Tag Archives: Torrent Sites

Copyright Troll Piracy ‘Witness’ Went Back to the Future – and Lost

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-troll-piracy-witness-went-back-to-the-future-and-lost-170526/

Since the early 2000s, copyright trolls have been attempting to squeeze cash from pirating Internet users and fifteen years later the practice is still going strong.

While there’s little doubt that trolls catch some genuine infringers in their nets, the claim that actions are all about protecting copyrights is a shallow one. The aim is to turn piracy into profit and history has shown us that the bigger the operation, the more likely it is they’ll cut corners to cut costs.

The notorious Guardaley trolling operation is a prime example. After snaring the IP addresses of hundreds of thousands of Internet users, the company extracts cash settlements in the United States, Europe and beyond. It’s a project of industrial scale based on intimidation of alleged infringers. But, when those people fight back, the scary trolls suddenly become less so.

The latest case of Guardaley running for the hills comes courtesy of SJD from troll-watching site FightCopyrightTrolls, who reports on an attempt by Guardaley partner Criminal Productions to extract settlement from Zach Bethke, an alleged downloader of the Ryan Reynolds movie, Criminal.

On May 12, Bethke’s lawyer, J. Christopher Lynch, informed Criminal Productions’ lawyer David A. Lowe that Bethke is entirely innocent.

“Neither Mr. Bethke nor his girlfriend copied your client’s movie and they do not know who, if anyone, may have done so,” Lynch wrote.

“Mr. Bethke does not use BitTorrent. Prior to this lawsuit, Mr. Bethke had never heard of your client’s movie and he has no interest in it. If he did have any interest in it, he could have rented it for no marginal cost using his Netflix or Amazon Prime accounts.”

Lynch went on to request that Criminal Productions drop the case. Failing that, he said, things would probably get more complicated. As reported last year, Lynch and Lowe have been regularly locking horns over these cases, with Lynch largely coming out on top.

Part of Lynch’s strategy has been to shine light on Guardaley’s often shadowy operations. He previously noted that its investigators were not properly licensed to operate in the U.S. and the company had been found to put forward a fictitious witness, among other things.

In the past, these efforts to bring Guardaley out into the open have resulted in its clients’, which include several film companies, dropping cases. Lynch, it appears, wants that to happen again in Bethke’s case, noting in his letter that it’s “long past due for a judge to question the qualifications” of the company’s so-called technical experts.

In doing so he calls Guardaley’s evidence into account once more, noting inconsistencies in the way alleged infringements were supposedly “observed” by “foreign investigator[s], with a direct financial interest in the matter.”

One of Lynch’s findings is that the “observations” of two piracy investigators overlap each others’ monitoring periods in separate cases, while reportedly monitoring the same torrent hash.

“Both declarations cover the same ‘hash number’ of the movie, i.e. the same soak. This overlap seems impossible if we stick with the fictions of the Complaint and Motion for Expedited Discovery that the declarant ‘observed’ the defendant ‘infringing’,” Lynch notes.

While these are interesting points, the quality of evidence presented by Guardaley and Criminal Productions is really called into question following another revelation. Daniel Macek, an ‘observing’ investigator used in numerous Guardaley cases, apparently has a unique talent.

As seen from the image below, the alleged infringements relating to Mr. Bethke’s case were carried out between June 25 and 28, 2016.

However, the declaration (pdf) filed with the Court on witness Macek’s behalf was signed and dated either June 14 or 16, more than a week before the infringements allegedly took place.

Time-traveler? Lynch thinks not.

“How can a witness sign a declaration that he observed something BEFORE it happened?” he writes.

“Criminal Productions submitted four such Declarations of Mr. Macek that were executed BEFORE the dates of the accompanying typed up list of observations that Mr. Macek swore that he made.

“Unless Daniel Macek is also Marty McFly, it is impossible to execute a declaration claiming to observe something that has yet to happen.”

So what could explain this strange phenomenon? Lynch believes he’s got to the bottom of that one too.

After comparing all four Macek declarations, he found that aside from the case numbers, the dates and signatures were identical. Instead of taking the issue of presenting evidence before the Court seriously, he believes Criminal Productions and partner Guardaley have been taking short cuts.

“From our review, it appears these metaphysical Macek declarations are not just temporally improper, they are also photocopies, including the signatures not separately executed,” he notes.

“We are astonished by your client’s foreign representatives’ apparent lack of respect for our federal judicial system. Use of duplicate signatures from a witness testifying to events that have yet to happen is on the same level of horror as the use of a fictitious witness and ‘his’ initials as a convenience to obtain subpoenas.”

Not entirely unexpectedly, five days later the case against Bethke and other defendants was voluntarily dismissed (pdf), indicating once again that like vampires, trolls do not like the light. Other lawyers defending similar cases globally should take note.

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

Pirate Site Pubfilm Taunts Hollywood With Domain Name Whac-A-Mole

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-pubfilm-taunts-hollywood-with-domain-name-whac-a-mole-170525/

In recent years, most large pirate sites have faced domain name issues of some kind, which can be quite frustrating.

Copyright holders realize that going after a website’s domain name is a good way to decrease its traffic. Eventually, the site owner might even give up entirely.

The major Hollywood studios might have had this in mind as one of their main goals when they filed a complaint against the pirate site Pubfilm earlier this year.

The lawsuit was kept sealed initially, to prevent Pubfilm’s operator from moving to a new domain preemptively, hoping that this would maximize the effect. This worked, as the site was taken by surprise when it lost its domain name through a court order. However, Pubfilm didn’t throw in the towel.

Soon after the pubfilm.com domain name was suspended, the site moved to pubfilm.ac. And that wasn’t all. Pubfilm also started to actively advertise its new domain through Google Adsense, something we had never witnessed before.

Fast forward a few weeks and Pubfilm is still around, and so is the lawsuit. While the Hollywood studios managed to have the new .ac and .io domains suspended, Pubfilm is still not backing off.

Instead, the pirate streaming site now has a series of alternative domain names people can use to access the site.

Pubfilm.is is the main domain name since yesterday, but the operator also has Pubfilm.ru, Pubfilm.eu and Pubfilm.su in hand. These alternatives are actively advertised on the website, so users know where to go if the current domain is suspended.

“Alternative domain names: PUBFILM.IS PUBFILM.EU PUBFILM.RU PUBFILM.SU. Any other domains are fake!!” a notice on the site reads.

The domain name whac-a-mole is reminiscent of a similar situation The Pirate Bay was in two years ago. At the time, the notorious torrent site rotated close to a dozen domain names, before going back to its original .org gTLD.

The difference with Pubfilm, however, is that Hollywood has a US court order which they can wave at registrars and registries. This makes it easier to have domains suspended, although that’s not guaranteed.

We expect that other pirate sites will keep a close eye on the current situation. Instead of crushing Pubfilm, MPAA’s lawsuit may turn into a field experiment to see what domain names are safe from a US court order, which is not something Hollywood hoped for.

To be continued.

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

Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Products & Devices

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/facebook-bans-sale-of-piracy-enabling-products-devices-170525/

Riding the crest of a wave made possible by the rise of Internet streaming, piracy-enabled set-top boxes and similar devices have been hitting the homes of millions around the globe.

Often given the broad title of ‘Kodi Boxes’ after the legal open source software that commonly comes pre-installed, these devices are regularly configured for piracy with the aid of third-party addons.

Easy to use, set-top devices have opened up piracy to a whole new audience, normalizing it during the process. It’s a problem now being grappled with by anti-piracy outfits in a number of ways, including putting pressure on services where the boxes are being sold.

Now there are signs that Facebook has decided – or more likely been persuaded – to ban the sale of these devices from its platform. The latest addition to its Commerce Policy carries a new rule (13) which targets infringing set-top boxes almost perfectly.

“Items, products or services sold on Facebook must comply with our Community Standards, as well as the Commerce Policies,” the page reads.

“Sale of the following is prohibited on Facebook: Products or items that facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media.”

The move by Facebook follows similar overtures from Amazon back in March. In a change to its policies, the company said that devices that promote or facilitate infringement would not be tolerated.

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

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

The recent move by Facebook was welcomed by Federation Against Copyright Theft chief, Kieron Sharp.

“It is great to see Facebook follow the likes of Amazon and eBay in making changes to their policies to prohibit the sale of illicit streaming devices on their platforms,” Sharpe said.

“These days social media sites are more than just a place to share photos and comments with friends and family. Unfortunately, the fast-paced development of these sites are being exploited by opportunists for criminal activity which needs to be disrupted.”

The sale of infringing devices on social media does indeed pose a challenge to the likes of FACT.

While most piracy devices have traditionally needed an expert touch to configure and then sell, in 2017 almost anyone can buy a standard Android device and set it up for piracy in a matter of minutes. This means that every interested citizen is a potential seller and Facebook provides a perfect platform that people are already familiar with.

Nevertheless, recent rulings from the EU Court of Justice have clarified two key issues, both of which will help in the fight to reduce the availability of ‘pirate’ boxes, wherever they appear.

In April, the ECJ declared such devices illegal to sell while clarifying that users who stream pirate content to their homes are also breaking the law.

It’s unlikely that any end users will be punished (particularly to the ridiculous extent erroneously reported by some media), but it certainly helps to demonstrate illegality across the board when outfits like FACT are considering prosecutions.

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

Was The Disney Movie ‘Hacking Ransom’ a Giant Hoax?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/was-the-disney-movie-hacking-ransom-a-giant-hoax-170524/

Last Monday, during a town hall meeting in New York, Disney CEO Bob Iger informed a group of ABC employees that hackers had stolen one of the company’s movies.

The hackers allegedly said they’d keep the leak private if Disney paid them a ransom. In response, Disney indicated that it had no intention of paying. Setting dangerous precedents in this area is unwise, the company no doubt figured.

After Hollywood Reporter broke the news, Deadline followed up with a report which further named the movie as ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’, a fitting movie to parallel an emerging real-life swashbuckling plot, no doubt.

What the Deadline article didn’t do was offer any proof that Pirates 5 was the movie in question. Out of the blue, however, it did mention that a purported earlier leak of The Last Jedi had been revealed by “online chatter” to be a fake. Disney refused to comment.

Armed with this information, TF decided to have a dig around. Was Pirates 5 being discussed within release groups as being available, perhaps? Initially, our inquiries drew a complete blank but then out of the blue we found ourselves in conversation with the person claiming to be the Disney ‘hacker’.

“I can provide the original emails sent to Disney as well as some other unknown details,” he told us via encrypted mail.

We immediately asked several questions. Was the movie ‘Pirates 5’? How did he obtain the movie? How much did he try to extort from Disney? ‘EMH,’ as we’ll call him, quickly replied.

“It’s The Last Jedi. Bob Iger never made public the title of the film, Deadline was just going off and naming the next film on their release slate,” we were told. “We demanded 2BTC per month until September.”

TF was then given copies of correspondence that EMH had been having with numerous parties about the alleged leak. They included discussions with various release groups, a cyber-security expert, and Disney.

As seen in the screenshot, the email was purportedly sent to Disney on May 1. The Hollywood Reporter article, published two weeks later, noted the following;

“The Disney chief said the hackers demanded that a huge sum be paid in Bitcoin. They said they would release five minutes of the film at first, and then in 20-minute chunks until their financial demands are met,” HWR wrote.

While the email to Disney looked real enough, the proof of any leaked pudding is in the eating. We asked EMH how he had demonstrated to Disney that he actually has the movie in his possession. Had screenshots or clips been sent to the company? We were initially told they had not (plot twists were revealed instead) so this immediately raised suspicions.

Nevertheless, EMH then went on to suggest that release groups had shown interest in the copy and he proved that by forwarding his emails with them to TF.

“Make sure they know there is still work to be done on the CGI characters. There are little dots on their faces that are visible. And the colour grading on some scenes looks a little off,” EMH told one group, who said they understood.

“They all understand its not a completed workprint.. that is why they are sought after by buyers.. exclusive stuff nobody else has or can get,” they wrote back.

“That why they pay big $$$ for it.. a completed WP could b worth $25,000,” the group’s unedited response reads.

But despite all the emails and discussion, we were still struggling to see how EMH had shown to anyone that he really had The Last Jedi. We then learned, however, that screenshots had been sent to blogger Sam Braidley, a Cyber Security MSc and Computer Science BSc Graduate.

Since the information sent to us by EMH confirmed discussion had taken place with Braidley concerning the workprint, we contacted him directly to find out what he knew about the supposed Pirates 5 and/or The Last Jedi leak. He was very forthcoming.

“A user going by the username of ‘Darkness’ commented on my blog about having a leaked copy of The Last Jedi from a contact he knew from within Lucas Films. Of course, this garnered a lot of interest, although most were cynical of its authenticity,” Braidley explained.

The claim that ‘Darkness’ had obtained the copy from a contact within Lucas was certainly of interest ,since up to now the press narrative had been that Disney or one of its affiliates had been ‘hacked.’

After confirming that ‘Darkness’ used the same email as our “EMH,” we asked EMH again. Where had the movie been obtained from?

“Wasn’t hacked. Was given to me by a friend who works at a post production company owned by [Lucasfilm],” EMH said. After further prompting he reiterated: “As I told you, we obtained it from an employee.”

If they weren’t ringing loudly enough already, alarm bells were now well and truly clanging. Who would reveal where they’d obtained a super-hot leaked movie from when the ‘friend’ is only one step removed from the person attempting the extortion? Who would take such a massive risk?

Braidley wasn’t buying it either.

“I had my doubts following the recent [Orange is the New Black] leak from ‘The Dark Overlord,’ it seemed like someone trying to live off the back of its press success,” he said.

Braidley told TF that Darkness/EMH seemed keen for him to validate the release, as a member of a well-known release group didn’t believe that it was real, something TF confirmed with the member. A screenshot was duly sent over to Braidley for his seal of approval.

“The quality was very low and the scene couldn’t really show that it was in fact Star Wars, let alone The Last Jedi,” Braidley recalls, noting that other screenshots were considered not to be from the movie in question either.

Nevertheless, Darkness/EMH later told Braidley that another big release group had only declined to release the movie due to the possiblity of security watermarks being present in the workprint.

Since no groups had heard of a credible Pirates 5 leak, the claims that release groups were in discussion over the leaking of The Last Jedi intrigued us. So, through trusted sources and direct discussion with members, we tried to learn more.

While all groups admitted being involved or at least being aware of discussions taking place, none appeared to believe that a movie had been obtained from Disney, was being held for ransom, or would ever be leaked.

“Bullshit!” one told us. “Fake news,” said another.

With not even well-known release groups believing that leaks of The Last Jedi or Pirates 5 are anywhere on the horizon, that brought us full circle to the original statement by Disney chief Bob Iger claiming that a movie had been stolen.

What we do know for sure is that everything reported initially by Hollywood Reporter about a ransom demand matches up with statements made by Darkness/EMH to TorrentFreak, Braidley, and several release groups. We also know from copy emails obtained by TF that the discussions with the release groups took place well before HWR broke the story.

With Disney not commenting on the record to either HWR or Deadline (publications known to be Hollywood-friendly) it seemed unlikely that TF would succeed where they had failed.

So, without comprimising any of our sources, we gave a basic outline of our findings to a previously receptive Disney contact, in an effort to tie Darkness/EMH with the email address that he told us Disney already knew. Predictably, perhaps, we received no response.

At this point one has to wonder. If no credible evidence of a leak has been made available and the threats to leak the movie haven’t been followed through on, what was the point of the whole affair?

Money appears to have been the motive, but it seems likely that none will be changing hands. But would someone really bluff the leaking of a movie to a company like Disney in order to get a ‘ransom’ payment or scam a release group out of a few dollars? Perhaps.

Braidley informs TF that Darkness/EMH recently claimed that he’d had the copy of The Last Jedi since March but never had any intention of leaking it. He did, however, need money for a personal matter involving a family relative.

With this in mind, we asked Darkness/EMH why he’d failed to carry through with his threats to leak the movie, bit by bit, as his email to Disney claimed. He said there was never any intention of leaking the movie “until we are sure it wont be traced back” but “if the right group comes forward and meets our strict standards then the leak could come as soon as 2-3 weeks.”

With that now seeming increasingly unlikely (but hey, you never know), this might be the final chapter in what turns out to be the famous hacking of Disney that never was. Or, just maybe, undisclosed aces remain up sleeves.

“Just got another comment on my blog from [Darkness],” Braidley told TF this week. “He now claims that the Emoji movie has been leaked and is being held to ransom.”

Simultaneously he was telling TF the same thing. ‘Hacking’ announcement from Sony coming soon? Stay tuned…..

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

No, ExtraTorrent Has Not Been Resurrected

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/no-extratorrent-has-not-been-resurected-170524/

Last week the torrent community entered a state of shock when another major torrent site closed its doors.

Having served torrents to the masses for over a decade, ExtraTorrent decided to throw in the towel, without providing any detail or an apparent motive.

The only strong message sent out by ExtraTorrent’s operator was to “stay away from fake ExtraTorrent websites and clones.”

Fast forward a few days and the first copycats have indeed appeared online. While this was expected, it’s always disappointing to see “news” sites including the likes of Forbes and The Inquirer are giving them exposure without doing thorough research.

“We are a group of uploaders and admins from ExtraTorrent. As you know, SAM from ExtraTorrent pulled the plug yesterday and took all data offline under pressure from authorities. We were in deep shock and have been working hard to get it back online with all previous data,” the email, sent out to several news outlets read.

What followed was a flurry of ‘ExtraTorrent is back’ articles and thanks to those, a lot of people now think that Extratorrent.cd is a true resurrection operated by the site’s former staffers and fans.

However, aside from its appearance, the site has absolutely nothing to do with ET.

The site is an imposter operated by the same people who also launched Kickass.cd when KAT went offline last summer. In fact, the content on both sites doesn’t come from the defunct sites they try to replace, but from The Pirate Bay.

Yes indeed, ExtraTorrent.cd is nothing more than a Pirate Bay mirror with an ExtraTorrent skin.

There are several signs clearly showing that the torrents come from The Pirate Bay. Most easy to spot, perhaps, is a comparison of search results which are identical on both sites.

Chaparall seach on Extratorrent.cd

The ExtraTorrent “resurrection” even lists TPB’s oldest active torrent from March 2004, which was apparently uploaded long before the original ExtraTorrent was launched.

Chaparall search on TPB

TorrentFreak is in touch with proper ex-staffers of ExtraTorrent who agree that the site is indeed a copycat. Some ex-staffers are considering the launch of a new ET version, just like the KAT admins did in the past, but if that happens, it will take a lot more time.

“At the moment we are all figuring out how to go about getting it back up and running in a proper fashion, but as you can imagine there a lot of obstacles and arguments, lol,” ex-ET admin Soup informed us.

So, for now, there is no real resurrection. ExtraTorrent.cd sells itself as much more than it is, as it did with Kickass.cd. While the site doesn’t have any malicious intent, aside from luring old ET members under false pretenses, people have the right to know what it really is.

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

Alleged KickassTorrents Founder Released on Bail

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/alleged-kickasstorrents-founder-released-on-bail-170523/

kickasstorrents_500x500Last summer, Polish law enforcement officers arrested Artem Vaulin, the alleged founder of KickassTorrents.

Polish authorities acted on a criminal complaint from the US Government, which accused him of criminal copyright infringement and money laundering.

Facing severe back problems, Vaulin was transferred to a hospital in December, and he later continued treatment in a Warsaw prison while awaiting progress in his extradition case.

After being held in custody for nearly ten months, a breakthrough came last week when Vaulin was released on bail. The Verge reports that bail was set at $108,000 and that the alleged KickassTorrents founder now lives in a rented appartment in Warsaw.

Vaulin isn’t allowed to leave the country, but will be enjoying relative freedom, and most importantly, the company of his wife and son.

Two days before his release, The Verge’s Greg Sandoval spoke with Vaulin, who couldn’t go into detail on his alleged involvement with KickassTorrents. However, the Ukrainian entrepreneur stressed that he wasn’t looking for trouble.

“I’m a businessman. When I start a business I consult lawyers. I was never told that anything I was involved in was against the law,” Vaulin told Sandoval.

“I’m not crazy. If someone came to me to tell me the United States was angry with something I do, whatever it was, I would stop,” he added.

While life on bail is a great improvement compared to the conditions in prison, the case is not over yet. In March, the Warsaw District Court ruled in first instance that Vaulin can be extradited, but the second instance decision is still pending.

Over in the United States, the defense team also has a motion pending. In February, Vaulin’s lawyers urged the Illinois District Court to dismiss the indictment because there’s no proof of actual criminal copyright infringement.

Lead counsel Ira Rothken is happy that his client has been released on bail, and he’s confident that they will appear as victors down the road.

“We are pleased that the Court freed Artem Vaulin from prison in Poland. This will allow him to better take care of his health, be with his family, and assist in his defense,” Rothken tells TorrentFreak.

“We look forward to the US Federal Court ruling on his pending motion to dismiss. If the US indictment is defective then extradition based on the indictment is erroneous – Artem shouldn’t have to leave his family behind,” he adds.

The full coverage on The Verge has some additional comments from the alleged KAT founder, which is well worth reading.

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

Malicious Subtitles Threaten Kodi, VLC and Popcorn Time Users, Researchers Warn

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/malicious-subtitles-threaten-kodi-vlc-and-popcorn-time-users-researchers-warn-170523/

Online streaming is booming, and applications such as Kodi, Popcorn Time and VLC have millions of daily users.

Some of these use pirated videos, often in combination with subtitles provided by third-party repositories.

While most subtitle makers do no harm, it appears that those with malicious intent can exploit these popular streaming applications to penetrate the devices and systems of these users.

Researchers from Check Point, who uncovered the problem, describe the subtitle ‘attack vector’ as the most widespread, easily accessed and zero-resistance vulnerability that has been reported in recent years.

“By conducting attacks through subtitles, hackers can take complete control over any device running them. From this point on, the attacker can do whatever he wants with the victim’s machine, whether it is a PC, a smart TV, or a mobile device,” they write.

“The potential damage the attacker can inflict is endless, ranging anywhere from stealing sensitive information, installing ransomware, mass Denial of Service attacks, and much more.”

In a demonstration video, using Popcorn Time, the researchers show how easy it is to compromise the system of a potential victim.

A demo of the subtitles vulnerability

XBMC Foundation’s Project lead Martijn Kaijser informs TorrentFreak that the Kodi team is aware of the situation, which they will address soon. “We will release 17.2 which will have the fix this week,” he told us.

VLC’s VideoLAN addressed the issue as well, and doesn’t expect that it is still exploitable.

“The VLC bug is not exploitable. The first big issue was fixed in 2.2.5. There are 2 other small issues, that will be fixed in 2.2.6,” VideoLAN informed us.

The team behind PopcornTime.sh applied a fix several months ago after the researchers approached them, TorrentFreak is informed. The Popcorn Time team trusts their subtitle provider OpenSubtitles but says that it now sanitizes malicious subtitle files, also those that are added by users.

The same applies to the Butter project, which is closely related to Popcorn Time. Butter was not contacted by Check Point but their fix is visible in a GitHub commit from February.

“None of the Butter Project developers were contacted by the research group. We’d love to have them talk to us if our code is still vulnerable. To the extent of our research it is not, but we’d like the ‘responsible disclosure’ terms to actually mean something,” The Butter project informs TorrentFreak.

Finally, another fork Popcorn-Time.to, also informed us that they are not affected by the reported vulnerability.

The Check Point researchers expect that other applications may also be affected. They do not disclose any technical details at this point, nor do they state which of the applications successfully addressed the vulnerability.

“Some of the issues were already fixed, while others are still under investigation. To allow the developers more time to address the vulnerabilities, we’ve decided not to publish any further technical details at this point,” the researchers state.

More updates will be added if more information becomes available. For now, however, people who regularly use subtitle files should remain vigilant.

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

Reddit’s Piracy Sub-Reddit Reopens After Mutiny Shutdown

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/reddits-piracy-sub-reddit-reopens-after-mutiny-shutdown-170523/

For millions of people, Reddit is one of the most popular sources of news online. Arguably, though, the site’s real value lies with its users.

Like any community, Reddit user comments can range from the brilliantly informed to the deliberately destructive. But, more often than not, the weight of the crowd tends to get to the truth, sometimes with the help of the site’s moderators.

Each section of Reddit (known as a ‘sub-Reddit’), is dedicated to a particular topic and is controlled by a team of moderators. While mileage can vary, moderators tend to do a good job and are often relied upon to settle disputes and hold errant users to the rules.

Last night in /r/piracy (a sub-Reddit with close to 100,000 subscribers) one moderator went rogue, which resulted in the sub-Reddit being shut down.

According to one of the moderators now in charge of /r/piracy, a now-former moderator by the name of Samewhiterabbits committed a sin by using the sub-Reddit to further his own agenda. ‘Dysgraphical’ says that the problems started when Samewhiterabbits began heavily spamming the ‘sub’ with links to his own streaming website projects.

Apparently, this has been going on for some time, with Samewhiterabbits standing accused of launching, promoting and spamming websites that have the same names as existing and/or defunct platforms, but claiming them to be the real deal.

“Samewhiterabbits is using r/Piracy as a platform to spam his monetized website forks which he claims as official,” Dysgraphical said in a statement.

“This isn’t recent activity but rather his model. He capitalizes from streaming sites that were shutdown and spams his new domain(s) as the new home for the aforementioned streaming site.

“This moderator explicitly deletes competing stream sites and uses alternative account(s) to spam his monetized stream sites. It is not only blatant spam, but censorship as well.”

After another post appeared promoting ‘popular streaming sites’ that the /r/piracy team as a whole had no hand in, moderators including Dysgraphical and TheWalkingTroll stepped in to sort out the problem.

They were met with resistance, with Samewhiterabbit – who still had moderator powers – taking several popular threads ‘hostage’ and stopping the rest of the mod team from ending the wave of misleading spam.

“He has held several threads hostage by locking/removing them to censor any critique or mention of his shady wrongdoings. With limited moderation privileges, the most we can do at the moment is delete his threads,” Dysgraphical reported last night.

While sorting out the problem, /r/piracy was shutdown or, more accurately, made ‘private’. Then, in order to move forward, the moderators applied for more power (known as ‘permissions’ in forum speak) to remove the errant mod from the team.

To achieve that, an application was made to Reddit’s admins (those at the top of the site) who responded extremely quickly to help sort out the mess.

“A few of us now have full permissions. Thankfully the admins were rather quick in their response (given they can take several days) and we got this sorted quickly,” Dysgraphical reports.

Once that power was in the right hands, justice was served in the manner determined by the rest of the team. A few hours ago, Samewhiterabbits was reported banned from /r/piracy and everything started to get back to normal.

While online ‘drama’ like this predates the Internet, this particular situation does highlight the importance of having responsible moderators on any discussion platform. There is often an assumption that these figures are in authority because they can be trusted, but that is not necessarily so.

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

Now Anyone Can Embed a Pirate Movie in a Website

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/now-anyone-can-embed-a-pirate-movie-in-a-website-170522/

While torrents are still the go-to source for millions of users seeking free online media, people are increasingly seeking the immediacy and convenience of web-based streaming.

As a result, hundreds of websites have appeared in recent years, offering Netflix-inspired interfaces that provide an enhanced user experience over the predominantly text-based approach utilized by most torrent sites.

While there hasn’t been a huge amount of innovation in either field recently, a service that raised its head during recent weeks is offering something new and potentially significant, if it continues to deliver on its promises without turning evil.

Vodlocker.to is the latest in a long list of sites using the Vodlocker name, which is bound to cause some level of confusion. However, what this Vodlocker variant offers is a convenient way for users to not only search for and find movies hosted on the Internet, but stream them instantly – with a twist.

After entering a movie’s IMDb code (the one starting ‘tt’) in a box on the page, Vodlocker quickly searches for the movie on various online hosting services, including Google Drive.

Entering the IMDb code

“We believe the complexity of uploading a video has become unnecessary, so we have created much like Google, an automated crawler that visits millions of pages every day to find all videos on the internet,” the site explains.

As shown in the image above, the site takes the iMDb number and generates code. That allows the user to embed an HTML5 video player in their own website, which plays the movie in question. We tested around a dozen movies with a 100% success rate, with search times from a couple of seconds to around 20 seconds maximum.

A demo on the site shows exactly how the embed code currently performs, with the video player offering the usual controls such as play and pause, with a selector for quality and volume levels. The usual ‘full screen’ button sits in the bottom right corner.

The player can be embedded anywhere

Near the top of the window are options for selecting different sources for the video, should it become unplayable or if a better quality version is required. Interestingly, should one of those sources be Google Video, Vodlocker says its player offers Chromecast and subtitle support.

“Built-in chromecast plugin streams free HD movies/tv shows from your website to your TV via Google Chromecast. Built-in opensubtitles.org plugin finds subtitles in all languages and auto-selects your language,” the site reports.

In addition to a link-checker that aims to exclude broken links (missing sources), the service also pulls movie-related artwork from IMDb, to display while the selected movie is being prepared for streaming.

The site is already boasting a “massive database” of movies, which will make it of immediate use to thousands of websites that might want to embed movies or TV shows in their web pages.

As long as Vodlocker can cope with the load, this could effectively spawn a thousand new ‘pirate’ websites overnight but the service generally seems more suited to smaller, blog-like sites that might want to display a smaller selection of titles.

That being said, it’s questionable whether a site would seek to become entirely reliant on a service like this. While the videos it indexes are more decentralized, the service itself could be shut down in the blink of an eye, at which point every link stops working.

It’s also worth noting that the service uses IFrame tags, which some webmasters might feel uncomfortable about deploying on their sites due to security concerns.

The New Vodlocker API demo can be found here, for as long as it lasts.

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

Copyright Troll Attorney John Steele Disbarred by Illinois Supreme Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-troll-attorney-john-steele-disbarred-by-illinois-supreme-court-170522/

Over the years, copyright trolls have been accused of involvement in various dubious schemes and actions, but there’s one group that has gone above and beyond.

Prenda Law grabbed dozens of headlines, mostly surrounding negative court rulings over identity theft, misrepresentation and even deception.

Most controversial was the shocking revelation that Prenda uploaded their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirated downloads.

The allegations also raised the interest of the US Department of Justice, which indicted Prenda principals John Steele and Paul Hansmeier late last year. The two stand accused of running a multi-million dollar fraud and extortion operation.

A few weeks ago Steele pleaded guilty, admitting among other things that they did indeed use The Pirate Bay to operate a honeypot for online pirates.

Following the guilty plea the Illinois Supreme Court, which started looking into the case long before the indictment, has now decided to disbar the attorney. This means that Steele no longer has the right to practice law.

The decision doesn’t really come as a surprise. Steele has admitted to two of the 18 counts listed in the indictment, including some of the allegations that were also listed by the Supreme Court.

In its conclusion, the Court lists a variety of misconduct including “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, by conduct including filing lawsuits without supporting facts, under the names of entities like Ingenuity 13 and AF Holdings, which were created by Movant for purposes of exacting settlements.”

Also, Steele’s trolling operation was “using means that had no substantial purpose other than to embarrass or burden a third person, or using methods of obtaining evidence that violates the legal rights of such a person…,” the Supreme Court writes.

Steele was disbarred “on consent,” according to Cook County Record, which means that he agreed to have his Illinois law practice license revoked.

The disbarment is not unexpected considering Steele’s guilty plea. However, victims of the Prenda trolling scheme may still welcome it as a form of justice. Meanwhile, Steele has bigger problems to worry about.

The former Prenda attorney is still awaiting his sentencing in the criminal case. In theory, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in prison as well as a criminal fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, by signing a plea agreement, he likely gets a reduced sentence.

The Illnois Supreme Court conclusions are available here (pdf), courtesy of Fight Copyright Trolls.

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

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 05/22/17

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-pirated-movies-week-bittorrent-052217/

This week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Logan, which came out as DVDRip last week, is the most downloaded movie for the second week in a row.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1 (1) Logan 8.6 / trailer
2 (8) The Fate of the Furious (subbed HDRip) 6.7 / trailer
3 (…) The Boss Baby 6.5 / trailer
4 (2) Ghost in The Shell (Subbed HDRip) 6.9 / trailer
5 (3) First Fight 5.7 / trailer
6 (4) Kong: Skull Island (Subbed HDRip) 7.0 / trailer
7 (…) T2 Trainspotting 7.7 / trailer
8 (…) Beauty and the Beast 7.6 / trailer
9 (7) Split 7.0 / trailer
10 (5) The Great Wall 6.9 / trailer

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

RIAA Says Artists Don’t Need “Moral Rights,” Artists Disagree

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-says-artists-dont-need-moral-rights-artists-disagree-170521/

Most people who create something like to be credited for their work. Whether you make a video, song, photo, or blog post, it feels ‘right’ to receive recognition.

The right to be credited is part of the so-called “moral rights,” which are baked into many copyright laws around the world, adopted at the international level through the Berne Convention.

However, in the United States, this is not the case. The US didn’t sign the Berne Convention right away and opted out from the “moral rights” provision when they eventually joined it.

Now that the U.S. Copyright Office is looking into ways to improve current copyright law, the issue has been brought to the forefront again. The Government recently launched a consultation to hear the thoughts of various stakeholders, which resulted in several noteworthy contributions.

As it turns out, both the MPAA and RIAA are against the introduction of statutory moral rights for artists. They believe that the current system works well and they fear that it’s impractical and expensive to credit all creators for their contributions.

The MPAA stresses that new moral rights may make it harder for producers to distribute their work and may violate the First Amendment rights of producers, artists, and third parties who wish to use the work of others.

In the movie industry, many employees are not credited for their work. They get paid, but can’t claim any “rights” to the products they create, something the MPAA wants to keep intact.

“Further statutory recognition of the moral rights of attribution and integrity risks upsetting this well-functioning system that has made the United States the unrivaled world leader in motion picture production for over a century,” they stress.

The RIAA has a similar view, although the central argument is somewhat different.

The US record labels say that they do everything they can to generate name recognition for their main artists. However, crediting everyone who’s involved in making a song, such as the writer, is not always a good idea.

“A new statutory attribution right, in addition to being unnecessary, would likely have significant unintended consequences,” the RIAA writes (pdf).

The RIAA explains that the music industry has weathered several dramatic shifts over the past two decades. They argue that the transition from physical to digital music – and later streaming – while being confronted with massive piracy, has taken its toll.

There are signs of improvement now, but if moral rights are extended, the RIAA fears that everything might collapse once gain.

“After fifteen years of declining revenues, the recorded music industry outlook is finally showing signs of improvement. This fragile recovery results largely from growing consumer adoption of new streaming models..,” the RIAA writes.

“We urge the Office to avoid legislative proposals that could hamper this nascent recovery by injecting significant additional risk, uncertainty, and complexity into the recorded music business.”

According to the RIAA it would be costly for streaming services credit everyone who’s involved in the creative process. In addition, they simply might not have the screen real estate to pull this off.

“If a statutory attribution right suddenly required these services to provide attribution to others involved in the creative process, that would presumably require costly changes to their user interfaces and push them up against the size limitations of their display screens.”

This means less money for the artists and more clutter on the screen, according to the music group. Music fans probably wouldn’t want to see the list of everyone who worked on a song anyway, they claim.

“To continue growing, streaming services must provide a compelling product to consumers. Providing a long list of on-screen attributions would not make for an engaging or useful experience for consumers,” RIAA writes.

The streaming example is just one of the many issues that may arise, in the eyes of the record labels. They also expect problems with tracks that are played on the radio, or in commercials, where full credits are rarely given.

Interestingly, many of the artists the RIAA claims to represent don’t agree with the group’s comments.

Music Creators North America and The Future of Music Coalition, for example, believe that artists should have statutory moral rights. The latter group argues that, currently, small artists are often powerless against large corporations.

“Moral rights would serve to alleviate the powerlessness faced by creators who often must relinquish their copyright to make a living from their work. These creators should still be provided some right of attribution and integrity as these affect a creator’s reputation and ultimately livelihood.”

The Future of Music Coalition disagrees with the paternalistic perspective that the public isn’t interested in detailed information about the creators of music.

“While interest levels may vary, a significant portion of the public has a great interest in understanding who exactly contributed to the creation works of art which they admire,” they write (pdf).

Knowing who’s involved requires attribution, so it’s crucial that this information becomes available, they argue.

“Music enthusiasts revel in the details of music they adore, but when care is not taken to document and preserve that information, those details can often lost over time and eventually unattainable.”

“To argue that the public generally has a homogenously disinterested opinion of creators is insulting both to the public and to creators,” The Future of Music Coalition adds.

The above shows that the rights of artists are clearly not always aligned with the interests of record labels.

Interestingly, the RIAA and MPAA do agree with major tech companies and civil rights groups such as EFF and Public Knowledge. These are also against new moral rights, albeit for different reasons.

It’s now up to the U.S. Copyright Office to determine if change is indeed required, or if everything will remain the same.

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

Girl Busted For Pirating ‘Chicken Run’ Provides Food For Thought

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/girl-busted-for-pirating-chicken-run-provides-food-for-thought-170521/

This past Thursday the BBC published an article about Gianna Mulville-Zanetta, a first year Social Policy student at Bristol University in the UK.

After getting caught downloading the stop-motion comedy-drama film Chicken Run using BitTorrent, the 18-year-old reportedly felt the wrath of the university’s IT department.

“I completely forgot I had downloaded it,” Gianna told the BBC.

“I got an email the day after I watched it on Netflix with my friend saying I had been removed from Eduroam – which is our wifi. It took about a day or more to download and that’s why I forgot I had it, it took forever.”

For her sins, Gianna was blocked from using the university’s wifi for 20 days, a period that coincided with her exams. With access to a 4G connection she says the ban didn’t affect her studies but of course, the potential for chaos was certainly there.

There appears to be no doubt that Gianna committed an infringement. However, that someone who prefers to watch something legally on Netflix gets caught up in something like this is pretty disappointing. But not a complete surprise.

Chicken Run was released in 2000 but only 12 years later did it appear on UK Netflix. According to New on Netflix, it was withdrawn from Netflix during November 2013, put back on two years later in 2015, removed a year later in 2016, and was only re-added on May 1 this year.

Considering the BBC states that the Chicken Run affair “has ruined much of May for Gianna”, the ban must’ve kicked in early this month. That means that Chicken Run was either not on UK Netflix when Gianna decided on her download, or had only been there for a day or two. Either way, if there had been less yo-yo’ing of its availability on Netflix, it’s possible this whole affair could’ve been completely avoided.

Moving on, the BBC article states that Gianna was “caught out by the university’s IT department.” Student newspaper The Tab makes a similar assumption, claiming that Gianna was “busted by an elite team of University IT technicians.”

However, those familiar with these issues will know that the ‘blame’ should be placed elsewhere, i.e., on rightsholders who are filing complaints directly with the university. The tactic is certainly an interesting one.

Despite there being dozens of residential ISPs the copyright holders could focus on, they choose not to do so outside the limited scope of the Get it Right campaign instead. Knowing that universities come down hard on students seems like a motivating factor here, one that students should be aware of.

The Tab went on to publish a screenshot of the complaint received by Gianna. It’s incomplete, but it contains information that allows us to investigate further.

The note that Gianna’s connection had been suspended to prevent the IT department from “receiving further complaints” is a dead giveaway of rightsholder involvement. But, further down is an even clearer clue that the complaint was made by someone outside the university.

The format used in the complaint is identical to that used by US and Australia-based anti-piracy outfit IP-Echelon. The company is known to work with Paramount Pictures who own the rights to Chicken Run.

In fact, if one searches the filesize referenced in the infringement notice (572,221,548), it’s possible to find an identical complaint processed by VPN service Proxy.sh.

Another Chicken Run complaint

Given the file size, we can further deduce that Gianna downloaded a 720p BrRip of Chicken Run that was placed online by now defunct release team/torrent site YIFY, which has also been referenced in a number of complaints sent to Google.

So what can we conclude from these series of events?

First of all, with less messing around by Paramount and/or Netflix, Gianna might have gone to Netflix first, having seen it previously in the listings on the platform. As it goes, it had been absent for months, having been pulled from the service at least twice before.

Second, we know that at least one person who chose to pirate Chicken Run avoided Gianna’s predicament by using a VPN service. While Gianna found herself disconnected, the VPN user walked away completely unscathed, with Paramount and IP-Echelon complaining to the VPN service and that being the end of the matter.

Third, allowing your real name and a copy of a copyright infringement complaint to be published alongside a confession is a risky business. While IP-Echelon isn’t known for pressuring people to pay settlements in the UK, the situation could have been very different if a copyright troll was involved.

Fourth, we can also conclude that while it’s believed that older content is safer to download, this story suggests otherwise. Chicken Run was released 17 years ago and is still being monitored by rightsholders.

Finally, stories of students getting banned from university Internet access are relatively commonplace in the United States, but the same out of the UK is extremely rare.

In fact, we’re not aware of such exclusions happening on a regular basis anywhere in the region, although Gianna told the BBC that she knows another person who is still being denied access to the Internet for downloading Shrek, another relatively ancient film.

That raises the possibility that some copyright holders have seriously begun targeting universities in the UK. If that’s the case, one has to question what has more value – uninterrupted Internet access while on campus or a movie download.

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

Fake ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ Leaks Troll Pirates and Reporters

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/fake-pirates-of-the-caribbean-leaks-troll-pirates-and-reporters-170520/

Earlier this week, news broke that Disney was being extorted by hackers who were threatening to release an upcoming film, reportedly ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.’

This prompted pirates and reporters to watch torrent sites for copies of the film, and after a few hours the first torrents did indeed appear.

The initial torrent spotted by TF was just over 200MB, which is pretty small. As it turned out, the file was fake and linked to some kind of survey scam.

Fake torrents are quite common and even more so with highly anticipated releases like a “Pirates Of The Caribbean” leak.

Soon after the fist fake, another one followed, this one carrying the name of movie distribution group ETRG. After the first people downloaded a copy, it quickly became clear that this was spam as well, and the torrent was swiftly removed from The Pirate Bay.

Unfortunately, however, some reporters confused the fake releases with the real deal. Without verifying the actual content of the files, news reports claimed that Pirates Of The Caribbean had indeed leaked.

“Hackers Dump Pirates of the Caribbean On Torrent Sites Ahead of Premiere,” Softpedia reported, followed by the award-winning security blog Graham Cluley who wrote that the “New Pirates of the Caribbean movie leaked online.”

Leaks? (via Softpedia)

The latter was also quick to point to a likely source of the leak. Hacker group The Dark Overlord was cited as the prime candidate, even though there were no signs linking it to the leak in question. This is off for a group that regularly takes full public credit for its achievements.

News site Fossbytes also appeared confident that The Dark Overlord was behind the reported (but fake) leaks, pretty much stating it as fact.

“The much-awaited Disney movie Pirates Of The Caribbean 5 Dead Men Tell No Tales was compromised by a hacker group called TheDarkOverlord,” the site reported.

Things got more confusing when the torrent files in question disappeared from The Pirate Bay. In reality, moderators simply removed the spam, as they usually do, but the reporters weren’t convinced and speculated that the ‘hackers’ could have reuploaded the files elsewhere.

A few hours later another ‘leak’ appeared on The Pirate Bay, confirming these alleged suspicions. This time it was a 54GB file which actually had “DARK-OVERL” in the title.

DARK-OVERL!!!

Soon after the torrent appeared online someone added a spam comment suggesting that it had a decent quality. One of the reporters picked this up and wrote that “comments indicate the quality is quite high.”

Again, at this point, none of the reporters had verified that the leaks were real. Still, the news spread further and further.

TorrentFreak also kept an eye on the developments and reached out to a source who said he’d obtained a copy of the 54GB release. This pirate was curious, but didn’t get what he was hoping for.

The file in question did indeed contain video material, he informed us. However, instead of an unreleased copy of the Pirates Of The Caribbean 5, he says he got several copies of an animation movie – Trolls…..

“Turns out, the iso contains a couple of .rar files that house a bunch of Trolls DVDs. I hope everyone learned their lesson, if it’s too good to be true it probably is.”

Indeed it is.

In the spirit of this article we have to stress that we didn’t verify the contents of the (now deleted) “Trolls” torrent ourselves. However, it’s clear that the fake leaks trolled several writers and pirates.

We reached out to Softpedia reporter Gabriela Vatu and Graham Cluley, who were both very receptive to our concerns and updated the initial articles to state that the leaks were not verified.

Let’s hope that this will stop the rumors from spreading any further.

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.

ExtraTorrent’s Distribution Groups ettv and EtHD Keep Going

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/extratorrents-distribution-groups-ettv-and-ethd-keep-going-170519/

This week the torrent community entered a state of shock when another major torrent site closed its doors.

Having served torrents to the masses for over a decade, ExtraTorrent decided to throw in the towel, without providing any detail or an apparent motive.

ExtraTorrent operator SaM simply informed us that “it’s time we say goodbye.”

Now that a few days have passed the dust is slowly beginning to settle. Frequent ExtraTorrent users have started to flock to alternatives such as The Pirate Bay, Torrentz2 and RARBG, which have all noticed a clear uptick in users.

What has also become clear is that ExtraTorrent won’t have quit without leaving its mark. The site was home to several prominent uploaders and groups, and some feared that these would go down with the site. However, it looks like that won’t be the case for them all.

On Thursday, shortly after the site was closed, ExtraTorrent operator SaM said that the movie torrent distribution group ETRG would disappear, but that there was hope for others.

“Ettv and Ethd could remain operational if they get enough donations to sustain the expenses and if the people handling it [are] ready to keep going,” SaM said.

Indeed, both TV groups are keeping the ET spirit alive as dozens of fresh torrents have appeared over the past few days. While they’re no longer on ExtraTorrent, the accounts on The Pirate Bay remain very active, as can be seen below.

ettv’s recent releases

Another well-known uploader, DDR, will continue to release torrents as well. TorrentFreak was informed that the uploader will use the ‘SaM’ accounts at The Pirate Bay and 1337x to continue his work.

And ExtraTorrent’s name lives on elsewhere too. The image hosting site Extraimage, which was regularly used by torrent uploaders to feature samples, is still up and running as well.

There is another major casualty of the ExtraTorrent closure though. TorrentFreak is informed that ET’s inhouse encoder FUM, known for regular high-quality TV releases, will stop.

Over the weeks we will see what the real impact of the surprise shutdown will be. A community was destroyed this week, and many uploaders lost their home, but as we’ve seen with KickassTorrents, Torrentz, and other sites before them, the torrent ecosystem isn’t easily disrupted.

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

Private Torrent Tracker Freshon.tv Shuts Down

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/private-torrent-tracker-freshon-tv-shuts-down-170519/

This isn’t a particularly good week for avid torrent users. After the public ExtraTorrent index shut down, the private community must now say goodbye to Freshon.tv (TvT).

Sysops of the private tracker, which specialized in TV releases, have decided to move on and focus on their personal lives instead.

“We are shutting the website down due to the lack of interest,” TvT staff wrote in a message yesterday.

“This is no longer a fun activity and the old members simply have other things to focus on, like work and families. We like to thank each member that was present in the comunity we built and maintained for a decade.”

Soon after, the site went dark, removing the option to login and showing a brief shutdown message instead.

Poor hamsters

The decsion came as a surprise to the site’s users. Several staffers were also unaware of the decision the sysops had taken, according to a statement by a member on Reddit.

“We, the staff, didn’t know of this until they made the public announcement, so this all comes a bit rushed,” Liberateus writes, adding that fellow torrent tracker Morethan.tv is willing to take on refugees.

“Morethan.tv is a rather young but fast growing tracker focused on TV and movie content, with a nice community, dedicated staff and a huge selection of content,” he writes.

The Reddit thread also includes offers from other trackers that are willing to take people in, so it appears that most users will find a new home.

Freshon, or ‘TV Torrents RO,’ was one of the larger specialized TV trackers on the Internet. The site had close to 20,000 users who together shared tens of thousands of torrents.

The site was particularly popular popular in Romania, from where the site originated. The specialized TV tracker first saw the light of day more than a decade a ago, reportedly with help from several staffers of the defunct torrents.ro tracker.

Better times for TvT (image via Opentrackers)

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

Sony Files Lawsuits to Block Video Game Piracy Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sony-files-lawsuits-block-video-game-piracy-sites-170519/

Once the preserve of countries like China whose government likes to routinely censor and control information, website blocking is now a regularly occurence elsewhere.

With commercial interests at their core, most website blocking efforts now take place under copyright law, to protect the business models of the world’s leading entertainment companies. While that usually involves those in the movie and music industries, occasionally others get involved too.

That’s now the case in Russia, where the UK division of Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) is currently taking steps to prevent the illegal distribution of its videogame products via online platforms.

According to local news outlet Izvestia, SIE has filed seven lawsuits at the Moscow City Court targeting sites that offer Sony titles without obtaining permission.

While they have no yet been named, the lawsuits indicate that copyright action has been taken against the sites before. This means that under Russia’s strict anti-piracy laws, these repeat offenders can be subjected to the so-called “eternal lock.” Under that regime, once ISP blockades are put in place, they stay in place forever.

Sergey Klisho, General Manager of Playstation in Russia, says that the lawsuits and subsequent court orders will enable the company to deal with the worst offenders.

“Positive changes in legislation aimed at protecting rightsholders, plus greater attention by state bodies to intellectual property rights violations, allows us today to begin to fight against piracy on the Internet,” Klisho says.

According to Vadim Ampelonsky, a spokesman for telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor, protection of gaming titles is becoming more commonplace, with companies such as Sony and Ubisoft resorting to legal action against sites offering pirated titles.

For Sony, it appears this action might only be the beginning, with a company representative indicating that more lawsuits are likely to follow in the future. But just how effective are these blockades?

Russian torrent giant RuTracker, which is permanently blocked by all local ISPs, believes that the effect on its operations is limited. Just recently the site’s tracker ‘announce’ URLs were added to Russia’s blocklist, on top of the site’s main URLs which have been banned for some time.

That resulted in the site offering its own special app on Github this month, which allows users to automatically find proxy workarounds that render the current blocking efforts ineffective.

The tool is already proving a bit of a headache for Russian authorities. Internet Ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev says that Roskomnadzor won’t be able to ban the software since it can spread by many means.

“I do not believe that Roskomnadzor can block any application,” Marinichev says.

“You can prevent Google Play or Apple’s iTunes from distributing them. But there is still one hundred and one ways left for these applications to spread. Stopping the application itself from working on the device of a particular user is a daunting task.”

Interestingly, Marinichev also believes that targeting RuTracker is the wrong strategy, since the site itself isn’t distributing infringing content, its users are.

“Rightsholders can not punish RuTracker. They are not engaged in piracy. Piracy is carried out by the ones who distribute and duplicate. It is impossible for the law to solve technological problems,” he concludes.

It’s an opinion shared by many in the pirate community, who continue to find technical solutions to many legal roadblocks.

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

Elsevier Wants $15 Million Piracy Damages From Sci-Hub and Libgen

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/elsevier-wants-15-million-piracy-damages-from-sci-hub-and-libgen-170518/

Two years ago, academic publisher Elsevier filed a complaint against Sci-Hub, Libgen and several related “pirate” sites.

The publisher accused the websites of making academic papers widely available to the public, without permission.

While Sci-Hub and Libgen are nothing like the average pirate site, they are just as illegal according to Elsevier’s legal team, which swiftly obtained a preliminary injunction from a New York District Court.

The injunction ordered Sci-Hub’s founder Alexandra Elbakyan, who is the only named defendant, to quit offering access to any Elsevier content. This didn’t happen, however.

Sci-Hub and the other websites lost control over several domain names, but were quick to bounce back. They remain operational today and have no intention of shutting down, despite pressure from the Court.

This prompted Elsevier to request a default judgment and a permanent injunction against the Sci-Hub and Libgen defendants. In a motion filed this week, Elsevier’s legal team describes the sites as pirate havens.

“Defendants’ websites exist for the sole purpose of providing unauthorized and unlawful access to the copyrighted works of Elsevier and other scientific publishers. Collectively, Defendants are responsible for the piracy of millions of Elseviers’ copyrighted works as well as millions of works published by others.”

As compensation for the losses it has suffered, Elsevier is now demanding $15 million in damages. The publisher lists 100 works as evidence and argues that the maximum amount of $150,000 in statutory damages is warranted in this case.

“Here, Defendants’ willful conduct rises to the level of truly egregious conduct, justifying the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work,” Elsevier’s team writes (pdf).

“The Preliminary Injunction constituted such notice by a court, and Defendants have flagrantly disregarded the Preliminary Injunction by continuing to operate their piracy enterprises.”

Not only did the defendants ignore the preliminary injunction by continuing to operate their websites, Sci-Hub’s operator stated that she chose to willingly disregard the court order.

“Moreover, Elbakyan has publicly stated that she is aware that Sci-Hub’s actions are unlawful and that this Court has enjoined her infringing activities, but that she intends to continue to defy the Court’s Order.”

The amount is also justified based on the scale of infringement, Elsevier stresses. The sites in question offer dozens of millions of copyrighted works which are downloaded hundreds of thousands of times per day.

A good chunk of these papers are copyrighted, many by Elsevier. In fact, when the original complaint was filed, Elsevier had trouble locating ScienceDirect-hosted articles that were not available through Libgen.

“Here, the scale of Defendants’ infringement is so staggering that a reasonable estimate of appropriate damages, even if based on a lower, license- fee-based metric, would be difficult, if not impossible, to calculate,” Elsevier’s legal team writes.

Since the court’s clerk has already entered a default against the defendants, it’s likely that Elsevier will win the case. As a result, Sci-Hub and Libgen will likely have to relocate again. Whether Elsevier will see any damages from the defendants has yet to be seen.

Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan wasn’t really sure how to comment on the million dollar claims. She described Elsevier’s requests as “funny” and “ridiculous,” while confirming that the site is not going anywhere.

“The Sci-Hub will continue as usual. In case of problems with the domain names, users can rely on TOR scihub22266oqcxt.onion,” Elbakyan tells us.

In hindsight, Elsevier may regret its decision to take legal action.

Instead of taking Sci-Hub and Libgen down, the lawsuit and the associated media attention only helped them grow. Last year we reported that its users were downloading hundreds of thousands of papers per day from Sci-Hub, a number that has likely increased since.

Also, Elbakyan is now seen as a hero by several prominent academics, illustrated by the fact that the prestigious publication Nature listed her as one of the top ten people that mattered in science last year.

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

EU Votes Today On Content Portability to Reduce Piracy (Updated)

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-votes-today-on-content-portability-to-reduce-piracy-170518/

Being a fully-paid up customer of a streaming service such as Spotify or Netflix should be a painless experience, but for citizens of the EU, complexities exist.

Subscribers of Netflix, for example, have access to different libraries, depending on where they’re located. This means that a viewer in the Netherlands could begin watching a movie at home, travel to France for a weekend break, and find on arrival that the content he paid for is not available there.

A similar situation can arise with a UK citizen’s access to BBC’s iPlayer. While he has free access to the service he previously paid for while at home, travel to Spain for a week and access is denied, since the service believes he’s not entitled to view.

While the EU is fiercely protective of its aim to grant free movement to both people and goods, this clearly hasn’t always translated well to the digital domain. There are currently no explicit provisions under EU law which mandate cross-border portability of online content services.

Following a vote today, however, all that may change.

In a few hours time, Members of the European Parliament will vote on whether to introduce new ‘Cross-border portability’ rules (pdf), that will give citizens the freedom to enjoy their media wherever they are in the EU, without having to resort to piracy.

“If you live for instance in Germany but you go on holiday or visit your family or work in Spain, you will be able to access the services that you had in Germany in any other country in the Union, because the text covers the EU,” says Jean-Marie Cavada, the French ALDE member responsible for steering the new rules through Parliament.

But while freedom to receive content is the aim, there will be a number of restrictions in practice. While travelers to other EU countries will get access to the same content they would back home on the same range of devices, it will only be available on a temporary basis.

People traveling on a holiday, business, or study trip will enjoy the freedom to consume “for a limited period.” Extended stays will not be catered for under the new rules so as not to upset licensing arrangements already in place between rightsholders and service providers.

So how will the system work in practice?

At the moment, services like Netflix use the current IP address of the subscriber to determine where they are and therefore which regional library they’ll have access to when they sign in.

It appears that a future system would have to consider in which country the user signed up, before checking to ensure that the user trying to access the service in another EU country is the same person. That being said, if copyright holders agree, service providers can omit the verification process.

“The draft text to be voted on calls for safeguarding measures to be included in the regulation to ensure that the data and privacy of users are respected throughout the verification process,” European Parliament news said this week.

If adopted, the new rules would come into play during the first six months of 2018 and would apply to subscriptions already in place.

Separately, MEPs are also considering new rules on geo-blocking “to ensure that online sellers do not discriminate against consumers” because of where they live in the EU.

Update: The vote has passed. Here is the full statement by Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip.

I welcome today’s positive vote of the European Parliament on the portability of online content across borders, following the agreement reached between the European Parliament, Council and Commission at the beginning of the year.

I warmly thank the European Parliament rapporteur Jean-Marie Cavada for his work in achieving this and look forward to final approval by Member States in the coming weeks.

The rules voted today mean that, as of the beginning of next year, people who have subscribed to their favourite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in the European Union.

Combined with the end of roaming charges, it means that watching films or listening to music while on holiday abroad will not bring any additional costs to people who use mobile networks.

This is an important step in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market.

We now need agreements on our other proposals to modernise EU copyright rules and ensure wider access to creative content across borders and fairer rules for creators. I rely on the European Parliament and Member States to make swift progress to make this happen.

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