Tag Archives: Takedown

Despite US Criticism, Ukraine Cybercrime Chief Receives Few Piracy Complaints

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/despite-us-criticism-ukraine-cybercrime-chief-receives-few-piracy-complaints-180522/

On a large number of occasions over the past decade, Ukraine has played host to some of the world’s largest pirate sites.

At various points over the years, The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents, ExtraTorrent, Demonoid and raft of streaming portals could be found housed in the country’s data centers, reportedly taking advantage of laws more favorable than those in the US and EU.

As a result, Ukraine has been regularly criticized for not doing enough to combat piracy but when placed under pressure, it does take action. In 2010, for example, the local government expressed concerns about the hosting of KickassTorrents in the country and in August the same year, the site was kicked out by its host.

“Kickasstorrents.com main web server was shut down by the hosting provider after it was contacted by local authorities. One way or another I’m afraid we must say goodbye to Ukraine and move the servers to other countries,” the site’s founder told TF at the time.

In the years since, Ukraine has launched sporadic action against pirate sites and has taken steps to tighten up copyright law. The Law on State Support of Cinematography came into force during April 2017 and gave copyright owners new tools to combat infringement by forcing (in theory, at least) site operators and web hosts to respond to takedown requests.

But according to the United States and Europe, not enough is being done. After the EU Commission warned that Ukraine risked damaging relations with the EU, last September US companies followed up with another scathing attack.

In a recommendation to the U.S. Government, the IIPA, which counts the MPAA, RIAA, and ESA among its members, asked U.S. authorities to suspend or withdraw Ukraine’s trade benefits until the online piracy situation improves.

“Legislation is needed to institute proper notice and takedown provisions, including a requirement that service providers terminate access to individuals (or entities) that have repeatedly engaged in infringement, and the retention of information for law enforcement, as well as to provide clear third party liability regarding ISPs,” the IIPA wrote.

But amid all the criticism, Ukraine cyber police chief Sergey Demedyuk says that while his department is committed to tackling piracy, it can only do so when complaints are filed with him.

“Yes, we are engaged in piracy very closely. The problem is that piracy is a crime of private accusation. So here we deal with them only in cases where we are contacted,” Demedyuk said in an Interfax interview published yesterday.

Surprisingly, given the number of dissenting voices, it appears that complaints about these matters aren’t exactly prevalent. So are there many at all?

“Unfortunately, no. In the media, many companies claim that their rights are being violated by pirates. But if you count the applications that come to us, they are one,” Demedyuk reveals.

“In general, we are handling Ukrainian media companies, who produce their own product and are worried about its fate. Also on foreign films, the ‘Anti-Piracy Agency’ refers to us, but not as intensively as before.”

Why complaints are going down, Demedyuk does not know, but when his unit is asked to take action it does so, he claims. Indeed, Demedyuk cites two particularly significant historical operations against a pair of large ‘pirate’ sites.

In 2012, Ukraine shut down EX.ua, a massive cyberlocker site following a six-month investigation initiated by international tech companies including Microsoft, Graphisoft and Adobe. Around 200 servers were seized, together hosting around 6,000 terabytes of data.

Then in November 2016, following a complaint from the MPAA, police raided FS.to, one of Ukraine’s most popular pirate sites. Initial reports indicated that 60 servers were seized and 19 people were arrested.

“To see the effect of combating piracy, this should not be done at the level of cyberpolicy, but at the state level,” Demedyuk advises.

“This requires constant close interaction between law enforcement agencies and rights holders. Only by using all these tools will we be able to effectively counteract copyright infringements.”

Meanwhile, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has maintained Ukraine’s position on the Priority Watchlist of its latest Special 301 Report and there a no signs it will be leaving anytime soon.

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

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 Repeat Infringer Policy Shuts Down Megalinks Piracy Sub

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/reddit-repeat-infringer-policy-shuts-down-megalinks-piracy-sub-180430/

Without doubt, Reddit is one of the most popular sites on the entire Internet. At the time of writing it’s the fourth most visited site in the US with 330 million users per month generating 14 billion screenviews.

The core of the site’s success is its communities. Known as ‘sub-Reddits’ or just ‘subs’, there are currently 138,000 of them dedicated to every single subject you can think of and tens of thousands you’d never considered.

Even though they’re technically forbidden, a small but significant number are dedicated to piracy, offering links to copyright-infringing content hosted elsewhere. One of the most popular is /r/megalinks, which is dedicated to listing infringing content (mainly movies and TV shows) uploaded to file-hosting site Mega.

Considering its activities, Megalinks has managed to stay online longer than most people imagined but following an intervention from Reddit, the content indexing sub has stopped accepting new submissions, which will effectively shut it down.

In an announcement Sunday, the sub’s moderators explained that following a direct warning from Reddit’s administrators, the decision had been taken to move on.

“As most of you know by now, we’ve had to deal with a lot of DMCA takedowns over the last 6 months. Everyone knew this day would come, eventually, and its finally here,” they wrote.

“We received a formal warning from Reddit’s administration 2 days ago, and have decided to restrict new submissions for the safety of the subreddit.”

The message from Reddit’s operators makes it absolutely clear that Reddit isn’t the platform to host what amounts to a piracy links forum.

“This is an official warning from Reddit that we are receiving too many copyright infringement notices about material posted to your community. We will be required to ban this community if you can’t adequately address the problem,” the warning reads.

Noting that Redditors aren’t allowed to post content that infringes copyrights, the administrators say they are required by law to handle DMCA notices and that in cases where infringement happens on multiple occasions, that needs to be handled in a more aggressive manner.

“The law also requires us to issue bans in cases of repeat infringement. Sometimes a repeat infringement problem is limited to just one user and we ban just that person. Other times the problem pervades a whole community and we ban the community,” the admins continue.

“This is our formal warning about repeat infringement in this community. Over the past three months we’ve had to remove material from the community in response to copyright notices 60 times. That’s an unusually high number taking into account the community’s size.

The warning suggests ways to keep infringing content down but in a sub dedicated to piracy, they’re all completely irrelevant. It also suggests removing old posts to ensure that Reddit doesn’t keep getting notices, but that would mean deleting pretty much everything. Backups exist but a simple file is a poor substitute for a community.

So, with Reddit warning that without change the sub will be banned, the moderators of /r/megalinks have decided to move on to a new home. Reportedly hosted ‘offshore’, their new forum already has more than 9,800 members and is likely to grow quickly as the word spreads.

A month ago, the /r/megaporn sub-Reddit suffered a similar fate following a warning from Reddit’s admins. It successfully launched a new external forum which is why the Megalinks crew decided on the same model.

“[A]fter seeing how /r/megaporn approached the same situation, we had started working on an offshore forum a week ago in anticipation of the ban. This allows us to work however we want, without having to deal with Reddit’s policies and administration,” the team explain.

Ever since the BMG v Cox case went bad ways for the ISP in 2015, repeat infringer policies have become a very hot topic in the US. That Reddit is now drawing a line in the sand over a relatively small number of complaints (at least compared to other similar platforms) is clear notice that Reddit and blatant piracy won’t be allowed to walk hand in hand.

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

Russia Blacklists 250 Pirate Sites For Displaying Gambling Ads

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-blacklists-250-pirate-sites-for-displaying-gambling-ads-180421/

Blocking alleged pirate sites is usually a question of proving that they’re involved in infringement and then applying to the courts for an injunction.

In Europe, the process is becoming easier, largely thanks to an EU ruling that permits blocking on copyright grounds.

As reported over the past several years, Russia is taking its blocking processes very seriously. Copyright holders can now have sites blocked in just a few days, if they can show their operators as being unresponsive to takedown demands.

This week, however, Russian authorities have again shown that copyright infringement doesn’t have to be the only Achilles’ heel of pirate sites.

Back in 2006, online gambling was completely banned in Russia. Three years later in 2009, land-based gambling was also made illegal in all but four specified regions. Then, in 2012, the Russian Supreme Court ruled that ISPs must block access to gambling sites, something they had previously refused to do.

That same year, telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor began publishing a list of banned domains and within those appeared some of the biggest names in gambling. Many shut down access to customers located in Russia but others did not. In response, Rozcomnadzor also began targeting sites that simply offered information on gambling.

Fast forward more than six years and Russia is still taking a hard line against gambling operators. However, it now finds itself in a position where the existence of gambling material can also assist the state in its quest to take down pirate sites.

Following a complaint from the Federal Tax Service of Russia, Rozcomnadzor has again added a large number of ‘pirate’ sites to the country’s official blocklist after they advertised gambling-related products and services.

“Rozkomnadzor, at the request of the Federal Tax Service of Russia, added more than 250 pirate online cinemas and torrent trackers to the unified register of banned information, which hosted illegal advertising of online casinos and bookmakers,” the telecoms watchdog reported.

Almost immediately, 200 of the sites were blocked by local ISPs since they failed to remove the advertising when told to do so. For the remaining 50 sites, breathing space is still available. Their bans can be suspended if the offending ads are removed within a timeframe specified by the authorities, which has not yet run out.

“Information on a significant number of pirate resources with illegal advertising was received by Rozcomnadzor from citizens and organizations through a hotline that operates on the site of the Unified Register of Prohibited Information, all of which were sent to the Federal Tax Service for making decisions on restricting access,” the watchdog revealed.

Links between pirate sites and gambling companies have traditionally been close over the years, with advertising for many top-tier brands appearing on portals large and small. However, in recent times the prevalence of gambling ads has diminished, in part due to campaigns conducted in the United States, Europe, and the UK.

For pirate site operators in Russia, the decision to carry gambling ads now comes with the added risk of being blocked. Only time will tell whether any reduction in traffic is considered serious enough to warrant a gambling boycott of their own.

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.

MPAA Aims to Prevent Piracy Leaks With New Security Program

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-aims-to-prevent-piracy-leaks-with-new-security-program-180403/

When movies and TV shows leak onto the Internet in advance of their intended release dates, it’s generally a time of celebration for pirates.

Grabbing a workprint or DVD screener of an Oscar nominee or a yet to be aired on TV show makes the Internet bubble with excitement. But for the studios and companies behind the products, it presents their worst nightmare.

Despite all the takedown efforts known to man, once content appears, there’s no putting the genie back into the bottle.

With this in mind, the solution doesn’t lie with reactionary efforts such as Internet disconnections, site-blocking and similar measures, but better hygiene while content is still in production or being prepared for distribution. It’s something the MPAA hopes to address with a brand new program designed to bring the security of third-party vendors up to scratch.

The Trusted Partner Network (TPN) is the brainchild of the MPAA and the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA), a worldwide forum advocating the innovative and responsible delivery and storage of entertainment content.

TPN is being touted as a global industry-wide film and television content protection initiative which will help companies prevent leaks, breaches, and hacks of their customers’ movies and television shows prior to their intended release.

“Content is now created by a growing ecosystem of third-party vendors, who collaborate with varying degrees of security,” TPN explains.

“This has escalated the security threat to the entertainment industry’s most prized asset, its content. The TPN program seeks to raise security awareness, preparedness, and capabilities within our industry.”

The TPN will establish a “single benchmark of minimum security preparedness” for vendors whose details will be available via centralized and global “trusted partner” database. The TPN will replace security assessments programs already in place at the MPAA and CDSA.

While content owners and vendors are still able to conduct their own security assessments on an “as-needed” basis, the aim is for the TPN to reduce the number of assessments carried out while assisting in identifying vulnerabilities. The pool of “trusted partners” is designed to help all involved understand and meet the challenges of leaks, whether that’s movie, TV show, or associated content.

While joining the TPN program is voluntary, there’s a strong suggestion that becoming involved in the program is in vendors’ best interests. Being able to carry the TPN logo will be an asset to doing business with others involved in the scheme, it’s suggested.

Once in, vendors will need to hire a TPN-approved assessor to carry out an initial audit of their supply chain and best practices, which in turn will need to be guided by the MPAA’s existing content security guidelines.

“Vendors will hire a Qualified Assessor from the TPN database and will schedule their assessment and manage the process via the secure online platform,” TPN says, noting that vendors will cover their own costs unless an assessment is carried out at the request of a content owner.

The TPN explains that members of the scheme aren’t passed or failed in respect of their security preparedness. However, there’s an expectation they will be expected to come up to scratch and prove that with a subsequent positive report from a TPN approved assessor. Assessors themselves will also be assessed via the TPN Qualified Assessor Program.

By imposing MPAA best practices upon partner companies, it’s hoped that some if not all of the major leaks that have plagued the industry over the past several years will be prevented in future. Whether that’s the usual DVD screener leaks, workprints, scripts or other content, it’s believed the TPN should be able to help in some way, although the former might be a more difficult nut to crack.

There’s no doubting that the problem TPN aims to address is serious. In 2017 alone, hackers and other individuals obtained and then leaked episodes of Orange is the New Black, unreleased ABC content, an episode of Game of Thrones sourced from India and scripts from the same show. Even blundering efforts managed to make their mark.

“Creating the films and television shows enjoyed by audiences around the world increasingly requires a network of specialized vendors and technicians,” says MPAA chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin.

“That’s why maintaining high security standards for all third-party operations — from script to screen — is such an important part of preventing the theft of creative works and ultimately protects jobs and the health of our vibrant creative economy.”

According to TPN, the first class of TPN Assessors was recruited and tested last month while beta-testing of key vendors will begin in April. The full program will roll out in June 2018.

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

Roku Removes USTVnow Service Following “3rd Party” Copyright Complaint

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-removes-ustvnow-service-following-3rd-party-copyright-complaint-180329/

Earlier this week, customers of the popular Roku streaming media player began complaining about a problem with the product, specifically in connection with USTVnow.

USTVnow promotes itself as a service targeted at American expats and the military, offering “a wide range of live American channels to watch on their computer, mobile device or television.”

Indeed, USTVnow offers a fairly comprehensive service, with eight channels (including ABC and FOX) on its free tier and 24 channels on its premium $29.00 per month package.

USTVnow’s top package

Having USTVnow available via Roku helps to spread the free tier and drive business to the paid tier but, as of this week, that’s stopped happening. USTVnow has been completely removed from the Roku platform, much to the disappointment of customers.

“I spoke to Roku support and [they told me] that USTVNOW is no longer available for Roku at this time,” a user in Roku’s forums complained.

In response, a Roku engineer said that “Roku has been asked to remove this channel by the content rights owner”, which was as confusing as it was informative.

USTVnow endorses the Roku product, actively promotes it on the front page of its site, and provides helpful setup guides.

So, in an effort to get to the bottom of the problem, TorrentFreak contacted Roku, asking for details. The company responded quickly.

“Yes, that is correct, the channel was removed from our platform,” Roku spokesperson Tricia Misfud confirmed.

“When we receive a notice regarding copyright infringement we are swift to review which in this case resulted in us removing the channel.”

Roku pointed us to its copyright infringement page which details its policies and actions when a complaint is received. However, that didn’t really help to answer why it would remove USTVnow when USTVnow promotes the Roku service.

So we asked Roku again to elaborate on who filed the notice and on what grounds.

“The notice was in regards to the copyright of the content,” came the response.

While not exactly clear, this suggested that USTVnow wasn’t the problem but someone else. Was it a third-party perhaps? If so, who, and what was the content being complained about?

“It was from a third party,” came the vague response.

With USTVnow completely unavailable via Roku, there are some pretty annoyed customers out there. However, it seems clear that at least for now, the company either can’t or won’t reveal the precise details of the complaint.

It could conceivably be from one of the major channels offered in the USTVnow package but equally, it could be a DMCA notice from a movie or TV show copyright holder who objects to their content being distributed on the device, or even USTVnow itself.

USTVnow has a deal with Nittany Media to provide streaming services based on Nittany’s product but there is always a potential for a licensing problem somewhere, potentially big ones too.

We’ll update this article if and when more information becomes available.

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.

UK Govt. Met With Copyright Holders Dozens of Times in Just Three Months

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-govt-met-with-copyright-holders-dozens-of-times-in-just-three-months-180310/

While doing business with clients and suppliers is the usual day-to-day routine for most businesses, companies in the entertainment sector seem keener than most to spend time with those in power.

Whether there’s pressure to be applied in respect of upcoming changes in policy or long-term plans for modifying legislation, at least a few times a year news breaks of rightsholders having private meetings with officials. Most of the time, however, the head-to-heads fly under the radar.

This week, however, the UK government published a response to a Freedom of Information Request which asked for details of meetings between the government and copyright owner organizations, enforcement organizations, and collection societies (think BPI, MPA, FACT, Publishers Association, PRS, etc) including times, dates and topics discussed.

The request asked for details of meetings held between May 2016 and April 2017 but the government declined to provide all of this information since the effort required to extract the information “would exceed the cost limit.”

Given the amount of data published, this isn’t a surprise. Even though the government chose to limit the response to events held between January 16, 2017 and April 17, 2017, the meetings between the government and the above groups number in their dozens.

January 2017 got off to a pretty slow start but week three and beyond saw a flurry of meetings with groups and companies such as ITV, BBC, PRS for Music, Copyright Licensing Agency and several other organizations to discuss the EU’s Digital Single Market proposals.

On January 18, 2017 Time Warner had a meeting to discuss content protection and analytics, followed a day later by the Premier League who were booked in to discuss “illicit streaming devices” (a topic mirrored in March during a meeting with the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance).

Just a few days later the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit held a “Partnership Working Group Meeting involving industry” and two days after that the police, Trading Standards, and the EU Police Agency convened to discuss enforcement activity.

January 26, 2017 saw an IP Outreach Workshop involving members of the IP Crime Group. This was potentially a big meeting. The IPCG consists of several regional police forces, PIPCU, National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Trading Standards, HMRC, IFPI, BPI, FACT, Sky TV, PRS, FAST and the Publishers Association, to name just a few.

As the first month of the year was drawing to a close, Amazon met with the government to discuss “current procedures for removing copyright, design and trademark infringing material from their platform.” A similar meeting was held with eBay on February 1 and on February 20, Facebook had its turn on the same topic.

All three companies had come in for criticism from copyright holders for not doing enough to stem the tide of infringing content available on their platforms, particularly so-called Kodi boxes that provide access to movies, shows, and live TV.

However, in the months that followed they each responded positively, with eBay, Amazon and Facebook announcing restrictions on devices sold. While all three platforms still have a problem with infringing device sales, the situation appears to have improved since last year.

On the final day of January 2017, the MPAA attended a meeting to discuss the looming Digital Economy Bill and digital TV piracy. A couple of days later they were back again for a “business awareness seminar” with other big shots including the Alliance for IP, the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, Trading Standards and the Premier League.

However, given the dozens that took place, perhaps one of the more interesting meetings in terms of the mix of those in attendance took place February 7.

Titled “Organized Crime Task Force Meeting – Belfast” it was attended by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the National Crime Agency, Trading Standards, HM Revenue and Customs, the Border Force, and (spot the odd one out) the Federation Against Copyright Theft.

This seems to suggest that FACT (a private company) is effectively embedded at the highest level of law enforcement, something that has made people very uncomfortable in the past.

Later in February, there was a roundtable meeting with the Alliance for IP, MPAA, Publishers’ Association, BPI, Premier League and Federation Against Copyright Theft (again) to discuss Brexit, the Digital Single Market, IP enforcement and industrial strategy. A similar meeting was held in March which was attended by UK Music, BPI, PRS, Featured Artists Coalition, and many more.

The full list of meetings, which number in their dozens for just a three-month period, can be found here pdf. Whether the volume is representative of other three-month periods isn’t clear but it seems reasonable to conclude that copyright organizations have the ears of government officials in the UK on an almost continual basis.

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

New Kodi Addon Tool Might Carry Interesting Copyright Liability Implications

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-kodi-addon-tool-might-carry-interesting-copyright-liability-implications-180124/

Kodi is the now ubiquitous media player taking the world by storm. In itself it’s a great piece of software but augmented with third-party software it can become a piracy powerhouse.

This software, known collectively as ‘add-ons’, enables Kodi to do things it was never designed for such as watching pirated movies, TV shows, and live sports. As a result, it’s the go-to media platform for millions around the globe, but for those distributing the add-ons, there can be risks attached.

As one of the most prominent Kodi-related sites around, TVAddons helped to distribute huge numbers of add-ons. The platform insists that if any add-on infringed copyright, it was only too willing to remove them under a DMCA-like regime. Last year, however, it became clear that copyright holders would prefer to sue TVAddons (1,2) than ask for takedowns.

With those lawsuits still ongoing, the site was left with a dilemma. Despite add-ons being developed and uploaded by third-parties, rightsholders are still trying to hold TVAddons responsible for what those add-ons can do. It’s a precarious situation that has led to TVAddons not having its own repository/repo (a place where the addons are stored for users to download) since the site ran into trouble last summer.

Now, however, the site has just launched a new tool which not only provides some benefits for users looking for addons, but also attempts to shift some liability for potential infringement away from the service and onto a company with much broader shoulders.

TVAddons’ Github Browser was released yesterday and is available via the platform’s Indigo tool. Its premise is simple.

Since many third-party Kodi add-ons are developed and first made available on Github, the world’s leading software development platform, why don’t users install them directly from there instead?

The idea is that this might reduce liability for distributors like TVAddons but could also present benefits for users, as they can be assured that they’re getting add-ons directly from the source.

Github Browser welcome screen

“Before the GitHub Browser, when an end user wanted to install a particular addon, they’d first have to download the necessary repository from either Fusion Installer or an alternative,” a TV addons spokesperson informs TF.

“This new feature gives the end user the ability to easily install any Kodi addon, and empowers developers to distribute their addons independently, without having to align themselves with a particular release group or web site.”

Aside from the benefits to users, it also means that TVAddons can provide its users with access to third-party add-ons without having to curate, store, or distribute them itself. In future, storage and distribution aspects can be carried out by Github, which has actually been the basic behind-the-scenes position for some time.

“GitHub has always been the leading host of Kodi addons, and also respects the law. The difference is, they are big enough to not be bullied by draconian legal maneuvers used by big corporations to censor the internet. We also felt that developers should be able to develop without having to comply with our rules, or any other Kodi web site’s rules for that matter,” TVAddons explain.

The screenshot of the Github Browser below reveals a text-heavy interface that will probably mean little to the low-level user of Kodi who bought his device already setup from a seller. However, those more familiar with the way Kodi functions will recognize that the filenames relate to add-ons which can now be directly installed via the browser.

The Github Browser

While the approach may seem basic or even inaccessible at first view, that wrongfully discounts the significant resources available to the sprawling third-party Kodi add-on community.

Dozens of specialist blogs and thousands of YouTube videos report in detail on the most relevant addons, providing all of the details users will need to identify and locate the required software. Developer usernames could be a good starting point, TVAddons suggests.

“We have already seen many social media posts, blogs and developers advertising their GitHub usernames in order to make it easier for users to find them,” the site explains.

From our tests, it appears that users really have to do all the work themselves. There doesn’t appear to be any add-on curation and users must know what they’re looking for in advance. Indeed, entering the Github usernames of developers who produce software that has nothing to do with Kodi can still present zip file results in the browser. Whether this will prove problematic later on will remain to be seen.

While most keen users won’t have a problem using the Github Browser, there is the question of whether redirecting the focus to the development platform will cause copyright holders to pay more attention to Github.

This has certainly happened in the past, such as when the Federation Against Copyright Theft targeted the SportsDevil add-on and had it removed from Github. It’s also worth noting that Github doesn’t appear to challenge takedown requests, so add-ons could be vulnerable if the heat gets turned up.

Nevertheless, TVAddons believes that the open source nature of most addons coupled with Github’s relative strength means that they’ll be able to stand up to most threats.

“Open source code lives on forever, it’s impossible to scrub the internet of freely distributed legitimate code. I think that GitHub is in a better position to legitimately assess and enforce the DMCA than us. They won’t be sued out of nowhere in circumvention of the DMCA in similar fashion to what we have been the victim of,” TVAddons says.

Several years ago, when The Pirate Bay got rid of torrents and relied on magnet links instead, the platform became much more compact, thus saving on bandwidth. The lack of a repository at TVAddons has also had benefits for the site. Previously it was consuming around 3PB (3,000,000 gigabytes) of bandwidth a month, with a hosting provider demanding $25,000 per month not to discontinue business.

Finally, the team says it is working on new browser features for the future, including repository distribution over torrents. Only time will tell how this new system will be viewed by copyright holders but even with add-on hosting taken care of externally, any form of curation could be instantly frowned upon, with serious consequences.

Details of the browser can be found here.

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.

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Kodi Piracy and Addon Predictions for 2018

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-piracy-and-addon-predictions-for-2018-171228/

During 2017, Kodi and its sea of third-party addons hit the headlines hundreds of times.

Streaming in this fashion became a massive deal throughout the year and eventually, copyright holders decided to take action, cracking down on groups such as TVAddons, ZemTV, and addons offered by jsergio123 and The_Alpha.

In November, the problems continued when the Ares Project, the group behind the hugely popular Ares Wizard and Kodi repository, threw in the towel after being threatened by the MPA-led anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

The combined might of Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner, Netflix, Amazon, and Sky TV was too much, leading to Ares Project leader Tekto shutting everything down.

This was a significant development. Over a two year period, Ares serviced an estimated 100 million users. After interviewing Tekto last month, today we catch up with the developer again, listening to his thoughts on how the scene might further develop in 2018 and what threats lie ahead.

TF: Could you tell us a bit about Kodi’s suitability as an unauthorized streaming platform moving forward? Is it flexible enough to deal with threats, is its current development effort sufficient, do addon developers like the way it works, and how could it be improved?

Tekto: The public awareness of Kodi and the easy ways with which it can be customised via builds and its open source nature makes it the perfect platform for Python coders. It’s easy to fork, copy, adapt and learn, and it’s good for “builders” who modify, personalize, and “brand”.

It’s also easy for users to obtain, install, and work with the plethora of wizards and addons etc, all backed by up blogs and YouTube tutorials. It’s the perfect open source platform to develop and customise to access a massive range of content. Content that may well be contentious but regardless, it is publicly available all over the web.

TF: Obviously Kodi is the big thing at the moment but other apps, such as Showbox, TerrariumTV, and similar products are carving a decent niche for themselves. Where do you see the market sitting on these kinds of products moving forward and are they a threat to Kodi’s dominance?

Tekto: The apps and other services don’t offer the same level of personalization. That’s what will keep a certain dedicated following happy with Kodi. We’ve had Plex, Streamio, Emby and so on, but none offer the flexibility of Kodi.

TF: Does Kodi have any major weaknesses that you know of? Is it under threat from other systems perhaps?

Tekto: Lets not forget we had CCcam [card sharing] for a decade and with Sky [UK TV provider] changing their encryption to end that source, a myriad of IPTV providers sprung up to replace it. All that killing the CCcam method has done, is moved people off CCcam to IPTV. It hasn’t stopped piracy or access to “premium content”, it just moved somewhere else. It probably also makes the providers more money than CCcam accounts ever did.

TF: There have been a lot of legal threats in 2017. Are third-party addon developers and their community under serious threat?

Tekto: If Kodi third-party devs “stopped”, something else would take over. All the Android apps that have sprung up (some have been around a while anyway) are already filling some gaps or giving options for those looking to stream.

Having tried some of these, I have to say for non-tech users there are two or three apps that will suit them perfectly. Others need more work and fewer invasive ads to be more successful. Will Kodi stop? No. It is evolving and finding a new path. It has to. Well, the coders have to, at least.

TF: What is your overall assessment of the various legal attacks this year?

Tekto: What is being missed by all these legal “efforts” is the removal of the sources being accessed. Whilst the sources exist, apps and Kodi add-ons will find ways to access them.

Did taking out a few Kodi devs and a wizard remove any content? Did it stop just one movie from being accessed? No. It did nothing to stop piracy. It did, however, give those receiving HUGE fees to act for the various movie and broadcasters, something to write on their “success” boards and reports.

It just upset users for a few days whilst things adapted to the new situation. The Kodi builds listed on Ares all had their own wizards anyway – so they all carried on working. All the add-ons on Ares were mostly linked to Github, so they carried on working anyway.

The takedown of guys working on the URL resolver for Covenant didn’t work at all. The code still works and if you add, let’s say, Real Debrid, it won’t ever stop working, even Exodus still works! Let’s add to this that Covenant was then forked five or six times and re-marketed.

I’d say it probably increased “acts of copyright infringement” or at least access to “copyright infringing material”. TV Addons immediately took over development of the “URL resolver”, so it will be maintained and fixes for it released.

The URL resolver module uses regex – regular expressions to emulate a web browser (for the most part). Let that sink in; A URL resolver is a way to bypass a web browser, as most of the content is hosted on “publicly accessible” websites, that still remain publicly available with or without Covenant or whatever the forks are called.

TF: Sp there isn’t a Doomsday scenario?

Tekto: If the Kodi third-party scene is somehow stopped – all Wizards, builds, etc were all stopped this very second – there would be a dozen new apps for Android in weeks. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of websites you could switch to, to watch the same content. ACE, MPA etc need to wake up to that fact.

TF: One of the big deals this year, as far as the legal position goes, has been the clarification of “communication to the public” following cases at the European level featuring [pirate box seller] Filmspeler and The Pirate Bay. How do you think this will affect the addon and build scenes moving forward?

Tekto: I’ve long believed that Kodi wizards and scraper addons operated in a way that wasn’t illegal, in that they never provided content, never actually handled the copyright protected files themselves.

It still remains my belief that the recent efforts to use the Ziggo [Pirate Bay] ruling concerning “communicating to the public” is directly linked to torrents or at the very least actually providing content itself. It may be legal “saber rattling” – however standing your ground in the face of a well-funded legal behemoth is beyond hobbyists.

TF: An addon developer I spoke with recently said that fellow addon developers will need to be smarter in future, perhaps by developing addons that aren’t so obviously infringing and are more general in their functionality. Do you feel this is a route they’re likely to take and will it make any difference? How do you think a more ‘underground’ scene will affect the situation on the ground?

Tekto: Going Underground? Most will say grab a VPN and you’re safe – take note that a VPN isn’t enough. They may not get your logs, but they will get your payment info, or the times you are online tagged against another log etc. Anything like PayPal, Gmail, AdSense, etc is 100% out too – they will give people up in a heartbeat. People will have to avoid Facebook, Twitter and so on, as again, they will also link back to the “real you”.

I expect more will move to Tor as a first level of hiding their identities. Hosting via Tor-only sites might be a way to avoid some obvious methods of tracing people. Add-on devs could access Github and release code without ever having to reveal who they are.

Let’s not get into the whole “freedom of speech” etc scenario, however. It should mean that any developer should realistically make much greater efforts to hide their identities.

TF: Thank you for your time, Tekto. Any final messages for the readers?

Tekto: Yes, our Ares Wizard has returned. It’s a mainentance tool now.

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FilePursuit Finds Amazing Files All Year Round, Not Just at Christmas

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/filepursuit-finds-amazing-files-all-year-round-not-just-at-christmas-171225/

Ask someone to name a search engine and it’s likely that 95 out of 100 will say ‘Google’. There are plenty of others, of course, but its sheer dominance means that even giants like Bing have to wait around for a mention.

However, if people are looking for something special, such as video and music files, for example, there’s an interesting search engine that’s largely flying under the radar. FilePursuit, accessible via the web or directly from its dedicated Android apps, is somewhat of a revelation.

What FilePursuit does is trawl the Internet looking for web servers that are not only packed with content but are readily accessible to the outside world. This means that a search on the site invariably turns up treasure troves of material, all of it for immediate and direct HTTP download.

TorrentFreak caught up with the operator of the site who himself is a very interesting character.

“I’m a 21-year-old undergrad student from New Delhi, India, currently studying engineering. I started this file search engine project all by myself to learn web development and this is my first project,” he informs TF.

“I picked this project because I was surprised to find that there are lots of ‘open directory’ websites and no one is maintaining any type of record or database on them. There are thousands of ‘open directory’ websites containing a lot of amazing stuff not discovered yet, so I made them discoverable.”

Plenty of files from almost any search

FilePursuit began its life around September 2016 and since then has been receiving website submission requests (sites to be indexed by FilePursuit) from people all over the world. As such the platform is somewhat of a community effort but in respect of running the operation, it’s all done by one man.

“FilePursuit saves time in two ways: by eliminating the need to find file manually, and by performing searches at high speeds efficiently. Without this, you would have to look at sites one by one and pore over the contents of each carefully – a tedious prospect,” he explains.

“FilePursuit automatically compares your criteria to billions of webpages and gives you results in a fraction of a second. You can perform hundreds of searches in the course of a few minutes, altering the criteria as you narrow down results.”

So if Google dominates the search space, why doesn’t it do a better job of finding files than the relatively low-key FilePursuit? Its operator says it’s all about functionality.

“FilePursuit is a file search engine, it generates file links as results while other search engines give out webpages as results. However, it’s possible to search for file links directly from Google too but it’s limited to documents only. On FilePursuit you can search for almost any filetype just by selecting ‘custom’ and typing filetype in search results.”

Of course, it would be impossible for FilePursuit to find any files if webmasters and server operators didn’t leave them open to the public. Considering it’s simplicity itself to find all the latest movies and TV shows widely accessible, is this a question of stupidity, kindness, carelessness, or something else?

“In my opinion, most people are unaware that they have created an open directory and on the other hand some people want to share interesting files from their servers, which is very generous of them,” FilePursuit’s creator says.

When carrying out searches it really is amazing what FilePursuit can turn up. Files lead to directory results and some can contain many thousands of files, from every music artist one can think of through to otherwise private text files that people really should take more care over. Other things are really quite odd.

“When I look for ‘open directory’ websites, sometimes I find really amazing stuff and sometimes even bizarre stuff too. This one time, I found a collection of funeral recordings,” FilePursuit’s owner says.

While even funeral recordings can have a copyright owner somewhere, it’s the more regular mainstream content that’s most easily found with the service. The site doesn’t carry any copyrighted content at all but that doesn’t mean it’s unresponsive to takedown demands.

“I have more than three million file links indexed in my database so it can be a bit hard for me to check for copyrighted content. Although whenever I receive a mail from copyright holders or someone representing copyright holders, I always uphold their request of deleting the file link from my database and also explain to them that the file link they requested me to delete, that particular file may still exist.”

In recent months, FilePursuit has enjoyed a significant upsurge in traffic but it’s still a relatively small player in the search engine space with around 7,000 to 10,000 hits per day. However, this clever site is able to deal with five times that traffic and upgrading servers to cope with surges can be carried out in two to three minutes, “at most.”

So the big question remains – What will you find under the tree today?

FilePursuit website here, Android apps (free, pro)

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Might Google Class “Torrent” a Dirty Word? France is About to Find Out

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/might-google-class-torrent-a-dirty-word-france-is-about-to-find-out-171223/

Like most countries, France is struggling to find ways to stop online piracy running rampant. A number of options have been tested thus far, with varying results.

One of the more interesting cases has been running since 2015, when music industry group SNEP took Google and Microsoft to court demanding automated filtering of ‘pirate’ search results featuring three local artists.

Before the High Court of Paris, SNEP argued that searches for the artists’ names plus the word “torrent” returned mainly infringing results on Google and Bing. Filtering out results with both sets of terms would reduce the impact of people finding pirate content through search, they said.

While SNEP claimed that its request was in line with Article L336-2 of France’s intellectual property code, which allows for “all appropriate measures” to prevent infringement, both Google and Microsoft fought back, arguing that such filtering would be disproportionate and could restrict freedom of expression.

The Court eventually sided with the search engines, noting that torrent is a common noun that refers to a neutral communication protocol.

“The requested measures are thus tantamount to general monitoring and may block access to lawful websites,” the High Court said.

Despite being told that its demands were too broad, SNEP decided to appeal. The case was heard in November where concerns were expressed over potential false positives.

Since SNEP even wants sites with “torrent” in their URL filtered out via a “fully automated procedures that do not require human intervention”, this very site – TorrentFreak.com – could be sucked in. To counter that eventuality, SNEP proposed some kind of whitelist, NextInpact reports.

With no real consensus on how to move forward, the parties were advised to enter discussions on how to get closer to the aim of reducing piracy but without causing collateral damage. Last week the parties agreed to enter negotiations so the details will now have to be hammered out between their respective law firms. Failing that, they will face a ruling from the court.

If this last scenario plays out, the situation appears to favor the search engines, who have a High Court ruling in their favor and already offer comprehensive takedown tools for copyright holders to combat the exploitation of their content online.

Meanwhile, other elements of the French recording industry have booked a notable success against several pirate sites.

SCPP, which represents Warner, Universal, Sony and thousands of others, went to court in February this year demanding that local ISPs Bouygues, Free, Orange, SFR and Numéricable prevent their subscribers from accessing ExtraTorrent, isoHunt, Torrent9 and Cpasbien.

Like SNEP in the filtering case, SCPP also cited Article L336-2 of France’s intellectual property code, demanding that the sites plus their variants, mirrors and proxies should be blocked by the ISPs so that their subscribers can no longer gain access.

This week the Paris Court of First Instance sided with the industry group, ordering the ISPs to block the sites. The service providers were also told to pick up the bill for costs.

These latest cases are yet more examples of France’s determination to crack down on piracy.

Early December it was revealed that since its inception, nine million piracy warnings have been sent to citizens via the Hadopi anti-piracy agency. Since the launch of its graduated response regime in 2010, more than 2,000 cases have been referred to prosecutors, resulting in 189 criminal convictions.

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Canadian Government Triggers Major Copyright Review

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/canadian-government-triggers-major-copyright-review-171214/

The Copyright Act of Canada was first passed in 1921 and in the decades that followed has undergone considerable amendment.

Between 2005 and 2010, several bills failed to gain traction due to opposition but in 2011 the Copyright Modernization Act was tabled. A year later, in the summer of 2012, it was passed into law.

The Act tackles a number of important issues, such as allowing time and format shifting, plus backup copies, as long as DRM isn’t circumvented along the way. So-called ‘fair dealing’ also enjoys expansion while statutory damages for non-commercial scale infringement are capped at CAD$5000 per proceeding. Along with these changes sits the “notice-and-notice” regime, in which ISPs forward infringement notices to subscribers on behalf of copyright holders.

The Act also mandates a review of copyright law every five years, a period that expired at the end of June 2017. Yesterday a House of Commons motion triggered the required parliamentary review, which will be carried out by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. It didn’t take long for the music industry to make its position known.

Music Canada, whose key members are Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music, enthusiastically welcomed the joint announcement from the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

“I applaud Minister Bains and Minister Joly for initiating this review of the Copyright Act,” said Graham Henderson, President and CEO of Music Canada.

“Music creators, and all creators who depend on copyright, deserve a Copyright Act that protects their rights when their works are commercialized by others. This is our chance to address the Value Gap threatening the livelihood of Canadian creators and the future of Canadian culture.”

That the so-called “Value Gap” has been immediately thrown on the table comes as no surprise. The term, which loosely refers to the way user-generated platforms like YouTube are able to avoid liability for infringing content while generating revenue from it, is a hot topic around the world at the moment.

In the US and Europe, for example, greater emphasis is being placed on YouTube’s position than on piracy itself, with record labels claiming that the platform gains an unfair advantage in licensing negotiations, something which leads to a “gap” between what is paid for music, and what it’s actually worth.

But the recording labels are unlikely to get an easy ride. As pointed out in a summary by Canadian law professor Michael Geist, the notice-and-takedown rules that facilitate the “Value Gap” are not even part of Canadian law and even without them, the labels have done just fine.

“The industry has enjoyed remarkable success since 2012, growing far faster [than] the world average and passing Australia as the world’s 6th largest music market,” Geist writes.

“The growth has come largely through Internet streaming revenues, which now generate tens of millions of dollars every year for creators, publishers, and the broader industry. The industry is also likely to continue to lobby for copyright term extension, as foreshadowed by a lobbying blitz just last month in Ottawa.”

As reported in September, telecoms companies and the entertainment industries are pressing for website blockades, without intervention from the courts. The upcoming copyright review will provide additional opportunity to push that message home.

“Bell admits that copyright reform is not needed for site blocking, but the link to the Copyright Act ensures that the issue will be a prominent part of its lobbying campaign,” Geist notes.

“The reality is that Canada is already home to some of the toughest anti-piracy laws in the world with many legislative tools readily available for rights holders and some of the largest damages provisions found anywhere in the world.”

But for copyright holders, a review also has the potential to swing things the other way.

The previously mentioned notice-and-notice regime, for example, was put in place as an alternative to more restrictive schemes elsewhere. However, it was quickly abused by copyright trolls seeking cash settlements from alleged pirates. It’s certainly possible for that particular loophole to be closed or at least addressed as part of a comprehensive review.

In any event, the review is likely to prove spirited, with interested parties on all sides trying to carve out a smooth path for their interests under the next five years of copyright law.

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YouTuber Convicted For Publishing Video Piracy ‘Tutorials’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the remaining IPTV-focused videos

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