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    Kodi Team: Pirate Add-ons Only Care About Popularity or Money


    But some are illegal. A few are both illegal and just downright nasty, and some rogue developers even think your hardware is their hardware.

    These developers and the surrounding ecosystem only care about popularity or money. Yes, they do make money from you, selling that marvellous VPN that you so desperately need to feel safe, showing you ads galore, promising everything for free.

    Now, if it sounds like it can’t be legit because it literally sounds too good to be true and that they must be dodgy or bonkers doing all this for nothing, I can tell you your spidey senses are absolutely correct.

    It is too good to be true and there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    We can see the appeal of Kodi builds, but please stop using them. Help us improve our documentation, suggest usability improvements, a feature, whatever helps us improve Kodi.


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    Anti-Piracy Lawyer Uses Trademark Claim to Expose ‘Showbox’ Sites

    Hawaiian company "42 Ventures" is using piracy-related trademarks to target pirate sites and apps. Represented by an anti-piracy lawyer, it's now going after several sites that offer or link to the piracy app Showbox, including the popular publishing platform Medium. Through DMCA subpoenas, Cloudflare, Godaddy, and Namecheap are ordered to expose the site operators.

    Earlier this year, a popular Popcorn Time fork had its Twitter account suspended over an alleged trademark violation.

    This was the work of anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper who, on behalf of the company 42 Ventures, used the “Popcorn Time” trademark as ammunition.

    As it turned out, the Hawaiian company had registered a series of piracy-linked keywords including Popcorn Time, YTS, and Terrarium, as well as an image mark that’s pretty much identical to the logo of another piracy app, Showbox.

    42 Ventures doesn’t hold any notable copyrights. However, its anti-piracy actions definitely stand out. As reported earlier, it tried to negotiate a licensing deal with Popcorn Time, which failed. And not much later it sued a series of YTS sites over alleged trademark infringement.

    Today, we can report on yet another enforcement action. Armed with the Showbox-like image mark, 42 Ventures and Culpepper are targeting several websites that host or link to Showbox apps. This time they have opted for DMCA subpoenas, through which they hope to identify the operators of the sites.

    These subpoenas are addressed at Cloudflare, Namecheap, Godaddy, and Domains by Proxy. These third-party companies offer services to the allegedly-infringing sites, which include movieboxpro.app, appvalleyapp.com, showbox.care, showboxvpn.com, moviebox.online, and many others.

    Below is a copy of the subpoena which is directed at Cloudflare. It lists a series of domains and IP-addresses, ordering the CDN provider to hand over personal information on these customers.

    “Owner is investigating Copyright Infringement of its visual design. Owner’s investigator has determined that the websites at following IP addresses infringe owner’s visual design. These IP addresses are associated with Cloudflare.”


    Most of the targeted domains are specifically set up to link people to Showbox-type apps. These display the Showbox logo, which is indeed similar to the registered image mark. However, there are also some broader targets added to the mix, such as the publishing platform Medium.com.

    Medium can’t be considered a pirate site. It’s an open platform that’s widely used by millions of people, including Fortune 500 companies and governments. However, 42 Ventures included it in their request, and want to know who runs it.

    The requested information includes any physical addresses, web addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, as well as all IP-addresses, names, and payment details of these customers.

    While these DMCA subpoenas are not uncommon, the trademark angle certainly is. TorrentFreak reached out to Culpepper to find out the purpose of these claims but he preferred no to comment on the most recent legal action.

    Previously, the anti-piracy lawyer told us that it’s his goal to protect the rights of 42 Ventures. These rights are linked to Popcorntime4u.com, which indeed displays the Showbox-like logo, referencing “Popcorn Time” as well.

    It is likely that 42 Ventures hopes to shut the sites down with these enforcement efforts, or at least negotiate some kind of settlement. While we doubt that Medium will be open to this, the strategy may work on some of the other sites.


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    Google Promotes Pirate Videogame Repacker ‘FitGirl’ to ‘Musical Artist’ Status

    After an amusing goof by Google's search algorithm, one of the most famous names in videogames piracy has been reclassified as a 'musical artist'. People searching for 'FitGirl' are now greeted by her very own knowledge panel which lists her 'top song' as 'Repacks', a reference to compressed pirated releases.

    In a world where Internet connection speeds have risen to heights we could only dream about a few short years ago, for most people complex videogames still take an absolute age to download, even from legal services such as Steam.

    The situation is not much different for people downloading pirate releases using torrents either, but there are people out there who aim to make life a little bit easier. So-called ‘repackers’ heavily compress pirate releases and place them online, helping those with limited bandwidth or low Internet speeds obtain games using limited resources.

    With legions of fans, ‘FitGirl’ is perhaps the most well-known and best-loved ‘repacker’ on the Internet today. ‘She’ (gender is up for debate) regularly releases popular pirated videogames but according to Google, this shadowy figure also has other hidden talents.

    FitGirl Racing Up The Charts

    As the image below shows, Google’s search algorithm has given this famous pirate her very own ‘knowledge panel’ which has elevated her to the status of ‘musical artist’ complete with a list of her most famous ‘songs’.

    Google’s full list of FitGirl’s most ‘famous tracks’ is also amusing. In addition to the self-titled track ‘FitGirl’, Google has amusingly conjured up the timeless song ‘Installers’ and, of course, the chart-topping classic ‘Repacks’. None of these tracks exist, despite the optimistic inclusion of a link to Deezer where her songs are supposedly available (they’re not).

    That being said, it’s interesting to see that Google has linked FitGirl with Hiromitsu Agatsuma, noting that people who searched for her also searched for this Japanese musician.

    The reason for this connection is that Fitgirl has included Agatsuma’s track ‘Tsuki Sayu Yoru’ in her installers, popularizing it among pirates. Indeed, checking the track on YouTube reveals people commenting that the only reason they’re listening to the artist is because of FitGirl’s releases.

    Fun and Games Until The Malware Appears

    While this amusing algorithmic anomaly will raise a few smiles, there is a darker side to this too.

    The supposed song titled ‘Repacks’ has been given a pink joypad graphic which is of course entirely fitting if a little spooky given the data Google’s algorithms must be picking up. However, when clicked, we aren’t treated to extra information about this imaginary track but a ‘pirate’ search that throws up several results, including what some might conclude is the official FitGirl site, right at the top.

    Despite the claims that Fitgirlrepacks.co is the “ONLY official site for FitGirl Repacks”, this site is far from official. As per the warning on the real FitGirl site, this is a fake, “made to infect you with malware, show you tons of ads and get your money as donations.”

    The claim that the domain is a malware trap appears to be supported by anti-malware software MalwareBytes, which blocks the platform while warning of ‘trojans’. The big question is why this domain (and the several others that appear following a basic ‘FitGirl’ search) are promoted to the top spots by Google.

    It’s hard to be precise but given that sites that are demoted based on the number of DMCA notices that are filed against them, the official site certainly suffers more in this respect, something which may have hurt its search ranking.

    As reported earlier this month, Google’s code previously and inadvertently showcased YTS and YIFY pirate movie releases in a similar manner. That error was quickly fixed as this one will be too, cutting short what could’ve been a great musical career for one of the world’s most famous pirates.


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    Ebook Piracy is out of Control and the Authors Guild is Mad

    The Authors Guild has accused Google of promoting ebook piracy in their search engine results and paid services such as Adwords. Piracy is rewarded with millions of dollars in revenue from the Adsense program.

    The US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property is looking for options to address online piracy. Earlier this year, it held a hearing to see what could be learned from copyright policies in other countries. This week on June 3rd, a new meeting took place and the Authors Guild is mad about piracy, Google and how the DCMA program is fundamentally broken.

    Douglas Preston, president of the Authors Guild, which represents over 10,000 professional writers. Many of the Guild’s members are struggling due to piracy, he says, because the DMCA doesn’t work as intended. “The notice-and-take-down system is not working — at least not for authors, other individual creators, and small creative businesses,” Preston informed the Senate Subcommittee.

    Preston said “In the last decade, the number of piracy complaints handled by the Authors Guild has skyrocketed. A study by Nielsen and Digimarc in 2017 indicated that pirates were selling 315 million dollars of stolen ebooks a year of illegal downloads,with pirated ebooks depressing legitimate book sales by as much as 14%. Since then, based on the amount of ebook piracy reported to the Authors Guild, that number has probably doubled. Studies have shown that the vast majority of illegal book downloads occur because they are so easy to find and acquire, and that the users who acquire ebooks illegally would have acquired the book legally (by buying a legal ebook or print copy or checking one out from the library) if the “search costs” of pirated ebooks were higher—in the other words, if illegal ebooks were more than a few clicks away. And a new issue has developed in the last couple of years with the rise of pirated commercial ebooks sold at low cost on the same platforms as legitimate copies: unknowing readers innocently buy the illegal copies thinking they are just getting a good deal. ”

    There is a clear correlation between the growth in piracy and the decline in incomes of authors. In 2018, mean writing incomes for full-time professional authors went down to $20,300, a 42% reduction in real dollars from a decade prior. Richard Conniff, writing in The New York Times, starkly sums up the impact of piracy on authors: Authors need to eat, too, and we get by (or not quite, these days), by showing up at our writing places at a designated time day after day and staying there till we have fretted out our quota of words, to be sent off, after a time, to a publisher, in the hope that, two or three years down the road, a few pennies may come trickling back under the ludicrously grandiose name of “royalties.” These days, though, what comes trickling back are mostly email alerts about websites in brazen violation of copyright law, offering free downloads of books the authors have spent years of their lives producing. At the moment, I have about 400 such offers of my own books in an email folder labeled “Thieves.”

    There are a number of sources for ebook piracy.

    Rogue websites dedicated to free or monetized distribution of pirated ebooks that are found through Google and other search engines.

    Unauthorized copies of ebooks and audiobooks posted for sale (usually at a highly discounted price) on online marketplaces such as Google Shopping, Google Play, and eBay.

    User-posted unauthorized ebooks and audiobooks on third-party social media platforms.

    Download lockers and peer-to-peer torrent transfer.

    Preston said that the current DMCA system is broken. “It is nearly impossible to estimate the number of active pirate sites at any given moment, but studies show that even the most robust and vigilant notice-and-takedown efforts lag behind the genesis of new sites and number of pirate posts on existing sites, resulting in an inexorable increase in the total number of pirate sites over time.”

    Sarina Bowen, a best-selling author, an Authors Guild member, and active campaigner against online piracy, describes, like so many others, her experience in sending take-down notices as playing “whack-a-mole all day long. You can take down a book on one site and it will pop up on another site or even on the same site the very next day because someone else has uploaded it.”

    Preston fired shots at Google, accusing them of being asleep at the wheel “Google makes it particularly easy to get to these pirate sites and unknowingly buy pirated copies. In response to a user’s query for a book, Google’s search engine results include a carousel of Google Shopping ads from various third-party sellers, which users can click to buy a desired copy. Those Google Shopping buy buttons include links to pirate sites and pirate eBay sellers mixed in with legitimate vendors, sometimes even ranking above legitimate vendors in search results if the pirates have bought promotional placement on the page. And since there is no way to tell a licensed ebook copy apart from a pirated copy, users will usually choose the cheapest offer not knowing that these cheap ebooks are in fact pirated copies. As explained earlier, readers generally do not know that most publishers—certainly all of the major ones— only sell ebooks through a handful of authorized sellers. It should be fairly simple for Google to screen out unauthorized sellers from Google Shopping, for instance by obtaining information about licensed vendors from publishers, yet the internet giant has undertaken no such effort to prevent Google Shopping from becoming a conduit for pirates selling illegal copies to unsuspecting users. ”

    He went on to say “The search giant is equally indifferent to linking to pirate sites in its search results. Google refuses to de-index infringing sites even after receiving many thousands of take-down notices and having knowledge, but will demote the site in search results in connection with commonplace search queries. The Authors Guild has asked Google in the past to de-index sites like Ebook.bike and Epub.pub from search results for books, but we were only successful in getting them demoted so they don’t appear whenever a user searches for a book title on Google. Users can still find the sites if they know the URL or the site name close enough to the URL.

    Ebook piracy is getting smarter, instead of having static websites that can be crawled with search engines. They are getting savvier and selling ebook bundles on eBay, distributing materials via private Facebook Groups, taking advantage of the LinkedIn’s SlideShare platform. Academia.edu, Scribd, Google Play, and Google Drive are other platforms being used to advertise and distribute pirated content.

    How do you kill ebook piracy for good, in the United States? Douglas Preston thinks there should be an express take down and stay-down regime. Congress could enact a new provision that provides that a take-down notice applies to every full-length, identical copy of the particular work. In other words, one notice does not result in one take-down, but in the removal of all current and infringing copies of that work

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    Police Shut Down Pirate IPTV Operation With Two Million Subscribers

    Spain's National Police has shut down a popular pirate IPTV operation that allegedly serviced two million customers. With help from Europol and law enforcement in Canada, the US and several European countries, 11 suspects were arrested. The authorities also confiscated property worth nearly €5 million while another €1.1 in bank assets were frozen.

    In recent years, unlicensed TV subscriptions have been flourishing, with hundreds of vendors offering virtually any channel imaginable for a small monthly fee.

    This is seen as a major threat by copyright holders and law enforcement authorities are also taking the matter seriously. That became apparent again today, as law enforcement authorities announced one of the largest IPTV busts in history.

    In an operation led by Spain’s National Police, law enforcement agencies across Europe claim to have “switched off” a massive pirate IPTV operation. The investigation, which started last year, resulted in 15 house searches and 11 people – including the suspected leader – were arrested.

    Spanish police received widespread international support, including from law enforcement agencies in Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States.

    The authorities report that the enforcement actions took place last Wednesday, June 3. In addition to the raids and arrests, another 16 people were interrogated for their possible involvement in any illegal activity.

    The IPTV operation reportedly offered streaming services to roughly two million subscribers and was good for €15 million in estimated profits, Europol says.

    “More than 2 million subscribers were receiving these illegal services totaling the profits for the criminal network at an estimated €15 million. The investigation focused on shutting down the servers and disconnecting the IP addresses, and obtaining relevant information to effectively dismantle the criminal group.”

    Spanish police released footage of some of their enforcement actions. This shows how officers in riot gear entered the premises of a suspect where four cars, luxury watches, cash, and cryptocurrencies were confiscated. It also shows a wide variety of servers allegedly used in the operation.

    In total, nearly €5 million in assets were seized while €1.1 in funds across 11 different bank accounts were frozen.


    As is often the case, authorities haven’t named the prime suspects or connected services. However, we were able to gather some further details.

    Anti-piracy group Rights Alliance, which reported the issue to the authorities in Denmark, informs TorrentFreak that Rapid IPTV was a prime target in Spain. In Denmark, three people connected to Danskip.tv were arrested.

    With many IPTV services using similar names things can get confusing but Rapid IPTV is certainly a large player. Also, several of Rapid IPTV’s services were indeed shut off about a week ago when the raids were carried out. This is confirmed by the official status page, shown below.


    However, the same status page shows that services are starting to resume again. At the time of writing, most are up and running again, apart from the popular IPTV.community forums. So, if this RapidIPTV was the target, it’s certainly not down and out.

    Last week’s actions were supported by Eurojust, the European Union’s Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, which held two coordination meetings ahead of the operation. The operation itself was led by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Alicante in cooperation with Spain’s National Police.

    This is not the first time Europe’s law enforcement agencies have cooperated to bust a pirate IPTV service. While these raids and arrests will certainly have a short term effect, they can also present opportunities for others to get involved. And with millions and millions in potential profits, that’s an attractive prospect for some.


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    Man Who Sold Raspberry Pi Devices Modded to Receive Sky For Free Avoids Prison

    A seven-year process targeting a disabled man who sold Raspberry Pi units modified to obtain Sky subscription content for free concluded at Bolton Crown Court yesterday. After selling the devices on Facebook, 50-year-old Mark Schofield was handed a two-year suspended sentence and community order.

    Over the past several years, regular members of the public have discovered that money can be made from selling cheap electronic devices modified to receive otherwise subscription content for free.

    While in the majority of cases these sales fly under the radar, a case that was concluded in Manchester, UK, yesterday reveals a determination by companies including Sky to pursue certain cases for years.

    Way back in April 2013, investigators for Sky discovered a Facebook page operated by Mark Schofield of Radcliffe. According to Sky, the man – who is described as disabled – was selling Raspberry Pi devices that had been modified to receive the company’s programming without permission. Schofield used Sky’s logo on his page and was estimated to have sold around a thousand units.

    In the same year, an undercover purchase was made directly from Schofield’s home with the buyer granted access to a Facebook support group.

    Police Carry Out Raid Four Years Later

    Bury Times reports that some four years later in February 2017, Greater Manchester Police executed a warrant at Schofield’s home where police found some items of hardware but no supporting trading evidence or cash.

    For reasons that aren’t apparently clear, the investigation into the matter continued for several more years, with Schofield eventually pleading guilty to copyright infringement and fraud offenses.

    Court Hearing Seven Years After Investigation Began

    Ari Alibhai, who has acted for Sky in the private prosecutions of several individuals in similar matters, told the court that Schofield had sold the devices for between £80 and £100. Additionally, the Manchester man was said to have sold memory cards that were reportedly able to update the devices for around £10 each.

    “To borrow an analogy from football, this was a mid-table level of sophistication,” Alibhai said, as per Bolton News.

    “The manner in which he traded on Facebook was designed to avoid detection and we have a turnover agreed at £100,000,” adding that potential losses to Sky were in “excess of £1 million.”

    Schofield’s defense, Patrick Buckley, described his clients’ activity as a money-making “cottage industry” but one that was operated with naivety in respect of the scale of what he was doing. Buckley told Bolton Crown Court that a prison sentence would be “catastrophic” following the sudden death of Schofield’s wife in 2018.

    Huge “Potential Losses” to Sky But No Prison Sentence

    After seven years of uncertainty, Schofield learned of his fate yesterday. While the judge found that “potential losses” to Sky could have been “huge”, in this instance there would be no immediate custodial sentence.

    After being described as a “model citizen” since the alleged offenses around 2013, the 50-year-old was handed a two-year sentence, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and will face a proceeds of crime hearing in October. Whether there will be anything left to seize after a seven-year process will remain to be seen.


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    Alleged KickassTorrents Operator Continues to Battle US Extradition Request

    Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of KickassTorrents, still doesn't know if he will be extradited to the United States. Nearly four years after the popular torrent site was shut down, the legal proceeding is still undecided. Instead of a swift success, the criminal case is starting to look more and more like the drawn-out Megaupload battle.

    Four years ago KickassTorrents was the most popular torrent site on the Internet.

    With millions of daily visitors, it had even surpassed the mighty Pirate Bay. A month later, however, the site was gone.

    The site’s quick demise was the result of a criminal investigation by the FBI. This resulted in three indictments, with alleged operator Artem Vaulin being the main target.

    Vaulin, who was born in Ukraine, was arrested at a Polish airport and later transferred to a local prison. The outstanding extradition request from the United States accused him of being the mastermind behind KickassTorrents, which ‘shared’ over $1 billion in copyrighted content.

    “Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials,” said Leslie R. Caldwell, who was Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division at the time.

    The shutdown came as a severe blow to the torrent community and made headlines across the globe. It was also the first major piracy-linked criminal case launched by the US Justice Department after its dismantling of Megaupload.

    And with Kim Dotcom and his former Megaupload colleagues digging their heels deep into the sand in New Zealand, the US Department of Justice could use a success.

    No Progress in the Extradition Battle

    Today, three years and eleven months later, this success is far away. In fact, the KickassTorrents case has yet to get started. After spending several months in a Polish prison Vaulin was released on bail. He has no intention to go to the US and continues to fight the US extradition request.

    Early on, it appeared that this process would be over relatively quickly. Early 2017, a Polish court ruled that Vaulin could be extradited. However, this has yet to be confirmed in a second proceeding after which the Minister of Justice would have to issue the final decision.

    The lack of progress was made clear again a few days ago when US Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. informed the federal court in Illinois that there’s still no movement in the Polish matter.

    “Defendant is still undergoing extradition proceedings in Poland, and the parties are not currently aware of a timetable for a resolution of those proceedings,” Lausch wrote, adding that the discovery process hasn’t started and that no court date is to be scheduled in the coming months.


    TorrentFreak reached out to Vaulin’s legal team which confirmed that there have been no new developments. This means that the wait continues, as well as the uncertainly for Vaulin, who remains out on bail.

    Instead of a quick success, the KickassTorrents case has turned into another prolonged extradition battle, much like the case against Megaupload where there’s still no final decision after more than eight years. And the comparisons don’t stop there.

    The Other KickassTorrents Defendants

    While most attention has focused on Vaulin, there are also two other defendants in the KickassTorrents case; Alexander Radostin and Ievgen Kutsenko. As far as we know, the two Ukrainian men are still in Ukraine and have not been apprehended.

    A US District Court recently asked for an update on all three defendants, but the US prosecution’s reply only mentioned Vaulin, which suggests that the others are out of sight for now. That’s similar to the Megaupload case, where several defendants also remain ‘missing’.

    Time will tell whether any of these criminal cases will ever make it to court. However, like Megaupload, the KickassTorrents site is long gone. Several former staffers did launch a new site, mimicking the look and feel of the old home, which remains online today.


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    Activists rally to save Internet Archive as lawsuit threatens site

    The non-profit removed lending restrictions on over a million books during the COVID-19 crisis. Now it's being sued by publishers.

    The Internet Archive is a massive endeavor—it's an online library aiming to "provide Universal Access to All Knowledge." It has digitized millions of web pages, movies, photos, recordings, software programs, and books that might otherwise be lost to history.

    But it's neither un-censorable nor outside the bounds of copyright law. And now open internet supporters are wondering how to save it before it disappears.

    In March, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to the shutdown of public libraries, the Internet Archive created the National Emergency Library and temporarily suspended book waitlists—the kind that make you cool your jets for 12 weeks to download "A Game of Thrones" onto your Kindle—through the end of June. In doing so, it essentially allowed for a single copy of a book to be downloaded an infinite number of times.

    Book publishers weren't happy. Last Monday, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and Wiley—four publishing behemoths—sued the organization. The lawsuit argues that "IA’s actions grossly exceed legitimate library services, do violence to the Copyright Act, and constitute willful digital piracy on an industrial scale."

    Perhaps in response, today the Internet Archive announced it was closing the National Emergency Library two weeks early. Founder Brewster Kahle wrote that he hoped the plaintiffs would "call off their costly assault."

    If the court finds that Internet Archive "willfully" infringed copyright, the library could be on the hook for up to $150,000 in damages—per each of the 1.4 million titles. (You do the math.)

    That would likely be game over for the archive. Even an unintentional act of copyright infringement carries statutory damages of at least $200, which would put damages in the hundreds of millions.

    Many are preparing for the worst, a complete shutdown, but doing so is no easy feat. Many open-Internet activists have been discussing how to back up the archive and make it more resilient for years. The temptation would be to employ a distributed system, such as a blockchain, that would be censorship-resistant and couldn’t be legally shut down. Yet the amount of data makes any attempt at backing up the archive difficult.

    The INTERNETARCHIVE.BAK project aimed to scope out the viability of archiving the Internet Archive’s data, which numbers in the petabytes. It has been inactive since 2016. Other projects have similarly stalled.

    Some decentralization stalwarts and open-information advocates are urging people to donate or rally to the organization’s side. Doing so would help it pay for legal costs and perhaps buy time to move some of the archive’s resources elsewhere.

    According to the publishers, copyright violations are damaging to the industry, which makes money off of selling to libraries and bookstores alike. According to the Denver Public Library, "Libraries pay three-to-five times more than retail price for eBook access. If an individual is charged $15 for an eBook license, a library often pays $50 or even $84 for one license."

    That price model makes sense since eBooks make the rounds to multiple library users. And if librarians face large demand for popular titles, they may have to buy multiple licenses—otherwise readers might face a very long wait.

    Kahle has urged reconciliation. "Publishers suing libraries for lending books, in this case protected digitized versions, and while schools and libraries are closed, is not in anyone’s interest,” he wrote on the organization's blog. "We hope this can be resolved quickly."

    But given the tone of the lawsuit, the publishers take issue with Internet Archive's mission as a whole, suggesting that they were waiting for some pretext to take the entire organization down: "Without any license or any payment to authors or publishers, [Internet Archive] scans print books, uploads these illegally scanned books to its servers, and distributes verbatim digital copies of the books in whole via public-facing websites."

    With the publishers seemingly out for blood, all of the digital archives are at risk. Those who rely on it to keep a digital history of our world may be running out of time, though the last chapter has yet to be written.

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    Effort to Capture ‘Red Flag’ Embodies DMCA Reform Struggle

    Content creators, weary of having their work stolen and copied online, want to see a strengthening of the main U.S. copyright law compelling internet platforms to remove infringing material. Coming up with an acceptable solution, though, is far trickier.

    At issue is language in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act requiring online platforms, such as Google LLC’s Youtube, Facebook Inc., and Twitter Inc., to respond to both “actual knowledge” and what’s commonly known as “red flag knowledge” of infringement to avoid liability for users’ actions.

    Copyright holders, though, say courts have rendered “red flag knowledge” meaningless by essentially requiring platforms to send a takedown notice to compel removal—something that amounts to the platforms having actual knowledge. They would prefer the law required platforms to respond to more general indications of infringing activity.

    But there’s no agreement on what language would serve the law’s core goal: protecting copyrights without forcing platforms to either monitor impossible volumes of content or cull noninfringing free speech.

    The renewed debate, stirred in part by the Copyright Office’s report last month largely backing copyright holders, underscores a growing pressure on tech platforms to take more responsibility after maturing into cash cows. Meanwhile, tech groups and their supporters say the DMCA largely works as designed, and an overhaul would either threaten online freedom or fail to address infringement.

    Some corrective measures that have been proposed—such as automated filters and encoding a negligence standard—have been general. More specific language will be difficult, attorneys said.

    “I don’t really know what language would reach that middle ground, that would help right the balance that the Copyright Office points to,” copyright attorney Scott Wilkens of Wiley Rein LLP said.

    Flag on Infringement

    The DMCA allows platforms to escape liability if they take down allegedly infringing material at a rightsholder’s request, among other requirements. But the takedown notice system is an unwinnable game of whack-a-mole, given the sheer volume of infringing material and ease of re-posting, critics say.

    The law explicitly says it doesn’t require platforms to monitor content or affirmatively look for infringement. The lone exception is that they must adopt any “standard technical measure,” or an automated filtering system, crafted by a consensus of copyright owners and service providers.

    Rightsholders hoped that would help solve the whack-a-mole problem. But once the DMCA became law, “platforms lost any incentive” to create and adopt such measures, former Recording Industry Association of America counsel Neil Turkewitz said.

    “Platforms—otherwise highly engaged in the content by amplifying and curating—they resist doing anything until they’re notified,” he said. “We need to flip that.”

    In May, the Copyright Office recommended possible DMCA changes, including suggesting Congress could “reiterate or clarify” the difference between actual and “red flag” knowledge, a common shorthand for awareness “of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent.” Copyright holders argue red flag means platforms must respond to infringement warning signs beyond takedown notices, but tech and public interest groups say that would remove incentives for platforms to do what they can to root out infringement, as such efforts would only add liability.

    The biggest court opinion on the question sided with the platforms. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dealt a blow to rightsholders when it defined DMCA “red flag knowledge” narrowly in its 2012 decision in Viacom International Inc. v. YouTube Inc. Viacom, whose legal team included Wilkens, argued that the term would be superfluous if the law required knowledge of specific infringement.

    But the panel said the distinction between “actual” and “red flag” is not “specific” versus “generalized” but between a “subjective and objective standard.” Actual knowledge, it said, “turns on whether the provider actually or ‘subjectively’ knew of specific infringement.” Red flag turns on “whether the provider was subjectively aware of facts that would have made the specific infringement ‘objectively’ obvious to a reasonable person,” the opinion said.

    “Courts say you need to know what specifically infringed. If you have that, you don’t need red flag knowledge. You have actual knowledge,” Copyright Alliance president Keith Kupferschmid said.

    Senate Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee chair Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said he’s eager to learn more about the issue and that his “initial sense” is that red flag and actual knowledge have become indistinguishable. The law seems to put too heavy a burden on rightsholders to police cases that should be obvious to platforms, such as when a post is titled “PIRATED” Justin Bieber album” or “FULL Avengers: Endgame film,” he said.

    But tech and public interest groups agreed with the court’s interpretation.

    Red flag “is perhaps the least ambiguous provision” in the DMCA, Internet Association leader Jonathan Berroya told Tillis’ subcommittee at a June 2 hearing. “The ‘clarification’ the Office recommends with respect to red flag knowledge would change a fundamental feature of” DMCA’s design, he said. The association’s members include Twitter, Facebook, Google and Amazon.com Inc.

    Few specific proposals that would heighten platforms’ responsibility, without creating unrealistic burdens or problematic incentives, have emerged. The debate “will be a huge fight” and “a war of lobbyists,” copyright attorney Margaret Esquenet of Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner LLP said.

    She agreed with the Copyright Office that “something more akin” to a willful blindness standard that imposes liability on entities that intentionally keep themselves unaware of infringement would make sense. A less subjective test “where platforms do have an obligation to make some effort to ferret this out, not just simply throw up their hands and say, ‘We have no idea what you’re talking about,’” would help, Esquenet said.

    Technical Difficulties

    Some groups say changing the DMCA would cause problems and still not end rampant infringement.

    Adjusting the law to more easily cull infringing materials—possibly enabling removal of legitimate free speech—won’t help with the ultimate goal of getting artists paid, Corynne McSherry, legal director of digital civil liberties advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said.

    And, as it stands now, takedown notices still give rightsholders “a really powerful tool” even if they don’t wipe out all infringement, she said.

    “There’s no other area of the law where you can send a quick note, and that content has to be taken down,” McSherry said.

    Meanwhile, platforms have voluntarily implemented some tools, critics of law change say. But the Copyright Office said limited adoption, ineffectiveness, and failure of one-size-fits-all models have hampered efforts.

    Filtering algorithms can’t assess fair use and would struggle to keep up with shifting, complex rights ownership, public interest advocacy group Public Knowledge counsel Meredith Rose said. Big platforms are “generally good faith actors” that respond to takedown requests, Rose said. Big rightsholders generally co-opt efforts to target the real culprit—piracy sites cloaked in anonymity, often outside U.S. jurisdiction—to target mainstream sites for “leverage to get better licensing terms,” she said.

    Copyright advocates say those platforms continue to profit extensively from traffic brought by infringing content even if they respond to DMCA requests, despite having the technical capabilities to address the problem.

    The status quo, to a degree, works in web platforms’ favor and lessens incentive to alter it, copyright attorney Rachel Fertig of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP said. But some platforms have begun producing their own content, potentially spurring them to negotiate updates to the law, she said.

    “You still have a significant amount of litigation, and with this Copyright Office report you have areas that could be re-exposed to litigation,” Fertig said. “That’s something that would motivate people to discuss changes.”

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    llegal Streaming Service Offered to 2 Million Users Busted for Netflix and HBO Piracy

    An illegal streaming service offering pirated HBO and Netflix programs was busted by European police. Gizmodo's latest report stated that European customers seemed to be sick of streaming paywalls and unending searches on multiple services just to find their preferred movie at a low price, that they resorted to subscribing to an illegal platform.

    Bloomberg also reported that more than 2 million subscribers, dozens of servers, and even a customer service team were caught by European police after taking down the platform.

    Europol released a report stating that 11 suspects were arrested for offering illegal access over 40,000 streaming services, films, and subscription TV channels from other popular streaming services such as Amazon, HBO, and Netflix throughout Denmark, Germany, Spain, and Sweden. In addition to the arrests, the authorities also searched several locations and properties. They seized jewelry, luxury cars, cash, and crypto-currencies with a total value of approximately $5.4 million. While another $1.1 million was frozen in different bank accounts.

    The illegal streaming service was reported to have used various websites in the E.U. and other countries to offer customers access to television channels and online providers for prices lower than the rate provided by the market. The criminal organization was said to mainly operate from Spain, taking in payments via cryptocurrency, bank transfers, and PayPal since 2014. They have amassed $17 million in assets related to the scheme.

    Illegal Netflix and HBO service offered by streaming ring, busted by European Police

    Tim Mulligan, an analyst at Midia Research, said that the background threat of privacy will have to be considered as a pricing factor as streaming services gauge whether to jack up prices in the coming years. Mulligan also stated that although many individual streaming services have a lower cost compared to other cable TV subscriptions, the consumers who availed multiple ones can still see their bill increasing.

    Piracy can also be encouraged by the streaming services launched by giant rightsholders like Disney. Massive media companies can have unilateral control over distribution and prices as they get into the streaming game, yanking their content from other competitors and pushing others to consider illegal streaming as an option.

    Five people were arrested by the Spanish police in March 2019 claiming that they were members of an international criminal organization that offered illegal streaming services for movies, television shows, and sports matches. The victims of the illegal streaming ring didn't realize that they were purchasing an illegal service because the operators set up a complicated network of front companies and even became registered fiber optic operators.

    Subscribers were reported to have been paying around $45 to $525 a month depending on package deals offered.

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    Removing “Annoying” Windows 10 Features is a DMCA Violation, Microsoft Says

    Ninjutsu OS, a new software tool that heavily modifies Windows 10 with a huge number of tweaks, mods and extra tools, has been hit with a DMCA complaint by Microsoft. According to the copyright notice, the customizing, tweaking and disabling of Windows 10 features, even when that improves privacy, amounts to a violation of Microsoft's software license.

    Since Windows was first released, people have been modifying variants of the world-famous operating system to better fit their individual requirements.

    Many of these tweaks can be carried out using tools provided within the software itself but the recently-released Ninjutsu OS aims to take Windows 10 modding to a whole new level.

    Released on May 7, Ninjutsu OS claims to take Windows 10 and transform it into a penetration testing powerhouse, adding huge numbers of tools (around 800) aimed at security experts, a few for regular users (qBitTorrent and Tor Browser, for example) while also removing features considered unwanted or unneeded in such an environment.

    “I created this project to help beginners and students in the field of information security. As you know it is very difficult for beginners to build Windows and install all the tools and install libraries for some of the programs that you need in the field of information security,” Ninjutsu creator ‘Hasan’ informs TF.

    As the image below shows, Ninjutsu’s appearance is striking and is likely to appeal to the target audience.


    From June 6, 2020, the project was hosted on Github but according to a DMCA complaint filed by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) on behalf of Microsoft, Ninjutsu OS violates Microsoft’s copyrights.

    “BSA has determined that GitHub.com (specifically, content made available on GitHub through the link listed below) is providing access to copyrighted, nonpublic, proprietary information of our member Microsoft,” the complaint reads.

    “The link leads to copyrighted material pertaining to Microsoft. Specifically, the copyrighted material in question can be found at the following link: https://github.com/ninjutsu-project/...hub.io.”

    While that link to the project has now been taken down by Github (Hasan insists that the page “does not contain any violation of Microsoft’s rights”), the complaint goes on to highlight several features of Ninjutsu OS that are claimed to be infringing. As advertised and specifically highlighted by BSA/Microsoft they are:

    – Customize Windows 10 with powerful tweak and optimize.

    – Protect your privacy by tweak and customize Windows 10.

    – Disable many of the annoying features built into Windows.

    – Unwanted Windows components removal.

    – Remove/Disable many Windows programs and services.

    According to the complaint, the above actions by Ninjutsu OS as mentioned on its Github page provide a “work around technical restrictions of the software”, something which supposedly violates Microsoft’s software license terms.


    “As such, we request that you please act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the specific pages/links described above, and thereby prevent the illegal reproduction and distribution of Microsoft content, via your company’s network, pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §512(d),” the DMCA complaint adds.

    At first view, some may conclude that Ninjutsu OS amounts to a heavily modified yet pirated version of Windows 10. However, a video explaining how the software works suggests that users will actually need their own license for a genuine copy of Windows 10 to get the modifications up and running properly. Ninjutsu’s creator informs TF that’s indeed the case.

    There may be workarounds, of course, but BSA/Microsoft’s complaint appears to be centered around the unauthorized tweaking or wholesale removal/disabling of Windows 10 components, rather than copying its content. While there may be more going on here, at no point during the complaint does it provide details on which Microsoft content has been reproduced.

    Ninjutsu’s developer informs us that the ability to tweak, disable or remove features in Windows 10 is carried out using two tools – Win10-Initial-Setup-Script and O&O ShutUp10, with the latter billing itself as a tool allowing users to “decide how Windows 10 should respect your privacy by deciding which unwanted functions should be deactivated.”

    At the time of writing Ninjutsu’s Patreon page is still functional but a link to download the tool using torrents via Yandex hosting is now down and displaying a ‘Link Blocked‘ message.


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    La Liga wins anti-piracy case in Russia

    Moscow court ruling removes illegal streams from pirate websites.

    La Liga has won an anti-piracy ruling in Moscow to remove its content from three Russian websites that have been illegally streaming Spanish top-flight soccer matches.

    The domains mou.su, hdtennis.ru and liveball.ru were found guilty of showing pirated broadcasts of La Liga matches in Russia during 2020. In total, the websites accumulated 1.14 million visits per month.

    The case was brought to attention by La Liga’s in-house anti-piracy department which filed the complaint to the Moscow City Court and built the case in collaboration with Russia-based digital media protection firm WebKontrol.

    La Liga's current broadcast partners in Russia are the Telesport Group and public-owned sports network Match TV.

    Melcior Soler, La Liga's audiovisual director Melcior Soler, said: “Every ruling against piracy is another step towards removing this illegal practice from the industry.

    “Our global team is able to detect cases across the world and successfully pursue legal action, leading the fight against those who are trying to cheat the rights holders, legitimate broadcast partners and fans.”

    The case represents La Liga’s latest victory over pirate broadcasters, following successful rulings in Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Denmark, Senegal and Indonesia. La Liga also collaborates with Belgium soccer’s Pro League top-flight and motorcycling promotion Dorna Sports on tackling intellectual property theft.

    La Liga is currently preparing for the return of its top-flight club competition on 13th June. The first fixture after the three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic is the local derby between Sevilla and Real Betis.

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    Internet Archive Calls For End to Publishers’ Lawsuit, Announces Early Closure

    Internet Archive Calls For End to Publishers’ Lawsuit, Announces Early Closure of Emergency Library

    The Internet Archive says it will close its National Emergency Library two weeks early, in part because it is able to serve users in other ways. At the same time, founder Brewster Kahle is calling for several major publishers to withdraw the copyright infringement lawsuit filed against the Internet Archive earlier this month.

    Back in March, just as the coronavirus pandemic began turning the lives of the American public upside down, the Internet Archive (IA) took a decision to launch a new service built on its existing Open Library.

    IA’s National Emergency Library (NEL) combined scanned books from three libraries, offering users unlimited borrowing of more than a million books. The aim was for “displaced learners” to keep accumulating knowledge and education while restricted by quarantine measures.

    Unrestricted eBook Borrowing Riles Copyright Holders

    Under normal circumstances, users have restrictions placed on their lending. However, IA’s decision to suspend “waitlists”, which ordinarily prevent potentially unlimited copies of books being handed out at once, caused outrage among some authors, copyright holders and publishers.

    Commenting on the creation of the library in March, the powerful Copyright Alliance described the actions of Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle as “particularly vile“. The Authors Guild declared the library “contrary to federal law” and said that in common with other creators, authors need to make money from sales.

    “Acting as a piracy site — of which there already are too many — the Internet Archive tramples on authors’ rights by giving away their books to the world,” the group wrote.

    The big question remained, however. Would the major publishers continue to simply criticize the operation or actually do something about it?

    Publishers File Massive Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

    On June 1, 2020, that question was answered when Hachette Book Group, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and Penguin Random House LLC, filed a massive copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive.

    “[The lawsuit] is about IA’s purposeful collection of truckloads of in-copyright books to scan, reproduce, and then distribute digital bootleg versions online,” the publishers’ complaint read.

    “IA’s unauthorized copying and distribution of Plaintiffs’ works include titles that the Publishers are currently selling commercially and currently providing to libraries in ebook form, making Defendant’s business a direct substitute for established markets. Free is an insurmountable competitor.”

    With claims of direct and secondary copyright infringement worth millions of dollars in statutory damages, the publishers had made their position clear. However, in a new announcement, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle now calls for cooperation and a peaceful end to hostilities.

    National Emergency Library Will Close Early

    “Today we are announcing the National Emergency Library will close on June 16th, rather than June 30th, returning to traditional controlled digital lending,” Kahle writes.

    “We have learned that the vast majority of people use digitized books on the Internet Archive for a very short time. Even with the closure of the NEL, we will be able to serve most patrons through controlled digital lending, in part because of the good work of the non-profit HathiTrust Digital Library.”

    Despite these factors, the early closure of the NEL was clearly motivated by the lawsuit filed earlier this month. However, the complaint wasn’t just about the NEL.

    Lawsuit Targets Internet Archive’s Underlying Open Library, and More

    In their lawsuit, the publishers describe the creation of the NEL as a ‘doubling down’ of Internet Archive’s existing infringing activities carried out as part of its Open Library project. According to them, it “produces mirror-image copies of millions of unaltered in-copyright works for which it has no rights and distributes them in their entirety for reading purposes to the public for free, including voluminous numbers of books that are currently commercially available.”

    In short, the closure of the NEL doesn’t appear to particularly undermine the basis of the lawsuit and as Kahle notes, the litigation also has much broader implications.

    “The complaint attacks the concept of any library owning and lending digital books, challenging the very idea of what a library is in the digital world,” Kahle says.

    “This lawsuit stands in contrast to some academic publishers who initially expressed concerns about the NEL, but ultimately decided to work with us to provide access to people cut off from their physical schools and libraries. We hope that similar cooperation is possible here, and the publishers call off their costly assault.”

    Internet Archive Calls for Cooperation and an End to Litigation

    With so much at stake, Kahle’s call for peace is a step in the right direction. However, his suggestion for libraries, authors, booksellers, and publishers to move forward on the basis of ‘Controlled Digital Lending” (CDL) looks set to run into difficulties.

    The publishers have already dismissed CDL “as an invented theory”, the rules of which “have been concocted from whole cloth and continue to get worse.” IA, on the other hand, characterizes CDL as a legal framework developed by copyright experts, allowing one reader at a time to read a digitized copy of a legally-owned library book, wrapped in DRM to protect publishers.

    In contrast, the publishers argue that there is no provision in copyright law that offers a “colorable defense to the systematic copying and distribution of digital book files simply because the actor collects corresponding physical copies.” At least on paper, the parties couldn’t be any further apart.

    What happens next is far from clear. The stakes are high on both sides so perhaps Kahle’s offer to enter discussions could be the route to a negotiated business plan, rather than all-out defeat for one party or another.

    “We are now all Internet-bound and flooded with misinformation and disinformation—to fight these we all need access to books more than ever. To get there we need collaboration between libraries, authors, booksellers, and publishers,” he writes.

    “Let’s build a digital system that works.”


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    Japan Enacts New Copyright Laws to Curb Illegal Manga Downloading

    The new laws go in effect on October 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021

    The Japanese government on June 5 unanimously passed two new amendments to existing copyright laws to tackle the growing issue of illegal downloads of manga in Japan, along with magazines and academic texts. The existing copyright laws in Japan already covered music, movies, and anime, but these new laws are looking at the digitalization of print media, mainly manga, which has had some high profile cases in Japan recently, including the shutting down of a major manga piracy website.

    The first of the amendments will regulate “leech websites,” websites that host the content on their site or are used as databases with links to torrents or other download sites. The law makes it illegal to operate websites, apps, or even posting download links on message boards, with penalties up to 5 years in jail or a fine of 5 million yen (US$46,800), or both. Though the law only covers websites run by people inside Japan. This part of the law comes into effort on October 1, 2020.

    The second part of the new laws looks at the curbing of illegal downloading of manga and other material, with penalties up to 2years in jail or a fine of 2 million yen (US$18,700), or both depending on if the accused has had warnings in the past. It's specified that under the new law, the material has to be downloaded to the device. This law comes into effect on January 1, 2021.

    Previously, the Japanese government in 2019 tried to amend the copyright law to focus on manga and other written material but was shot down by privacy groups for being too far-reaching and broad. The new laws include provisions for “minor offenses” and “special instances” such as education, news purposes, small clips for social media networks (gifs), unintentional capture (such as when taking a screenshot, or taking a picture), parody, and minor uses of frames from a manga or lines out of a book "where it is recognized that [the use] does not unduly harm the interests of the copyright holder."

    In enacting these laws, the Japanese government hopes they'll have a “significant deterrent effect” on piracy in the country as technology gets more advanced, just as laws against illegally downloading videos and music have had a positive effect on curbing piracy in Japan.

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    US prosecutors confirm no progress in Kickass Torrents extradition proceedings

    It’s been quite some time since we last reported on the legal case against the man accused of running the once uber-popular file-sharing site Kickass Torrents. That’s because there haven’t really been any developments in said case. But now we have a development. Yes, a development! So, let’s get reporting on that, shall we? The latest development in the Kickass case is a court filing that confirms, erm, well, that there haven’t really been any developments. Progress!

    Artem Vaulin was arrested in Poland in July 2016 at the request of the US authorities, shortly before the Kickass file-sharing site was forced offline. Prosecutors in the US want to extradite him so that he can face charges of criminal copyright infringement in the American courts. A Polish court approved Vaulin’s extradition the following March, but then a lengthy appeals process began, which is still ongoing.

    This means that, while the Vaulin case initially seemed to be progressing in a pretty speedy fashion, it could end up being as long-drawn-out as the whole MegaUpload debacle. US authorities have been trying to extradite MegaUpload chief Kim Dotcom from New Zealand to face similar charges of criminal copyright infringement in the American courts ever since 2012, so far without success.

    Efforts by Vaulin’s lawyers to have the case against their client dismissed entirely in the US courts failed, but they did ultimately secure the Kickass man bail so that he doesn’t have to spend his time in jail as he goes through the slow process of fighting extradition.

    It was in the US courts that we got an update – or a non-update – on the proceedings. Spotted by Torrentfreak, a recent legal filing from American prosecutors reads: “Defendant is still undergoing extradition proceedings in Poland, and the parties are not currently aware of a timetable for a resolution of those proceedings. Accordingly, no discovery has been produced, and the parties do not currently need a court date to be set within the next 60 days”.

    The filing concludes: “If that changes, the parties will contact the court”. If it does and they do, rest assured, we’ll be back to you with an update.

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    YTS ‘Copycat’ Agrees to Settle Trademark Dispute for $200,000

    The operator of YTS.ws has agreed to pay $200,000 in damages for using the YTS trademark without permission. While YTS is widely associated with torrent sites, the trademark was recently scooped up by a Hawaiian company that uses it to protect its rights. In addition to paying damages, YTS.ws will soon become unavailable as well.

    Brands are important for most businesses. They identify a service or product and are often associated with certain qualities.

    This is no different in the piracy ecosystem. Brands are essential there as well but are not always what they seem.

    Given the nature of pirate sites, brand copying is widespread. For example, EZTV is not operated by the original EZTV group, and the same goes for Torrentz, ExtraTorrent, NYAA, Popcorn Time, and many others. With the original operators gone or pushed aside, others have stepped in and taken over.

    It is easy for copycats to jump in as there are no trademarks that offer protection and pirate sites are unlikely to sue each other. However, over the past weeks, trademark disputes have become a thing in piracy circles, leading to unprecedented outcomes.

    In a consent judgment filed at a federal court in Hawaii this week, the operator of YTS.ws agreed to sign a consent judgment over his unauthorized use of the YTS trademark. YTS is the most popular torrent site online, which itself ‘copied’ the name from the defunct YTS group. However, this trademark claim isn’t being made by a torrent site.

    Instead, the lawsuit was filed by Kerry Culpepper, a well-known anti-piracy lawyer. He works for the company 42 Ventures which registered several piracy-related trademarks a few months ago, including Popcorn Time, Showbox, and YTS. These trademarks are used to pressure piracy-related sites and services to pay settlements.

    It’s a new scheme that raises all kinds of legal questions. However, pirate sites and services are not usually fond of litigating cases in court and in this case it’s no different. The owner of YTS.ws, a Russian man named Patrick Petrov, agreed to a settlement-type deal instead.

    The consent order signed off by US District Court Judge Derrick Watson this week requires Petrov to pay $200,000 in damages.


    In addition to paying a large sum of money, the YTS.ws operator agreed to a permanent injunction which requires him to stop using the YTS trademark within 30 days and to redirect the domain to a non-infringing site.

    At the time of writing YTS.ws still operates as one of the many YTS copycats but, based on the agreement, this will change soon.

    This is the first-ever case where the owner of a copycat pirate site has agreed to pay damages for trademark infringement. It may not be the last, however, as 42 Ventures has sued several other YTS sites as well.

    Whether the Russian operator of the site will indeed pay $200,000 in damages is unknown. It’s not uncommon to list high damages amounts on paper while a lower amount is agreed upon behind the scenes.

    A few weeks ago we reported that 42 Ventures had gone after a popular Popcorn Time fork, taking down their Twitter account. This revealed that both parties discussed a settlement to resolve the matter, which would cost the app’s developers ‘just’ $4,900.


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    Rebellion as Reddit Teenagers Stir Up Their Own Pirate Movie Bonanza

    Reddit's massively popular /r/teenagers sub went bootleg crazy this week when thousands of subscribers used the platform to watch pirated movies. For reasons that aren't exactly clear, young adults suddenly began uploading titles including Sonic the Hedgehog, Cars, Shrek, Toy Story and...erm...Silence of the Lambs.

    With close to two million subscribers, Reddit’s /r/teenagers sub-Reddit is a massive community by any standards.

    “Run by teenagers for teenagers”, this section of Reddit is “primarily for discussions and memes that an average teenager would enjoy to discuss about.”

    This week, however, it also became a hive of copyright-infringing activity.

    For reasons that aren’t exactly clear, young people suddenly decided that their favorite discussion forum should be spiced up a bit. Not with the freshest of fresh memes but a flood of pirated movies considered popular with the younger generation.

    One of the first to be uploaded was the 2020 movie Sonic the Hedgehog, complete with embedded subtitles for any Korean visitors. As the image below shows, the post received a selection of awards, thousands of upvotes and hundreds of comments, some expressing praise and others a level of surprise.


    With a minority wondering if these uploads were a particularly good idea, the fuse nevertheless appeared to have been well and truly lit. Over the next several hours the feeding frenzy continued, with uploads of movies including Cars, Bee Movie, The Incredibles and Toy Story, to name just a few.

    Despite little immediate fear that something bad might happen to the uploaders (a couple of ‘FBI’ and “Wait…this is illegal” comments aside), at least one user uploaded a copy of Shrek, with a note pleading with Dreamworks not to sue them.


    While Dreamworks probably has bigger fish to fry, Shrek movies continued to be uploaded, with copies of Shrek 2 and Shrek Forever After adding to the bootleg viewing experience spreading across the sub-Reddit.

    What it must be like trying to control a sub-Reddit full of teenagers is open to guesswork but the moderators were certainly kept busy for a while trying to delete the movies being uploaded. However, despite best efforts to delete the posts, in many instances the movies themselves remained stubbornly embedded, only adding to the viewer count and the “new trend” of pirating Hollywood movies on /r/teenagers, as one user put it.

    It’s worth remembering that the teenage bracket spans a wide range of years, at least as far as life experiences go. The sub-Reddit attempts to cater to 13 to 19-year-olds, which may go some way to explaining why some were crazy for Shrek while others preferred something a little more…sophisticated….


    While Reddit users have found themselves banned for repeatedly posting copyrighted content, this ‘trend’ – like many teenage crazes in history – went off with a bang and then fizzled out when people got bored of being outrageous.

    Soon after, it was back to memes and other things teenagers love to discuss these days. No intention of going into detail here but suffice to say, posting movies appears to be relatively tame these days.


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    Internet Provider Hurricane Electric Sues Movie Companies Over Ridiculous Allegations

    Internet Backbone Provider Hurricane Electric Sues Movie Companies Over ‘Ridiculous’ Piracy Allegations

    Silicon Valley company Hurricane Electric offers Internet backbone access to many large organizations as well as the US Government. The company sees itself as a neutral network provider but a group of movie studios is accusing the Internet provider of facilitating piracy. To get rid of these "ridiculous" claims, Hurricane Electric is suing the movie outfits, requesting a declaratory judgment of non-infringement from federal courts.

    Hurricane Electric (HE) is one of the major network providers on the global Internet. The company operates the largest IPv6 backbone which facilitates Internet connectivity to people all over the world.

    Unlike consumer ISPs, HE mainly provides its services to large organizations – some of which are ISPs themselves – that have thousands of customers, or are customers of customers.

    Somewhere down this line, there may be people who abuse their Internet connections by using them to download pirated content. While HE has no direct control over these end-users, a group of movie companies claims that it is responsible for their actions.

    Movie companies demand action from Hurricane Electric

    The companies, which are connected to familiar movies such as Rambo: Last Blood, London Has Fallen, Dallas Buyers Club, The Hitman’s Bodyguard and many others, are no newcomers to piracy claims. In recent years they have sued many individual downloaders, cases that often end up in private settlements.

    Behind the scenes, however, the companies are also putting pressure on third-party intermediaries including Hurricane Electric. Through their lawyer, Kerry Culpepper, who’s also known for targeting pirate sites and apps, they argue that HE is liable for piracy activity that takes place on its network.

    Movie companies requesting action


    These accusations were not made in court. The movie companies simply reached out to HE directly after obtaining a subpoena which required the backbone provider to share the personal details of pirating subscribers. The movie companies seized this opportunity to demand more information and action from the company, or else.

    Hurricane Electric Goes to Court

    These requests have now reached a point where HE feels it has to take action. The company has filed two lawsuits, one in California and one in Nevada, hoping to put an end to these claims. Specifically, the ISP requests a Declaratory Judgment stating that it’s not responsible for copyright infringements that take place through its customers.

    “Defendants’ cease and desist letters are demanding that upstream service providers like HE simply shut down entire Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that provide Internet access to thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of people, based solely on allegations of infringement by even a single unidentified end-user subscriber to an ISP,” HE explains.

    “Defendants are thus putting HE in an impossible situation, all based on an improper and unlawful overextension of Defendants’ alleged copyright rights,” the company adds.

    According to HE, the movie companies repeatedly asked the upstream provider to terminate customers. This includes some who are ISPs themselves, as well as the U.S. Navy’s Naval Research Labs. In addition, the movie outfits have also demanded damages in excess of $500,000.

    HE highlights “ridiculousness“


    The backbone provider notes that if these movie companies want to enforce their rights, they should go to their respective customers directly. That’s a much better option than disconnecting entire cities or schools from the Internet, it argues.

    “It is simply not appropriate to shut down an entire city, a school system, rural area with subscribers covering a 5-state region, or an airport internet provider at such airports as LAX because defendants do not want to bother contacting the ISP providing service from HE’s backbone so that Defendants can obtain the information identifying the specific infringer.”

    HE characterizes the movie companies’ demands as “ridiculous” and stresses that it merely acts as a passive “highway” that allows its customers to connect to the Internet at large. It can’t control or stop individual pirates who are customers of customers.

    Copyright Misuse

    In addition to a declaratory judgment of no copyright infringement, the backbone provider also accuses the movie outfits of abusive and tortious acts that equate to copyright misuse.

    “Defendants are thus putting HE in an impossible situation, all based on an improper and unlawful overextension of Defendants’ alleged copyright rights. Defendants’ letters and demands to HE are abusive, tortious, and otherwise wrongful,” HE claims.

    The complaint mentions that the same movie companies have used the court system to bully unsophisticated Internet users in order to collect settlements. These often start by threatening hundreds of thousands in potential damages but end up being settled for a fraction.

    HE also points to the settlements some of the movie companies signed with the popular torrent site YTS, which agreed to pay over a million dollars, but was allowed to continue operating as long as their own films were removed.

    “Notwithstanding the settlement, there are still hundreds of pirated movies on that piratical site,” HE writes in its complaint.

    The backbone provider adds that these movie companies are more interested in collecting cash than stopping copyright infringements.

    “Defendants do not actually care about stopping the ongoing infringements of their copyrights; they just want large immediate one-time payments from each service provider they can associate with the still-allegedly infringing IP addresses,” the company adds.

    With this complaint, HE hopes to put an end to the repeated threats from the movie companies. In addition to the requests for declaratory judgments in its favor and the copyright misuse claim, it wants the defendants to pay their legal costs, to deter others from abusing the system in a similar manner.

    Needless to say, the outcome of this case will be crucial to how the entire Internet operates. We have previously seen other ISPs being held liable for pirating subscribers. If this liability expands to backbone providers, things will get even more problematic.


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    What Are IPTV Resellers and Why Has Reddit Just Banned Them, Twice?

    This week Reddit banned the popular /r/iptvresellers sub-Reddit for violating the site's rules. When a new sub-Reddit was created covering the same topic, Reddit quickly banned that too. So what exactly is an IPTV reseller, how do they operate, and why is Reddit so keen to get rid of them?

    While torrent-based piracy remains popular today, there is massive demand for unlicensed IPTV providers that offer thousands of live TV channels and VOD packages.

    These IPTV products are available for just a few dollars, euros or pounds per month from what appears to be thousands of suppliers. The truth, however, is that while there is a bewildering range of people willing to sell customers a subscription, most of these don’t run services of their own. Instead, they act as sellers or resellers of other entities’ products.

    These individuals or groups sell IPTV subscriptions all over the Internet. They are often seen on Facebook pages, Twitter, or their very own websites. Until this week, hundreds were advertising subscriptions on Reddit via the appropriately named /r/iptvresellers sub-Reddit. However, that all came crashing down when Reddit’s admins banned the group for violating the site’s rules.


    Reddit wasn’t clear about the specific reasons that led it to ban the IPTV resellers’ hangout and merely pointed to the site’s rules indicating there had been a breach. However, Reddit’s ‘Content Policy’ mentions “unwelcome” content as being unsuitable for the platform and specifically mentions that “fraudulent services” are outlawed.

    Some may dispute that definition in respect of pirate IPTV but as Reddit makes clear, its guidelines are there for a reason and users should “please keep in mind the spirit in which these were written, and know that looking for loopholes is a waste of time.”

    One of the loopholes tested after the banning of /r/iptvresellers this week was to immediately open up a new sub-Reddit – /r/iptvresellers2. That too was quickly banned by Reddit but under a different rule, as the image below shows.


    Clearly, IPTV resellers are no longer welcome on Reddit (at least openly) but how do they fit into the bigger picture and how do they operate? There are many variations and exceptions but here’s a basic analogy and overview for those still puzzled by how things work.

    Manufacturer vs Retail

    If someone wanted to buy a new Samsung S20, they could call up Samsung in South Korea and say “Hey, sell me a phone!” and hope for the best. A more likely scenario is that they would head off to a local electronics store advertising the product and buy one from there.

    Samsung may be good at manufacturing and supplying phones in bulk to distributors but local suppliers can offer the personal service most customers require. They’re also accessible when things don’t go to plan.

    In return for advertising availability of the phone from their store, stocking units, dealing with sales and advice, and the inevitable customer service issues thereafter, these retailers are rewarded with a cut of the profits. In this case, Samsung is happy for the retailer to deal with the public because they’re too busy making phones. It’s a good partnership that works for everyone. IPTV often works on a similar basis.

    IPTV Resellers Are Similar to Retailers

    Most IPTV resellers do not operate an IPTV service of their own so their role is similar to that of the phone retailer. While the IPTV provider worries about obtaining TV channel sources and maintaining servers to deliver the service, the reseller (retailer) can go to work finding and looking after customers.

    In common with regular retailers, IPTV resellers need payments from their customers in order to pay their suppliers. Most generally they are able to charge customers whatever they like per month, three-month, six-month, or yearly period of access. The idea, of course, is to charge more than the supplier charges them in order to make a profit.

    First, the Prospective Reseller Needs an IPTV Supplier

    Once a prospective reseller has found an IPTV supplier prepared to offer a reseller account (some prefer to sell direct or via preferred partners), the reseller is granted access to a ‘panel’. This web interface allows the reseller to manage his or her account, including adding new subscribers and offering trials.

    The panel also allows the reseller to manage their existing customers, including subscribing them to various packages or adding a new device that needs to be identified by a MAC address, for example. Perhaps most importantly, it allows the reseller to buy ‘credits’ from their supplier.


    IPTV Resellers Buy ‘Credits’ and Convert These Into Subscriptions

    Becoming an IPTV reseller requires some kind of investment and no one is going anywhere without buying some ‘credits’ first. These virtual tokens are sold by IPTV services to resellers in bulk, let’s say 50 at a time at $5 each for the sake of argument and round numbers. Each credit usually buys one month’s worth of access so, for an investment of $250, the reseller now has 50 months of subscriptions to sell.

    As an example, when new customer ‘A’ appears and agrees to buy a three-month subscription for $30, three of the reseller’s available 50 credits are spent on that transaction, costing him $15 and leaving $15 in gross profit. This process can be repeated for additional new customers or when existing customers want to extend their subscriptions. When the reseller’s available credits reduce to a low level, the reseller simply buys some more from his or her supplier.

    Reselling Sounds Simple But It’s a Still a Business With Risks

    The above provides only the most basic overview of how resellers can operate and massively oversimplifies the business itself. In common with a retailer selling consumer goods to the public, there are big decisions to make.

    Should the reseller pile subscriptions high and sell them cheaply via Reddit Discord? Or would it be better to have a glossy website that aims to portray the service as the best in the world and therefore worth double or triple the money? There are arguments for both but each has its pitfalls.

    Having thousands of subscribers and making a smaller amount on each is fine in theory but when a large proportion of those customers demand high-levels of service, that has time implications for the reseller who could end up a busy fool. Equally, running a slick website supported by a marketing operation to build faith in a cool brand means additional costs, which obviously eats into profits.

    And, of course, there’s always the chance that the IPTV supplier gets taken out by the authorities. That could mean lost credits, hundreds of angry customers, and a reselling business in tatters.


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    Popular Pirate Sites Slowly ‘Disappear’ From Google’s Top Search Results

    Google doesn't always show the most relevant results to users. Much to the delight of copyright holders, popular pirate sites have started to 'disappear' from the search engine. This goes far beyond traditional DMCA takedown notices and is not without collateral damage.

    Google is widely regarded as the best search engine, a reputation the company has carefully built up over the past two decades.

    However, when it comes to one particular niche, Google’s results are rapidly deteriorating. We’re talking about pirate sites.

    As background, it’s good to mention that search engines have been under a lot of pressure to remove pirate sites from their indexes entirely. Google categorically refused to do so. Instead, it chose to push down popular pirate sites for certain keywords, including movie and music titles.

    This started many years ago and worked as intended, according to Google. Someone searching for “Game of Thrones torrent” was not going to find The Pirate Bay in the top results. Similarly, filters were set up for music-related queries as well.

    As a result, pirate sites saw their search traffic decline drastically. This meant a drop in new visitors to these sites. However, people could still find these pirate sites by searching for their name. We use the past tense here because that has changed for many sites as well.

    Over the past few months, it has become harder and harder to find the homepages of some popular pirate sites. Instead, Google points people to Wikipedia pages or entirely different – sometimes scammy – sites that use the same name. We’ll address a few examples here, contrasting our findings with Bing and DuckDuckGo.

    We start with 1337x.to, a popular torrent site that has been around for well over a decade. While search results may vary from day to day and can differ based on location, our tests across several continents failed to show the official ‘1337x.to’ domain in the top results when searching for “1337x.”


    1337x’s official Wikipedia entry is highlighted among the top results and in the “knowledge graph“. However, it sits among a list of unofficial ‘1337x’ entries which drives visitors to third-party sites. This provides a major opportunity for scammers and phishing sites.

    Of course, Google hasn’t suddenly forgotten the details of the real 1337x site. Also, the ‘disappearance’ of the main domain is not the result of a DMCA notice, as that would be explicitly highlighted and 1337x’s homepage doesn’t link to any infringing content directly. The official site has likely been punished based on some algorithms.

    When we compare the results to other search engines, the difference is clear, with Bing and DuckDuckGo returning the official 1337x homepage on top. That is the correct result for this query.


    The same disappearing trick also applies to other popular torrent sites, such as Torrentz2, EZTV, NYAA, and LimeTorrents. Google users who enter these keywords in Google’s search engine are not directed to the official sites, but will see unaffiliated sites on top that hijack traffic by using the same name.

    A search for NYAA on Google, for example, doesn’t show the official domain anywhere on the first results pages. Again, DuckDuckGo has no trouble finding the official site and Bing returns the proper result as well, including a search box that allows people to search the site directly.


    TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of LimeTorrents.info, one of the most popular torrent sites, who confirmed that Google’s actions have impacted the site’s traffic. That also applies to the site’s official proxy domains too. However, the number of people searching for ‘Limetorrents’ hasn’t dropped, so these people end up elsewhere now.

    “Google removed almost all torrent site homepages from its search results and our site’s traffic is affected too,” LimeTorrents’ operator says. In this case, the disappearance is not linked to a DMCA notice either.


    The disappearance of homepages is not limited to torrent sites. The same can be observed for other pirate sites, including streaming portals. For example, Kissanime is nowhere to be found in Google’s top results. Again, Bing and DuckDuckgo have no trouble locating the correct URL.

    That doesn’t mean that other search engines are without ‘issues.’ When we searched for Fmovies on Bing and DuckDuckGo we noticed that all official URLs have been removed. Google still indexes Fmovies.to links (not in the top results of course), but doesn’t show them when searching for “Fmovies”

    In some instances, Google’s ‘decisions’ can result in outright embarrassing situations. For example, a search for Fmovies and other popular pirate brands now shows an Associated Press (AP) story on top.


    This may sound like a legitimate link but it’s not. AP runs paid press releases filled with pirate keywords which promote the pirate streaming portal Yolamovies. That’s not a good look.

    When we look at The Pirate Bay’s results, things get complicated. In many of the locations the popular torrent site wasn’t listed in the first pages of results. This can be quite confusing and points people to malware warnings and copycats, a trap even the BBC fell for.

    Interestingly, however, the official TPB domain was the top result in our North American tests. This means that TPB’s localized ‘disappearance’ may be the result of local traffic patterns, which change in countries where the site is blocked.

    While these observations are intriguing, we have no idea why Google is acting this way. A likely option would be to limit the exposure of certain infringing sites. However, the question is whether it actually improves the situation, as people are now driven to third-party pirate sites, which may not have good intentions.

    Google’s actions are also interesting in light of comments that were made earlier regarding the removal of entire domains.

    “Whole-site removal is ineffective and can easily result in the censorship of lawful material,” Google previously said, adding that it would send “the wrong message by favoring over-inclusive private censorship over the rule of law.”

    With their current measures, pirate sites remain indexed. However, when one can no longer find 1337x’s non-infringing homepage by typing in “1337x,” there’s certainly some type of algorithmic censorship involved, inadvertent or not.


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    LinkedIn SlideShare is a Repository for Pirated eBooks

    LinkedIn SlideShare has been around for 14 years and their primary goal is to serve as a nexus for professional slide-decks, infographics, and other kinds of visual presentations. Many popular webinars are also hosted on the platform. In the past few years though, it has turned into a repository for pirated ebooks.

    Digital book pirates have figured out clever ways to make their content discoverable with help from SlideShare’s user-friendly interface. Normally they will build a short slide-deck and provide step by step instructions on where to download the ebook, normally from a pirated forum, private Facebook Group or a website that leverages Google Adsense to monetize all of the people visiting the site.

    According to Fast Company, “The more popular the book, the more pervasive the SlideShare piracy. Searches for the top five fiction and nonfiction books on the New York Times bestseller list (which includes authors ranging from Malcolm Gladwell to Delia Owens to Ronan Farrow) produce multiple pages of pirated e-book links on SlideShare for each title. For instance, Michelle Obama’s Becoming, was one of the highest selling ebooks of 2019 and has hundreds of links on SlideShare, there are actually, the entire novel is also posted, so you can read it on the platform.

    SlideShare piracy is so pervasive that the Authors Guild President, Douglas Preston, singled it out during a recent speech to the US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. “This past year, the Authors Guild received complaints from many of its members who had found links for pirated copies of their books on LinkedIn’s SlideShare platform. Some authors reported seeing dozens of separate accounts on the platform that were advertising pirate links to their books. The links led to phishing sites as well as “free” ebook sites, where users could download pirated copies. A single account might have hundreds of documents containing links for illegal downloads (or phishing sites). Once again, authors who tried to take down the links found themselves ensnared in an endless whack-a-mole game: LinkedIn’s takedown process was slow at first, and new accounts with the same infringing copies would pop up almost immediately after one was taken down. Since our members were reporting their experiences with sending takedown notices and the results in real time on a discussion thread in our online members’ forum, we had the benefit of seeing how fruitless the takedown process was in real time. One member reported that LinkedIn had indeed taken down an infringing copy from the URL he had identified only to have not one, but 12 new infringing copies pop up the next day.

    Preston went on to say “The Authors Guild communicated the scope of the problem to LinkedIn’s rights enforcement team, and they encouraged our members to keep sending takedown notices so that they could identify repeat infringes and apply their repeat-infringer policy, which they seemed to have done, judging by a temporary reduction in the number of pirated copies. The Guild also urged LinkedIn to use algorithmic solutions based on commonly used phrases to automatically identify and remove malicious accounts and to vet new accounts in order to prevent bots from infiltrating the platform. To their credit, LinkedIn’s content moderation team welcomed our suggestions and implemented authentication procedures to eliminate the posting of pirated copies by bots, leading to some mitigation. That said, SlideShare is still far from being clean of malicious accounts and ebook piracy. ”

    SlideShare claims that it’s one of the top 100 most-visited websites in the world, with “18 million uploads in 40 content categories.” Between January and June 2019, the last period for which figures are publicly available, LinkedIn received reports of 116,164 copyright infringements across its platforms and removed 116,127 pieces of content.

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    BREIN catches repeat offenders: accused has to pay 4,800 EUR

    Google Translation:

    The Antipiracy organization BREIN has a new judgment against a seller of counterfeit TV series recently obtained. The defendant has to pay 4,800 euros because he has repeatedly demonstrated that he has violated applicable law despite submitting an injunction.

    BREIN is looking for strikingly cheap offers on the web

    In 2018, one person was sued for offering black-copied episodes of various television series with classified ads in various online marketplaces. At that time, the accused signed the Dutch version of a punitive injunction. This means: as soon as you can prove to the contracting party that he is repeating his misconduct, he undertakes to automatically pay a contractually agreed amount. BREIN translates this as a " abstinence declaration including a penalty clause" .

    A year later, BREIN's investigators were able to discover offers of similar content again. Based on their bank details, they were able to determine that they were the same person as before. After the seller of the plagiarism was informed in writing, he emphatically denied that he had anything to do with this trade. By submitting the injunction, he ceased his illegal activities. Someone wanted to harm him by making false suspects unknown, the later defendant replied to the letter. Already on the basis of the handwriting on the packages with which the black-burned DVDs were sent, one can check whether it is the same perpetrator.

    The account number betrayed the perpetrator

    The district court ruled against the accused. The latter did not dispute that the account number used for the illegal sales was not his. It may well be that the handwriting is different. However, according to the judgment, the accused could not plausibly substantiate the allegation that someone else misused their data for their own mailing. He could also have reported the identity theft to the police, which the person failed to do. All of this suggests that it is not a new provider, but a repeat offender who was simply active again.

    The court ordered the defendant to pay a fine, plus the court costs, reminder fees and statutory interest. This amount adds up to a total of around EUR 4,800. According to BREIN, the verdict was announced on June 4, 2020 by a district court within the Netherlands, which was not specifically named.

    Product piracy or the fight against "parasites"

    The managing director of BREIN described the suppliers of black pressed DVDs in February this year as " parasites ". The sale of haptic media (Blu-Ray discs, DVDs etc.) is still an important source of income for rights holders as well as for the trade. BREIN Director Tim Kuik announced at the time that the market could not be affected by such pests given the limited financial scope.

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    The Pirate Bay’s IP Address Belongs to a VPN Provider, ISP Tells Court

    An IP address allegedly used by The Pirate Bay and claimed to be owned by a Swedish ISP does not belong to the provider, it's being claimed. According to Obenetwork, the IP address is actually operated by local VPN service OVPN. As a result, the ISP has asked a court to withdraw an information injunction obtained by a pair of Scandinavian movie companies.

    Earlier this month it became evident that copyright holders and their anti-piracy representatives had not forgotten about The Pirate Bay.

    Aside from occasional downtime, the world’s most famous torrent site had been sailing relatively trouble-free but, behind the scenes, movie companies Svensk Filmindustri and Nordisk Film, supported anti-piracy partner Rights Alliance, were plotting their next enforcement action.

    The process began when the movie companies presented Cloudflare with a copyright infringement complaint, stating that The Pirate Bay was connected to mass infringement of their rights. In response, the CDN company revealed that on June 2, 2020, an IP address apparently operated by Swedish ISP Obenetwork was in use by the torrent site.

    Movie Companies Apply For Information Injunction

    With this information in hand, the companies went to court in Sweden, filing for an information injunction against Obenetwork and demanding that the ISP preserve all records relating to its business with The Pirate Bay. The companies claimed that the matter was so urgent that Obenetwork should not be heard in the matter and fined SEK 100,000 (US$10,667) in the event of non-compliance.

    When reporting on the matter last week, however, we opined that it was likely that The Pirate Bay would’ve expected this kind of move and therefore been prepared for it. It now appears that was indeed the case.

    The Alleged Obenetwork IP Address – Who Really Owns It?

    The IP address provided by Cloudflare and said to be in use by The Pirate Bay was directly linked to Obenetwork by the studios. In comments to Tarnkappe last week, however, the ISP was crystal clear: this is not their IP address and it actually belongs to someone else.

    “The IP address that The Pirate Bay uses in our network belongs to the anonymous VPN provider ‘OVPN.se’,” the company said in a statement, referring to one of its customers.

    Speaking with TorrentFreak this morning, Obenetwork provided more technical details relating to the apparent confusion.

    “The IP specified in the court order is from OVPN’s own PA-space [Provider Aggregatable Address Space] they have directly from RIPE. However OVPN doesn’t have its own AS-number, their space is announced by different ISPs around the world where they have servers,” Gustav from Obenetwork explained.

    “I believe [the movie companies] just looked at whoever owned the AS-number and found our name. We’ve however opposed the court order with the simple explanation that the IP address does not belong to us and the injunction is invalid.”

    TF asked the ISP for its opinion on why it was identified as the owner of the IP address and not OVPN? It’s a question the ISP would also like an answer to.

    ‘Poor Tracing’ or Ulterior Motive?

    “Either they did a very poor job in tracing the IP or did it on purpose for some reason to give us bad press,” Gustav says.

    “We’ve however told the court of our displeasure with the decision to give the order without even asking us any questions before. The movie companies have stated it was very important that the decision was made without our knowledge due to fear of logs being destroyed.”

    In their application, the movie companies claimed that Obenetwork has “close ties” to The Pirate Bay, hence the urgency of the injunction and keeping the ISP out of the process. Gustav says that any alleged connections to the current operations of TPB “are complete nonsense” and no proof to support that claim was ever presented to the court.

    “If they actually felt this urgency it would have been much better if they went for the correct company,” he added.

    With the clear objections of Obenetwork now with the court, the future direction of this matter remains unclear. However, with OVPN now being pushed into the spotlight, the complexity of hunting down the location of TPB becomes even more apparent.

    OVPN Also Confirms That ‘Pirate Bay’ IP Address is Theirs

    Speaking with TorrentFreak this morning, OVPN’s David Wibergh confirmed that the IP address in question is indeed owned by OVPN and not Obenetwork. Whether TPB was ever a customer is a question he won’t answer though.

    “As we don’t provide information regarding any potential customers, I won’t confirm if thepiratebay.org was actually using OVPN or not. I can only confirm that the IP address specified in the injunction was one that OVPN owns and not Obenetwork. I will not confirm whether or not thepiratebay.org was actually using that IP address,” Wibergh said.

    In our most recent overview of VPN providers that take anonymity seriously, OVPN gained a spot for its attention to privacy.

    “Our entire infrastructure and VPN service is built to ensure that no logs can be stored – anywhere. Our servers are locked in cabinets and operate without any hard drives,” the provider told us.

    Wibergh confirmed today that the IP address is one that belongs to the company’s Public IPv4 add-on, which is covered by exactly the same strict no-logging policy deployed on its standard service.

    “The only difference between Public IPv4 and OVPN’s standard service is that the Public IPv4 address is reserved for a specific user. We therefore advise users to purchase the add-on anonymously. It is impossible to retroactively check who had a specific Public IPv4 address at a specific date since users are free to change their assigned Public IPv4 address,” Wibergh added.

    At the time of writing, OVPN has not been approached for information relating to the possible use of the IP address by The Pirate Bay. Given the above, however, it seems that The Pirate Bay – if it is a customer – chose its supplier carefully.


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    WTO: Saudi Arabia Failed to Help Tackle the BeoutQ Piracy Problem

    The World Trade Organization has found that Saudi Arabia failed to live up to its obligations under the TRIPS agreement. In a dispute that centers around the pirate broadcaster beoutQ, the WTO sides with Qatar which suggested that a large piracy conspiracy may have taken place within its neighboring country.

    Pay-TV provider BeoutQ is a thorn in the side of many rightsholders. It launched in 2017 and since then, various parties have tried to stop its infringing activities.

    The complaints mainly come from broadcasters such as beIN and sports organizations including FIFA, Premier League, NBA, NFL, and even the International Olympic Committee. As a result, it has been labeled a “notorious market” by the US Trade Representative.

    BeoutQ is widely regarded to be a Saudi Arabian operation but despite complaints from the highest political echelons, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not eager to take action.

    This resulted in a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO), filed by Qatar, its neighboring country. Qatar has a stake in the matter since BeoutQ simulcasts programming from the Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports.

    According to the complaint, Saudi Arabia isn’t living up to its obligations under the WTO’s TRIPS agreement. According to Qatar, the country failed to cooperate in efforts to shut down the infringing activity, through criminal investigations and other means.

    WTO’s findings

    A WTO panel reviewed the dispute and yesterday released a report in which it clearly sides with Qatar. The report concludes that BeoutQ is a piracy service and Saudi Arabia failed to live up to its TRIPS obligations.

    The panel highlights that BeoutQ does indeed provide illegal access to beIN channels. In addition, its set-top boxes come pre-loaded with IPTV and various apps that link to other pirated content. This includes the Showbox app, which can be used to access thousands of pirated movies and TV-shows.

    “The Show Box application, which has come to be known as the ‘Netflix of piracy’, provides free access to more than 4,700 movies, 700 TV-shows and 35,000 TV-show episodes via streaming or direct download to the STB,” the report reads.


    Unlike some apps and services, the ‘pirate’ broadcaster isn’t run by a few hobbyists. The panel’s report points out that the service was promoted on Twitter by prominent Saudi nationals including the counsel for the Saudi Royal Courts, the general manager of the Al Riyadh Newspaper, as well as the Al Riyadh newspaper itself.

    According to beIN, these tweets may point to a “conspiracy” to pirate beIN’s content that occurred within “the territorial jurisdiction of Saudi Arabia.”


    The WTO report doesn’t confirm any conspiracy but notes that the tweets make it clear that these people were aware of a new pirate service, just before BeoutQ launched.

    “All of the tweets above foreshadow that a substitute for beIN’s operations would enter the Saudi market, and some of the tweets support the establishment of a pirate channel, beoutQ, to circumvent beIN’s exclusive licences from third-party right holders.”

    Ultimately, the WTO’s task wasn’t to rule on who’s responsible for the infringing activity. Instead, it was required to evaluate whether Saudi Arabia had lived up to its obligations under the TRIPS agreement, which requires countries to help solve intellectual property disputes.

    Saudi Arabia Failed to Live Up to its Obligations

    According to the WTO panel, Saudi Arabia failed to do so in this case.

    “Saudi Arabia has taken measures that, directly or indirectly, have had the result of preventing beIN from obtaining Saudi legal counsel to enforce its IP rights through civil enforcement procedures before Saudi courts and tribunals,” the WTO’s conclusion reads.

    “Qatar has established that Saudi Arabia has not provided for criminal procedures and penalties to be applied to beoutQ despite the evidence establishing prima facie that beoutQ is operated by individuals or entities under the jurisdiction of Saudi Arabia.”

    Based on the above, the WTO urges Saudi Arabia to up its game in order to fully comply with all obligations under the TRIPS Agreement. Meanwhile, however, beoutQ broadcasts continue undeterred.


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    Premier League Wins Extension of Illegal Streaming Blocking Order

    The Premier League has been granted an extension to a court order that allow it to compel Irish ISPs to block illegal streams of matches. The authority to continue blocking pirate streams in real-time was granted during a virtual hearing at the Commercial Court on Monday.

    Blocking websites that facilitate access to pirate content has become a widespread anti-piracy tactic over the past decade.

    Usually targeting sites that offer movies, TV shows and music, blocking is touted by copyright holders as an effective strategy to reduce illicit consumption.

    Live Sports-Focused ‘Dynamic Blocking’

    Until relatively recently, however, live streams of sporting events have proven difficult to block but due to work by the English Premier League, it is now possible to deal with them using similar but more advanced techniques.

    With the cooperation of Internet service providers, the Premier League’s anti-piracy partners identify servers associated with unlicensed streams and notify these to ISPs around and during match time. These are then blocked so that subscribers of those ISPs cannot view the streams using regular means.

    None of this can take place without legal authorization but thus far the High Court in the UK has been happy to grant orders giving the green light to this so-called ‘dynamic’ blocking.

    Previous Blocking in Ireland and This Week’s Renewal

    Last year the Premier League sought to expand its blocking program to Ireland, eventually gaining permission from the Commerical Court to block until June 30, 2020. With that expiration date looming, the Premier League sought an extension to cover the remainder of the 2019/2020 season plus the 2020/21 season in its entirety.

    During a virtual hearing at the Commercial Court on Monday, Justice David Barniville granted the authorization required by the Premier League. The extension came in time to cover the first match (a goalless affair between Aston Villa and Sheffield United) but whether any blocking took place remains unclear.

    As per the original order, the extended injunction covers major ISPs Eircom, Sky, Virgin Media, and Vodafone. None of these providers opposed the blocking application which is unsurprising given their past cooperation and, of course, their broadcasting interests in respect of Premier League content delivered via Sky Sports, BT Sport, and Amazon Prime.

    Who Will Be Affected By the Injunction Extension?

    The aim of the extension handed down this week is to prevent football fans from using illicit IPTV services to watch Premier League matches without buying a legal subscription package. It also seeks to disrupt the availability of free streams online, which in many cases are sourced from ‘pirate’ IPTV providers.

    These streams can be viewed in several ways, from dedicated set-top boxes, Kodi-type setups with appropriate add-ons, dedicated live-streaming apps, to the humble web browser. In the end, however, the consumption method makes little difference as the blocking seeks to prevent the underlying servers carrying the pirate streams from reaching the subscribers of the ISPs listed above.

    When subscribers can’t access matches, that has a knock-on effect, including dissatisfaction with their IPTV provider, for example. The Premier League hopes that its disruption methods will convince people to step away from unlicensed content consumption and towards subscriptions. In turn, this should help to undermine the illicit providers themselves.

    That being said, this is a game of cat and mouse, with some IPTV providers able to game the Premier League’s system to avoid blocking. When that can’t be done, users can simply turn to VPNs which immediately circumvent all of the blocking measures put in place by their ISP.


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