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  1. #801
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    High Court Slams Brakes on New UK Copyright-Trolling Effort


    A judge at the High Court has denied an application from known copyright trolls targeting customers of Virgin Media in the UK. Mircom and Golden Eye, along with movie company partners, sought the identities of thousands of individuals said to have shared movies without permission. Citing a number of serious failings in the application, the Court denied the request.


    Those familiar with the copyright-trolling landscape against alleged file-sharers in the UK will be familiar with the names Golden Eye (International) and Mircom.


    The companies have a track record of targeting Internet subscribers in the UK (1,2,3,4) with demands for cash settlements to make supposed (but non-existent) court cases disappear.


    The companies have been quiet for years but back in February attempted to resurrect their pay-up-or-else scheme at the High Court. Neither firm was presented as copyright holders in their Norwich Pharmacal order application. Instead, they aimed to represent 16 pornographic movie company partners.


    The crux of the application was that ISP Virgin Media should disclose the subscriber details behind allegedly-infringing IP addresses said to have downloaded the pornographic movies. The number of addresses isn’t clear but the claim that “no more than 5000 IP addresses per fortnight” would be requested from Virgin Media (and no more than 500 letters per week would be sent to subscribers) hints at the scale.


    A High Court judgment published Wednesday reveals that Virgin Media put up a considerable fight to have the order denied, which is quite a novelty considering how compliant some ISPs have been in the face of similar cases.


    Douglas Campbell QC, sitting as High Court Judge, indicated that Virgin’s submissions had been very useful since the points raised by the company would probably have been raised by the subscribers, had they been a party to the proceedings.


    The judgment traverses a complex web of privacy and data protection matters, including those related to the GDPR. While important considerations, little of that appears to have mattered. Ultimately, it’s evidence that the companies simply failed to get their acts together.


    Submissions by Virgin pointed out that evidence presented by Mr Becker (Golden Eye) and Mr Hoffman (Mircom) fell short, to say the least. To begin, the IP address list (crucial for the application to proceed) hadn’t been presented as evidence in the application.


    “Mr Hoffmann’s witness statement is dated 26th February 2018,” the Judge responded.


    “In paragraph 1 he explains that Mircom seeks disclosure ‘of the names and addresses of the subscribers associated with the IP addresses listed in a spreadsheet attached as Exhibit 1’. But there was no Exhibit 1.”


    A terrible start. But there were further problems too.


    “In a witness statement dated 26 June 2018, Mr Wagner [solicitor for the applicants] purported to exhibit a spreadsheet marked ‘MWH1’, described as a spreadsheet setting out the IP addresses of subscribers for the period 27 February to the dates shown on the spreadsheet,” the Judge continued.


    “This cannot be the same as Mr Hoffmann’s own intended Exhibit 1 since it post-dates Mr Hoffmann’s witness statement. Further this exhibit does not even set out any IP addresses, merely information including an ‘infringement ID’ which appears to be date-related.


    “In any event even exhibit MWH1 is not what is sought. Mircom actually seeks the names and addresses of a spreadsheet which was sent to Virgin by email on 7 June 2019. This spreadsheet is not in evidence, nor is there any explanation of how it was produced.”


    Claims by Golden Eye and Mircom that these were just “technical” issues were dismissed by the Judge, who explained the errors and omissions as “fundamental”.


    Evidence provided by the applicants’ supposed “experts” was lacking too. Mircom relied on an expert technical report by a Dr Sarre which supported the claimed effectiveness of infringement tracking software called “FileWatchBT. That report was reportedly “commissioned by telephone” on April 1, 2010.


    “I do not accept that I should simply assume that a 9 year old expert report remains up to date, particularly one given in the field of computer software,” the Judge commented, noting that the report also lacked the required “statement of truth” to comply with civil procedure rules.


    There were also problems with Fieser’s statement, not least the claim that the software was used to identify the infringements in Exhibit 1, which of course wasn’t presented in evidence.


    According to the Judge, the evidence relied upon by Golden Eye, provided by a Mr Paige, was somehow “even worse”. It certainly reads that way.


    “There is no statement of truth; no clarity as to what his instructions were; his evidence refers to static IP addresses, not dynamic ones; and his evidence appears to relate to a software program called ‘Observer’,” the Judge complained.


    “Yet Mr Fieser gave a statement (also unsupported by a Statement of Truth) dated 1st December 2017 in which he seemed to think the software mentioned in Mr Paige’s report was called ‘International IP Tracker’.


    “Virgin also drew my attention (without comment by the Applicants) to evidence from Ms Griffin, Senior Legal Counsel of Virgin, suggesting that Mr Paige was a former detective who was arrested and dismissed after receiving a controlled substance.”


    In response to these shortcomings, Golden Eye and Mircom requested permission to replace their ‘expert’ evidence. Douglas Campbell QC denied the request, noting that the defects were “fundamental”.


    At this point it’s clear that the application for disclosure was already in disarray but the Judge still took time to address other points that will be of interest to readers, not least the claim by Virgin Media that the applicants were part of a “money-making scheme” or “shakedown”.


    The Judge said that in order to satisfy himself that the application was genuine, he’d need to know more about how IP addresses (obtained by Golden Eye and Mircom as a result of their earlier claims) had actually been used.


    It transpires that following an earlier application, Mircom wrote to 749 people demanding settlement. Just 76 admitted fault, 15 settled without admitting liability, and zero cases were taken to court. That raised questions about what happened to the tens of thousands of subscribers identified following previous orders and what their responses had been.


    “This is not something which the Applicants’ current evidence addresses, nor is it information which they have offered to supply, hence this is a further reason why I refuse the applications sought,” the Judge added.


    The full judgment is available here.


    Torrentfreak.com

  2. #802
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    Torrent Site YTS Discussed Settlement With Movie Companies

    Following a lawsuit filed by several movie companies, a representative of the popular torrent site YTS reportedly considered a settlement. While no agreement was reached, the notorious pirate site has made several movies unavailable to the public at large.

    YTS is the
    most-visited torrent site on the Internet. With millions of visitors, it even beats the legendary Pirate Bay.

    The site ‘unofficially’ took over the YTS brand when the original group threw in the towel in 2015. Since then, it has amassed a rather impressive user base. However, that growth didn’t go unnoticed by rightsholders.

    A few weeks ago the site ran into legal trouble when it was sued by a group of film companies, including the makers of ‘Once Upon a Time in Venice,’ ‘Mechanic: Resurrection,’ and ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’. In a complaint filed at a Hawaiian federal court,
    they accused the site’s operator of inducing massive copyright infringement.

    With the legal action, the companies hope to shut the site down and recoup claimed losses. However, that’s easier said than done. In similar cases, site operators often ignored the complaints and any orders that follow them.

    Surprisingly, however, a claimed representative of YTS, going by the name “Mr. Segaran,” directly reached out to the film companies’ attorney, Kerry Culpepper, after the lawsuit was filed. Apparently, the torrent site was open to resolving the matter, a new court filing reveals.

    In an email conversation documented by the attorney, Mr. Segaran said he was open to discussing a settlement, but refused to provide identifying information or sign a waiver of service. The attorney replied by stating that a settlement would at least require YTS to remove all links to movies of his clients, which Mr. Segaran agreed to do.

    “We have received good news, confirmation that all the titles you have sent have been permanently removed from the website and filters put in place to avoid reupping,” the YTS representative wrote to Culpepper a few weeks ago.

    While this seemed like a promising start, soon after that statement all communication stopped. That’s not all, because YTS also rebranded and switched domain names, moving from
    YTS.am to YTS.lt.

    While no official settlement has been reached, YTS did limit the accessibility of the movie companies’ films. Unlike other torrents, which can be downloaded by anyone, titles such as The Hitman’s Bodyguard are now listed as being ‘private.’

    “You are trying to access private content. Please LOGIN to gain access to all YIFY content or Create a Free Account to join YTS.LT,” a message on YTS.lt reads.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/ytserror.jpg

    The movie companies’ attorney also noticed this change. In the recent filing, he highlights the rebranding and the private listings of the torrents.

    “The new website yts.lt once again apparently allows users to download torrent files of Plaintiffs’ motion pictures, but only if the user creates a YTS account and logs in,” Culpepper wrote to the court.

    Culpepper suggests that people can still download the torrent when they sign in. However, when we created an account and tried to access the torrent while being signed in, it was still listed as private. This suggests that the movies in question are effectively inaccessible.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that the movie companies are letting the case go. Their attorney recently asked the Court for permission to subpoena YTS’s international web host and domain registrars in order to obtain the true identities of the operator.

    The Court denied this motion on July 1, citing a lack of personal jurisdiction, as its uncertain whether defendant(s) have ties to the US. To counter this, the movie companies’ attorney submitted a motion for reconsideration, which remains pending today.

    In recent filings, the movie companies stress that YTS has clear ties with the US. Among other things, YTS is believed to have used the services of New York hosting company Digital Ocean.

    The information about the hosting provider was shared by Cloudflare, which handed over detailed audit logs after it was subpoenaed. This, surprisingly linked YTS to many other torrent sites as well.

    “The audit logs for the YTS websites indicate that this Cloudflare account also hosted numerous other movie piracy websites such as: piratetorrents.net, limetorrents.cc, yourbittorrent.com, rarbg.to, torrentbutler.eu, piratetorrents.net, thepiratebay.se.net, torrentz.eu, 1337x.to and extratorrent.cc,” the movie companies write.

    Whether all the mentioned sites have anything to do with YTS is doubtful though. TorrentFreak knows that many are or were operated by entirely different people, don’t use Cloudflare, or have been defunct for years.

    It seems more likely that some of the listed sites are in no way related, especially since anyone can add a random domain to a Cloudflare account. This is sometimes done by bad actors who want to
    hijack domain names of other people.

    The movie companies, nonetheless, will continue their legal battle and hope to unmask the real YTS operator. The same lawsuit also targets Vietnamese national Nguyen Manh, the alleged operator of YIFYMovies.is, a site that shut down shortly after the lawsuit was filed.


    Torrentfreak.com

  3. #803
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    Pirate Bay Overblocking Hits EZTV Due to Shared Cloudflare IP Address

    Dutch Internet provider Ziggo has mistakenly blocked access to the popular torrent site EZTV. The overblocking started when The Pirate Bay and EZTV were put on the same Cloudflare IP-address. The issue was eventually resolved after anti-piracy group BREIN asked Cloudflare to put EZTV on a different IP-address.

    The Pirate Bay is arguably the most widely blocked website on the Internet. ISPs from all over the world have been ordered to prevent users from accessing the torrent site.

    This is also the case in the Netherlands. While the issue remains pending at the Supreme Court, ISPs including Ziggo are already required to prevent users from accessing the popular torrent site.

    A court
    ruling of 2017 required Ziggo to block both domain names and IP-addresses of The Pirate Bay and its many proxies. The list of blocked domains has grown to hundreds in recent years and the Dutch blocklist is regularly updated with new domains and IP-addresses by anti-piracy group BREIN.

    Thus far, this hasn’t caused any trouble but earlier this month several torrent users noticed that Ziggo’s Pirate Bay blockade had carried over to EZTV.io, another
    popular torrent site. While EZTV also provides access to infringing content, it’s not covered by the court order.

    Still, EZTV users were welcomed by the following message from Ziggo when they tried to access the site.

    Blocking message (translated)

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/yarr.jpg

    As it turns out, both EZTV and The Pirate Bay use Cloudflare and the CDN company decided to put both sites on the same IP-address. As a result, Ziggo’s filters also blocked access to EZTV, which is a classic example of overblocking.

    Ziggo confirmed the error to local news site
    Tweakers but said that there was little it could do without an update from BREIN.

    “Despite the fact that Ziggo has repeatedly pointed out these these types of risks, the court did not sufficiently account for these types of complications. This means that even if we see or are reminded that a website is being incorrectly blocked, Ziggo is obliged to uphold the blockade, until further notice from Brein,” Ziggo noted.

    The ISP said that it informed BREIN about the issue early July, but the list wasn’t immediately updated. This meant that EZTV remained blocked for at least a week. The torrent site was eventually unblocked after BREIN asked Cloudflare to put ETZV on a separate IP-address.

    BREIN director Tim Kuik admits that the overblocking took place but doesn’t known why Cloudflare put the sites on the same IP-address.

    “I have no idea why EZTV became available at that IP address. Just like The Pirate Bay, they use Cloudflare and someone apparently thought it was a good idea,” Kuik told Tweakers

    While BREIN helped to get EZTV unblocked again, Kuik stresses that the torrent site is illegal as well. The anti-piracy group summoned EZTV to stop its infringing activity and plans to have it blocked in the future as well, once the Pirate Bay case is finalized at the Supreme Court.

    Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that shared Cloudflare IP-addresses has resulted on overblocking. Two years go, dozens of pirate sites were
    mistakenly blocked by Internet backbone provider Cogent, following a court order. Cloudflare eventually resolved the matter by putting the sites on separate IP-addresses.

    At the time, Cloudflare’s General Counsel Doug Kramer told TorrentFreak that it’s important for his company to understand how different blocks operate around the world, so it can
    limit coleteral damage. However, that clearly didn’t work in EZTV’s case.

    Torrentfreak.com

  4. #804
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    UK ISPs Stop Sending Copyright Infringement Notices

    For more than two years, major UK ISPs have been sending out copyright infringement notices to subscribers caught sharing content using BitTorrent. The voluntary scheme, run by rightsholders, had ambitions to educate 'pirates' to buy from legitimate sources. TorrentFreak can today confirm that ISPs have stopped forwarding notices after the program was terminated by the movie and music companies.

    Every day, millions of Internet users obtain movies, music, TV shows, and other content from peer-to-peer networks, mainly BitTorrent.

    The only ways to reach these users to stop or correct their behavior is via aggressive and controversial lawsuits or infringement notifications sent via ISPs. Both options are unpopular with pirates but the latter is clearly the softer option, especially when that allows rightsholders to turn a negative into a plus.

    In 2014, rightsholders and several ISPs in the UK
    agreed terms on what would be known as VCAP – the Voluntary Copyright Alert Program.

    Entertainment companies, for their part, would monitor file-sharing networks for infringement, logging pirates’ IP addresses as they went. These would be tracked back to ISPs who agreed to forward warning emails to subscriber accounts linked to the alleged piracy, without compromising customers’ privacy.

    As part of the broader government-funded Creative Content UK (CCUK) initiative, the notices would be firm in tone but would also direct alleged pirates to a
    portal where they could learn more about why they had received the notice and where legitimate content could be obtained.

    The accompanying educational program
    was expected to launch in the summer of 2015 but there was little immediate fanfare. By December that year, things did get on the move but a year later, no notices had yet been sent out by participating ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, Sky, and TalkTalk.

    A month or so later, that position changed with an
    announcement that notices were imminent. Soon after, the first news of notices appearing in the wild began to emerge online. However, official updates on the number of notices being sent out failed to emerge, so it was difficult to report on the effectiveness or otherwise of the scheme.

    Nevertheless, in December 2018 the government
    committed a further £2 million (on top of its original £3.5m investment) to the “Get it Right” anti-piracy campaign, as it had became known. The calculation was that increased sales as a result of reduced piracy would bring in additional taxes.

    Most recent accounts filed by CCUK

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/image-91.png

    Like the rest of the data connected to the progress of the scheme, additional sales tax figures have not been made public. However, in February 2019 there was a breakthrough of sorts.

    During an anti-piracy conference in France, a director of music group BPI quietly
    revealed that roughly a million notices had been sent out since the launch of the program. Since the beginning of the entire campaign, piracy had apparently dropped by 26%.

    How much of that claimed decrease can be attributed to the wider campaign or the infringement notices specifically still isn’t known. However, TorrentFreak can today confirm that VCAP, the Voluntary Copyright Alert Program, has come to an end.

    After receiving independent information from two sources this week, we approached the coordinators of the program for official confirmation, which was provided by CCUK last night.

    “Having encouraged increased awareness of the value of genuine content and of its many legally available sources, in turn resulting in reduced infringing behavior, the Get it Right campaign is now moving to its next phase,” a spokesperson for the CCUK Get it Right education campaign told TF.

    “The educational emails sent by ISPs upon detection of infringing file-sharing activity have served their purpose and are ceasing, with the focus instead increasing the broader engagement with fans based around their passion for music, TV, film and all other kinds of creative content.”

    TorrentFreak is informed that during the notice sending stage, ISPs sent most notifications on behalf of the MPA, with the BPI trailing quite a way behind. That would make sense since much of the infringing content shared using BitTorrent is movies and TV shows. Music is still shared via the protocol but consumer habits have changed significantly since the program began and there are now more convenient options for consumers.

    The decision to terminate the notification program was taken several months ago and information suggests that there was no requirement for ISPs to send out additional notices starting July 2019 after CCUK terminated the agreement.

    We understand that a new phase of the Get it Right campaign is set to begin shortly so when we have more information from official sources, we’ll provide an update. In the meantime, we’re informed by third-party sources that the future focus will be on broader advertising and social media campaigns.

    Torrentfreak.com

  5. #805
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    Stream-Rippers Successfully Counter YouTube’s Blocking Efforts

    Last week YouTube started to block stream-ripping sites from accessing its platform. The new measure, which is part of the company's efforts to prevent unauthorized downloading, was welcomed by the music industry and other stakeholders. The targeted sites are not sitting still, however, with several managing to successfully bypass the blocking efforts.

    After the music industry complained about YouTube stream-rippers for many years, the streaming service took a drastic measure last week.

    As first reported here, YouTube
    began blocking several popular stream-ripping tools, which resulted in these sites becoming unusable.

    YouTube didn’t repond to our request for comment, but it appeared to be a concerted efforts to prevent outsiders from downloading music from the platform. A big move, which generated widespread attention, all the way up to the US Congress.

    House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep.
    Jerrold Nadler of New York, reportedly reached out to Google in response. Nadler is a driving force behind many copyright reform proposals and known as a staunch advocate of a more aggresive anti-piracy approach by tech companies.

    According to
    CNET, Nadler was interested in hearing more about the blocking measures, and he’s not alone. Several music industry insiders have shown a keen interest in the developments as well, and the RIAA is cautiously optimistic following the news.

    “While we do not yet know how effective these new measures are, we applaud YouTube for taking affirmative steps towards shutting down the fastest growing form of music piracy,” RIAA boss Mitch Glazier said.

    YouTube, meanwhile, has yet to respond to our request for more details. CNET was more lucky, and quotes the video platform stating that “some MP3 stream ripping sites” were blocked after the platform made some changes recently.

    “It’s our desire to be good partners to our content licensors as our interests are aligned on thwarting violative downloads and downloader site,” YouTube added in a statement.

    While YouTube is happy to side with the music industry and the music industry is pleased with the enforcement efforts, the blocked sites are not sitting still. As is often the case when something becomes blocked online, people quickly find ways to thwart or circumvent the efforts.

    And indeed, little over a week after the blocking efforts started, many of the targeted sites are able to rip MP3s from YouTube again.

    Mp3-youtube.download almost instantly announced that it was working on a fix and today the site is working just fine. The same is true for Dlnowsoft.com, which was also blocked last week, as well as the massively popular Onlinevideoconverter.com, which is among the top 200 most-visited sites on the Internet.

    Ripping again…

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/convertagain.png

    TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of a stream-ripping site who prefers to remain anonymous. He confirmed that bypassing YouTube’s block wasn’t that complicated. Simply moving the site to new IP-addresses did the trick.

    “To fix the problem, we simply used other servers that are not in the range of IP-addresses blocked by YouTube,” the operator of the stream-ripping site informed us.

    If YouTube is indeed serious about its efforts to take out ‘voliative’ stream-ripping sites, it will likely block the new IP-addresses as well, eventually. This will then trigger a proverbial cat and mouse game, one we know all too well from other pirate site blocking efforts.

    Although it’s unlikely that YouTube can completely ban stream-ripping sites from its platform, continued blocking efforts may eventually prompt some site operators and users to give up. Whether these users will switch to legal services or other ”free’ resources, remains a question, of course.

    Torrentfreak.com

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