Tag Archives: Torrent Sites

Supreme Court Will Decide if ISP Can Charge Money to Expose Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/supreme-court-to-decide-if-isp-can-charge-money-to-expose-pirates-171124/

Movie studio Voltage Pictures is no stranger to suing BitTorrent users.

The company has filed numerous lawsuits against alleged pirates in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, and is estimated to have made a lot of money doing so.

Voltage and other copyright holders who initiate these cases generally rely on IP addresses as evidence. This information is collected from BitTorrent swarms and linked to an ISP using an IP-database.

With this information in hand, they then ask the courts to direct Internet providers to hand over the personal details of the associated account holders, in order to go after the alleged pirates.

In Canada, this so-called copyright trolling practice hasn’t been without controversy.

Last year Voltage Pictures launched a “reverse class action” to demand damages from an unspecified number of Internet users whom they accuse of sharing films, including The Cobbler, Pay the Ghost, Good Kill, Fathers and Daughters, and American Heist.

The application of a reverse class action in a copyright case was unprecedented in itself. In a single swoop, many of Internet subscribers were at risk of having their personal details exposed. However, Internet provider Rogers was not willing to hand over this information freely.

Instead, Rogers demanded compensation for every IP-address lookup, as is permitted by copyright law. The provider asked for $100 per hour of work, plus taxes, to link the addresses to subscriber accounts.

The Federal Court agreed that the charges were permitted under the Copyright Act. However, when Voltage Pictures appealed the decision, this was reversed. The Appeals Court noted that there’s currently no fixed maximum charge defined by law. As long as this is the case, ISPs can charge no fees at all, the argument was.

In addition, the court stressed that it’s important for copyright holders to be able to protect their rights in the digital era.

“The internet must not become a collection of safe houses from which pirates, with impunity, can pilfer the products of others’ dedication, creativity and industry,” the appeal court Justice David Stratas wrote.

Not happy with the decision, Rogers decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court, which just decided that it will hear the case.

The Supreme Court hasn’t given an explanation for its decision to take the case. For the accused BitTorrent pirates in Canada, it’s certainly one to watch though.

The case will in large part determine how profitable the copyright trolling scheme is in Canada. When ISPs can charge a substantial fee for the IP-address lookups the efforts might not bring in enough money through settlements, making them less likely to continue.

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

Copyright Holders Want ISPs to Police Pirate Sites and Issue Warnings

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-holders-want-isps-to-police-pirate-sites-and-issue-warnings-171124/

Online piracy is a worldwide phenomenon and increasingly it ends up on the desks of lawmakers everywhere.

Frustrated by the ever-evolving piracy landscape, copyright holders are calling on local authorities to help out.

This is also the case in South Africa at the moment, where the Government is finalizing a new Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill.

Responding to a call for comments, anti-piracy group SAFACT, film producers, and local broadcaster M-Net seized the opportunity to weigh in with some suggestions. Writing to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, they ask for measures to make it easier to block pirate sites and warn copyright infringers.

“A balanced approach to address the massive copyright infringement on the Internet is necessary,” they say.

On the site-blocking front, the copyright holder representatives suggest an EU-style amendment that would allow for injunctions against ISPs to bar access to pirate sites.

“It is suggested that South Africa should consider adopting technology-neutral ‘no fault’ enforcement legislation that would enable intermediaries to take action against online infringements, in line with Article 8.3 of the EU Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC), which addresses copyright infringement through site blocking,” it reads.

Request and response (via Business Tech)

In addition, ISPs should also be obliged to take further measures to deter piracy. New legislation should require providers to “police” unauthorized file-sharing and streaming sites, and warn subscribers who are caught pirating.

“Obligations should be imposed on ISPs to co-operate with rights-holders and Government to police illegal filesharing or streaming websites and to issue warnings to end-users identified as engaging in illegal file-sharing and to block infringing content,” the rightsholders say.

The demands were made public by the Department recently, which also included an official response from the Government. While the suggestions are not dismissed based on their content, they don’t fit the purpose of the legislation.

“The Bill does not deal with copyright infringements. These aspects must be dealt with in terms of copyright-related legislation,” the Department writes.

SAFACT, the filmmakers, and M-Net are not without options though. The Government points out that the new Copyright Amendment Bill, which was introduced recently, would be a better fit for these asks. So it’s likely that they will try again.

This doesn’t mean that any of the proposed language will be adopted, of course. However, now that the demands are on the table, South Africans are likely to hear more blocking and warning chatter in the near future.

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

Swiss Copyright Law Proposals: Good News for Pirates, Bad For Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/swiss-copyright-law-proposals-good-news-for-pirates-bad-for-pirate-sites-171124/

While Switzerland sits geographically in the heart of Europe, the country is not part of the European Union, meaning that its copyright laws are often out of touch with those of the countries encircling it.

For years this has meant heavy criticism from the United States, whose trade representative has put Switzerland on the Watch List, citing weaknesses in the country’s ability to curb online copyright infringement.

“The decision to place Switzerland on the Watch List this year is premised on U.S. concerns regarding specific difficulties in Switzerland’s system of online copyright protection and enforcement,” the USTR wrote in 2016.

Things didn’t improve in 2017. Referencing the so-called Logistep Decision, which found that collecting infringers’ IP addresses is unlawful, the USTR said that Switzerland had effectively deprived copyright holders of the means to enforce their rights online.

All of this criticism hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. For the past several years, Switzerland has been deeply involved in consultations that aim to shape future copyright law. Negotiations have been prolonged, however, with the Federal Council aiming to improve the situation for creators without impairing the position of consumers.

A new draft compromise tabled Wednesday is somewhat of a mixed bag, one that is unlikely to please the United States overall but could prove reasonably acceptable to the public.

First of all, people will still be able to ‘pirate’ as much copyrighted material as they like, as long as that content is consumed privately and does not include videogames or software, which are excluded. Any supposed losses accrued by the entertainment industries will be compensated via a compulsory tax of 13 Swiss francs ($13), levied on media playback devices including phones and tablets.

This freedom only applies to downloading and streaming, meaning that any uploading (distribution) is explicitly ruled out. So, while grabbing some streaming content via a ‘pirate’ Kodi addon is just fine, using BitTorrent to achieve the same is ruled out.

Indeed, rightsholders will be able to capture IP addresses of suspected infringers in order to file a criminal complaint with authorities. That being said, there will no system of warning notices targeting file-sharers.

But while the authorization of unlicensed downloads will only frustrate an already irritated United States, the other half of the deal is likely to be welcomed.

Under the recommendations, Internet services will not only be required to remove infringing content from their platforms, they’ll also be compelled to prevent that same content from reappearing. Failure to comply will result in prosecution. It’s a standard that copyright holders everywhere are keen for governments to adopt.

Additionally, the spotlight will fall on datacenters and webhosts that have a reputation for being popular with pirate sites. It’s envisioned that such providers will be prevented from offering services to known pirate sites, with the government clearly stating that services with piracy at the heart of their business models will be ripe for action.

But where there’s a plus for copyright holders, the Swiss have another minus. Previously it was proposed that in serious cases authorities should be able to order the ISP blocking of “obviously illegal content or sources.” That proposal has now been dropped, meaning no site-blocking will be allowed.

Other changes in the draft envision an extension of the copyright term from 50 to 70 years and improved protection for photographic works. The proposals also feature increased freedoms for researchers and libraries, who will be able to use copyrighted works without obtaining permission from rightsholders.

Overall the proposals are a pretty mixed bag but as Minister of Justice Simonetta Sommaruga said Wednesday, if no one is prepared to compromise, no one will get anything.

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

Looming Net Neutrality Repeal Sparks BitTorrent Throttling Fears

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/looming-net-neutrality-repeal-sparks-bittorrent-throttling-fears-171123/

Ten years ago we uncovered that Comcast was systematically slowing down BitTorrent traffic to ease the load on its network.

The Comcast case ignited a broad discussion about net neutrality and provided the setup for the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which came into effect three years later.

This Open Internet Order then became the foundation of the net neutrality regulation that was adopted in 2015 and still applies today. The big change compared to the earlier attempt was that ISPs can be regulated as carriers under Title II.

These rules provide a clear standard that prevents ISPs from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of “lawful” traffic. However, this may soon be over as the FCC is determined to repeal it.

FCC head Ajit Pai recently told Reuters that the current rules are too restrictive and hinder competition and innovation, which is ultimately not in the best interests of consumers

“The FCC will no longer be in the business of micromanaging business models and preemptively prohibiting services and applications and products that could be pro-competitive,” Pai said. “We should simply set rules of the road that let companies of all kinds in every sector compete and let consumers decide who wins and loses.”

This week the FCC released its final repeal draft (pdf), which was met with fierce resistance from the public and various large tech companies. They fear that, if the current net neutrality rules disappear, throttling and ‘fast lanes’ for some services will become commonplace.

This could also mean that BitTorrent traffic could become a target once again, with it being blocked or throttled across many networks, as The Verge just pointed out.

Blocking BitTorrent traffic would indeed become much easier if current net neutrality safeguards were removed. However, the FCC believes that the current “no-throttling rules are unnecessary to prevent the harms that they were intended to thwart,” such as blocking entire file transfer protocols.

Instead, the FCC notes that antitrust law, FTC enforcement of ISP commitments, and consumer expectations will prevent any unwelcome blocking. This is also the reason why ISPs adopted no-blocking policies even when they were not required to, they point out.

Indeed, when the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decimated the Open Internet Order in 2014, Comcast was quick to assure subscribers that it had no plans to start throttling torrents again. Yes, that offers no guarantees for the future.

The FCC goes on to mention that the current net neutrality rules don’t prevent selective blocking. They can already be bypassed by ISPs if they offer “curated services,” which allows them to filter content on viewpoint grounds. And Edge providers also block content because it violates their “viewpoints,” citing the Cloudflare termination of The Daily Stormer.

Net neutrality supporters see these explanations as weak excuses and have less trust in the self-regulating capacity of the ISP industry that the FCC, calling for last minute protests to stop the repeal.

For now it appears, however, that the FCC is unlikely to change its course, as Ars Technica reports.

While net neutrality concerns are legitimate, for BitTorrent users not that much will change.

As we’ve highlighted in the past, blocking pirate sites is already an option under the current rules. The massive copyright loophole made sure of that. Targeting all torrent traffic is even an option, in theory.

If net neutrality is indeed repealed next month, blocking or throttling BitTorrent traffic across the entire network will become easier, no doubt. For now, however, there are no signs that any ISPs plan to do so.

If it does, we will know soon enough. The FCC will require ISPs to be transparent under the new plan. They have to disclose network management practices, blocking efforts, commercial prioritization, and the like.

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

Google & Apple Order Telegram to Nuke Channel Over Taylor Swift Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-apple-order-telegram-to-nuke-channel-over-taylor-swift-piracy-171123/

Financed by Russian Facebook (vKontakte) founder Pavel Durov, Telegram is a multi-platform messaging system that has grown from 100,000 daily users in 2013 to an impressive 100 million users in February 2016.

“Telegram is a messaging app with a focus on speed and security, it’s super-fast, simple and free. You can use Telegram on all your devices at the same time — your messages sync seamlessly across any number of your phones, tablets or computers,” the company’s marketing reads.

One of the attractive things about Telegram is that it allows users to communicate with each other using end-to-end encryption. In some cases, these systems are used for content piracy, of music and other smaller files in particular. This is compounded by the presence of user-programmed bots, which are able to search the web for illegal content and present it in a Telegram channel to which other users can subscribe.

While much of this sharing files under the radar when conducted privately, it periodically attracts attention from copyright holders when it takes place in public channels. That appears to have happened recently when popular channel “Any Suitable Pop” was completely disabled by Telegram, an apparent first following a copyright complaint.

According to channel creator Anton Vagin, the action by Telegram was probably due to the unauthorized recent sharing of the Taylor Swift album ‘Reputation’. However, it was the route of complaint that proves of most interest.

Rather than receiving a takedown notice directly from Big Machine Records, the label behind Swift’s releases, Telegram was forced into action after receiving threats from Apple and Google, the companies that distribute the Telegram app for iOS and Android respectively.

According to a message Vagin received from Telegram support, Apple and Google had received complaints about Swift’s album from Universal Music, the distributor of Big Machine Records. The suggestion was that if Telegram didn’t delete the infringing channel, distribution of the Telegram app via iTunes and Google Play would be at risk. Vagin received no warning notices from any of the companies involved.

Message from Telegram support

According to Russian news outlet VC.ru, which first reported the news, the channel was blocked in Telegram’s desktop applications, as well as in versions for Android, macOS and iOS. However, the channel still existed on the web and via Windows phone applications but all messages within had been deleted.

The fact that Google played a major role in the disappearing of the channel was subsequently confirmed by Telegram founder Pavel Durov, who commented that it was Google who “ultimately demanded the blocking of this channel.”

That Telegram finally caved into the demands of Google and/or Apple doesn’t really come as a surprise. In Telegram’s frequently asked questions section, the company specifically mentions the need to comply with copyright takedown demands in order to maintain distribution via the companies’ app marketplaces.

“Our mission is to provide a secure means of communication that works everywhere on the planet. To do this in the places where it is most needed (and to continue distributing Telegram through the App Store and Google Play), we have to process legitimate requests to take down illegal public content (sticker sets, bots, and channels) within the app,” the company notes.

Putting pressure on Telegram via Google and Apple over piracy isn’t a new development. In the past, representatives of the music industry threatened to complain to the companies over a channel operated by torrent site RuTracker, which was set up to share magnet links.

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

Sci-Hub Loses Domain Names, But Remains Resilient

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-loses-domain-names-but-remains-resilient-171122/

While Sci-Hub is praised by thousands of researchers and academics around the world, copyright holders are doing everything in their power to wipe the site from the web.

Following a $15 million defeat against Elsevier in June, the American Chemical Society won a default judgment of $4.8 million in copyright damages earlier this month.

The publisher was further granted a broad injunction, requiring various third-party services to stop providing access to the site. This includes domain registries, which have the power to suspend domains worldwide if needed.

Yesterday, several of Sci-Hub’s domain names became unreachable. While the site had some issues in recent weeks, several people noticed that the present problems are more permanent.

Sci-hub.io, sci-hub.cc, and sci-hub.ac now have the infamous “serverhold” status which suggests that the responsible registries intervened. The status, which has been used previously when domain names are flagged for copyright issues, strips domains of their DNS entries.

Serverhold

This effectively means that the domain names in question have been rendered useless. However, history has also shown that Sci-Hub’s operator Alexandra Elbakyan doesn’t easily back down. Quite the contrary.

In a message posted on the site’s VK page and Twitter, the operator points out that users can update their DNS servers to the IP-addresses 80.82.77.83 and 80.82.77.84, to access it freely again. This rigorous measure will direct all domain name lookups through Sci-Hub’s servers.

Sci-Hub’s tweet

In addition, the Sci-Hub.bz domain and the .onion address on the Tor network still appear to work just fine for most people.

It’s clear that Ukraine-born Elbakyan has no intention of throwing in the towel. By providing free access to published research, she sees it as simply helping millions of less privileged academics to do their work properly.

Authorized or not, among researchers there is still plenty of demand and support for Sci-Hub’s service. The site hosts dozens of millions of academic papers and receives millions of visitors per month.

Many visits come from countries where access to academic journals is limited, such as Iran, Russia and China. But even in countries where access is more common, a lot of researchers visit the site.

While the domain problems may temporarily make the site harder to find for some, it’s not likely to be the end for Sch-Hub.

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

Game of Thrones Leaks “Carried Out By Former Iranian Military Hacker”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/game-of-thrones-leaks-carried-out-by-former-iranian-military-hacker-171122/

Late July it was reported that hackers had stolen proprietary information from media giant HBO.

The haul was said to include confidential details of the then-unreleased fourth episode of the latest Game of Thrones season, plus episodes of Ballers, Barry, Insecure, and Room 104.

“Hi to all mankind,” an email sent to reporters read. “The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones……!!!!!!”

In follow-up correspondence, the hackers claimed to have penetrated HBO’s internal network, gaining access to emails, technical platforms, and other confidential information.

Image released by the hackers

Soon after, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler confirmed a breach at his company, telling employees that there had been a “cyber incident” in which information and programming had been taken.

“Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us. I can assure you that senior leadership and our extraordinary technology team, along with outside experts, are working round the clock to protect our collective interests,” he said.

During mid-August, problems persisted, with unreleased shows hitting the Internet. HBO appeared rattled by the ongoing incident, refusing to comment to the media on every new development. Now, however, it appears the tide is turning on HBO’s foe.

In a statement last evening, Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the FBI, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging a 29-year-old man with offenses carried out against HBO.

“Behzad Mesri, an Iranian national who had previously hacked computer systems for the Iranian military, allegedly infiltrated HBO’s systems, stole proprietary data, including scripts and plot summaries for unaired episodes of Game of Thrones, and then sought to extort HBO of $6 million in Bitcoins,” Kim said.

“Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice. American ingenuity and creativity is to be cultivated and celebrated — not hacked, stolen, and held for ransom. For hackers who test our resolve in protecting our intellectual property — even those hiding behind keyboards in countries far away — eventually, winter will come.”

According to the Department of Justice, Mesri honed his computer skills working for the Iranian military, conducting cyber attacks against enemy military systems, nuclear software, and Israeli infrastructure. He was also a member of the Turk Black Hat hacking team which defaced hundreds of websites with the online pseudonym “Skote Vahshat”.

The indictment states that Mesri began his campaign against HBO during May 2017, when he conducted “online reconnaissance” of HBO’s networks and employees. Between May and July, he then compromised a number of HBO employee user accounts and used them to access the company’s data and TV shows, copying them to his own machines.

After allegedly obtaining around 1.5 terabytes of HBO’s data, Mesri then began to extort HBO, warning that unless a ransom of $5.5 million wasn’t paid in Bitcoin, the leaking would begin. When the amount wasn’t paid, three days later Mesri told HBO that the amount had now risen to $6m and as an additional punishment, data could be wiped from HBO’s servers.

Subsequently, on or around July 30 and continuing through August 2017, Mesri allegedly carried through with his threats, leaking information and TV shows online and promoting them via emails to members of the press.

As a result of the above, Mesri is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of computer hacking (five years), three counts of threatening to impair the confidentiality of information (five years each), and one count of interstate transmission of an extortionate communication (two years). No copyright infringement offenses are mentioned in the indictment.

The big question now is whether the US will ever get their hands on Mesri. The answer to that, at least through any official channels, seems to be a resounding no. There is no extradition treaty between the US and Iran meaning that if Mesri stays put, he’s likely to remain a free man.

Wanted

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Google Wipes 786 Pirate Sites From Search Results

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-wipes-786-pirate-sites-from-search-results-171121/

Late July, President Vladimir Putin signed a new law which requires local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor to maintain a list of banned domains while identifying sites, services, and software that provide access to them.

Rozcomnadzor is required to contact the operators of such services with a request for them to block banned resources. If they do not, then they themselves will become blocked. In addition, search engines are also required to remove blocked resources from their search results, in order to discourage people from accessing them.

Removing entire domains from search results is a controversial practice and something which search providers have long protested against. They argue that it’s not their job to act as censors and in any event, content remains online, whether it’s indexed by search or not.

Nevertheless, on October 1 the new law (“On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection”) came into effect and it appears that Russia’s major search engines have been very busy in its wake.

According to a report from Rozcomnadzor, search providers Google, Yandex, Mail.ru, Rambler, and Sputnik have stopped presenting information in results for sites that have been permanently blocked by ISPs following a decision by the Moscow City Court.

“To date, search engines have stopped access to 786 pirate sites listed in the register of Internet resources which contain content distributed in violation of intellectual property rights,” the watchdog reports.

The domains aren’t being named by Rozcomnadzor or the search engines but are almost definitely those sites that have had complaints filed against them at the City Court on multiple occasions but have failed to take remedial action. Also included will be mirror and proxy sites which either replicate or facilitate access to these blocked and apparently defiant domains.

The news comes in the wake of reports earlier this month that Russia is considering a rapid site blocking mechanism that could see domains rendered inaccessible within 24 hours, without any parties having to attend a court hearing.

While it’s now extremely clear that Russia has one of the most aggressive site-blocking regimes in the world, with both ISPs and search engines required to prevent access to infringing sites, it’s uncertain whether these measures will be enough to tackle rampant online piracy.

New research published in October by Group-IB revealed that despite thousands of domains being blocked, last year the market for pirate video in Russia more than doubled.

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

170 ‘Pirate’ IPTV Vendors Throw in the Towel Facing Legal Pressure

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/170-pirate-iptv-vendors-throw-the-in-the-towel-facing-legal-pressure-171121/

Pirate streaming boxes are all the rage this year. Not just among the dozens of millions of users, they are on top of the anti-piracy agenda as well.

Dubbed Piracy 3.0 by the MPAA, copyright holders are trying their best to curb this worrisome trend. In the Netherlands local anti-piracy group BREIN is leading the charge.

Backed by the major film studios, the organization booked a significant victory earlier this year against Filmspeler. In this case, the European Court of Justice ruled that selling or using devices pre-configured to obtain copyright-infringing content is illegal.

Paired with the earlier GS Media ruling, which held that companies with a for-profit motive can’t knowingly link to copyright-infringing material, this provides a powerful enforcement tool.

With these decisions in hand, BREIN previously pressured hundreds of streaming box vendors to halt sales of hardware with pirate addons, but it didn’t stop there. This week the group also highlighted its successes against vendors of unauthorized IPTV services.

“BREIN has already stopped 170 illegal providers of illegal media players and/or IPTV subscriptions. Even providers that only offer illegal IPTV subscriptions are being dealt with,” BREIN reports.

In addition to shutting down the trade in IPTV services, the anti-piracy group also removed 375 advertisements for such services from various marketplaces.

“This is illegal commerce. If you wait until you are warned, you are too late,” BREIN director Tim Kuik says.

“You can be held personally liable. You can also be charged and criminally prosecuted. Willingly committing commercial copyright infringement can lead to a 82,000 euro fine and 4 years imprisonment,” he adds.

While most pirate IPTV vendors threw in the towel voluntarily, some received an extra incentive. Twenty signed a settlement with BREIN for varying amounts, up to tens of thousands of euros. They all face further penalties if they continue to sell pirate subscriptions.

In some cases, the courts were involved. This includes the recent lawsuit against MovieStreamer, that was ordered to stop its IPTV hyperlinking activities immediately. Failure to do so will result in a 5,000 euro per day fine. In addition, the vendor was also ordered to pay legal costs of 17,527 euros.

While BREIN has booked plenty of successes already, as exampled here, the pirate streaming box problem is far from solved. The anti-piracy group currently has one case pending in court, but more are likely to follow in the near future.

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

UK Government Publishes Advice on ‘Illicit Streaming Devices’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-government-publishes-advice-on-illicit-streaming-devices-171120/

With torrents and other methods of obtaining content simmering away in the background, unauthorized streaming is the now the method of choice for millions of pirates around the globe.

Previously accessible only via a desktop browser, streaming is now available on a wide range of devices, from tablets and phones through to dedicated set-top box. These, collectively, are now being branded Illicit Streaming Devices (ISD) by the entertainment industries.

It’s terminology the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office has adopted this morning. In a new public advisory, the IPO notes that illicit streaming is the watching of content without the copyright owner’s permission using a variety of devices.

“Illicit streaming devices are physical boxes that are connected to your TV or USB sticks that plug into the TV such as adapted Amazon Fire sticks and so called ‘Kodi’ boxes or Android TV boxes,” the IPO reports.

“These devices are legal when used to watch legitimate, free to air, content. They become illegal once they are adapted to stream illicit content, for example TV programmes, films and subscription sports channels without paying the appropriate subscriptions.”

The IPO notes that streaming devices usually need to be loaded with special software add-ons in order to view copyright-infringing content. However, there are now dedicated apps available to view movies and TV shows which can be loaded straight on to smartphones and tablets.

But how can people know if the device they have is an ISD or not? According to the IPO it’s all down to common sense. If people usually charge for the content you’re getting for free, it’s illegal.

“If you are watching television programmes, films or sporting events where you would normally be paying to view them and you have not paid, you are likely to be using an illicit streaming device (ISD) or app. This could include a film recently released in the cinema, a sporting event that is being broadcast by BT Sport or a television programme, like Game of Thrones, that is only available on Sky,” the IPO says.

In an effort to familiarize the public with some of the terminology used by ISD sellers on eBay, Amazon or Gumtree, for example, the IPO then wanders into a bit of a minefield that really needs much greater clarification.

First up, the government states that ISDs are often described online as being “Fully loaded”, which is a colloquial term for a device with addons already installed. Although they won’t all be infringing, it’s very often the case that the majority are intended to be, so no problems here.

However, the IPO then says that people should keep an eye out for the term ‘jail broken’, which many readers will understand to be the process some hardware devices, such as Apple products, are put through in order for third-party software to be run on them. On occasion, some ISD sellers do put this term on Android devices, for example, but it’s incorrect, in a tiny minority, and of course misleading.

The IPO also warns people against devices marketed as “Plug and Play” but again this is a dual-use term and shouldn’t put consumers off a purchase without a proper investigation. A search on eBay this morning for that exact term didn’t yield any ISDs at all, only games consoles that can be plugged in and played with a minimum of fuss.

“Subscription Gift”, on the other hand, almost certainly references an illicit IPTV or satellite card-sharing subscription and is rarely used for anything else. 100% illegal, no doubt.

The government continues by giving reasons why people should avoid ISDs, not least since their use deprives the content industries of valuable revenue.

“[The creative industries] provide employment for more than 1.9 million people and contributes £84.1 billion to our economy. Using illicit streaming devices is illegal,” the IPO writes.

“If you are not paying for this content you are depriving industry of the revenue it needs to fund the next generation of TV programmes, films and sporting events we all enjoy. Instead it provides funds for the organized criminals who sell or adapt these illicit devices.”

Then, in keeping with the danger-based narrative employed by the entertainment industries’ recently, the government also warns that ISDs can have a negative effect on child welfare, not to mention on physical safety in the home.

“These devices often lack parental controls. Using them could expose children or young people to explicit or age inappropriate content,” the IPO warns.

“Another important reason for consumers to avoid purchasing these streaming devices is from an electrical safety point of view. Where devices and their power cables have been tested, some have failed EU safety standards and have the potential to present a real danger to the public, causing a fire in your home or premises.”

While there can be no doubt whatsoever that failing EU electrical standards in any way is unacceptable for any device, the recent headlines stating that “Kodi Boxes Can Kill Their Owners” are sensational at best and don’t present the full picture.

As reported this weekend, simply not having a recognized branding on such devices means that they fail electrical standards, with non-genuine phone chargers presenting a greater risk around the UK.

Finally, the government offers some advice for people who either want to get off the ISD gravy train or ensure that others don’t benefit from it.

“These devices can be used legally by removing the software. If you are unsure get advice to help you use the device legally. If you wish to watch content that’s only available via subscription, such as sports, you should approach the relevant provider to find out about legal ways to watch,” the IPO advises.

Get it Right from a Genuine Site helps you get the music, TV, films, games, books, newspapers, magazines and sport that you love from genuine services.”

And, if the public thinks that people selling such devices deserve a visit from the authorities, people are asked to report them to the Crimestoppers charity via an anonymous hotline.

The government’s guidance is exactly what one might expect, given that the advisory is likely to have been strongly assisted by companies including the Federation Against Copyright Theft, Premier League, and Sky, who have taken the lead in this area during the past year or so.

The big question is, however, whether many people using these devices really believe that obtaining subscription TV, movies, and sports for next to free is 100% legal. If there are people out there they must be in the minority but at least the government itself is now putting them on the right path.

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

Kodi-Addon Developer Launches Fundraiser to Fight “Copyright Bullies”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-addon-developer-launches-fundraiser-to-fight-copyright-bullies-171120/

Earlier this year, American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network targeted two well-known players in the third-party Kodi add-on ecosystem.

In a complaint filed in a federal court in Texas, add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were accused of copyright infringement. As a result, both are facing up to $150,000 for each offense.

While the case was filed in Texas, neither of the defendants live there, or even in the United States. The owner and operator of TVAddons is Adam Lackman, who resides in Montreal, Canada. ZemTV’s developer Shahjahan Durrani is even further away in London, UK.

Over the past few months, Lackman has spoken out in public on several occasions, but little was known about the man behind ZemTV. Today, however, he also decided to open up, asking for support in his legal battle against the Dish Network.

Shahjahan Durrani, Shani for short, doesn’t hide the fact that he was the driving force behind the Kodi-addons ZemTV, LiveStreamsPro, and F4MProxy. While the developer has never set foot in Texas, he is willing to defend himself. Problem is, he lacks the funds to do so.

“I’ve never been to Texas in my life, I’m from London, England,” Shani explains. “Somehow a normal chap like me is expected to defend himself against a billion dollar media giant. I don’t have the money to fight this on my own, and hope my friends will help support my fight against the expansion of copyright liability.”

Shani’s fundraiser went live a few hours ago and the first donations are now starting to come in. He has set a target of $8,500 set for his defense fund so there is still a long way to go.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Shani explains that he got into Kodi addon development to broaden his coding skills and learn Python. ZemTV was a tool to watch recorded shows from zemtv.com, which he always assumed were perfectly legal, on his Apple TV. Then, he decided to help others to do the same.

“The reason why I published the addon was that I saw it as a community helping each other out, and this was my way to give back. I never received any money from anybody and I wanted to keep it pure and free,” Shani tells us.

ZemTV was a passive service, simply scraping content from a third party source, he explains. The addon provided an interface but did not host or control any allegedly infringing content directly.

“I had no involvement nor control over any of the websites or content sources that were allegedly accessible through ZemTV. I did not host nor take part in the sharing of any form of streaming media. As an open source developer, I should not be held liable for the potential abuse of my code,” the developer stresses.

Dish Network sees things differently, of course. In its complaint, the company accused Shani of illegally retransmitting their copyright protected channels while asking for donations to maintain the project.

The case is perhaps not as straightforward as either side presents it. However, it is in the best interests of the general public that both sides are properly heard. This is the first case against a Kodi-addon developer and the outcome will set an important precedent.

“This lawsuit is part of a targeted effort to destroy the Kodi addon community. The fight is rigged against the little guy, they are trying to make something illegal that shouldn’t be illegal. They tried to do it with the VCR, and now years and years later they are trying to do it with Kodi.

“Since I am the only addon developer to date who is actually fighting the wrath of big media bullies, it is crucial that I win my case,” Shani adds.

Going forward, the ZemTV developer believes that copyright holders are better off going after the content providers directly. If the sources are down, any problematic addons will also stop working. Rightholders can even work with addon developers and use addons to find infringing content providers.

“I think the copyright holders should target the sources, it’s as simple as that,” Shani tells us.

The fundraiser campaign is now public on Generosity.com. At the time of writing the ticker sits at $50, so there is still a long way to go before the developer can organize a proper defense.

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

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 11/20/17

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-pirated-movies-week-bittorrent-112017/

This week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the most downloaded movie again.

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) Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets 6.7 / trailer
2 (…) Logan Lucky 7.2 / trailer
3 (…) Wind River 7.8 / trailer
4 (2) The Hitman’s Bodyguard 7.0 / trailer
5 (4) Thor Ragnarok (HDTS/Cam) 8.2 / trailer
6 (9) Atomic Blonde 7.0 / trailer
7 (5) Spider-Man: Homecoming 7.8 / trailer
8 (3) 24 Hours to live 5.7 / trailer
9 (…) Rememory 6.2 / trailer
10 (8) War for the Planet of the Apes 7.8 / trailer

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

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

Danes Deploy ‘Disruption Machine’ to Curb Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/danes-deploy-disruption-machine-to-curb-online-piracy-171119/

Over the years copyright holders have tried a multitude of measures to curb copyright infringement, with varying levels of success.

By now it’s well known that blocking or even shutting down a pirate site doesn’t help much. As long as there are alternatives, people will simply continue to download or stream elsewhere.

Increasingly, major entertainment industry companies are calling for a broader and more coordinated response. They would like to see ISPs, payment processors, advertisers, search engines, and social media companies assisting in their anti-piracy efforts. Voluntarily, or even with a legal incentive, if required.

In Denmark, local anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen has a similar goal and they are starting to make progress. The outfit is actively building a piracy “disruption machine” that tackles the issue from as many sides as it can.

The disruption machine is built around an Infringing Website List (IWL), which is not related to a similarly-named initiative from the UK police. This list is made up of pirate sites that have been found to facilitate copyright infringement by a Danish court.

“The IWL is a part of the disruption machine that RettighedsAlliancen has developed in collaboration with many stakeholders in the online community,” the group’s CEO Maria Fredenslund tells TorrentFreak.

The stakeholders include major ISPs, but also media companies, MasterCard, Google, and Microsoft. With help from the local government they signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Their goal is to make the internet a safe and legitimate platform for consumers and businesses while limiting copyright infringement and associated crime.

MoU signees

There are currently twelve court orders on which the list is based and two more are expected to come in before the end of the year. As a result, approximately 600 pirate sites are on the IWL, making them harder to find.

Every time a new court order is handed down, RettighedsAlliancen distributes an updated list to their the network of stakeholders.

“Currently, all major ISPs in Denmark have agreed to implement the IWL in their systems based on a joint Code of Conduct. This means that all the ISPs jointly will block their customers access to infringing services thus amplifying the impact of a blocking order by magnitudes,” Fredenslund explains.

Thus far ISPs are actively blocking 100 pirate sites, resulting in significant traffic drops. The rest of the list has yet to be implemented.

The IWL is also used in the online advertising industry, where several major advertising brokers have signed a joint agreement not to show advertising on these sites. This shuts off part of the revenue streams to pirate sites which, in theory, should make them less profitable.

A similar approach is being taken by major payment providers, who are preventing known pirate sites from processing transactions through their services. Every company has its own measures, but the overlapping goal is to frustrate pirate sites and reduce copyright infringement.

The Disruption Machine

It’s interesting to see that Google is listed as a partner since they don’t support general website blockades. However, Google said that it would demote sites on the IWL in its search results.

While these are all positive developments, according to the anti-piracy group, it’s just the start. RettighedsAlliancen also believes other tools and services could join in. Browser plugins could use the IWL to identify illegal sites, for example, and the options are endless.

“Likewise, large companies, institutions, and public authorities are also well-suited to implement the IWL in their local networks. For example, to prevent students from accessing illegal content while at school or university,” Fredenslund says.

“Looking further ahead, social media platforms such as Facebook are used to a great extent to consume content online and it is therefore obvious that they should also incorporate the IWL in their systems to prevent their users from harm and preventing copyright infringement.”

This model is not completely unique, of course. We’ve seen several elements being implemented in other countries as well, and copyright holders have been pushing voluntary agreements for quite some time now.

What’s new, however, is that it’s clearly defined as a strategy by the Danish group. And by labeling the strategy as a “disruption machine” it already sounds effective, which is part of the job.

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

Original Torrentz Domain Names Listed For Sale

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/original-torrentz-domain-names-listed-for-sale-171119/

Last year, the torrent ecosystem lost two of its biggest sites. First KickassTorrents was taken down following a criminal investigation by the FBI, resulting in indictments against the operators.

A few days later, Torrentz.eu decided to close its doors as well, albeit voluntarily. Without prior warning, all torrent listings were removed from the meta-search engine, which was the third largest torrent site at the time.

The site’s operator kept the website online, but instead of offering links to the usual torrents, its users were left with the following message: “Torrentz will always love you. Farewell.”

Today, more than a year later, not much has changed. Torrentz is still online but the torrent search engine is still not functional. This role was taken over by an unrelated site carrying the name Torrentz2, which has millions of daily visitors itself now.

However, according to a message posted on the original Torrentz site, things may change in the near future. The original Torrentz domain names, including Torrentz.eu, Torrentz.com and Torrentz.in, are for listed sale.

Torrentz for sale

Considering the history of the site and the fact that it still has quite a bit of traffic, this may pique the interest of some online entrepreneurs.

For sentimental Torrentz fans, a sale can go both ways. It could either be used for a new torrent related venture, or someone could scoop it up just to fill it with ads, or even worse.

One thing potential buyers have to be aware of is that the site is still blocked in several countries, including the UK. This, despite the fact that it hasn’t carried any links to infringing content for over a year.

TorrentFreak reached out to the owner of Torrentz to find out why he decided to sell the site now. At the time of writing we haven’t heard back yet, but it’s clear that he’s ready to move on.

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

“The Commercial Usenet Stinks on All Sides,” Anti-Piracy Boss Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/the-commercial-usenet-stinks-on-all-sides-anti-piracy-boss-says-171118/

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has targeted pirates of all shapes and sizes over the past several years.

It’s also one of the few groups keeping a close eye on Usenet piracy. Although Usenet and associated piracy are a few decades old already and relatively old-fashioned, the area still has millions of frequent users. This hasn’t escaped the attention of law enforcement.

Last week police in Germany launched one of the largest anti-piracy operations in recent history. Houses of dozens of suspects connected to Usenet forums were searched, with at least 1,000 gigabytes of data and numerous computers seized for evidence.

In their efforts, German authorities received help from international colleagues in the Netherlands, Spain, San Marino, Switzerland and Canada. Rightfully so, according to BREIN boss Tim Kuik, who describes Usenet as a refuge for pirates.

“Usenet was originally for text only. People were able to ask questions and exchange information via newsgroups. After it became possible to store video and music as Usenet text messages, it became a refuge for illegal copies of everything. That’s where the revenue model is based on today,” Kuik says.

BREIN states that uploaders, Usenet forums, and Usenet resellers all work in tandem. Resellers provide free accounts to popular uploaders, for example, which generates more traffic and demand for subscriptions. That’s how resellers and providers earn their money.

The same resellers also advertise on popular Usenet forums where links to pirated files are shared, suggesting that they specifically target these users. For example, one of the resellers targeted by BREIN in the past, was sponsoring one of the sites that were raided last week, BREIN notes.

Last year BREIN signed settlements with several Usenet uploaders. This was in part facilitated by a court order, directing Usenet provider Eweka to identify a former subscriber who supposedly shared infringing material.

Following this verdict, several Dutch Usenet servers were taken over by a San Marino company. But, according to BREIN this company can also be ordered to share customer information if needed.

“It is not unthinkable that this construction has been called into existence by Usenet companies who find themselves in hot water,” Kuik says.

According to BREIN it’s clear. Large parts of Usenet have turned into a playground for pirates and people who profit from copyright infringement. This all happens while the legitimate rightsholders don’t see a penny.

“For a long time, there’s been a certain smell to the commercial Usenet,” Kuik says. “It’s stinking on all sides.”

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

Pirate Site Owner Found Guilty, But He Can Keep The Profits

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-owner-found-guilty-can-keep-profits/

Traditionally, Sweden has been rather tough on people who operate file-sharing sites, with The Pirate Bay case as the prime example.

In 2009, four people connected to the torrent site were found guilty of assisting copyright infringement. They all received stiff prison sentences and millions of dollars in fines.

The guilty sentence was upheld in an appeal. While the prison terms of Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström were reduced to eight, ten and four months respectively, the fines swelled to $6.5 million.

This week another torrent related filesharing case concluded in Sweden, but with an entirely different outcome. IDG reports that the 47-year-old operator of Filmfix was sentenced to 120 hours of community service.

Filmfix.se offered community-curated links to a wide variety of pirated content hosted by external sources, including torrent sites. The operator charged users 10 Swedish Krona per month to access the service, which is little over a dollar at the current exchange rate.

With thousands of users, Filmfix provided a decent income. The site was active for more than six years and between April 2012 and October 2013 alone it generated over $88,000 in revenue. Interestingly, the court decided that the operator can keep this money.

Filmfix

While the District Court convicted the man for facilitating copyright infringement, there was no direct link between the subscription payments and pirated downloads. The paying members also had access to other unrelated features, such as the forums and chat.

Henrik Pontén, head of the local Rights Alliance, which reported the site to the police, stated that copyright holders have not demanded any damages. They may, however, launch a separate civil lawsuit in the future.

The man’s partner, who was suspected of helping out and owned the company where Filmfix’s money went to, was acquitted entirely by the District Court.

The 120-hours of community service stands in stark contrast to the prison sentences and millions of dollars in fines in The Pirate Bay case, despite there being quite a few similarities. Both relied on content uploaded by third parties and didn’t host any infringing files directly.

The lower sentence may in part be due to a fresh Supreme Court ruling in Sweden. In the case against an operator of the now-defunct private torrent tracker Swepirate, the Court recently ruled that prison sentences should not automatically be presumed in file-sharing cases.

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

Ares Kodi Project Calls it Quits After Hollywood Cease & Desist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ares-kodi-project-calls-it-quits-after-hollywood-cease-desist-171117/

This week has been particularly bad for those involved in the Kodi addon scene. Following cease-and-desist notices from the MPA-led anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, several addon developers and repositories shut down.

With Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner, Netflix, Amazon and Sky TV all lined up for war, the third-party developers had little choice but to quit. One of those affected was the leader of the hugely popular Ares Project, which quietly disappeared mid-week.

The Ares Wizard was an extremely popular and important piece of software which allowed people to switch Kodi builds, install third-party addons, install popular repositories, change system settings, and carry out backups. It’s installed on huge numbers of machines worldwide but it will soon fall into disrepair.

The mighty Ares Wizard in action

“[This week] I was subject to a hand-delivered notice to cease-and-desist from MPA & ACE,” Ares Project leader Tekto informs TorrentFreak.

“Given the notice, we obviously shut down the repo and wizard as requested.”

The news that Ares Project is done and never coming back will be a huge blow to the community. The project just celebrated its second birthday and has grown exponentially since it first arrived on the scene.

“Ares Project started in Oct 2015. Originally it was to be a tool to setup up the video cache on Kodi correctly. However, many ideas were thrown into the pot and it became a wee bit more; such as a wizard to install community provided builds, common addons and few other tweaks and options,” Tekto says.

“For my own part I started blogging earlier that year as part of a longer-term goal to be self-funding. I always disliked seeing begging bowls out to support ‘server’ costs, many of which were cheap £5-10 per month servers that were used to gain £100s in donations.

“The blog, via affiliate links and ads, could and would provide the funds to cover our hosting costs without resorting to begging for money every weekend.”

Intrigued by this first wave of actions by ACE in Europe, TorrentFreak asked for a copy of the MPA/ACE cease-and-desist notice but unfortunately, Tekto flat-out refused. All he would tell us is that he’d agreed not to give out any copies or screenshots and that he was adhering to that 100%.

That only leaves speculation as to what grounds the MPA/ACE cited for closing the project but to be fair, it doesn’t take much thought to find a direct comparison. Earlier this year, in the BREIN v Filmspeler case, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes amounted to illegally communicating copyrighted content to the public.

With that in mind, it doesn’t take much of a leap to see how this ruling could also apply to someone distributing “fully-loaded” Kodi software builds or addons via a website. It had previously been considered a legal gray area, of course, and it was in that space that the Ares team believed it operated. After all, it took ECJ clarification for local courts in the Netherlands to be satisfied with the legal position.

“There was never any question that what we were doing was illegal. We didn’t and never have hosted any content, we always prevented discussions about illegal paid services, and never sold any devices, pre-loaded or otherwise. That used to be enough to occupy the ‘gray’ area which meant we were safe to develop our applications. That changed in 2017 as we were to discover,” Tekto notes.

Up until this week and apparently oblivious to how the earlier ECJ ruling might affect their operation, things had been going extremely well for Ares. In mid-2016, the group moved to its own support forum that attracted 100,000 signed-up members and 300,000 visitors every month.

“This was quite an achievement in terms of viral marketing but ultimately this would become part of our downfall,” Tekto says.

“The recent innovation of the ‘basket driven’ Ares Portal system seems to have triggered the legal move to shut the project down completely. This simple system gave access to hundreds of add-ons. The system removed the need for builds, blogs and YouTubers – you just shopped on the site for addons and then installed them to your device with a simple 6 digit code.”

While Ares and Tekto still didn’t believe they were doing anything illegal (addons were linked, not hosted) it is now pretty clear to them that the previous gray area has been well and truly closed, at least as far as the MPA/ACE alliance is concerned. And with that in mind, the show is over. Done. Finished.

“We are not criminals or malicious hackers, we weren’t even careful about hiding our identities. You couldn’t meet a more ordinary bunch of folks in truth,” he says.

“There was never any question we would close our doors if what we were doing crossed any boundaries of legality. So with the notice served on us, we are closing our doors and removing all our websites and applications. It’s a sad day in many ways, but nobody wants to be facing court or a potential custodial sentence, for what is essentially a hobby.”

Finally, Tekto says that others like him might want to consider their positions carefully, before they too get a knock at the door. In the meantime, he gives thanks to the project’s supporters, who have remained loyal over the past two years.

“It just leaves me to thank our users for their support and step away from the Kodi scene,” he concludes.

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

Center For Justice Wants Court to Unveil Copyright Trolling Secrets

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/center-for-justice-wants-court-to-unveil-copyright-trolling-secrets-171116/

Mass-piracy lawsuits have been plaguing the U.S. for years, targeting hundreds of thousands of alleged downloaders.

While the numbers are massive, there are only a few so-called “copyright trolling” operations running the show.

These are copyright holders, working together with lawyers and piracy tracking firms, trying to extract cash settlements from alleged subscribers.

Getting a settlement is also what the makers of the “Elf-Man” movie tried when they targeted Ryan Lamberson of Spokane Valley, Washington. Unlike most defendants, however, Lamberson put up a fight, questioning the validity of the evidence. After the filmmaker pulled out, the accused pirate ended up winning $100,000 in attorney fees.

All this happened three years ago but it appears that there might be more trouble in store for Elf-Man and related companies.

The Washington non-profit organization Center for Justice (CFJ) recently filed a motion to intervene in the case. The group, which aims to protect “the wider community from abuse by the moneyed few,” has asked the court to unseal several documents that could reveal more about how these copyright trolls operate.

The non-profit asks the court to open up several filings to the public that may reveal how film companies, investigators, and lawyers coordinated an illegal settlement factory.

“The CFJ’s position is simple: if foreign data collectors and local lawyers are feeding on the subpoena power of federal courts to extract settlements from innocent people, then the public deserves to know.

“What makes this case so important is that, based on the unsealed exhibits and declarations, it appears that a German operation is providing the ‘investigators’ and ‘experts’ that claim to identify infringing activities, but its investigators apparently have a direct financial interest and the ‘software’ is questionable at best,” CFJ adds.

Another problem mentioned by the non-profit organization is that not all defense lawyers are familiar with these ‘trolling’ cases. They sometimes need dozens of hours to research them, which costs the defendant more than the cash settlement deal offered by the copyright holder.

As a result, paying off the trolls may seem like the most logical and safe option to the accused, even when they are innocent.

CFJ hopes that the sealed documents will help to expose the copyright trolls’ “mushrooming” enterprise, not just in this particular case, but also in many similar cases where people are pressured into settling.

“The entire lawsuit may have been a sham. Which is where CFJ comes in. Money and information remain the most significant hurdles for those being named as defendants in lawsuits like this one who receive threatening settlement letters like the one Mr. Lamberson received.

“CFJ’s goal is to level the playing field and reduce the plaintiffs’ informational advantage. The common-law right of access to judicial records is especially important where, as here, the copyright ‘trolling’ risks infecting the judicial system,” the non-profit adds.

The recent filings were spotted by SJD from Fight Copyright Trolls, who rightfully notes that we still have to see whether the documents will be made public, or not. If they are indeed unsealed, it may trigger a response from other accused pirates, perhaps even a class action suit.

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Center For Justice’s full motion to intervene is available here (pdf).

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