Tag Archives: streaming piracy

MPAA Chief Says Fighting Piracy Remains “Top Priority”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-chief-says-fighting-piracy-remains-top-priority-180425/

After several high-profile years at the helm of the movie industry’s most powerful lobbying group, last year saw the departure of Chris Dodd from the role of Chairman and CEO at the MPAA.

The former Senator, who earned more than $3.5m a year championing the causes of the major Hollywood studios since 2011, was immediately replaced by another political heavyweight.

Charles Rivkin, who took up his new role September 5, 2017, previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs in the Obama administration. With an underperforming domestic box office year behind him fortunately overshadowed by massive successes globally, this week he spoke before US movie exhibitors for the first time at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

“Globally, we hit a record high of $40.6 billion at the box office. Domestically, our $11.1 billion box office was slightly down from the 2016 record. But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade,” Rivkin said.

“But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade.”

Rivkin, who spent time as President and CEO of The Jim Henson Company, told those in attendance that he shares a deep passion for the movie industry and looks forward optimistically to the future, a future in which content is secured from those who intend on sharing it for free.

“Making sure our creative works are valued and protected is one of the most important things we can do to keep that industry heartbeat strong. At the Henson Company, and WildBrain, I learned just how much intellectual property affects everyone. Our entire business model depended on our ability to license Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the Muppets and distribute them across the globe,” Rivkin said.

“I understand, on a visceral level, how important copyright is to any creative business and in particular our country’s small and medium enterprises – which are the backbone of the American economy. As Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, I guarantee you that fighting piracy in all forms remains our top priority.”

That tackling piracy is high on the MPAA’s agenda won’t comes as a surprise but at least in terms of the numbers of headlines plastered over the media, high-profile anti-piracy action has been somewhat lacking in recent years.

With lawsuits against torrent sites seemingly a thing of the past and a faltering Megaupload case that will conclude who-knows-when, the MPAA has taken a broader view, seeking partnerships with sometimes rival content creators and distributors, each with a shared desire to curtail illicit media.

“One of the ways that we’re already doing that is through the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment – or ACE as we call it,” Rivkin said.

“This is a coalition of 30 leading global content creators, including the MPAA’s six member studios as well as Netflix, and Amazon. We work together as a powerful team to ensure our stories are seen as they were intended to be, and that their creators are rewarded for their hard work.”

Announced in June 2017, ACE has become a united anti-piracy powerhouse for a huge range of entertainment industry groups, encompassing the likes of CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, Bell Canada, CBS, Hulu, Lionsgate, Foxtel and Village Roadshow, to name a few.

The coalition was announced by former MPAA Chief Chris Dodd and now, with serious financial input from all companies involved, appears to be picking its fights carefully, focusing on the growing problem of streaming piracy centered around misuse of Kodi and similar platforms.

From threatening relatively small-time producers and distributors of third-party addons and builds (1,2,3), ACE is also attempting to make its mark among the profiteers.

The group now has several lawsuits underway in the United States against people selling piracy-enabled IPTV boxes including Tickbox, Dragon Box, and during the last week, Set TV.

With these important cases pending, Rivkin offered assurances that his organization remains committed to anti-piracy enforcement and he thanked exhibitors for their efforts to prevent people quickly running away with copies of the latest releases.

“I am grateful to all of you for recognizing what is at stake, and for working with us to protect creativity, such as fighting the use of illegal camcorders in theaters,” he said.

“Protecting our creativity isn’t only a fundamental right. It’s an economic necessity, for us and all creative economies. Film and television are among the most valuable – and most impactful – exports we have.

Thus far at least, Rivkin has a noticeably less aggressive tone on piracy than his predecessor Chris Dodd but it’s unlikely that will be mistaken for weakness among pirates, nor should it. The MPAA isn’t known for going soft on pirates and it certainly won’t be changing course anytime soon.

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Trump Promises Copyright Crackdown as DoJ Takes Aim at Streaming Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/trump-promises-copyright-crackdown-as-doj-takes-aim-at-streaming-pirates-180308/

For the past several years most of the world has been waking up to the streaming piracy phenomenon, with pre-configured set-top boxes making inroads into millions of homes.

While other countries, notably the UK, arrested many individuals while warning of a grave and looming danger, complaints from the United States remained relatively low-key. It was almost as if the stampede towards convenient yet illegal streaming had caught the MPAA and friends by surprise.

In October 2017, things quickly began to change. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment sued Georgia-based Tickbox TV, a company selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes. In January 2018, the same anti-piracy group targeted Dragon Media, a company in the same line of business.

With this growing type of piracy now firmly on the radar, momentum seems to be building. Yesterday, a panel discussion on the challenges associated with piracy from streaming media boxes took place on Capitol Hill.

Hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), ‘Unboxing the Piracy Threat of Streaming Media Boxes’ went ahead with some big name speakers in attendance, not least Neil Fried, Senior Vice President, Federal Advocacy and Regulatory Affairs at the MPAA.

ITIF and various industry groups tweeted many interesting comments throughout the event. Kevin Madigan from Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property told the panel that torrent-based content “is becoming obsolete” in an on-demand digital environment that’s switching to streaming-based piracy.

While there’s certainly a transition taking place, 150 million worldwide torrent users would probably argue against the term “obsolete”. Nevertheless, the same terms used to describe torrent sites are now being used to describe players in the streaming field.

“There’s a criminal enterprise going on here that’s stealing content and making a profit,” Fried told those in attendance.

“The piracy activity out there is bad, it’s hurting a lot of economic activity & creators aren’t being compensated for their work,” he added.

Tom Galvin, Executive Director at the Digital Citizens Alliance, was also on the panel. Unsurprisingly, given the organization’s focus on the supposed dangers of piracy, Galvin took the opportunity to underline that position.

“If you go down the piracy road, those boxes aren’t following proper security protocols, there are many malware risks,” he said. It’s a position shared by Fried, who told the panel that “video piracy is the leading source of malware.”

Similar claims were made recently on Safer Internet Day but the facts don’t seem to back up the scare stories. Still, with the “Piracy is Dangerous” strategy already out in the open, the claims aren’t really unexpected.

What might also not come as a surprise is that ACE’s lawsuits against Tickbox and Dragon Media could be just a warm-up for bigger things to come. In the tweet embedded below, Fried can be seen holding a hexagonal-shaped streaming box, warning that the Department of Justice is now looking for candidates for criminal action.

What form this action will take when it arrives isn’t clear but when the DoJ hits targets on home soil, it tends to cherry-pick the most blatant of infringers in order to set an example with reasonably cut-and-dried cases.

Of course, every case can be argued but with hundreds of so-called “Kodi box” sellers active all over the United States, many of them clearly breaking the law as they, in turn, invite their customers to break the law, picking a sitting duck shouldn’t be too difficult.

And then, of course, we come to President Trump. Not usually that vocal on matters of intellectual property and piracy, yesterday – perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not – he suddenly delivered one of his “something is coming” tweets.

Given Trump’s tendency to focus on problems overseas causing issues for companies back home, a comment by Kevin Madigan during the panel yesterday immediately comes to mind.

“To combat piracy abroad, USTR needs to work with the creative industries to improve enforcement and target the source of pirated material,” Madigan said.

Interesting times and much turmoil in the streaming world ahead, it seems.

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Judge Tells Movie Company That it Can’t Sue Alleged BitTorrent Pirate

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/judge-tells-movie-company-that-it-cant-sue-alleged-bittorrent-pirate-180118/

Despite a considerable migration towards streaming piracy in recent years, copyright trolls are still finding plenty of potential targets around the world. Alleged BitTorrent pirates are target number one since their activities are most easily tracked. However, it isn’t all plain sailing for the pirate hunters.

Last December we reported on the case of Lingfu Zhang, an Oregan resident accused by the makers of the 2015 drama film Fathers & Daughters (F&D) of downloading and sharing their content without permission. While these kinds of cases often disappear, with targets making confidential settlements to make a legal battle go away, Zhang chose to fight back.

Represented by attorney David Madden, Zhang not only denied downloading the movie in question but argued that the filmmakers had signed away their online distribution rights. He noted that (F&D), via an agent, had sold the online distribution rights to a third party not involved in the case.

So, if F&D no longer held the right to distribute the movie online, suing for an infringement of those rights would be impossible. With this in mind, Zhang’s attorney moved for a summary judgment in his client’s favor.

“ZHANG denies downloading the movie but Defendant’s current motion for summary judgment challenges a different portion of F&D’s case,” Madden wrote.

“Defendant argues that F&D has alienated all of the relevant rights necessary to sue for infringement under the Copyright Act.”

In response, F&D argued that they still held some rights, including the right to exploit the movie on “airlines and oceangoing vessels” but since Zhang wasn’t accused of being on either form of transport when the alleged offense occurred, the defense argued that point was moot.

Judge Michael H. Simon handed down his decision yesterday and it heralds bad news for F&D and celebration time for Zhang and his attorney. In a 17-page ruling first spotted by Fight Copyright Trolls, the Judge agrees that F&D has no standing to sue.

Citing the Righthaven LLC v. Hoehn case from 2013, the Judge notes that under the Copyright Act, only the “legal or beneficial owner of an exclusive right under a copyright” has standing to sue for infringement of that right.

Judge Simon notes that while F&D claims it is the ‘legal owner’ of the copyright to the Fathers & Daughters movie, the company “misstates the law”, adding that F&D also failed to present evidence that it is the ‘beneficial owner’ of the relevant exclusive right. On this basis, both claims are rejected.

The Judge noted that the exclusive rights to the movie were granted to a company called Vertical Entertainment which received the exclusive right to “manufacture, reproduce, sell, rent, exhibit, broadcast, transmit, stream, download, license, sub-license, distribute, sub-distribute, advertise, market, promote, publicize and exploit” the movie in the United States.

An exclusive license means that ownership of a copyright is transferred for the term of the license, meaning that Vertical – not F&D – is the legal owner under the Copyright Act. It matters not, the Judge says, that F&D retained the rights to display the movie “on airlines and ships” since only the transferee (Vertical) has standing to sue and those locations are irrelevant to the lawsuit.

“Under the Copyright Act, F&D is not the ‘legal owner’ with standing to sue for infringement relating to the rights that were transferred to Vertical through its exclusive license granted in the distribution agreement,” the Judge writes.

Also at issue was an undated document presented by F&D titled Anti-Piracy and Rights Enforcement Reservation of Rights Addendum. The document, relied upon by F&D, claimed that F&D is authorized to “enforce copyrights against Internet infringers” including those that use peer-to-peer technologies such as BitTorrent.

However, the Judge found that the peer-to-peer rights apparently reserved to F&D were infringing rights, not the display and distribution (exclusive rights) required to sue under the Copyright Act. Furthermore, the Judge determined that there was no evidence that this document existed before the lawsuit was filed. Zhang and his attorney previously asserted the addendum had been created afterwards and the Judge agrees.

“F&D did not dispute that the undated anti-piracy addendum was created after this lawsuit was filed, or otherwise respond to Defendant’s standing argument relating to the untimeliness of this document,” the Judge notes.

“Accordingly, because the only reasonable inference supported by the evidence is that this document was created after the filing of this lawsuit, it is not appropriate to consider for purposes of standing.”

So, with Vertical Entertainment the only company with the right to sue, could they be added to the lawsuit, F&D asked? Citing an earlier case, the Judge said ‘no’, noting that “summary judgment is not a procedural second chance to flesh out inadequate pleadings.”

With that, Judge Simon granted Lingfu Zhang’s request for summary judgment and dismissed F&D’s claims for lack of standing.

As noted by Fight Copyright Trolls, the movie licensing scheme employed by F&D is complex and, given the fact that notorious copyright troll outfit Guardaley is involved (Guardaley filed 24 cases in eight districts on behalf of F&D), it would be interesting if legal professionals could dig deeper, to see how far the rabbit hole goes.

The summary judgment can be found here (pdf)

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YouTuber Convicted For Publishing Video Piracy ‘Tutorials’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtuber-convicted-for-publishing-video-piracy-tutorials-171212/

While piracy-focused tutorials have been around for many years, the advent of streaming piracy coupled with the rise of the YouTube star created a perfect storm online.

Even a cursory search on YouTube now turns up thousands of Kodi addon and IPTV-focused channels, each vying to become the ultimate location for the latest and hottest piracy tips. While these videos don’t appear to be a priority for copyright holders, a channel operator in Brazil has just discovered that they aren’t without consequences.

The case involves Marcelo Otto Nascimento, the operator of YouTube channel Café Tecnológico. It began, strangely, with videos about baking bread but later experimented with videos on technological topics including observations on streaming content without paying for it.

In time, this attracted the negative attention of local TV industry group Associação Brasileira de Televisões por Assinatura (Brazilian Association of Television By Signature / ABTA). The group eventually took legal action, complaining about the nature of Nascimento’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

ABTA told the court that Nascimento had been posting tutorials that “encourage the use of equipment and applications designed to allow access to services and content” of its members, despite that content being protected by copyright. The trade group called for the removal of the content, an injunction against Nascimento, an apology, plus compensation for “material and moral damages.”

In his defense, Nascimento said that he merely comments on IPTV systems, does not breach copyright, doesn’t represent unfair competition, and did not cause the TV companies to incur any losses. Overall, Judge Fernando Henrique de Oliveira Biolcati did not agree with his assertions.

“[T]he plain intention of the defendant was to guide users in order for them to obtain access to the restricted content of the applicant’s associates….while gaining advantages for this, especially via remuneration from the providers of the mentioned applications (YouTube and Facebook), proportional to the volumes of visitors,” the Judge wrote in his ruling.

“This is not a question of mere disinterested comments, in the exercise of freedom of expression,” he added.

As a result, Nascimento was ordered to remove all of his online content that could be deemed instructional for pirates, in order to protect the interests of ABTA’s members and their ability to earn revenue from their content. In addition, the channel operator was forbidden from publishing any more videos of a similar nature.

On top, Nascimento must now pay the copyright holders for material damages, yet to be determined, measured from the posting of the first ‘pirate’ tutorial until such a date when all of the tutorials have been removed.

The ruling (PDF via Mg, Portuguese) also requires Nascimento to pay the equivalent of US$7,600 for “moral damages” plus extra for legal costs, during the next 15 days.

In a statement, ABTA said that following this conviction, more people could fall under the spotlight.

“ABTA is also monitoring the activities of other channels on YouTube and on social networks that publish illegal content such as channel lists, movies and ‘free’ access TV series, as well as tutorials and comparisons of devices or applications intended for illicit use (such as Megabox, HtvBox, Kodi, Dejavu, IPTV, ITVGo, etc.),” the group said.

Meanwhile, Nascimento says that he would’ve taken the videos down if only ABTA had asked him to. He will be appealing the decision, claiming that the videos did not teach people about piracy, they only demonstrated functionality. YouTube declined to comment.

Update: Following publication, a spokesperson for TVAddons — which has previously published instructional videos for Kodi — commented to TorrentFreak on the apparent urgency to take this matter to court, rather than handle via YouTube’s established complaints procedure.

“Taking the matter to courts rather than going through YouTube’s takedown system is part of an increasing pattern of legal bullying in the realm of intellectual property enforcement. Fighting a lawsuit against a major corporation can cost more than buying a house, it’s not a fair playing field for your average individual,” he said.

One of the remaining IPTV-focused videos

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Coalition Against Piracy Wants Singapore to Block Streaming Piracy Software

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/coalition-against-piracy-wants-singapore-to-block-streaming-piracy-software-171204/

Earlier this year, major industry players including Disney, HBO, Netflix, Amazon and NBCUniversal formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a huge coalition set to tackle piracy on a global scale.

Shortly after the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) was announced. With a focus on Asia and backed by CASBAA, CAP counts Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, Viacom International, and others among its members.

In several recent reports, CAP has homed in on the piracy situation in Singapore. Describing the phenomenon as “rampant”, the group says that around 40% of locals engage in the practice, many of them through unlicensed streaming. Now CAP, in line with its anti-streaming stance, wants the government to do more – much more.

Since a large proportion of illicit streaming takes place through set-top devices, CAP’s 21 members want the authorities to block the software inside them that enables piracy, Straits Times reports.

“Within the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the worst in terms of availability of illicit streaming devices,” said CAP General Manager Neil Gane.

“They have access to hundreds of illicit broadcasts of channels and video-on-demand content.”

There are no precise details on CAP’s demands but it is far from clear how any government could effectively block software.

Blocking access to the software package itself would prove all but impossible, so that would leave blocking the infrastructure the software uses. While that would be relatively straightforward technically, the job would be large and fast-moving, particularly when dozens of apps and addons would need to be targeted.

However, CAP is also calling on the authorities to block pirate streams from entering Singapore. The country already has legislation in place that can be used for site-blocking, so that is not out of the question. It’s notable that the English Premier League is part of the CAP coalition and following legal action taken in the UK earlier this year, now has plenty of experience in blocking streams, particularly of live broadcasts.

While that is a game of cat-and-mouse, TorrentFreak sources that have been monitoring the Premier League’s actions over the past several months report that the soccer outfit has become more effective over time. Its blocks can still be evaded but it can be hard work for those involved. That kind of expertise could prove invaluable to CAP.

“The Premier League is currently engaged in its most comprehensive global anti-piracy programme,” a spokesperson told ST. “This includes supporting our broadcast partners in South-east Asia with their efforts to prevent the sale of illicit streaming devices.”

In common with other countries around the world, the legality of using ‘pirate’ streaming boxes is somewhat unclear in Singapore. A Bloomberg report cites a local salesman who reports sales of 10 to 20 boxes on a typical weekend, rising to 300 a day during electronic fairs. He believes the devices are legal, since they don’t download full copies of programs.

While that point is yet to be argued in court (previously an Intellectual Property Office of Singapore spokesperson said that copyright owners could potentially go after viewers), it seems unlikely that those selling the devices will be allowed to continue completely unhindered. The big question is how current legislation can be successfully applied.

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