Tag Archives: Takedown

BREIN is Taking Infamous ‘Piracy’ Hosting Provider Ecatel to Court

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-is-taking-infamous-piracy-hosting-provider-ecatel-to-court-170815/

A regular website can be easily hosted in most countries of the world but when the nature of the project begins to step on toes, opportunities begin to reduce. Openly hosting The Pirate Bay, for example, is something few providers want to get involved with.

There are, however, providers out there who specialize in hosting services that others won’t touch. They develop a reputation of turning a blind eye to their customers’ activities, only reacting when a crisis looms on the horizon. Despite the problems, there are a few that are surprisingly resilient.

One such host is Netherlands-based Ecatel, which has hit the headlines many times over the years for allegedly having customers involved in warez, torrents, and streaming, not to mention spam and malware. For hosting the former group, it’s now in the crosshairs of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.

According to an application for a witness hearing filed with The Court of the Hague by BREIN, Ecatel has repeatedly hosted websites dealing in infringing content over recent years. While this is nothing particularly out of the ordinary, BREIN claims that complaints filed against the sites were dealt with slowly by Ecatel or not at all.

Ecatel Ltd is a company incorporated in the UK with servers in the Netherlands but since 2015, another hosting company called Novogara has appeared in tandem. Court documents suggest that Novogara is associated with Ecatel, something that was confirmed early 2016 in an email sent out by Ecatel itself.

“We’d like to inform you that all services of Ecatel Ltd are taken over by a new brand called Novogara Ltd with immediate effect. The take-over includes Ecatel and all her subsidiaries,” the email read.

Muddying the waters a little more, in 2015 Ecatel’s IP addresses were apparently taken over by Quasi Networks Ltd, a Seychelles-based company whose business is described locally as being conducted entirely overseas.

“Stichting BREIN has found several websites in the network of Quasi Networks with obviously infringing content. Quasi Networks, however, does not respond structurally to requests for closing those websites. This involves unlawful acts against the parties associated with the BREIN Foundation,” a ruling from the Court reads.

As a result, BREIN wants a witness hearing with three defendants connected to the Ecatel/Novgara/Quasi group of companies in order to establish the relationship between the businesses, where their servers are, and who is behind Quasi Networks.

“Stichting BREIN is interested in this information in order to be able to judge who it can appeal to and whether it is useful to start a legal procedure,” the Court adds.

Two of the defendants failed to lodge a defense against BREIN’s application but one objected to the request for a hearing. He said that since Quasi Networks, Ecatel and Novogara are all incorporated outside the Netherlands, a trial must also be conducted abroad and therefore a Dutch judge would not have jurisdiction.

He also argued that BREIN would use the witness hearing as a “fishing expedition” in order to gather information it currently does not have, in order to formulate some kind of case against the defendants, in one way or another.

In a decision published this week, The Court of the Hague rejected that argument, noting that the basis for the claim is copyright infringement through Netherlands-hosted websites. Furthermore, the majority of the witnesses are resident in the district of The Hague. It also underlined the importance of a hearing.

“The request for holding a preliminary witness hearing opens an independent petition procedure, which does not address the eligibility of any claim that may be lodged. An investigation must be made by the judge who has to deal with and decide the main case – if it comes.

“The court points out that a preliminary witness hearing is now (partly) necessary to clarify whether and to what extent a claim has any chance of success,” the decision reads.

According to documents published by Companies House in the UK, Ecatel Ltd ceased to exist this morning, having been dissolved at the request of its directors.

The hearing of the witnesses is set to take place on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 9.30 in the Palace of Justice at Prince Claus 60 in The Hague.

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

DMCA Used to Remove Ad Server URL From Easylist Ad Blocklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Domain text taken down by DMCA?

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

A domain in a list circumvents copyright controls?

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

Ad-blocking means money down the drain….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RIAA, however, sees things quite differently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The complaint against TVAddons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The interim injunction and Anton Piller Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

The search and interrogation of TVAddons’ operator

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

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

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

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

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

The Anton Piller controversy

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

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

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

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

Plaintiffs: We want to destroy TVAddons

And the problems continued.

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

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

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

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

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

Evidence preservation? More like a fishing trip

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

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

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

But he was only just getting started.

Plaintiffs unlawfully tried to destroy TVAddons before trial

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

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

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

So why the big turn around?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The order to return items previously seized

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

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

So the battle continues, and continue it will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which Domain Names Are Safe From Copyright Bullies?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/which-domain-names-are-safe-from-copyright-bullies-170728/

There are plenty options for copyright holders to frustrate the operation of pirate sites, but one of the most effective is to attack their domain names.

The strategy has been deployed most famously against The Pirate Bay. Over the past couple of years, the site has lost more than a handful following copyright holder complaints.

While less public, hundreds of smaller sites have suffered the same fate. Sometimes these sites are clear infringers, but in other cases it’s less obvious. In these instances, a simple complaint can also be enough to have a domain name suspended.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge address this ‘copyright bullying’ problem in a newly published whitepaper. According to the digital rights groups, site owners should pick their domain names carefully, and go for a registry that shields website owners from this type of abuse.

“It turns out that not every top-level domain is created equal when it comes to protecting the domain holder’s rights. Depending on where you register your domain, a rival, troll, or officious regulator who doesn’t like what you’re doing with it could wrongly take it away,” the groups warn.

The whitepaper includes a detailed analysis of the policies of various domain name registries. For each, it lists the home country, under which conditions domain names are removed, and whether the WHOIS details of registrants are protected.

When it comes to “copyright bullies,” the digital rights groups highlight the MPAA’s voluntary agreements with the Radix and Donuts registries. The agreement allows the MPAA to report infringing sites directly to the registry. These can then be removed after a careful review but without a court order.

“Our whitepaper illustrates why remedies for copyright infringement on the Internet should not come from the domain name system, and in particular should not be wielded by commercial actors in an unaccountable process. Organizations such as the MPAA are not known for advancing a balanced approach to copyright enforcement,” the EFF explains.

While EFF and Public Knowledge don’t recommend any TLDs in particular, they do signal some that site owners may want to avoid. The Radix and Donuts domain names are obviously not the best choice, in this regard.

“To avoid having your website taken down by your domain registry in response to a copyright complaint, our whitepaper sets out a number of options, including registering in a domain whose registry requires a court order before it will take down a domain, or at the very least one that doesn’t have a special arrangement with the MPAA or another special interest for the streamlined takedown of domains,” the groups write.

Aside from the information gathered in the whitepaper, The Pirate Bay itself has also proven to be an excellent test case of which domain names are most resistant to copyright holder complaints.

In 2015, the notorious torrent site found out that exotic domain names are not always the best option after losing its .GS, .LA, .VG, .AM, .MN, and .GD TLDs in a matter of months. The good old .ORG is still up and running as of today, however, despite being operated by a United States-based registry.

EFF and Public knowledge’s full whitepaper is available here (pdf).

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

BREIN Takes Down 231 Pirate Sites in Six Months, But That’s Not All

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-takes-down-231-pirate-sites-in-six-months-but-thats-not-all-170722/

Over the years, the MPAA and RIAA have grabbed hundreds of headlines for their anti-piracy activities but recently their work has been more subtle. The same cannot be said of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.

BREIN is the most prominent outfit of its type in the Netherlands but it’s not uncommon for its work to be felt way beyond its geographical borders. The group’s report for the first six months of 2017 illustrates that in very clear terms.

In its ongoing efforts to reduce piracy on movies, music, TV shows, books and games, BREIN says it carried out 268 investigations during the first two quarters of 2017. That resulted in the takedown of 231 piracy-focused sites and services.

They included 45 cyberlocker linking sites, 30 streaming sites and 9 torrent platforms. The last eDonkey site in the Netherlands was among the haul after its operators reached a settlement with BREIN. The anti-piracy outfit reports that nearly all of the sites were operated anonymously so in many instances hosting providers were the ones to pull the plug, at BREIN’s request.

BREIN has also been actively tracking down people who make content available on file-sharing networks. These initial uploaders are considered to be a major part of the problem, so taking them out of the equation is another of BREIN’s goals.

In total, 14 major uploaders to torrent, streaming, and Usenet platforms were targeted by BREIN in the first six months of this year, with each given the opportunity to settle out of court or face legal action. Settlements typically involved a cash payment of between 250 and 7,500 euros but in several instances, uploaders were also required to take down the content they had uploaded.

In one interesting case, BREIN obtained an ex parte court order against a person running a “live cinema” on Facebook. He later settled with the anti-piracy group for 7,500 euros.

BREIN has also been active in a number of other areas. The group says it had almost 693,000 infringing results removed from Google search, pushing its total takedowns to more than 15.8 million. In addition, more than 2,170 listings for infringing content and devices were removed from online marketplaces and seven piracy-focused Facebook groups were taken down.

But while all of these actions have an effect locally, it is BREIN’s persistence in important legal cases that have influenced the copyright landscape across Europe.

Perhaps the most important case so far is BREIN v Filmspeler, which saw the anti-piracy group go all the way to the European Court of Justice for clarification on the law surrounding so-called “fully loaded” set-top boxes.

In a ruling earlier this year, the ECJ not only determined that selling such devices is a breach of copyright law, but also that people streaming content from an illicit source are committing an offense. Although the case began in the Netherlands, its effects will now be felt right across Europe, and that is almost completely down to BREIN.

But despite the reach of the ruling, BREIN has already been making good use of the decision locally. Not only has the operator of the Filmspeler site settled with BREIN “for a substantial amount”, but more than 200 sellers of piracy-configured set-top boxes have ceased trading since the ECJ decision. Some of the providers are the subject of further legal action.

Finally, a notable mention must go to BREIN’s determination to have The Pirate Bay blocked in the Netherlands. The battle against ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL has been ongoing for seven years and like the Filmspeler case, required the attention of the European Court of Justice. While it’s still not over yet, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will eventually rule in BREIN’s favor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redacted infringement details from one of the notices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear xxx Communications,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully,

Adrian Leatherland
CEO
IP-Echelon

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

Several TVAddons Domains Transferred to Canadian Lawfirm

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/several-tvaddons-domains-transferred-to-canadian-lawfirm-170718/

The last couple of months have been the most chaotic on record for the booming Kodi third-party addon scene. After years of largely interrupted service, a single lawsuit changed the entire landscape.

Last month, TF broke the news that third-party Kodi add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were being sued in a federal court in Texas. The fallout was something to behold.

Within days the ‘pirate’ Kodi community found itself in turmoil. Several high-profile Kodi addons took the decision to shut down and even TVAddons itself went dark without explanation.

At the time, unsubstantiated rumors suggested that TVAddons’ disappearance could be attributed to some coincidental site maintenance. However, with around 40 million regular users built up over a number of years, a disappearing Facebook page, and complete radio silence during alleged “routine maintenance,” something was clearly wrong.

It would’ve taken just a couple of minutes to put a ‘maintenance’ notice on the site but one didn’t appear back in June, and one hasn’t appeared since. Behind the scenes,
however, things have been shifting.

In addition to wiping the DNS entries of TVAddons.ag, on at least another couple of occasions the domain has been quietly updated. The image below shows how it used to look.

TVAddons historical domain WHOIS

PrivacyDotLink refers to a service offered by Cayman Islands-based registry Uniregistry. Instead of displaying the real name and address of the domain owner (in this case the person behind TVAddons.ag), the registry replaces the information with details of its own.

The privacy service is used for many reasons, but it’s not hard to see why it’s of particular use to sites in the ‘pirate’ sector.

While some of the changes to the TVAddons domain during the past five weeks or so haven’t been obvious, this morning we observed the biggest change yet. As seen in the image below, its ownership details are no longer obscured by the privacy service.

TVAddons new domain WHOIS

What stands out here is the name Daniel Drapeau. On closer inspection, this gentleman turns out to be a Canada-based lawyer who was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1991.

“A passion for IP and a 20 year track record, servicing corporations and individuals alike in a wide variety of industries, including industrial equipment, consumer products, publishing, food & beverage, fashion and arts,” Drapeau’s Linkedin page reads.

“His forte is the strategic use of IP rights and litigation to achieve his clients’ goals, whether they be protective, aggressive or defensive. Specialties: Expeditive remedies, including injunctions and seizure orders.”

The other fresh detail in the WHOIS is an address – 600, de Maisonneuve West, Montreal (Quebec) H3A 3J2. It’s a perfect match for the premises of DrapeauLex, a law firm launched by Drapeau in 2012.

Only adding to the intrigue is the fact that other domains operated by TVAddons both recently and historically have also been transferred to the lawfirm.

XMBCHUB.com, which was the domain used by TVAddons before making the switch several years ago, was transferred yesterday. The same can be said about Offshoregit.com, the domain used by TVAddons to distribute Kodi addons.

While there are a few explanations for a lawyer’s name appearing on the TVAddons domains, none of them are yet supported by legal documentation filed in the United States. As of this morning, the Dish Network case docket had received no additional updates. No notice of action in Canada has been made public.

Nevertheless, as a past president of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada’s anti-counterfeiting committee, Drapeau is certainly an interesting character in the IP space. As noted in a 2009 article by Professor of Law Michael Geist, Drapeau “urged the government to adopt a system of notice-and-takedown.”

Interestingly, Drapeau also worked at law firm Smart & Biggar, where former colleague Jean-Sébastien Dupont recently went on to represent Canadian broadcasters in Wesley (Mtlfreetv.com) v. Bell Canada, the big Kodi-addon piracy case currently underway in Canada.

At this stage, it’s unclear who Drapeau is working for in the TVAddons case. It’s possible that he’s working for Dish and this is a step towards the domains being handed over to the broadcaster as part of a settlement deal with TVAddons. That being said, the XBMChub and Offshoregit domains weren’t mentioned in the Dish lawsuit so something else might be underway.

TorrentFreak reached out to Drapeau for comment and clarification, but at the time of publication, we had received no response.

Dan Drapeau talks Intellectual Property from DrapeauLex on Vimeo.

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

Movie Studios Wipe Pirate Site Homepages From Google Search

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The takedown notice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penalized

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

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

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

New GoMovies homepage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Kodi Box” search on eBay UK, first result

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Court Orders Advertisers to Freeze Revenue of ‘Pirate’ Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-advertisers-to-freeze-revenue-pirate-sites-170707/

When one thinks of anti-piracy efforts in the United States, the MPAA and RIAA are often the first groups that come to mind.

While that may be true, there’s another player which has made a massive impact, while barely being noticed at all.

ABS-CBN, the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines, has filed a series of lawsuits against pirate sites in the US, with the popular streaming portal Fmovies as the biggest target.

The company has already won several cases with damages ranging from a few hundred thousand to millions of dollars. However, the associated injunctions in these cases are perhaps even more significant.

We previously covered how ABS-CBN managed to get court orders to seize domain names, without the defendants getting actively involved. This is also the case in a recent lawsuit where a Florida federal court signed a broad injunction targeting more than two dozen sites.

The websites, including dramasget.com, latestpinoymovies.com, pinoydailyshows.com, tvnijuan.org and weeklywarning.org, may not ring a bell with a wide audience but their domain names have all been suspended, linking to a takedown message instead.

And there is another interesting element to the injunction, which hasn’t been widely used in the past. Hoping for a good shot at some damages down the road, ABS-CBN put in a request to freeze the advertising revenues of these sites at Google Adsense, MGID, Popads.net, and elsewhere.

The court signed off on this, and added it to the preliminary injunction. As a result, the advertisers must freeze the funds until further notice.

“…all funds in the advertising accounts related to Defendants as identified on Schedule B, including but not limited to those which are currently held by the advertising services […] are immediately restrained from movement, transfer, or otherwise being disturbed, as opposed to ongoing activity.”

None of the funds of the defendants are allowed to be moved. Instead, the court order directs the advertising companies to transfer everything to a holding account that is known to the court.

On top of that, Google Adsense, MGID, and the other advertising companies must send the copyright holder an overview of the revenue in each account and all transactions associated with it.

“(i) an accounting of the total funds restrained and identifies the advertising/financial account(s) which the restrained funds are related to, and (ii) the account transactions related to all funds transmitted into the advertising/financial account(s) which have been restrained.”

Needless to say, this injunction will have a pretty severe effect on alleged pirate sites. Not only do they lose their preferred advertising outlets, but they also miss out on any pending revenue.

The sites that are targeted in this case are relatively small, but it could, in theory, happen to the big players as well. While the RIAA and MPAA are not involved in this case, we’re pretty confident that they are watching this case very closely.

Finally, the injunction sheds an interesting light on which registrars and registries swiftly respond to US court orders. At the time of writing all .com, .org and .net domains are suspended, but some of the .ag, .ch and .ph domains are still operational. With new ads, of course.

A copy of the preliminary injunction is available here (pdf).

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

Google Removed 2.5 Billion ‘Pirate’ Search Results

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-removed-2-5-billion-pirate-search-results-170706/

Google is coping with a continuous increase in takedown requests from copyright holders, which target pirate sites in search results.

Just a few years ago the search engine removed ‘only’ a few thousand URLs per day, but this has since grown to millions. When added up, the numbers are truly staggering.

In its transparency report, Google now states that it has removed 2.5 billion reported links for alleged copyright infringement. This is roughly 90 percent of all requests the company received.

The chart below breaks down the takedown requests into several categories. In addition to the URLs that were removed, the search engine also received 154 million duplicate URLs and 25 million invalid URLs.

Another 80 million links remain in search results because they can’t be classified as copyright infringing, according to Google.

Google’s takedown overview

The 2.5 billion removed links are spread out over 1.1 million websites. File-storage service 4shared takes the crown with 64 million targeted URLs, followed at a distance by mp3toys.xyz, rapidgator.net, uploaded.net, and chomikuj.pl.

While rightsholders have increased their takedown efforts over the years, the major entertainment industry groups are still not happy with the current state of Google’s takedown process.

One of the main complaints has been that content which Google de-lists often reappears under new URLs.

“They need to take more proactive responsibility to reduce infringing content that appears on their platform, and, where we expressly notify infringing content to them, to ensure that they do not only take it down, but also keep it down,” a BPI spokesperson told us last month.

Ideally, rightsholders would like Google to ensure that content “stays down” while blocking the most notorious pirate sites from search results entirely. Known ‘pirate’ sites such as The Pirate Bay have no place in search results, they argue.

Google, however, believes such broad measures will lead to all sorts of problems, including over-blocking, and maintains that the current system is working as the DMCA was intended.

The search engine did implement various other initiatives to counter piracy, including the downranking of pirate sites and promoting legal options in search results, which it details in its regularly updated “How Google Fights Piracy” report.

In addition, Google and various rightsholders have signed a voluntary agreement to address “domain hopping” by pirate sites and share data to better understand how users are searching for content. For now, however, this effort is limited to the UK.

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

Steal This Show S03E04: ‘Re-Decentralizing The Net’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/steal-show-s03e04-re-decentralising-net/

stslogo180If you enjoy this episode, consider becoming a patron and getting involved with the show. Check out Steal This Show’s Patreon campaign: support us and get all kinds of fantastic benefits!

In this episode, we meet Ryan Shea, co-founder of Blockstack. This ambitious project aims to create a new, decentralized Internet in which users, not Big Content, own their data and keep control of how their apps run.

We discuss why the internet needs re-decentralising, if and how to pull users away from reliance on monopoly platforms like Facebook and Google, and much more. Plus, Ryan and Jamie come up with a scheme for a blockchain-powered meme market!

Blockstack, which integrates with the IPFS distributed storage system, could have significant upsides in the filesharing world. It would provide, for example, an entirely new DNS, meaning no more domain attacks for filesharing sites. Combined with the fact that they permanence of distributed filesystems makes takedown notices almost impossible to enforce, and it’s easy to see one key reason this has the potential to be a very disruptive development.

Steal This Show aims to release bi-weekly episodes featuring insiders discussing copyright and file-sharing news. It complements our regular reporting by adding more room for opinion, commentary, and analysis.

The guests for our news discussions will vary, and we’ll aim to introduce voices from different backgrounds and persuasions. In addition to news, STS will also produce features interviewing some of the great innovators and minds.

Host: Jamie King

Guest: Ryan Shea

Produced by Jamie King
Edited & Mixed by Riley Byrne
Original Music by David Triana
Web Production by Siraje Amarniss

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

US International Trade Administration Worries About Widespread Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-international-trade-administration-worries-about-widespread-piracy-170703/

One of the main goals of the International Trade Administration is to strengthen the interests of U.S. industries around the globe.

The agency, which falls under the Department of Commerce, is committed to ensure fair trade through the “rigorous enforcement” of trade laws and agreements.

Despite its efforts, many challenges remain. In its newly released overview of top markets in the Media and Entertainment (M&E) sector, piracy is highlighted as one of the prime threats.

“Digital trade has brought attention to widespread piracy and the importance of having solid copyright laws and enforcement actions, along with educational campaigns to encourage legal consumption of M&E,” the International Trade Administration (ITA) writes.

The agency points out that it’s hard to measure exactly how much piracy is hurting sales, but states that this number is in the millions. The problem also prompted copyright holders to increase their takedown efforts.

“Piracy and illegal file sharing continue to plague the M&E sectors. It is difficult to quantify losses from piracy and to calculate piracy rates accurately. Therefore many industry groups and businesses track piracy around the clock, and online takedown notices are rising dramatically as a result,” ITA writes.

The piracy threat is a global problem and also affects business in the top export countries for media and entertainment products and services. This includes Canada, India and Brazil, where legislation or enforcement are currently lacking, according to the agency.

In India, for example, various forms of online and physical piracy are booming, despite the fact that legal sales are growing as well.

“[India] is a very challenging marketplace, with barriers, to trade such as high piracy threats to both physical and digital M&E sectors, and uncertain implementation of laws governing the M&E sectors. The IIPA reports online and mobile piracy, illegal file sharing of music, cam cording in theaters, and rampant signal piracy of pay TV content,” ITA writes (pdf).

Another large export market is Canada. While the US and Canada are much alike in many aspects, the northern neighbor’s enforcement against online piracy is lacking, according to the ITA.

“Canada has a well-developed professional sector that makes trading easier and efficient for U.S. exporters. However, there are copyright and other trade barriers for American businesses in Canada. Online infringement is high and enforcement weaker than expected.”

Brazil is the third top expert market where the US media and entertainment sector faces severe challenges. There are various trade barriers, including high taxation of foreign products and services, and piracy is also widespread.

“Copyright industries doing business in Brazil face significant Internet piracy, as do products in the entertainment sector, such as CDs; DVDs; and other media carrying pirated music, movies, TV programming and video games,” ITA writes.

While revenues are growing in Brazil, more work can be done to limit piracy. The Brazilian Government could lower taxes, for example, but the industry itself could also do more to increase the availability of its products.

“Circumvention devices that allow access to video game consoles are a problem for all copyright sectors. The activity is driven by high costs and taxes on entertainment and lack of a full catalogue offering to the public, some of which is a governmental problem, and some of which is caused by the industry.”

The ITA sees robust copyright laws, increased enforcement and campaigns to highlight legal alternatives, as possible solutions to these problems.

In Brazil change may come shortly, as there’s a new copyright law pending. However, not all countries are receptive to the US complaints. Canada previously responded to a similar US report, labeling it as flawed and one-sided.

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

Copyright Holders Ask Google to Block Site-Blocking Notifications

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-holders-ask-google-to-block-site-blocking-notifications-170702/

Following a series of High Court orders, UK Internet providers now block access to thousands of pirate domain names.

If prospective pirates try to access these sites, they are presented with a blocking notification instead.

Virgin Media, for example, shows the following message to its subscribers.

“Virgin Media has received an order from the High Court requiring us to prevent access to this site.”

While these type of messages are crystal clear to the general public, they appear to cause confusion among copyright holders. Or more likely, among the automated takedown tools they use.

This week we stumbled upon an unusual request from the anti-piracy group RipBlock, sent on behalf of Amorphous Music. The notice in question targets several links, but also the blocking page of Virgin Media, as seen below.

Virgin takedown

Needless to say, Virgin’s blocking notification doesn’t list any infringing material. Perhaps RipBlock’s monitoring tool is using a Virgin Media connection, entering the notification in their system instead of the URL of a pirate site?

While that seems plausible, it would mean that the UK company is using more than one ISP, as it also frequently reports the blocking notifications of Sky in its takedown requests.

In any case, it’s clear that the company doesn’t check its submissions very carefully, as the same URLs are listed in dozens of DMCA notices.

Sky takedown

Interestingly, this kind of mistake is not unique to RipBlock. Another UK company, Leak Delete, asked Google to remove BT’s blocking page from its search results with a similar takedown notice.

BT’s “ukispcourtorders.co.uk” page provides a list of blocked sites and no infringing content. Nonetheless, Leak Delete has targeted it repeatedly according to Google’s transparency report.

BT takedown

In situations like this, we can see how erroneous takedown claims can easily lead to over-blocking. If blocking requests are used to block access to site blocking notifications, anything can be targeted.

It’s good to know that, despite receiving millions of requests per day, Google is still able to spot most of these flaws.

The search giant can’t catch them all though. As a result, BT’s blocking notification is no longer listed in the search engine.

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

Nintendo Shuts Down “Donkey Kong” Remake For Roku

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/nintendo-shuts-down-donkey-kong-remake-for-roku-170630/

When Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto came up with Donkey Kong more than 35 years ago, gaming was still a niche pastime.

How different is that today, where the average household has more than a handful of devices that play computer games.

While the gaming industry has come a long way, plenty of people are still drawn to older arcade games. There’s something nostalgic about their look and feel, and thanks to emulators and remakes, they are still widely available.

Donkey Kong, for example, could be played on Roku thanks to the efforts of Marcelo Lv Cabral, who released an unofficial version of the Nintendo game using the original art and music.

The software developer, who lives in Arizona, started the project as a hobby to improve his programming skills. He previously did the same with other games such as Lode Runner and Prince of Persia.

When he finished the project he released the code on GitHub, incuding a disclaimer stating his intent.

“This source code was developed as a programming exercise, it is not being used for profit or any kind of financial gain, all assets and images belong to the original copyright owner,” it read.

Screenshot from the GitHub page

While nostalgic arcade game fans will appreciate the effort, Nintendo was not amused. This week the gaming giant instructed the developer platform GitHub to remove the repository, which it did.

“The reported repository contains a recreation of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong video game for Roku, which was created and published without Nintendo’s authorization,” Nintendo writes in its takedown notice. “Please immediately remove the repository.”

We reached out to the developer, who is disappointed to see his code taken down. While he realizes that Nintendo owns the rights to Donkey Kong, his code was unique and completely custom.

“I believe they have the rights related to the name and the assets, but not to my code. That was completely done by myself, no porting of any Nintendo code, but GitHub took down everything,” Cabral tells TorrentFreak.

“What I don`t understand is why only my project was removed, if you search Donkey Kong on the GitHub you`ll found several other remake projects,” he adds.

The developer doesn’t plan to challenge the takedown. In theory, he could re-release the code with unique artwork and a new name, but Cabral prefers to focus on other projects for the time being.

He is currently working on a remake of the game Moon Patrol for example, also for the Roku platform.

While Nintendo has every right to take the infringing Donkey Kong content offline, some might feel that the company should allow fans a little more leeway for their fan-made projects.

However, judging from recent history, this is idle hope. In recent years the company has taken several fan-projects offline, including a popular JavaScript-powered Game Boy Advance emulator

Luckily for Cabral, his Lode Runner and Prince of Persia remakes are still available, for now. These games were originally released by Brøderbund Software, which no longer exists.

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

Canada’s Supreme Court Orders Google to Remove Search Results Worldwide

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/canadas-supreme-court-orders-google-remove-search-results-worldwide-170629/

Back in 2014, the case of Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack saw two Canadian entities battle over stolen intellectual property used to manufacture competing products.

Google had no direct links to the case, yet it became embroiled when Equustek Solutions claimed that Google’s search results helped to send visitors to websites operated by the defendants (former Equustek employees) who were selling unlawful products.

Google voluntarily removed links to the sites from its Google.ca (Canada) results, but Equustek demanded a more comprehensive response. It got one.

In a ruling handed down by a court in British Columbia, Google was ordered to remove the infringing websites’ listings from its central database in the United States, meaning that the ruling had worldwide implications.

Google filed an appeal hoping for a better result, arguing that it does not operate servers in British Columbia, nor does it operate any local offices. It also questioned whether the injunction could be enforced outside Canada’s borders.

Ultimately, the British Columbia Court of Appeal disappointed the search giant. In a June 2015 ruling, the Court decided that Google does indeed do business in the region. It also found that a decision to restrict infringement was unlikely to offend any overseas nation.

“The plaintiffs have established, in my view, that an order limited to the google.ca search site would not be effective. I am satisfied that there was a basis, here, for giving the injunction worldwide effect,” Justice Groberman wrote.

Undeterred, Google took its case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, hoping to limit the scope of the injunction by arguing that it violates freedom of expression. That effort has now failed.

In a 7-2 majority decision released Wednesday, Google was branded a “determinative player” in facilitating harm to Equustek.

“This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values, it is an order to de-index websites that are in violation of several court orders,” wrote Justice Rosalia Abella.

“We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods.”

With Google now required to delist the sites on a global basis, the big question is what happens when other players attempt to apply the ruling to their particular business sector. Unsurprisingly that hasn’t taken long.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which supported Equustek’s position in the long-running case, welcomed the decision and said that Google must “take on the responsibility” to ensure it does not direct users to illegal sites.

“Canada’s highest court has handed down a decision that is very good news for rights holders both in Canada and around the world. Whilst this was not a music piracy case, search engines play a prominent role in directing users to illegal content online including illegal music sites,” said IFPI CEO, Frances Moore.

“If the digital economy is to grow to its full potential, online intermediaries, including search engines, must play their part by ensuring that their services are not used to facilitate the infringement of intellectual property rights.”

Graham Henderson, President and CEO of Music Canada, which represents Sony, Universal, Warner and others, also welcomed the ruling.

“Today’s decision confirms that online service providers cannot turn a blind eye to illegal activity that they facilitate; on the contrary, they have an affirmative duty to take steps to prevent the Internet from becoming a black market,” Henderson said.

But for every voice of approval from groups like IFPI and Music Canada, others raised concerns over the scope of the decision and its potential to create a legal and political minefield. In particular, University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist raised a number of interesting scenarios.

“What happens if a Chinese court orders [Google] to remove Taiwanese sites from the index? Or if an Iranian court orders it to remove gay and lesbian sites from the index? Since local content laws differ from country to country, there is a great likelihood of conflicts,” Geist said.

But rather than painting Google as the loser in this battle, Geist believes the decision actually grants the search giant more power.

“When it comes to Internet jurisdiction, exercising restraint and limiting the scope of court orders is likely to increase global respect for the law and the effectiveness of judicial decisions. Yet this decision demonstrates what many have feared: the temptation for courts will be to assert jurisdiction over online activities and leave it to the parties to sort out potential conflicts,” Geist says.

“In doing so, the Supreme Court of Canada has lent its support to global takedowns and vested more power in Internet intermediaries, who may increasingly emerge as the arbiters of which laws to follow online.”

Only time will tell how Google will react, but it’s clear there will be plenty of entities ready to test the limits and scope of the company’s responses to the ruling.

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

Internet Provider Refutes RIAA’s Piracy Allegations

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/internet-provider-refutes-riaas-piracy-allegations-170620/

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

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

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

“Despite their knowledge of repeat infringements, Defendants have permitted repeat infringers to use the Grande service to continue to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights without consequence,” the RIAA’s complaint read.

Grande and its management consulting firm Patriot, which was also sued, both disagree and have filed a motion to dismiss at the court this week. Grande argues that it doesn’t encourage any of its customers to download copyrighted works, and that it has no control over the content subscribers access.

The Internet provider doesn’t deny that it has received millions of takedown notices through the piracy tracking company Rightscorp. However, it believes that these notices are flawed as Rightscorp is incapable of monitoring actual copyright infringements.

“These notices are so numerous and so lacking in specificity, that it is infeasible for Grande to devote the time and resources required to meaningfully investigate them. Moreover, the system that Rightscorp employs to generate its notices is incapable of detecting actual infringement and, therefore, is incapable of generating notices that reflect real infringement,” Grande writes.

Grande says that if they acted on these notices without additional proof, its subscribers could lose their Internet access even though they are using it for legal purposes.

“To merely treat these allegations as true without investigation would be a disservice to Grande’s subscribers, who would run the risk of having their Internet service permanently terminated despite using Grande’s services for completely legitimate purposes.”

Even if the notices were able to prove actual infringement, they would still fail to identify the infringer, according to the ISP. The notices identify IP-addresses which may have been used by complete strangers, who connected to the network without permission.

The Internet provider admits that online copyright infringement is a real problem. But, they see themselves as a victim of this problem, not a perpetrator, as the record labels suggest.

“Grande does not profit or receive any benefit from subscribers that may engage in such infringing activity using its network. To the contrary, Grande suffers demonstrable losses as a direct result of purported copyright infringement conducted on its network.

“To hold Grande liable for copyright infringement simply because ‘something must be done’ to address this growing problem is to hold the wrong party accountable,” Grande adds.

In common with the previous case against Cox Communications, Rightscorp’s copyright infringement notices are once again at the center of a prominent lawsuit. According to Grande, Rightscorp’s system can’t prove that infringing content was actually downloaded by third parties, only that it was made available.

The Internet provider sees the lacking infringement notices as a linchpin that, if pulled, will take the entire case down.

It’s expected that, if the case moves forward, both parties will do all they can to show that the evidence is sufficient, or not. In the Cox lawsuit, this was the case, but that verdict is currently being appealed.

Grande Communication’s full motion to dismiss is avalaible here (pdf).

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

BPI Breaks Record After Sending 310 Million Google Takedowns

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bpi-breaks-record-after-sending-310-million-google-takedowns-170619/

A little over a year ago during March 2016, music industry group BPI reached an important milestone. After years of sending takedown notices to Google, the group burst through the 200 million URL barrier.

The fact that it took BPI several years to reach its 200 million milestone made the surpassing of the quarter billion milestone a few months later even more remarkable. In October 2016, the group sent its 250 millionth takedown to Google, a figure that nearly doubled when accounting for notices sent to Microsoft’s Bing.

But despite the volumes, the battle hadn’t been won, let alone the war. The BPI’s takedown machine continued to run at a remarkable rate, churning out millions more notices per week.

As a result, yet another new milestone was reached this month when the BPI smashed through the 300 million URL barrier. Then, days later, a further 10 million were added, with the latter couple of million added during the time it took to put this piece together.

BPI takedown notices, as reported by Google

While demanding that Google places greater emphasis on its de-ranking of ‘pirate’ sites, the BPI has called again and again for a “notice and stay down” regime, to ensure that content taken down by the search engine doesn’t simply reappear under a new URL. It’s a position BPI maintains today.

“The battle would be a whole lot easier if intermediaries played fair,” a BPI spokesperson informs TF.

“They need to take more proactive responsibility to reduce infringing content that appears on their platform, and, where we expressly notify infringing content to them, to ensure that they do not only take it down, but also keep it down.”

The long-standing suggestion is that the volume of takedown notices sent would reduce if a “take down, stay down” regime was implemented. The BPI says it’s difficult to present a precise figure but infringing content has a tendency to reappear, both in search engines and on hosting sites.

“Google rejects repeat notices for the same URL. But illegal content reappears as it is re-indexed by Google. As to the sites that actually host the content, the vast majority of notices sent to them could be avoided if they implemented take-down & stay-down,” BPI says.

The fact that the BPI has added 60 million more takedowns since the quarter billion milestone a few months ago is quite remarkable, particularly since there appears to be little slowdown from month to month. However, the numbers have grown so huge that 310 billion now feels a lot like 250 million, with just a few added on top for good measure.

That an extra 60 million takedowns can almost be dismissed as a handful is an indication of just how massive the issue is online. While pirates always welcome an abundance of links to juicy content, it’s no surprise that groups like the BPI are seeking more comprehensive and sustainable solutions.

Previously, it was hoped that the Digital Economy Bill would provide some relief, hopefully via government intervention and the imposition of a search engine Code of Practice. In the event, however, all pressure on search engines was removed from the legislation after a separate voluntary agreement was reached.

All parties agreed that the voluntary code should come into effect two weeks ago on June 1 so it seems likely that some effects should be noticeable in the near future. But the BPI says it’s still early days and there’s more work to be done.

“BPI has been working productively with search engines since the voluntary code was agreed to understand how search engines approach the problem, but also what changes can and have been made and how results can be improved,” the group explains.

“The first stage is to benchmark where we are and to assess the impact of the changes search engines have made so far. This will hopefully be completed soon, then we will have better information of the current picture and from that we hope to work together to continue to improve search for rights owners and consumers.”

With more takedown notices in the pipeline not yet publicly reported by Google, the BPI informs TF that it has now notified the search giant of 315 million links to illegal content.

“That’s an astonishing number. More than 1 in 10 of the entire world’s notices to Google come from BPI. This year alone, one in every three notices sent to Google from BPI is for independent record label repertoire,” BPI concludes.

While it’s clear that groups like BPI have developed systems to cope with the huge numbers of takedown notices required in today’s environment, it’s clear that few rightsholders are happy with the status quo. With that in mind, the fight will continue, until search engines are forced into compromise. Considering the implications, that could only appear on a very distant horizon.

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