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Monday, October 26th, 2020
LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
7:13 pm
Movie Company Sues Pirates Who Used an Anonymous VPN

Millions of Internet users around the world use a VPN to protect their privacy online.

Another key benefit is that VPNs hide users’ true IP-address, making them more anonymous. This prevents third-party monitoring outfits from carrying out unwanted snooping.

This is one of the reasons why many torrent users have a VPN installed. Instead of displaying their own IP-address in torrent swarms, the VPN IP-address will show up. And when the provider doesn’t keep any logs, that address can’t be traced back to a single user.

Lawsuit Targets Pirating VPN Users

Such a setup seems secure, but it hasn’t prevented the makers of the action movie ‘Angel Has Fallen’ from suing several anonymous VPN users. In a recent lawsuit filed at a federal court in Colorado, the company lists fourteen alleged pirates that used an IP-address of the VPN service Private Internet Access, also known as PIA.

“Upon information and belief, Defendants DOES 3-5, 7-10 and 12-17 registered for paid accounts for Virtual Private Network (‘VPN’) service with the Colorado Internet Service Provider Private Internet Access,” the complaint reads.

The lawsuit in question lists the defendants as Does, which means that their true identities are unknown. However, attorney Kerry Culpepper, who represents Fallen Productions in this matter, hopes to find out more through third-party subpoenas.

Info From YTS User Database

The case relies in part on information from the YTS user database that was shared by the operator of the site earlier this year, as part of a settlement. This includes download details of several users, as well as their IP-addresses and email addresses.

pia does

The attorney has requested subpoenas to compel email providers, Internet providers, and Private Internet Access for more personal information. In the past, we have seen that Microsoft and ISPs such as Comcast will hand over what they have, but with a VPN this isn’t as straightforward.

PIA’s Confirmed No-Log Policy

PIA has a so-called ‘no logs’ policy which means that it can’t link a VPN IP-address and a timestamp to a unique user. This policy has been repeatedly tested and confirmed in courts.

Culpepper informs TorrentFreak that he will request a subpoena regardless. He argues that the use of a VPN shows that people were aware of their illegal activity.

“It is relevant because it shows they tried to hide their activities. It shows consciousness of the illegal activities,” Culpepper says, while pointing out an article where PIA warned YTS users that they were at risk.

PIA’s Jurisdiction Angle

In addition, by signing the terms of service, PIA users also subject themselves to the jurisdiction of Courts in Colorado. This is relevant in this case because not all defendants are from the western U.S. state.

“Most importantly, if they signed up for an account with PIA they agreed to jurisdiction in Colorado no matter where they are. Most of the PIA users were not in Colorado,” Culpepper notes.

pia colorado lawsuit

All defendants are accused of downloading a torrent titled “Angel Has Fallen (2019) [BluRay] [720p] [YTS.LT],” as well as other copyright-infringing content that isn’t specified.

Defendants Still at Risk

According to the complaint all defendants have received at least one DMCA notice. Fifteen of them were also contacted repeatedly on their known email address with cease and desist notices and settlement offers, but these were ignored.

With this lawsuit Fallen Productions hopes to uncover the identities of the people behind these IP- and email addresses.

TorrentFreak contacted PIA for a comment on the lawsuit. The company said that it hasn’t received a subpoena yet and reiterated that it can’t identify individual users.

“Private Internet Access has not received a subpoena in regards to this case. Even if we do, our response will be the same as always: PIA does not log VPN user activity,” a PIA spokesperson informed us.

That was also confirmed in more detail earlier this year in our annual VPN overview.

“There are no logs kept for any person or entity to match an IP address and a timestamp to a current or former user of our service,” PIA said at the time.

That said, defendants are still at risk, as their email addresses are known as well. That doesn’t prove anything, as YTS allowed members to sign up with a fake email, but it could lead to people being identified eventually, without PIA’s involvement.

If anything, this case shows that using a VPN only offers limited anonymity. When people use a VPN irregularly and leave other information behind, such as email addresses, they may eventually be exposed anyway.

A copy of Fallen Production’s complaint, filed as the US District Court in Colorado, is available here (pdf)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
10:29 am
Apple & Google Agree to Cooperate By Removing Pirate Apps From Stores

Pirate AppleFollowing two years of negotiations, this summer saw Russia’s State Duma adopt the final text of a new amendments to copyright law. Subsequently signed off by President Putin, the law came into effect October 1, 2020, adding new powers to Russia’s tightening anti-piracy strategy.

Remove Pirate Apps or Face ISP Blocking

With site blocking for repeated copyright infringement already on the books in Russia, the new law aims to put similar pressure on sites and services offering mobile applications that reportedly breach the rights of copyright holders. These include apps that offer movies, TV shows, and music for free, or allow the downloading of tracks from streaming platforms such as YouTube for playing offline.

While the law can target any distributor of infringing apps, Apple and Google’s position as the largest players thrust the pair into the spotlight. While ISP blocking of less popular third-party platforms may raise an eyebrow or two, the prospect of these giants becoming subjects of a blockade raised the stakes significantly.

Google and Apple Officially Invited to Begin Cooperation

Given the importance of the development, during the first week of October local telecoms watchdog Roscomndazor wrote to the US-based companies, advising them of the new amendments and requesting cooperation in the event that their platforms play host to contentious applications.

According to the government agency, both have now responded indicating they are willing to cooperate.

“Roscomnadzor received letters from Apple Inc (October 8) and Google (October 14), in which company representatives expressed gratitude for the notification of the entry into force of the new federal law of the Russian Federation and provided contacts for prompt interaction in the execution of court decisions,” Roscomnndazor’s press service informed TASS.

Both Google and Apple Required to Act Quickly

Our earlier coverage outlines the complaints process in detail but, in summary, it involves copyright holders filing complaints about apps with Roscomnadzor which is required to determine who is hosting the software within 72 hours.

From there, Roscomnadzor will send a copyright infringement notice (in English and Russian) directly to the platform demanding that the infringing tools are rendered inaccessible. Developers will be given a chance to take action themselves in the interim by either removing the software or ensuring that the alleged infringements are addressed within 24 hours.

Ultimately, however, Google or Apple will have to take action since if the infringement continues, they could be held liable themselves and find their sites subjected to blocking action if the courts determine non-compliance. Given that infringing apps represent the minority of software on offer (and that both platforms have now agreed to cooperate), that now seems unlikely.

Apple is Already Facing Legal Action Over Several Apps

While Roscomnadzor has confirmed that both platforms are now cooperating, Apple itself is already a named defendant in an action filed by Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music and a division of Warner.

On the very same day that the law came into force, the record labels filed complaints at the Moscow City Court demanding that Roscomnadzor takes action “to stop creating conditions” that allow for the illegal distribution of copyrighted works by a handful of local artists.

The complaints listed three applications – PewPee: Music Player, iMus Music Player, and Offline Music Download Music/ Music Downloader & Player – all of which appear to offer access to unlicensed content, including but not limited to the tracks in the complaint.

According to the law firm representing the labels, the complaints filed with the court represent a “test run” for the new law. The big question then, given the tight timelines for compliance laid out in the new law, is why all three applications continue to be on offer for download from Apple and why no blocking action appears to have been taken yet.

Comparisons With the Takedown System in the United States

While the Russian system has a big sting in its tail with the threat of ISP blocking, it’s interesting to compare the relatively simple process to remove allegedly-infringing apps from platforms in the United States.

As illustrated last Friday, the RIAA was able to quickly remove the hugely popular YouTube-DL open source software with a single copyright notice filed with Github. From beginning to end the whole action took just a few hours and no court was required to get involved.

That leaves the question of why the record labels in the Apple matter didn’t take exactly the same approach to deal with the three apps listed in their complaint.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

Sunday, October 25th, 2020
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9:07 pm
Government-Backed Anti-Piracy Deal Aims to Disrupt Pirate Site Cash Flow

cassette tape pirate musicIn recent years, various copyright holder groups have advocated for initiatives to cut off funding to pirate sites.

This “follow-the-money” approach is complex as it requires voluntary cooperation from various third-party services such as payment processors, hosting companies, advertisers, and search engines.

In Denmark, local anti-piracy group Rights Alliance has been working on this issue for several years and this week revealed a breakthrough. Together with the Danish Ministry of Culture, the group announced a new anti-piracy deal.

Anti-Piracy Codex Agreement

The Codex agreement, which is signed by several of Denmark’s biggest media agencies, advertising outfits, payment processors, and industry organizations, expands an earlier initiative that was limited to the advertising industry.

All parties that signed the deal have agreed to ban pirate sites to the best of their abilities. Ideally, this should lead to fewer ads on pirate sites and decreased payment processing options, among other things. How this is achieved will vary from company to company.

The agreement is the result of an initiative by the Ministry of Culture which started in 2013. Through a government-led series of hearings, various key players were brought together, which ultimately led to the cooperation that was announced this week.

Danish Minister of Culture Joy Mogensen is happy with the progress made and hopes it will help put a dent in the ongoing piracy problem.

“It is important that we stand together to ensure that advertisements for legal services and products do not inadvertently end up on illegal websites and in this way indirectly help to finance illegal activities. That is why I am pleased that there is so much support for the Codex agreement from the key digital players,” Mogensen says.

Dedicated Anti-Piracy Measures

All signatories agreed to a set of anti-piracy obligations. For example, they will distance themselves from pirate services, implement concrete anti-piracy policies, and block known pirate sites wherever possible.

From the Codex Agreement

codex

The known pirate sites are placed on a “cooperation list” which is intentionally kept secret. In fact, signees are specifically forbidden from sharing it with outsiders.

Unpublished Blocklist

“As a rule, the Cooperation List is not public in its entirety and is only available to those companies who cooperate on the list so that sites with illegal content are not highlighted unnecessarily,” the agreement reads.

TorrentFreak reached out to the Danish Rights Alliance to get some more context. Unsurprisingly, the group couldn’t share the full blocklist but director Maria Fredenslund informed us that it contains roughly 350 URLs including Thepiratebay.org, Popcorn-Time.is, as well as the defunct Grooveshark.com site.

These URLs are based on Danish site-blocking orders, issued by local courts. However, the Rights Alliance would like to see it expanded in the future. For example, sites can be added based on set criteria, similar to WIPO’s piracy blacklist.

“This list is based on dynamic court orders, however, we believe that it is essential to expand with sites which are illegal based on approved criteria – inspired by WIPO’s list,” Fredenslund tells TorrentFreak.

Will It Work?

Time will tell how effective the Codex agreement will be. TorrentFreak reached out to two signees, media and advertising agency OMD and the publishing industry organization Danske Medier, but both said they have no way to directly measure the effects.

Allan Sørensen from Danske Medier says that individual publishers always had the option to block campaigns from illegal sites. However, that wasn’t always easy, as not all ads are separately approved and it’s not always clear what a pirate site is. With the Codex blocklist, this will be easier.

“It’s safe to say that a lot fewer banners from copyright-infringing sites are being shown as a consequence of this initiative and it has greatly improved the efforts needed from publishers and the legal certainty in the matter,” Sørensen says.

While that is certainly true, there are always advertising companies who won’t shy away from pirate sites. Some even seek them out specifically. And on the payment side, some cryptocurrencies are impossible to cut off.

More information on the Codex agreement and other signatories, which also include Microsoft News, Adform, Jubii Media Group, Eurocard, and Xandr, is available on the Rights Alliance website.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
11:52 am
ACE Obtains DMCA Subpoena to Unmask Operators of Major Pirate Sites

ACE logoAfter launching more than three years ago in June 2017, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) quickly became the most powerful anti-piracy coalition on the planet.

Focused on reducing infringement of movies and TV shows, ACE is constantly involved in actions against torrent sites, streaming platforms, infringing apps, file-hosting sites, and everything in between. Rarely a month or even a week goes by without fresh ACE action being uncovered and this week is no exception.

As reported last Sunday, ACE is currently in possession of a DMCA subpoena which compels Tonic, the official registry of the .to top-level domain, to hand over all information it holds on S.to, one of the most-visited pirate streaming portals targeting the German market.

A second subpoena, recently obtained by ACE, seeks to obtain even more piracy-fighting information.

DMCA Subpoena Targets Official Registry of .TO Domains

The subpoena application was filed in a California district court by Jan van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection for the Motion Picture Association (MPA), on behalf of the members of ACE. Together, they want to find out who is responsible for a list of websites that allegedly exploit ACE members’ exclusive rights by offering movies and TV shows without permission.

Heading the list is 1337x.to, which in 2019 was the world’s most popular torrent index. This year its position fell slightly to occupy the number three slot but the platform still commands significant traffic. According to SimilarWeb stats, 1337x’s traffic hit a peak early this year with 75 million visits per month but since June that flow has now steadied to around 52 million.

In pure traffic terms, streaming portal BS.to is the next most significant site in the ACE subpoena. With around three-quarters of its traffic coming from Germany, the platform is currently pulling in around 26 million visitors per month and is currently the 127th most popular site in Germany, period.

Swatchseries.to, which according to ACE is responsible for offering shows including Grey’s Anatomy without permission, was attracting around 30 million visitors per month in April. While that has recently reduced to around 25 million users (with 40% from the United States), the anti-piracy coalition remains keen to unmask its operators.

With around 11.5 million visitors per month and 42% of them coming from the United States, streaming site kimcartoon.to is certainly no slouch. ACE accuses the platform of distributing movies including Frozen II and Despicable Me but the site’s library goes way beyond those two titles.

Interestingly, kimcartoon was also featured in a DMCA subpoena obtained last month by ACE. On that occasion, Cloudflare was ordered to hand over information related to the site.

With ‘just’ six million and four million visits per month respectively, streaming portals 5movies.to and azm.to are significantly smaller than the sites detailed above but their libraries of movies, including the screeners that leaked this week, remain of interest to ACE. The same goes for Vumoo.to, Ololo.to, and seriesflix.to which are also targeted in the subpoena.

Germany Focused Sites Make Up Much of the List

For reasons that aren’t immediately clear, ACE has included a number of sites that tend to focus on the German market. The 4.6 million-visitor Goldesel.to and 3.6 million-visitor Filmpalast.to are two of the more prominent examples but ACE is also looking for more information on two older classics – Kinox.to and Movie4k.to. Only the former can claim visitors in their millions now but both sites have been subjected to law enforcement actions for years, with little to no success.

While Cine.to has a 68% audience share in Germany and in excess of 1.4m visitors per month, similar sites also listed include Stream.to, Kinomax.to, HD-streams.to and Cinenator.to, all of which have relatively low levels of traffic. This raises the question of why ACE is so interested in them when there are much larger targets around.

Since the .to registry is a popular choice for many pirate sites, there may be an element of pressure here too. Only time will tell what the long term plan is but if the registry cooperates as the law requires, Hollywood and its partners could be just a step away from delivering a fatal blow to one or more of the targeted sites.

The ACE DMCA subpoena targeting the Tonic registry can be found here (1,2 pdf)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

Saturday, October 24th, 2020
LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
8:43 pm
Deezer Knows People Are Pirating Its Service But Says It Won’t Stop Them

DeezerToday’s legal music streaming services are providing a service that would’ve been unimaginable 15 years ago.

Not only do they provide access to tens of millions of tracks, they do so conveniently, on multiple platforms, and at a fair price. In fact, streaming services like Spotify and Deezer go a step further by offering a free-tier that costs nothing.

In many respects and for most people, it’s the often-mentioned piracy-busting formula made reality. Of course, there are some outliers.

Piracy of Streaming Platforms

Despite ticking most boxes, streaming platforms still have to contend with piracy. In the majority of instances this is carried out either by people who can’t pay, want additional features such as permanent downloads of DRM-free music, or simply don’t want to consume the ads that make the free-tier possible.

These people often use custom or modified Spotify and Deezer applications, obtainable from a number of unofficial sources and installed mainly on the Android platform. They can remove ads, act as downloaders, and also remove other restrictions imposed by streaming platforms on their free-tiers. It’s unclear how many people use them but both Deezer and Spotify would like to mitigate their use.

Spotify and Deezer’s Anti-Piracy Measures

Over the years, both Spotify and Deezer have taken action aimed at disrupting modded and custom clients from accessing their networks.

In 2017, Deezer targeted popular tool Deezloader and many related project forks. A year later, the company spoiled the party for reincarnation app Deezloader Reborn and later targeted Deezloader Remix.

Spotify has been active too. In March 2020, a law firm acting for Spotify took down a piece of Windows software that allowed users to download and remove DRM from music tracks while skipping ads. XSpotify, which also carried an ad-blocking feature, was described as a tool that “steals” Spotify encryption keys in breach of the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.

Just two months later, Spotify sent a wave of DMCA notices to Github, hoping to make modded clients harder to find.

Appealing Directly to Pirates: The Spotify Approach

While the anti-piracy actions detailed above were never publicized by Spotify or Deezer themselves, sometimes the companies’ actions (when they directly involve pirating ‘customers’) become too big to hide. Most notably, around March 2018 Spotify mass-emailed an unknown number of users warning that their activity had been noted and their ‘pirate’ client had been disabled.

After thanking recipients for being Spotify users (even pirates need accounts), Spotify changed its tone.

“If we detect repeated use of unauthorized apps in violation of our terms, we reserve all rights, including suspending or terminating your account,” Spotify wrote.

Appealing Directly to Pirates: Deezer’s Sweet Talk

This week, a number of people using modified Deezer clients received an interesting email directly from the ‘Deezer Security Team’. At least one user posted a copy to Reddit, with others confirming they’d received the same communication.

“We see you,” the email begins, with a small pirate flag waving alongside.

“We know that you’re not using the official version of Deezer, and we’re not going to stop you.”

As disarming sentences go, this is a pretty big one when it comes to piracy. While Deezer knows that these specific users are pirating its service, has their email addresses (and probably all of their IP addresses too), and could instantly ban them or worse, it says it will do absolutely nothing. Not even the threat of a ban makes it to the email.

Deezer Warning

The image above was posted with the title “Respect” suggesting that being nice to pirates is a better headline approach than being too aggressive. And, while there were some critical voices, there was also a lot of support for Deezer as a company.

Interestingly, however, the company’s message, that people should be worried about malware, wasn’t a topic of conversation in the places we found it reported.

Whether any of this will result in modded-client users signing up to Deezer is another matter but viewing the company as a friend, not a foe, might bode well for future relations. And keep people away from rival Spotify.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
10:54 am
RIAA Takes Down Popular Open Source YouTube-DL Software

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

Most notices target content that’s clearly copyright-infringing, but others are open to interpretation or debate.

This is also the case with a takedown notice that was sent by the RIAA this week. The music industry’s anti-piracy group asked GitHub to remove the open-source YouTube-DL repository as well as several forks.

Stream-Ripping Piracy

YouTube-DL is widely used by individuals and some stream-ripper sites to download videos from YouTube.com and other platforms. These can range from public domain videos to copyrighted music tracks.

GitHub responded swiftly to the notice and removed all of the YouTube-DL repositories, which now show a DMCA takedown notification instead.

github dmca

While these stream-ripping tools can be used to download non-infringing content, as digital rights group EFF highlighted in the past, millions of people use them to download personal copies of music tracks.

In fact, the music industry sees stream-ripping as the single biggest piracy threat. This is also how the group motivates its takedown request to GitHub.

“The clear purpose of this source code is to (i) circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube, and (ii) reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by our member companies without authorization for such use.”

Anti-Circumvention Violations

As we have seen in the past, RIAA cites the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, which prohibits the public from bypassing technological protection measures. While it’s YouTube’s protection measures being bypassed in this case, the RIAA member labels are among the ‘victims.’

According to the RIAA, the source code includes several samples that show how people can download tracks from Icona Pop, Justin Timberlake, and Taylor Swift, without permission.

Source Code Mentions Copyrighted Content

“The source code notes that the Icona Pop work identified above is under the YouTube Standard license, which expressly restricts access to copyrighted works only for streaming on YouTube and prohibits their further reproduction or distribution without consent of the copyright owner,” RIAA writes.

From RIAA’s takedown notice

riaa takedown

According to the RIAA, YouTube-DL’s code is primarily designed and marketed for circumventing YouTube’s technological measures, which violates 17 USC §§1201(a)(2) and 1201(b)(1) of the DMCA.

While there is little jurisprudence in US Courts about stream-rippers specifically, the music group points to a decision from the Hamburg Regional Court in a similar case, which found that YouTube’s “rolling cipher” is an effective technological protection measure under EU law.

YouTube-DL Remains Online

TorrentFreak reached out to the YouTube-DL developers to hear their side of the story but they prefer not to comment for now.

However, it appears that they don’t plan to throw in the towel just yet. The yt-dl.org website remains online and it still lists a recently modified version of the code.

In addition, the website was updated to remove links to GitHub pages that were taken down. This includes the about page, which now long longer lists the name of the developers.

The YouTube-DL takedown is part of a broader campaign against stream-ripping tools. The RIAA labels are also engaged in a lawsuit against two popular YouTube-ripper sites in the US, and continue to remove these and other services from Google’s search results.

At the same time, YouTube itself is engaged in a proxy war against similar sites.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

Friday, October 23rd, 2020
LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
4:46 pm
Pirate IPTV Reseller Agrees to Pay $30m in Damages and Puts Users At Risk

IPTVIn 2018, US broadcaster DISH Network sued pirate IPTV service SET TV for offering many TV channels illegally obtained from DISH’s satellite service.

That lawsuit came to an end in 2018 when SET TV’s operators were ordered by a Florida court to pay $90 million in statutory damages. However, as far as DISH was concerned, there were more loose ends to tie up.

DISH Sues Simply-TV and Goes After a Reseller

Early 2019, DISH filed another lawsuit in Florida, this time targeting individuals and companies behind Simply-TV, a pirate IPTV service that was believed to be connected to SET TV. By August that same year, the lawsuit was over after DISH was awarded $30 million in statutory damages plus an injunction.

As recently reported, DISH still didn’t give up the chase, suing an individual named as Lisa Crawford in a Florida court, claiming she was a reseller of both SET TV and Simply-TV. Several business entities were also named as defendants.

These cases have a tendency to drag on but in this case, the whole thing was settled in a matter of weeks.

Agreed Judgment and Permanent Injunction

On Thursday, DISH filed a notice of dismissal against the business entities named in the original complaint including LC One LLC, LC Pryme Enterprises LLC, LC Pryme Holdings LLC, LC Pryme One Enterprises LLC.

“This Notice of Dismissal is filed pursuant to the Confidential Settlement Agreement reached between DISH and Defendant Lisa Crawford,” the notice reads.

A short time later, DISH filed documents relating to the agreement, establishing several agreed facts and laying out the terms of the settlement.

“Defendant sold device codes and subscriptions to the Unauthorized Streaming Services through various websites including ptiptv.com, GriffTV.com, Lazertvstreams.com and FlixStreams.com. In addition, Defendant advertised the Unauthorized Streaming Services through Facebook and other forms of social media,” the filing reads.

“Defendant participated in the operation of the Unauthorized Streaming Services after the Set TV service was shut down. DISH Programming was redistributed without authorization on the Unauthorized Streaming Services throughout this time period.

“During that time Defendant trafficked in at least 40,000 device codes to the Unauthorized Streaming Services.”

Defendant Agrees to Pay DISH $30 Million in Statutory Damages

According to the agreement, the sale of the 40,000 “device codes” (subscriptions) will cost Crawford a huge amount of money. DISH says that each subscription is worth $750 in statutory damages, meaning that the total amount payable to the company is a cool $30 million. That being said, things could have been very much worse if DISH had pursued the $100,000 per offense/subscription maximum.

In addition to the damages agreement, the parties have also settled on a set of conditions for an injunction, including that Crawford never again gets involved in offering pirated DISH programming to the public. She is also barred from operating the websites ptiptv.com, GriffTV.com, Lazertvstreams.com and FlixStreams.com, which must be transferred to DISH.

Former Customers May Be at Risk

Part of the agreement requires Crawford to hand over pretty much everything associated with her reselling business over to DISH, including all computers, servers, receivers, software, and set-top devices. The agreement also goes much further than that though and may have consequences for Crawford’s former customers.

“Defendant shall transfer to DISH or a designee selected by DISH, within seven (7) days of the date of this Order, all device codes, renewal codes, subscriptions and applications for Defendant’s Pirate Streaming Services, as well as all computers, phones, servers and all social media, financial, online or other accounts associated in any way with Defendant’s Pirate Streaming Services,” the agreement reads.

This includes “books, documents, files, records, or communications whether in hard copy or electronic form, relating in any way to Defendant’s Pirate Streaming Services” plus “the identities of manufacturers, exporters, importers, dealers, or purchasers of such services and devices..”

This is important because DISH has a history of not only shutting down pirate services but also chasing down former subscribers for cash settlements. Whether it will do so in this case is yet to be seen but after shutting down a seller of satellite card-sharing codes a while back, the company has used the data handed over in the matter to pursue many other individuals.

The Agreed Judgment and Permanent Injunction is available here (pdf). It is yet to be signed off by the court but given its nature, that’s likely to be a formality.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
9:13 am
Denmark’s Largest Torrent Tracker Shuts Down After Owner’s Reported Arrest

danishbitsWith millions of views per month, DanishBits (DB) was one of the most popular private torrent trackers on the web.

As its name suggests, the site operated from Denmark and it mostly served visitors from the Scandinavian country, where it was more popular than public torrent sites.

A few days ago this reign came to an end. All of a sudden the site became unreachable and, according to several people close to the fire, this is the result of an investigation into the site’s operators.

Owner Arrested?

One staff member informed TorrentFreak that one of the owners was arrested earlier this month. While this has yet to be confirmed by the authorities, a message posted on Pastebin, confirms the trouble.

“Dear users, with pain in our heart we must inform you that DB as you all know it, and which you all have loved, unfortunately seems to have reached the end of the road,” the note reads, translated from Danish

“We have been informed that important people behind DB have unfortunately been caught by the long arm of the law. These people were in charge of running the site and the current downtime is simply due to the fact that they are not present to solve them.”

The statement leaves some wiggle room, as there is no official confirmation of any arrest. We have reached out to a source close to law enforcement who confirmed that something is indeed going on, but no information can be shared at this moment.

Servers Were Encrypted

The DanishBits staffer informed us that the privacy of users was secured. No data was leaked as the servers are still online and encrypted. However, the man who was supposedly arrested was the only person with full access and the rest of the staff can’t control the servers.

This statement is backed up by the note that was posted in public which mentions that “all servers run full encryption and it’s practically impossible to access data, even if the servers behind the page should be seized.”

Technically, the site’s owner could still access the server and hand over information voluntarily, but that’s all speculation at this point.

For now, it seems unlikely that DanishBits will return. Without access to the database, the site will have to start from scratch which is a monumental task. While some staffers still have a glimmer of “hope,” that may mostly be wishful thinking.

Other Trackers Take Over

The message they shared in public reads like a farewell note too. The staffers thank all people who have supported the site over the years and apologize for initially remaining quiet during the downtime. Several comeback options were considered, but none were viable.

“We wanted to exhaust all our options before we announced this out, it is of course not our wish that the site should go this way,” they write, encouraging competing trackers to open their doors to new users.

“All staffers would also like to send a request to the remaining Danish trackers (ShareUniversity and Asgrd) to open up signup so that users on DB can find a new place and download their daily content.”

This message was heard, it seems, as both trackers are open for registration at the time of writing.

—-

Update: Shortly after we published this article the Danish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance confirmed that it reported the service to the police back in 2016.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
7:53 pm
French Three-Strikes Anti-Piracy Law Mostly Benefited American Movies

France has been fighting on the anti-piracy enforcement frontline for more than a decade now.

The country was the first to introduce a graduated response system, Hadopi, where Internet subscribers risked losing their Internet connections if they were caught sharing torrents repeatedly.

This elaborate anti-piracy scheme provided a great opportunity for researchers to study the effects on legal consumption. Over the years, many papers have been published, documenting both positive and negative effects.

Recently, a new study was added to the mix that looks at the effect of the three-strikes law on movie theater visits. The researchers specifically examine the effects of Hadopi’s early period. That’s years ago now, but the academic papermill moves slowly.

The paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Information Systems Research, shows that the anti-piracy law didn’t increase box office revenue overall. However, it did have an effect on the type of movies people were picking.

Hadopi Boosted Market Share of US Films

“We show that, following the introduction of the Hadopi law, the market share for US films increased by 9% at the expense of other movies,” says Christophe Bellégo, Assistant Professor in Economics at ENSAE and lead author of the paper.

This market share increase comes at the expense of other films, including French ones, as the overall expenditure on box office tickets remains relatively stable. The researchers expect that this increase in U.S. movies can be explained by the belief that these are riskier to pirate.

“Without an anti-piracy law, some people illegally consume American movies online and legally watch domestic movies in theaters because illegal copies of American movies are easily available on the Internet during their theatrical exhibition. This is much less the case for other movies,” Bellégo tells us.

While one might think that overall movie theater visits would increase, that’s not the case. According to the researchers, this can be explained by the fact that people have limited time and money.

No Overall Revenue Increase

The findings are not very uplifting for the French movie industry. Instead of boosting revenue, attendance of French films dropped. However, the researchers don’t want to conclude that the three-strikes measures failed. They simply changed consumption habits.

“[The effects are] clearly not in line with the French cultural policy aimed at supporting the production of domestic films and cultural diversity. However, depending on what the ultimate goal of the government is, supporting fair competition or supporting domestic cultural production, the policy is more or less efficient.”

Put differently, Hadopi corrected legal consumption patterns in favor of the US movie industry, which more accurately reflects people’s true demand. At least, when it comes to movie theater visits.

Limitations

There are some limitations to the study of course. The research period is limited to the period between 2008 and 2011 when Hadopi was getting started. It’s likely that these effects wore off over time. Similarly, the researchers only looked at the theatrical market. Other revenue streams, such as DVDs and Blu-ray sales, were not considered.

That said, it’s clear that anti-piracy measures affect various types of content in different ways. For some it’s positive, and for others, it clearly isn’t.

“As in many other areas, the effects of policies are complex. They often lead to redistributive effects where there are winners and losers. It’s a bit like sitting on a waterbed. Your weight displaces some water elsewhere, but the total volume is the same,” Bellégo tells us.

“Understanding the asymmetric effects has important implications for firms whose profits may be affected by legislation fighting piracy as well as for governments for the design of their policy,” he adds.

The paper by Christophe Bellégo and Romain De Nijs, titled “The Unintended Consequences of Antipiracy Laws on Markets with Asymmetric Piracy: The Case of the French Movie Industry,” is available here (paywall). A free pre-print can be found on SSRN.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
9:02 am
Logs Seized From F-Secure’s VPN Must Be Destroyed, Court Rules

dataWhen using the Internet, everyone leaves some kind of digital footprint and for most individuals going about their daily business, this could be as simple as their ISP-allocated IP address.

To gain additional privacy, some people turn to VPN providers which exchange the user’s ISP IP address for one operated by the provider. The important thing here for those seeking the best levels of security is to ensure that the VPN provider has systems in place to prevent these two IP addresses from being linked. In basic terms, this means choosing a so-called “no log” provider.

When Logs Exist, They Can Be Targeted

Finnish security company F-Secure operates a VPN service known as FREEDOME which, according to the company, does not log what websites users visit but does create and store connection logs. When required to under the law, FREEDOME will hand over any data it holds in response to law enforcement or court requests, which is normal among all reputable companies.

Back in January 2019, Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (KRP) seized VPN logging data from FREEDOME in response to a legal request from the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt / BKA) in Germany. The BKA was investigating a “serious crime” and traced the perpetrator back to an IP address operated by F-Secure’s VPN service.

By obtaining FREEDOME’s logs, the authorities wanted to get closer to the suspect.

F-Secure Attempts to Have Seizure Overturned

As reported by YLE, F-Secure filed a request at the district court for the seizure to be overturned and the seized logs destroyed, arguing that the data seized should be classified as confidential communications, which may only be seized in accordance with Chapter 10 of the Secret Coercive Measures Act.

The company said that any data seized should only concern communications created by or received from the suspect in the matter. When KRP seized F-Secure’s logging data, the law enforcement agency took more. However, KRP countered by stating that it was entitled to seize the data because what they were seeking wasn’t access to confidential communications but customer data held by F-Secure.

In a May 2019 decision, the district court found in favor of F-Secure, noting that seizing the data would require coercive measures under the Coercive Measures Act. The court also found that F-Secure was not a party to the communications in question but acted as an intermediary, so KRP wasn’t able to use coercive measures either.

What Information Did F-Secure’s FREEDOME VPN Log?

As highlighted earlier, FREEDOME admits to keeping some logs and the extent of that logging was heard in court. According to YLE, the data seized by KRP consisted of customers’ IP addresses, the device ID of the device used to access the service, a session ID, the start and end time of the connection, and the amount of data used by the subscriber.

KRP was interested in logs that could show connection timestamps and the amount of data used. According to an F-Secure expert who gave evidence in court, the logs could not show which sites were visited by a subscriber. However, by combining timestamp and data usage logs, which F-Secure reportedly retains for 90 days, it might be possible to obtain evidence on the suspect.

KRP Files Appeal at the Helsinki Court of Appeal

Unhappy with the decision of the district court and the order to destroy the seized logs, KRP took its case to the Helsinki Court of Appeal.

The appeals court handed down its decision yesterday, upholding the decision of the lower court which ruled that the seizure was illegal and the logs should be destroyed.

What effect this will have on the investigation in Germany isn’t clear but the ruling does offer some additional clarity on what and how data can be obtained from local VPN providers.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
4:36 pm
Twitch DMCA “Bloodbath” Trades Copyright Strikes For Due Process

TwitchDuring the summer there was uproar when Twitch users were suddenly bombarded with copyright notices for content uploaded between 2017 to 2019.

Unsurprisingly, the claimant was listed as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), an organization well-known for its aggressive stance towards those who use its member labels’ content without obtaining an appropriate license.

Aside from the notices themselves, the greater problem was Twitch’s “repeat infringer” policy, which states that if users receive several copyright complaints under the DMCA, they can be permanently banned from the platform. Twitch doesn’t say how many will trigger a ban but under normal conditions, it’s believed to be three.

In common with similar platforms, Twitch adopted this stance to avoid becoming liable for its users’ infringements. However, the earlier advice for users to quickly delete everything on their accounts that may be infringing to avoid a ban didn’t sit well with the company’s customers.

The Second Wave – AKA “DMCA Bloodbath”

After the chaos in June, there was a general feeling that the worst may be behind the site’s users. Late yesterday, however, a fresh development indicated that was not the case. Gamer and esports consultant Rod Breslau (aka ‘Slasher’) took to Twitter to reveal that a second wave of DMCA notices had hit Twitch, with devastating consequences.

“We are writing to inform you that your channel was subject to one or more of these DMCA takedown notifications, and that the content identified has been deleted,” a copy of a notice from Twitch reads.

The first point of interest here is that Twitch didn’t tell anyone affected by these mass deletions what content was removed or what users did wrong. That deviates from the accepted standard practice of notifying users that “Content X infringed content company Y’s rights” and that’s why it was flagged.

At least ordinarily, this information would provide users a platform from which to fight back, if the claim against their content was incorrect or at least contentious. However, Twitch effectively removed any opportunity to respond by imposing a new albeit temporary system for handling DMCA complaints.

Twitch Trades Due Process For Not “Striking” User Accounts

By not providing the information outlined above, Twitch clearly knew there would be problems among its userbase. So, what it appears to have done is sweeten the pill with a quid pro quo.

“We recognize that by deleting this content, we are not giving you the option to file a counter-notification or seek a retraction from the rights holder. In consideration of this, we have processed these notifications and are issuing you a one-time warning to give you the chance to learn about copyright law and the tools available to manage the content on your channel,” the notices continues.

Effectively, Twitch has denied any opportunity to contest DMCA notices on fair use grounds, for example, by imposing a “warning” instead. This warning does not appear to be a copyright strike, meaning that it won’t add to a user’s tally of strikes which accumulate and ultimately end in a ban.

More controversial, however, is that there are claims that the Audible Magic recognition system used by Twitch isn’t working how it should.

“Audible Magic is misidentifying music,” a Twitch user reported to the company on Twitter last night. “The proof in that pudding is my vods from last night that was muted with music that (the track and artist appeared in an onscreen ticker) was cleared for use on stream and is an original work.

“An example based on the immediate past: You run Audible magic against highlights and clips. Those Highlights and Clips have music that is misidentified as DMCA applicable. By auto-deleting this content you remove our ability to correct that and keep the content,” he added.

Can Twitch Delete Content and Deny Counternotices?

While large volumes of users are currently distraught at the actions of Twitch and the deletion of their content without a fair hearing, a close look at the company’s terms of service reveals that, completely unsurprisingly, it can delete whatever content it likes, when it likes, and for any reason.

It doesn’t even have to be infringing either, that’s just one of the options.

“To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, Twitch reserves the right to remove, screen, or edit any User Content posted or stored on the Twitch Services at any time and without notice, including where such User Content violates these Terms of Service or applicable law, and you are solely responsible for creating backup copies of and replacing any User Content you post or store on the Twitch Services at your sole cost and expense,” its ToS reads.

Since Twitch can delete whatever content it likes at any time, that seems to negate any user ‘right’ to know anything about the claims against them, which in turn prevents them from filing a counternotice. And, since Twitch is essentially giving any actual infringers a free pass this time around (which in the case of multiple strikes could’ve meant an account ban), the company has not only covered its bases but also attempted to sweeten the deal.

It didn’t have to, of course, but has wisely offered something. Nevertheless, that is no consolation to those users who have had their content deleted on dubious grounds and have no means to contest the action.

Was the Second Wave ‘Bloodbath’ a Surprise? Not Really

Back in 2014, Twitch announced that it was voluntarily taking measures to protect broadcasters and copyright owners. To this end, Twitch revealed it had partnered with content recognition/anti-piracy company Audible Magic, adding that by doing so it was assuming “no liability for the actions of its users.”

Fast forward to June 2020, during the first wave of DMCA notice fallout, Twitch quite clearly said that its work with Audible Magic would be “extended” and all but confirmed that the deletions of this week were already expected several months ago.

“First, we will begin the work to extend our use of Audible Magic to identify existing clips that may contain copyrighted music and delete them for you without penalty. Over the coming months, this will cover newly created clips as well,” Twitch said.

So, the big question remains – what can users do faced with this scenario? If history is anything to go by, not very much.

Twitch is Not Your Platform and Copyright Holders Come First

The bottom line here is that while millions of Twitch users call the platform home, Twitch is not their site. While the site relies on streamers to make it a viable business concern, they are merely guests who agree to be bound by a strict set of rules that are entirely in the favor of the platform itself.

Furthermore, like YouTube and even ISPs in the United States, Twitch faces the prospect of being subjected to aggressive legal action if it fails to deal with repeat infringers appropriately. Given that the RIAA is behind most of these liability lawsuits, protecting the record labels’ copyrights must be high on the Twitch agenda.

It therefore seems probable (if not likely) that Audible Magic has effectively identified many thousands of repeat infringers on Twitch, so in preference to banning them all, Twitch has chosen to delete their content in a mass purge instead.

Whether this was carried out with the stated or tacit support of the labels is unclear but the possibility of this being a ‘reset’ or catch-up move seems relatively high, particularly given that Twitch says it will revert to its regular DMCA process later this week.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
9:49 am
Pirated Screeners of ‘Falling’ and ‘My Salinger Year’ Leak Online Early

fallingPirated copies of movies leak all year round, often ripped from DVDs, Blu-rays or online streaming platforms. That by itself is nothing special.

However, when the days are getting shorter, pirates start anticipating another release category: screeners.

Screeners are advance copies of recent movies that are generally sent out to critics and awards voters. Some of these end up in the hands of pirates and are published online, with the first usually appearing around December.

With this in mind, it was a surprise to see two screener releases appearing on pirate sites a few hours ago. Pirate release group EVO got their hands on early copies of the films ‘Falling‘ and ‘My Salinger Year,’ both of which are sourced from online screeners.

Both films are posted with the ‘WEBSCR’ tag; Falling 2020 WEBSCR XViD-EVO and My Salinger Year 2020 WEBSCR XviD-EVO.

These early releases are noteworthy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that more will follow soon after. While the films are labeled as screeners, they don’t appear to be the typical award show releases.

My Salinger Year screencap
salinger year

EVO’s release notes don’t reveal where the films came from. The group lists “joey_498” as the source, but without further context.

What both movies have in common is that they’re not typical Hollywood blockbusters. They are titles that were showcased at festivals such as the annual Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) which ended earlier this month.

Interestingly, VIFF was largely held online this year due to the COVID pandemic. This meant that ‘visitors’ could screen the films over a dedicated streaming platform, where ‘My Salinger Year’ and ‘Falling’ happened to the among the most-streamed films.

We don’t know if the Canadian festival was a source for the recent leaks. We reached out to the release group EVO to find out more. While they couldn’t reveal the source for safety reasons, the screeners are confirmed festival releases.

“We can’t speak about the source itself, for safety reasons. Yet, yes, they are ‘webscreeners’ from the festivals,” EVO informed TorrentFreak.

Although the leaks don’t come from typical award voting releases, they do illustrate the growing trend of screeners moving online more. Last year, the Emmys moved online completely, ditching the traditional DVD screeners.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will follow this example. The Academy will still send out physical Oscars screeners this year, but starting in 2021 it will move online completely.

Some movie industry insiders hoped that leaks will be easier to prevent and control online. However, release group EVO told us previously that it’s not going to make much of a difference.

In recent years various screener leaks were obtained from online platforms and this week’s releases show that leaks are impossible to rule out. And indeed, EVO has just confirmed again that it doesn’t expect anything to change soon.

“The only difference is that studios are being forced to move to digital. The DRM is the same and nothing else has changed,” EVO told us.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
7:48 pm
There’s a Hidden ‘Proxy War’ Between YouTube and Stream Rippers

youtube sad errorIt’s no secret that the music industry sees stream-ripping as today’s single biggest piracy threat.

While there are sites and services covering many platforms, those that allow the public to download music tracks from YouTube are particularly problematic.

Over the past several years, major music labels have taken legal action against several key players. YouTube-MP3 was shut down after a legal battle while 2Conv and FLVto are currently being sued. At the same time, rightsholders launched an active campaign to remove these sites from Google’s search results.

Despite these enforcement actions, stream-rippers continue to serve millions of users today. In fact, they are actively fighting back behind the scenes.

TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of several YouTube-ripping sites. While he prefers to keep his identity private, at least from the public, he shared some interesting background on how stream-rippers are threatened, and how they’re responding.

We’ll start with the enforcement efforts YouTube itself takes. While music industry insiders are most vocal about their anti-piracy actions, YouTube isn’t sitting still either.

Warnings From YouTube’s Legal Team

YouTube’s legal team approaches operators of stream-ripping sites directly with cease and desist notices. We have seen several of these emails, and the site owner we spoke to recently received one as well.

The email doesn’t come with any concrete legal threats but it urges the recipient to comply with YouTube’s Terms of Services and Developer Policies, which prohibit unauthorized downloading.

“If applicable, you must also delete any Content including data that you may have gathered in violation of our terms, policies, and applicable laws,” the email notes, granting operators seven days to comply.

These requests are not new. YouTube has been sending out similar messages for years. In some cases this is effective, as smaller sites are easily threatened and swiftly throw in the towel, but others continue regardless.

As far as we know YouTube doesn’t take any further action against sites that ignore their warning. At least, not in court. But there is more. Since last year, the streaming service has silently intensified its countermeasures against stream-rippers.

YouTube’s IP-address Blocking

Last summer, the site started taking active and aggressive countermeasures to block IP-addresses that are frequently used by stream-ripping services to download content. Our source describes these blocks as ‘purges’.

“There are 2 types of ‘purges’. The first one is ongoing; if YouTube notices too many requests coming from a single IP address – it blocks that IP. The second type is the ‘grand purge’ which sometimes happens daily, and sometimes two or three times a week,” he says.

These purges caused several sites to shut down but others have adapted. They started rotating through thousands of proxies in order to evade YouTube’s countermeasures. Old IP-addresses are discarded and swiftly changed for new ones.

Thousands of Proxies

“Back in the day, well, roughly a year ago, you could run any amount of requests through a single IP. Now it’s so much more complicated. We use up to 1,000 proxies per week, so it’s not an easy game,” our source says.

YouTube has never elaborated on these actions in public but with hundreds if not thousands of active stream-ripping sites, it seems that there’s a massive blocking effort going on behind the scenes.

In addition to these purges, Google also removes URLs from search results when they are reported by copyright holders, as we alluded to earlier. This is a frustrating experience for bigger site operators, who have to switch to fresh URLs frequently.

Search Delisting as an Advantage

However, these removals also provide an opportunity for smaller players, including our source. In fact, some are set up specifically to anticipate delistings of bigger players.

“I have over a hundred sites and most of them deal with YouTube MP3 & MP4 conversions. 90% of them have no traffic and exist only to take over someone else’s traffic, in case they are shut down or delisted,” he says.

Running more sites is the normal practice now, apparently. And when some of our source’s sites started to do well, with over 100,000 visitors per day, others began to copy them, just in case they are delisted too.

“At some point, we figured with all the delistings and threats it’s best to have many sites. Some sites will do well, others won’t. I’m also making imitators of my own sites just to make sure others’ imitators don’t start stealing my traffic,” our source says.

The takedown requests and delistings continue but by now most sites are prepared for them. The operator we spoke with keeps a close eye on incoming notices, which are published in the Lumen Database. As it may take a few days before these are processed, it’s possible to swiftly switch to new URLs to prevent any traffic loss.

Limited Impact

Overall, our source doesn’t believe that search result removals have a major impact. While some sites may have lost traffic, others have gained new visitors. The number of people searching for YouTube rippers didn’t decrease, after all.

“I don’t think the delisting requests have had an impact on the overall use of MP3 rippers. Maybe for a few weeks in the very beginning perhaps, when a big site would experience delisting for the first time and spend a few days figuring out what was happening. And even then it would only affect these certain delisted sites.

“Google would always be there to help those who accessed these sites through the search engine with a list of fresh results,” our source adds.

All in all, it’s intriguing to see how stream-rippers have adapted to the countermeasures and how some are even profiting from it. While YouTube does take action, they have yet to find a good solution to limit the problem.

We have reached out to YouTube/Google to ask for more details on its enforcement efforts but the company hasn’t responded yet. Perhaps the company prefers to remain quiet for now, and continue their proxy war in the background.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
9:11 am
Hollywood Wins New ‘Pirate’ Blocking Order After Contentious Sites Removed

australiaFor the past several years, entertainment industry companies have been utilizing legislation in Australia that allows for the blocking of ‘pirate’ sites.

Movie studios, TV companies and record labels have all taking advantage of the process, filing applications with the Federal Court to have obviously infringing sites blocked by ISPs, to reduce the number of subscribers accessing the platforms from within Australia.

The overwhelming majority of applications have contained no obvious major issues, with rightsholders demanding that popular torrent, streaming and similar platforms should be rendered inaccessible by direct means. However, an application filed in the summer raised questions over a pair of domains that at best seemed outliers in the original 78-site list.

Application for Injunction Filed in July 2020

The application, filed by companies including Disney, Netflix, Village Roadshow, and Warner Bros., requested an injunction that would compel around 50 ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG and Vodafone to block access to more than 100 domains. Many well-known platforms including 0gomovies.org, 1377x.to, best-series.me, pirateproxy.wtf, warez-bb.org, kissasian.sh, and bs.to, were included in the list but two in particular caught our eye.

Aparat is often referred to as Iran’s YouTube. It is one of the most-visited sites in the world and the second most-visited site in Iran, where only Google.com gets more traffic. Like many user-uploaded content sites (YouTube included), it has its fair share of copyright infringement issues but the claim from the applicants, that the site’s “primary purpose or effect” is to infringe or facilitate the infringement of copyright, seemed a bit of a stretch.

At the time, TorrentFreak reached out to Aparat for a comment on the inclusion of its domain on the list. We also approached the attorney for the movie companies but neither responded. Interestingly, however, at some Aparat was removed from the application but given the lack of documentation at the courts, the precise reason remains unknown.

Another unusual entry in the original application was the domain of Israeli newspaper Kul al-Arab. Founded in 1987 and published on a weekly basis, the paper is said to be Israel’s most influential and widely read Arabic-language periodical. While that may be its main area of business, however, the site also has a VOD section, something which may have triggered the complaint process. Nevertheless, like Aparat, Kul al-Arab was also removed from the application at some point.

Injunction Handed Down By The Federal Court

After adjustments (two other platforms have also been removed, possibly due to inactivity), the final injunction handed down by Justice Steven Rares now targets 74 allegedly infringing platforms (four less than the original application) accessible via 112 domains, all of which must be blocked by the respondent ISPs which together cover most of the Australian market.

Notable inclusions are domains operated by torrent site variants 1337x and 1377x, torrent index TorrentGalaxy, various Pirate Bay proxy sites, domains connected to infamous Indian torrent site Tamilrockers, warez portal Warez-bb, YouTube-ripping platform Y2Mate, TV show platforms BS.to and S.to, plus several rising anime sites. (Full list below)

“I am satisfied that the owners have taken all reasonable steps to notify each person who operates the targeted sites,” writes Justice Rares in the order.

“The owners’ solicitors sought to provide the respective site operators with notice of this proceeding and the relief sought against the site operators through communication to email address, postal address (where it could be found), or the online ‘contact us’ facility offered by the sites. Some of the targeted sites do not appear to offer any facility for receiving such contact. Others gave perfunctory acknowledgments.”

The Judge notes that, in his opinion, an order requiring the ISPs to block the sites represents a “proportionate response to the scale and flagrancy of infringing conduct in the circumstances.” Acknowledging that the blocking will negatively affect the pirate sites’ business models, Justice Rares adds that the interference the judgment will cause is necessary to protect the applicants’ rights.

“Moreover, I consider that it is in the public interest to disable access to each targeted site. That is because the sites seek to undermine the lawful rights of the owners and others to the protection of their intellectual property,” he concludes.

The full judgment published October 15, 2020 can be found here

Full list of blocked sites/domains:

1. 0goMovies (0gomovies.org / 2gomovies.net)
2. 123putlocker (123putlocker.to / 123putlocker.is)
3. 1337x torrent (1337xtorrent.net / 1337x.am)
4. 1337x.am (1337x.am)
5. 1377x.to (1337xto.to / 1377x.is / 1377x.to)
6. 91mjw (91mjw.com)
7. alarab.com (not blocked, removed from application/injunction)
8. aparat.com (not blocked, removed from application/injunction)
9. azm (azm.to)
10. best-series (best-series.me)
11. Cmovies (cmovies.ws / c-movies.cc)
12. europix.pro (europix.biz / europix.pro)
13. europixhd (europixhd.io / europixhd.net / europixhd.pro)
14. Fshare TV (fsharetv.co)
15. halimthemes (123moviesoknow.com / all123movies.com / ww2.123moviesoknow.com)
16. iyingshi6 (iyingshi6.tv)
17. limetorrents2020 (limetorrents.buzz / limetorrents2020.xyz)
18. mlcboard (mlcboard.com)
19. Movie INDOXXI (movieindoxxi.me / ligaxxi.me)
20. movies123 (movies123.ag / movies123.sc)
21. movies123.design (movies123.design)
22. movies123.email (movies123.email)
23. movies123.pics (movies123.pics)
24. movies123.sh (movies123.sh)
25. movies123.work (movies123.work)
26. mybinoo (imybinoo.org)
27. Myflixer (myflixer.com / myflixer.to)
28. Noxx (noxx.to)
29. ololo (ololo.to)
30. piratebay-proxylist (piratebay-proxylist.net / piratebay-proxylist.se)
31. pirateproxy (pirateproxy.wtf)
32. poku.tv (not blocked, removed from application/injunction)
33. Project Free TV (projectfreetv.fun)
34. putlockers.bz (putlockers.bz)
35. putlockers.date (putlockers.date)
36. rezka (rezka.ag)
37. soap2day (soap2day.com, .im, .is, .se, .to, .org)
38. sockshare.ag (sockshare.ag)
39. tamilrockers.ws (tamilrockers.com / tamilrockers.ws)
40. Tinyzone (tinyzone.tv / tinyzonetv.to)
41. torrentgalaxy (torrentgalaxy.to)
42. tvhay (tvhay.org)
43. unblockit (unblockit.top, .bid, .biz, .one, .red)
44. Vidcloud (vidcloud9.com)
45. warez-bb (warez-bb.org)
46. Watch Series (mywatchseries.stream)
47. watchonlinemovies (moviesonline.com.pk / moviesonlinewatch.com.pk / movieswatch.com.pk / watchmovies7.com.pk)
48. watchseries.net (watchseries.net)
49. watchseriesHD (watchserieshd.co)
50. watch-seriesHD (watch-serieshd.cc)
51. watchserieshd.tv (watchserieshd.tv)
52. world4ufree (world4ufree.top, .work, .blue, .casa, .host, .icu, .life, .surf)
53. x1337x.eu (x1337x.eu)
54. Y2mate.com (Y2mate.com)
55. Y80s.com (Y80s.com)
56. yifytorrent.pro (yifytorrent.pro)
57. Bs (bs.to)
58. S (s.to)
59. AnimeKisa (animekisa.tv)
60. Anime4You (anime4you.one)
61. Animeram (animeram.cc)
62. 123anime (123anime.cc)
63. Animeflix (Animeflix.to)
64. 4anime (4anime.to)
65. Darkanime Stream (app.darkanime.stream)
66. AnimePill (animepill.com)
67. Anime Simple (animesimple.com)
68. AnimeSim (not blocked, removed from application/injunction)
69. AniMixPlay (animixplay.com)
70. 14tv (14tv.com)
71. Bestdrama (destdrama.net)
72. Dramanice (dramanice.movie / dramanice.site)
73. haitum.com (haitum.com)
74. Have8 (have8.tv)
75. Hktvdrama (Hktvdrama.com)
76. Kissasian (kissasian.sh, .ch)
77. loldytt (loldytt.com)
78. newasiantv (newasiantv.tv)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

Monday, October 19th, 2020
LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
8:16 pm
Cloudflare Counters Mass Piracy Allegations in ‘Thothub’ Lawsuit

thothub logoCloudflare is a CDN provider that doesn’t host any copyright infringing material, but several of the company’s customers do.

This has resulted in various copyright infringement allegations, including lawsuits in the US, Europe, and elsewhere.

While Cloudflare positions itself as a neutral intermediary that can’t do anything to stop pirate sites, not all courts agree. Just this month, courts in Germany and Italy ruled that Cloudflare must take action against copyright-infringing customers.

Waidhofer vs. Thothub

In the US, the company is also involved in various copyright infringement lawsuits. One of the most prominent was filed this summer by Deniece Waidhofer, a Texas-based model with millions of followers, who sells sexy pictures of herself online.

Like many others, Waidhofer offers different subscription levels for her photos, charging up to $1,000 per month for the sexiest footage. That sounds like a profitable business, but as with all content published on the Internet, pirates can step in to ruin the party.

Some of her ‘fans’ abuse the exclusive paid access to post her photos in public. This is done in many places, including specialized sites that focus on such exclusive leaks. Up until a few weeks ago, the website Thothub was one of the biggest players in this market.

Copyright Lawsuit Involves Cloudflare

Unhappy with the state of play, Waidhofer took Thothub to court. In a complaint filed at a federal court in California, she accused the site’s alleged operator – who goes by the name “Captain Thotcakes” – and the site’s members of direct copyright infringement.

The claims also apply to several advertisers and Cloudflare, the CDN provider used by the site. Together, these parties are also charged with other claims, including violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Soon after the lawsuit was filed Thothub went offline and it hasn’t come back since. This is an early victory for the model, but it doesn’t mean that the case is over. Cloudflare still has to defend itself against the allegations and a few days ago the company countered these in court.

Cloudflare Wants Claims Dismissed

In a 34-page filing, Cloudflare refutes the allegations. It asks the court to dismiss all claims, describing the lawsuit as a “frivolous” attempt to hold an innocent third-party intermediary liable.

“Plaintiff’s attempt to turn the fact that a single website signed up for Cloudflare’s services online into a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy is frivolous,” Cloudflare writes.

“Plaintiff’s effort to hold Cloudflare liable for copyright infringement that allegedly occurred on Thothub, simply because Cloudflare provided content-neutral infrastructure and security services, lacks any basis.”

Cloudflare stresses that, in her complaint, Waidhofer herself emphasizes that the company’s role is limited to providing services such as infrastructure support, content delivery networking, and DDoS mitigation.

Insufficient Evidence

According to the CDN provider, the copyright infringement allegations can’t be backed up. For example, there is insufficient evidence to show that it purposefully contributed to any infringing activity.

The RICO conspiracy claim fails as well, Cloudflare argues. This requires proof that the companies involved caused Waidhofer harm and that there is a close, direct, and causal connection with Cloudflare’s business activities.

This is not the case here, Cloudflare argues, while pointing the finger at the model’s ‘fans’ who leaked the content.

“Rather, her alleged injury stems from acts of her own subscribers and fans in ‘leaking’ her alleged images, and from acts of Thothub and its users in posting them online and making them available to others,” Cloudflare writes.

Minimal Involvement

The company says it did nothing to purposefully cause these infringements. Even if the company didn’t exist, the ‘pirate’ site could still operate through another CDN provider, or without one.

“Cloudflare does not own or operate Thothub, cannot control what is posted on any given website, and lacks the ability to remove infringing content. Removing Cloudflare’s services would do nothing to remove the content.”

With a timely Halloween reference, the company tries to emphasize its neutral role.

“Cloudflare could not plausibly be considered the proximate cause of any harm flowing from the use of this type of service, any more than a Halloween supply company could be said to have ’caused’ a bank’s losses from masked robbers,” it adds.

Based on these and a variety of other arguments, Cloudflare asks the court to dismiss all claims. This request is now with the court, which will likely hear Waidhofer’s response before making a final judgment.

A copy of Cloudflare’s motion to dismiss is available here (pdf)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
8:44 am
Men Sued For Selling IPTV Subscriptions From Pirate Provider Previously Raided By Police

IPTVFounded way back in 2008, ATN (Advanced TV Network) was an IPTV business in Sweden supplying more than a thousand TV channels to customers via the Internet.

The company was incorporated, paid its taxes, and in 2013 generated around $7m in sales with a decent profit margin. In 2016, however, ATN was raided by the police and its operators were eventually charged with copyright infringement offenses for distributing unlicensed TV, among other things.

ATN Operators Sentenced to Prison

In 2018, the Stockholm Patent and Market court found three operators of ATN guilty of copyright infringement and other offenses. ATN owner Hamid al-Hamid was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. His son and another accomplice both received one-year prison sentences. In addition, they were ordered to pay over 209 million Swedish kroner (then $24m) in damages to rightsholders.

According to a lawsuit filed by broadcaster DISH Network this week, ATN is now based in the United Arab Emirates and through distribution partners, is currently doing illegal business in the United States. DISH is hoping to shut these partners down and obtain substantial damages, alleging that they breach the broadcaster’s copyrights.

Lawsuit Targets Sellers/Partners of ATN in United States

According to a new lawsuit filed in a Florida district court, Alfa TV Inc. is operated in the United States by a number of individuals associated with ATN. Florida resident Hisham Manse Ibrahem is the company’s president, Haitham Mansi is its vice-president, Nezar Saeed Hammo is Alfa’s marketing manager, and Mohammed Abu Oun acts as general manager. All are named defendants.

The complaint alleges that the men and Alfa TV Inc. together do business as ElafnetTV, a ‘pirate’ IPTV service that provides access to the ATN service to customers in the United States. Documentation cited by DISH has ElafnetTV marketing itself as the official distributor of ATN in the country.

“Defendants continued to distribute the ATN/Elafnet Service to customers in the United States, even after the 2016 raid and 2018 criminal convictions against ATN’s operators, and to this day refer to ElafnetTV as the ‘Biggest Arabic IPTV Provider in the World’,” the lawsuit reads.

“Defendants demonstrated the willfulness of their copyright infringement by continuing to distribute the ATN/Elafnet Service that provides unauthorized access to channels exclusively licensed to DISH, despite receiving numerous demands to cease and despite the criminal copyright convictions against ATN’s operators.”

“Long History of Willful Copyright Infringement”

The DISH lawsuit claims that Ibrahem, Mansi, plus a now-deceased individual launched ElafnetTV in 2010 with the aim of distributing the ATN service.

While the outfit has changed its business names a number of times (eventually ending up as Alfa TV Inc., DISH has been sending copyright infringement notices (more than 110 according to the lawsuit) to the defendants and the ATN service raided in Sweden since 2013. Indeed, DISH claims strong links between ATN and the defendants.

After sending a copyright infringement notice in 2015, ATN founder Hamid al-Hamid (who was later sentenced to prison in Sweden) stated that Alfa TV/ElafnetTV’s Mansi was ATN’s sales director in the United States, stating that a meeting could be arranged with DISH to “find a formula for cooperation”.

“Defendants have a close relationship with ATN and al-Hamid. Hammo and al-Hamid are friends on Facebook and Mansi and al-Hamid appear together in photos posted to al-Hamid’s Facebook account,” the lawsuit adds.

“Despite the criminal convictions, ATN has continued to operate and Defendants likewise have continued to advertise, promote, sell, and distribute the ATN/Elafnet Service to customers in the United States, thereby providing them with access to the [DISH] Protected Channels.”

Inducing and Materially Contributing to Copyright Infringement

According to DISH, ATN/Elafnet advertised their IPTV product as a means of accessing the company’s channels and had actual knowledge that subscribers of the unlicensed service were breaching DISH’s exclusive distribution and performance rights. The defendants could have taken “simple measures” to remove DISH content after receiving copyright complaints but chose not to, the broadcaster adds.

“Ibrahem, Mansi, Hammo, and Abuoun are jointly and severally liable for each act of infringement of Alfa TV because they personally directed, authorized, supervised, or participated in, and financially benefited from such infringing conduct as alleged herein,” the complaint reads.

“Defendants’ actions were willful, malicious, intentional, and purposeful, and in disregard of and with indifference to the rights of DISH.”

Demands For Millions in Damages Plus Permanent Injunction

The DISH lawsuit demands $150,000 in statutory damages for at least 107 registered works infringed under 17 U.S.C. § 504(c) and an award for defendants’ profits attributable to the infringement of unregistered works under 17 U.S.C. § 504(b). Together, these claims could easily run to several million dollars in overall damages.

In addition, DISH demands an order requiring the defendants to hand over their domain names to the broadcaster and the impoundment of all infringing articles under 17 U.S.C. § 503.

On top of attorneys’ fees and costs, DISH also requests a permanent injunction, restraining the defendants and those acting in concert with them from transmitting, streaming, distributing or publicly performing its copyrighted content in the United States via the ATN/Elafnet service and/or any of the apps and processes associated with it.

The DISH complaint can be found here (pdf)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

Sunday, October 18th, 2020
LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
7:37 pm
Anti-Piracy Alliance Wants .To Registry to Expose Streaming Piracy Giant S.to

tonicWith hundreds of thousands of registered users and millions of regular visitors, the pirate TV-streaming community S.to is a force to be reckoned with.

The site targets a German-language audience and currently lists more than 750,000 streaming links to well over 5,000 TV-series.

This public display of piracy is a thorn in the side of major copyright holders. This includes the anti-piracy coalition ACE, which counts Netflix, Amazon, and several Hollywood studios among its members.

ACE wants Domain Registry to Identify S.to operator

In recent weeks, ACE has obtained several subpoenas to compel Cloudflare to hand over all information it has on dozens of pirate sites. This effort continued recently, but this time it’s directed at Tonic, the official registry of the .to domain name, with S.to as the single target.

Through the subpoena, the anti-piracy coalition asks Tonic to disclose information including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, payment information, account updates, and account history associated with the domain registrant.

While .to is the top-level domain of the island kingdom of Tonga, the Tonic registry operates through Tonic Domains Corp., which clearly has a U.S. presence with a California address. As such, it will generally fall under the jurisdiction of US courts.

s.to streaming

As is usually the case with DMCA subpoenas, this request was approved by a court clerk without oversight from a judge. That will require the registry to hand over the requested information. How valuable that will be, has yet to be seen.

Part of the Anti-Piracy Toolbox

An anti-piracy source familiar with the matter informs TorrentFreak that some information obtained through these subpoenas is fake or unusable. However, it can result in actionable intelligence as well, and even false information can have its value.

Generally speaking, our source says that DMCA subpoenas are just another part of a larger anti-piracy toolbox, one that ACE now uses to its full potential.

In the long term, copyright holders are hoping subpoenas will become even more effective. This can be achieved by making sure that information kept by online services is more accurate. This is a topic that’s high on the anti-piracy agenda at the moment.

KYBC Push

Last month, a coalition of more than 50 groups sent a letter sent to the European Commission asking it to consider broader “Know Your Business Customer” (KYBC) requirements as part of the Digital Services Act.

The groups wrote that they would like third-party intermediaries, including hosting providers and domain registrars, to carry out more checks to properly confirm the identities of customers. At the moment, this information is often missing.

This means that, even if ACE’s current subpoena efforts prove to be fruitless, they can still use that failure as ammunition to show that stricter regulations are needed. In other words, it’s pretty much a win-win situation.

A copy of the declaration from MPA/ACE in support of their subpoena request is available here (pdf)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
10:38 am
ISPs Are Monitoring IPTV Pirates’ Activities, Court Documents Reveal

SpyBlocking of regular piracy websites has been a feature of anti-piracy enforcement in Europe for almost 15 years.

The way these blocks are achieved is broadly similar, with entertainment industry companies filing “no-fault” injunctions against Internet service providers who stand before the courts accused of facilitating the copyright-infringing activities of their subscribers.

Once this infringement has been identified and the ISPs put on notice by the courts, they are required to block access to the sites in question, using basic DNS techniques or in the UK, for example, more sophisticated methods that require a VPN or similar tool to tunnel through.

IPTV Blocking – A More Sophisticated Beast

In recent years, live sports groups such as the Premier League and UEFA have obtained similar injunctions that are more complex. These ‘dynamic’ blocking efforts require intricate work by the organizations’ anti-piracy partners, who identify the IP addresses of specific ‘pirate’ servers, including those that can be changed at short notice, in order for ISPs to block them at match times.

While unpopular, there is nothing particularly surprising about these efforts. Content companies have obtained the necessary legal permissions and have a right to protect their businesses. And for the ISPs, it should be a simple case of them ‘firewalling’ the IP addresses in question so that subscribers cannot access them directly to watch live matches. However, it seems pretty clear that something else is going on too.

ISPs’ Vested Interest in Stopping Pirates

Now that they are both broadcasters and ISPs, companies including Sky have a vested interest in stopping piracy. This means that while blocking injunctions against ISPs used to be fiercely contested, that’s no longer the case. In fact, in a recent blocking case brought by UEFA in Ireland, it was revealed in court documents that Sky actually supported the action, despite being a defendant.

While that’s the company’s prerogative, something more worrying was mentioned in the same case. It appears that in this matter, Sky or others acting on its behalf, have been monitoring the traffic of Sky subscribers who accessed the servers of pirate IPTV providers.

Perhaps Not the ‘Dumb Pipe’ ISPs Are Usually Portrayed As

In the order obtained by UEFA in the High Court of Ireland in September, comments made by Justice David Barniville revealed that the activities of Sky subscribers were used to support the application by UEFA to have pirate services blocked.

“I am satisfied that the [blocking] Order is necessary for the purpose of protecting the Plaintiff’s copyright against infringement. I note from the evidence, and accept, that there has been a significant shift away from the use of websites in more recent years in favor of devices and apps, in particular, set top boxes that can be watched on televisions in people’s living rooms,” Justice Barniville wrote.

“The affidavit of Jiajun Chen provides a confidential traffic analysis which evidences the use of the Sky network by Irish viewers to watch online illegal UEFA content.”

That the traffic analysis itself is “confidential” feels just a little ironic, given that it apparently reports on communications that should have been confidential too.

In this case, Mr. Chen appears to have obtained access to at least part of the Internet habits of some Sky subscribers. Any requests made from customers’ connections usually go straight from their devices via the ISP to the ‘pirate’ servers in question, meaning that only Sky should be in the middle. Reading between the lines, Sky appears to have monitored, logged, and made available information related to these communications to support the application of the plaintiff.

Worryingly, this monitoring of customers’ traffic has been going on for some time, since it was briefly covered in previous blocking injunctions obtained by the Premier League. Precisely what information is being held is unclear but if it relates to attempts to access ‘infringing servers’, any and all data (if only metadata) is available to ISPs.

No Expectation of Communications Privacy?

Putting aside the issue of copyright infringement for a moment, this type of monitoring behavior is unlikely to sit well with the customers of ISPs who either demand or at least expect privacy. Neither does it sit well with Ed Geraghty, a Senior Technologist at UK-based charity Privacy International.

“Censorship and monitoring of the Internet, generally, leads to chilling effects and violates our human right against arbitrary interference to our privacy, home, and correspondence. This is just another example that despite cries to the contrary from industries and governments alike, the Internet is a heavily surveilled and highly regulated space, where tracking is rampant,” Geraghty informs TorrentFreak.

“In recent years there have been great strides in the roll out of end-to-end encryption and the safety and privacy it can offer the content of our communications whilst in transit, but fundamentally there’s still – necessarily – huge amounts of metadata attached to our every interaction online.”

What Can Be Done to Prevent ISP Monitoring?

While some will argue that privacy shouldn’t apply when subscribers are reportedly breaking the law, the big question relates to the slippery slope. If subscribers’ activities are apparently being monitored for one type of traffic today, how long before other types of traffic are considered fair game too? Preventing this, privacy experts insist, is not just possible but also necessary to prevent Internet surveillance from getting out of hand.

“Depending on which point the ISPs are monitoring, there are various ways you can attempt to obscure your traffic – for instance, using third-party DNS over HTTPS, or a VPN – but be aware that this is merely shifting who can see your traffic away from your ISP to someone else,” Geraghty adds.

Given their simplicity and wide availability, the use of VPNs to prevent monitoring is a natural choice and something that has been gaining traction in recent times. David Wibergh from OVPN says he believes that Sky is proposing the “black holing” of IP addresses instead of blocking DNS queries, which is problematic in itself.

“As IP addresses are typically in temporary use and could be used by several sites simultaneously, it can lead to unexpected and obtrusive blocking of content that has nothing to do with piracy,” Wibergh says.

“By using a VPN provider you remove the internet providers’ capabilities of performing blocking, surveillance and traffic analysis, as the only traffic originating from you is towards the VPN provider’s server. It’s crucial to choose a VPN provider that is trustworthy as VPN providers are able to perform the same form of traffic shaping as the ISP. But even if there is a risk that VPN providers log; it’s a guarantee that your ISP logs.

Daniel Markuson, Digital Privacy Expert at NordVPN, says that perceived privacy intrusions like these will only will lead to more uptake.

“Blocks of services and the subsequent discoveries of traffic monitoring and trade will lead to an increased demand for VPNs,” Markuson says.

“Whenever a government announces an increase in surveillance, internet restrictions, or other types of constraints, people turn to privacy tools. We saw similar spikes in different regions: for example, when the US repealed net neutrality, or the UK passed the law dubbed ‘The Snoopers’ Charter‘.”

Finally, a simple, obvious, but nevertheless important comment from Harold Li, Vice President of ExpressVPN, that applies to all Internet users concerned about the privacy of their communications.

“The onus is still on consumers to take action and protect themselves,” he concludes.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

Saturday, October 17th, 2020
LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
8:27 pm
19 ‘YTS Users’ Sued for Sharing Pirated Copies of “Ava”

ava movieIn recent months we have reported in detail how users of the popular torrent site YTS were sued in US courts.

In several of these cases, information shared by the site’s operator was brought in as evidence. The user info was obtained by anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper, as part of an undisclosed settlement agreement.

This week the same attorney is back in court representing ‘Eve Nevada LLC,’ the company behind the film Ava, which is shared widely on various pirate sites. Again, YTS is prominently mentioned, but this time things are different.

The complaint, filed at a Hawaii federal court, lists 19 ‘John Doe’ defendants who are only known by their IP-addresses. These addresses were caught sharing the film via public torrent trackers. Specifically, the complaint mentions a file titled “Ava (2020) [1080p] [WEBRip] [5.1] [YTS.MX].”

This title leads the filmmakers to the conclusion that the defendant must have been users of the YTS site. Or as the complaint puts it:

“Upon information and belief, each of the Defendants registered for an account on the YTS website using an email address or installed a BitTorrent Client application on their device that retrieved torrent files from the YTS website.”

ava defendants

This same conclusion, in addition to the fact that defendants downloaded the same file, is also used as an argument to join the 19 defendants in one case. However, based on the information presented, it’s far from clear that at all of these people were indeed YTS users.

Unlike in the other cases, the copyright holder didn’t present any information from the YTS user base, likely because it doesn’t have any. The data-sharing was a one-time arrangement several months ago, long before YTS released the movie Ava.

While it’s possible that the defendants indeed used YTS, they could have easily downloaded the .torrent file from other sites where the same file was made available. Although several torrent sites banned YTS torrents, many haven’t, including the illustrious Pirate Bay.

Whether the defendants are actually YTS users or not may not make much of a difference. At least not for the copyright infringement allegations.

In addition to direct and contributory copyright infringement, the complaint also accuses the defendant of violating the DMCA by altering copyright management information (CMI). In this case, that means distributing the movie Ava with an edited title, which references YTS.

“Particularly, the Defendants distributed the file names that included CMI that had been altered to include the wording ‘YTS’. Defendants knew that the wording “YTS” originated from the notorious movie piracy website for which each had registered accounts and/or actively used,” the complaint reads.

It’s doubtful that any of these cases will be fought on the merits. When the defendant’s personal information is exposed it’s likely that they will receive a settlement request, which is usually around $1,000. Those who refuse to settle can argue their case in court, but that’s going to cost as well. They can eventually win the case, but not without investing in a legal defense first.

As far as we know this is the first time people have been sued for downloading the film Ava. The company Eve Nevada is a new name as well, but one with familiar connections. It’s connected to the broader Voltage Pictures family, which has sued tens of thousands of people over the years.

A copy of the complaint filed at the US District Court of Hawaii is available here (pdf)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

LJ.Rossia.org makes no claim to the content supplied through this journal account. Articles are retrieved via a public feed supplied by the site for this purpose.
11:12 am
Anti-Piracy Group BREIN Targets Operators of ‘Spotweb’ Decentralized Community Tool

Pirate KeyWhile most pirates in 2020 use torrent, streaming and download portals for their general piracy needs, many are still obtaining the latest content from Usenet, one of the oldest file-sharing systems around.

With masses of storage space and blisteringly quick download speeds available (not to mention archives dating back years), Usenet is still a significant source of pirated movies, music, games and just about every other type of content available. But finding that content isn’t always so easy.

Finding Content on Usenet

Since Usenet isn’t web-based, methods have been created over the years to enable people to download more easily from the newsgroups. The NZB file, for example, can be described as a kind of .torrent file for Usenet, one that is quickly downloaded and contains ‘directions’ so that clients can access content.

Sites for downloading NZB files still exist but aren’t as prevalent as they once were, so finding the whereabouts of content on Usenet is still something pirates have to achieve. In 2001, almost two decades ago, Netherlands-based Usenet community FTD launched with a goal of helping people do just that.

After Legal Action, FTD Shuts Down

After around eight years in operation, the FTD community had grown to 500,000 members and with the assistance of its own software, was enabling users to find (‘spot’) the location of material they found on Usenet and share that information with others. This community effort enabled huge numbers of people to find and download all the content they wanted but with much of it infringing, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN became involved.

Ultimately, a court found that FTD acted outside the law and in 2011 it was ordered to remove all ‘spots’ of copyrighted files within a month. At the time BREIN said that people weren’t allowed to structurally make use of illegal files, and that applied to Usenet as well as the wider Internet.

“BREIN will also hold liable any other websites and services that do the same regardless of the technical protocol they use for their illegal business model,” BREIN chief Tim Kuik said at the time.

As it turns out, nine years after the takedown of FTD, BREIN says it is still doing just that.

Spotweb – A Web Client/Interface for the Spotnet Protocol

Following the demise of FTD, a protocol known as Spotnet gained an unexpected boost. Operating on top of Usenet, Spotnet provides an alternative to Usenet indexing sites, making ‘spots’ less vulnerable to the anti-piracy actions of groups like BREIN. In order to see content ‘spots’ a Spotnet client is required. However, people can also make use of Spotweb, a piece of software that as its name suggests, brings ‘spots’ directly to the web.

“Spotweb is open source software that allows you to locate illegal copies of entertainment content in newsgroups on usenet. You can set up Spotweb so that it is visible to everyone. It then acts as a website,” Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN said in an announcement this week.

While BREIN is interested in all types of piracy related to Usenet, Spotweb’s ability to make content extremely easy to find via the web is clearly an issue, as the screenshot of a Spotweb instance below shows.

Spotweb

Spotweb is available on Github and can be installed on Unix-based systems and even NAS devices from companies such as Synology and QNAP. As such the barrier to running a public repository of infringing content links is quite low, something that BREIN is keen to discourage.

BREIN Says it is Taking Action Against Those Running Spotweb

“People who do this offer illegal spots (nzb links or references) to unauthorized content. BREIN writes to such providers and urges them to stop doing so, to sign a declaration of abstention with a penalty of 500 euros and to pay 150 euros in costs,” BREIN said this week.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, BREIN chief Tim Kuik said that Spotnet/Spotweb has become one of the main means to search for and download pirated content from Usenet and those running it for infringing purposes face a situation as precarious as that faced by FTD all those years ago.

“The legal position is the same as for FTD and other link sites. Linking to illegal content is illegal and has been standing case law [in the Netherlands] for well over a decade. It started out being a tort and in the meantime, under EU case law, it is now a communication to the public,” he explained.

As is common with ongoing actions for shutdown and settlement, Kuik didn’t provide specifics on who had been approached to shut down, who had shut down, or how many people had agreed to pay settlements. However, he confirmed that during the past few weeks, “a handful” of people operating Spotweb sites had been approached by the anti-piracy group with orders to close.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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