Tag Archives: The Premier League

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit Secures Funding Until 2019

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-intellectual-property-crime-unit-secures-funding-until-2019-170823/

When compared to the wide range of offenses usually handled by the police, copyright infringement is a relatively rare offense.

Historically most connected to physical counterfeiting, in recent years infringement has regularly featured a significant online component.

Formed four years ago and run by the City of London Police, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has a mission to tackle IP crime wherever it may take place but with a special online focus. It is tightly linked to the music, movie, and publishing industries so can most often be viewed protecting their products from infringement.

PIPCU announced its arrival in the summer of 2013 and officially launched a few months later in December 2013, complete with £2.56million in funding from the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO). However, the unit had been already in operation for some time, writing warning letters to torrent and streaming site advising them to shut down – or else.

PIPCU’s initial funding secured the future of the unit until June 2015 but in October 2014, well in advance of that deadline, PIPCU secured another £3m from the IPO to fund the unit to September 2017.

Having received £5.56 million in public funds over three years, PIPCU needed to show some bang for its buck. As a result, the unit publicised numerous actions including streaming arrests, attempted domain seizures, torrent site closures and advertising disruptions. PIPCU also shut down several sports streaming and ebook sites plus a large number of proxies

With August 2017 already upon us, PIPCU should be officially out of funds in a month’s time but according to the Law Gazette, the unit is going nowhere.

An Intellectual Property Office (IPO) spokesperson told the publication that PIPCU has received £3.32m in additional funding from the government which runs from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2019 – the unit’s sixth anniversary.

Much of PIPCU’s more recent activity appears to have been focused in two key areas, both operated under its ‘Operation Creative’ banner. The first concerns PIPCU’s Infringing Website List, which aims to deter advertisers from inadvertently finding ‘pirate’ sites.

Earlier this year, PIPCU claimed success after revealing a 64% drop in “mainstream advertising” revenue on 200 unauthorized platforms between January 2016 and January 2017. More recently, PIPCU revealed that gambling advertising, which is often seen on ‘pirate’ platforms, had reduced by 87% on IWL sites over the previous 12 months.

Finally, PIPCU has been taking action alongside local police forces, FACT, Sky, Virgin, BT, and The Premier League, against suppliers of so-called ‘fully loaded’ set-top boxes, many featuring Kodi bundled with illicit third party addons. However, after a fairly sustained initial flurry, the last publicized operation was in February 2017.

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

New Premier League Blocking Disrupts Pirate IPTV Providers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-premier-league-blocking-disrupts-pirate-iptv-providers-170814/

Top tier football in the UK is handled by the English Premier League (EPL) and broadcasting partners Sky and BT Sport. All face considerable problems with Internet piracy, through free web or Kodi-based streaming and premium IPTV feeds.

To mitigate the threat, earlier this year the Premier League obtained a unique High Court injunction which required ISPs such as Sky, BT, and Virgin to block ‘pirate’ football streams in real-time.

Although the success of the program was initially up for debate, the EPL reported it was able to block 5,000 server IP addresses that were streaming its content. When that temporary injunction ran out, the EPL went back to court for a new one, valid for the season that began this past weekend. There are signs the EPL may have upped its game.

As soon as the matches began on Saturday, issues were reported at several of the more prominent IPTV providers. Within minutes of the match streams going live, subscribers to affected services were met with black screens, causing anger and frustration. While some clearly knew that action was on the cards, relatively few had an effective plan in place.

One provider, which targets subscribers in the UK, scrambled to obtain new domain names, thinking that the existing domains had been placed on some kind of Premier League blacklist. While that may have indeed been the case, making a service more obscure in that sense was never going to outwit the systems deployed by the anti-piracy outfits involved.

Indeed, the provider in question was subjected to much chaos over both Saturday and Sunday, since it’s clear that large numbers of subscribers had absolutely no idea what was going on. Even if they understood that the EPL was blocking, the change of domain flat-footed the rest. The subsequent customer service chaos was not a pretty sight but would’ve been a pleasure for the EPL to behold.

An interesting side effect of this EPL action is that even if IPTV subscribers don’t care about football, many were affected this past weekend anyway.

TF is aware of at least three services (there are probably many more) that couldn’t service their UK customers with any other channels whatsoever while the Premier League games were being aired. This suggests that the IP addresses hit by the EPL and blocked by local ISPs belonged to the same servers carrying the rest of the content offered by the IPTV providers.

When the High Court handed down its original injunction it accepted that some non-Premier League content could be blocked at the same time but since that “consists almost exclusively of [infringing] commercial broadcast content such as other sports, films, and television programs,” there was little concern over collateral damage.

So the big question now is what can IPTV providers and/or subscribers do to tackle the threat?

The first interesting thing to note is not all of the big providers were affected this past weekend, so for many customers the matches passed by as normal. It isn’t clear whether EPL simply didn’t have all of the providers on the list or whether steps were taken to mitigate the threat, but that was certainly the case in a handful of cases.

Information passed to TF shows that at least a small number of providers were not only waiting for the EPL action but actually had a backup plan in place. This appears to have resulted in a minimum of disruption for their customers, something that will prove of interest to the many frustrated subscribers looking for a new service this morning.

While the past few days have been somewhat chaotic, other issues have been muddying the waters somewhat.

TF has learned that at least two, maybe three suppliers, were subjected to DDoS attacks around the time the matches were due to air. It seems unlikely that the EPL has been given permission to carry out such an attack but since the High Court injunction is secret in every way that describes its anti-piracy methods, that will remain a suspicion. In the meantime, rival IPTV services remain possible suspects.

Also, a major IPTV stream ‘wholesaler’ is reported to have had technical issues on Saturday, which affected its ability to serve lower-tier providers. Whether that was also linked to the Premier League action is unknown and TF couldn’t find any source willing to talk about the provider in any detail.

So, sports fans who rely on IPTV for their fix are wondering how things will pan out later this week. If this last weekend is anything to go by, disruption is guaranteed, but it will be less of a surprise given the problems of the last few days. While some don’t foresee huge problems, several providers are already advising customers that VPNs will be necessary.

An IPTV provider suggesting the use of VPNs

While a VPN will indeed solve the problem in most cases, for many subscribers that will amount to an additional expense, not to mention more time spent learning about VPNs, what they can do, and how they can be setup on the hardware they’re using for IPTV.

For users on Android devices running IPTV apps or Kodi-type setups, VPNs are both easy to install and use. However, Mag Box STB users cannot run a VPN directly on the device, meaning that they’ll need either a home router that can run a VPN or a smaller ‘travel’ type router with OpenVPN capabilities to use as a go-between.

Either way, costs are beginning to creep up, if IPTV providers can’t deal with the EPL’s blocking efforts. That makes the new cheaper football packages offered by various providers that little bit more attractive. But that was probably the plan all along.

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

Premier League Wins New Stream Blocking Injunction to Fight Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/premier-league-wins-new-stream-blocking-injunction-to-fight-piracy-170727/

Earlier this year the Premier League obtained a rather special High Court injunction to assist in its fight against illegal football match streaming.

Similar in its aims to earlier blocking orders that targeted torrent sites including The Pirate Bay, the injunction enabled the Premier League to act quickly, forcing local ISPs such as Sky, BT, and Virgin to block football streams in real-time.

Although public results varied, the English Premier League (EPL) reports that under the injunction it was able to block 5,000 server IP addresses that were streaming its content. That appears to have encouraged the organization to apply for another injunction for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

According to a statement published on the EPL site, that has now been granted.

“This blocking order is a game-changer in our efforts to tackle the supply and use of illicit streams of our content,” said Premier League Director of Legal Services, Kevin Plumb.

“It will allow us to quickly and effectively block and disrupt the illegal broadcast of Premier League football via any means, including so called ‘pre-loaded Kodi boxes’.”

Although the details of the new injunction are yet to be published by the High Court, the EPL indicates that the injunction is very similar to the one obtained previously, which targets overseas servers streaming Premier League matches into the UK.

Upon notice from the Premier League, ISPs including Sky, BT, Virgin Media, Plusnet, EE and TalkTalk are required to block IP addresses quickly as matches are being streamed, all without any direct intervention from the court.

“The protection of our copyright, and the investment made by our broadcast partners, is hugely important to the Premier League and the future health of English football,” the Premier League said.

The injunction itself lists the Internet service providers as defendants but it’s important to note that most have a vested interest in the injunction being put in place. Sky, BT and Virgin Media all screen Premier League matches in some way so there’s no surprise that none put up a fight when confronted by the football organization.

Indeed, several of the ISPs appeared to have assisted the EPL in some pretty intimate ways, even going as far as sharing a certain level of customer traffic data with the organization.

It will be interesting to see what effect the new blocking efforts will have on stream availability when the new season begins. Saturday afternoons, when matches take place around the country but are prohibited from being screened due to the blackout, should be the main focal point. As previously suggested, the EPL will probably enjoy more success than last season with experience under their belts.

Finally, tabloids in the UK have been giving the injunction their usual dramatic coverage but a special mention must go out to The Sun. In an article titled “Closing the Net“, the paper said that under the injunction, “BRITS who illegally stream Premier League football matches could have their internet connection shut off.”

The way things are worded it suggests that people who watch streams could be disconnected by their ISP. That is not the case.

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

Could Pirate TV Box Users Be Prosecuted For Fraud?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/could-pirate-tv-box-users-be-prosecuted-for-fraud-170709/

With the issue of piracy-enabled set-top boxes still making the headlines, the English Premier League (EPL) has emerged as the most likely organization to prosecute sellers of infringing boxes in the UK.

However, last month the Federation Against Copyright Theft, who provide anti-piracy services for the EPL, revealed that mere users of boxes (such as those containing augmented Kodi setups) could be targeted for prosecution sometime in the future.

As noted in our earlier coverage, people who merely stream pirated content into their own homes are difficult to track online. They pose much greater challenges than BitTorrent users, for example, who can lead investigators straight to their door. But for FACT chief executive Kieron Sharp, there are opportunities to find people via non-technical means.

“When we’re working with the police against a company that’s selling IPTV boxes or illicit streaming devices on a large scale, they have records of who they’ve sold them to,” Sharp said.

The suggestion here is that box sellers’ customer lists contain the personal details of people who obtain Premier League and other content for free so, once identified, could be open to prosecution.

With conventional thinking under copyright law, prosecuting a set-top box/Kodi user for streaming content to his own home is a bit of a daunting prospect, not to mention an expensive one. Copyright cases are notoriously complicated and an individual putting up a spirited defense could cause problems for the prosecution. The inevitable light sentence wouldn’t provide much of a deterrent either.

With all that in mind, it appears that FACT is more interested in prosecuting under other legislation.

During an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Chris Warburton this week, Sharp said that people streaming into their own homes are committing a criminal offense, i.e., something that could interest the police and attract a fine or custodial sentence.

“The law has always been the case that people who are doing something illegal, streaming in their own homes, through these devices, are committing a crime. What’s happened recently is that’s been clarified by an EU judge in one case and by a civil judge in another,” Sharp said.

The EU case was BREIN v Filmspeler, which in part determined that people who stream content from an illegal source do so in breach of copyright law. The judge in the civil case was Justice Arnold, who in a UK Premier League blocking case reached the same conclusion.

While it’s now fairly clear that streaming pirate content in the EU is indeed illegal, is a civil wrong, and can be dealt with by suing someone, it’s not immediately clear how that turns into a criminal offense. It wasn’t clear in the interview either, so Warburton pressed Sharp again.

“What is the bit of the law that you are breaking when you’re streaming, how are you committing a criminal act?” he asked Sharp.

“There are various pieces of legislation,” the FACT chief said. “The one we’ve been looking at is under the Fraud Act which would say you are committing a fraud by streaming these football matches through to your television, watching them at home, and not paying for the license to do so.”

At this point, everything begins to slot into place.

For the past several years through several high-profile Internet piracy cases, FACT has shied away from prosecutions under copyright law. Each time it has opted for offenses under the Fraud Act 2006, partly because longer sentences were available at the time, i.e., up to 10 years in prison.

However, earlier this year FACT’s lawyer revealed that prosecutions under the Fraud Act can be easier for a jury to understand than those actioned under copyright law.

With this wealth of experience in mind, it’s easy to see why FACT would take this route in set-top box cases, especially when fraud legislation is relatively easy to digest.

Possession etc. of articles for use in frauds

“A person is guilty of an offense if he has in his possession or under his control any article for use in the course of or in connection with any fraud,” the Fraud Act reads.

To clarify, an ‘article’ includes “any program or data held in electronic form,” which is perfect for infringing Kodi addons etc.

Given the above, it seems that if the Court can be convinced that the person knowingly possessed a pirate set-top box programmed for fraudulent purposes, there could, in theory, be a successful prosecution resulting in a prison sentence and/or a fine.

Obtaining services dishonestly

“A person is guilty of an offense under this section if he obtains services for himself or another….by a dishonest act, and….he [knowingly] obtains them without any payment having been made for or in respect of them or without payment having been made in full,” the relevant section of the Act reads.

There are probably other angles to this under the Fraud Act but these seem to fit so well that others might not be needed. But how likely is it that someone could be prosecuted in this manner?

Sharp reiterated to the BBC that FACT could get the identities of box buyers as part of investigations into sellers, and as part of that “would see what the situation is” with their customers.

“It may well be that in the future, somebody who is an end-user may well get prosecuted,” he said.

But while the possibilities are there, Sharp really didn’t seem that keen to commit to the hounding of stream consumers in the future, and certainly not now. FACT’s strategy appears to be grounded in getting the word out that people are breaking the law.

“[People] think they can get away with it and that’s an important message from our perspective, that they must understand that they are committing offenses, apart from all the other issues of why they should be paying for the legal product. This is something that should be of concern to them, that they are committing offenses,” Sharp said.

The big question that remains is whether FACT and the English Premier League would ever take a case against a regular end-user to court. History tells us that this is fairly unlikely, but if any case did end up in court, it would definitely be hand-picked for best results.

For example, someone who bought a box from eBay would probably be of no real interest, but someone who had extended email exchanges with a seller, during which they discussed in detail how to pirate English Premier League games specifically, would provide a more useful test subject.

And then, when there are two people involved (the knowingly infringing buyer and the seller, who would also be prosecuted) that also raises the question of whether there had been an element of conspiracy.

Overall though, what people probably want to know is whether lots of people are going to get prosecuted for fraud and the answer to that is almost certainly ‘no.’ Prosecutions against the little guy are resource hungry, expensive, offer little return, and tend to generate negative publicity if they’re perceived as vindictive.

A single highly publicized case is a possible outcome if FACT and the EPL got really desperate, but there’s no guarantee that the Crown Prosecution Service would allow the case to go ahead.

“Prosecutors should guard against the criminal law being used as a debt collection agency or to protect the commercial interests of companies and organizations,” recent CPS advice reads.

“However, prosecutors should also remain alert to the fact that such organizations can become the focus of serious and organized criminal offending.”

FACT could, of course, conduct a private prosecution, which they have done several times in the past. But that is a risk too, so it seems likely that education efforts will come first, to try and slow things down.

“Our desire has always been that sports fans, football fans, would pay for the commercial package, they would pay a fee to watch and that is still our position,” Sharp told the BBC.

“But working with our clients and members such as the Premier League and Sky and BT Sports, we have to consider all the options available to us, to put a bit of a brake on this problem because it’s growing all the time.”

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

Half of All Football Fans Have Watched Illegal Streams

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/half-of-all-football-fans-have-watched-illegal-streams-170704/

Being a fan of top-flight football in the UK is an expensive proposition. In 2016, the average price of a season ticket was just shy of £500 a season while watching on TV can cost more than £60 per month.

Of course, there are good reasons for these high prices. Premier League footballers are notoriously highly-paid and with TV rights recently changing hands for more than £5.3bn, money has to be recouped in the most basic of ways – from the fans’ pocket.

While this is a success up to a point, there’s a growing factor upsetting the money men. The rise of online streaming is a thorn in the side of English Premier League, who are having to deal with large numbers of fans obtaining live matches for free via the Internet. But just how many fans are going down this route?

The results of a new survey carried out by the BBC reveal some shocking but perhaps not entirely unexpected results. Carried out online by ComRes between 7 and 15 March among 1,000 fans, it shows that large numbers of fans prefer the free option.

The headline figure is that 36% of football supporters stream Premier League matches online illegally at least once every month, a figure that reduces to just under a quarter (22%) when the frequency is once a week.

However, when fans were asked whether they had ever watched a match through an unofficial online provider, close to half (47%) said they had done so. That’s certainly a worryingly high number for the Premier League.

And if one removes older fans from the equation, things only get worse.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of younger fans aged 18 to 34 say they illegally stream live football matches online at least once a month. Among older fans aged 34 to 54 the figure improves to 33%, dropping to just 13% for the over 55s.

With 29%, the top reason fans gave for streaming content illegally was because “a friend/family member does it and they just watch.” Whether this is fans simply being coy is unclear, but it does suggest that watching football illegally has become a communal pastime, something which can likely be attributed to the rise of set-top boxes running software like Kodi.

Almost a quarter (24%) believe that TV sports packages do not represent good value for money but the only shock here is that the number isn’t higher. It’s certainly possible that many ‘streaming’ fans would never have paid in the first place, so pricing might be less of a factor for them.

Interestingly, 25% of respondents say they stream matches illegally because the quality is good. This is interesting since while illicit streams are both cheap and convenient, quality and reliability isn’t usually high up the checklist. That being said, the BBC research doesn’t differentiate between free streams and cheap IPTV streams, and the latter can indeed rival an official service.

There are also a few interesting revelations when it comes to fans’ opinions on the legality of illicit streaming.

A small 12% of fans think the practice is legal, almost three times less than the number who say it is illegal (34%). Almost three-quarters (32%) don’t know the legal status of streaming from an illicit source.

Following a recent ruling from the European Court of Justice, it is now clear that streaming from an unlicensed source amounts to copyright infringement.

However, enforcing that legislation against people in their own homes would provide similar challenges to prosecuting people who ‘tape’ a friend’s record collection or watch pirate DVDs. It’s just not realistic.

Interestingly, 10% believe it is legal to watch but illegal to upload a stream. That was believed to be the case before the ECJ ruling, but the former has now been clarified.

Uploading streams is very, very much illegal (as is supplying ‘pirate’ boxes) and in the right circumstances could lead to a custodial sentence. However, no regular consumer does this through conventional streaming (through a Kodi-powered device, for example), so it’s a moot point.

A tiny 4% of people believe that unauthorized streaming is not breaking the law but that Sky or BT could still fine them if they found out, which is technically wrong on both counts.

That being said, proving someone watched a stream is extremely difficult and since copyright law in the UK requires that infringers compensate for the losses they’ve caused, any ‘fine’ imposed might only amount to the cost of a match, for example.

Again, the chances of this happening in any way are very unlikely and have certainly never happened to date, even though millions are watching streams via their computers and set-top boxes loaded with Kodi. This is something the Premier League wants to change.

“Fans should know that these pre-loaded boxes enable pirate broadcasts of Premier League football, and other popular content, and are illegal. People who supply them have been jailed or ordered to pay significant financial penalties,” a spokesman told the BBC.

“We are increasingly seeing prominent apps and add-ons being closed down as the law catches up with them, leading to consumers being out of pocket.

“The Premier League will continue to protect its copyright, and the legitimate investment made by its broadcasting partners. Their contribution allows our clubs to develop and acquire players, invest in facilities and support the wider football pyramid and communities – all things that fans enjoy and society benefits from.”

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

The Terrible Horrors of ‘Kodi Boxes’ Shock The UK

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-terrible-horrors-of-kodi-boxes-shock-the-uk-170702/

In the beginning, we were told that Kodi Boxes are probably going to destroy Hollywood, not to mention companies like Sky and The Premier League. But who cares about the big people in suits drinking champagne from gold swimming pools?

No, what the unwashed masses need to hear are stories that make us realize that these little plastic wonder boxes are going to ruin our miserable lives. Luckily, they’ve been appearing thick and fast this past couple of weeks.

It turns out that Kodi Boxes are not only likely to burn your house down, but they’re also part of a master plan to pick away at the delicate threads holding family life together.

Forget about the piracy, that doesn’t matter. The powers that be need you to understand that Kodi Boxes are Trojan horses of misery that people are willingly bringing in to their own homes. Can you believe people are being so stupid?

According to an article in this week’s The Mirror, for example, kids’ movies spewed out by these evil devices are now being interrupted by adverts for alcohol. Well, it makes a change from seeing Phil Mitchell smashed out of his mind at 8pm on BBC1, doesn’t it?

At the same time, Kodi Boxes are straining relationships between father and son, not to mention subjecting unsuspecting parents to malware threats. They include scams purporting to be from the ‘FBI’ which demand money for using Popcorn Time inside Kodi. The world truly has gone mad.

Of course, if only one person sees this nonsense it’s too much, and The Mirror piece is quite rightly filled with quotes from real people who gave up piracy as a result of their bad experiences. It also has plenty of useful advice from the UK’s leading anti-piracy outfit, as you’d expect.

Intrigued, we decided to carry out our own research among a handful of the millions of maniacs who are still prepared to plug one of these death devices into their UK mains supply. And we were shocked – not by a dodgy power adaptor from China – but by the huge numbers of other problems these Kodi Boxes can foist upon the honest working man.

A user called Neil told us that he’d bought a Kodi Box off eBay after hearing all the hype in the media. His plan was to watch Premier League football without paying a penny. However, instead of scooping up that forbidden 3pm kick-off excitement, all it did was ruin his enjoyment of the beautiful game.

“I’d been out drinking all day with the lads. I was proper, proper smashed. I got home and shoved the thing into the nearest telly to watch Liverpool versus Manchester United and although I felt really sick, couldn’t focus on the screen, and soon fell unconscious, I think the picture wasn’t too bad,” he said.

“I don’t think I saw that wheel thing spinning in the middle of the screen and everything stopping either, which is a big plus for me on a free box. And to top it all, Liverpool beat United 2:1, which was a real bonus.

“However, when discussing the game the next day with my dad who watched the game on Sky with a proper subscription, I was horrified to learn that Manchester United actually won the game 3:0 – against Arsenal! It just goes to show, you get what you pay for. My box is now where it should have been all along – in the bin.”

A man called Rich told us that he’d also heard good things about Kodi Boxes but was really upset after being completely misled by the person who sold him one.

“I used to be a subscriber to Sky’s top package, including those fifty channels nobody watches but they force you to have. I also forked out for all their boxing PPVs that come on at stupid o’clock in the morning, and bought several blu-ray discs each time I got paid. All in all I must’ve spent £140 a month.

“So, when a bloke down the pub who I’ve never met before told me that I could legally get the same stuff for free using a Kodi Box, I immediately believed him. I mean, what reasonable bloke wouldn’t? He had just one left as well, how lucky was that?”

But it didn’t take long for Rich’s enthusiasm to wane. The thought of owning a potential incendiary device filled with content provided by a Russian crime syndicate and funded by Columbian drug barons was too much.

“I watched a couple of films on it without my house burning down, but then I started reading horror stories in the paper about these boxes shoving drinks adverts in our kids’ faces,” he told us.

“Enough was enough. After being lied to by the seller the thought of my kids demanding toys and beer for Christmas was just too much, it just wasn’t worth the risk. So I went straight back to giving Sky over a grand a year and life’s never been better.”

Kodi Box user Peter told us that he could really relate to warnings published in the papers this week that set-top box users had been hit with popups demanding their bank details.

“I was hoping to watch the big fight last weekend but it only came on for a few minutes and then suddenly went off,” he explained. “Then a notice appeared telling me to ring a number with my credit card details. Well, I’d heard about these ransomware attacks and I wasn’t going to fall for that old trick.

“However, imagine my surprise when I realized that I’d accidentally put on my official satellite box instead of Kodi, and the message was actually from my pay-per-view provider. Just goes to show, everybody wants your money these days, and these crooks can rope you in for years, and make it really hard to cancel.”

Another chap called James told us that he never considered getting a Kodi Box until he saw an article in a UK tabloid explaining how Kodi Boxes pose a risk for families with children.

“The article quoted some anti-piracy company. They said that parents don’t realize that Kodi Boxes allow easy access to hardcore pornography. And it’s true, I had no idea,” James said.

“But I live alone, so I wasted no time buying one off eBay. I’m watching it in the shed with a fire extinguisher in the other hand, just to be safe.”

But while James clearly has his hands full, our last user is much less satisfied.

Sue told us that she was assured her Kodi box was a miracle device with endless uses. However, after its addons recently stopped working she decided to test the claim by sliding the failing unit under the leg of a wobbly table. It soon became clear the hardware had been massively oversold.

“They say these boxes can do anything but mine clearly wasn’t fit for purpose. It was way too thick so when I put it under the leg, the table sat at a really steep angle. If anything, it was more unstable than it was before.

“I dread to think what could’ve happened if I’d put a pot of boiling oil on it next to the baby. No wonder health and safety are up in arms.”

Tune in next week when we reveal how Kodi Boxes can cause unsightly hair growth and unwanted pregnancies.

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

FACT Threatens Users of ‘Pirate’ Kodi Add-Ons

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/fact-threatens-users-of-pirate-kodi-add-ons-170628/

In the UK there’s a war going on against streaming pirates. At least, that’s what the local anti-piracy body FACT would like the public to know.

The popular media streaming platform Kodi is at the center of the controversy. While Kodi is perfectly legal, many people use it in conjunction with third party add-ons that offer pirated content.

FACT hopes to curb this trend. The group has already taken action against sellers of Kodi devices pre-loaded with these add-ons and they’re keeping a keen eye on developers of illicit add-ons too.

However, according to FACT, the ‘crackdown’ doesn’t stop there. Users of pirate add-ons are also at risk, they claim.

“And then we’ll also be looking at, at some point, the end user. The reason for end users to come into this is that they are committing criminal offences,” FACT’s chief executive Kieron Sharp told the Independent.

While people who stream pirated content are generally hard to track, since they don’t broadcast their IP-address to the public, FACT says that customer data could be obtained directly from sellers of fully-loaded Kodi boxes.

“When we’re working with the police against a company that’s selling IPTV boxes or illicit streaming devices on a large scale, they have records of who they’ve sold them to,” Sharp noted.

While the current legal efforts are focused on the supply side, including these sellers, the end users may also be targeted in the future.

“We have a number of cases coming before the courts in terms of those people who have been providing, selling and distributing illicit streaming devices. It’s something for the very near future, when we’ll consider whether we go any further than that, in terms of customers.”

The comments above make it clear that FACT wants users of these pirate devices to feel vulnerable and exposed. But threatening talk is much easier than action.

It will be very hard to get someone convicted, simply because they bought a device that can access both legal and illegal content. A receipt doesn’t prove intent, and even if it did, it’s pretty much impossible to prove that a person streamed specific pirated content.

But let’s say FACT was able to prove that someone bought a fully-loaded Kodi box and streamed content without permission. How would that result in a conviction? Contrary to claims in the mainstream press, watching a pirated stream isn’t an offense covered by the new Digital Economy Act.

In theory, there could be other ways, but given the complexity of the situation, one would think that FACT would be better off spending its efforts elsewhere.

If FACT was indeed interested in going after individuals then they could easily target people who use torrents. These people broadcast their IP-addresses to the public, which makes them easy to identify. In addition, you can see what they are uploading, and they would also be liable under the Digital Economy Act.

However, after FACT’s decades-long association with the MPAA ended, its main partner in the demonization of Kodi-enabled devices is now the Premier League, who are far more concerned about piracy of live broadcasts (streaming) than content made available after the fact via torrents.

So, given the challenges of having a meaningful criminal prosecution of an end-user as suggested, that leaves us with the probability of FACT sowing fear, uncertainty, and doubt. In other words, scaring the public to deter them from buying or using a fully-loaded Kodi box.

This would also fit in with FACT’s recent claims that some pirate devices are a fire hazard. While it’s kind of FACT to be concerned about the well-being of pirates, as an anti-piracy organization their warnings also serve as a deterrent.

This strategy could pay off to a degree but there’s also some risk involved. Every day new “Kodi” related articles appear in the UK tabloid press, many of them with comments from FACT. Some of these may scare prospective users, but the same headlines also make these boxes known to a much wider public.

In fact, in what is quite a serious backfire, some recent pieces published by the popular Trinity Mirror group (which include FACT comments) actually provide a nice list of pirate addons that are still operational following recent crackdowns.

So are we just sowing fear now or educating a whole new audience?

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

“Kodi Boxes Are a Fire Risk”: Awful Timing or Opportunism?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-boxes-are-a-fire-risk-awful-timing-or-opportunism-170618/

Anyone who saw the pictures this week couldn’t have failed to be moved by the plight of Londoners caught up in the Grenfell Tower inferno. The apocalyptic images are likely to stay with people for years to come and the scars for those involved may never heal.

As the building continued to smolder and the death toll increased, UK tabloids provided wall-to-wall coverage of the disaster. On Thursday, however, The Sun took a short break to put out yet another sensationalized story about Kodi. Given the week’s events, it was bound to raise eyebrows.

“HOT GOODS: Kodi boxes are a fire hazard because thousands of IPTV devices nabbed by customs ‘failed UK electrical standards’,” the headline reads.

Another sensational ‘Kodi’ headline

“It’s estimated that thousands of Brits have bought so-called Kodi boxes which can be connected to telly sets to stream pay-per-view sport and films for free,” the piece continued.

“But they could be a fire hazard, according to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), which has been nabbing huge deliveries of the devices as they arrive in the UK.”

As the image below shows, “Kodi box” fire hazard claims appeared next to images from other news articles about the huge London fire. While all separate stories, the pairing is not a great look.

A ‘Kodi Box’, as depicted in The Sun

FACT chief executive Kieron Sharp told The Sun that his group had uncovered two parcels of 2,000 ‘Kodi’ boxes and found that they “failed electrical safety standards”, making them potentially dangerous. While that may well be the case, the big question is all about timing.

It’s FACT’s job to reduce copyright infringement on behalf of clients such as The Premier League so it’s no surprise that they’re making a sustained effort to deter the public from buying these devices. That being said, it can’t have escaped FACT or The Sun that fire and death are extremely sensitive topics this week.

That leaves us with a few options including unfortunate opportunism or perhaps terrible timing, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt for a moment.

There’s a good argument that FACT and The Sun brought a valid issue to the public’s attention at a time when fire safety is on everyone’s lips. So, to give credit where it’s due, providing people with a heads-up about potentially dangerous devices is something that most people would welcome.

However, it’s difficult to offer congratulations on the PSA when the story as it appears in The Sun does nothing – absolutely nothing – to help people stay safe.

If some boxes are a risk (and that’s certainly likely given the level of Far East imports coming into the UK) which ones are dangerous? Where were they manufactured? Who sold them? What are the serial numbers? Which devices do people need to get out of their houses?

Sadly, none of these questions were answered or even addressed in the article, making it little more than scaremongering. Only making matters worse, the piece notes that it isn’t even clear how many of the seized devices are indeed a fire risk and that more tests need to be done. Is this how we should tackle such an important issue during an extremely sensitive week?

Timing and lack of useful information aside, one then has to question the terminology employed in the article.

As a piece of computer software, Kodi cannot catch fire. So, what we’re actually talking about here is small computers coming into the country without passing safety checks. The presence of Kodi on the devices – if indeed Kodi was even installed pre-import – is absolutely irrelevant.

Anti-piracy groups warning people of the dangers associated with their piracy habits is nothing new. For years, Internet users have been told that their computers will become malware infested if they share files or stream infringing content. While in some cases that may be true, there’s rarely any effort by those delivering the warnings to inform people on how to stay safe.

A classic example can be found in the numerous reports put out by the Digital Citizens Alliance in the United States. The DCA has produced several and no doubt expensive reports which claim to highlight the risks Internet users are exposed to on ‘pirate’ sites.

The DCA claims to do this in the interests of consumers but the group offers no practical advice on staying safe nor does it provide consumers with risk reduction strategies. Like many high-level ‘drug prevention’ documents shuffled around government, it could be argued that on a ‘street’ level their reports are next to useless.

Demonizing piracy is a well-worn and well-understood strategy but if warnings are to be interpreted as representing genuine concern for the welfare of people, they have to be a lot more substantial than mere scaremongering.

Anyone concerned about potentially dangerous devices can check out these useful guides from Electrical Safety First (pdf) and the Electrical Safety Council (pdf)

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

IPTV Providers Counter Premier League Piracy Blocks

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-providers-counter-premier-league-piracy-blocks-170520/

In the UK, top tier football is handled by The Premier League and its broadcasting partners Sky and BT Sport. All are facing problems with Internet piracy.

In a nutshell, official subscriptions are far from cheap, so people are always on the lookout for more affordable alternatives. As a result, large numbers of fans are turning to piracy-enabled set-top boxes for their fix.

These devices, often running Kodi with third-party addons, not only provide free or cheap football streams but also enable fans to watch matches at 3pm on Saturdays, a time traditionally covered by the blackout.

To mitigate this threat, earlier this year the Premier League obtained a rather special High Court injunction.

While similar in its aims to earlier orders targeting torrent sites including The Pirate Bay, this injunction enables the Premier League to act quickly, forcing local ISPs such as Sky, BT, and Virgin to block football streams in real-time.

“This will enable us to target the suppliers of illegal streams to IPTV boxes, and the internet, in a proportionate and precise manner,” the Premier League said at the time.

Ever since the injunction was issued, TF has monitored for signs that it has been achieving its stated aim of stopping or at least reducing stream availability. Based on information obtained from several popular IPTV suppliers, after several weeks we have concluded that Premier League streams are still easy to find, with some conditions.

HD sources for games across all Sky channels are commonplace on paid services, with SD sources available for free. High-quality streams have been consistently available on Saturday afternoons for the sensitive 3pm kick-off, with little to no interference or signs of disruption.

Of course, the Internet is a very big place, so it is certainly possible that disruption has been experienced by users elsewhere. However, what we do know is that some IPTV providers have been working behind the scenes to keep their services going.

According to a low-level contact at one IPTV provider who demanded total anonymity, servers used by his ‘company’ (he uses the term loosely) have seen their loads drop unexpectedly during match times, an indication that ISPs might be targeting their customers with blocks.

A re-seller for another well-known provider told TF that some intermittent disruption had been felt but that it was “being handled” as and when it “becomes a problem.” Complaint levels from customers are not yet considered a concern, he added.

That the Premier League’s efforts are having at least some effect doesn’t appear to be in doubt, but it’s pretty difficult to find evidence in public. That being said, an IPTV provider whose identity we were asked to conceal has taken more easily spotted measures.

After Premier League matches got underway this past Tuesday night, the provider in question launched a new beta service in its Kodi addon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it allows users to cycle through proxy servers in order to bypass blocks put in place by ISPs on behalf of the Premier League.

Embedded proxy service in Kodi

As seen from the image above, the beta unblocking service is accessible via the service’s Kodi addon and requires no special skills to operate. Simply clicking on the “Find a Proxy to Use” menu item opens up the page below.

The servers used to bypass the blocks

Once a working proxy is found, access to the streams is facilitated indirectly, thereby evading the Premier League’s attempts at blocking IP addresses at the UK’s ISPs. Once that’s achieved, the list of streams is accessible again.

Sky Sports streams ready, in HD

The use of proxies for this kind of traffic is of interest, at least as far as the injunction goes.

What we know already is that the Premier League only has permission to block servers if it “reasonably believes” they have the “sole or predominant purpose of enabling or facilitating access to infringing streams of Premier League match footage.”

If any server “is being used for any other substantial purpose”, the football organization cannot block it, meaning that non-dedicated or multi-function proxies cannot be blocked by ISPs, legally at least.

On Thursday evening, however, a TF source monitoring a popular IPTV provider using proxies reported that the match between Southampton and Manchester United suddenly became blocked. Whether that was due to Premier League action is unclear but by using a VPN, usual service was restored.

The use of VPNs with IPTV services raises other issues, however. All Premier League blockades can be circumvented with the use of a VPN but many IPTV providers are known for being intolerant of them, since they can also be used by restreamers to ‘pirate’ their service.

The Premier League injunction came into force on March 18, 2017, and will run out this weekend when the football season ends.

It’s reasonable to presume that the period will have been used for testing and that the Premier League will be back in court again this year seeking a further injunction for the new season starting in August. Expect it to be more effective than it has been thus far.

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

Thailand Arrests Brits Over Pirated Football Streams

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/thailand-arrests-brits-over-pirated-football-streams-170517/

In recent years there’s been an increase in the availability of unlicensed TV streams, with vendors offering virtually any channel imaginable, for free or in exchange for a small fee.

Many of these IPTV packages are unlicensed. That makes them a lot cheaper to the end users, which explains why their popularity is growing.

While the phenomenon remained under the radar for a long time, more recently we have seen several raids on vendors who sell these ‘pirate’ subscriptions. After arrests in Spain and Poland, Thai authorities have also joined in.

Last week the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) arrested two British men, William Lloyd, 39 and William Robinson, 35, for their alleged involvement in selling unlicensed IPTV subscriptions. The pair were arrested together with 33-year-old local man, Supatra Raksasat.

The enforcement action followed a complaint from the Football Association Premier League Ltd (FAPL) and was made public yesterday. According to the authorities, the men sold pirate subscriptions to dozens of TV-channels through 365sport.tv.

365sport.tv

The website in question was taken offline and is no longer operational. However, cached versions show that the outfit sold subscriptions for 10 or 22 premium sports channels for a monthly fee of 600 ($17) and 999 ($29) Thai Baht respectively.

During the raids DSI, which is a special department of the Ministry of Justice, seized mobile phones, nine computer servers, nine computers, and a total of 49 set-top boxes, local media reports.

DSI deputy chief Suriya Singhakamol said that the men were also accused of offering unauthorized content through a variety of other sites targeted at expats, including Thaiexpat.tv, Hkexpat.tv, Indoexpat.tv, Vietexpat.tv, and Euroexpat.tv.

Following the Premier League complaint, DSI’s cybercrime unit launched a special investigation which found that 365sport.tv offered the unlicensed streams through Thai servers.

The authorities subsequently obtained arrest warrants through the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court.

While the case remains open, the two British suspects have been handed over to officials from the British embassy, which requested their bail. All unlicensed IPTV streams, meanwhile, are no longer online.

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

Premier League Asks Google to Take Down Facebook’s Homepage

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/premier-league-asks-google-to-take-down-facebooks-homepage-170429/

Removing search results is nothing new for Google. The company has been cleaning up its search index for years, in response to complaints from copyright holders.

Every week the search engine processes millions of requests. In most cases these claims are legitimate, but every now and then innocent web pages are mistakenly targeted.

This week we stumbled upon a takedown notice that’s clearly not right. The request was sent by NetResult on behalf of the Premier League, and targets a wide variety of sports streaming related sites.

“The reported URLs are offering unauthored live streams of Premier League content,” it reads, listing the homepages of sites such as streamsarena.eu, letsfooty.com, tvlink.in and sportcategory.com.

While targeting the homepages of these sites is already quite broad, it also lists the main Facebook.com URL among the infringing domains, asking Google to remove it from the search engine entirely.

Premier League Takedown Notice

Google has investigated the claims, including the Facebook one, but decided not to comply with the notice in question, leaving Facebook’s homepage in search results.

In situations like this, we can see how easy erroneous takedown claims can easily lead to over-blocking. It’s good to know that, despite receiving millions of requests per day, the search engine is still able to spot most of these flaws.

Unfortunately, however, not all mistakes are easily caught, especially when they concern smaller sites.

Just a few days ago we noticed that a page from the copyright troll blog DieTrollDie was removed from Google’s search results because it mentioned a torrent hash of a Lionsgate film, and another blog had several court filings removed from the results for the same reason.

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

Police Say “Criminal Gangs” Are Selling Pirate Media Players

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-say-criminal-gangs-selling-pirate-media-players-170419/

For the millions of purist ‘pirates’ out there, obtaining free content online is a puzzle to be solved at home. Discovering the best sites, services, and tools is all part of the challenge and in order to keep things tidy, these should come at no cost too.

But for every self-sufficient pirate, there are dozens of other individuals who prefer not to get into the nuts and bolts of the activity but still want to enjoy the content on offer. It is these people that are reportedly fueling a new crime wave sweeping the streets, from the United States, through Europe, and beyond.

IPTV – whether that’s a modified Kodi setup or a subscription service – is now considered by stakeholders to be a major piracy threat and when people choose to buy ready-built devices, they are increasingly enriching “criminal gangs” who have moved in to make money from the phenomenon.

That’s the claim from Police Scotland, who yesterday held a seminar at Scottish Police College to discuss emerging threats in intellectual property crime. The event was attended by experts from across Europe, including stakeholders, Trading Standards, HM Revenue & Customs, and the UK Intellectual Property Office.

“The illegal use of Internet protocol television has risen by 143% in the past year and is predominantly being carried out online. This involves the uploading of streams, server hosting and sales of pre-configured devices,” Scottish Police said in a statement.

The conference was billed as an “opportunity to share ideas, knowledge and investigative techniques” that address this booming area of intellectual property infringement, increasingly being exploited by people looking to make a quick buck. The organized sale of Android-style set-top boxes pre-configured for piracy is being seen as a prime example.

In addition to eBay and Amazon sales, hundreds of adverts are being placed both online and in traditional papers by people selling devices already setup with Kodi and the necessary addons.

“Crime groups and criminals around Scotland are diversifying into what’s seen as less risk areas,” Chief Inspector Mark Leonard explains.

It goes without saying that both police and copyright holders are alarmed by the rise in sales of these devices. However, even the people who help to keep the ‘pirate’ addons maintained and circulated have a problem with it too.

“In my opinion, the type of people attracted to selling something like a preloaded Kodi box aren’t very educated and generally lean towards crooked or criminal activity,” Eleazar of the hugely popular TVAddons repository informs TorrentFreak.

“These box sellers bring people to our community who should never have used Kodi in the first place, people who feel they are owed something, people who see Kodi only as a piracy tool, and people who don’t have the technical aptitude to maintain their Kodi device themselves.”

But for sellers of these devices, that’s exactly why they exist – to help out people who would otherwise struggle to get a Kodi-enabled box up and running. However, there are clear signs that these sellers are feeling the heat and slowly getting the message that their activities could attract police attention.

On several occasions TorrentFreak has contacted major sellers of these devices for comment but none wish to go on the record. Smaller operators, such as those selling a few boxes on eBay, are equally cautious. One individual, who is already on police radar, insists that it’s not his fault that business is booming.

“Sky and the Premier League charge too much. It’s that simple,” he told TF.

“Your average John gives you a few quid and takes [the device] and plugs it in. Job done. How is that different from getting a mate to do it for you, apart from the drink?”

To some extent, Internet piracy has traditionally been viewed as a somewhat ‘geeky’ activity, carried out by the tech-savvy individual with a little know-how. However, the shift from the bedroom to the living room – fueled by box suppliers – has introduced a whole new audience to the activity.

“This is now seen as being normalized,” says Chief Inspector Mark Leonard.

“A family will sit and watch one of these IPTV devices. There’s also a public perception that this is a commodity which is victimless. Prevention is a big part of this so we need to change attitudes and behaviours of people that this damages the creative industries in Scotland as well.”

As things stand, everything points to the controversy over these devices being set to continue. Despite being under attack from all sides, their convenience and bargain-basement pricing means they will remain a hit with fans. This is one piracy battle set to rage for some time.

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