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  1. #1341
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    Cloudflare Sued For Failing to Terminate 99 ‘Repeat Copyright Infringing’ Sites

    Two companies that design and manufacture wedding dresses are suing Cloudflare for copyright infringement after it failed to terminate service to 99 'repeat infringer' websites. Allure Bridals and Justin Alexander claim that they sent 7,000 DMCA complaints to the CDN company but aside from passing the notices on, Cloudflare failed to take more meaningful action.

    When copyright holders feel they have exhausted all options to have websites stop their allegedly-infringing activities, there is a growing trend to move further up the chain.

    Sites now regularly have copyright complaints filed against their hosting companies and domain registries, for example, demanding that they take action to prevent contentious behavior. Since millions of websites now use Cloudflare’s services, that makes the CDN provider a prime candidate for pressure. A new case filed yesterday in a Tennessee district court provides yet another example.

    American Clothing Express Inc., which does business as Allure Bridals and Justin Alexander, designs and manufactures wedding dresses. As part of the companies’ sales and marketing efforts, they claim to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on photoshoots featuring models wearing their creations.

    According to the companies, however, the resulting photographic images are also being deployed by unauthorized overseas websites (sample below) in an effort to drive customers to unaffiliated bridal stores in local markets selling “cheap imitation” dresses.

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

    The plaintiffs state that they lack a meaningful remedy against such sites, noting that the majority are hosted on servers in China, other locations in South East Asia, or on offshore servers that advertise their non-compliance with United States’ copyright laws.

    “Complaints sent by Plaintiffs, or their agents, to the Infringing Website Defendants, or to the entities hosting them in these far-away jurisdictions, largely fall on deaf ears. Domestic judgments obtained against the Infringing Website Defendants are often unenforceable against them in their home jurisdictions,” the complaint reads.

    The filing lists 99 websites (represented by Does 1-200) falling into these categories that all have something in common – they are or have been customers of US-based Cloudflare. As a result, the plaintiffs have resorted to filing infringement notices with the CDN company, hoping it will take action to restrict the availability of the infringing images.

    Indeed, over the past three years the companies claim that they sent several thousand infringement notifications to Cloudflare which included the URLs of pages on the allegedly infringing sites where unlicensed images were being used. The complaint acknowledges that Cloudflare forwarded the complaints to its customers and their hosts but due to the nature of the clients, the hosting providers mostly ignored the takedown demands.

    The complaint targets the operators of the 99 sample sites with claims of direct copyright infringement but additionally, due to Cloudflare’s involvement, the CDN company itself is accused of contributory copyright infringement.

    “CloudFlare had actual knowledge of the specific infringing activity at issue here because anti-counterfeiting vendors retained by Plaintiffs delivered more than seven thousand notifications to CloudFlare of the ongoing infringement being prosecuted herein over the course of three years,” the complaint reads.

    In common with a
    similar on-going case in California involving another bridal company, the plaintiffs in this matter also state that Cloudflare should have taken more permanent action when they realized that complaints were being made against the same customers time and again, as illustrated by the sample in the image below.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/brid...cloudflare.png

    “CloudFlare could have stopped this infringement being perpetrated through its CDN by simply terminating the accounts of repeat infringers,” the complaint continues.

    “CloudFlare has never terminated a repeat infringer in response to notifications sent by Plaintiffs or other bridal manufacturers. Consequently, an exceedingly disproportionate amount of websites infringing Plaintiffs’ copyrights are optimized by CloudFlare, as opposed to other providers of CDNs, due to CloudFlare’s well-known policy of refusing to terminate repeat infringers.”

    While the plaintiffs don’t mention Cloudflare’s competitors by name, the complaint alleges that in response to similar copyright infringement notices, other CDN providers told their clients that if the images weren’t removed, their entire website accounts would be terminated.

    The term ‘repeat infringer’ is becoming increasingly common in United States copyright infringement cases.

    In December 2019, Cox Communications was hit with a
    $1 billion copyright infringement verdict after a Virginia federal jury determined that the ISP didn’t do enough to stop repeat infringers. Cox was found to be contributorily and vicariously liable for the alleged pirating activities of its subscribers on more than 10,000 copyrighted works.

    For comparison, Allure Bridals and Justin Alexander state that Cloudflare is liable for contributory copyright infringement relating to more than 5,000 infringing images published on 99 different websites. Overall, Cloudflare serves many thousands of pirate sites, making the outcome of this and similar cases of particular interest.

    In respect of the “willful and intentional” direct infringement claims against the 99 websites themselves, Allure Bridals and Justin Alexander request actual or statutory damages, injunctive relief to prevent the ongoing infringements, and the destruction of all copies of copyright works made in violation of the bridal companies’ rights.

    The contributory copyright infringement claim against Cloudflare asserts that the CDN company assisted the direct infringers by storing copies of the infringing images on servers in the United States, improving the performance of the infringing websites, while concealing their true locations.

    As a result, Cloudflare’s behavior is also described as “willful and intentional”, with the plaintiffs demanding a similar injunction in addition to actual or statutory damages.

    Torrentfreak.com

  2. #1342
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    Facebook Sees Copyright Abuse as One of the Platform’s Main Challenges

    Facebook says that it takes abuse and misuse of copyright takedowns very seriously. The company sees this type of abuse as one of its main challenges and it spends a lot of time making sure that legitimate content isn't blocked. The social media giant made these statements in a recent "Article 17" stakeholder meeting at the EU Commission.

    When it comes to targeting infringement, Facebook has rolled out a few anti-piracy initiatives over recent years.

    In addition to processing regular takedown requests, the company has a “
    Rights Manager” tool that detects infringing material automatically and allows owners to take down or monetize the content.

    In a recent meeting organized by the European Commission, Facebook explained in detail how this automated system works. The meeting was organized to create a dialogue between various parties about possible solutions for the implementation of Article 17.

    In Facebook’s presentation Dave Axelgard, product Manager for Rights Manager, explained how automated matching of copyrighted content takes place on the social media network. He also detailed what actions rightsholders can take in response, and how users can protest misuse and abuse of the system.

    The EU meeting was attended by a wide range of parties. In addition to copyright holders, it also included various people representing digital rights organizations. Facebook made it clear that it keeps the interests of all sides in mind. It specifically highlighted, however, that abuse of Rights Manager is a serious concern.

    “We spend much of our time building systems to avoid blocking legitimate content,” Axelgard mentioned during his presentation.

    “The way that inappropriate blocks occur is when rightsholders gain access to Rights Manager despite our application process, who attempt to upload content to the tool that they do not own.”

    Another form of overblocking that takes place is when copyright holders upload content that they don’t own. This can happen by mistake when a compilation video is added, which also includes content that’s not theirs.

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

    Facebook works hard to catch and prevent these types of misuse and abuse, to ensure that its automated detection system doesn’t remove legitimate content. This is also something to keep in mind for the implementation of possible ‘upload filters’ with the introduction of Article 17.

    “Misuse is a significant issue and after operating Rights Manager for a number of years, we can tell you it is one of the most sensitive things that need to be accounted for in a proportionate system,” Axelgard says.

    Facebook tries to limit abuse through a variety of measures. The company limits access to its Rights Manager tool to a select group of verified copyright holders. In addition, it always requires playable reference files, so all claims can be properly vetted.

    The social media network also limits the availability of certain automated actions, such as removal or blocking, to a subset of Rights Manager users. This is in part because some smaller rightsholders may not fully understand copyright, which can lead to errors.

    Finally, Facebook points out that misuse of its Rights Manager tool constitutes a breach of its Terms of Service. This allows the company to terminate rightsholders that repeatedly make mistakes.

    “If we find that Rights Manager is being misused, then under our Rights Manager terms we have the ability to terminate someone’s access to the tool. We really do want to stress how important it is that platforms have the ability to adjust access and functionality related to these powerful technologies to avoid misuse,” Axelgard notes.

    The strong focus on misuse was welcomed by digital rights groups,
    including Communia. However, it also raised some eyebrows among rightsholders.

    Mathieu Moreuil of the English Premier League, who represented the Sports Rights Owner Coalition, asked Facebook whether the abuse of Rights Manager really is the company’s main challenge.

    “I think it’s definitely one of our main challenges,” Axelgard confirmed, while noting that Facebook also keeps the interests of rightsholders in mind.

    Overall, Facebook carefully explained the pros and cons of its system. Whether it is an ideal tool to implement Article 17 in EU countries is another question. In its current form Rights Manager isn’t, as it doesn’t allow all copyright holders to join in.

    Also, Rights Manager works with audio and video, but not with digital images, which is another major restriction.

    On the other hand, there are pitfalls from a consumer perspective as well. Automated systems may be very good at detecting copyrighted content, but Facebook confirmed that they currently can’t make a determination in respect of copyright exemptions such as parody and fair use.

    “Our matching system is not able to take context into account. It’s just seeking to identify whether or not two pieces of content matched to one another,” Axelgard said, responding to a question from Communia’s Paul Keller.

    This shortcoming of automated filters was also confirmed by Audible Magic, the popular music matching service that’s used by dozens of large companies to detect copyright infringements.

    “Copyright exceptions require a high degree of intellectual judgment and an understanding and appreciation of context. We do not represent that any technology can solve this problem in an automated fashion. Ultimately these types of determinations must be handled by human judgment,” Audible Magic CEO Vance Ikezoye said.

    As
    noted by Communia, the most recent stakeholder meeting once again showed that automated content recognition systems are extremely powerful and very limited at the same time.

    If any of these technologies become the basis of implementing Europe’s Article 17 requirements, these shortcomings should be kept in mind. Or as Facebook said, a lot of time and effort should go into preventing legitimate content being blocked.



    Torrentfreak.com

  3. #1343
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    Canadian Pirate Site Blockade Expands With New Domains

    Two months ago Canada's Federal Court issued the country's first pirate 'site' blocking order. The order was requested by Bell, Rogers, and Groupe TVA, who recently asked the court to amend the order to ban additional domains that provide access the pirate IPTV service GoldTV. This request was granted. Despite attempts from the rightsholders to keep the update quiet, the new domains have been revealed as well.

    Last November Canada’s Federal Court approved the first
    piracy blockade in the country.

    Following a complaint from major media companies Rogers, Bell and TVA, the Court ordered several major ISPs to block access to domains and IP-addresses of the pirate IPTV service GoldTV.

    A few days after the order was issued the first blockades were active. These prevented GoldTV customers from accessing the IPTV portal directly, as intended, but it didn’t take long before several
    alternative domains popped up.

    These new domains are managed by GoldTV or its resellers and point to the access portal, allowing subscribers an unblocked route to access the IPTV service.

    This wasn’t entirely unexpected. While IPTV blockades are relatively rare, we have seen similar ‘proxy’ workarounds in the past when traditional pirate sites were blocked in other counties. Having learned from this experience, the Canadian court order specifically allowed Bell and the other companies to expand the blocklist.

    Specifically, they can amend the original blocklist with any “domain, subdomain or IP address that has as its sole or predominant purpose to enable or facilitate access to the Target Websites,” provided that the IP-address is “not associated with any other active domain.”

    Such an update was requested early last month and two weeks later the Canadian Federal Court approved it. An overview of the new blocking requirements was published this week by Andy Kaplan-Myrth, TekSavvy’s vice-president of regulatory affairs.

    This shows that, after some IP-addresses and a domain name were previously removed, several new ones were added with the latest order.

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

    The newly added addresses include gold.myiptvplanet.com, live4k.online, and several pctvhd.net and beex.me subdomains. When we checked these, all indeed redirected to the GoldTV access portal. According to reports we received, the new domains have been added to the blocklist of several Canadian ISPs, as expected.

    Avvidavids reveal that the new domains were tracked down by posing as a customer or reseller of the GoldTV service.

    Interestingly, the rightsholders asked to keep the names of the new domains secret until the order was granted. The Wire Report
    notes that they sent a letter (pdf) to the ISP asking them to “refrain from publicizing” the new domains until the Court made a decision.

    Keeping possible updates out of the public eye is in the interest of the copyright holders, as it prevents GoldTV from anticipating new blocks. However, it raises concerns among some legal experts who believe that information in a public case should be out in the open. If not, that should be up to a court to decide.

    That said, the Canadian procedure is much more transparent than in other countries such as the UK, where new blocklist updates aren’t published at all, making it impossible for the public to check for potential overblocking.

    While the expanded blocks are certainly frustrating for GoldTV customers, there will likely be new domains to replace them, continuing the whack-a-mole. The downside for the copyright holders is that there’s a significant delay in the process.

    Bell and the others first have to file for an amended order, which then has to be approved by the court. After that, it can take up to two weeks before ISPs implement the blockade. This whole process can take more than a month. In this timeframe, new domain names may have already been put into use.

    While website blocks are far from perfect, the continued frustration of switching to new domains may be enough for some pirates to throw in the towel. Or they may switch to more permanent circumvention alternatives, such as VPNs.

    Meanwhile, the bigger blocking battle continues as well. Internet provider TekSavvy has
    appealed the blocking order and hopes to have it overturned. It clearly violates network neutrality and undermines the open Internet, the ISP previously said.

    Torrentfreak.com

  4. #1344
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    Manga Publisher Takeshobo Sues Cloudflare For Copyright Infringement

    Major Japanese publisher Takeshobo has sued Cloudflare in a Tokyo court for alleged copyright infringement. The publisher says it was forced into the action after requests to remove content being offered by a Cloudflare customer were ignored. Takeshobo is taking care not to mention the name of the 'pirate' site in question but TorrentFreak has uncovered a DMCA subpoena from 2019 which may shine some light on proceedings.

    Founded in 1972, Takeshobo is major publisher based in Japan. The company distributes dozens of manga publications on monthly schedules, many under the Bamboo Comics label.

    On Tuesday the company revealed that it had taken legal action to protect its titles being made available online by pirate sites. However, in common with an increasing number of companies in multiple spaces, its lawyers are going after Cloudflare.

    Takeshobo revealed that on December 20, 2019, it filed a civil action against the CDN company at the Tokyo District Court.

    “The nature of the complaint is that Cloudflare, Inc. provides a server to an illegal site where many copyrighted works, including those published by us, are illegally uploaded and made available for free,” a statement from Takeshobo reads.

    “We asked directly to remove the uploaded copyrighted material from the company’s server, but because no action was taken, we requested the court to remove the copyright infringing page and pay damages.”

    Since no court documents have yet been made available to the public and the publisher refers only to “an illegal site”, there’s no absolute confirmation of which ‘pirate’ site Takeshobo is referencing. The company does state, however, that “an order based on copyright infringement has been issued at a District Court in the United States.”

    Another possible pointer can be found in Takeshobo’s statement, which further indicates that the legal case against Cloudflare in Japan was filed in collaboration with Mr. Hanamura, one of the authors of the ‘Dorukara’ comic distributed by the company.

    With this information in hand, TorrentFreak was able to trace court documents filed in the United States during July 2019, which reveal Takeshobo asking Cloudflare to take action against various ‘pirate’ sites using its services, including those making the ‘Dorukara’ publication available to the public.

    “Takeshobo Inc. is seeking a subpoena pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 512(h) to obtain information sufficient to identify the persons infringing its copyrighted works,” an application for a DMCA subpoena filed at a district court in California reads.

    “The purpose for which this subpoena is sought is to obtain the identity of the alleged infringers. Such information will only be used for the purpose of protecting rights
    under the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 101, et seq.).”

    Domains belonging to several ‘pirate’ sites are listed in the subpoena against Cloudflare – Hoshinoromi.org, Worldjobproject.org, Hanascan.com, Mangahato.com, and Manatiki.com.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/dmca...-takeshobo.png

    Readers will recall that Hoshinoromi.org was presented by some as a ‘successor’ to the
    previously shuttered Mangamura platform, which at the time was considered one of the largest infringers of manga publishers’ copyrights.

    However, after being
    sued last September at a federal court in New York by publishers Shueisha, Kadowaka, Kodansha, and Shogakukan, Hoshinoromi.org and the related
    Worldjobproject.org shut down.

    That leaves Hanascan.com, Mangahato.com, and Manatiki.com, all of which are operating today. Manatiki is clearly the smallest player, pulling in around 327,000 visits per month according to SimilarWeb stats. Hanascan is considerably larger with around 3.2 million visits per month but Mangahato is in a clear lead with around 3.5 million.

    An image presented as part of the DMCA subpoena application last year shows all three domains allegedly carrying ‘Dolkara’ content, which according to
    MyAnimeList is an alternative title for ‘Dorukara’.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/dolkara-URLS.png

    Another curiosity can be found in the URLs highlighted above. Domain names aside, the URLs listed for all three sites are identical in construction and present content in more or less the same format.

    We can also confirm that all of the content remains in place, via Cloudflare’s services, despite demands in Takeshobo’s DMCA subpoena to “remove or disable” the allegedly infringing works from the listed domains.

    Whether Takeshobo is targeting one, all, or indeed none of these domains remains a question but it is crystal clear that Cloudflare did not remove or disable access to any of the above content as the earlier DMCA subpoena demanded.

    Whether that dispute is also part of the lawsuit now underway in Tokyo against Cloudflare is still unconfirmed but the pieces seem to point in that direction.

    Torrentfreak.com

  5. #1345
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    PrimeStreams IPTV Redirecting to ACE But its Not an Anti-Piracy Seizure

    A domain operated by 'pirate' IPTV provider PrimeStreams is causing concern among users today. Instead of displaying the usual service portal, it quickly redirects to the ominous anti-piracy warning of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment. However, if one looks closely at the mechanics, this is not a seizure carried out by ACE but probably the work of a malicious actor.

    For the past several weeks, some ‘pirate’ IPTV services have been subjected to ‘hacks’ carried out by as-yet unidentified people.

    In early December, Helix Hosting became the first
    reported case. Its homepage was defaced with a message explaining that the service had been asked to pay a ransom or face having its customer database leaked online.

    Just a few days later, PrimeStreams became the victim of similar blackmail efforts. Its operator revealed that a weak password had been exploited and that 10 bitcoin was being demanded in order to prevent the service’s confidential data from
    being exposed to the world.

    Unconfirmed reports indicated that other services were also targeted in December, which may or may not have settled in the face of similar threats. However, PrimeStreams’ situation appears to be ongoing as a quick visit to what used to be its main servicing domain (PrimeStreams.store) reveals a rather ominous message.

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

    This countdown-timer message usually indicates that a domain has been taken over by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the global anti-piracy coalition headed up by the MPA. It is currently displayed on dozens of file-sharing and IPTV platforms, commonly after they have reached some kind of settlement with the world’s largest entertainment groups.
    Vaders and Openload are two of the most obvious examples.

    Of course, seeing that message will probably be enough to send many customers running for the hills but the truth is relatively easy to uncover. This isn’t a domain seizure carried out by ACE but most probably the work of a malicious actor, as a dive into the domain’s details reveal.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/primestreams-store.png

    As the image above shows, at the time of writing the PrimeStreams domain is using the services of Njalla, the domain registration and hosting service closely associated with Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde. That doesn’t mean that Njalla has anything to do with the issue, of course, but it does indicate in a particularly clear way that ACE isn’t the entity in control here.

    When ACE does take control of a domain, Openload.co for example, there are many tell-tale signs that the seizure is legitimate, including the use of the MPA’s own nameservers, redirection to certain banks of servers in the United States, not to mention contact details that relate to bodies and individuals at the MPA.

    If we rule out the highly unlikely possibility that the operator of PrimeStreams redirected his own domain to ACE’s anti-piracy servers, then we’re left with a situation that was most probably engineered by a malicious actor. Whether that was the same person who threatened the site in December is unknown but losing a domain to an unauthorized third-party is an extremely serious matter.

    The double-edged sword here is the involvement of Njalla. While there’s a possibility that there might be an element of sympathy at the sight of an unlawful hack (not to mention that some of the team were previously involved in The Pirate Bay and Piratbyrĺn), Njalla is utterly militant when it comes to the privacy of its users so may not even be able to help.

    That might have played a part in PrimeStreams’ decision to dump this domain entirely and transfer to a
    new one. The big question, however, was whether the service had any more big security headaches waiting to kick in. Sure enough, within hours of going live, incredibly that domain was ‘hacked’ as well.

    In the meantime, ACE gets
    yet another traffic boost.

    Torrentfreak.com

  6. #1346
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    Kingdom Come Dev Warhorse Studios Decorates Office With Framed Codex ‘Pirate’ NFO

    The developer of the action role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance is celebrating the success of its 2018 hit title in an unorthodox and humorous fashion. As part of a redecoration of its offices in Prague, Warhorse Studios has hung a massive framed replica of a Codex NFO file which was distributed along with the pirated version of its game.

    For most game developers around the world, piracy is no laughing matter. Particularly on PC, games are pirated in their millions, diverting large revenues away from creators thus damaging the market, many believe.

    But for
    Warhorse Studios, the developer behind Kingdom Come: Deliverance, having a laugh at piracy isn’t off-limits. The fun began early January 2020 when Daniel Vávra, a Czech video game designer and director who co-founded Warhorse Studios, took to Twitter to reveal a revamp of the company’s headquarters in Prague.

    “So after a year, we finally decorated walls of our office. And since I hate looking at ‘work’ when going to toilets, I chose some old school classics,” Vávra
    wrote. “But since it’s impossible to get those covers in hi-res I had to upscale them with AI software and the results are unbelievable!”

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/artwork-1.png

    The results of these efforts are indeed impressive but the best was yet to come. A special presentation, taking pride of place in what looks like a luxurious kitchen area at the developer’s offices, was this week posted to Twitter.

    “Among posters with some classic old school games, we put this poster on a very special spot,” Vávra
    revealed along with a ‘crying/laughing’ emoji.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/king...8646993424.jpg

    For those unfamiliar with this image, it’s an exact replica of the NFO file (information file) created by the infamous cracking group ‘Codex’ after the group cracked the minimal protection on Kingdom Come: Deliverance and placed a pirated version on the Internet.

    Of course, this shows that Warhorse has a wicked sense of humor but perhaps the developer has already had the last laugh.

    The pirated PC version of the game
    appeared online within hours of the official Steam release on February 13, 2018 but shortly after an official copy was put on sale completely DRM-free via GOG. This suggests that spending lots of money on something like Denuvo wasn’t on the agenda and the developer wasn’t overly concerned about the effects of piracy on the title.

    In the event, sales were excellent. According to an IGN
    report published two days after launch, the game had already sold half a million copies including more than 300,000 on Steam, a feat that pushed it to the top of the best-sellers list. Within a week it had sold a million copies.

    Then, on the first anniversary of the game’s release, two other interesting pieces of news landed at the same time.

    The first was that despite day-and-date piracy, Kingdom Come: Deliverance had sold an impressive
    two million copies. The second was that Warhorse Studios had been acquired by THQ Nordic for €33.2 million after the Czech studio generated €42 million in revenue during 2018 alongside €28 million in pre-tax earnings.

    Not bad at all when one considers that Kingdom Come: Deliverance was Warhorse’s first release after raising funding for the title via a
    2014 Kickstarter campaign.

    Torrentfreak.com

  7. #1347
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    ‘Academic’ Torrent Client Hopes to Shake up the Entertainment Industry

    Researchers at Delft University of Technology have secured another €3.3 million in funding for academic research into the ‘Internet-of-Trust’. The money will in large part be used to continue development on the Tribler BitTorrent client. Professor Johan Pouwelse, who leads the Tribler lab, hopes that the software and underlying technology will shake up the entertainment industry by shifting the balance of power.

    The
    Tribler client has been around for nearly 15 years. During that time it has developed into the only truly decentralized BitTorrent client out there.

    Even if all torrent sites were shut down today, Tribler users would still be able to
    find and add new content.

    The project is managed by dozens of academic researchers, which is a guarantee for continued development. In recent years alone, the Tribler team added a
    built-in Tor network to the client, as well as a blockchain that can function as an internal currency.

    This week Delft University of Technology
    announced that its research group has secured an additional €3.3 million to continue building an ‘Internet-of-Trust.’ A large part of this new cash flow will be used to improve the Tribler client.

    With financial backing secured for the years to come, project leader Professor Johan Pouwelse has set some big goals. With Tribler, he hopes to lay the groundwork for a new ecosystem that can replace the powerful multi-billion dollar companies that currently dominate the entertainment industries.

    Pouwelse wants to put the artists back in control. They, and only they, should be in charge of monetizing and distributing content.

    This idea isn’t new. Artists increasingly want to take back their rights. Taylor Swift, for example, spoke up when she learned that her former record label wanted to prevent her from performing her own songs. Meanwhile, Imogen Heap is trying to create a fairer music ecosystem powered by a blockchain.

    Professor Pouwelse has followed these developments closely and believes that artists should ultimately be in control of their own work. This means cutting out the middlemen.

    “Every artist should be self-published and self-promoted. Without profiteers, more artists will earn their living from their passion. Without profiteers, fans will get more content creation from their idols,” Pouwelse says.

    “The music industry is driven by intermediaries that keep the biggest slice of the pie to themselves. Pioneers such as Imogen Heap are creating new business models where artists receive fair compensation for their creativity.”

    The ideal to overthrow powerful entertainment industry companies sounds very much like The Pirate Bay’s message during the mid-2000s. However, while Tribler’s torrent client does list a lot of Pirate Bay content, its goal isn’t to advocate piracy.

    On the contrary, decentralization may be a step towards limiting piracy, as content can become much cheaper when artists distribute it directly. Right now labels, but also YouTube, Apple, Twitch and many other platforms, take a big cut. According to Pouwelse, that’s a waste of money.

    The professor sees a future where content storage and distribution are put back into the hands of individuals. It’s a world where people set their own rules instead of being dictated to by major companies, which also includes Google and Facebook, which often restrict what people can publish.

    While this all sounds very ambitious and promising, there is a major problem. In theory, it’s not hard for creators, or people in general, to store and publish everything themselves. The real problem is the exposure and adoption of decentralized alternatives.

    Tribler does indeed have all the crucial elements for an artist to release an album and keep 100% of the profits. But when there are only a few thousand users on the platform, these profits are minimal. In fact, they would likely make more if they only made 5% through the regular “middlemen” channels.

    This is a real dilemma. In order for decentralized alternatives to work, they need a substantial user base, one that can rival the existing options. Getting there at once will require a miracle of sorts.

    Pouwelse understands the challenges but firmly believes that change is possible, especially when BitTorrent and the blockchain work in tandem.

    “BitTorrent has not eliminated the golden profits that sit between the artist and your ears. BitTorrent and blockchain are perhaps the perfect mixture for change in the entertainment industry.

    “Blockchain might be powerful enough to break the corporate stranglehold on the business and set artists free,” Pouwelse adds.

    Whether this vision will eventually become a reality is uncertain. However, the Triber project does provide an excellent use case for what’s possible when it comes to decentralized publishing. In addition, it will also aid the development of other decentralized digital infrastructures.

    Torrentfreak.com

  8. #1348
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    ‘Copyright Troll’ Malibu Media Gets Sued By its Former Law Firm

    A law firm hired by notorious 'copyright troll' outfit Malibu Media is suing the company over breach of contract and unpaid bills. According to a lawsuit filed this week by The Lomnitzer Law Firm, Malibu 'circumvented' an agreement between the companies by hiring other attorneys to conduct litigation. The law firm is also demanding that Malibu pay more than $280K to settle its debts with the company.

    Over the past several years, adult entertainment company Malibu Media has been one of the most
    active copyright litigants in the United States. Targeting large numbers of alleged file-sharers, the company has received potentially huge sums in cash settlements.

    But while the company usually makes the headlines for its file-sharing cases, a dispute with a former business partner is now shining a light behind the scenes. This week, Florida-based The Lomnitzer Law Firm sued California-based Malibu Media over their business dealings.

    According to the lawsuit, in May 2017 Lomnitzer and Malibu entered into an agreement for the former to provide legal services to the latter.

    While the precise details are to be submitted under seal, the outline is that Lomnitzer would coordinate Malibu’s litigation against pirates across the United States, receive settlements and pay them into a trust account, pay court filing fees, pay process server fees and investigators, and pay expenses related to the deposition of Malibu.

    The law firm claims that it issued invoices to Malibu on a regular basis, using money in the trust account to pay some while dispensing settlement funds back to Malibu. However, the lawsuit claims that a date currently unknown, Malibu “began a program of circumventing the agreement.”

    According to the complaint, this came in the form of instructing attorneys in other jurisdictions, that were previously instructed by Lomnitzer, to “bypass” the law firm. This involved sending settlement money directly to Malibu rather than Lomnitzer, “while still expecting the Firm to pay court filing fees, process server fees, etc., all incurred for and on behalf of and for the benefit of Malibu.”

    Faced with these circumstances, on August 30, 2019, Lomnitzer terminated its representation of Malibu. Since then it claims to have received invoices from third-parties incurred as a result of its representation of Malibu while its own invoices to Malibu itself (totaling more than $262,500) remain unpaid.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/lomn...u-invoices.png

    The bottom line according to Lomnitzer’s suit is that Malibu owes the law firm $280,05.32 plus additional interest accruing after December 31, 2019. It is demanding a judgment from the court to that end, an order allowing it to use funds in the trust account towards that amount, plus an order “confirming the Firm’s lien against all proceeds of all pending litigation in which Malibu is a Plaintiff.”

    To address the allegations that other law firms are paying settlements directly to Malibu rather than Lomnitzer, Malibu’s former legal team are also seeking an order to prevent Malibu from “disbursing any settlement monies from any and all pending litigation nationwide to anyone other than the Firm.”

    On top, of course, Lomnitzer is demanding attorney fees and costs plus any other relief the court deems “just and proper”.

    Torrentfreak.com

  9. #1349
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    Replica Store Sells ‘Cheap’ Knock Off of €890 Pirate Bay Hoodie

    Last year the Swiss fashion brand Vetements surprised friend and foe with the introduction of a Pirate Bay clothing line. The company offered a hoodie, featuring the iconic pirate ship, for just under $900. A steep price for most pirates but good business for counterfeiters, who are now selling 'pirated' copies for a fraction of the price. According to some, these knock-offs can be pretty decent.

    During the early years, The Pirate Bay promoted an ‘official’ clothing store, which sold t-shirts and hoodies for reasonable prices.

    This site has since disappeared, but it’s not hard to find Pirate Bay-themed clothing elsewhere. Dozens of vendors have copied the iconic logo to sell cheap merchandise to fans.

    However, when the Switzerland-based fashion brand
    Vetements joined in with their own variant last year, they upped the ante.

    Experts regard Vetements as one of the
    10 hottest fashion brands at the moment, which means that it can only be afforded by the happy few. That’s also the case for their Pirate Bay clothing.

    The company started by selling a fashionable hoodie for just under $900 and it currently has a whole range of Pirate Bay clothing, including a
    €550 t-shirt and €540 shorts. The top item, however, must be the comfortable hacker hoodie dress, which currently goes for €980.

    “Channelling the theme of a digital dystopia, the piece has a print of ‘The Pirate Bay’ — one of the biggest services for torrenting digital content,” Vetements explains, noting that it pairs well with some sneakers.

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

    Vetements
    seem to understand that their clothing is overpriced, but as long as it sells they have little to complain about. What they may not be happy with though, is that counterfeiters are using their Pirate Bay design to create cheap knock-offs.

    Apparently, the Pirate Bay hoodie was hot enough to be ripped off, as people have been openly
    requesting cheaper replicas online. This demand was filled by several ‘unauthorized’ vendors including the well-known rep-store Reon District, which now sells a ‘pirated’ Pirate Bay hoodie for a fraction of the price.

    These ‘copyright-infringing’ Pirate Bay hoodies come in different qualities and prices. The Reon one is still not cheap, selling at €130, but does it match up to the original quality? At TorrentFreak, we are in no position to review it, but luckily someone else took up the challenge.

    Reddit user ‘plexor666’ posted the findings in the FashionReps subreddit, a community of hundreds of thousands of knock-off enthusiasts. The detailed
    side-by-side comparison shows that the copy is pretty decent, but not perfect. The wash tag, for example, has a plastic feel and the wrong font.

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

    Whether these differences are worth €750 is up for debate. However, based on two reviews, including one from the Redditor above, it’s a pretty good copy. Only the ‘thick’ cords may need a replacement.

    “Reon’s hoodie is amazing, nobody will call it out. Only thing that really bothers me are the thick cords on the hood. Looks really shitty I will look for a replacement,” plexor666
    writes.

    These open discussions are quite common in the subreddit, as opposed to
    /r/piracy which is under heavy pressure from rightsholders. Counterfeiting is not new for Vetements either. That said, they might not appreciate their Pirate Bay gear being pirated.

    It’s hard to see what’s next, but at this point, it wouldn’t surprise us if Vetements sued Reon over their ‘pirated’ hoodie. Or perhaps it may be more fitting if they try to have the domain seized, or blocked by ISPs. True Pirate Bay style.

    And perhaps The Pirate Bay can then take action against Vetements for copying its logo without permission?

    Torrentfreak.com

  10. #1350
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    Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 01/13/20

    The top 10 most downloaded movies on BitTorrent are in again. 'Joker' tops the chart this week, followed by ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil'. 'Countdown' completes the top three.

    This week we have two newcomers in our chart.

    Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is the most downloaded movie.

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

    RSS feed for the articles of the recent weekly movie download charts.

    This week’s most downloaded movies are:

    Most downloaded movies via torrents
    Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer
    1 (2) Joker 8.8 / trailer
    2 (1) Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 6.8 / trailer
    3 (…) Countdown 7.2 / trailer
    4 (3) Frozen 2 (DVDScr) 7.2 / trailer
    5 (5) Black and Blue 5.9 / trailer
    6 (10) Ford v Ferrari (DVDScr) 8.3 / trailer
    7 (8) Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood 7.9 / trailer
    8 (…) Bombshell 6.7 / trailer
    9 (7) Ad Astra 6.9 / trailer
    10 (9) The Addams Family 5.8 / trailer


    Torrentfreak.com

  11. #1351
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    Kim Dotcom’s K.im Domain Goes Up For Sale, Displays Google SEO Rant

    The main domain of Kim Dotcom's K.im crypto project appears to have fallen into a third-party's hands. The Isle of Man domain K.im was bought by Dotcom in 2013 for a then-record price of $20,000 but currently displays an anti-Google rant penned by an expired domain specialist. As a result, dozens of Dotcom's tweets now display the words "PURE SPAM".

    Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has announced the development of many projects since the destruction of his file-hosting platform in 2012.

    With a stated aim of revolutionizing the file-sharing space, one of the most prominent was
    initially dubbed Megaupload 2 (MU2). Utilizing investment platform BnkToTheFuture, in 2016 it raised over a million dollars from 354 investors in just two weeks.

    MU2 and the associated BitCache platform were originally penciled in for a January 2017 launch but like many complex projects, ultimately missed its target. With the project still under development, MU2 was later renamed K.im, a clear reference to Kim Dotcom’s well-known name and its greatest marketing asset.

    Conveniently, Kim Dotcom had previously bought ‘K.im’ back in 2013, acquiring the Isle of Man domain name for a
    reportedly record-setting $20,000 via Sedo. This was put to use as the project’s main homepage but now, several years later, things are not going to plan.

    Visitors to K.im are no longer greeted by all the details of the K.im, Bitcache and associated Kimcoin project. Instead, they are treated to a site that delivers an anti-Google SEO-based rant penned by Bulgarian
    expired domain specialist Kalin Karakehayov.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/k-im-domain-page.png

    An almost identical piece to that shown above was previously published on Karakehayov’s own domain at
    Karakehayov.com but the version on K.im replaces references to the original domain with references to K.im.

    Having previously used Cloudflare’s services as a front to its hosting, K.im now uses servers in Bulgaria to display the anti-Google sentiments. Unfortunately, due to the GDPR, it’s hard to state conclusively that the domain is now under Karakehayov’s personal control, despite hosting his content.

    For the K.im team, however, that detail might be the least of their worries. The entire project has been built around the Kim Dotcom brand and it now seems fairly clear that the K.im domain isn’t under its control anymore. Awkwardly, that is also more than obvious on Twitter, with dozens of Dotcom’s posts mentioning the K.im project and linking to the K.im domain now showing the message “PURE SPAM”.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/kim-twitter-deface.png

    Whether this PR catastrophe can be reversed is currently unclear but adding insult to injury, the K.im domain has now been put up for sale by its owner on Sedo, the marketplace from where Dotcom bought it. There’s no reserve price but the domain is being offered by an account opened in 2014 with a stated location of ‘Georgia’.

    While the apparent loss of this domain can probably be overcome, the future of the entire K.im project is somewhat up in the air.

    In November 2019, Bitfinex
    declared that due to a rapidly evolving “regulatory environment”, the K.im token sale had been indefinitely postponed.

    “After careful evaluation, we regret to announce that Bitfinex Token Sales and the K.im team have mutually agreed not to hold the token sale at this time. K.im will defer any decision on whether to create tokens on, or undertake a token issue in relation to the K.im platform until it is fully functional,” the statement read.

    Since then, no one associated with the project, including Dotcom himself, has made any public statement on the future of K.im or the Kimcoin token. TorrentFreak has requested comments from both Kim Dotcom and Kalin Karakehayov and will update this article should they arrive.

    Torrentfreak.com

  12. #1352
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    ACE Shuts Down UlangoTV ‘Pirate’ IPTV App, Seizes Domain

    The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment has claimed another scalp in the 'pirate' IPTV space. The UlangoTV app provided free access to thousands of unlicensed TV streams but there was also an option to pay for more reliable content. Today, however, its clear it is unlikely to be returning after its domain was taken over by the global anti-piracy coalition.

    There are dozens of apps available online today that act as straightforward players of IPTV streams. These usually cause no copyright infringement issues for their operators as they come with no pre-loaded content.

    While many can be configured with a premium subscription so that infringing content can be received at the direction of users, others blur the lines by attempting to aggregate links to streams that exist in open form on the Internet.

    One of these players was known as UlangoTV. Previously available via Google Play, Amazon, CNET, and many other third-party download sites, variants of the UlangoTV app acted as a search engine for live IPTV streams, which were color-coded to provide additional information.

    “Every day thousands of new stream URLs are found, analyzed and classified,” the publisher’s description on CNET reads.

    “For the safety of users and for the protection of the content owners, the search results are flagged with color codes: Yellow streams have been known to us for more than 6 months. Typically these ‘official’ streams are without license problems. All registered users can see these streams freely. Blue streams have been known to us for more than 6 weeks. Also these are usually ‘official’ streams without license problems.”

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

    However, as acknowledged by its publisher, not all streams made available in the app could be considered trouble-free.

    “Magenta streams are usually short-lived and have only been known to us recently. These streams are likely to originate from unlicensed sources,” the developer noted.

    This type of link aggregation teeters fairly close to the edge of legality but with UlangoTV+, a premium and premium plus subscription option offered by the same developer, broadcasters may have considered the line had been crossed.

    “So in this app UlangoTV+ we introduced a new option called Premium Plus, which is only available to a few users who want to pay a premium price and now receive handpicked streams with tightly controlled connectivity,” the
    marketing added.

    With no user shortage for the popular app, during October last year an unexpected message appeared on UlangoTV’s Twitter account which indicated that the project had
    come to an end.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/ulangotv-shut.png

    The tweet gave no clear indication of the reason behind the decision to close but now, several months later, we have the strongest message yet that legal threats from entertainment industry groups played a key role.

    Users who visit the Ulango.TV domain today get an all-too-familiar message that due to claims of copyright infringement, the site and associated app have been shut down by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

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

    After the usual countdown timer expires, visitors are redirected to the ACE anti-piracy portal. There is no mention there of the shutdown which tends to suggest that a relatively peaceful agreement was reached with the app’s developer, which would’ve included shutting down and handing over the Ulango domain.

    Indeed, domain records show that Ulango.tv is now owned by the Motion Picture Association, which adds to a growing list of dozens of domains taken over as part of the Alliance’s ongoing anti-piracy activities.

    Torrentfreak.com

  13. #1353
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    Game Developer Sees Boost in Sales After Releasing Official Torrent

    Most copyright holders are doing everything they can to prevent their content from showing up at The Pirate Bay. However, the developer of the indie shooter game 'Danger Gazers' took the opposite approach. He uploaded a free copy of his own game to the torrent site and generated enough buzz to actually boost sales.

    Online piracy is an issue that affects many industries and indie game development is certainly no exception.

    Some developers see piracy as an evil that needs to be rooted out as soon as possible. However, others are more open to some of the motivations behind it and are willing to experiment.

    Game developer Shota Bobokhidze, aka ‘ShotX,’ falls in the latter category. The indie developer from Tiblisi, Georgia, runs his one-man company ShotX Studio which just released a new shooter game titled ‘Danger Gazers.’

    The release is available
    on Steam where it currently sells at $9.99. While that’s not an extremely steep price, ShotX realizes the average game fan may not have the financial means to try out all the new titles that come out every month.

    This prompted the developer to release a special edition targeting the pirate community. It’s something he already planned to do with the game Kontrakt in 2018, but that idea was canned after The Pirate Bay kept returning server errors.

    This time he was more successful. Late last week the torrent made its way
    onto The Pirate Bay, carrying a special message from the creator.

    “This is the latest DRM-free version of Danger Gazers (1.1.0), there’s no catch here, no Steam only features, just the fully functional game,” ShotX writes on The Pirate Bay.

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

    The game can be downloaded for free, no strings attached. The developer’s only request is that people consider buying it if they like what they see, or to support the project in any other way. The same message was later repeated
    on Reddit where ShotX highlighted his release.

    Ironically, the developer’s
    first post on Reddit was removed, presumably because the moderators assumed it was a pirated version. However, that’s certainly not the case.

    This is not the first time that a game developer has plugged his work on a pirate site, but it remains a rarity. To find out more about ShotX’s motivations, we decided to reach out for some additional comments.

    The developer informs us that he is all too familiar with piracy. He grew up in a situation where piracy was often the only option to get new software. Today he also sees the other side of the story, as he relies on sales to make a living. However, he still understands that not everyone can easily buy his work.

    “The decision to release a torrent came along with the memories of my time spent with pirated software,” ShotX says.

    “I remember that I didn’t feel any guilt at all as there was simply no other choice for me at that moment, moreover, had I known that there were other options I could have supported developers with, I’d have done all I could without a second thought.”

    Releasing the game on The Pirate Bay allows people to try it out for free. This comes with the added advantage of free exposure, which is welcome too, as it’s becoming harder and harder for new games to get noticed.

    ShotX says that this certainly wasn’t a planned PR campaign. He just wanted to get the word out and give the free torrent a chance. That said, he does believe that piracy can have a positive exposure impact, which was also the case here.

    “It wouldn’t have been effective if it was a planned PR move to get people to buy the product. It was just a kind act that I was lucky enough to get noticed. I’m sure it would have been apparent if it wasn’t so,” he says.

    ShotX’s approach worked well. The Reddit post promoting the official torrent reached a broad audience. This resulted in a lot of free downloads but also motivated people to buy the game and spread the word.

    “The response so far was amazing,” ShotX says. While he didn’t expect anything in return, the free release actually resulted in a significant revenue boost.

    “There was a noticeable boost in sales, some kind individuals even donated twice as much and most importantly all the rest supported me in their own ways by sharing my game and respecting my decision,” the developer adds.

    The developer didn’t promote the torrent on his social media or on his official site, as he specifically wanted to reach out to the pirate community. Given the results, this was quite successful.

    This shows that some ‘pirates’ are definitely willing to pay under the rights conditions but it doesn’t mean that this is easily repeatable. If all indie developers started releasing torrents it would no longer be something special and could become harder to get noticed once again.

    In this case, however, it clearly paid off.

    Torrentfreak.com

  14. #1354
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    Dish Network Proposes Blockchain Based Anti-Piracy System

    Dish Network is fighting online streaming piracy on many fronts. Aside from lawsuits and other legal campaigns, the company also looks at the broader picture. In a new patent application, Dish envisions a blockchain-based anti-piracy management system that promises to be open and accessible to all.

    American satellite and broadcast provider
    Dish Network has fought several legal battles against alleged pirate streaming tools in recent years.

    The company filed a lawsuit against the people behind TVAddons, for example. More recently the company
    went after multiple pirate streaming sites and IPTV reseller Boom Media.

    In addition to using well-established legal options, the company is also thinking ahead. That became clear this week when we spotted a new patent application from Dish, which envisions a blockchain-based anti-piracy system.

    According to the company, piracy has become increasingly problematic. It’s not just limited to dedicated pirate sites but also plagues legitimate platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, it notes.

    “The distribution of infringed material on content sharing platforms such as Facebook and YouTube has grown rapidly,” Dish writes in its patent application.

    “For example, viewers can easily find links to live sporting events, hosted on someone’s Facebook account, find the newest episodes of their favorite series on YouTube or Dailymotion or even join groups like `mobile movies` on Telegram..,” the company adds.

    Dish writes that “millennials” and the “next generation” are increasingly turning their backs on the traditional bundle service system, opting for less-costly alternatives instead. These cheaper alternatives include the consumption of unlicensed content on legitimate services.

    While most large companies have their own anti-piracy solutions, these often have shortcomings, such as requiring rightsholders to actively search for pirated content. While a few large outfits use hash recognition to automatically detect content, those systems are often proprietary and not freely available.

    The new patent application envisions a technology that is supposed to be superior. While it can’t really be used to stop pirate sites, it proposes a blockchain-based anti-piracy system that legitimate services can use to check whether the content is published with permission, or not.

    “The inventors have conceived and reduced to practice a software and/or hardware facility that can be used by content owners to assert ownership of content so that copyright friendly websites and services can take action against copyright piracy effectively, efficiently and is scalable,” Dish writes.

    “The facility makes available to all content owners watermarking/fingerprinting technology so an identifier can be embedded in the content. The facility utilizes blockchain technology to add information related to each unique identifier in a database and allows an authorized user (e.g., the owner) to update the information through a blockchain transaction.”

    There are several practical implementations possible, but it’s clear that Dish is in favor of a widely available system that sites and services can use to determine whether content is authorized. The watermark or fingerprint-based system should interact with a blockchain to verify ownership details.

    Without a practical implementation, it’s hard to determine whether this approach will succeed or not. However, blockchain-based copyright management itself
    is not a new idea, as others have proposed this as well. The same is true for watermarking and fingerprinting.

    It’s interesting to see that Dish is actively pursuing an alternative anti-piracy approach. Time will tell if it comes to fruition, and if so, how effective it will be. One thing’s almost guaranteed though, there will be plenty of attempts by pirates to get around it.



    Torrentfreak.com

  15. #1355
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    Number of Pirated Screener Leaks Already Higher Than Last Year

    The number of leaked pirate screeners is on the rise again after last year's all-time low. Thus far, ten copies have been posted online, including several high-profile Oscar contenders. As in previous years, the bulk of these leaks come from the release group Hive-CM8.

    Yesterday
    the contenders for the 2020 Oscars were announced.

    ‘Joker’ emerged as the main favorite with eleven nominations, closely followed by ‘1917’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ with ten each.

    While Hollywood was buzzing with excitement over the news, a screener copy of another Oscar favorite – ‘Little Women’ – began spreading across pirate sites.

    Pirated screeners are nothing new. Every year copies of popular films that are solely intended for private awards screenings end up in public. These releases are typically well secured, but release groups such as EVO and Hive-CM8 find their way around the protections.

    One trend that we observed over recent years, however, is that fewer screener leaks were being posted online. Back in 2007, 29 screeners of nominees (81%) had leaked when the winners were announced. In 2019, this number was down to seven (23%).

    Last year was an
    all-time low, which appeared to be good news for Hollywood. However, the downward trend hasn’t continued. During the current season, ten screener copies have already made their way onto pirate sites, of which eight received an Oscar nomination.

    With several weeks still to go until the awards ceremony, this number will likely go up. To give an indication, in both 2018 and 2019 three pirated screeners came out after mid-January.

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

    It’s worth noting though that the number of screener leaks itself doesn’t say much about security or enforcement efforts. In fact, the changing movie industry, where online streaming platforms are gaining dominance, could be the prime reason for a decline in these leaks.

    Screeners are generally only released if there is no higher quality leak out already. Since pirated WEBRips and WEB-DLs generally come out soon after a movie premieres on a streaming service, screeners are less relevant.

    To give an example, ‘The Irishman’ was widely available on pirate sites just hours after it premiered on Netflix. This trend is also what we see in
    the data from pirate screener watcher Andy Baio.

    Of all the major Oscar contenders, only four are not yet available in high-quality formats on pirate sites. These are ‘1917,’ ‘Just Mercy,’ ‘Richard Jewell,’ and ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’.

    As in previous years, release group Hive-CM8 is responsible for the bulk of the leaked screeners. And if we believe their latest release notes, they are not done yet. The group is openly calling for sources who have access to more screeners, including the latest Star Wars film.



    A complete list of the screeners that have leaked thus far:

    – Uncut Gems (12/16/2019) by EVO
    – Portrait of a Lady on Fire (12/16/2019) by EVO
    – Jojo Rabbit (12/21/2019) by Hive-CM8
    – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (12/23/2019) by Hive-CM8
    – Knives Out (12/25/2019) by Hive-CM8
    – Ford v Ferrari (12/29/2019) by Hive-CM8
    – Frozen 2 (01/02/2019) by Hive-CM8
    – Harriet (01/04/2019) by Hive-CM8
    – Bombshell (01/09/2019) by Hive-CM8
    – Little Woman (01/13/2019) by Hive-CM8

    : Torrentfreak.com

  16. #1356
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    TV Channel Owner Arrested For Airing ‘Pirate’ Movie Days After Theatrical Release

    On January 9, action thriller movie 'Darbar' enjoyed its theatrical release in India. Bizarrely, just three days later, a pirated copy of the hit production was illegally aired on cable TV. The makers of the movie immediately filed a complaint with police who, according to local reports, have now arrested the channel owner and begun the process of confiscating equipment.

    Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, better known as Rajinikanth, is a superstar of Indian cinema, having been active in the industry for decades.

    During his time on the silver screen, piracy has been running rampant across India but even he will have been taken by surprise following the events of the past few days.

    Rajinikanth’s latest movie, action thriller
    Darbar, was released theatrically on January 9, 2020, quickly recovering around 75% of its costs during its first weekend alone.

    However, on January 12, just three days after its official release, local cable channel Saranya TV took the decision to broadcast a pirated copy of the movie, as illustrated in the image below obtained by
    Galatta.com.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/darbar-pirate.png

    In common with many local movies, infamous torrent site TamilRockers reportedly leaked Darbar online shortly after its release but subsequent ‘pirate’ broadcasting on cable TV is unusual, particularly during a theatrical window. This has caused outrage at
    Lyca Productions, the production company behind the movie, which responded by filing a complaint with local police.

    “The movie has been receiving good response from the public and it is running successfully in all centers all over the world, in the meantime we are astounded and distressed to know, that the movie was telecasted illegally in a local TV Channel called Saranya TV at Madurai on 12.01.2020 evening,” a
    statement from Lyca reads.

    “Having come to know this, we have officially filed a complaint against the said local TV Channel at The Commissioner Office, Law & Order, Madurai.”

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/darbar-complaint.png

    According to the local distributor for the movie, police were swift to act against the operators of Saranya TV. After initial reports that the channel had been closed and its operators had gone on the run, it now appears arrests have been made.

    “It is true that the offenders have been arrested, but FIR [
    First information report] is yet to be registered as the investigation is still in progress,” a statement obtained by Behindwoods reads.

    “It appears that they have used 2-3 relay points for broadcasting the film. While a computer system [has] already been seized, the police are now in the process of probing and confiscating other types of equipment, including CPUs, relay hubs and other systems that they were using to telecast the movie.”

    In addition to the action against the cable TV company, a Galatta source reports that after the movie was widely shared on Whatsapp, a complaint was filed by Lyca in that direction too.

    No official announcement on that front has been made by Lyca but an anti-piracy company is working on its behalf to prevent piracy on the messenger application.

    If anyone sends you a pirated copy of Darbar on WhatsApp, please share its screenshot and the sender's phone number to
    [email protected]. We'll take care of it.

    Celebrate
    #DARBAR, stand against piracy.@LycaProductions#BLOCKX#SayNoToPiracy

    — BLOCK X (@blockxpiracy)
    January 12, 2020

    Torrentfreak.com

  17. #1357
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    Operator of Popcorn Time Info Site is Liable for Piracy, Supreme Court Rules

    The Danish Supreme Court has upheld a conditional prison sentence against the operator of a website that provided information on the piracy app Popcorn Time. The site itself didn't host the infringing software, but the detailed instructions it provided were enough to warrant criminal liability for copyright infringements of the site's users.

    Five years ago, Popcorn Time was widely embraced by pirates, thanks to its ability to stream torrent files through a user-friendly interface.

    This rapid rise raised concern among many movie industry companies, who worked hard to contain the threat by going after several forks and their developers.

    This resulted in the shutdown of several projects including Popcorntime.dk. The site offered information on Popcorn time and its availability but didn’t host any software itself. Nevertheless, it still found itself subjected to rightsholders’ complaints.

    The matter piqued the interest of Danish law enforcement which eventually resulted in a criminal investigation. In August 2015, Danish police
    arrested the alleged operator and Popcorntime.dk was subsequently shut down and placed under the control of the state prosecutor.

    The case was highly unusual because the domain in question didn’t host the Popcorn Time software. Instead, the site offered instructions, information, news articles, as well as links to sites where the application was available.

    PopcornTime.dk as it appeared in 2015


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

    In most cases this issue would have blown over, especially since the site had a relatively small number of users. However, the Danish investigation triggered a criminal prosecution, with the operator facing a potential prison sentence.

    In 2018, this
    resulted in a conditional 6-month prison sentence for the man behind PopcornTime.dk. The court ruled that spreading information about the controversial movie streaming service warranted liability for contributory copyright infringement.

    The defendant disagreed and appealed the case at the High Court, which later handed down a similar verdict. In a final attempt to have the ruling reversed, the site operator went to the Danish Supreme Court, which announced its verdict yesterday.

    The Supreme Court confirmed the decisions of the High Court and District Court, ruling that the operator of Popcorntime.dk is indeed liable for contributory infringements via Popcorn Time.

    In his defense, the operator argued that the previous rulings restricted his right to freedom of expression and information, which would violate Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    However, the Supreme Court disagreed. Instead, it ruled that the site was specifically designed to target potential Popcorn Time users who received concrete instructions on how to use the software. This is a criminal offense, even in the absence of concrete infringements by users, the Court found.

    The Court thereby assumed that “a large number of users of [the operator’s] website have downloaded and used the Popcorn Time program and that use of the software, as a general rule, involved copyright infringement.”

    The Court upheld the 6-month conditional prison sentence. The site operator, who is now in his 40s, was further sentenced to 120 hours of community service and more than $67,000 in ad revenue was confiscated.

    Local anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen (Rights Alliance) is pleased with the outcome. According to the organization, this ruling is the first of its kind when it comes to criminal contributory copyright infringements.

    “The judgment is, as far as we know, the first of its kind in the EU on the legal basis of criminal contributory copyright infringements,” Rights Alliance Director Maria Fredenslund informs TorrentFreak.

    “So it confirms that the marketing and recommendations on the websites are in fact contributory infringements, even though they are not related to any particular copyright infringement, but rather to the infringements related to the Popcorn Time service in general.”

    The Supreme Court ruling could have far-reaching consequences for other websites that provide information about piracy services. While the nature and purpose of the site still play a role, operators can’t simply hide behind the fact that they don’t host an infringing application on their server.




    Torrentfreak.com

  18. #1358
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    Popcorn Time Domain Suspension Was Triggered by Falsified Court Document

    This week, one of the most used Popcorn Time forks had its domain name suspended. We later learned that the registrar took this decision based on a US court order. That's nothing out of the ordinary if it wasn't for the fact that the document was clearly falsified. The registrar eventually reversed its decision after questions were asked, but the trouble didn't stop there.

    Earlier this week registrar 101domain
    suspended the Popcorntime.sh domain name.

    The grounds for the suspension initially remained unclear. However, after asking for clarification, 101domain explained to the site operator that it had received an injunction from a US court.

    The injunction in question appeared to have been sent by the Motion Picture Association (MPA). It was signed by a federal judge at the US District Court for the District of Columbia and indeed targeted Popcorntime.sh.

    Since the MPA had gone after various Popcorn Time forks in the past, this sounded somewhat plausible. However, the document clearly isn’t real.

    At TorrentFreak, we received a copy of the same injunction two weeks ago. It was sent in by an anonymous tipster who urged us to report on it. While the story made some sense, on closer inspection we found that the injunction was obviously falsified.

    For example, the court stamp and the signed date are from May 2019 while the document itself was filed in November 2019, according to the header. The case reference number also identifies a completely unrelated lawsuit and the paperwork shows several other signs of tampering.

    Most telling, perhaps, is that the associated injunction is supposed to prevent “the immediate and irreparable harm will result to Microsoft.” Microsoft?

    Some more digging showed that, while there is no such filing from the MPA, there is an almost identical order from last May in a case between Microsoft and several John Does who operated domains such as identity-verificationservice.info.

    This case has nothing to do with Popcorn Time. Someone simply took the document and changed several details, making it look as if it came from the MPA targeting Popcorntime.sh.

    Use slider to compare the original (pdf) and fake (pdf)
    Although this didn’t take much effort for us to uncover, the fabricated document was apparently sufficient to convince 101domain to suspend the domain. Popcorn Time shared a copy of the response it received from the registrar’s abuse team, which attached the falsified document.

    We reached out to the registrar to verify this and also pointed out our suspicions but unfortunately, we didn’t hear back. Interestingly, a few hours later 101domain suddenly realized that the document was fabricated.

    A Popcorn Time representative informs TorrentFreak that the domain suspension was lifted after 101domain confirmed with the US District Court that the injunction wasn’t legitimate.

    While this is good news for Popcorn Time, it may never have happened if people had started asking questions sooner.

    Perhaps surprisingly, 101domain was not the only registrar to fall for the falsified court document either. When Popcorn Time had its .sh domain suspended it switched to Popcorntime.app, a domain they registered through 1API.

    It didn’t take long before that registrar received a similarly
    altered ‘injunction’ (pdf). The same Microsoft order was used as the basis again, but this time targeted the new domain Popcorntime.app.

    In an email, which the Popcorn Time representative shared with TorrentFreak, 1API explained that Popcorn Time had 48 hours to respond, adding that the domain name may eventually be put on hold.

    1API also revealed the request from the original complainant, which was sent from a protonmail.ch address, supposedly by a member of MPA’s legal team named ‘John Gibetstan’.

    “Hello 1API, I am a representative of the MPA’s Legal Team. We have obtained an injunction to take control of a domain under your system. The domain in question would be popcorntime.app. You have 5 business days to take action on the injunction,” it reads.

    Aside from the various flaws in the underlying document, this email doesn’t appear to be very professional. The MPA doesn’t use Protonmail addresses either, and there’s not even a John Gibetstan working there.

    For now, the PopcornTime.app domain remains available but 1API’s 48-hour window hasn’t expired yet. We reached out to 1API requesting additional details and comment on the issue but, at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back.

    All in all the whole episode shows that it’s surprisingly easy for malicious actors to fool some domain registrars, at least initially. Who the fake complainant is and why he or she wants Popcorn Time offline, remains a mystery.

    Torrentfreak.com

  19. #1359
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    Rivendell Has Now Sent Half a Billion DMCA Takedown Requests to Google

    This week anti-piracy company Rivendell made history by reporting its 500 millionth infringing URL to Google. Speaking with TorrentFreak, the founder of Rivendell and sister company LeakID says that his team works closely with Google and finds the search giant very cooperative and helpful. He credits pirates for being resourceful but loves finding ways to "outsmart" them.

    DMCA notices or their equivalents can be filed against websites, hosts, ISPs and other services almost anywhere in the world, with the majority of entities taking some action in response.

    At Google, for example, the company receives DMCA notices requesting that allegedly-infringing URLs are delisted from search results and at this company alone, the scale is astonishing. At the time of writing, Google has processed requests to remove 4.43 billion URLs from its indexes across 2.77 million domains. These were filed by more than 196,100 copyright holders and 186,100 reporting organizations, which includes anti-piracy groups.

    This week, one of those anti-piracy groups reached a historic milestone. French anti-piracy group
    Rivendell sent its 500 millionth URL delisting request to Google, breaking the half-a-billion barrier for a single reporting entity for the first time.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/rivendell-500m.png

    Hervé Lemaire is the owner of Rivendell’s sister company LeakID, a company he formed in 2006 after he left EMI/Virgin as Head of Digital. Speaking with TorrentFreak this week, he explained that Rivendell was launched in 2013 with a key focus to prevent unlicensed content appearing in Google’s indexes.

    Lemaire didn’t provide specific details on Rivendell’s top clients but a cursory view of Google’s report shows many familiar names from the world of entertainment, including what recently appears to be a strong focus on sports content owned by the Premier League and Italy’s Serie A.

    In common with all anti-piracy companies, Rivendell isn’t keen to give away its secrets. Lemaire did confirm however that patroling Google’s indexes is only part of the puzzle and that scanning piracy platforms to identify infringing material quickly plays a big part.

    When it comes to dealing with Google itself, Lemaire bucks the trend by complimenting (rather than criticizing) the company for its anti-piracy work.

    “We work closely with the Google team and we are very happy with them,” he told TF. “They are very cooperative and when we have a problem with a link we always have an answer and a solution from them.”

    Google doesn’t impose any reporting limits on Rivendell either, with Lemaire noting that all Google wants is to work with “serious companies doing a serious job.”

    While the sending of more than half-a-billion URL reports is certainly remarkable, it’s worth breaking down what type of action was taken in response to them. The image below shows what action Google took, with just under three-quarters of URL requests resulting in immediate removal.

    https://torrentfreak.com/images/rivendell-breakdown.png

    That raises the question of why 25% of Rivendell’s URL reports failed to result in content being removed.

    The red category – almost 20% – indicates content that didn’t actually exist in Google’s indexes at the time it was detected by Rivendell. The company suggests that because it acts so quickly, it can detect content before it appears in Google’s results.

    “If you search the links only on Google, you have nothing to do with the protection of content,” Lemaire says.

    “We do not expect Google to show us the pirated links [immediately]. To be effective we must go to where content is found before it appears on the search engine, especially for live content.”

    This type of proactive takedown isn’t a problem for Google. As
    previously revealed, the company is happy to receive the URLs for content it hasn’t yet indexed for action when they do eventually appear.

    “We accept notices for URLs that are not even in our index in the first place. That way, we can collect information even about pages and domains we have not yet crawled,” Google copyright counsel Caleb Donaldson previously explained.

    “We process these URLs as we do the others. Once one of these not-in-index URLs is approved for takedown, we prophylactically block it from appearing in our Search results.”

    Lemaire also has straightforward explanations for the other categories too. Requests labeled as ‘duplicate’ by Google have already been targeted by other anti-piracy companies while the 1% marked “No Action” can be the result of several issues including a lack of evidence, a homepage delisting request, hidden content, or even a ‘fake’ pirate website.

    The big question, however, is whether all of these delisting efforts actually have any serious impact on the volumes of pirated content being consumed. Lemaire is clear: “It works.”

    “For live events like football we were the first to work on removing links before, during and after matches. This is why several European leagues trust us in particular on this subject,” he says.

    “In general, the removal of illegal links allows legal offers to occupy the top places in search results. There are still improvements to be made regarding the pagerank of illegal sites, however.”

    Lemaire is brief when questioned on what measures are taken to avoid erroneous takedowns, stating that all domains are validated before they are notified to Google. Finally, he also appears to recognize the resourcefulness of his adversaries but says that countering them is enjoyable.

    “Pirates are not stupid and are constantly finding new solutions. It’s up to us to work to outsmart them .. we love it,” he concludes.

    Torrentfreak.com

  20. #1360
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    Russia’s Anti-Piracy Deal to Delete Content From Search Engines Extended Until 2021

    The ground-breaking anti-piracy deal signed by Russia-based content and Internet platforms in 2018 will not be written into local law any time soon. The agreement, which sees search engines voluntarily delete allegedly-infringing links, was supposed to be formalized in recent months but in the face of complexities and parliament being tied up with other things, will now be extended until 2021.

    When leading content companies and distributors plus Yandex, Rambler Group, Mail.Ru Group, vKontakte, and RuTube
    signed up to a landmark anti-piracy memorandum in 2018, new ground was broken in Russia.

    Assisted by the creation of a centralized database of allegedly-infringing content, Internet platforms agreed to voluntarily query the resource in near real-time before deleting content from their search indexes. The plan was to make pirated content harder for users to find and within months, hundreds of thousands of links were being purged.

    The end-game was to have the terms of the agreement written into local law but as some expected, things didn’t run entirely to plan. Early October 2019, with the memorandum a year old, it effectively
    timed out. Negotiations ensued and a short extension was agreed but a deadline of end October came and went without a draft being presented to parliament.

    With another deadline missed, an automatic extension to end December 2019 came into play but it’s now clear that the plan to formalize the agreement in law is still a very long way off.

    During a meeting at the Media and Communications Union, the industry association formed by the largest media companies and telecom industry players, the parties – with assistance from telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor – have now agreed to another extension. The voluntary agreement will now continue for at least another year, the clearest indication yet that this isn’t a straightforward matter.

    According to industry sources cited by Vedomosti (
    paywall), the decision not to push ahead now towards legislation was taken jointly by the signatories and Roscomnadzor.

    While many specifics aren’t being made public, sources indicate that the mechanism for resolving disputes between the copyright holders and Internet platforms has proven complex. Another area of disagreement centers around demands from rightsholders and content companies to have sites delisted on a permanent basis, if they are repeatedly flagged as offering links to infringing content.

    Another key issue is that under the current system there is a clear bias towards video content and the largest copyright holders, while others have to take a back seat or are left out altogether. It will take a considerable period of time to overcome these hurdles, a situation that isn’t helped by a reported lack of time in the State Duma to deal with the legislation.

    As a result, the memorandum will now be extended to the end of January 2021, to allow the parties and the government to come up with a credible framework before writing it into law.

    Torrentfreak.com

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