Tag Archives: takedown notice

Epic Games Sues Man Over Bitcoin Mining Fortnite ‘Cheat’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-sues-man-over-bitcoin-mining-fortnite-cheat-171019/

A few weeks ago, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode for the PC and other platforms, generating massive interest among gamers.

The release also attracted attention from thousands of cheaters, many of whom were subsequently banned. In addition, Epic Games went a step further by taking several cheaters to court over copyright infringement.

This week the North Carolina-based game developer continued its a war against cheaters. In a new lawsuit, it targets two other cheaters who promoted their hacks through YouTube videos.

One of the defendants is a Swedish resident, Mr. Josefson. He created a cheat and promoted it in various videos, adding instructions on how to download and install it. In common with the previous defendants, he is being sued for copyright infringement.

The second cheater listed in the complaint, a Russian man named Mr. Yakovenko, is more unique. This man also promoted his Fortnite cheats through a series of YouTube videos, but they weren’t very effective.

When Epic downloaded the ‘cheat’ to see how it works, all they got was a Bitcoin miner.

“Epic downloaded the purported cheat from the links provided in Yakovenko’s YouTube videos. While the ‘cheat’ does not appear to be a functional Fortnite cheat, it functions as a bitcoin miner that infects the user’s computer with a virus that causes the user’s computer to mine bitcoin for the benefit of an unknown third party,” the complaint reads.

Epic ‘cheat’

Despite the non-working cheat, Epic Games maintains that Yakovenko created a cheat for Fortnite’s Battle Royale game mode, pointing to a YouTube video he posted last month.

“The First Yakovenko video and associated post contained instructions on how to download and install the cheat and showed full screen gameplay using the purported cheat,” the complaint reads.

All the videos have since been removed following takedown notices from Epic. Through the lawsuit, the game developer now hopes to get compensation for the damages it suffered.

In addition to the copyright infringement claims the two men are also accused of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and breach of contract.

There’s little doubt that Epic Games is doing its best to hold cheaters accountable. However, the problem is not easy to contain. A simple search for Fortnite Hack or Fortnite Cheat still yields tens of thousands of results, with new videos being added continuously.

A copy of the full complaint against Josefson and Yakovenko is available here (pdf).

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

Google Asked to Remove 3 Billion “Pirate” Search Results

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-asked-to-remove-3-billion-pirate-search-results-171018/

Copyright holders continue to flood Google with DMCA takedown requests, asking the company to remove “pirate links” from its search results.

In recent years the number of reported URLs has exploded, surging to unprecedented heights.

Since Google first started to report the volume of takedown requests in its Transparency Report, the company has been asked to remove more than three billion allegedly infringing search results.

The frequency at which these URLs are reported has increased over the years and at the moment roughly three million ‘pirate’ URLs are submitted per day.

The URLs are sent in by major rightsholders including members of the BPI, RIAA, and various major Hollywood studios. They target a wide variety of sites, over 1.3 million, but a few dozen ‘repeat offenders’ are causing the most trouble.

File-hosting service 4shared.com currently tops the list of most-targeted domains with 66 million URLs, followed by the now-defunct MP3 download site MP3toys.xyz and Rapidgator.net, with 51 and 28 million URLs respectively.

3 billion URLs

Interestingly, the high volume of takedown notices is used as an argument for and against the DMCA process.

While Google believes that the millions of reported URLs per day are a sign that the DMCA takedown process is working correctly, rightsholders believe the volumes are indicative of an unbeatable game of whack-a-mole.

According to some copyright holders, the takedown efforts do little to seriously combat piracy. Various industry groups have therefore asked governments and lawmakers for broad revisions.

Among other things they want advanced technologies and processes to ensure that infringing content doesn’t reappear elsewhere once it’s removed, a so-called “notice and stay down” approach. In addition, Google has often been asked to demote pirate links in search results.

UK music industry group BPI, who are responsible for more than 10% of all the takedown requests on Google, sees the new milestone as an indicator of how much effort its anti-piracy activities take.

“This 3 billion figure shows how hard the creative sector has to work to police its content online and how much time and resource this takes. The BPI is the world’s largest remover of illegal music links from Google, one third of which are on behalf of independent record labels,” Geoff Taylor, BPI’s Chief Executive, informs TF.

However, there is also some progress to report. Earlier this year BPI announced a voluntary partnership with Google and Bing to demote pirate content faster and more effectively for US visitors.

“We now have a voluntary code of practice in place in the UK, facilitated by Government, that requires Google and Bing to work together with the BPI and other creator organizations to develop lasting solutions to the problem of illegal sites gaining popularity in search listings,” Taylor notes.

According to BPI, both Google and Bing have shown that changes to their algorithms can be effective in demoting the worst pirate sites from the top search results and they hope others will follow suit.

“Other intermediaries should follow this lead and take more responsibility to work with creators to reduce the proliferation of illegal links and disrupt the ability of illegal sites to capture consumers and build black market businesses that take money away from creators.”

Agreement or not, there are still plenty of pirate links in search results, so the BPI is still sending out millions of takedown requests per month.

We asked Google for a comment on the new milestone but at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back. In any event, the issue is bound to remain a hot topic during the months and years to come.

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

MPAA Reports Pirate Sites, Hosts and Ad-Networks to US Government

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-reports-pirate-sites-hosts-and-ad-networks-to-us-government-171004/

Responding to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the MPAA has submitted an updated list of “notorious markets” that it says promote the illegal distribution of movies and TV-shows.

These annual submissions help to guide the U.S. Government’s position towards foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement.

What stands out in the MPAA’s latest overview is that it no longer includes offline markets, only sites and services that are available on the Internet. This suggests that online copyright infringement is seen as a priority.

The MPAA’s report includes more than two dozen alleged pirate sites in various categories. While this is not an exhaustive list, the movie industry specifically highlights some of the worst offenders in various categories.

“Content thieves take advantage of a wide constellation of easy-to-use online technologies, such as direct download and streaming, to create infringing sites and applications, often with the look and feel of legitimate content distributors, luring unsuspecting consumers into piracy,” the MPAA writes.

According to the MPAA, torrent sites remain popular, serving millions of torrents to tens of millions of users at any given time.

The Pirate Bay has traditionally been one of the main targets. Based on data from Alexa and SimilarWeb, the MPAA says that TPB has about 62 million unique visitors per month. The other torrent sites mentioned are 1337x.to, Rarbg.to, Rutracker.org, and Torrentz2.eu.

MPAA calls out torrent sites

The second highlighted category covers various linking and streaming sites. This includes the likes of Fmovies.is, Gostream.is, Primewire.ag, Kinogo.club, MeWatchSeries.to, Movie4k.tv and Repelis.tv.

Direct download sites and video hosting services also get a mention. Nowvideo.sx, Openload.co, Rapidgator.net, Uploaded.net and the Russian social network VK.com. Many of these services refuse to properly process takedown notices, the MPAA claims.

The last category is new and centers around piracy apps. These sites offer mobile applications that allow users to stream pirated content, such as IpPlayBox.tv, MoreTV, 3DBoBoVR, TVBrowser, and KuaiKa, which are particularly popular in Asia.

Aside from listing specific sites, the MPAA also draws the US Government’s attention to the streaming box problem. The report specifically mentions that Kodi-powered boxes are regularly abused for infringing purposes.

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

“The most popular software is an open source media player software, Kodi. Although Kodi is not itself unlawful, and does not host or link to unlicensed content, it can be easily configured to direct consumers toward unlicensed films and television shows.”

Pirate streaming boxes

There are more than 750 websites offering infringing devices, the Hollywood group notes, adding that the rapid growth of this problem is startling. Interestingly, the report mentions TVAddons.ag as a “piracy add-on repository,” noting that it’s currently offline. Whether the new TVAddons is also seen a problematic is unclear.

The MPAA also continues its trend of calling out third-party intermediaries, including hosting providers. These companies refuse to take pirate sites offline following complaints, even when the MPAA views them as blatantly violating the law.

“Hosting companies provide the essential infrastructure required to operate a website,” the MPAA writes. “Given the central role of hosting providers in the online ecosystem, it is very concerning that many refuse to take action upon being notified…”

The Hollywood group specifically mentions Private Layer and Netbrella as notorious markets. CDN provider CloudFlare is also named. As a US-based company, the latter can’t be included in the list. However, the MPAA explains that it is often used as an anonymization tool by sites and services that are mentioned in the report.

Another group of intermediaries that play a role in fueling piracy (mentioned for the first time) are advertising networks. The MPAA specifically calls out the Canadian company WWWPromoter, which works with sites such as Primewire.ag, Projectfreetv.at and 123movies.to

“The companies connecting advertisers to infringing websites and inadvertently contribute to the prevalence and prosperity of infringing sites by providing funding to the operators of these sites through advertising revenue,” the MPAA writes.

The MPAA’s full report is available here (pdf). The USTR will use this input above to make up its own list of notorious markets. This will help to identify current threats and call on foreign governments to take appropriate action.

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

EFF Warns Against Abusive Lawsuits Targeting Kodi Add-on Repository

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/eff-warns-against-abusive-lawsuits-targeting-kodi-add-on-repository-171002/

The popular Kodi add-on repository TVAddons was dragged into two seperate lawsuits in recent months, in both Canada and the United States.

TV broadcasters such as Bell, Rogers, and Dish accuse the platform of inducing or contributing to copyright infringement by making ‘pirate’ add-ons to the public.

TVAddons itself has always maintained its innocence. A site representative recently told us that they rely on the safe harbor protection laws, available both in the US and Canada, which they believed would shield them from copyright infringement liability for merely distributing add-ons.

“TV ADDONS is not a piracy site, it’s a platform for developers of open source add-ons for the Kodi media center. As a community platform filled with user-generated content, we have always acted in accordance with the law and swiftly complied whenever we received a DMCA takedown notice.”

While both cases are still in an early stage, TVAddons is receiving support from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who warn against abusive lawsuits targeting neutral add-on distributors.

According to the digital rights group, holding platforms such as TVAddons liable for infringement users may commit after they download an add-on from the site goes too far.

“The lawsuit against TVAddons seeks to skirt that important [safe harbor] protection by arguing that by merely hosting, distributing and promoting Kodi add-ons, the TVAddons administrator is liable for inducing or authorizing copyright infringements later committed using those add-ons.

“This argument, were it to succeed, would create new uncertainty and risk for distributors of any software that could be used to engage in copyright infringement,” EFF adds.

The US case, started by Dish Networks, tries to expand copyright liability according to EFF. This lawsuit also targets the developers of the Zem TV add-on. While the latter may have crossed a line, TVAddons should be protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor when they merely host third-party content.

“Vicarious copyright liability requires that the defendant have the ‘right and ability to supervise’ the conduct of the direct infringer, and benefit financially. Dish claims only that the TVAddons site made ZemTV ‘available for download.’ That’s not enough to show an ability to supervise,” EFF notes.

The complaint in question goes a bit further than the “download” argument alone though. It also accuses TVAddons’ operator of having induced and encouraged Zem TV’s developer to retransmit popular television programs, which is of a different order.

However, EFF informs TorrentFreak that this allegation is not specific enough for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss. If TVAddons’ operator indeed took some purposeful, knowing action to induce copyright infringement, it should be spelled out, they say.

According to the digital rights group, the goal of the current cases is to expand the borders of copyright infringement liability, calling on copyright holders to stop such abusive lawsuits.

“These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem.

“The courts should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits,” EFF concludes.

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

EU Proposes Take Down Stay Down Approach to Combat Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-proposes-take-down-stay-down-approach-to-combat-online-piracy-170928/

In recent years, many copyright holders have grown frustrated with pirates copies of their content (re)appearing on hundreds of online platforms.

This problem is not restricted to pirate sites, but also affects other services where users can freely upload content, including Dropbox, Google, YouTube, and Facebook.

In an attempt to streamline these takedown procedures the European Commission published a detailed set of guidelines today. Their communication titled “Tackling Illegal Content Online” includes a comprehensive overview of how illegal content, including piracy, should be dealt with.

The recommendation, of which a non-final copy leaked earlier this month, is non-binding. However, future legislative measures are not ruled out if no significant progress is made.

One of the motivations to release the guidelines is to define clearly what a good takedown policy would look like. A harmonized and coherent takedown approach is currently missing in the EU, the Commission notes.

“A more aligned approach would make the fight against illegal content more effective. It would also benefit the development of the Digital Single Market and reduce the cost of compliance with a multitude of rules for online platforms, including for new entrants,” the recommendation reads.

One of the suggestions that stand out is “proactive” filtering. The Commission recommends that online services should implement measures that can automatically detect and remove suspected illegal content.

“Online platforms should do their utmost to proactively detect, identify and remove illegal content online. The Commission strongly encourages online platforms to use voluntary, proactive measures aimed at the detection and removal of illegal content and to step up cooperation and investment in, and use of, automatic detection technologies.”

This is similar to the much-discussed upload filters and raises the question whether such practice is in line with existing EU law. In the Sabam v Netlog case, the European Court of Justice previously ruled that hosting sites can’t be forced to filter copyrighted content, as this would violate the privacy of users and hinder freedom of information.

Importantly, the Commission emphasizes that when online services explicitly search for pirated material, they won’t lose the benefit of the liability exemption provided for in Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive. In other words, copyright holders can’t hold these services accountable for content that slips through the net.

The recommendation further includes some specific suggestions to make sure that content, once removed, does not reappear. This is the notice-and-stay-down approach copyright holders are lobbying for, which can be addressed by content recognition tools including hash filtering.

“The Commission strongly encourages the further use and development of automatic technologies to prevent the re-appearance of illegal content online,” the document reads, adding that errors should not be overlooked.

“Where automatic tools are used to prevent re-appearance of illegal content a reversibility safeguard should be available for erroneous decisions, and the use and performance of this technology should be made transparent in the platforms’ terms of service.”

Hash-based and other automatic filters are not new of course. Services such as Google Drive and Dropbox already have these in place and YouTube’s Content-ID system also falls into this category.

Another measure to prevent re-uploading of content is to ban frequent offenders. The Commission notes that services should take appropriate measures against such users, which could include the suspension or termination of accounts.

Most of the suggestions come with a recommendation to have sufficient safeguards in place to repair or prevent errors. This includes a counter-notice process as well as regularly published transparency reports. In some cases where context is relevant, it is important to have a human reviewer in the loop.

Finally, the Commission encourages cooperation between online services and so-called “trusted flaggers.” The latter are known representatives of copyright holders who are trusted. As such, their takedown notices can be prioritized.

“Notices from trusted flaggers should be able to be fast-tracked by the platform. This cooperation should provide for mutual information exchange so as to evaluate and improve the removal process over time.”

The proposals go above and beyond current legal requirements. For many larger online services, it might not be too hard to comply with most of the above. But, for smaller services, it could be quite a burden.

European Digital Rights (EDRi) has highlighted some good and bad elements but remains critical.

“The document puts virtually all its focus on internet companies monitoring online communications, in order to remove content that they decide might be illegal. It presents few safeguards for free speech, and little concern for dealing with content that is actually criminal,” EDRi writes.

Google has also been critical of the notice-and-stay-down principle in the past. Copyright counsel Cédric Manara previously outlined several problems, concluding that the system “just won’t work.

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

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.

TVAddons and ZemTV Operators Named in US Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-and-zemtv-operators-named-in-us-lawsuit-170926/

Earlier this year, American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network targeted two well-known players in the third-party Kodi add-on ecosystem.

In a complaint filed in a federal court in Texas, add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were accused of copyright infringement. As a result, both are facing up to $150,000 for each offense.

Initially, the true identities of the defendants unknown and listed as John Does, but an amended complaint that was submitted yesterday reveal their alleged names and hometowns.

The Texas court previously granted subpoenas which allowed Dish to request information from the defendants’ accounts on services including Amazon, Github, Google, Twitter, Facebook and PayPal, which likely helped with the identification.

According to Dish ZemTV was developed by Shahjahan Durrani, who’s based in London, UK. He allegedly controlled and maintained the addon which was used to stream infringing broadcasts of Dish content.

“Durrani developed the ZemTV add-on and managed and operated the ZemTV service. Durrani used the aliases ‘Shani’ and ‘Shani_08′ to communicate with users of the ZemTV service,” the complaint reads.

The owner and operator of TVAddons is listed as Adam Lackman, who resides in Montreal, Canada. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, since Lackman is publicly listed as TVAddons’ owner on Linkedin and was previously named in a Canadian lawsuit.

While both defendants are named, the allegations against them haven’t changed substantially. Both face copyright infringement charges and potentially risk millions of dollars in damages.

Durrani directly infringed Dish’s copyrights by making the streams available, the plaintiffs note. Lackman subsequently profited from this and failed to take any action in response.

“Lackman had the legal right and actual ability to supervise and control this infringing activity because Lackman made the ZemTV add-on, which is necessary to access the ZemTV service, available for download on his websites.

“Lackman refused to take any action to stop the infringement of DISH’s exclusive rights in the programs transmitted through the ZemTV service,” the complaint adds.

TorrentFreak spoke to a TVAddons representative who refutes the copyright infringement allegations. The website sees itself as a platform for user-generated content and cites the DMCA’s safe harbor as a defense.

“TV ADDONS is not a piracy site, it’s a platform for developers of open source add-ons for the Kodi media center. As a community platform filled with user-generated content, we have always acted in accordance with the law and swiftly complied whenever we received a DMCA takedown notice.”

The representative states that it will be very difficult for them to defend themselves against a billion dollar company with unlimited resources, but hopes that the site will prevail.

The new TVAddons

After the original TVAddons.ag domain was seized in the Canadian lawsuit the site returned on TVaddons.co. However, hundreds of allegedly infringing add-ons are no longer listed.

The site previously relied on the DMCA to shield it from liability but apparently, that wasn’t enough. As a result, they now check all submitted add-ons carefully.

“Since complying with the law is clearly not enough to prevent frivolous legal action from being taken against you, we have been forced to implement a more drastic code vetting process,” the TVAddons representative says.

If it’s not entirely clear that an add-on is properly licensed, it won’t be submitted for the time being. This hampers innovation, according to TVAddons, and threatens many communities that rely on user-generated content.

“When you visit any given web site, how can you be certain that every piece of media you see is licensed by the website displaying it? You can assume, but it’s very difficult to be certain. That’s why the DMCA is critical to the existence of online communities.”

Now that both defendants have been named the case will move forward. This may eventually lead to an in-depth discovery process where Dish will try to find more proof that both were knowingly engaging in infringing activity.

Durrani and Lackman, on the other hand, will try to prove their innocence.

A copy of the amended complaint is available here (pdf).

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

Windstream Gives Up Preemptive Fight Over ISP’s Piracy Liability

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/windstream-gives-up-preemptive-fight-over-isps-piracy-liability-170920/

Can an Internet provider be held liable for subscribers who share pirated files? Yes, a Virginia federal jury ruled two years ago.

This verdict caused great uncertainty in the ISP industry, as several companies suddenly realized that they could become the next target.

Internet provider Windstream is among the companies that are worried about the fallout. With 1.1 million subscribers nationwide, it is one of the larger Internet providers in the United States. As such, it receives takedown notices on a regular basis.

Many of these notices come from music rights group BMG, which accused Windstream and its subscribers of various copyright infringements. These notices are issued by the monitoring outfit Rightscorp and often come with a settlement demand for the account holders.

When Windstream refused to forward these notices, as it’s not required to do so by law, BMG and Rightscorp increased the pressure. They threatened that the ISP could be liable for millions of dollars in piracy damages for failing to disconnect repeat infringers.

Faced with this threat, Windstream filed a request for declaratory judgment at a New York District Court last year, requesting a legal ruling on the matter. This preemptive lawsuit didn’t turn out as planned for the ISP.

In April the court ruled that there is no ‘actual controversy’ and that it can’t issue a hypothetical and advisory opinion without concrete facts. As such, the case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Windstream didn’t throw in the towel right away though and appealed the verdict. The ISP argued that the $150,000 in damages per infringement BMG claimed caused a real controversy.

“BMG’s accusations were not idle threats in light of the undisputed fact that BMG had recently obtained a $25,000,000 recovery against another conduit ISP based on similar claims,” the ISP wrote in a brief last month.

“Thus, the undisputed facts conclusively establish that an actual controversy exists to support Windstream’s request for a declaration that it is not liable for any alleged infringement of BMG’s copyrights.”

Despite Windstream’s initial persistence, something changed in recent weeks. Without any prior signs in the court docket, the company has now asked the Judge to dismiss the case entirely, with both parties paying their own costs.

“Windstream respectfully requests that this Court dismiss in full Windstream’s present appeal with prejudice against BMG and Rightscorp, with each party bearing its own costs in this appeal.”

While there is no mention of a settlement of any kind, BMG and Rightscorp do not oppose the request. This effectively means that the case is over. The same previously happened in a similar lawsuit, where Internet provider RCN demanded a declaratory judgment.

This means that all eyes are once again on the case between BMG and Cox Communications, which got this all started and is currently under appeal.

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.

Australian Government Want ISPs to Adopt Anti-Piracy Code

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/australian-government-want-isps-to-adopt-anti-piracy-code-170915/

Australia has been struggling to find an adequate response to online piracy for several years, but progress has been slow.

While pirate site blockades are in effect now, an earlier plan to implement a three-strikes anti-piracy regime failed.

Despite this setback, Australian legislators are still determined to tackle widespread copyright infringement. The most recent effort comes through an overhaul of the country’s copyright regulations, with a new proposal (pdf) to adopt a voluntary anti-piracy code.

The code would apply to carriage service providers, including Internet providers, to agree on a joint anti-piracy strategy. The voluntary code should be supported by “broad consensus” and include technical measures that are “used to protect and identify copyright material.”

The proposal further stresses that the anti-piracy measures should be “non-discriminatory.” They also shouldn’t impose “substantial costs” on the service providers or “substantial burdens on their systems or networks.”

The code proposal

The description of the code is quite broad can include a wide variety of measures, including a new iteration of the “strikes” scheme where copyright holders report copyright infringements. A website blocking agreement, which avoids costly court procedures, also belongs to the options.

An accompanying consultation paper published by the Government stresses that any monitoring measures to track infringements should not interfere with the technology used at the originating sites, ZDNet notes.

While the Government pushes copyright holders and ISPs to come to a voluntary agreement, the failed “three strikes” negotiations suggest that this will be easier said than done.

At the time, the Australasian Music Publishers Association (AMPAL) noted that merely warning users did not go far enough. Instead, they recommended a system where ISPs themselves would implement monitoring and filtering technology to stop piracy.

It appears, however, that extensive monitoring and filtering on the ISPs’ networks goes beyond the scope of the proposed regulations. After all, that would be quite costly and place a significant burden on the ISPs.

The proposed regulations are not limited to the anti-piracy code but also specify how Internet providers should process takedown notices, among other things.

Before any changes are implemented or negotiations begin, the Government is first inviting various stakeholders to share their views. While it doesn’t intend to change the main outline, the Government welcomes suggestions to simplify the current proposal where possible.

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

WordPress Reports Surge in ‘Piracy’ Takedown Notices, Rejects 78%

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/wordpress-reports-surge-in-piracy-takedown-notices-rejects-78-170909/

Automattic, the company behind the popular WordPress.com blogging platform, receives thousands of takedown requests from rightsholders.

A few days ago the company published its latest transparency report, showing that it had processed 9,273 requests during the first half of 2017.

This is more than double the amount it received during the same period last year, which is a significant increase. Looking more closely at the numbers, we see that this jump is solely due to an increase in incomplete and abusive requests.

Of all the DMCA notices received, only 22% resulted in the takedown of allegedly infringing content. This translates to 2,040 legitimate requests, which is less than the 2,342 Automattic received during the same period last year.

This logically means that the number of abusive and incomplete DMCA notices has skyrocketed. And indeed, in its most recent report, 78% of all requests were rejected due to missing information or plain abuse. That’s much more than the year before when 42% were rejected.

Automattic’s transparency report (first half of 2017)

WordPress prides itself on carefully reviewing the content of each and every takedown notice, to protect its users. This means checking whether a takedown request is properly formatted but also reviewing the legitimacy of the claims.

“We also may decline to remove content if a notice is abusive. ‘Abusive’ notices may be formally complete, but are directed at fair use of content, material that isn’t copyrightable, or content the complaining party misrepresents ownership of a copyright,” Automattic notes.

During the first half of 2017, a total of 649 takedown requests were categorized as abuse. Some of the most blatant examples go into the “Hall of Shame,” such as a recent case where the Canadian city of Abbotsford tried to censor a parody of its logo, which replaced a pine tree with a turd.

While some abuse cases sound trivial they can have a real impact on website operators, as examples outside of WordPress show. Most recently the operator of Oro Jackson, a community dedicated to the anime series “One Piece,” was targeted with several dubious DMCA requests.

The takedown notices were sent by the German company Comeso and were forwarded through their hosting company Linode. The notices urged the operator to remove various forum threads because they included words of phrases such as “G’day” and “Reveries of the Moonlight,” not actual infringing content.

G’day

Fearing legal repercussions, the operator saw no other option than to censor these seemingly harmless discussions (starting a thread with “G’day”!!), until there’s a final decision on the counter-notice. They remain offline today.

It’s understandable that hosting companies have to be strict sometimes, as reviewing copyright claims is not their core business. However, incidents like these show how valuable the skeptical review process of Automattic is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game of Thrones Piracy Peaks After Season Finale

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-of-thrones-piracy-peaks-after-season-finale-170828/

The seventh season of Game of Thrones has been the most-viewed thus far, with record-breaking TV ratings.

Traditionally, the season finale is among the most-viewed episodes of the season. This is true on official channels, but also on pirate sites.

Despite numerous legal options, Game of Thrones remains extremely popular among pirates. Minutes after the official broadcast ended last night people flocked to various torrent and streaming sites, to watch it for free.

Looking at the torrent download numbers we see that the latest episode is topping all previous ones of this season. At the time of writing, more than 400,000 people were actively sharing one of the many available torrents.

Some of the more popular GoT torrents

While the demand is significant, there is no all time “swarm record” as we saw two years ago.

In part, this may be due to improved legal options, but the recent rise of pirate streaming sites and services are also ‘stealing’ traffic. While there is no hard data available, millions of people now use streaming sites and services to watch pirated episodes of Game of Thrones.

Record or not, there is little doubt that Game of Thrones will end up being the most pirated show of the year once again. That will be the sixth year in a row, which is unprecedented.

In recent years, HBO has tried to contain piracy by sending DMCA takedown notices to pirate sites. In addition, the company also warned tens of thousands of BitTorrent downloaders directly. Nonetheless, many people still find their way to this unofficial market.

While HBO has grown used to mass-scale piracy in recent years, it encountered some other major setbacks this season. Hackers leaked preliminary outlines of various episodes before they aired. The same hackers also threatened to release the season finale, but that never happened.

There were two episode leaks this year, but these were unrelated to the aforementioned. The fourth episode leaked through the Indian media processing company Prime Focus Technologies, which resulted in several arrests. Two weeks later, HBO Spain accidentally made the sixth episode public days in advance, which spread online soon after.

On the upside. Piracy aside, the interest of the media and millions of ‘legal’ viewers appears to be on a high as well, so there’s certainly something left to celebrate.

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.

RIAA’s Piracy Claims are Misleading and Inaccurate, ISP Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaas-piracy-claims-are-misleading-and-inaccurate-isp-says-170807/

For more than a decade, copyright holders have been sending ISPs takedown notices to alert them that their subscribers are sharing copyrighted material.

Under US law, providers have to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers “in appropriate circumstances” and increasingly they are being held to this standard.

Earlier this year several major record labels, represented by the RIAA, filed a lawsuit in a Texas District Court, accusing ISP Grande Communications of failing to take action against its pirating subscribers.

The ISP is not happy with the claims and was quick to submit a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. One of the arguments is that the RIAA’s evidence is insufficient.

In its original motion, Grande doesn’t deny receiving millions of takedown notices from piracy tracking company Rightscorp. However, it believes that these notices are flawed as Rightscorp is incapable of monitoring actual copyright infringements.

The RIAA disagreed and pointed out that their evidence is sufficient. They stressed that Rightcorp is able to monitor actual downloads, as opposed to simply checking if a subscriber is offering certain infringing content.

In a response from Grande, late last week, the ISP argues that this isn’t good enough to build a case. While Rightcorp may be able to track the actual infringing downloads to which the RIAA labels hold the copyrights, there is no such evidence provided in the present case, the ISP notes.

“Importantly, Plaintiffs do not allege that Rightscorp has ever recorded an instance of a Grande subscriber actually distributing even one of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works. Plaintiffs certainly have not alleged any concrete facts regarding such an act,” Grande’s legal team writes (pdf).

According to the ISP, the RIAA’s evidence merely shows that Rightscorp sent notices of alleged infringements on behalf of other copyright holders, who are not involved in the lawsuit.

“Instead, Plaintiffs generally allege that Rightscorp has sent notices regarding ‘various copyrighted works,’ encompassing all of the notices sent by Rightscorp on behalf of entities other than Plaintiffs.”

While the RIAA argues that this circumstantial evidence is sufficient, the ISP believes that there are grounds to have the entire case dismissed.

The record labels can’t hold Grande liable for secondary copyright infringement, without providing concrete evidence that their works were actively distributed by Grande subscribers, the company claims.

“Plaintiffs cannot allege direct infringement without alleging concrete facts which show that a Grande subscriber actually infringed one of Plaintiffs’ copyrights,” Grande’s lawyers note.

“For this reason, it is incredibly misleading for Plaintiffs to repeatedly refer to Grande having received ‘millions’ of notices of alleged infringement, as if those notices all pertained to Plaintiffs’ asserted copyrights.”

The “misleading” copyright infringement evidence argument is only one part of the ISPs defense. The company also notes that it has no control over what its subscribers do, nor do they control the BitTorrent clients that were allegedly used to download content.

If the court ruled otherwise, Grande and other ISPs would essentially be forced to become an “unpaid enforcement agent of the recording industry,” the company’s lawyers note.

The RIAA, however, sees things quite differently.

The music industry group believes that Grande failed to take proper action in response to repeat infringers and should pay damages to compensate the labels. This claim is very similar to the one BMG brought against Cox, where the latter was eventually ordered to pay $25 million.

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.

Game of Thrones Pirates Being Monitored By HBO, Warnings On The Way

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-thrones-pirates-monitored-hbo-warnings-way-170719/

Earlier this week, HBO released the long-awaited seventh season of the hit series Game of Thrones.

The show has broken several piracy records over the years and, thus far, there has been plenty of interest in the latest season.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by HBO. Soon after the first episode of the new season appeared online Sunday evening, the company’s anti-piracy partner IP Echelon started sending warnings targeted at torrenting pirates.

The warnings in question include the IP-addresses of alleged BitTorrent users and ask the associated ISPs to alert their subscribers, in order to prevent further infringements.

“We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization,” the notification begins.

“HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks.”

Under US copyright law, ISPs are not obligated to forward these emails, which are sent as a DMCA notification. However, many do as a courtesy to the affected rightsholders.

Redacted infringement details from one of the notices

The warnings are not targeted at a single swarm but cover a wide variety of torrents. TorrentFreak has already seen takedown notices for the following files, but it’s likely that many more are being tracked.

  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.720p.WEB.h264-TBS[eztv].mkv
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.HDTV.x264-SVA[rarbg]
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.WEB.h264-TBS[ettv]
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.HDTV.x264-SVA[eztv].mkv
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.720p.HDTV.x264-AVS[eztv].mkv

This isn’t the first time that Game of Thrones pirates have received these kinds of warnings. Similar notices were sent out last year for pirated episodes of the sixth season, and it’s now clear that HBO is not backing down.

Although HBO stresses that copyright infringement is against the law, there are no legal strings attached for the subscribers in question. The company doesn’t know the identity of the alleged pirates, and would need to go to court to find out. This has never happened before.

Filing lawsuits against Game of Thrones fans is probably not high on HBO’s list, but the company hopes that affected subscribers will think twice before downloading future episodes after they are warned.

The DMCA notice asks ISPs to inform subscribers about the various legal alternatives that are available, to give them a push in the right direction.

“We also encourage you to inform the subscriber that HBO programming can easily be watched and streamed on many devices legally by adding HBO to the subscriber’s television package,” the notice reads.

While this type of message may have an effect on some, they only cover a small fraction of the piracy landscape. Millions of people are using pirate streaming tools and websites to watch Game of Thrones, and these views can’t be monitored.

In addition, the fact that many broadcasters worldwide suffered technical issues and outages when Game of Thrones premiered doesn’t help either. The legal options should be superior to the pirated offerings, not the other way around.

A redacted copy of one of the notices is available below.

Dear xxx Communications,

This message is sent on behalf of HOME BOX OFFICE, INC.

We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xxx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization (additional details are listed below). HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks.

As the owner of the IP address, HBO requests that xxx Communications immediately contact the subscriber who was assigned the IP address at the date and time below with the details of this notice, and take the proper steps to prevent further downloading or sharing of unauthorized content and additional infringement notices.

We also encourage you to inform the subscriber that HBO programming can easily be watched and streamed on many devices legally by adding HBO to the subscriber’s television package.

We have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted material detailed below is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. The information in this notice is accurate and we state, under penalty of perjury, that we are authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed. This letter is not a complete statement of HBO’s rights in connection with this matter, and nothing contained herein constitutes an express or implied wavier of any rights or remedies of HBO in connection with this matter, all of which are expressly reserved.

We appreciate your assistance and thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Your prompt response is requested. Any further enquiries can be directed to [email protected] Please include this message with your enquiry to ensure a quick response.

Respectfully,

Adrian Leatherland
CEO
IP-Echelon

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

Movie Studios Wipe Pirate Site Homepages From Google Search

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/movie-studios-wipe-pirate-site-homepages-from-google-search-170716/

Over the past two weeks several pirate streaming sites have seen their homepages disappear from Google’s search results.

Earlier this week we reported how GoMovies switched to a new domain name, for this very reason, but on closer inspection it appears that several other sites have suffered the same fate.

While homepages have been removed before, the takedown notices that triggered the recent removals seem to be a systematic effort. They are all sent by the prominent law firm Kilpatrick Townsend, which acts on behalf of a variety of Hollywood movie studios.

The notices, of which the first was sent roughly two weeks ago, all follow a similar pattern. They identify infringing content on pirate streaming sites and list the individual URLs for these movies. In addition, however, many also include the homepage, which often highlights the same movie as a “new” or popular title.

In the case of Gomovies.is, a request was sent on behalf of Warner Bros. to remove Wonder Woman’s streaming page from Google, as well as the homepage where the movie was listed in the popular section.

This worked, not only for the GoMovies domain name but also for dozens of other streaming sites including yesmovies.org, watchfree.ac, xmovies.is, watch29.com, vivo.to, tunemovie.com, putlockervip.com, playmovies.to, moviesub.is and fmovies.ac.

The takedown notice

The example above is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past two weeks the law firm has targeted many pirate streaming sites, acting on behalf of Warner Bros, Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, NBC Universal and others. This effectively removed dozens of pirate site homepages from search results.

To outsiders, it may seem like a homepage is just another link but for site owners, it’s a crucial matter. Many of these streaming sites rely on their brand name to remain findable in search engines, and when the homepage is removed, it’s nearly impossible to rise to the top of search results.

Although Google removed many of the early requests, it’s not blindly removing all URLs.

In response to several recent notices the search engine decided to take “no action” for the homepages, which is why gomovies.sc, cmovieshd.com, ap551.com, and others remain indexed. It’s possible that the infringing content was no longer linked on these homepages when Google reviewed the DMCA notices in question.

As for GoMovies, they simply decided to move to a new URL and remove any infringing content from the homepage so they don’t face the same problem in the future.

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

GoMovies Moves to GoStream.is and Evades Google ‘Ban’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/gomovies-moves-to-gostream-is-and-evades-google-ban-170714/

Pirate video streaming sites are booming. Their relative ease of use through on-demand viewing makes them a viable alternative to P2P file-sharing, which traditionally dominated the piracy arena.

The popular movie streaming sites GoMovies, formerly known as 123movies, is one of the most-used streaming sites. While it’s built a steady userbase of millions of users over the past year, the site’s home keeps changing.

The latest move came this week. Going forward, the site will be active from GoStream.is, operating from the Icelandic gostream.is domain name.

While the site hasn’t officially commented on the reason for the move, on Twitter a site representative mentioned a Google ‘penalty’ as the main driver behind the recent change.

Penalized

When we looked at the issue more closely, we found that it’s not so much a penalty, but rather a response to a DMCA takedown request.

Earlier this week the site’s homepage was removed from Google’s search engine following a takedown notice from Warner Bros. This made it harder for users to find the site through Google, as various knockoffs were ranked higher in the search results for the “Gomovies” keyword.

In addition to relocating to a new domain name, the site has also changed the look of its homepage. Instead of a page filled with the most popular movies and TV-shows, it now lists a basic search box.

New GoMovies homepage

The homepage change is likely a response to Google’s search engine removal as well. The previous GoMovies domain was targeted by Warner Bros. because it listed a link to a pirated movie, but such links are no longer present on the new homepage.

That said, users who prefer the old look can still access it with a single click, which is prominently mentioned on the site.

Despite the domain name change, the GoMovies brand hasn’t changed. The logo and all other references to the site’s name remain intact. Confusingly, people who search for GoMovies on Google still won’t see the Gostream.is URL in the top results, but perhaps that will change in the future.

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