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TV Broadcaster Wants App Stores Blocked to Prevent Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tv-broadcaster-wants-app-stores-blocked-to-prevent-piracy-180416/

After first targeting torrent and regular streaming platforms with blocking injunctions, last year Village Roadshow and studios including Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount began looking at a new threat.

The action targeted HDSubs+, a reasonably popular IPTV service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee. The application was filed during October 2017 and targeted Australia’s largest ISPs.

In parallel, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) launched a similar action, demanding that the same ISPs (including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus subsidiaries) block several ‘pirate’ IPTV services, named in court as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

Due to the similarity of the cases, both applications were heard in Federal Court in Sydney on Friday. Neither case is as straightforward as blocking a torrent or basic streaming portal, so both applicants are having to deal with additional complexities.

The TVB case is of particular interest. Up to a couple of dozen URLs maintain the services, which are used to provide the content, an EPG (electronic program guide), updates and sundry other features. While most of these appear to fit the description of an “online location” designed to assist copyright infringement, where the Android-based software for the IPTV services is hosted provides an interesting dilemma.

ComputerWorld reports that the apps – which offer live broadcasts, video-on-demand, and catch-up TV – are hosted on as-yet-unnamed sites which are functionally similar to Google Play or Apple’s App Store. They’re repositories of applications that also carry non-infringing apps, such as those for Netflix and YouTube.

Nevertheless, despite clear knowledge of this dual use, TVB wants to have these app marketplaces blocked by Australian ISPs, which would not only render the illicit apps inaccessible to the public but all of the non-infringing ones too. Part of its argument that this action would be reasonable appears to be that legal apps – such as Netflix’s for example – can also be freely accessed elsewhere.

It will be up to Justice Nicholas to decide whether the “primary purpose” of these marketplaces is to infringe or facilitate the infringement of TVB’s copyrights. However, TVB also appears to have another problem which is directly connected to the copyright status in Australia of its China-focused live programming.

Justice Nicholas questioned whether watching a stream in Australia of TVB’s live Chinese broadcasts would amount to copyright infringement because no copy of that content is being made.

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

One of the problems appears to be that China is not a party to the 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations. However, TVB is arguing that it should still receive protection because it airs pre-recorded content and the live broadcasts are also archived for re-transmission via catch-up services.

The question over whether unchoreographed live broadcasts receive protection has been raised in other regions but in most cases, a workaround has been found. The presence of broadcaster logos on screen (which receive copyright protection) is a factor and it’s been reported that broadcasters are able to record the ‘live’ action and transmit a copy just a couple of seconds later, thereby broadcasting an already-copyrighted work.

While TVB attempts to overcome its issues, Village Roadshow is facing some of its own in its efforts to take down HDSubs+.

It appears that at least partly in response to the Roadshow legal action, the service has undergone some modifications, including a change of brand to ‘Press Play Extra’. As reported by ZDNet, there have been structural changes too, which means that Roadshow can no longer “see under the hood”.

According to Justice Nicholas, there is no evidence that the latest version of the app infringes copyright but according to counsel for Village Roadshow, the new app is merely transitional and preparing for a possible future change.

“We submit the difference to be drawn is reactive to my clients serving on the operators a notice,” counsel for Roadshow argued, with an expert describing the new app as “almost like a placeholder.”

In short, Roadshow still wants all of the target domains in its original application blocked because the company believes there’s a good chance they’ll be reactivated in the future.

None of the ISPs involved in either case turned up to the hearings on Friday, which removes one layer of complexity in what appears thus far to be less than straightforward cases.

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Australian Government Launches Pirate Site-Blocking Review

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/australian-government-launches-pirate-site-blocking-review-180214/

Following intense pressure from entertainment industry groups, in 2014 Australia began developing legislation which would allow ‘pirate’ sites to be blocked at the ISP level.

In March 2015 the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 (pdf) was introduced to parliament and after just three months of consideration, the Australian Senate passed the legislation into law.

Soon after, copyright holders began preparing their first cases and in December 2016, the Australian Federal Court ordered dozens of local Internet service providers to block The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt, SolarMovie, plus many proxy and mirror services.

Since then, more processes have been launched establishing site-blocking as a permanent fixture on the Aussie anti-piracy agenda. But with yet more applications for injunction looming on the horizon, how is the mechanism performing and does anything else need to be done to improve or amend it?

Those are the questions now being asked by the responsible department of the Australian Government via a consultation titled Review of Copyright Online Infringement Amendment. The review should’ve been carried out 18 months after the law’s introduction in 2015 but the department says that it delayed the consultation to let more evidence emerge.

“The Department of Communications and the Arts is seeking views from stakeholders on the questions put forward in this paper. The Department welcomes single, consolidated submissions from organizations or parties, capturing all views on the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 (Online Infringement Amendment),” the consultation paper begins.

The three key questions for response are as follows:

– How effective and efficient is the mechanism introduced by the Online Infringement Amendment?

– Is the application process working well for parties and are injunctions operating well, once granted?

– Are any amendments required to improve the operation of the Online Infringement Amendment?

Given the tendency for copyright holders to continuously demand more bang for their buck, it will perhaps come as a surprise that at least for now there is a level of consensus that the system is working as planned.

“Case law and survey data suggests the Online Infringement Amendment has enabled copyright owners to work with [Internet service providers] to reduce large-scale online copyright infringement. So far, it appears that copyright owners and [ISPs] find the current arrangement acceptable, clear and effective,” the paper reads.

Thus far under the legislation there have been four applications for injunctions through the Federal Court, notably against leading torrent indexes and browser-based streaming sites, which were both granted.

The other two processes, which began separately but will be heard together, at least in part, involve the recent trend of set-top box based streaming.

Village Roadshow, Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount are currently presenting their case to the Federal Court. Along with Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), which has a separate application, the companies have been told to put together quality evidence for an April 2018 hearing.

With these applications already in the pipeline, yet more are on the horizon. The paper notes that more applications are expected to reach the Federal Court shortly, with the Department of Communications monitoring to assess whether current arrangements are refined as additional applications are filed.

Thus far, however, steady progress appears to have been made. The paper cites various precedents established as a result of the blocking process including the use of landing pages to inform Internet users why sites are blocked and who is paying.

“Either a copyright owner or [ISP] can establish a landing page. If an [ISP] wishes to avoid the cost of its own landing page, it can redirect customers to one that the copyright owner would provide. Another precedent allocates responsibility for compliance costs. Cases to date have required copyright owners to pay all or a significant proportion of compliance costs,” the paper notes.

But perhaps the issue of most importance is whether site-blocking as a whole has had any effect on the levels of copyright infringement in Australia.

The Government says that research carried out by Kantar shows that downloading “fell slightly from 2015 to 2017” with a 5-10% decrease in individuals consuming unlicensed content across movies, music and television. It’s worth noting, however, that Netflix didn’t arrive on Australian shores until May 2015, just a month before the new legislation was passed.

Research commissioned by the Department of Communications and published a year later in 2016 (pdf) found that improved availability of legal streaming alternatives was the main contributor to falling infringement rates. In a juicy twist, the report also revealed that Aussie pirates were the entertainment industries’ best customers.

“The Department is aware that other factors — such as the increasing availability of television, music and film streaming services and of subscription gaming services — may also contribute to falling levels of copyright infringement,” the paper notes.

Submissions to the consultation (pdf) are invited by 5.00 pm AEST on Friday 16 March 2018 via the government’s website.

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US Govt Brands Torrent, Streaming & Cyberlocker Sites As Notorious Markets

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-govt-brands-torrent-streaming-cyberlocker-sites-as-notorious-markets-180115/

In its annual “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets” the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has listed a long list of websites said to be involved in online piracy.

The list is compiled with high-level input from various trade groups, including the MPAA and RIAA who both submitted their recommendations (1,2) during early October last year.

With the word “allegedly” used more than two dozen times in the report, the US government notes that its report does not constitute cast-iron proof of illegal activity. However, it urges the countries from where the so-called “notorious markets” operate to take action where they can, while putting owners and facilitators on notice that their activities are under the spotlight.

“A goal of the List is to motivate appropriate action by owners, operators, and service providers in the private sector of these and similar markets, as well as governments, to reduce piracy and counterfeiting,” the report reads.

“USTR highlights the following marketplaces because they exemplify global counterfeiting and piracy concerns and because the scale of infringing activity in these marketplaces can cause significant harm to U.S. intellectual property (IP) owners, consumers, legitimate online platforms, and the economy.”

The report begins with a page titled “Issue Focus: Illicit Streaming Devices”. Unsurprisingly, particularly given their place in dozens of headlines last year, the segment focus on the set-top box phenomenon. The piece doesn’t list any apps or software tools as such but highlights the general position, claiming a cost to the US entertainment industry of $4-5 billion a year.

Torrent Sites

In common with previous years, the USTR goes on to list several of the world’s top torrent sites but due to changes in circumstances, others have been delisted. ExtraTorrent, which shut down May 2017, is one such example.

As the world’s most famous torrent site, The Pirate Bay gets a prominent mention, with the USTR noting that the site is of “symbolic importance as one of the longest-running and most vocal torrent sites. The USTR underlines the site’s resilience by noting its hydra-like form while revealing an apparent secret concerning its hosting arrangements.

“The Pirate Bay has allegedly had more than a dozen domains hosted in various countries around the world, applies a reverse proxy service, and uses a hosting provider in Vietnam to evade further enforcement action,” the USTR notes.

Other torrent sites singled out for criticism include RARBG, which was nominated for the listing by the movie industry. According to the USTR, the site is hosted in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has changed hosting services to prevent shutdowns in recent years.

1337x.to and the meta-search engine Torrentz2 are also given a prime mention, with the USTR noting that they are “two of the most popular torrent sites that allegedly infringe U.S. content industry’s copyrights.” Russia’s RuTracker is also targeted for criticism, with the government noting that it’s now one of the most popular torrent sites in the world.

Streaming & Cyberlockers

While torrent sites are still important, the USTR reserves considerable space in its report for streaming portals and cyberlocker-type services.

4Shared.com, a file-hosting site that has been targeted by dozens of millions of copyright notices, is reportedly no longer able to use major US payment providers. Nevertheless, the British Virgin Islands company still collects significant sums from premium accounts, advertising, and offshore payment processors, USTR notes.

Cyberlocker Rapidgator gets another prominent mention in 2017, with the USTR noting that the Russian-hosted platform generates millions of dollars every year through premium memberships while employing rewards and affiliate schemes.

Due to its increasing popularity as a hosting and streaming operation, Openload.co (Romania) is now a big target for the USTR. “The site is used frequently in combination with add-ons in illicit streaming devices. In November 2017, users visited Openload.co a staggering 270 million times,” the USTR writes.

Owned by a Swiss company and hosted in the Netherlands, the popular site Uploaded is also criticized by the US alongside France’s 1Fichier.com, which allegedly hosts pirate games while being largely unresponsive to takedown notices. Dopefile.pk, a Pakistan-based storage outfit, is also highlighted.

On the video streaming front, it’s perhaps no surprise that the USTR focuses on sites like FMovies (Sweden), GoStream (Vietnam), Movie4K.tv (Russia) and PrimeWire. An organization collectively known as the MovShare group which encompasses Nowvideo.sx, WholeCloud.net, NowDownload.cd, MeWatchSeries.to and WatchSeries.ac, among others, is also listed.

Unauthorized music / research papers

While most of the above are either focused on video or feature it as part of their repertoire, other sites are listed for their attention to music. Convert2MP3.net is named as one of the most popular stream-ripping sites in the world and is highlighted due to the prevalence of YouTube-downloader sites and the 2017 demise of YouTube-MP3.

“Convert2MP3.net does not appear to have permission from YouTube or other sites and does not have permission from right holders for a wide variety of music represented by major U.S. labels,” the USTR notes.

Given the amount of attention the site has received in 2017 as ‘The Pirate Bay of Research’, Libgen.io and Sci-Hub.io (not to mention the endless proxy and mirror sites that facilitate access) are given a detailed mention in this year’s report.

“Together these sites make it possible to download — all without permission and without remunerating authors, publishers or researchers — millions of copyrighted books by commercial publishers and university presses; scientific, technical and medical journal articles; and publications of technological standards,” the USTR writes.

Service providers

But it’s not only sites that are being put under pressure. Following a growing list of nominations in previous years, Swiss service provider Private Layer is again singled out as a rogue player in the market for hosting 1337x.to and Torrentz2.eu, among others.

“While the exact configuration of websites changes from year to year, this is the fourth consecutive year that the List has stressed the significant international trade impact of Private Layer’s hosting services and the allegedly infringing sites it hosts,” the USTR notes.

“Other listed and nominated sites may also be hosted by Private Layer but are using
reverse proxy services to obfuscate the true host from the public and from law enforcement.”

The USTR notes Switzerland’s efforts to close a legal loophole that restricts enforcement and looks forward to a positive outcome when the draft amendment is considered by parliament.

Perhaps a little surprisingly given its recent anti-piracy efforts and overtures to the US, Russia’s leading social network VK.com again gets a place on the new list. The USTR recognizes VK’s efforts but insists that more needs to be done.

Social networking and e-commerce

“In 2016, VK reached licensing agreements with major record companies, took steps to limit third-party applications dedicated to downloading infringing content from the site, and experimented with content recognition technologies,” the USTR writes.

“Despite these positive signals, VK reportedly continues to be a hub of infringing activity and the U.S. motion picture industry reports that they find thousands of infringing files on the site each month.”

Finally, in addition to traditional pirate sites, the US also lists online marketplaces that allegedly fail to meet appropriate standards. Re-added to the list in 2016 after a brief hiatus in 2015, China’s Alibaba is listed again in 2017. The development provoked an angry response from the company.

Describing his company as a “scapegoat”, Alibaba Group President Michael Evans said that his platform had achieved a 25% drop in takedown requests and has even been removing infringing listings before they make it online.

“In light of all this, it’s clear that no matter how much action we take and progress we make, the USTR is not actually interested in seeing tangible results,” Evans said in a statement.

The full list of sites in the Notorious Markets Report 2017 (pdf) can be found below.

– 1fichier.com – (cyberlocker)
– 4shared.com – (cyberlocker)
– convert2mp3.net – (stream-ripper)
– Dhgate.com (e-commerce)
– Dopefile.pl – (cyberlocker)
– Firestorm-servers.com (pirate gaming service)
– Fmovies.is, Fmovies.se, Fmovies.to – (streaming)
– Gostream.is, Gomovies.to, 123movieshd.to (streaming)
– Indiamart.com (e-commerce)
– Kinogo.club, kinogo.co (streaming host, platform)
– Libgen.io, sci-hub.io, libgen.pw, sci-hub.cc, sci-hub.bz, libgen.info, lib.rus.ec, bookfi.org, bookzz.org, booker.org, booksc.org, book4you.org, bookos-z1.org, booksee.org, b-ok.org (research downloads)
– Movshare Group – Nowvideo.sx, wholecloud.net, auroravid.to, bitvid.sx, nowdownload.ch, cloudtime.to, mewatchseries.to, watchseries.ac (streaming)
– Movie4k.tv (streaming)
– MP3VA.com (music)
– Openload.co (cyberlocker / streaming)
– 1337x.to (torrent site)
– Primewire.ag (streaming)
– Torrentz2, Torrentz2.me, Torrentz2.is (torrent site)
– Rarbg.to (torrent site)
– Rebel (domain company)
– Repelis.tv (movie and TV linking)
– RuTracker.org (torrent site)
– Rapidgator.net (cyberlocker)
– Taobao.com (e-commerce)
– The Pirate Bay (torrent site)
– TVPlus, TVBrowser, Kuaikan (streaming apps and addons, China)
– Uploaded.net (cyberlocker)
– VK.com (social networking)

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YouTuber Convicted For Publishing Video Piracy ‘Tutorials’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtuber-convicted-for-publishing-video-piracy-tutorials-171212/

While piracy-focused tutorials have been around for many years, the advent of streaming piracy coupled with the rise of the YouTube star created a perfect storm online.

Even a cursory search on YouTube now turns up thousands of Kodi addon and IPTV-focused channels, each vying to become the ultimate location for the latest and hottest piracy tips. While these videos don’t appear to be a priority for copyright holders, a channel operator in Brazil has just discovered that they aren’t without consequences.

The case involves Marcelo Otto Nascimento, the operator of YouTube channel Café Tecnológico. It began, strangely, with videos about baking bread but later experimented with videos on technological topics including observations on streaming content without paying for it.

In time, this attracted the negative attention of local TV industry group Associação Brasileira de Televisões por Assinatura (Brazilian Association of Television By Signature / ABTA). The group eventually took legal action, complaining about the nature of Nascimento’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

ABTA told the court that Nascimento had been posting tutorials that “encourage the use of equipment and applications designed to allow access to services and content” of its members, despite that content being protected by copyright. The trade group called for the removal of the content, an injunction against Nascimento, an apology, plus compensation for “material and moral damages.”

In his defense, Nascimento said that he merely comments on IPTV systems, does not breach copyright, doesn’t represent unfair competition, and did not cause the TV companies to incur any losses. Overall, Judge Fernando Henrique de Oliveira Biolcati did not agree with his assertions.

“[T]he plain intention of the defendant was to guide users in order for them to obtain access to the restricted content of the applicant’s associates….while gaining advantages for this, especially via remuneration from the providers of the mentioned applications (YouTube and Facebook), proportional to the volumes of visitors,” the Judge wrote in his ruling.

“This is not a question of mere disinterested comments, in the exercise of freedom of expression,” he added.

As a result, Nascimento was ordered to remove all of his online content that could be deemed instructional for pirates, in order to protect the interests of ABTA’s members and their ability to earn revenue from their content. In addition, the channel operator was forbidden from publishing any more videos of a similar nature.

On top, Nascimento must now pay the copyright holders for material damages, yet to be determined, measured from the posting of the first ‘pirate’ tutorial until such a date when all of the tutorials have been removed.

The ruling (PDF via Mg, Portuguese) also requires Nascimento to pay the equivalent of US$7,600 for “moral damages” plus extra for legal costs, during the next 15 days.

In a statement, ABTA said that following this conviction, more people could fall under the spotlight.

“ABTA is also monitoring the activities of other channels on YouTube and on social networks that publish illegal content such as channel lists, movies and ‘free’ access TV series, as well as tutorials and comparisons of devices or applications intended for illicit use (such as Megabox, HtvBox, Kodi, Dejavu, IPTV, ITVGo, etc.),” the group said.

Meanwhile, Nascimento says that he would’ve taken the videos down if only ABTA had asked him to. He will be appealing the decision, claiming that the videos did not teach people about piracy, they only demonstrated functionality. YouTube declined to comment.

Update: Following publication, a spokesperson for TVAddons – which has previously published instructional videos for Kodi – commented to TorrentFreak on the apparent urgency to take this matter to court, rather than handle via YouTube’s established complaints procedure.

“Taking the matter to courts rather than going through YouTube’s takedown system is part of an increasing pattern of legal bullying in the realm of intellectual property enforcement. Fighting a lawsuit against a major corporation can cost more than buying a house, it’s not a fair playing field for your average individual,” he said.

One of the remaining IPTV-focused videos

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Movie & TV Companies Tackle Pirate IPTV in Australia Federal Court

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/movie-tv-companies-tackle-pirate-iptv-in-australia-federal-court-171207/

As movie and TV show piracy has migrated from the desktop towards mobile and living room-based devices, copyright holders have found the need to adapt to a new enemy.

Dealing with streaming services is now high on the agenda, with third-party Kodi addons and various Android apps posing the biggest challenge. Alongside is the much less prevalent but rapidly growing pay IPTV market, in which thousands of premium channels are delivered to homes for a relatively small fee.

In Australia, copyright holders are treating these services in much the same way as torrent sites. They feel that if they can force ISPs to block them, the problem can be mitigated. Most recently, movie and TV show giants Village Roadshow, Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount filed an application targeting HDSubs+, a pirate IPTV operation servicing thousands of Australians.

Filed in October, the application for the injunction targets Australia’s largest ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus their subsidiaries. The movie and TV show companies want them to quickly block HDSubs+, to prevent it from reaching its audience.

HDSubs+ IPTV package
However, blocking isn’t particularly straightforward. Due to the way IPTV services are setup a number of domains need to be blocked, including their sales platforms, EPG (electronic program guide), software (such as an Android app), updates, and sundry other services. In HDSubs+ case around ten domains need to be restricted but in court today, Village Roadshow revealed that probably won’t deal with the problem.

HDSubs+ appears to be undergoing some kind of transformation, possibly to mitigate efforts to block it in Australia. ComputerWorld reports that it is now directing subscribers to update to a new version that works in a more evasive manner.

If they agree, HDSubs+ customers are being migrated over to a service called PressPlayPlus. It works in the same way as the old system but no longer uses the domain names cited in Village Roadshow’s injunction application. This means that DNS blocks, the usual weapon of choice for local ISPs, will prove futile.

Village Roadshow says that with this in mind it may be forced to seek enhanced IP address blocking, unless it is granted a speedy hearing for its application. This, in turn, may result in the normally cooperative ISPs returning to court to argue their case.

“If that’s what you want to do, then you’ll have to amend the orders and let the parties know,” Judge John Nicholas said.

“It’s only the former [DNS blocking] that carriage service providers have agreed to in the past.”

As things stand, Village Roadshow will return to court on December 15 for a case management hearing but in the meantime, the Federal Court must deal with another IPTV-related blocking request.

In common with its Australian and US-based counterparts, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) has launched a similar case asking local ISPs to block another IPTV service.

“Television Broadcasts Limited can confirm that we have commenced legal action in Australia to protect our copyright,” a TVB spokesperson told Computerworld.

TVB wants ISPs including Telstra, Optus, Vocus, and TPG plus their subsidiaries to block access to seven Android-based services named as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

Court documents list 21 URLs maintaining the services. They will all need to be blocked by DNS or other means, if the former proves futile. Online reports suggest that there are similarities among the IPTV products listed above. A demo for the FunTV IPTV service is shown below.

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