Tag Archives: The Premier League

Pirate IPTV Service Gave Customer Details to Premier League, But What’s the Risk?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-service-gave-customer-details-to-premier-league-but-whats-the-risk-180515/

In a report last weekend, we documented what appear to be the final days of pirate IPTV provider Ace Hosting.

From information provided by several sources including official liquidation documents, it became clear that a previously successful and profitable Ace had succumbed to pressure from the Premier League, which accused the service of copyright infringement.

The company had considerable funds in the bank – £255,472.00 to be exact – but it also had debts of £717,278.84, including £260,000 owed to HMRC and £100,000 to the Premier League as part of a settlement agreement.

Information received by TF late Sunday suggested that £100K was the tip of the iceberg as far as the Premier League was concerned and in a statement yesterday, the football outfit confirmed that was the case.

“A renowned pirate of Premier League content to consumers has been forced to liquidate after agreeing to pay £600,000 for breaching the League’s copyright,” the Premier League announced.

“Ace IPTV, run by Craig Driscoll and Ian Isaac, was selling subscriptions to illegal Premier League streams directly to consumers which allowed viewing on a range of devices, including notorious Kodi-type boxes, as well as to smaller resellers in the UK and abroad.”

Sources familiar with the case suggest that while Ace Hosting Limited didn’t have the funds to pay the Premier League the full £600K, Ace’s operators agreed to pay (and have already paid, to some extent at least) what were essentially their own funds to cover amounts above the final £100K, which is due to be paid next year.

But that’s not the only thing that’s been handed over to the Premier League.

“Ace voluntarily disclosed the personal details of their customers, which the League will now review in compliance with data protection legislation. Further investigations will be conducted, and action taken where appropriate,” the Premier League added.

So, the big question now is how exposed Ace’s former subscribers are.

The truth is that only the Premier League knows for sure but TF has been able to obtain information from several sources which indicate that former subscribers probably aren’t the Premier League’s key interest and even if they were, information obtained on them would be of limited use.

According to a source with knowledge of how a system like Ace’s works, there is a separation of data which appears to help (at least to some degree) with the subscriber’s privacy.

“The system used to manage accounts and take payment is actually completely separate from the software used to manage streams and the lines themselves. They are never usually even on the same server so are two very different databases,” he told TF.

“So at best the only information that has voluntarily been provided to the [Premier League], is just your email, name and address (assuming you even used real details) and what hosting package or credits you bought.”

While this information is bad enough, the action against Ace is targeted, in that it focuses on the Premier League’s content and how Ace (and therefore its users) infringed on the football outfit’s copyrights. So, proving that subscribers actually watched any Premier League content would be an ideal position but it’s not straightforward, despite the potential for detailed logging.

“The management system contains no history of what you watched, when you watched it, when you signed in and so on. That is all contained in a different database on a different server.

“Because every connection is recorded [on the second server], it can create some two million entries a day and as such most providers either turn off this feature or delete the logs daily as having so many entries slows down the system down used for actual streams,” he explains.

Our source says that this data would likely to have been the first to be deleted and is probably “long gone” by now. However, even if the Premier League had obtained it, it’s unlikely they would be able to do much with it due to data protection laws.

“The information was passed to the [Premier League] voluntarily by ACE which means this information has been given from one entity to another without the end users’ consent, not part of the [creditors’ voluntary liquidation] and without a court order to support it. Data Protection right now is taken very seriously in the EU,” he notes.

At this point, it’s probably worth noting that while the word “voluntarily” has been used several times to explain the manner in which Ace handed over its subscribers’ details to the Premier League, the same word can be used to describe the manner in which the £600K settlement amount will be paid.

No one forces someone to pay or hand something over, that’s what the courts are for, and the aim here was to avoid that eventuality.

Other pieces of information culled from various sources suggest that PayPal payment information, limited to amounts only, was also handed over to the Premier League. And, perhaps most importantly (and perhaps predictably) as far as former subscribers are concerned, the football group was more interested in Ace’s upwards supplier chain (the ‘wholesale’ stream suppliers used, for example) than those buying the service.

Finally, while the Premier League is now seeking to send a message to customers that these services are risky to use, it’s difficult to argue with the assertion that it’s unsafe to hand over personal details to an illegal service.

“Ace IPTV’s collapse also highlighted the risk consumers take with their personal data when they sign up to illegal streaming services,” Premier League notes.

TF spoke with three IPTV providers who all confirmed that they don’t care what names and addresses people use to sign up with and that no checks are carried out to make sure they’re correct. However, one concedes that in order to run as a business, this information has to be requested and once a customer types it in, it’s possible that it could be handed over as part of a settlement.

“I’m not going to tell people to put in dummy details, how can I? It’s up to people to use their common sense. If they’re still worried they should give Sky their money because if our backs are against the wall, what do you think is going to happen?” he concludes.

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

Pirate IPTV Service Goes Bust After Premier League Deal, Exposing Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-service-goes-bust-after-premier-league-deal-exposing-users-180913/

For those out of the loop, unauthorized IPTV services offering many thousands of unlicensed channels have been gaining in popularity in recent years. They’re relatively cheap, fairly reliable, and offer acceptable levels of service.

They are, however, a huge thorn in the side of rightsholders who are desperate to bring them to their knees. One such organization is the UK’s Premier League, which has been disrupting IPTV services over the past year, hoping they’ll shut down.

Most have simply ridden the wave of blocks but one provider, Ace Hosting in the UK, showed signs of stress last year, revealing that it would no longer sell new subscriptions. There was little doubt in most people’s minds that the Premier League had gotten uncomfortably close to the IPTV provider.

Now, many months later, the amazing story can be told. It’s both incredible and shocking and will leave many shaking their heads in disbelief. First up, some background.

Doing things ‘properly’ – incorporation of a pirate service…

Considering how most operators of questionable services like to stay in the shade, it may come as a surprise to learn that Ace Hosting Limited is a proper company. Incorporated and registered at Companies House on January 3, 2017, Ace has two registered directors – family team Ian and Judith Isaac.

In common with several other IPTV operators in the UK who are also officially registered with the authorities, Ace Hosting has never filed any meaningful accounts. There’s a theory that the corporate structure is basically one of convenience, one that allows for the handling of large volumes of cash while limiting liability. The downside, of course, is that people are often more easily identified, in part due to the comprehensive paper trail.

Thanks to what can only be described as a slow-motion train wreck, the Ace Hosting debacle is revealing a bewildering set of circumstances. Last December, when Ace said it would stop signing up new members due to legal pressure, a serious copyright threat had already been filed against it.

Premier League v Ace Hosting

Documents seen by TorrentFreak reveal that the Premier League sent legal threats to Ace Hosting on December 15, 2017, just days before the subscription closure announcement. Somewhat surprisingly, Ace apparently felt it could pay the Premier League a damages amount and keep on trading.

But early March 2018, with the Premier League threatening Ace with all kinds of bad things, the company made a strange announcement.

“The ISPs in the UK and across Europe have recently become much more aggressive in blocking our service while football games are in progress,” Ace said in a statement.

“In order to get ourselves off of the ISP blacklist we are going to black out the EPL games for all users (including VPN users) starting on Monday. We believe that this will enable us to rebuild the bypass process and successfully provide you with all EPL games.”

It seems doubtful that Ace really intended to thumb its nose at the Premier League but it had continued to sell subscriptions since receiving threats in December, so all things seemed possible. But on March 24 that all changed, when Ace effectively announced its closure.

Premier League 1, Ace Hosting 0

“It is with sorrow that we announce that we are no longer accepting renewals, upgrades to existing subscriptions or the purchase of new credits. We plan to support existing subscriptions until they expire,” the team wrote.

“EPL games including highlights continue to be blocked and are not expected to be reinstated before the end of the season.”

Indeed, just days later the Premier League demanded a six-figure settlement sum from Ace Hosting, presumably to make a lawsuit disappear. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“When the proposed damages amount was received it was clear that the Company would not be able to cover the cost and that there was a very high probability that even with a negotiated settlement that the Company was insolvent,” documents relating to Ace’s liquidation read.

At this point, Ace says it immediately ceased trading but while torrent sites usually shut down and disappear into the night, Ace’s demise is now a matter of record.

Creditors – the good, the bad, and the ugly

On April 11, 2018, Ace’s directors contacted business recovery and insolvency specialists Begbies Traynor (Central) LLP to obtain advice on the company’s financial position. Begbies Traynor was instructed by Ace on April 23 and on May 8, Ace Hosting director Ian Isaac determined that his company could not pay its debts.

First the good news. According to an official report, Ace Hosting has considerable cash in the bank – £255,472.00 to be exact. Now the bad news – Ace has debts of £717,278.84. – the details of which are intriguing to say the least.

First up, Ace has ‘trade creditors’ to whom it owes £104,356. The vast majority of this sum is a settlement Ace agreed to pay to the Premier League.

“The directors entered into a settlement agreement with the Football Association Premier League Limited prior to placing the Company into liquidation as a result of a purported copyright infringement. However, there is a residual claim from the Football Association Premier League Limited which is included within trade creditors totaling £100,000,” Ace’s statement of affairs reads.

Bizarrely (given the nature of the business, at least) Ace also owes £260,000 to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in unpaid VAT and corporation tax, which is effectively the government’s cut of the pirate IPTV business’s labors.

Former Ace Hosting subscriber? Your cash is as good as gone

Finally – and this is where things get a bit sweaty for Joe Public – there are 15,768 “consumer creditors”, split between ‘retail’ and ‘business’ customers of the service. Together they are owed a staggering £353,000.

Although the documentation isn’t explicit, retail customers appear to be people who have purchased an Ace IPTV subscription that still had time to run when the service closed down. Business customers seem likely to be resellers of the service, who purchased ‘credits’ and didn’t get time to sell them before Ace disappeared.

The poison chalice here is that those who are owed money by Ace can actually apply to get some of it back, but that could be extremely risky.

“Creditor claims have not yet been adjudicated but we estimate that the majority of customers who paid for subscription services will receive less than £3 if there is a distribution to unsecured creditors. Furthermore, customer details will be passed to the relevant authorities if there is any suggestion of unlawful conduct,” documentation reads.

We spoke with a former Ace customer who had this to say about the situation.

“It was generally a good service notwithstanding their half-arsed attempts to evade the EPL block. At its heart there were people who seemed to know how to operate a decent service, although the customer-facing side of things was not the greatest,” he said.

“And no, I won’t be claiming a refund. I went into it with my eyes fully open so I don’t hold anyone responsible, except myself. In any case, anyone who wants a refund has to complete a claim form and provide proof of ID (LOL).”

The bad news for former subscribers continues…potentially

While it’s likely that most people will forgo their £3, the bad news isn’t over for subscribers. Begbies Traynor is warning that the liquidators will decide whether to hand over subscribers’ personal details to the Premier League and/or the authorities.

In any event, sometime in the next couple of weeks the names and addresses of all subscribers will be made “available for inspection” at an address in Wiltshire for two days, meaning that any interested parties could potentially gain access to sensitive information.

The bottom line is that Ace Hosting is in the red to the tune of £461,907 and will eventually disappear into the bowels of history. Whether its operators will have to answer for their conduct will remain to be seen but it seems unimaginable at this stage that things will end well.

Subscribers probably won’t get sucked in but in a story as bizarre as this one, anything could yet happen.

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

Pirate IPTV Blocking Case is No Slam Dunk Says Federal Court Judge

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-blocking-case-is-no-slam-dunk-says-federal-court-judge-180502/

Last year, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) applied for a blocking injunction against several unauthorized IPTV services.

Under the Copyright Act, the broadcaster asked the Federal Court to order ISPs including Telstra, Optus, Vocus, and TPG plus their subsidiaries to block access to seven Android-based services named as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

Unlike torrent site and streaming portal blocks granted earlier, it soon became clear that this case would present unique difficulties. TVB not only wants Internet locations (URLs, domains, IP addresses) related to the technical operation of the services blocked, but also hosting services akin to Google Play and Apple’s App Store that host the app.

Furthermore, it is far from clear whether China-focused live programming is eligible for copyright protection in Australia. If China had been a party to the 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations, it would receive protection. As it stands, it does not.

That causes complications in respect of Section 115a of the Copyright Act which allows rightsholders to apply for an injunction to have “overseas online locations” blocked if they facilitate access to copyrighted content. Furthermore, the section requires that the “primary purpose” of the location is to infringe copyrights recognized in Australia. If it does not, then there’s no blocking option available.

“If most of what is occurring here is a reproduction of broadcasts that are not protected by copyright, then the primary purpose is not to facilitate copyright infringement,” Justice Nicholas said in April.

This morning TVB returned to Federal Court for a scheduled hearing. The ISPs were a no-show again, leaving the broadcaster’s legal team to battle it out with Justice Nicholas alone. According to details published by ComputerWorld, he isn’t making it easy for the overseas company.

The Judge put it to TVB that “the purpose of this system [the set-top boxes] is to make available a broadcast that’s not copyright protected in this country, in this country,” he said.

“If 10 per cent of the content was infringing content, how could you say the primary purpose is infringing copyright?” the Judge asked.

But despite the Judge’s reservations, TVB believes that the pirate IPTV services clearly infringe its rights, since alongside live programming, the devices also reproduce TVB movies which do receive protection in Australia. However, the company is also getting creative in an effort to sidestep the ‘live TV’ conundrum.

TVB counsel Julian Cooke told the Court that live TVB broadcasts are first reproduced on foreign servers from where they are communicated to set-top devices in Australia with a delay of between one and four minutes. This is a common feature of all pirate IPTV services which potentially calls into question the nature of the ‘live’ broadcasts. The same servers also carry recorded content too, he argued.

“Because the way the system is set up, it compounds itself … in a number of instances, a particular domain name, which we refer to as the portal target domain name, allows a communication path not just to live TV, but it’s also the communication path to other applications such as replay and video on demand,” Cooke said, as quoted by ZDNet.

Cooke told the Court that he wasn’t sure whether the threshold for “primary purpose” was set at 50% of infringing content but noted that the majority of the content available through the boxes is infringing and the nature of the servers is even more pronounced.

“It compounds the submission that the primary purpose of the online location which is the facilitating server is to facilitate the infringement of copyright using that communication path,” he said.

As TF predicted in our earlier coverage, TVB today got creative by highlighting other content that it does receive copyright protection for in Australia. Previously in the UK, the Premier League successfully stated that it owns copyright in the logos presented in a live broadcast.

This morning, Cooke told the court that TVB “literary works” – scripts used on news shows and subtitling services – receive copyright protection in Australia so urged the Court to consider the full package.

“If one had concerns about live TV, one shouldn’t based on the analysis we’ve done … if one adds that live TV infringements together with video on demand together with replay, there could be no doubt that the primary purpose of the online locations is to infringe copyright,” he said.

Due to the apparent complexity of the case, Justice Nicholas reserved his decision, telling TVB that his ruling could take a couple of months after receiving his “close attention.”

Last week, Village Roadshow and several major Hollywood studios won a blocking injunction against a different pirate IPTV service. HD Subs Plus delivers around 600 live premium channels plus hundreds of movies on demand, but the service will now be blocked by ISPs across Australia.

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

Danish Traffic to Pirate Sites Increases 67% in Just a Year

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/danish-traffic-to-pirate-sites-increases-67-in-just-a-year-180501/

For close to 20 years, rightsholders have tried to stem the tide of mainstream Internet piracy. Yet despite increasingly powerful enforcement tools, infringement continues on a grand scale.

While the problem is global, rightsholder groups often zoom in on their home turf, to see how the fight is progressing locally. Covering Denmark, the Rights Alliance Data Report 2017 paints a fairly pessimistic picture.

Published this week, the industry study – which uses SimilarWeb and MarkMonitor data – finds that Danes visited 2,000 leading pirate sites 596 million times in 2017. That represents a 67% increase over the 356 million visits to unlicensed platforms made by citizens during 2016.

The report notes that, at least in part, this explosive growth can be attributed to mobile-compatible sites and services, which make it easier than ever to consume illicit content on the move, as well as at home.

In a sea of unauthorized streaming sites, Rights Alliance highlights one platform above all the others as a particularly bad influence in 2017 – 123movies (also known as GoMovies and GoStream, among others).

“The popularity of this service rose sharply in 2017 from 40 million visits in 2016 to 175 million visits in 2017 – an increase of 337 percent, of which most of the traffic originates from mobile devices,” the report notes.

123movies recently announced its closure but before that the platform was subjected to web-blocking in several jurisdictions.

Rights Alliance says that Denmark has one of the most effective blocking systems in the world but that still doesn’t stop huge numbers of people from consuming pirate content from sites that aren’t yet blocked.

“Traffic to infringing sites is overwhelming, and therefore blocking a few sites merely takes the top of the illegal activities,” Rights Alliance chief Maria Fredenslund informs TorrentFreak.

“Blocking is effective by stopping 75% of traffic to blocked sites but certainly, an upscaled effort is necessary.”

Rights Alliance also views the promotion of legal services as crucial to its anti-piracy strategy so when people visit a blocked site, they’re also directed towards legitimate platforms.

“That is why we are working at the moment with Denmark’s Ministry of Culture and ISPs on a campaign ‘Share With Care 2′ which promotes legal services e.g. by offering a search function for legal services which will be placed in combination with the signs that are put on blocked websites,” the anti-piracy group notes.

But even with such measures in place, the thirst for unlicensed content is great. In 2017 alone, 500 of the most popular films and TV shows were downloaded from P2P networks like BitTorrent more than 15 million times from Danish IP addresses, that’s up from 11.9 million in 2016.

Given the dramatic rise in visits to pirate sites overall, the suggestion is that plenty of consumers are still getting through. Rights Alliance says that the number of people being restricted is also hampered by people who don’t use their ISP’s DNS service, which is the method used to block sites in Denmark.

Additionally, interest in VPNs and similar anonymization and bypass-capable technologies is on the increase. Between 3.5% and 5% of Danish Internet users currently use a VPN, a number that’s expected to go up. Furthermore, Rights Alliance reports greater interest in “closed” pirate communities.

“The data is based on closed [BitTorrent] networks. We also address the challenges with private communities on Facebook and other [social media] platforms,” Fredenslund explains.

“Due to the closed doors of these platforms it is not possible for us to say anything precisely about the amount of infringing activities there. However, we receive an increasing number of notices from our members who discover that their products are distributed illegally and also we do an increased monitoring of these platforms.”

But while more established technologies such as torrents and regular web-streaming continue in considerable volumes, newer IPTV-style services accessible via apps and dedicated platforms are also gaining traction.

“The volume of visitors to these services’ websites has been sharply rising in 2017 – an increase of 84 percent from January to December,” Rights Alliance notes.

“Even though the number of visitors does not say anything about actual consumption, as users usually only visit pages one time to download the program, the number gives an indication that the interest in IPTV is increasing.”

To combat this growth market, Rights Alliance says it wants to establish web-blockades against sites hosting the software applications.

Also on the up are visits to platforms offering live sports illegally. In 2017, Danish IP addresses made 2.96 million visits to these services, corresponding to almost 250,000 visits per month and representing an annual increase of 28%.

Rights Alliance informs TF that in future a ‘live’ blocking mechanism similar to the one used by the Premier League in the UK could be deployed in Denmark.

“We already have a dynamic blocking system, and we see an increasing demand for illegal TV products, so this could be a natural next step,” Fredenslund explains.

Another small but perhaps significant detail is how users are accessing pirate sites. According to the report, large volumes of people are now visiting platforms directly, with more than 50% doing so in preference to referrals from search engines such as Google.

In terms of deterrence, the Rights Alliance report sticks to the tried-and-tested approaches seen so often in the anti-piracy arena.

Firstly, the group notes that it’s increasingly encountering people who are paying for legal services such as Netflix and Spotify so believe that allows them to grab something extra from a pirate site. However, in common with similar organizations globally, the group counters that pirate sites can serve malware or have other nefarious business interests behind the scenes, so people should stay away.

Whether significant volumes will heed this advice will remain to be seen but if a 67% increase last year is any predictor of the future, piracy is here to stay – and then some. Rights Alliance says it is ready for the challenge but will need some assistance to achieve its goals.

“As it is evident from the traffic data, criminal activities are not something that we, private companies (right holders in cooperation with ISPs), can handle alone,” Fredenslund says.

“Therefore, we are very pleased that DK Government recently announced that the IP taskforce which was set down as a trial period has now been made permanent. In that regard it is important and necessary that the police will also obtain the authority to handle blocking of massively infringing websites. Police do not have the authority to carry out blocking as it is today.”

The full report is available here (Danish, pdf)

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

Not All Canadian ISPs Are Pro Site Blocking

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/not-all-canadian-isps-are-pro-site-blocking-180406/

Earlier this year several of the largest telcos in Canada teamed up with copyright holders to present their plan to tackle online piracy.

United in the Fairplay coalition, Bell, Rogers, and others urged telecoms regulator CRTC to institute a national website blocking program.

The Canadian blocklist should be maintained by a yet to be established non-profit organization called “Independent Piracy Review Agency” (IPRA) and both IPRA and the CRTC would be overseen by the Federal Court of Appeal, the organizations propose.

Over the past several weeks, the CRTC has asked the public for input on the plan. While we have already covered several responses, some notable entries were submitted at the very last minute.

The MPAA and the Premier League, which both applied for court-ordered blockades in the UK, voiced their support, for example. The same is true for ISP Shaw Communications. While Shaw is not part of the Fairplay Coalition it fully supports the site blocking proposal.

“New regulatory tools are needed to provide a comprehensive and coordinated response to combat piracy, and the FairPlay Proposal provides an expeditious, effective, and fair process,” Shaw writes, noting that the proposal doesn’t violate net neutrality.

The Independent Telecommunications Providers Association (ITPA) also chimed in. Representing more than a dozen smaller Internet providers, it takes no position on the merits of the plan, but stresses that copyright holders should pick up the bill.

“The ITPA would object to any regime that imposes costs without a cost recovery mechanism for service providers,” the association writes.

While many ISPs are backing the plan or taking a relatively neutral stance, TekSavvy is among the notable exceptions. The independent company that services more than 250,000 Canadian homes and businesses, says that the proposal would have a major impact.

“If implemented, the Applicants’ proposal for site blocking would fundamentally reshape how Internet services would work in Canada, including the manner in which TekSavvy provides Internet services.”

In a rather dry submission, the Internet provider argues that site blocking violates the Common Carrier doctrine of the Telecommunications Act.

“Rather than advancing the telecommunications policy objectives, the approach proposed in the Application to policing content on the Internet is in direct opposition to many of those objectives,” TekSavvy writes.

The proposal interferes with online traffic, the ISP explains, which could affect network neutrality principles. At the same time, it goes against several policy objectives, including the principle that any regulation should be efficient and effective.

“It is well-documented that blocking individual web sites is difficult and expensive and even so relatively trivial to circumvent,” the ISP notes. “As a result, site-blocking is neither efficient, nor effective.”

As such, TechSavvy argues that the site blocking proposal is not the kind of exceptional circumstance that warrants an exception to the common carrier doctrine.

The ISP is not alone in its critique, as Micheal Geist points out. In addition to its own submission, TekSavvy supports the Canadian Network Operators Consortium’s CNOC intervention, which covers a broad range of issues.

CNOC represents several dozen smaller Telcos and, among other things, it argues in detail that the blocking proposal will be costly but ineffective.

“CNOC is not convinced of the efficacy of FairPlay Canada’s proposal, and, in fact, believes that mandatory website blocking could be circumvented with such ease that expending any resources on it is unlikely to be productive, yet it would impose significant costs on ISPs,” CNOC notes.

The one thing that’s clear following all the submissions is that the CRTC will find it impossible to satisfy all parties. Even the Internet providers themselves have conflicting opinions.

A copy of Teksavvy’s submission is available here (pdf). ITPA’s letter can be found here (pdf), CNOC’s here (pdf), and Shaw’s submission in favor of the proposal is available here (pdf).

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

Men Who Sold Pirate IPTV Service to Pubs Jailed for 4.5 Years

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/men-who-sold-pirate-iptv-service-to-pubs-jailed-for-4-5-years-180404/

For owners and landlords of pubs and clubs in the UK, providing top-tier sports on TV can be the key to bringing in plenty of thirsty customers.

That being said, the costs of doing so is viewed by many as extortionate, with companies including Sky and BT Sport demanding huge fees for the privilege.

As a result, there is a growing opportunity for people to step in to provide cheaper alternatives. With satellite-type piracy now on the wane, IPTV is now a rising force and there’s no shortage of companies prepared to sell a device and associated subscription service to a landlord for the fraction of Sky’s fees.

That’s where John Dodds, 65, and Jason Richards, 45, stepped in. From 2009 until 2016, the pair were involved in an operation selling such services to a staggering 270 pubs and clubs in the North-East of England.

While Sky could charge thousands per month, the duo allegedly charged customers less than £200 per month. For this fee, they received a set-top box plus a service, which included Premier League soccer and otherwise PPV boxing matches.

According to local sources, the scheme was incredibly lucrative for the pair. Via a fraudulent company, the duo generated revenues of £1.5m, which provided luxury cars and foreign homes.

Unfortunately, however, the business – which at some point was branded ‘Full Effects HD Sports’ – attracted the attention of the Premier League. In common with the movie industry before them, they carried out a private prosecution on the basis the pair were defrauding the organization.

“What the defendants created was their own, highly professional broadcasting service which was being sold to subscribers at a rate designed to undercut any legitimate broadcaster, which they were able to do as they weren’t paying to make any of the programmes or buy from the owners, such as the Premier League,” Prosecutor David Groome told the court.

The court was convinced by the Premier League’s arguments and this morning, before Newcastle Crown Court, the pair were sentenced to four-and-a-half years each in prison.

“This was a sophisticated fraud committed against numerous broadcasters throughout the world and those who have interests in the contents of broadcasts, particularly the Football Association, Premier League,” the judge said, as quoted by Sunderland Echo.

“You both knew perfectly well you were engaged in fraud because you knew the broadcasters were not being paid any or any appropriate fee for the use of their broadcasts. You were able to mislead customers, tell them that the services were lawful for them to use when you knew they were not.”

Unfortunately for the duo’s customers, a number of publicans who bought the service were also sued or prosecuted, which the judge noted could have negative consequences in relation to their future suitability to hold a liquor license.

“This is a hugely significant judgment as it provides further evidence that selling these devices is illegal and can result in a prison sentence,” said Premier League director of legal services Kevin Plumb.

“We hope this verdict gets the message out that selling or using these devices is simply not worth the risk.”

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

Google Should Begin Delisting Pirate Sites, Aussie Rightsholders Say

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-should-begin-delisting-pirate-sites-aussie-rightsholders-say-180322/

After being passed almost three years ago, in February the Australian government announced a review of its pirate site-blocking laws.

The Department of Communications asked for feedback on the effectiveness of the mechanism, from initial injunction application through to website blocking and, crucially, whether further amendments are required.

“The Department welcomes single, consolidated submissions from organizations or parties, capturing all views on the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 (Online Infringement Amendment) [pdf],” the consultation paper began.

Several responses from interested groups have been filed with the government and unsurprisingly, most come from entertainment industry groups seeking to expand on what has been achieved so far.

The most aggressive submissions come from the two companies that have made the most use of the blocking scheme so far – movie group Village Roadshow and TV provider Foxtel. Together the companies have had dozens of sites blocked in Australia by local ISPs but now they want the blocking regime expanded to online service platforms too.

Indeed, in the Roadshow and Foxtel submissions combined, Google is mentioned no less than 29 times as being part of the piracy problem Down Under.

“Village Roadshow strongly supported the original site blocking legislation and now we strongly support strengthening it,” Village Roadshow co-chief Graham Burke writes.

“With all major pirate sites blocked in Australia, the front door of the department store is shut. However, pirates, facilitated by Google and other search engines, are circumventing Australian Laws and Courts and opening a huge back door. Australia needs the power to require Google and other search engines to take reasonable steps to stop facilitating searches which lead to pirate sites.”

Burke goes on to criticize Google’s business model, which pushes tens of millions of people “searching for stolen goods” to pirate sites that hit them with “rogue advertising including illegal gambling, drugs, sex aids and prostitution.”

In a nutshell, the Village Roadshow co-chief suggests that Google’s business model involves profiting from knowingly leading consumers to illegal locations where they are ultimately ripped off.

“The analogy for Google is a Westfield Shopping Centre knowing they are getting big traffic to the center from a store that is using stolen goods to lure people and then robbing them!” he writes.

This anti-Google rant heads in a predictable direction. At the moment, Australia’s site-blocking regime only applies to ‘carriage service providers’, the home ISPs we all use. Village Roadshow wants that provision expanded to include ‘intermediary service providers’, which covers search engines, social media, and other types of internet intermediaries.

“Apart from ISP’s, many intermediaries are able to meaningfully impact traffic to infringing sites, and in fact, can and are currently used by pirates to find new locations and proxies to circumvent the ISP blocks,” Burke adds.

In other words, when served with an injunction, companies like Google and Facebook should delist results that lead people to pirate sites. This position is also championed by Foxtel, which points to a voluntary arrangement in the UK between search engines and the entertainment industries.

Under this anti-piracy code introduced last year, search engines agreed to further optimize their algorithms and processes to demote pirated content in search results. The aim is to make infringing content less visible and at a faster rate. At the same time, legal alternatives should be easier to find.

But like Village Roadshow, Foxtel doesn’t appear to be content with demotion – blocking and delisting is the aim.

“Foxtel strongly believes that extending the site blocking powers to search engines so that they must remove copyright infringing sites from search results would have a substantial impact on reducing piracy in Australia,” the company says.

“Search engines already remove URLs from site indexes to comply with local laws and product community standards and therefore, technologically Foxtel understands it would be a relatively simple exercise for search engines to comply with Australian blocking orders.”

Both Foxtel and Roadshow agree in other areas too. Currently, Australia’s site-blocking provisions apply to “online locations” situated outside Australia’s borders but both companies see a need for that restriction to be removed.

Neither company can understand why local pirate sites can’t be handled in the same way as those based overseas, with Foxtel arguing that proving an overseas element can be a costly process.

“Applicants must review individual domain locations and IP addresses and put on evidence relating to these matters to ensure that the location of the sites is established. This evidence, which we consider to be unnecessary, is produced at significant time and cost, all of which is borne by the rights holders,” Foxtel says.

While none of the above is particularly new in the global scheme of things, it’s interesting to note that even when agreements are reached and new legislation is formed, rightsholders always keep pushing for more.

That’s clearly highlighted in the Foxtel submission when the company says that the threshold for determining a pirate site should be lowered. Currently, a site must have a “primary purpose” to “infringe, or to facilitate the infringement” of copyright. Foxtel sees this as being too high.

In order to encompass general hosting sites that may also carry large quantities of infringing content, it would like to remove the term “primary purpose” and replace it with “substantial purpose or effect.” Given the recent criticisms leveled at Google and particularly YouTube for the infringing content it hosts, that request could prove difficult to push through.

Foxtel also sees a need to better tackle live streaming. In the UK, injunctions obtained by the Premier League and UEFA last year allow pirated live sports streams to be blocked in real-time. Although the injunctions are overseen by the courts, on a practical level the process is carried out between rightsholders and compliant ISPs.

Foxtel believes that Australia needs something similar.

“For site blocking to be effective in Australia in respect of live sport streaming sites which frequently change location, Foxtel anticipates that a similar process will ultimately be required to be implemented,” the company notes.

With the consultation process now over, dissenting submissions are in the minority. The most notable come from the Pirate Party (pdf) and Digital Rights Watch (pdf) although both are likely to be drowned out by the voices of rightsholders.

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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.

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Pirate ‘Kodi’ Boxes & Infringing Streams Cost eBay Sellers Dearly

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-kodi-boxes-infringing-streams-cost-ebay-sellers-dearly-180209/

Those on the look out for ready-configured pirate set-top boxes can drift around the web looking at hundreds of options or head off to the places most people know best – eBay and Facebook.

Known for its ease of use and broad range of content, eBay is often the go-to place for sellers looking to offload less than legitimate stock. Along with Facebook, it’s become one of the easiest places online to find so-called Kodi boxes.

While the Kodi software itself is entirely legal, millions of people have their boxes configured for piracy purposes and eBay and Facebook provide a buying platform for those who don’t want to do the work themselves.

Sellers generally operate with impunity but according to news from the Premier League and anti-piracy partners Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), that’s not always the case.

FACT reports that a supplier of ISDs (Illicit Streaming Devices) that came pre-loaded for viewing top-tier football without permission has agreed to pay the Premier League thousands of pounds.

Nayanesh Patel from Harrow, Middlesex, is said to have sold Kodi-type boxes on eBay and Facebook but got caught in the act. As a result he’s agreed to cough up £18,000, disable his website, remove all advertising, and cease future sales.

A second individual, who isn’t named, allegedly sold subscriptions to illegal streams of Premier League football via eBay. He too was tracked down and eventually agreed to pay £8,000 and cease all future streams sales.

“This case shows there are serious consequences for sellers of pre-loaded boxes and is a warning for anyone who thinks they might get away with this type of activity,” says Premier League Director of Legal Services, Kevin Plumb.

“The Premier League is currently engaged in a comprehensive copyright protection programme that includes targeting and taking action against sellers of pre-loaded devices, and any ISPs or hosts that facilitate the broadcast of pirated Premier League content.”

The number of individuals selling pirate set-top devices and IPTV-style subscription packages on eBay and social media has grown to epidemic proportions, so perhaps the biggest surprise is that there aren’t more cases like these. Importantly, however, these apparent settlement agreements are a step back from the criminal prosecutions we’ve seen in the past.

Previously, individuals under FACT’s spotlight have tended to be targeted by the police, with all the drawn-out misery that entails. While these cash settlements are fairly hefty, they appear to be in lieu of law enforcement involvement, not inconsiderable solicitors bills, and potential jail sentences. For a few unlucky sellers, this could prove the more attractive option.

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Court Orders Hosting Provider to Stop Pirate Premier League Streams

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-hosting-provider-to-stop-pirate-premier-league-streams-180126/

In many parts of the world football, or soccer as some would call it, is the number one spectator sport.

The English Premier League, widely regarded as one the top competitions, draws hundreds of millions of viewers per year. Many of these pay for access to the matches, but there’s also a massive circuit of unauthorized streams.

The Football Association Premier League (FAPL) has been clamping down on these pirate sources for years. In the UK, for example, it obtained a unique High Court injunction last year, which requires local Internet providers to block streams as they go live.

In addition, the organization has also filed legal action against a hosting provider through which several live sports streaming sites are operating. The case in question was filed in the Netherlands where Ecatel LTD, a UK company, operated several servers.

According to the complaint, Ecatel hosted sites such as cast247.tv, streamlive.to and iguide.to, which allowed visitors to watch live Premier League streams without paying.

As the streaming platforms themselves were not responsive to takedown requests, the Premier League demanded action from their hosting provider. Specifically, they wanted the company to disconnect live streams on their end, by null-routing the servers of the offending customer.

This week the Court of The Hague issued its judgment, which is a clear win for the football association.

The Court ruled that, after the hosting company receives a takedown notice from FAPL or one of its agents, Ecatel must disconnect pirate Premier League streams within 30 minutes.

“[The Court] recommends that, after 24 hours of service of this judgment, Ecatel cease and discontinue any service used by third parties to infringe the copyright to FAPL by promptly but no later than 30 minutes after receipt of a request to that end,” the verdict reads.

The ban can be lifted after the game has ended, making it a temporary measure similar to the UK Internet provider blockades. If Ecatel fails to comply, it faces a penalty of €5,000 for each illegal stream, to a maximum of € 1,500,000.

While the order is good news for the Premier League, it will be hard to enforce, since Ecatel LTD was dissolved last year. Another hosting company called Novogara was previously linked with Ecatel and is still active, but that is not mentioned in the court order.

This means that the order will mostly be valuable as a precedent. Especially since it goes against an earlier order from 2015, which Emerce pointed out. This warrants a closer look at how the Court reached its decision.

In its defense, Ecatel had argued that an obligation to disconnect customers based on a takedown notice would be disproportionate and violate its entrepreneurial freedoms. The latter is protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The Court, however, highlights that there is a clash between the entrepreneurial rights of Ecatel and the copyrights of FAPL in this case. This requires the Court to weigh these rights to see which prevails over the other.

According to the verdict, the measures Ecatel would have to take to comply are not overly costly. The company already null-routed customers who failed to pay, so the technical capabilities are there.

Ecatel also argued that disconnecting a server could affect legal content that’s provided by its customers. However, according to the Court, Ecatel is partly to blame for this, as it does business with customers who seemingly don’t have a proper takedown process themselves. This is something the company could have included in their contracts.

As a result, the Court put the copyrights of FAPL above the entrepreneurial freedom rights of the hosting provider.

The second right that has to be weighed is the public’s right to freedom of expression and information. While the Court rules that this right is limited by the measures, it argues that the rights of copyright holders weigh stronger.

“Admittedly, this freedom [of expression and information] is restricted, but according to the order, this will only apply for the duration of the offending streams. Furthermore, as said, this will only take place if the stream has not already been blocked in another way,” the Court writes.

If any legal content is affected by the measures then the offending streaming platform itself will experience more pressure from users to deal with the problem, and offer a suitable takedown procedure to prevent similar problems in the future, the Court notes.

TorrentFreak reached out to FAPL and Ecatel’s lawyers for a comment on the verdict but at the time of writing we haven’t heard back.

The verdict appears to be a powerful precedent for copyright holders. Kim Kuik, director of local anti-piracy group BREIN, is pleased with the outcome. While BREIN was not involved in this lawsuit, it previously sued Ecatel in another case.

“It is a good precedent. An intermediary like Ecatel has its accountability and must have an effective notice and take down procedure,” Kuik tells TorrentFreak.

“Too bad it wasn’t also against the people behind Ecatel, who now can continue using another vehicle. The judge thinks this verdict serves a warning to them. Time will tell if that is so.”

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UEFA Obtains High Court Injunction To Block Live Soccer Streaming

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uefa-obtains-high-court-injunction-to-block-live-soccer-streaming-171226/

Earlier this year the English Premier League (EPL) obtained a unique High Court injunction which required ISPs including Sky, BT, and Virgin to block ‘pirate’ football streams in real-time.

When that temporary injunction ran out, the EPL went back to court for a new one, valid for the season that began in August. After what appeared to be a slow start, the effort began to produce significant results, blocking thousands of Internet subscribers from accessing illicit streams via websites, Kodi add-ons, and premium IPTV services.

Encouraged by its successes, the EPL has now been joined by an even bigger soccer organization. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is the governing body of soccer in Europe and it too will jump onto the site and server-blocking bandwagon, almost certainly utilizing the same system being deployed by the Premier League.

UEFA first had to obtain permission from the High Court. That came in the form of an application for injunction filed by the organization against ISPs BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk, and Virgin Media. It demanded that they “take measures to block, or at least impede, access by their customers to streaming servers which deliver infringing live streams of UEFA Competition matches to UK consumers.”

In other countries, ISPs have defended such cases but in the UK, the position is very different. All providers except TalkTalk actually supported the application, with BT, Sky, and Virgin filing evidence in its favor.

The application seemed somewhat academic. All parties previously agreed to its terms and it was supported by the Premier League and the Formula One World Championship, whose content is also streamed illegally by some of the same servers.

The High Court found that the application was broadly similar to that previously filed by the Premier League so the legal basis for granting the injunction remained the same.

Citing two big rulings from the EU Court this year (one involving The Pirate Bay, the other cloud-recording service VCAST), Mr Justice Arnold said that evidence filed by the Premier League showed that a similar order had proven “very effective”.

The Judge also noted that no evidence of over-blocking as a result of the previous injunctions had been presented and that this injunction would contain “an additional safeguard” in that respect. Details of this measure and almost every other technical aspect of the injunction remain confidential, as is the case with the Premier League’s efforts.

Justice Arnold’s order will take effect on 13 February 2018 and last until 26 May 2018. People reliant on pirate streams for their football/soccer fix will continue to experience issues, with many having no other choice than to resort to VPNs to access blocked streams.

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

IPTV Provider Stops Selling New Subscriptions Under Pressure From “UK Authorities”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-provider-stops-selling-new-subscriptions-under-pressure-from-uk-authorities-171224/

Over the past couple of decades, piracy of live TV has broadly taken two forms. That which relies on breaking broadcaster encryption (such as card sharing and hacked set-top boxes), and the more recent developments of P2P and IPTV-style transmission.

With the former under pressure and P2P systems such as Sopcast and AceTorrent moving along in the background, streaming from servers is now the next big thing, whether that’s for free via third-party Kodi plugins or for a small fee from premium IPTV providers.

Of course, copyright holders don’t like any of this usage but with their for-profit strategy, commercial IPTV providers have a big target on their backs. More evidence of this was revealed recently when UK-based IPTV service ACE TV announced they were taking action to avoid problems in the country.

In a message to prospective and existing customers, ACE TV said that potential legal issues were behind its decision to accept no new customers while locking down its service.

“It saddens me to announce this, but due to pressure from the authorities in the UK, we are no longer selling new subscriptions. This obviously includes trials,” the announcement reads.

Noting that it would take new order for just 24 hours more, ACE TV insisted that it wasn’t shutting down but would lock down the service while closing Facebook.

TF sources and unconfirmed rumors online suggest that the Federation Against Copyright Theft and partners the Premier League are involved. However, ACE TV didn’t respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment so we’re unable to confirm or deny the allegations.

That being said, even if the threats came directly from the police, it’s likely that the approach would’ve been initially prompted by companies connected to FACT, since the anti-piracy outfit often puts forward names of services for investigation on behalf of its partners.

Perhaps surprisingly, ACE TV is legally incorporated in the UK as Ace Hosting Limited, a fact it makes clear on its website. While easy to find, the company’s registered address is shared by dozens of other companies, indicating a mail forwarding operation rather than a place servers or staff can be found.

This proxy location may well be the reason the company feels emboldened to carry on some level of service rather than shutting down completely, but its legal basis for doing so is interesting at best, precarious at worst.

“This website, any content contained herein and any contract brought into being as a result of usage of this website are governed by and construed in accordance with English Law,” ACE TV’s website reads.

“The parties to any such contract agree to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales. All contracts are concluded in English.”

It seems likely that ACE TV has been threatened under UK law, since that’s where it’s incorporated. That would seem to explain why its concerned about UK authorities and their potential effect on the business. On the other hand, however, the service claims to operate entirely legally, but under the laws of the United States. It even has a repeat infringer policy.

“Ace Hosting operates as an intermediary to cache and deliver content hosted by others at the instruction of our subscribers. We cannot remove content hosted by others,” the company says.

“As an intermediary, we are entitled to rely upon (among other things) the DMCA safe harbor available to system caching service providers and we maintain policies and procedures to terminate subscribers that would be considered repeat infringers under the DMCA.”

Whether the notices on the site have been advised by a legal professional or are there to present an air of authenticity is unclear but it’s precarious for a service of this nature to rely solely on conduit status in order to avoid liability.

Marketing, prior conduct, and overall intent play a major role in such cases and when all of that is aired in the cold light of day, the situation can look very different to a judge, particularly in the UK, where no similar cases have been successfully defended to date.

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Coalition Against Piracy Wants Singapore to Block Streaming Piracy Software

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kodi Addon Dev Says “Show of Force” Will Be Met With Defiance

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-addon-dev-says-show-force-will-met-defiance-171119/

For many years, the members of the MPAA have flexed their muscles all around the globe, working to prevent people from engaging in online piracy. If the last 17 years ‘progress’ is anything to go by, it’s a war that will go on indefinitely.

With Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner on board, the MPAA has historically relied on sheer power to intimidate opponents. That has certainly worked in many large piracy cases but for many peripheral smaller-scale pirates, their presence is largely ignored.

This week, however, several players in the Kodi scene discovered that these giants – and more besides – have the ability to literally turn up at their front door. As reported Thursday, UK-based Kodi addon developer The_Alpha received a hand-delivered cease-and-desist letter from all of the above, accompanied by new faces Netflix, Amazon and Sky TV.

These companies are part of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a massive and recently-formed anti-piracy coalition comprised of 30 global entertainment brands. TorrentFreak reached out to The_Alpha for his thoughts on coming under such a dazzling spotlight but perhaps understandably he didn’t want to comment.

The leader of the Ares Project was willing to go on the record, however, after he too received a hand-delivered threat during the week. His decision was to immediately comply and shutdown but TF is informed that others might not be so willing to follow suit.

A Kodi addon developer living in the UK who spoke to us on condition of anonymity told us that most people operating in the scene expected some kind of trouble – just not on this scale.

“Did you see the [company logos] across the top of Alpha’s letter? That’s some serious shit right there. The film companies are no surprise but Amazon delivers my groceries so I don’t expect this shit from them,” he said.

When the ACE partnership was formed earlier this year, it seemed pretty clear that the main drive was towards the pooling of anti-piracy resources to be more effective and efficient. However, it can’t have escaped ACE that such a broad and powerful alliance could also have a profound psychological effect on its adversaries.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re turning up mob-handed to put the shits up people like Alpha and the rest of us,” the developer said. “It’s hardly a fair dust-up is it? What have we got to fight back with, a giro [state benefits]? It’s a show of force, ‘look how important we are’!”

Interestingly, however, the dev told us that it isn’t necessarily the size of the coalition that has him most concerned. What caught his eye was the inclusion of two influential UK-based companies in the alliance.

“Having Sly [a local derogatory nickname for Sky TV] and the Premier League on the letter makes it much more serious to me than seeing Warner or whatever,” he commented.

“I don’t get involved in footie but Sly is everywhere round here and I think it’s something the Brit dev scene might take notice of, even if most say ‘fuck it’ and carry on anyway.”

When questioned whether that’s likely, our source said that while ACE might be able to tackle some of the bigger targets like Ares Project or Colossus, they fundamentally misunderstand how the Kodi scene works.

“If you want a good example of a scattered pirate scene, I give you Kodi. They can bomb the base or whatever but nobody lives there,” he explained.

“There’s some older blokes like me who can do without the stress but a lot of younger coders, builders and YouTubers who thrive on it. They’re used to running around council estates with real-life problems. A faffy letter from some toff in a suit means literally nothing. Like I said, all they have to lose is a giro.”

Whether this is just bravado will remain to be seen, but our earlier discussions with others in the scene indicate a particular weakness in the UK, with many players vulnerable to being found after failing to hide their identities in the past. To a point, our source agrees that this is a problem.

“People are saying that Alpha was found after trying to raise some charity money related to his disabled son but I don’t know for sure and nor does anybody else. What strikes me is that none of us really thought things would get this on top here because all you ever hear about is America this, Canada that, whatever. Does this means that more of us are getting done in England? You tell me,” he said.

Only time will tell but stamping out the pirate Kodi scene is going to be hard work.

Within hours of several projects disappearing Wednesday and Thursday, YouTube and myriad blogs were being flooded with guides detailing immediate replacements. This ad-hoc network of enthusiasts makes the exchange of information happen at an alarming rate and it’s hard to see how any company – no matter how powerful – will ever be able to keep up.

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

The Truth Behind the “Kodi Boxes Can Kill Their Owners” Headlines

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-truth-behind-the-kodi-boxes-can-kill-their-owners-headlines-171118/

Another week, another batch of ‘Kodi Box Armageddon’ stories. This time it hasn’t been directly about the content they can provide but the physical risks they pose to their owners.

After being primed in advance, the usual British tabloids jumped into action early Thursday, noting that following tests carried out on “illicit streaming devices” (aka Android set-top devices), 100% of them failed to meet UK national electrical safety regulations.

The tests were carried out by Electrical Safety First, a charity which was prompted into action by anti-piracy outfit Federation Against Copyright Theft.

“A series of product safety tests on popular illicit streaming devices entering the UK have found that 100% fail to meet national electrical safety regulations,” a FACT statement reads.

“The news is all the more significant as the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) estimates that more than one million of these illegal devices have been sold in the UK in the last two years, representing a significant risk to the general public.”

After reading many sensational headlines stating that “Kodi Boxes Might Kill Their Owners”, please excuse us for groaning. This story has absolutely nothing – NOTHING – to do with Kodi or any other piece of software. Quite obviously, software doesn’t catch fire.

So, suspecting that there might be more to this than meets the eye, we decided to look beyond the press releases into the actual Electrical Safety First (ESF) report. While we have no doubt that ESF is extremely competent in its field (it is, no question), the front page of its report is disappointing.

Despite the items sent for testing being straightforward Android-based media players, the ESF report clearly describes itself as examining “illicit streaming devices”. It’s terminology that doesn’t describe the subject matter from an electrical, safety or technical perspective but is pretty convenient for FACT clients Sky and the Premier League.

Nevertheless, the full picture reveals rather more than most of the headlines suggest.

First of all, it’s important to know that ESF tested just nine devices out of the million or so allegedly sold in the UK during the past two years. Even more importantly, every single one of those devices was supplied to ESF by FACT.

Now, we’re not suggesting they were hand-picked to fail but it’s clear that the samples weren’t provided from a neutral source. Also, as we’ll learn shortly, it’s possible to determine in advance if an item will fail to meet UK standards simply by looking at its packaging and casing.

But perhaps even more intriguing is that the electrical testing carried out by ESF related primarily not to the set-top boxes themselves, but to their power supplies. ESF say so themselves.

“The product review relates primarily to the switched mode power supply units for the connection to the mains supply, which were supplied with the devices, to identify any potential risks to consumers such as electric shocks, heating and resistance to fire,” ESF reports.

The set-top boxes themselves were only assessed “in terms of any faults in the marking, warnings and instructions,” the group adds.

So, what we’re really talking about here isn’t dangerous illicit streaming devices set-top boxes, but the power supply units that come with them. It might seem like a small detail but we’ll come to the vast importance of this later on.

Firstly, however, we should note that none of the equipment supplied by FACT complied with Schedule 1 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. This means that they failed to have the “Conformité Européene” or CE logo present. That’s unacceptable.

In addition, none of them lived up the requirements of Schedule 3 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 either, which in part requires the manufacturer’s brand name or trademark to be “clearly printed on the electrical equipment or, where that is not possible, on the packaging.” (That’s how you can tell they’ll definitely fail UK standards, before sending them for testing)

Also, none of the samples were supplied with “sufficient safety or warning information to ensure the safe and correct use, assembly, installation or maintenance of the equipment.” This represents ‘a technical breach’ of the regulations, ESF reports.

Finally, several of the samples were considered to be a potential risk to their users, either via electric shock and/or fire. That’s an important finding and people who suspect they have such devices at home should definitely take note.

However, the really important point isn’t mentioned in the tabloids, probably since it distracts from the “Kodi Armageddon” narrative which underlies the whole study and subsequent reports.

ESF says that one of the key issues is that the set-top boxes come unbranded, something which breaches safety regulations while making it difficult for consumers to assess whether they’re buying a quality product. Crucially, this is not exclusively a set-top box problem, it is much, MUCH bigger.

“Issues with power supply units or unbranded and counterfeit chargers go beyond illicit streaming devices. In the last year, issues have been reported with other consumer electrical devices, such as laptop chargers and counterfeit phone chargers,” the same ESF report reveals.

“The total annual online sales of mains plug-in chargers is estimated to be in the region of 1.8 million and according to Electrical Safety First, it is likely that most of these sales involve cheap, unbranded chargers.”

So, we looked into this issue of problem power supplies and chargers generally, to see where this report fits into the bigger picture. It transpires it’s a massive problem, all over the UK, across a wide range of products. In fact, Trading Standards reports that 99% of non-genuine Apple chargers bought online “fail a basic safety test”.

But buying from reputable High Street retailers doesn’t help either.

During the past year, Poundworld was fined for selling – wait for it – 72,000 dangerous chargers. Home Bargains was also fined for selling “thousands” of power adaptors that fail to meet UK standards.

“All samples provided failed to comply with Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations and were not marked with the manufacturer’s name,” Trading Standards reports.

That sounds familiar.

So, there you have it. Far from this being an isolated “Kodi Box Crisis” as some have proclaimed, this is a broad issue affecting imported electrical items in general. On this basis, one can’t help but think the tabloids missed a trick here. Think of the power of this headline:

ALL UNBRANDED ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT CAN KILL, DISCONNECT EVERYTHING

or, alternatively:

PIRATES URGED TO SWITCH TO BRANDED AMAZON FIRESTICKS, SAFER FOR KODI

Perhaps not….

The ESF report can be found here (pdf)

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

Sky: People Can’t Pirate Live Soccer in the UK Anymore

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sky-people-cant-pirate-live-soccer-in-the-uk-anymore-171108/

The commotion over the set-top box streaming phenomenon is showing no signs of dying down and if day one at the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) Conference 2017 was anything to go by, things are only heating up.

Held at Studio City in Macau, the conference has a strong anti-piracy element and was opened by Joe Welch, CASBAA Board Chairman and SVP Public Affairs Asia, 21st Century Fox. He began Tuesday by noting the important recent launch of a brand new anti-piracy initiative.

“CASBAA recently launched the Coalition Against Piracy, funded by 18 of the region’s content players and distribution partners,” he said.

TF reported on the formation of the coalition mid-October. It includes heavyweights such as Disney, Fox, HBO, NBCUniversal and BBC Worldwide, and will have a strong focus on the illicit set-top box market.

Illegal streaming devices (or ISDs, as the industry calls them), were directly addressed in a segment yesterday afternoon titled Face To Face. Led by Dr. Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright & IP Enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office, the session detailed the “onslaught of online piracy” and the rise of ISDs that is apparently “shaking the market”.

Given the apparent gravity of those statements, the following will probably come as a surprise. According to Lynch, the UK IPO sought the opinion of UK-based rightsholders about the pirate box phenomenon a while back after being informed of their popularity in the East. The response was that pirate boxes weren’t an issue. It didn’t take long, however, for things to blow up.

“The UKIPO provides intelligence and evidence to industry and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in London who then take enforcement actions,” Lynch explained.

“We first heard about the issues with ISDs from [broadcaster] TVB in Hong Kong and we then consulted the UK rights holders who responded that it wasn’t a problem. Two years later the issue just exploded.”

The evidence of that in the UK isn’t difficult to find. In addition to millions of devices with both free Kodi addon and subscription-based systems deployed, the app market has bloomed too, offering free or near to free content to all.

This caught the eye of the Premier League who this year obtained two pioneering injunctions (1,2) to tackle live streams of football games. Streams are blocked by local ISPs in real-time, making illicit online viewing a more painful experience than it ever has been. No doubt progress has been made on this front, with thousands of streams blocked, but according to broadcaster Sky, the results are unprecedented.

“Site-blocking has moved the goalposts significantly,” said Matthew Hibbert, head of litigation at Sky UK.

“In the UK you cannot watch pirated live Premier League content anymore,” he said.

While progress has been good, the statement is overly enthusiastic. TF sources have been monitoring the availability of pirate streams on around dozen illicit sites and services every Saturday (when it is actually illegal to broadcast matches in the UK) and service has been steady on around half of them and intermittent at worst on the rest.

There are hundreds of other platforms available so while many are definitely affected by Premier League blocking, it’s safe to assume that live football piracy hasn’t been wiped out. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to suggest that no progress has been made, in this and other related areas.

Kevin Plumb, Director of Legal Services at The Premier League, said that pubs showing football from illegal streams had also massively dwindled in numbers.

“In the past 18 months the illegal broadcasting of live Premier League matches in pubs in the UK has been decimated,” he said.

This result is almost certainly down to prosecutions taken in tandem with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), that have seen several landlords landed with large fines. Indeed, both sides of the market have been tackled, with both licensed premises and IPTV device sellers being targeted.

“The most successful thing we’ve done to combat piracy has been to undertake criminal prosecutions against ISD piracy,” said FACT chief Kieron Sharp yesterday. “Everyone is pleading guilty to these offenses.”

Most if not all of FACT-led prosecutions target device and subscription sellers under fraud legislation but that could change in the future, Lynch of the Intellectual Property Office said.

“While the UK works to update its legislation, we can’t wait for the new legislation to take enforcement actions and we rely heavily on ‘conspiracy to defraud’ charges, and have successfully prosecuted a number of ISD retailers,” she said.

Finally, information provided yesterday by network company CISCO shine light on what it costs to run a subscription-based pirate IPTV operation.

Director of Intelligence & Security Operations Avigail Gutman said a pirate IPTV server offering 1,000 channels to around 1,000 subscribers can cost as little as 2,000 euros per month to run but can generate 12,000 euros in revenue during the same period.

“In April of 2017, ten major paid TV and content providers had relinquished 3.09 million euros per month to 285 ISD-based streaming pirate syndicates,” she said.

There’s little doubt that IPTV piracy, both paid and free, is here to stay. The big question is how it will be tackled short and long-term and whether any changes in legislation will have any unintended knock-on effects.

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

Aussie ‘Pirate’ Blocking Efforts Switch to Premium IPTV

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/aussie-pirate-blocking-efforts-switch-to-premium-iptv-171106/

Website blocking has become one of the leading anti-piracy mechanisms in recent years and is particularly prevalent across Europe, where thousands of sites are now off-limits by regular means.

More recently the practice spread to Australia, where movie and music industry bodies have filed several applications at the Federal Court. This has rendered dozens of major torrent and streaming inaccessible in the region, after local ISPs complied with orders compelling them to prevent subscriber access.

While such blocking is now commonplace, Village Roadshow and a coalition of movie studios have now switched tack, targeting an operation offering subscription-based IPTV services.

The action targets HDSubs+, a fairly well-known service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee, at least versus the real deal.

A small selection of channels in the HDSubs+ package

ComputerWorld reports that the application for the injunction was filed last month. In common with earlier requests, it targets Australia’s largest ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus the subsidiaries.

Access to HDSubs.com appears to be limited, possibly by the platform’s operators, so that visitors from desktop machines are redirected back to Google. However, access to the platform is available by other means and that reveals a fairly pricey IPTV offering.

As seen in the image below, the top package (HD Subs+), which includes all the TV anyone could need plus movies and TV shows on demand, weighs in at US$239.99 per year, around double the price of similar packages available elsewhere.

Broad selection of channels but quite pricey

If the court chooses to grant the injunction, ISPs will not only have to block the service’s main domain (HDSubs.com) but also a range of others which provide the infrastructure for the platform.

Unlike torrent and streaming sites which tend to be in one place (if we discount proxies and mirrors), IPTV services like HD Subs often rely on a number of domains to provide a sales platform, EPG (electronic program guide), software (such as an Android app), updates, and sundry other services.

As per CW, in the HD Subs case they are: ois001wfr.update-apk.com, ois005yfs.update-apk.com, ois003slp.update-apk.com, update002zmt.hiddeniptv.com, apk.hiddeniptv.com, crossepg003uix.hiddeniptv.com, crossepg002gwj.hiddeniptv.com, mpbs001utb.hiddeniptv.com, soft001rqv.update-apk.com and hdsubs.com.

This switch in tactics by Village Roadshow and the other studios involved is subtle but significant. While torrent and streaming sites provide a largely free but fragmented experience, premium IPTV services are direct commercial competitors, often providing a more comprehensive range of channels and services than the broadcasters themselves.

While quality may not always be comparable with their licensed counterparts, presentation is often first class, giving the impression of an official product which is comfortably accessed via a living room TV. This is clearly a concern to commercial broadcasters.

As reported last week, global IPTV traffic is both huge and growing, so expect more of these requests Down Under.

Previous efforts to block IPTV services include those in the UK, where the Premier League takes targeted action against providers who provide live soccer. These measures only target live streams when matches are underway and as far as we’re aware, there are no broader measures in place against any provider.

This could mean that the action in Australia, to permanently block a provider in its entirety, is the first of its kind anywhere.

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

A Million ‘Pirate’ Boxes Sold in the UK During The Last Two Years

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/a-million-pirate-boxes-sold-in-the-uk-during-the-last-two-years-170919/

With the devices hitting the headlines on an almost weekly basis, it probably comes as no surprise that ‘pirate’ set-top boxes are quickly becoming public enemy number one with video rightsholders.

Typically loaded with the legal Kodi software but augmented with third-party addons, these often Android-based pieces of hardware drag piracy out of the realm of the computer savvy and into the living rooms of millions.

One of the countries reportedly most affected by this boom is the UK. The consumption of these devices among the general public is said to have reached epidemic proportions, and anecdotal evidence suggests that terms like Kodi and Showbox are now household terms.

Today we have another report to digest, this time from the Federation Against Copyright Theft, or FACT as they’re often known. Titled ‘Cracking Down on Digital Piracy,’ the report provides a general overview of the piracy scene, tackling well-worn topics such as how release groups and site operators work, among others.

The report is produced by FACT after consultation with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, Intellectual Property Office, Police Scotland, and anti-piracy outfit Entura International. It begins by noting that the vast majority of the British public aren’t involved in the consumption of infringing content.

“The most recent stats show that 75% of Brits who look at content online abide by the law and don’t download or stream it illegally – up from 70% in 2013. However, that still leaves 25% who do access material illegally,” the report reads.

The report quickly heads to the topic of ‘pirate’ set-top boxes which is unsurprising, not least due to FACT’s current focus as a business entity.

While it often positions itself alongside government bodies (which no doubt boosts its status with the general public), FACT is a private limited company serving The Premier League, another company desperate to stamp out the use of infringing devices.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to argue with some of the figures cited in the report.

“At a conservative estimate, we believe a million set-top boxes with software added
to them to facilitate illegal downloads have been sold in the UK in the last couple
of years,” the Intellectual Property Office reveals.

Interestingly, given a growing tech-savvy public, FACT’s report notes that ready-configured boxes are increasingly coming into the country.

“Historically, individuals and organized gangs have added illegal apps and add-ons onto the boxes once they have been imported, to allow illegal access to premium channels. However more recently, more boxes are coming into the UK complete with illegal access to copyrighted content via apps and add-ons already installed,” FACT notes.

“Boxes are often stored in ‘fulfillment houses’ along with other illegal electrical items and sold on social media. The boxes are either sold as one-off purchases, or with a monthly subscription to access paid-for channels.”

While FACT press releases regularly blur the lines when people are prosecuted for supplying set-top boxes in general, it’s important to note that there are essentially two kinds of products on offer to the public.

The first relies on Kodi-type devices which provide on-going free access to infringing content. The second involves premium IPTV subscriptions which are a whole different level of criminality. Separating the two when reading news reports can be extremely difficult, but it’s a hugely important to recognize the difference when assessing the kinds of sentences set-top box suppliers are receiving in the UK.

Nevertheless, FACT correctly highlights that the supply of both kinds of product are on the increase, with various parties recognizing the commercial opportunities.

“A significant number of home-grown British criminals are now involved in this type of crime. Some of them import the boxes wholesale through entirely legal channels, and modify them with illegal software at home. Others work with sophisticated criminal networks across Europe to bring the boxes into the UK.

“They then sell these boxes online, for example through eBay or Facebook, sometimes managing to sell hundreds or thousands of boxes before being caught,” the company adds.

The report notes that in some cases the sale of infringing set-top boxes occurs through cottage industry, with suppliers often working on their own or with small groups of friends and family. Invetiably, perhaps, larger scale operations are reported to be part of networks with connections to other kinds of crime, such as dealing in drugs.

“In contrast to drugs, streaming devices provide a relatively steady and predictable revenue stream for these criminals – while still being lucrative, often generating hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, they are seen as a lower risk activity with less likelihood of leading to arrest or imprisonment,” FACT reports.

While there’s certainly the potential to earn large sums from ‘pirate’ boxes and premium IPTV services, operating on the “hundreds of thousands of pounds a year” scale in the UK would attract a lot of unwanted attention. That’s not saying that it isn’t already, however.

Noting that digital piracy has evolved hugely over the past three or four years, the report says that the cases investigated so far are just the “tip of the iceberg” and that many other cases are in the early stages and will only become known to the public in the months and years ahead.

Indeed, the Intellectual Property Office hints that some kind of large-scale enforcement action may be on the horizon.

“We have identified a significant criminal business model which we have discussed and shared with key law enforcement partners. I can’t go into detail on this, but as investigations take their course, you will see the scale,” an IPO spokesperson reveals.

While details are necessarily scarce, a source familiar with this area told TF that he would be very surprised if the targets aren’t the growing handful of commercial UK-based IPTV re-sellers who offer full subscription TV services for a few pounds per month.

“They’re brazen. Watch this space,” he said.

FACT’s full report, Cracking Down on Digital Piracy, can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

The Things Pirates Do To Hinder Anti-Piracy Investigations

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-things-pirates-do-to-hinder-anti-piracy-outfits-170909/

Dedicated Internet pirates dealing in fresh content or operating at any significant scale can be pretty sure that rightsholders and their anti-piracy colleagues are interested in their activities at some level.

With this in mind, most pirates these days are aware of things they can do to enhance their security, with products like VPNs often get discussed on the consumer side.

This week, in a report detailing the challenges social media poses to intellectual property rights, UK anti-piracy outfit Federation Against Copyright Theft published a list of techniques deployed by pirates that hinder their investigations.

Fake/hidden website registration details

“Website registration details are often fake or hidden, which provides no further links to the person controlling the domain and its illegal activities,” the group reveals.

Protected WHOIS records are nothing new and can sometimes be uncloaked by a determined adversary via court procedures. However, in the early stages of an investigation, open records provide leads that can be extremely useful in building an early picture about who might be involved in the operation of a website.

Having them hidden is a definite plus for pirate site operators, especially when the underlying details are also fake, which is particularly common practice. And, with companies like Peter Sunde’s Njalla entering the market, hiding registrations is easier than ever.

Overseas servers

“Investigating servers located offshore cause some specific problems for FACT’s law-enforcement partners. In order to complete a full investigation into an offshore server, a law-enforcement agency must liaise with its counterpart in the country where the server is located. The difficulties of obtaining evidence from other countries are well known,” FACT notes.

While FACT no doubt corresponds with entities overseas, the anti-piracy outfit has a history of targeting UK citizens who are reportedly infringing copyright. It regularly involves UK police in its investigations (FACT itself employs former police officers) but jurisdiction is necessarily limited to the UK.

It is possible to get overseas law enforcement entities involved to seize a server, for example, but they have to be convinced of the need to do so by the police, which isn’t easy and is usually reserved for more serious cases. The bottom line is that by placing a server a long way away from a pirate’s home territory, things can be made much more difficult for local investigators.

Torrent websites and DMCA compliance

“Some torrent website operators who maintain a high DMCA compliance rate will often use this to try to appease the law, while continuing to provide infringing links,” FACT says.

This is an interesting one. Under law in both the United States and Europe, service providers are required to remove infringing content from their systems when they are notified of its existence by a rightsholder or its agent. Not doing so can render them liable, if the content is indeed infringing.

What FACT appears to be saying is that sites that comply with the law, by removing infringing content when asked to, become more difficult targets for legal action. It sounds very obvious but the underlying suggestion is that compliance on the surface is used as a protective mechanism. No example sites are mentioned but the strategy has clearly hindered FACT.

Current legislation too vague to remove infringing live sports streams

“Current legislation is insufficient to effectively tackle the issue of websites illegally offering coverage of live sports events. Section 512 (c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) states that: upon notification of claimed infringement, the service provider should ‘respond expeditiously’ to remove or disable access to the copyright-infringing material. Most live sports events are under two hours long, so such non-specific timeframes for required action are inadequate,” FACT complains.

Since government reports like these can take a long time to prepare, it appears that FACT and its partners may have already found a solution to this particular problem. Major FACT client the Premier League now has a High Court injunction in place which allows it to block infringing streams on a real-time basis. It doesn’t remove the content at its source, but it still renders it largely inaccessible in the UK.

Nevertheless, FACT calls for takedowns to be actioned more swiftly, noting that “the law needs to reflect this narrow timeframe with a specified required response period for websites offering such live feeds.”

Camming content directly from cinema screen to the cloud

“Recent advancements in technology have made this a viable option to ‘cammers’ to avoid detection. Attempts to curtail and delete illicitly recorded film footage may become increasingly difficult with the emergence of streaming apps that automatically upload recorded video to cloud services,” FACT reports.

Over the years, FACT has been involved in numerous operations to hinder those who record movies with cameras in theaters and then upload them to the Internet. Once the perpetrator has exited the theater, FACT has effectively lost the battle, but the possibility that a live upload can now take place is certainly an interesting proposition.

“While enforcing officers may delete the footage held on the device, the footage has potentially already been stored remotely on a cloud system,” FACT warns.

Equally, this could also prove a problem for those seeking to secure evidence. With a cloud upload, the person doing the recording could safely delete the footage from the local device. That could be an obstacle to proving that an offense had even been committed when a suspect is confronted in situ.

Virtual currencies

“There is great potential in virtual currencies for money launderers and illicit traders. Government and law enforcement have raised concerns on how virtual currencies can be sent anonymously, leaving little or no trail for regulators or law-enforcement agencies,” FACT writes.

For many years, pirates of all kinds have relied on systems like PayPal, Mastercard, and Visa, to shift money around. However, these payment systems are now more difficult to deploy on pirate services and are more easily traced, even when operators manage to squeeze them through the gaps.

The same cannot be said of bitcoin and similar currencies that are gaining in popularity all the time. They are harder to use, of course, but there’s little doubt accessibility issues will be innovated out of the equation at some point. Once that happens, these currencies will be a force to be reckoned with.

The UK government’s Share and Share Alike report, which examines the challenges social media poses to intellectual property rights, can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

How Much Does ‘Free’ Premier League Piracy Cost These Days?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/how-much-does-free-premier-league-piracy-cost-these-days-170902/

Right now, the English Premier League is engaged in perhaps the most aggressively innovative anti-piracy operation the Internet has ever seen. After obtaining a new High Court order, it now has the ability to block ‘pirate’ streams of matches, in real-time, with no immediate legal oversight.

If the Premier League believes a server is streaming one of its matches, it can ask ISPs in the UK to block it, immediately. That’s unprecedented anywhere on the planet.

As previously reported, this campaign caused a lot of problems for people trying to access free and premium streams at the start of the season. Many IPTV services were blocked in the UK within minutes of matches starting, with free streams also dropping like flies. According to information obtained by TF, more than 600 illicit streams were blocked during that weekend.

While some IPTV providers and free streams continued without problems, it seems likely that it’s only a matter of time before the EPL begins to pick off more and more suppliers. To be clear, the EPL isn’t taking services or streams down, it’s only blocking them, which means that people using circumvention technologies like VPNs can get around the problem.

However, this raises the big issue again – that of continuously increasing costs. While piracy is often painted as free, it is not, and as setups get fancier, costs increase too.

Below, we take a very general view of a handful of the many ‘pirate’ configurations currently available, to work out how much ‘free’ piracy costs these days. The list is not comprehensive by any means (and excludes more obscure methods such as streaming torrents, which are always free and rarely blocked), but it gives an idea of costs and how the balance of power might eventually tip.

Basic beginner setup

On a base level, people who pirate online need at least some equipment. That could be an Android smartphone and easily installed free software such as Mobdro or Kodi. An Internet connection is a necessity and if the EPL blocks those all important streams, a VPN provider is required to circumvent the bans.

Assuming people already have a phone and the Internet, a VPN can be bought for less than £5 per month. This basic setup is certainly cheap but overall it’s an entry level experience that provides quality equal to the effort and money expended.

Equipment: Phone, tablet, PC
Comms: Fast Internet connection, decent VPN provider
Overal performance: Low quality, unpredictable, often unreliable
Cost: £5pm approx for VPN, plus Internet costs

Big screen, basic

For those who like their matches on the big screen, stepping up the chain costs more money. People need a TV with an HDMI input and a fast Internet connection as a minimum, alongside some kind of set-top device to run the necessary software.

Android devices are the most popular and are roughly split into two groups – the small standalone box type and the plug-in ‘stick’ variant such as Amazon’s Firestick.

A cheap Android set-top box

These cost upwards of £30 to £40 but the software to install on them is free. Like the phone, Mobdro is an option, but most people look to a Kodi setup with third-party addons. That said, all streams received on these setups are now vulnerable to EPL blocking so in the long-term, users will need to run a paid VPN.

The problem here is that some devices (including the 1st gen Firestick) aren’t ideal for running a VPN on top of a stream, so people will need to dump their old device and buy something more capable. That could cost another £30 to £40 and more, depending on requirements.

Importantly, none of this investment guarantees a decent stream – that’s down to what’s available on the day – but invariably the quality is low and/or intermittent, at best.

Equipment: TV, decent Android set-top box or equivalent
Comms: Fast Internet connection, decent VPN provider
Overall performance: Low to acceptable quality, unpredictable, often unreliable
Cost: £30 to £50 for set-top box, £5pm approx for VPN, plus Internet

Premium IPTV – PC or Android based

At this point, premium IPTV services come into play. People have a choice of spending varying amounts of money, depending on the quality of experience they require.

First of all, a monthly IPTV subscription with an established provider that isn’t going to disappear overnight is required, which can be a challenge to find in itself. We’re not here to review or recommend services but needless to say, like official TV packages they come in different flavors to suit varying wallet sizes. Some stick around, many don’t.

A decent one with a Sky-like EPG costs between £7 and £15 per month, depending on the quality and depth of streams, and how far in front users are prepared to commit.

Fairly typical IPTV with EPG (VOD shown)

Paying for a year in advance tends to yield better prices but with providers regularly disappearing and faltering in their service levels, people are often reluctant to do so. That said, some providers experience few problems so it’s a bit like gambling – research can improve the odds but there’s never a guarantee.

However, even when a provider, price, and payment period is decided upon, the process of paying for an IPTV service can be less than straightforward.

While some providers are happy to accept PayPal, many will only deal in credit cards, bitcoin, or other obscure payment methods. That sets up more barriers to entry that might deter the less determined customer. And, if time is indeed money, fussing around with new payment processors can be pricey, at least to begin with.

Once subscribed though, watching these streams is pretty straightforward. On a base level, people can use a phone, tablet, or set-top device to receive them, using software such as Perfect Player IPTV, for example. Currently available in free (ad supported) and premium (£2) variants, this software can be setup in a few clicks and will provide a decent user experience, complete with EPG.

Perfect Player IPTV

Those wanting to go down the PC route have more options but by far the most popular is receiving IPTV via a Kodi setup. For the complete novice, it’s not always easy to setup but some IPTV providers supply their own free addons, which streamline the process massively. These can also be used on Android-based Kodi setups, of course.

Nevertheless, if the EPL blocks the provider, a VPN is still going to be needed to access the IPTV service.

An Android tablet running Kodi

So, even if we ignore the cost of the PC and Internet connection, users could still find themselves paying between £10 and £20 per month for an IPTV service and a decent VPN. While more channels than simply football will be available from most providers, this is getting dangerously close to the £18 Sky are asking for its latest football package.

Equipment: TV, PC, or decent Android set-top box or equivalent
Comms: Fast Internet connection, IPTV subscription, decent VPN provider
Overal performance: High quality, mostly reliable, user-friendly (once setup)
Cost: PC or £30/£50 for set-top box, IPTV subscription £7 to £15pm, £5pm approx for VPN, plus Internet, plus time and patience for obscure payment methods.
Note: There are zero refunds when IPTV providers disappoint or disappear

Premium IPTV – Deluxe setup

Moving up to the top of the range, things get even more costly. Those looking to give themselves the full home entertainment-like experience will often move away from the PC and into the living room in front of the TV, armed with a dedicated set-top box. Weapon of choice: the Mag254.

Like Amazon’s FireStick, PC or Android tablet, the Mag254 is an entirely legal, content agnostic device. However, enter the credentials provided by many illicit IPTV suppliers and users are presented with a slick Sky-like experience, far removed from anything available elsewhere. The device is operated by remote control and integrates seamlessly with any HDMI-capable TV.

Mag254 IPTV box

Something like this costs around £70 in the UK, plus the cost of a WiFi adaptor on top, if needed. The cost of the IPTV provider needs to be figured in too, plus a VPN subscription if the provider gets blocked by EPL, which is likely. However, in this respect the Mag254 has a problem – it can’t run a VPN natively. This means that if streams get blocked and people need to use a VPN, they’ll need to find an external solution.

Needless to say, this costs more money. People can either do all the necessary research and buy a VPN-capable router/modem that’s also compatible with their provider (this can stretch to a couple of hundred pounds) or they’ll need to invest in a small ‘travel’ router with VPN client features built in.

‘Travel’ router (with tablet running Mobdro for scale)

These devices are available on Amazon for around £25 and sit in between the Mag254 (or indeed any other wireless device) and the user’s own regular router. Once the details of the VPN subscription are entered into the router, all traffic passing through is encrypted and will tunnel through web blocking measures. They usually solve the problem (ymmv) but of course, this is another cost.

Equipment: Mag254 or similar, with WiFi
Comms: Fast Internet connection, IPTV subscription, decent VPN provider
Overall performance: High quality, mostly reliable, very user-friendly
Cost: Mag254 around £75 with WiFi, IPTV subscription £7 to £15pm, £5pm for VPN (plus £25 for mini router), plus Internet, plus patience for obscure payment methods.
Note: There are zero refunds when IPTV providers disappoint or disappear

Conclusion

On the whole, people who want a reliable and high-quality Premier League streaming experience cannot get one for free, no matter where they source the content. There are many costs involved, some of which cannot be avoided.

If people aren’t screwing around with annoying and unreliable Kodi streams, they’ll be paying for an IPTV provider, VPN and other equipment. Or, if they want an easy life, they’ll be paying Sky, BT or Virgin Media. That might sound harsh to many pirates but it’s the only truly reliable solution.

However, for those looking for something that’s merely adequate, costs drop significantly. Indeed, if people don’t mind the hassle of wondering whether a sub-VHS quality stream will appear before the big match and stay on throughout, it can all be done on a shoestring.

But perhaps the most important thing to note in respect of costs is the recent changes to the pricing of Premier League content in the UK. As mentioned earlier, Sky now delivers a sports package for £18pm, which sounds like the best deal offered to football fans in recent years. It will be tempting for sure and has all the hallmarks of a price point carefully calculated by Sky.

The big question is whether it will be low enough to tip significant numbers of people away from piracy. The reality is that if another couple of thousand streams get hit hard again this weekend – and the next – and the next – many pirating fans will be watching the season drift away for yet another month, unviewed. That’s got to be frustrating.

The bottom line is that high-quality streaming piracy is becoming a little bit pricey just for football so if it becomes unreliable too – and that’s the Premier League’s goal – the balance of power could tip. At this point, the EPL will need to treat its new customers with respect, in order to keep them feeling both entertained and unexploited.

Fail on those counts – especially the latter – and the cycle will start again.

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