was Justice Arnold, who in a UK Premier League blocking case reached the same conclusion.

While it’s now fairly clear that streaming pirate content in the EU is indeed illegal, is a civil wrong, and can be dealt with by suing someone, it’s not immediately clear how that turns into a criminal offense. It wasn’t clear in the interview either, so Warburton pressed Sharp again.

“What is the bit of the law that you are breaking when you’re streaming, how are you committing a criminal act?” he asked Sharp.

“There are various pieces of legislation,” the FACT chief said. “The one we’ve been looking at is under the Fraud Act which would say you are committing a fraud by streaming these football matches through to your television, watching them at home, and not paying for the license to do so.”

At this point, everything begins to slot into place.

For the past several years through several high-profile Internet piracy cases, FACT has shied away from prosecutions under copyright law. Each time it has opted for offenses under the Fraud Act 2006, partly because longer sentences were available at the time, i.e., up to 10 years in prison.

However, earlier this year FACT’s lawyer revealed that prosecutions under the Fraud Act can be easier for a jury to understand than those actioned under copyright law.

With this wealth of experience in mind, it’s easy to see why FACT would take this route in set-top box cases, especially when fraud legislation is relatively easy to digest.

Possession etc. of articles for use in frauds

“A person is guilty of an offense if he has in his possession or under his control any article for use in the course of or in connection with any fraud,” the Fraud Act reads.

To clarify, an ‘article’ includes “any program or data held in electronic form,” which is perfect for infringing Kodi addons etc.

Given the above, it seems that if the Court can be convinced that the person knowingly possessed a pirate set-top box programmed for fraudulent purposes, there could, in theory, be a successful prosecution resulting in a prison sentence and/or a fine.

Obtaining services dishonestly

“A person is guilty of an offense under this section if he obtains services for himself or another….by a dishonest act, and….he [knowingly] obtains them without any payment having been made for or in respect of them or without payment having been made in full,” the relevant section of the Act reads.

There are probably other angles to this under the Fraud Act but these seem to fit so well that others might not be needed. But how likely is it that someone could be prosecuted in this manner?

Sharp reiterated to the BBC that FACT could get the identities of box buyers as part of investigations into sellers, and as part of that “would see what the situation is” with their customers.

“It may well be that in the future, somebody who is an end-user may well get prosecuted,” he said.

But while the possibilities are there, Sharp really didn’t seem that keen to commit to the hounding of stream consumers in the future, and certainly not now. FACT’s strategy appears to be grounded in getting the word out that people are breaking the law.

“[People] think they can get away with it and that’s an important message from our perspective, that they must understand that they are committing offenses, apart from all the other issues of why they should be paying for the legal product. This is something that should be of concern to them, that they are committing offenses,” Sharp said.

The big question that remains is whether FACT and the English Premier League would ever take a case against a regular end-user to court. History tells us that this is fairly unlikely, but if any case did end up in court, it would definitely be hand-picked for best results.

For example, someone who bought a box from eBay would probably be of no real interest, but someone who had extended email exchanges with a seller, during which they discussed in detail how to pirate English Premier League games specifically, would provide a more useful test subject.

And then, when there are two people involved (the knowingly infringing buyer and the seller, who would also be prosecuted) that also raises the question of whether there had been an element of conspiracy.

Overall though, what people probably want to know is whether lots of people are going to get prosecuted for fraud and the answer to that is almost certainly ‘no.’ Prosecutions against the little guy are resource hungry, expensive, offer little return, and tend to generate negative publicity if they’re perceived as vindictive.

A single highly publicized case is a possible outcome if FACT and the EPL got really desperate, but there’s no guarantee that the Crown Prosecution Service would allow the case to go ahead.

“Prosecutors should guard against the criminal law being used as a debt collection agency or to protect the commercial interests of companies and organizations,” recent CPS advice reads.

“However, prosecutors should also remain alert to the fact that such organizations can become the focus of serious and organized criminal offending.”

FACT could, of course, conduct a private prosecution, which they have done several times in the past. But that is a risk too, so it seems likely that education efforts will come first, to try and slow things down.

“Our desire has always been that sports fans, football fans, would pay for the commercial package, they would pay a fee to watch and that is still our position,” Sharp told the BBC.

“But working with our clients and members such as the Premier League and Sky and BT Sports, we have to consider all the options available to us, to put a bit of a brake on this problem because it’s growing all the time.”

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