Tag Archives: takedown notice

Police Arrest Suspected Member of TheDarkOverlord Hacking Group

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-arrest-suspected-member-of-the-dark-overlord-hacking-group-180517/

In April 2017, the first episode of the brand new season of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black was uploaded to The Pirate Bay, months ahead of its official release date.

The leak was the work of a hacking entity calling itself TheDarkOverlord (TDO). One of its members had contacted TorrentFreak months earlier claiming that the content was in its hands but until the public upload, nothing could be confirmed.

TDO told us it had obtained the episodes after hacking the systems of Hollywood-based Larson Studios, an ADR (additional dialogue recorded) studio, back in 2016. TDO had attempted to blackmail the company into paying a bitcoin ransom but when it wasn’t forthcoming, TDO pressed the nuclear button.

Netflix responded by issuing a wave of takedown notices but soon TDO moved onto a new target. In June 2017, TDO followed up on an earlier threat to leak content owned by ABC.

But while TDO was perhaps best known for its video-leaking exploits, the group’s core ‘business’ was hacking what many perceived to be softer targets. TDO ruthlessly slurped confidential data from weakly protected computer systems at medical facilities, private practices, and businesses large and small.

In each case, the group demanded ransoms in exchange for silence and leaked sensitive data to the public if none were paid. With dozens of known targets, TDO found itself at the center of an international investigation, led by the FBI. That now appears to have borne some fruit, with the arrest of an individual in Serbia.

Serbian police say that members of its Ministry of Internal Affairs, Criminal Police Directorate (UCC), in coordination with the Special Prosecution for High-Tech Crime, have taken action against a suspected member of TheDarkOverlord group.

Police say they tracked down a Belgrade resident, who was arrested and taken into custody. Identified only by the initials “S.S”, police say the individual was born in 1980 but have released no further personal details. A search of his apartment and other locations led to the seizure of items of digital equipment.

“According to the order of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for High-Tech Crime, criminal charges will be brought against him because of the suspicion that he committed the criminal offense of unauthorized access to a protected computer, computer networks and electronic processing, and the criminal offense of extortion,” a police statement reads.

In earlier correspondence with TF, the TDO member always gave the impression of working as part of a team but we only had a single contact point which appeared to be the same person. However, Serbian authorities say the larger investigation is aimed at uncovering “a large number of people” who operate under the banner of “TheDarkOverlord”.

Since June 2016, the group is said to have targeted at least 50 victims while demanding bitcoin ransoms to avoid disclosure of their content. Serbian authorities say that on the basis of available data, TDO received payments of more than $275,000.

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

Reddit Copyright Complaints Jump 138% But Almost Half Get Rejected

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/reddit-copyright-complaints-jump-138-but-almost-half-get-rejected-180411/

So-called ‘transparency reports’ are becoming increasingly popular with Internet-based platforms and their users. Among other things, they provide much-needed insight into how outsiders attempt to censor content published online and what actions are taken in response.

Google first started publishing its report in 2010, Twitter followed in 2012, and they’ve now been joined by a multitude of major companies including Microsoft, Facebook and Cloudflare.

As one of the world’s most recognized sites, Reddit joined the transparency party fairly late, publishing its first report in early 2015. While light on detail, it revealed that in the previous year the site received just 218 requests to remove content, 81% of which were DMCA-style copyright notices. A significant 62% of those copyright-related requests were rejected.

Over time, Reddit’s reporting has become a little more detailed. Last April it revealed that in 2016, the platform received ‘just’ 3,294 copyright removal requests for the entire year. However, what really caught the eye is how many notices were rejected. In just 610 instances, Reddit was required to remove content from the site, a rejection rate of 81%.

Having been a year since Reddit’s last report, the company has just published its latest edition, covering the period January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017.

“Reddit publishes this transparency report every year as part of our ongoing commitment to keep you aware of the trends on the various requests regarding private Reddit user account information or removal of content posted to Reddit,” the company said in a statement.

“Reddit believes that maintaining this transparency is extremely important. We want you to be aware of this information, consider it carefully, and ask questions to keep us accountable.”

The detailed report covers a wide range of topics, including government requests for the preservation or production of user information (there were 310) and even an instruction to monitor one Reddit user’s activities in real time via a so-called ‘Trap and Trace’ order.

In copyright terms, there has been significant movement. In 2017, Reddit received 7,825 notifications of alleged copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that’s up roughly 138% over the 3,294 notifications received in 2016.

For a platform of Reddit’s unquestionable size, these volumes are not big. While the massive percentage increase is notable, the site still receives less than 10 complaints each day. For comparison, Google receives millions every week.

But perhaps most telling is that despite receiving more than 7,800 DMCA-style takedown notices, these resulted in Reddit carrying out just 4,352 removals. This means that for whatever reasons (Reddit doesn’t specify), 3,473 requests were denied, a rejection rate of 44.38%. Google, on the other hand, removes around 90% of content reported.

DMCA notices can be declared invalid for a number of reasons, from incorrect formatting through to flat-out abuse. In many cases, copyright law is incorrectly applied and it’s not unknown for complainants to attempt a DMCA takedown to stifle speech or perceived competition.

Reddit says it tries to take all things into consideration before removing content.

“Reddit reviews each DMCA takedown notice carefully, and removes content where a valid report is received, as required by the law,” the company says.

“Reddit considers whether the reported content may fall under an exception listed in the DMCA, such as ‘fair use,’ and may ask for clarification that will assist in the review of the removal request.”

Considering the numbers of community-focused “subreddits” dedicated to piracy (not just general discussion, but actual links to content), the low numbers of copyright notices received by Reddit continues to baffle.

There are sections in existence right now offering many links to movies and TV shows hosted on various file-hosting sites. They’re the type of links that are targeted all the time whenever they appear in Google search but copyright owners don’t appear to notice or care about them on Reddit.

Finally, it would be nice if Reddit could provide more information in next year’s report, including detail on why so many requests are rejected. Perhaps regular submission of notices to the Lumen Database would be something Reddit would consider for the future.

Reddit’s Transparency Report for 2017 can be found here.

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

Owner of ShareBeast and AlbumJams Sentenced To Five Years in Prison

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/owner-of-sharebeast-and-albumjams-sentenced-to-five-years-in-prison-180323/

According to the RIAA, ShareBeast.com and AlbumJams.com were responsible for the illegal distribution of “a massive library” of popular albums and tracks.

With a nod to the sensitivity of pre-release piracy, the sites were blamed for offering “thousands of songs” that hadn’t yet reached their official release dates. In September 2015, U.S. authorities shut them down, placing seizure notices on both domains.

The RIAA claimed that ShareBeast was the largest illegal file-sharing site operating in the United States, noting that the site’s IP addresses at the time indicated that at least some hosting had taken place in Illinois.

“Millions of users accessed songs from ShareBeast each month without one penny of compensation going to countless artists, songwriters, labels and others who created the music,” RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman commented at the time.

Two years later in September 2017, then 29-year-old former ShareBeast operator Artur Sargsyan pleaded guilty to one felony count of criminal copyright infringement, admitting to the unauthorized distribution and reproduction of over one billion copies of copyrighted works.

“Through Sharebeast and other related sites, this defendant profited by illegally distributing copyrighted music and albums on a massive scale,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn.

“The collective work of the FBI and our international law enforcement partners have shut down the Sharebeast websites and prevented further economic losses by scores of musicians and artists.”

The Department of Justice reported that from 2012 to 2015, Sargsyan used ShareBeast as a pirate music repository, illegally hosting music by Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber, among others. Sargsyan linked to that content from Newjams.net and Albumjams.com, and granted access to the public.

If Sargsyan had responded to takedown notices more positively, it’s possible that things may have progressed in a different direction. The RIAA sent the site more than 100 copyright-infringement emails over a three-year period but to no effect.

This led the music industry group to get out its calculator and inform the DoJ that the total monetary loss to its member companies was “a conservative” $6.3 billion “gut-punch” to music creators who were paid nothing by the service.

Given the huge numbers involved, it’s likely that Sargsyan hoped his 2017 guilty plea would result in a more forgiving sentence. Yesterday, however, the full weight of the law came crashing down.

California resident Artur Sargsyan was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr., to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. The now 30-year-old was also ordered to pay $458,200 restitution and ordered to forfeit $184,768.87.

“Sargsyan operated one of the most successful illegal music sharing websites on the Internet,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.

“His reproduction of copyrighted musical works were made available only to generate undeserved profits for himself. The incredible work done by our law enforcement partners and prosecutors in light of the complexity of Sargsyan’s operation demonstrates that we will employ all of our resources to stop this kind of theft.”

David J. LaValley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said that Sargsyan was warned several times that he was violating the law by illegally sharing copyrighted works, but chose to ignore the warnings.

“His sentence sends a message that no matter how complex the operation, the FBI, its federal partners and law enforcement partners around the globe will go to every length to protect the property of hard working artists and the companies that produce their art,” LaValley said.

Given the music group’s lengthy statements on the Sharebeast topic in the past, thus far the RIAA has been relatively brief. Welcoming news of the sentencing via Twitter, the major labels’ figurehead congratulated the law enforcement bodies behind the successful prosecution.

“Congrats to U.S. Attorney BJay Pak + his team along with @TheJusticeDept CCIPS Division and @FBIAtlanta for their leadership on this important case,” the RIAA wrote.

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

Deezer Piles Pressure on Pirates, Deezloader Reborn Throws in the Towel

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/deezer-piles-pressure-on-pirates-deezloader-reborn-throws-in-the-towel-180315/

Spotify might grab most of the headlines in the world of music streaming but French firm Deezer is also growing in popularity.

Focused more on non-English speaking regions, the music service still has a massive selection of tens of millions of tracks. More importantly for pirates, it also has a loophole or two that allows users to permanently download songs from the service, a huge ‘selling’ point for the compulsive archiver.

One of the most popular third-party tools for achieving this was Deezloader but last year Deezer put pressure on its operators to cease-and-desist.

“On April 27, 2017 we received takedowns and threatened legal action from Deezer if we don’t shut down by April 29. So we decided to shut down Deezloader permanently,” the team announced.

Rather than kill the scene, the attack on Deezloader only seemed to spur things on. Many other apps underwent development in the months that followed but last December it became evident that Deezer (and probably the record labels supplying its content) were growing increasingly tired of these kinds of applications.

The company sent a wave of DMCA notices to developer platform GitHub, targeting several tools, claiming that they are “in total violation of our rights and of the rights of our music licensors.”

GitHub responded quickly by removing access to repositories referencing Deezloader, DeezerDownload, Deeze, Deezerio, Deezit, Deedown, and their associated forks. Deezer also reportedly modified its API, in order to stop or hinder apps already in existence.

However, pirates are a determined bunch and behind the scenes many sought to breathe new life into their projects, to maintain the flow of free music from Deezer. One of those that gained traction was the obviously-titled ‘Deezloader Reborn’ which enjoyed a new lease of life on both Github and Reddit after taking over from DeezLoader V2.3.1.

But in January 2018, Deezer turned up the pressure again, hitting Github with a wave (1,2) of takedown notices targeting various projects. On January 23, Deezer hit Deezloader Reborn itself with the notice detailed below.

The following project, identified in the paragraph below, makes available a hacked version of our Deezer application by describing methods to bypass Deezer’s security measures to unlawfully download its music catalogue, in total violation of our rights and of the rights of our music licensors (phonographic producers, performing artists, songwriters and composers):

https://github.com/ExtendLord/DeezLoader-Reborn

I therefore ask that you immediately take down the project corresponding to the URL above and all of the related forks by others members who have had access or even contributed to such projects.

Not only did Github comply with Deezer’s request, Reddit did too. According to a thread still listed on the site, Reddit removed a post about Deezloader Reborn following a copyright complaint from Deezer.

Two days later Deezer targeted similar projects on Github but by this time, Deezloader Reborn already had new plans. Speaking with TF, project developer ExtendLord said that he wouldn’t be shutting down but would continue on code repository Gitlab instead. Now, however, those plans have also come to an abrupt end after Gitlab took the page down.

Deezloader Reborn – gone from Gitlab

A copy of the page available on Archive.org shows Deezloader Reborn at version 3.0.5 with the ability to download music ready-tagged and in FLAC quality. Links to newer versions are being shared on Reddit but it appears there is no longer a central trusted source for the application.

There’s no official confirmation yet but it seems likely that Deezer was behind the Gitlab takedown. TorrentFreak has contacted ExtendLord who linked us to this page which states that “DeezLoader Reborn is no longer maintained due to DMCA. [Version] 3.1.0 is the last update, no more updates will be made.”

So, at least for now, it appears that Deezloader Reborn will go the way of various other Deezer-reliant applications. That won’t be the end of the story though, that’s a certainty.

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

Spotify Emails Warning to ‘Pirates’ Using Hacked Apps

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spotify-emails-warning-to-pirates-using-hacked-apps-180305/

Spotify is a fantastic music streaming service used by more than 159 million users around the world. Around 71m of those are premium subscibers according to figures released by the company last December.

Given the above, 88 million Spotify members are using the free tier, meaning that they’re subjected to advertising and other limitations such as shuffle-only play and track skip restrictions.

The idea is that the free user gets a decent level of service but is held back just enough with small irritations to make the jump to a premium subscription a logical step at some point.

What millions of free users don’t know, however, is that there are modified Spotify apps out there that can remove many of these restrictions. All the user has to do is sign up to free Spotify account, download one of the many ‘hacked’ Spotify installation files out there, put in their username and password, and enjoy.

How many people use these hacked versions of Spotify isn’t clear and up to now, it’s been somewhat of a mystery as to why Spotify itself hasn’t done something about them. During the past few days, however, there have been signs that a crackdown could be on the way.

In an email sent to an unknown but significant number of people, Spotify informs users of modified apps that they’re on the company’s radar and there could be consequences for trying to subvert the system.

“We detected abnormal activity on the app you are using so we have disabled it. Don’t worry – your Spotify account is safe,” the email from Spotify reads.

“To access your Spotify account, simply uninstall any unauthorized or modified version of Spotify and download and install the Spotify app from the official Google Play Store. If you need more help, please see our support article on Reinstalling Spotify.”

Users have been popping up on Spotify’s forums asking why they’ve received this email. Some seem to think they’ve done nothing wrong but most signs point to people using modified software.

The warning email from Spotify

While the email signs off with a note thanking the recipient for being a Spotify user, there is also a warning.

“If we detect repeated use of unauthorized apps in violation of our terms, we reserve all rights, including suspending or terminating your account,” Spotify writes.

For people who used their real accounts along with modified apps this could be a problem but many people using hacked versions go in prepared with a secondary or temporary email address and false details.

Quite how far Spotify will go to rid its service of this kind of a user remains unknown but at least for now, the actual effects of this early crackdown seemed mixed.

TorrentFreak has spoken with users who have modified versions and have received the email, yet their installation still works just fine. Others report that they can no longer log in with their modified version.

What is clear, however, is that Spotify has both modified apps and their creators on its radar. On March 1, 2018 the company wrote to Github demanding that a popular Spotify mod known as ‘Dogfood’ be taken down from the repository.

Dogfood is done on Github

The full takedown notice can be found here. It lists Dogfood itself plus a whole bunch of ‘forks’ which have also been taken down by Github.

There were signs in January that the developer of Dogfood might have been under pressure to limit the effectiveness of his app. On January 18 he announced on XDA that some functionality would be removed moving forward.

“In order to comply with XDA’s Rules and CoC, Spotify Dogfood has taken a new direction, and now offers *exclusively* Ad-free music playback,” he wrote.

“Any other features won’t be included anymore in this mod. But, that doesn’t mean anything if you’re a true, a core user of this app, because there will still be regular updates to it, as there has been up until now.”

Where that development will take place now isn’t clear but it clearly won’t be on Github. Indeed, even XDA has been targeted by Spotify, with the site receiving a DMCA notice from the company which required the removal of links and an apparent closure of the whole discussion.

XDA DMCA takedown

For now it seems that Spotify is playing nice, at least with users of modified apps. Whether it will continue with the same relaxed attitude is unclear but it’s hard not to connect the move with its intention to go public and its $23bn valuation.

Still, the company should be more in tune with pirates than most given its history, so may yet have a decent plan up its sleeve.

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

Udemy Targets ‘Pirate’ Site Giving Away its Paid Courses For Free

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/udemy-targets-pirate-site-giving-away-its-paid-courses-for-free-180129/

While there’s no shortage of people who advocate free sharing of movies and music, passions are often raised when it comes to the availability of educational information.

Significant numbers of people believe that learning should be open to all and that texts and associated materials shouldn’t be locked away by copyright holders trying to monetize knowledge. Of course, people who make a living creating learning materials see the position rather differently.

A clash of these ideals is brewing in the United States where online learning platform Udemy has been trying to have some of its courses taken down from FreeTutorials.us, a site that makes available premium tutorials and other learning materials for free.

Early December 2017, counsel acting for Udemy and a number of its individual and corporate instructors (Maximilian Schwarzmüller, Academind GmbH, Peter Dalmaris, Futureshock Enterprises, Jose Marcial Portilla, and Pierian Data) wrote to FreeTutorials.us with DMCA takedown notice.

“Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’), this communication serves as a notice of infringement and request for removal of certain web content available on freetutorials.us,” the letter reads.

“I hereby request that you remove or disable access to the material listed in Exhibit A in as expedient a fashion as possible. This communication does not constitute a waiver of any right to recover damages incurred by virtue of any such unauthorized activities, and such rights as well as claims for other relief are expressly retained.”

A small sample of Exhibit A

On January 10, 2018, the same law firm wrote to Cloudflare, which provides services to FreeTutorials. The DMCA notice asked Cloudflare to disable access to the same set of infringing content listed above.

It seems likely that whatever happened next wasn’t to Udemy’s satisfaction. On January 16, an attorney from the same law firm filed a DMCA subpoena at a district court in California. A DMCA subpoena can enable a copyright holder to obtain the identity of an alleged infringer without having to file a lawsuit and without needing a signature from a judge.

The subpoena was directed at Cloudflare, which provides services to FreeTutorials. The company was ordered to hand over “all identifying information identifying the owner, operator and/or contact person(s) associated with the domain www.freetutorials.us, including but not limited to name(s), address(es), telephone number(s), email address(es), Internet protocol connection records, administrative records and billing records from the time the account was established to the present.”

On January 26, the date by which Cloudflare was ordered to hand over the information, Cloudflare wrote to FreeTutorials with a somewhat late-in-the-day notification.

“We received the attached subpoena regarding freetutorials.us, a domain managed through your Cloudflare account. The subpoena requires us to provide information in our systems related to this website,” the company wrote.

“We have determined that this is a valid subpoena, and we are required to provide the requested information. In accordance with our Privacy Policy, we are informing you before we provide any of the requested subscriber information. We plan to turn over documents in response to the subpoena on January 26th, 2018, unless you intervene in the case.”

With that deadline passing last Friday, it’s safe to say that Cloudflare has complied with the subpoena as the law requires. However, TorrentFreak spoke with FreeTutorials who told us that the company doesn’t hold anything useful on them.

“No, they have nothing,” the team explained.

Noting that they’ll soon dispense with the services of Cloudflare, the team confirmed that they had received emails from Udemy and its instructors but hadn’t done a lot in response.

“How about a ‘NO’? was our answer to all the DMCA takedown requests from Udemy and its Instructors,” they added.

FreeTutorials (FTU) are affiliated with FreeCoursesOnline (FCO) and seem passionate about what they do. In common with others who distribute learning materials online, they express a belief in free education for all, irrespective of financial resources.

“We, FTU and FCO, are a group of seven members assorted as a team from different countries and cities. We are JN, SRZ aka SunRiseZone, Letap, Lihua Google Drive, Kaya, Zinnia, Faiz MeemBazooka,” a spokesperson revealed.

“We’re all members and colleagues and we also have our own daily work and business stuff to do. We have been through that phase of life when we didn’t have enough money to buy books and get tuition or even apply for a good course that we always wanted to have, so FTU & FCO are just our vision to provide Free Education For Everyone.

“We would love to change our priorities towards our current and future projects, only if we manage to get some faithful FTU’ers to join in and help us to grow together and make FTU a place it should be.”

TorrentFreak requested comment from Udemy but at the time of publication, we were yet to hear back. However, we did manage to get in touch with Jonathan Levi, an Udemy instructor who sent this takedown notice to the site in October 2017:

“I’m writing to you on behalf of SuperHuman Enterprises, LLC. You are in violation of our copyright, using our images, and linking to pirated copies of our courses. Remove them IMMEDIATELY or face severe legal action….You have 48 hours to comply,” he wrote, adding:

“And in case you’re going to say I don’t have evidence that I own the files, it’s my fucking face in the videos.”

Levi says that the site had been non-responsive so now things are being taken to the next level.

“They don’t reply to takedowns, so we’ve joined a class action lawsuit against FTU lead by Udemy and a law firm specializing in this type of thing,” Levi concludes.

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

US Govt Brands Torrent, Streaming & Cyberlocker Sites As Notorious Markets

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-govt-brands-torrent-streaming-cyberlocker-sites-as-notorious-markets-180115/

In its annual “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets” the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has listed a long list of websites said to be involved in online piracy.

The list is compiled with high-level input from various trade groups, including the MPAA and RIAA who both submitted their recommendations (1,2) during early October last year.

With the word “allegedly” used more than two dozen times in the report, the US government notes that its report does not constitute cast-iron proof of illegal activity. However, it urges the countries from where the so-called “notorious markets” operate to take action where they can, while putting owners and facilitators on notice that their activities are under the spotlight.

“A goal of the List is to motivate appropriate action by owners, operators, and service providers in the private sector of these and similar markets, as well as governments, to reduce piracy and counterfeiting,” the report reads.

“USTR highlights the following marketplaces because they exemplify global counterfeiting and piracy concerns and because the scale of infringing activity in these marketplaces can cause significant harm to U.S. intellectual property (IP) owners, consumers, legitimate online platforms, and the economy.”

The report begins with a page titled “Issue Focus: Illicit Streaming Devices”. Unsurprisingly, particularly given their place in dozens of headlines last year, the segment focus on the set-top box phenomenon. The piece doesn’t list any apps or software tools as such but highlights the general position, claiming a cost to the US entertainment industry of $4-5 billion a year.

Torrent Sites

In common with previous years, the USTR goes on to list several of the world’s top torrent sites but due to changes in circumstances, others have been delisted. ExtraTorrent, which shut down May 2017, is one such example.

As the world’s most famous torrent site, The Pirate Bay gets a prominent mention, with the USTR noting that the site is of “symbolic importance as one of the longest-running and most vocal torrent sites. The USTR underlines the site’s resilience by noting its hydra-like form while revealing an apparent secret concerning its hosting arrangements.

“The Pirate Bay has allegedly had more than a dozen domains hosted in various countries around the world, applies a reverse proxy service, and uses a hosting provider in Vietnam to evade further enforcement action,” the USTR notes.

Other torrent sites singled out for criticism include RARBG, which was nominated for the listing by the movie industry. According to the USTR, the site is hosted in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has changed hosting services to prevent shutdowns in recent years.

1337x.to and the meta-search engine Torrentz2 are also given a prime mention, with the USTR noting that they are “two of the most popular torrent sites that allegedly infringe U.S. content industry’s copyrights.” Russia’s RuTracker is also targeted for criticism, with the government noting that it’s now one of the most popular torrent sites in the world.

Streaming & Cyberlockers

While torrent sites are still important, the USTR reserves considerable space in its report for streaming portals and cyberlocker-type services.

4Shared.com, a file-hosting site that has been targeted by dozens of millions of copyright notices, is reportedly no longer able to use major US payment providers. Nevertheless, the British Virgin Islands company still collects significant sums from premium accounts, advertising, and offshore payment processors, USTR notes.

Cyberlocker Rapidgator gets another prominent mention in 2017, with the USTR noting that the Russian-hosted platform generates millions of dollars every year through premium memberships while employing rewards and affiliate schemes.

Due to its increasing popularity as a hosting and streaming operation, Openload.co (Romania) is now a big target for the USTR. “The site is used frequently in combination with add-ons in illicit streaming devices. In November 2017, users visited Openload.co a staggering 270 million times,” the USTR writes.

Owned by a Swiss company and hosted in the Netherlands, the popular site Uploaded is also criticized by the US alongside France’s 1Fichier.com, which allegedly hosts pirate games while being largely unresponsive to takedown notices. Dopefile.pk, a Pakistan-based storage outfit, is also highlighted.

On the video streaming front, it’s perhaps no surprise that the USTR focuses on sites like FMovies (Sweden), GoStream (Vietnam), Movie4K.tv (Russia) and PrimeWire. An organization collectively known as the MovShare group which encompasses Nowvideo.sx, WholeCloud.net, NowDownload.cd, MeWatchSeries.to and WatchSeries.ac, among others, is also listed.

Unauthorized music / research papers

While most of the above are either focused on video or feature it as part of their repertoire, other sites are listed for their attention to music. Convert2MP3.net is named as one of the most popular stream-ripping sites in the world and is highlighted due to the prevalence of YouTube-downloader sites and the 2017 demise of YouTube-MP3.

“Convert2MP3.net does not appear to have permission from YouTube or other sites and does not have permission from right holders for a wide variety of music represented by major U.S. labels,” the USTR notes.

Given the amount of attention the site has received in 2017 as ‘The Pirate Bay of Research’, Libgen.io and Sci-Hub.io (not to mention the endless proxy and mirror sites that facilitate access) are given a detailed mention in this year’s report.

“Together these sites make it possible to download — all without permission and without remunerating authors, publishers or researchers — millions of copyrighted books by commercial publishers and university presses; scientific, technical and medical journal articles; and publications of technological standards,” the USTR writes.

Service providers

But it’s not only sites that are being put under pressure. Following a growing list of nominations in previous years, Swiss service provider Private Layer is again singled out as a rogue player in the market for hosting 1337x.to and Torrentz2.eu, among others.

“While the exact configuration of websites changes from year to year, this is the fourth consecutive year that the List has stressed the significant international trade impact of Private Layer’s hosting services and the allegedly infringing sites it hosts,” the USTR notes.

“Other listed and nominated sites may also be hosted by Private Layer but are using
reverse proxy services to obfuscate the true host from the public and from law enforcement.”

The USTR notes Switzerland’s efforts to close a legal loophole that restricts enforcement and looks forward to a positive outcome when the draft amendment is considered by parliament.

Perhaps a little surprisingly given its recent anti-piracy efforts and overtures to the US, Russia’s leading social network VK.com again gets a place on the new list. The USTR recognizes VK’s efforts but insists that more needs to be done.

Social networking and e-commerce

“In 2016, VK reached licensing agreements with major record companies, took steps to limit third-party applications dedicated to downloading infringing content from the site, and experimented with content recognition technologies,” the USTR writes.

“Despite these positive signals, VK reportedly continues to be a hub of infringing activity and the U.S. motion picture industry reports that they find thousands of infringing files on the site each month.”

Finally, in addition to traditional pirate sites, the US also lists online marketplaces that allegedly fail to meet appropriate standards. Re-added to the list in 2016 after a brief hiatus in 2015, China’s Alibaba is listed again in 2017. The development provoked an angry response from the company.

Describing his company as a “scapegoat”, Alibaba Group President Michael Evans said that his platform had achieved a 25% drop in takedown requests and has even been removing infringing listings before they make it online.

“In light of all this, it’s clear that no matter how much action we take and progress we make, the USTR is not actually interested in seeing tangible results,” Evans said in a statement.

The full list of sites in the Notorious Markets Report 2017 (pdf) can be found below.

– 1fichier.com – (cyberlocker)
– 4shared.com – (cyberlocker)
– convert2mp3.net – (stream-ripper)
– Dhgate.com (e-commerce)
– Dopefile.pl – (cyberlocker)
– Firestorm-servers.com (pirate gaming service)
– Fmovies.is, Fmovies.se, Fmovies.to – (streaming)
– Gostream.is, Gomovies.to, 123movieshd.to (streaming)
– Indiamart.com (e-commerce)
– Kinogo.club, kinogo.co (streaming host, platform)
– Libgen.io, sci-hub.io, libgen.pw, sci-hub.cc, sci-hub.bz, libgen.info, lib.rus.ec, bookfi.org, bookzz.org, booker.org, booksc.org, book4you.org, bookos-z1.org, booksee.org, b-ok.org (research downloads)
– Movshare Group – Nowvideo.sx, wholecloud.net, auroravid.to, bitvid.sx, nowdownload.ch, cloudtime.to, mewatchseries.to, watchseries.ac (streaming)
– Movie4k.tv (streaming)
– MP3VA.com (music)
– Openload.co (cyberlocker / streaming)
– 1337x.to (torrent site)
– Primewire.ag (streaming)
– Torrentz2, Torrentz2.me, Torrentz2.is (torrent site)
– Rarbg.to (torrent site)
– Rebel (domain company)
– Repelis.tv (movie and TV linking)
– RuTracker.org (torrent site)
– Rapidgator.net (cyberlocker)
– Taobao.com (e-commerce)
– The Pirate Bay (torrent site)
– TVPlus, TVBrowser, Kuaikan (streaming apps and addons, China)
– Uploaded.net (cyberlocker)
– VK.com (social networking)

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

Dish Network Files Two Lawsuits Against Pirate IPTV Providers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dish-network-files-two-lawsuits-against-pirate-iptv-providers-180103/

In broad terms, there are two types of unauthorized online streaming of live TV. The first is via open-access websites where users can view for free. The second features premium services to which viewers are required to subscribe.

Usually available for a few dollars, euros, or pounds per month, the latter are gaining traction all around the world. Service levels are relatively high and the majority of illicit packages offer a dazzling array of programming, often putting official providers in the shade.

For this reason, commercial IPTV providers are considered a huge threat to broadcasters’ business models, since they offer a broadly comparable and accessible service at a much cheaper price. This is forcing companies such as US giant Dish Networks to court, seeking relief.

Following on from a lawsuit filed last year against Kodi add-on ZemTV and TVAddons.ag, Dish has just filed two more lawsuits targeting a pair of unauthorized pirate IPTV services.

Filed in Maryland and Texas respectively, the actions are broadly similar, with the former targeting a provider known as Spider-TV.

The suit, filed against Dima Furniture Inc. and Mohammad Yusif (individually and collectively doing business as Spider-TV), claims that the defendants are “capturing
broadcasts of television channels exclusively licensed to DISH and are unlawfully retransmitting these channels over the Internet to their customers throughout the United States, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.”

Dish claim that the defendants profit from the scheme by selling set-top boxes along with subscriptions, charging around $199 per device loaded with 13 months of service.

Dima Furniture is a Maryland corporation, registered at Takoma Park, Maryland 20912, an address that is listed on the Spider-TV website. The connection between the defendants is further supported by FCC references which identify Spider devices in the market. Mohammad Yusif is claimed to be the president, executive director, general manager, and sole shareholder of Dima Furniture.

Dish describes itself as the fourth largest pay-television provider in the United States, delivering copyrighted programming to millions of subscribers nationwide by means of satellite delivery and over-the-top services. Dish has acquired the rights to do this, the defendants have not, the broadcaster states.

“Defendants capture live broadcast signals of the Protected Channels, transcode these signals into a format useful for streaming over the Internet, transfer the transcoded content to one or more servers provided, controlled, and maintained by Defendants, and then transmit the Protected Channels to users of the Service through
OTT delivery, including users in the United States,” the lawsuit reads.

It’s claimed that in July 2015, Yusif registered Spider-TV as a trade name of Dima Furniture with the Department of Assessments and Taxation Charter Division, describing the business as “Television Channel Installation”. Since then, the defendants have been illegally retransmitting Dish channels to customers in the United States.

The overall offer from Spider-TV appears to be considerable, with a claimed 1,300 channels from major regions including the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Importantly, Dish state that the defendants know that their activities are illegal, since the provider sent at least 32 infringement notices since January 20, 2017 demanding an end to the unauthorized retransmission of its channels. It went on to send even more to the defendants’ ISPs.

“DISH and Networks sent at least thirty-three additional notices requesting the
removal of infringing content to Internet service providers associated with the Service from February 16, 2017 to the filing of this Complaint. Upon information and belief, at least some of these notices were forwarded to Defendants,” the lawsuit reads.

But while Dish says that the takedowns responded to by the ISPs were initially successful, the defendants took evasive action by transmitting the targeted channels from other locations.

Describing the defendants’ actions as “willful, malicious, intentional [and] purposeful”, Dish is suing for Direct Copyright Infringement, demanding a permanent injunction preventing the promotion and provision of the service plus statutory damages of $150,000 per registered work. The final amount isn’t specified but the numbers are potentially enormous. In addition, Dish demands attorneys’ fees, costs, and the seizure of all infringing articles.

The second lawsuit, filed in Texas, is broadly similar. It targets Mo’ Ayad Al
Zayed Trading Est., and Mo’ Ayad Fawzi Al Zayed (individually and collectively doing business as Tiger International Company), and Shenzhen Tiger Star Electronical Co., Ltd, otherwise known as Shenzhen Tiger Star.

Dish claims that these defendants also illegally capture and retransmit channels to customers in the United States. IPTV boxes costing up to $179 including one year’s service are the method of delivery.

In common with the Maryland case, Dish says it sent almost two dozen takedown notices to ISPs utilized by the defendants. These were also countered by the unauthorized service retransmitting Dish channels from other servers.

The biggest difference between the Maryland and Texas cases is that while Yusif/Spider/Dima Furniture are said to be in the US, Zayed is said to reside in Amman, Jordan, and Tiger Star is registered in Shenzhen, China. However, since the unauthorized service is targeted at customers in Texas, Dish states that the Texas court has jurisdiction.

Again, Dish is suing for Direct Infringement, demanding damages, costs, and a permanent injunction.

The complaints can be found here and here.

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

Could a Single Copyright Complaint Kill Your Domain?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/could-a-single-copyright-complaint-kill-your-domain-171203/

It goes without saying that domain names are a crucial part of any site’s infrastructure. Without domains, sites aren’t easily findable and when things go wrong, the majority of web users could be forgiven for thinking that they no longer exist.

That was the case last week when Canada-based mashup site Sowndhaus suddenly found that its domain had been rendered completely useless. As previously reported, the site’s domain was suspended by UK-based registrar DomainBox after it received a copyright complaint from the IFPI.

There are a number of elements to this story, not least that the site’s operators believe that their project is entirely legal.

“We are a few like-minded folks from the mashup community that were tired of doing the host dance – new sites welcome us with open arms until record industry pressure becomes too much and they mass delete and ban us,” a member of the Sowndhaus team informs TF.

“After every mass deletion there are a wave of producers that just retire and their music is lost forever. We decided to make a more permanent home for ourselves and Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act gave us the opportunity to do it legally.
We just want a small quiet corner of the internet where we can make music without being criminalized. It seems insane that I even have to say that.”

But while these are all valid concerns for the Sowndhaus community, there is a bigger picture here. There is absolutely no question that sites like YouTube and Soundcloud host huge libraries of mashups, yet somehow they hang on to their domains. Why would DomainBox take such drastic action? Is the site a real menace?

“The IFPI have sent a few standard DMCA takedown notices [to Sowndhaus, indirectly], each about a specific track or tracks on our server, asking us to remove them and any infringing activity. Every track complained about has been transformative, either a mashup or a remix and in a couple of cases cover versions,” the team explains.

But in all cases, it appears that IFPI and its agents didn’t take the time to complain to the site first. They instead went for the site’s infrastructure.

“[IFPI] have never contacted us directly, even though we have a ‘report copyright abuse’ feature on our site and a dedicated copyright email address. We’ve only received forwarded emails from our host and domain registrar,” the site says.

Sowndhaus believes that the event that led to the domain suspension was caused by a support ticket raised by the “RiskIQ Incident Response Team”, who appear to have been working on behalf of IFPI.

“We were told by DomainBox…’Please remove the unlawful content from your website, or the domain will be suspended. Please reply within the next 5 working days to ensure the request was actioned’,” Sowndhaus says.

But they weren’t given five days, or even one. DomainBox chose to suspend the Sowndhaus.com domain name immediately, rendering the site inaccessible and without even giving the site a chance to respond.

“They didn’t give us an option to appeal the decision. They just took the IFPI’s word that the files were unlawful and must be removed,” the site informs us.

Intrigued at why DomainBox took the nuclear option, TorrentFreak sent several emails to the company but each time they went unanswered. We also sent emails to Mesh Digital Ltd, DomainBox’s operator, but they were given the same treatment.

We wanted to know on what grounds the registrar suspended the domain but perhaps more importantly, we wanted to know if the company is as aggressive as this with its other customers.

To that end we posed a question: If DomainBox had been entrusted with the domains of YouTube or Soundcloud, would they have acted in the same manner? We can’t put words in their mouth but it seems likely that someone in the company would step in to avoid a PR disaster on that scale.

Of course, both YouTube and Soundcloud comply with the law by taking down content when it infringes someone’s rights. It’s a position held by Sowndhaus too, even though they do not operate in the United States.

“We comply fully with the Copyright Act (Canada) and have our own policy of removing any genuinely infringing content,” the site says, adding that users who infringe are banned from the platform.

While there has never been any suggestion that IFPI or its agents asked for Sowndhaus’ domain to be suspended, it’s clear that DomainBox made a decision to do just that. In some cases that might have been warranted, but registrars should definitely aim for a clear, transparent and fair process, so that the facts can be reviewed and appropriate action taken.

It’s something for people to keep in mind when they register a domain in future.

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

Google & Apple Order Telegram to Nuke Channel Over Taylor Swift Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-apple-order-telegram-to-nuke-channel-over-taylor-swift-piracy-171123/

Financed by Russian Facebook (vKontakte) founder Pavel Durov, Telegram is a multi-platform messaging system that has grown from 100,000 daily users in 2013 to an impressive 100 million users in February 2016.

“Telegram is a messaging app with a focus on speed and security, it’s super-fast, simple and free. You can use Telegram on all your devices at the same time — your messages sync seamlessly across any number of your phones, tablets or computers,” the company’s marketing reads.

One of the attractive things about Telegram is that it allows users to communicate with each other using end-to-end encryption. In some cases, these systems are used for content piracy, of music and other smaller files in particular. This is compounded by the presence of user-programmed bots, which are able to search the web for illegal content and present it in a Telegram channel to which other users can subscribe.

While much of this sharing files under the radar when conducted privately, it periodically attracts attention from copyright holders when it takes place in public channels. That appears to have happened recently when popular channel “Any Suitable Pop” was completely disabled by Telegram, an apparent first following a copyright complaint.

According to channel creator Anton Vagin, the action by Telegram was probably due to the unauthorized recent sharing of the Taylor Swift album ‘Reputation’. However, it was the route of complaint that proves of most interest.

Rather than receiving a takedown notice directly from Big Machine Records, the label behind Swift’s releases, Telegram was forced into action after receiving threats from Apple and Google, the companies that distribute the Telegram app for iOS and Android respectively.

According to a message Vagin received from Telegram support, Apple and Google had received complaints about Swift’s album from Universal Music, the distributor of Big Machine Records. The suggestion was that if Telegram didn’t delete the infringing channel, distribution of the Telegram app via iTunes and Google Play would be at risk. Vagin received no warning notices from any of the companies involved.

Message from Telegram support

According to Russian news outlet VC.ru, which first reported the news, the channel was blocked in Telegram’s desktop applications, as well as in versions for Android, macOS and iOS. However, the channel still existed on the web and via Windows phone applications but all messages within had been deleted.

The fact that Google played a major role in the disappearing of the channel was subsequently confirmed by Telegram founder Pavel Durov, who commented that it was Google who “ultimately demanded the blocking of this channel.”

That Telegram finally caved into the demands of Google and/or Apple doesn’t really come as a surprise. In Telegram’s frequently asked questions section, the company specifically mentions the need to comply with copyright takedown demands in order to maintain distribution via the companies’ app marketplaces.

“Our mission is to provide a secure means of communication that works everywhere on the planet. To do this in the places where it is most needed (and to continue distributing Telegram through the App Store and Google Play), we have to process legitimate requests to take down illegal public content (sticker sets, bots, and channels) within the app,” the company notes.

Putting pressure on Telegram via Google and Apple over piracy isn’t a new development. In the past, representatives of the music industry threatened to complain to the companies over a channel operated by torrent site RuTracker, which was set up to share magnet links.

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

Of Course Atlus Hit RPCS3’s Patreon Page Over Persona 5

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/of-course-atlus-hit-rpcs3s-patreon-page-over-persona-5-170927/

For the uninitiated, RPCS3 is an open-source Sony PlayStation 3 emulator for PC. This growing and brilliant piece of code was publicly released in 2012 and since then has been under constant development thanks to a decent-sized team of programmers and other contributors.

While all emulation has its challenges, emulating a relatively recent piece of hardware such as Playstation 3 is a massive undertaking. As a result, RPCS3 needs funding. This it achieves through its Patreon page, which currently receives support from 675 patrons to the tune of $3,000 per month.

There’s little doubt that there are plenty of people out there who want the project to succeed. Yesterday, however, things took a turn for the worse when RPCS3 attracted the negative attention of Atlus, the developer behind the utterly beautiful RPG, Persona 5.

According to the RPCS3 team, Atlus filed a DMCA takedown notice with Patreon requesting the removal of the entire RPCS3 page after the team promoted the fact that Persona 5 would be compatible with the under-development emulator.

“The PS3 emulator itself is not infringing on our copyrights and trademarks; however, no version of the P5 game should be playable on this platform; and [the RPCS3] developers are infringing on our IP by making such games playable,” Atlus told Patreon.

Fortunately for everyone involved, Patreon did not storm in and remove the entire page, not least since the page itself didn’t infringe on Atlus’ IP rights. However, Atlus was not happy with the response and attempted to negotiate with the fund-raising platform, noting that in order for Persona 5 to work, the user would have to circumvent the game’s DRM protections.

The RPCS3 team, on the other hand, believe they’re on solid ground, noting that where their main developers live, it is legal to make personal copies of legally purchased games. They concede it may not be legal for everyone, but in any event, that would be irrelevant to the DMCA notice filed against their Patreon page. Indeed, trying to take down an entire fundraiser with a DMCA notice was a significant overreach under the circumstances

According to a statement from the team, ultimately a decision was taken to proceed with caution. In order to avoid a full takedown of their Patreon page, all mentions of Persona 5 were removed from both the fund-raiser and main RPSC3 site yesterday.

The RPSC3 team noted that they had no idea why Atlus targeted their project but an announcement from the developer later shone a little light on the issue.

“We believe that our fans best experience our titles (like Persona 5) on the actual platforms for which they are developed. We don’t want their first experiences to be framerate drops, or crashes, or other issues that can crop up in emulation that we have not personally overseen,” Atlus explained.

While some gamers expressed negative opinions over Atlus’ undoubtedly overbroad actions yesterday, it’s difficult to argue with the developer’s main point. Emulators can be beautiful things but there is no doubt that in many instances they don’t recreate the gaming experience perfectly. Indeed, in some cases when things don’t go to plan, the results can be pretty horrible.

That being said, for whatever reason Atlus has chosen not to release a PC version of this popular title so, as many hardcore emulator fans will tell you (this one included), that’s a bit of a red rag to a bull. The company suggests that it might remedy that situation in the future though, so maybe that’s some consolation.

In the meantime, there’s a significant backlash against Atlus and what it attempted to do to the RPCS3 project and its fund-raising efforts. Some people are threatening never to buy an Atlus game ever again, for example, and that’s their prerogative.

But really – is anyone truly surprised that Atlus reacted in the way it did?

While Persona 5 isn’t available on PC yet, this isn’t an out-of-print game from 1982 that’s about to disappear into the black hole of time because there’s no hardware to play it on. This is a game created for relatively current hardware (bang up to date if you include the PS4 version) that was released April 2017 in the United States, just a handful of months ago.

As such, none of the usual ‘moral’ motivations for emulating games on other platforms exist for Persona 5 and for that reason alone, the decision to heavily mention it in RPCS3 fund-raising efforts was bound to backfire. It doesn’t matter whether emulation or dumping of ROMs is legal in some regions, any company can be expected to wade in when someone threatens their business model.

The stark reality is that when they do, entire projects can be put at risk. In this case, Patreon stepped in to save the day but it could’ve been a lot worse. Martyring the whole project for one game would’ve been a disaster for the team and the public. All that being said, Atlus is unlikely to come out of this on top.

“Whatever people may wish, there’s no way to stop any playable game from being executed on the emulator,” the RPCS3 team note.

“Blacklisting the game? RPCS3 is open-source, any attempt would easily be reversed. Attempting to take down the project? At the time of this post, this and many other games were already playable to their full extent, and again, RPCS3 is and will always be an open-source project.”

The bottom line here is that Atlus’ actions may have left a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of some gamers, but even the most hardcore emulator fan shouldn’t be surprised the company went for the throat on a game so fresh. That being said, there are lessons to be learned.

Atlus could’ve spoken quietly to RPCS3 first, but chose not to. RPCS3, on the other hand, will probably be a little bit more strategic with future game compatibility announcements, given what’s just happened. In the long term, that will help them, since it will ensure longevity for the project.

RPCS3 is needed, there’s no doubt about that, but its true value will only be felt when the PS3 has been consigned to history. At that point people will understand why it was worth all the effort – and the occasional hiccup.

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

EU Prepares Guidelines to Force Google & Facebook to Police Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-prepares-guidelines-to-force-google-facebook-to-police-piracy-170915/

In the current climate, creators and distributors are forced to play a giant game of whac-a-mole to limit the unlicensed spread of their content on the Internet.

The way the law stands today in the United States, EU, and most other developed countries, copyright holders must wait for content to appear online before sending targeted takedown notices to hosts, service providers, and online platforms.

After sending several billion of these notices, patience is wearing thin, so a new plan is beginning to emerge. Rather than taking down content after it appears, major entertainment industry groups would prefer companies to take proactive action. The upload filters currently under discussion in Europe are a prime example but are already causing controversy.

Continuing the momentum in this direction, Reuters reports that the European Union will publish draft guidelines at the end of this month, urging platforms such as Google and Facebook to take a more proactive approach to illegal content of all kinds.

“Online platforms need to significantly step up their actions to address this problem,” the draft EU guidelines say.

“They need to be proactive in weeding out illegal content, put effective notice-and-action procedures in place, and establish well-functioning interfaces with third parties (such as trusted flaggers) and give a particular priority to notifications from national law enforcement authorities.”

On the copyright front, Google already operates interfaces designed to take down infringing content. And, as the recent agreement in the UK with copyright holders shows, is also prepared to make infringing content harder to find. Nevertheless, it will remain to be seen if Google is prepared to give even ‘trusted’ third-parties a veto on what content can appear online, without having oversight itself.

The guidelines are reportedly non-binding but further legislation in this area isn’t being ruled out for Spring 2018, if companies fail to make significant progress.

Interestingly, however, a Commission source told Reuters that any new legislation would not “change the liability exemption for online platforms.” Maintaining these so-called ‘safe harbors’ is a priority for online giants such as Google and Facebook – anything less would almost certainly be a deal-breaker.

The guidelines, due to be published at the end of September, will also encourage online platforms to publish transparency reports. These should detail the volume of notices received and actions subsequently taken. Again, Google is way ahead of the game here, having published this kind of data for the past several years.

“The guidelines also contain safeguards against excessive removal of content, such as giving its owners a right to contest such a decision,” Reuters adds.

More will be known about the proposals in a couple of weeks but it’s quite likely they’ll spark another round of debate on whether legislation is the best route to tackle illegal content or whether voluntary agreements – which have a tendency to be rather less open – should be the way to go.

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

DMCA Used to Remove Ad Server URL From Easylist Ad Blocklist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dmca-used-to-remove-ad-server-url-from-easylist-ad-blocklist-170811/

The default business model on the Internet is “free” for consumers. Users largely expect websites to load without paying a dime but of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To this end, millions of websites are funded by advertising revenue.

Sensible sites ensure that any advertising displayed is unobtrusive to the visitor but lots seem to think that bombarding users with endless ads, popups, and other hindrances is the best way to do business. As a result, ad blockers are now deployed by millions of people online.

In order to function, ad-blocking tools – such as uBlock Origin or Adblock – utilize lists of advertising domains compiled by third parties. One of the most popular is Easylist, which is distributed by authors fanboy, MonztA, Famlam, and Khrinunder, under dual Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike and GNU General Public Licenses.

With the freedom afforded by those licenses, copyright tends not to figure high on the agenda for Easylist. However, a legal problem that has just raised its head is causing serious concern among those in the ad-blocking community.

Two days ago a somewhat unusual commit appeared in the Easylist repo on Github. As shown in the image below, a domain URL previously added to Easylist had been removed following a DMCA takedown notice filed with Github.

Domain text taken down by DMCA?

The DMCA notice in question has not yet been published but it’s clear that it targets the domain ‘functionalclam.com’. A user called ‘ameshkov’ helpfully points out a post by a new Github user called ‘DMCAHelper’ which coincided with the start of the takedown process more than three weeks ago.

A domain in a list circumvents copyright controls?

Aside from the curious claims of a URL “circumventing copyright access controls” (domains themselves cannot be copyrighted), the big questions are (i) who filed the complaint and (ii) who operates Functionalclam.com? The domain WHOIS is hidden but according to a helpful sleuth on Github, it’s operated by anti ad-blocking company Admiral.

Ad-blocking means money down the drain….

If that is indeed the case, we have the intriguing prospect of a startup attempting to protect its business model by using a novel interpretation of copyright law to have a domain name removed from a list. How this will pan out is unclear but a notice recently published on Functionalclam.com suggests the route the company wishes to take.

“This domain is used by digital publishers to control access to copyrighted content in accordance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and understand how visitors are accessing their copyrighted content,” the notice begins.

Combined with the comments by DMCAHelper on Github, this statement suggests that the complainants believe that interference with the ad display process (ads themselves could be the “copyrighted content” in question) represents a breach of section 1201 of the DMCA.

If it does, that could have huge consequences for online advertising but we will need to see the original DMCA notice to have a clearer idea of what this is all about. Thus far, Github hasn’t published it but already interest is growing. A representative from the EFF has already contacted the Easylist team, so this battle could heat up pretty quickly.

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.