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  1. Yesterday
  2. Under-fire law firm Njord Law pressured a cooperative housing association to settle a proposed lawsuit, despite none of the parties having any idea who the infringer was. In a clear sign that copyright trolls' answer to every response is "pay us", Njord simply kept dropping the settlement amount until paying became the least painful option. When copyright trolls scour BitTorrent swarms looking for IP addresses, they have absolutely no idea who sits behind them. ISPs can eventually be forced to hand over the subscribers’ personal details but even then there’s no solid proof of who carried out the infringement, if there was one. Cases tend to get decided on the balance of probabilities, meaning that an individual in a single-occupancy household finds themselves in a much more tenuous position and under pressure to settle. But what happens when there are multiple occupants or even multiple households with many, many potential infringers? In Denmark, it appears, the response from copyright trolls remains the same: We don’t care who infringed: Pay us. Law Firms’ Reputations Destroyed Aggressive copyright-trolling has developed into a worldwide scandal over the past 15 years, with numerous lawyers finding themselves suspended and even imprisoned for their behavior. But even now, law firms wander into the fire nonetheless, with Denmark’s Njord Law just the latest example. After accusing thousands of Danes of illegally sharing movies using BitTorrent, Scandinavian law firm Njord Law approached many for cash settlements despite their clients not holding the copyrights to the content in question. As a result, a partner in the firm and the firm itself have been charged with serious fraud offenses dating back to April 2017. As that case develops in the background, those targeted with questionable settlement demands are stepping forward with stories that only reinforce what observers have known for some time: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Copyright Trolls Target Cooperative Housing Association The whole idea of copyright enforcement is to find the actual infringer and force them to compensate the rightsholder for their actions. For copyright trolls, however, finding the actual infringer doesn’t seem as important as finding someone who will simply take responsibility and pay, even if they aren’t guilty of anything. This notion is underlined by a case reported by Berlingske (paywall), involving 37-year-old Christie Bak, who in 2019 was chairman of the board of a cooperative housing association in Copenhagen. The association received correspondence from Njord Law, who alleged that the association’s Internet connection had been used to download and share a porn film. To settle this matter the law firm wanted a payment of DKK 7,500 (around US$1,200) with the suggestion that things could get much more expensive if the matter went to court. The association contacted the law firm, informing them that they had no idea about any porn downloads so were considering employing a lawyer to deal with the matter. This, of course, would cost the association money, something copyright trolls are only too aware of. Balancing The Books At this point in a copyright troll matter, both parties are led into their own set of calculations. Most law firms don’t want to take cases to court since early settlements are far more lucrative and less hassle. On the other hand, they are well aware that if their target lawyers up, they might not get anything. So, at this point, many copyright trolls attempt to make it more attractive to settle and less attractive to mount a defense. This case was no different. After the housing association indicated it could fight back, Njord Law made a counteroffer of DKK 4,000 (around US$640) to make the matter go away, an amount getting dangerously close to the cost of hiring a lawyer to send a couple of “back off” letters. Counteroffer Made The Association Suspicious Christie Bak informs Berlingske that the rapid reduction of the amount being demanded raised her suspicions. If Njord Law were originally prepared to go to court with the evidence they had, why were they now offering to settle for much less? “Was it because they had a thin case? Did they think it would be nice if they could just get some money out of us? It seemed strange,” she says. Discussing the matter with members of the cooperative’s board, Bak says it was made clear that if someone had been responsible for the sharing of the movie, they could just come forward and the association would’ve simply paid the settlement “in good conscience”. In the event, no one in the entire association knew anything about the alleged infringement. Housing Project Has Shared Internet, No Infringer Identified Unable to identify who (if anyone) had carried out the alleged infringement, Njord Law was informed that it could’ve been anyone, including various holidaymakers who also had access to the association’s Internet connection. This prompted the initial reduction to DKK 4,000 but that amount was rejected by the association. In this case, knowledge was power. The association wrote back to Njord and informed the law firm that they were aware that Njord’s file-sharing cases were floundering in the courts, with three cases in particular already having been rejected. They also informed Njord that the evidence of its copyright troll partners was also being questioned in the media. “The only thing we saw was some paper with some [IP address] numbers on it. There was no letter or explanation. It also did not appear where they got the numbers from. How could we be sure that it was not something they had manipulated? There was no guarantee of authenticity on it. It was just a lot of print,” Bak informs Berlingske. Njord Law Reduces Settlement Amount Yet Again Following this response, Njord – having previously stated the strength of its case – quickly dropped its demands to DKK 2,500 (US$400) – an amount that would be gobbled up by a lawyer in a matter of minutes, should the association choose to defend itself in a lawsuit. In the event, the board did the calculations and took the decision to pay Njord off, a decision that Bak says she now regrets. Journalist Freja Marquardt contacted Njord Law with a request to comment on the matter, including previous correspondence with the law firm suggesting that lawsuits aren’t filed against entities offering Internet in “open access conditions”. No Comment – Legal Ethics Njord lawyer Lars Lokdam told Marquardt that due to the company fully complying with the rules of legal ethics, it was impossible for him to talk about the case since the settlement was private. On the related matters, including not filing lawsuits against those who enter into dialogue or have widely accessible Internet, he refused to answer any questions. What appears clear, however, is that at least in some instances (and certainly in this case), companies like Njord Law and their copyright troll partners have little interest in targeting the actual infringer. What they want is someone – anyone – to pay up and when they do, it is mission accomplished. The big question then is whether legal ethics stretch to having innocent parties pay for the alleged crimes of others, particularly when there may not have been a legal basis to demand a settlement or bring a case in the first place. During the course of its live criminal investigation against Njord Law, these questions and more could be answered by the State Prosecutor for Serious Economic Crime (SØIK), which currently believes the law firm defrauded Danes out of at least 7.5 million kroner (US$1.22 million).
  3. Brooklyn-based art collective MSCHF 'dropped' a set of exclusive email addresses, featuring The Pirate Bay and Megaupload domains. While these hype domains have nothing to do with the original sites and cost a healthy $250 apiece, they sold like hot cakes. Even the $1,200 box sets, including 4Chan, Heaven's Gate, and Angelfire addresses, are no longer available. There’s a market for pretty much everything today and ‘collectables’ are hot. The non-fungible token (NFT) rage shows that people are willing to pay thousands or even millions of dollars for a digital gimmick, which may or may not retain its value. MSCHF This eagerness to pay doesn’t necessarily match with the typical audience of pirate sites. However, the Brooklyn-based art group MSCHF shows that some people are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for ‘exclusive’ piracy-branded goods. MSCHF made quite a name for itself in recent months. We previously highlighted their AlltheStreams.fm site, which streamed Netflix, Disney+, HBO Go content without permission. That project was shut down soon after. More recently, it ran into legal issues when Nike complained about the ‘Satan Shoes’ collection. All this attention has pretty much guaranteed that there will be plenty of eyeballs on every new project the group ‘drops,’ which became clear again yesterday. Exclusive Pirate Bay and Megaupload Emails A few hours ago MSCHF announced its “Email Capsule Collection,” offering limited edition email addresses that come shipped on a CD with a commemorative card and some stickers. The group offered 50 sets for five different domains using popular Internet brands such as The Pirate Bay and Megaupload. The addresses use .biz gTLDs including Piratebay.biz and Megaupload.biz and have absolutely nothing to do with the original sites. The same is true for the 4Chan, Heaven’s Gate, and Angelfire addresses that were on offer. Sold Out Still, that didn’t stop people from rushing in to buy the addresses for $250 apiece. In no time, the entire Capsule Collection was sold out, including the five box sets, which went for $1,200 each. It’s pretty clear that this latest drop is yet another massive success. According to MSCHF, that’s for a good reason, as the email addresses allow buyers to show their identity by associating themselves with popular web icons. “In a less centralized web, where website usage patterns are meaningfully distinct, your activity is your identity,” MSCHF writes, while adding that it’s a fashion statement as well. “Fashion is lots of things: an identity signifier, a wealth signifier. Online, exclusivity is a status signifier” the group notes, adding that “It shapes how people see you and how you see yourself.” Limited Exclusivity? This justification may make sense for some, but it’s likely that many buyers are mostly driven by hype. The ‘fashion’ part may be more about exclusivity than The Pirate Bay or Megaupload. In any case, it’s all good .biz. It’s worth mentioning that people who bought one of the addresses don’t own them for life. In the fine print, we read that buyers “can use for two years before requiring renewal.” For those who missed out, we have a tip. There are still plenty of Pirate Bay domains that can be registered for a few dollars so you can show off your identity. Our favorites are thepiratebay.legal, thepiratebay.ninja and thepiratebay.ceo. But those come without any stickers, of course. If anything, the latest MSCHF drop shows that with the right marketing and hype, people are willing to pay for pretty much anything. Well, not anything. Paying for seven separate video streaming subscriptions is still a bit much for most. Just ask The Pirate Bay.
  4. Via the MPA, global anti-piracy coalition Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment is investigating several major streaming platforms. The sites, which offer mainstream movies and TV shows, are good for more than half a billion visits per year. With the help of a US court, the rightsholders are hoping to identify their operators, with disruption or even closure the ultimate aim. The world’s major movie and TV show studios are in fierce competition, aiming to release the next blockbuster or series to capture the imaginations of the public and generate much needed revenue. Industry counterparts are rivals in that respect but when it comes to dealing with piracy, especially when that propagates from hundreds if not thousands of unlicensed streaming platforms, teamwork is the key. Through their global coalition, Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), rivalries become partnerships, with resources shared to disrupt and destroy sites that dare to offer free movies and TV shows to the public. ACE Homes in On Several Major Streaming Platforms Investigations into pirate sites take place in the shadows, with little outward sign that a streaming platform is under investigation until it’s too late. However, there is a “canary in the coal mine” that can reveal early signs that legal or other enforcement action might not be far away. In legal terms, the DMCA subpoena application is a straightforward and cheap-to-file legal document yet it has the power to yield crucial information when building a case against pirate site operators. Late last week ACE and the MPA went to court in the United States with such a request, one that targets several streaming platforms with well over half a billion views per year. Cloudflare: Weak Link or Useful Proxy? With so many pirate platforms using Cloudflare, the company has become a go-to point of contact for ACE and the MPA. An application for a DMCA subpoena filed by the groups late Friday in a California court shows that at least in theory, Cloudflare could be in a position to give up valuable information. Listing sample infringements of movies including Almost Christmas, 47 Ronin, Varsity Blues, Forrest Gump and Flashdance, ACE and the MPA are now seeking to identify the operators of Lookmovie, Watchmovie, YesMovies, Himovies and Adfah. Say them quickly and the domains don’t sound like they would amount to much but together they account for well over half a billion ‘pirate’ views every year. The Targeted Domains Lookmovie.io is by far the most popular domain on the list. From a standing start last October, the platform captured a million visits in just a month. By December, that figure had risen to just shy of 15 million. By March 2021 the site was pulling in 18m visits per month – a potential 216 million per year – with around 30% of its traffic hailing from the United States. Interestingly, Lookmovie.io is not blocked by ISPs in the United Kingdom as similar platforms usually are, meaning that almost 14% of its traffic now comes from the region. Lookmovie.io appears to be an alternative domain for Lookmovie.ag, a domain blocked in Australia due to legal action in 2019. In traffic terms, Watchmovie.movie has also been on the rise. Last October the domain was good for around five million visits per month but by last month, that had risen to just short of 12.5 million, around 150 million visits per year. The domain has seen traffic increase from all major regions recently, with the United States accounting for around 19% of views. In common with Lookmovie.io, Watchmovie.movie is doing well in the UK, where traffic share is as high as the United States after recently receiving a 35% boost. The site, which is branded on-site as WatchSeries, is not blocked by ISPs so until that situation changes, UK visitors are likely to increase. Interestingly, data available from SimilarWeb relating to the site’s display advertising lists several ad companies but one in particular stands out. While potentially very small, Netflix.com – a prominent ACE and MPA member – is listed as a publisher. Generating around 9.2 million visits per month, YesMovies.ag is another streaming platform being eyed by MPA and ACE for some kind of legal or enforcement action. Its traffic has see-sawed for the past six months but in most regions traffic is on the increase, including in the United Kingdom where the site is not blocked by ISPs. Since there have been so many sites using YesMovies branding, it’s not straightforward to link this domain to the many others previously and currently in operation. However, YesMovies domains have been targeted in numerous earlier actions, including in the United States and Australia. The final sites listed on the MPA and ACE subpoena are HiMovies.to and Afdah.info. The former is currently enjoying around 6.25 million visits per month according to SimilarWeb, with the latter pulling in close to 6.2 million. Both are most popular in the United States but also in the United Kingdom too, where are neither are currently subjected to ISP blocking. ACE and MPA Subpoena Demands Action From Cloudflare “The ACE Members (via the Motion Picture Association, Inc.) are requesting issuance of the attached proposed subpoena that would order Cloudflare, Inc. to disclose the identities, including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account histories of the users operating the websites listed [above],” the DMCA subpoena application reads. Precisely what the applicants want to do with the information is unclear at this stage but we have seen in the past that in addition to direct legal action, sites listed in DMCA subpoenas can later appear in applications for ISP blocking in the UK. After previously demanding in a similar DMCA subpoena that Cloudflare should hand over the personal details behind several 123Movies-branded sites, the domains appeared in a High Court injunction and were subsequently blocked by the UK’s leading ISPs in February. Over the past several years Cloudflare has been heavily criticized for allowing its services to be used by pirate sites, particularly operations such as The Pirate Bay. The argument is that the CDN service should part company with infringing sites but to date, Cloudflare has dismissed its role as that of a simple intermediary.
  5. No quarter for pirates! This is the message conveyed by article 10 of the bill "aimed at democratizing sport in France". The latter will be examined in public session in the National Assembly for three days, starting this Wednesday, March 17. The deputies have been working on this law for three years and added at the last moment article 10, which aims to fight more effectively against illegal broadcasts of sports competitions. Initially included in the government's audiovisual bill, it was finally dropped due to the health crisis. The deputies therefore added it in a timely manner to the proposed law on sport. Its probable adoption by the majority is enough to relieve an entire sector, which has been screaming for a legislative response for several years. “ Finally! ” Exclaims a leader of a French broadcaster. " It's not too early. It's been years since it should have been implemented, but it's never too late ." Since the beginning of the 2010 decade, the development of technologies, the proliferation of pirate broadcasts and the increasingly irreproachable quality of these have worried the rights holders (channels that buy the broadcasting rights for sports competitions). In addition to the streaming sites that abound on the Internet, developed services such as IPTV ( Internet Protocol TV ) have emerged. For a subscription of around fifty euros per year, consumers have illegal access to several thousand channels in optimal quality. Including all sports channels. Last December, the High Authority for the Dissemination of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet (Hadopi) published a report revealing the extent of the problem . On average, the illicit audience for sports competitions is two million people per month, with football attracting 77% of illicit consumers, ahead of tennis (44%) and rugby (43%). " In December 2020, we had 3.2 million unique users of " illegal streaming, " an increase of 29% compared to December 2019, " said Pauline Blassel, secretary general of Hadopi, before adding : "It is difficult to assess the extent of the losses, but the Council of State spoke of 800 million euros when the broadcasters themselves mentioned 500 million euros . "Pauline Blassel also specifies that it is still difficult to accurately determine the number of users of IPTV services. An increase in piracy in recent months Hundreds of millions of euros which do not fill the coffers of the beneficiaries, " and therefore neither of amateur football ", adds Pauline Blassel. What to worry and to enrage the broadcasters. " This has been a major concern for several years. Among the broadcasters, we are unanimous: we must fight against this scourge. People are working for us to keep an eye on the evolution of piracy and try to get things done " , explains the leader of a channel holding rights. Broadcasters, so that their voices can be heard, have come together in the Association for the Protection of Sports Programs (APPS) and have continued to warn about the legal vacuum surrounding the illegal broadcasting of sports competitions. And the last few months have not helped, especially in the world of football. " The arrival of Mediapro has contributed to the explosion of piracy ", explained Maxime Saada, chairman of the board of the Canal + group , to Le Figaro in early January . As in 2018, with the arrival of RMC Sport for the retransmission of the Champions League, the creation of the Téléfoot channel fragmented the market and pushed some consumers to opt for streaming or IPTV, particularly in the face of the cumulative prices of subscriptions. " The worst problem is the development of a large illegal offer which improves in quality, while on the other hand there are too many legal but too expensive offers.", supports Pauline Blassel. " The value of audiovisual rights suffers and potential broadcasters are reluctant to make offers, " laments the leader of a channel. During the last call for tenders for Ligue 1 broadcast rights in early February, the extent of pirate offers, among other things, may have discouraged some players from getting involved. As a result, the rights were negotiated down to 49% in Ligue 1 for the end of the current season compared to their original price. " The new device will allow us to fight against this scourge, and preserve the value of TV rights for the years to come ", indicates Cédric Roussel, LREM deputy of the Alpes-Maritimes and co-rapporteur of the bill. Not a sprint, but a marathon A reaction therefore became urgent. With article 10 of the law "aimed at democratizing sport", France is inspired by the English and Portuguese models of combating pirate broadcasts. In January 2019, a meeting organized in the Senate gave the floor to the English and Portuguese representatives of this fight so that they present their strategies. " France will adopt an intermediate model: more protective of individual freedoms with the intervention of a judge and less liberal than the English model ", presents Pauline Blassel. Concretely, to try to eradicate pirate broadcasts, rights holders can count on what is called a dynamic ordinance. The latter will make it possible to block, delete and dereference - thanks to the help of search engines - streaming sites and IPTV platforms illegally broadcasting sports competitions. And this, continuously. " Until then, we were chasing after distributors of illegal content. When we closed one, another reopened. From now on, content will be more targeted than sites, which should be more effective ", explains Me Viviane Gelles, lawyer in sports law and technology law. To see alsoPiracy, the big winner of the passage of Ligue 1 on Mediapro? In other words, article 10 will allow an acceleration of legal proceedings. The beneficiaries will not have to go back to the judge to request the blocking of a site, which will be done more quickly than today. The dynamic order, which will last for a sports season spread over twelve months, will also make it possible to tackle mirror sites and clones which reopen as soon as another site or IPTV service is closed. A method that has proven itself in England and Portugal. " In Portugal, we noticed that over time, there were fewer sites that reappeared than sites that disappeared. We will have to block, re-block, and start over, because it is a hyper resilient system.", explains Pauline Blassel, member of Hadopi who will occupy a role of" trusted third party "to support the channels holding rights, ISPs (Internet service providers) and search engines after the adoption of the text. " We are in a different approach from what we have known in the past with the fight against piracy of cultural works. We are not attacking consumers, but we are drying up the economic sector of pirates and these sites which broadcast illegal streaming. We are trying to ensure that there is the least temptation, by reducing the visibility of sites on search engines as much as possible , "explains Cédric Roussel. Users " who switch to the dark side " according to the deputy will therefore not be worried, but the broadcasters on these illegal sites may be subject to prosecution, like these three men sentenced on March 10 to pay seven million euros in damages to rights holders for illegally retransmitting their content on the internet. The device in application from next season? In addition to interrupting and making access more difficult to illegal broadcasts, this text could discourage IPTV users. With the closure of more and more IPTV platforms, consumers could turn away from this practice for which they pay a subscription. Because if the IPTV sellers have well developed their offers, customer services are failing ... and reimbursements from dissatisfied users are unlikely. " It is sure that it will discourage people. And there is a large part of the population who prefers to respect the law. The fact that there is a provision that exists is important, " said Pauline Blassel. And faced with the ingenuity of the pirates, Me Viviane Gelles thinks that the text makes it possible to guard against future advances: " The technique evolves very quickly, but the wording of the text is so broad that it must allow to understand precisely the evolution of technologies over time . " This article 10 is reassuring for broadcasters. " The adoption of this text will constitute a decisive step in the fight against the piracy of sports broadcasts ", announced the APPS in a press release published on January 29th . Diluted in the bill which also attacks the governance of federations, access to sport for all and more generally the sporting economic model, article 10 could be adopted quickly after the government's decision to initiate accelerated procedure on this text. Its entry into force could be timely for football in particular, since the Professional Football League will soon have to propose a new call for tenders or negotiate by mutual agreement with broadcasters for the TV rights of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2. over the period 2021-2024. Cédric Roussel, co-rapporteur of the text, aims for a start of application " next season, so that rights holders can take advantage of this device". For these potential broadcasters, the scourge of piracy will remain in the back of their minds but should be less significant thanks to article 10. A form of relief, awaited for several years.
  6. For 19 antiviruses, uTorrent, the most used BitTorrent client in the world, is unwanted software, even for some a "severe threat" Computer virus illustration. - DURAND FLORENCE / SIPA His bad reputation sticks to the bits. Seventeen years after its creation, uTorrent, the popular BitTorrent software, is still identified by at least 19 antivirus software as a potential threat, according to data from the specialist site Virustotal. These usually send an alert message when installing the file download software (legal or illegal). But some of them even remove uTorrent without it being possible to intervene, reports Phonandroid . Other affected customers Windows Defender, the antivirus software included with Windows, classifies it as a “Potentially Unwanted Application”. However, Windows emphasizes that unwanted software is not necessarily malware, but only software capable of installing other applications or modifying system settings. uTorrent, is not the only BitTorrent client to alert antiviruses, qBitTorrent finds itself in the same situation. To install these two programs, it will probably be necessary to deactivate the blocking of the two programs in the antivirus software. Another solution is to put the antivirus to sleep, while the program is installed or even to update the definitions file. It is also possible to use uTorrent in web version . In this case, the antivirus software will find nothing to complain about.
  7. A group of independent movie companies, including the makers of "The Hitman’s Bodyguard" and "London Has Fallen," has filed a lawsuit against a widely used Popcorn Time app and several of its users. The companies don't stop there either. The complaint also accuses VPN service VPN.ht and hosting provider Voxility of copyright infringement. Hawaiian attorney Kerry Culpepper has built quite a track record in recent years, putting pressure on various pirate sites and services. The biggest score came a little over a year ago when he convinced the operator of YTS, one of the largest torrent sites, to settle with several movie companies for more than a million dollars in damages. The echoes of those settlements are still heard in current lawsuits. As part of the agreement the operator of YTS shared information from the site’s database with the movie companies, which provided fuel for many follow-up cases. Atypical Lawsuits The tactics of Culpepper and his clients, which include the makers of “Angel Has Fallen,” “Rambo V: Last Blood,” and “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”, are quite atypical. Major Hollywood studios shy away from lawsuits against the general public and rarely sue pirate services. That’s not the case for these smaller independent studios, which are happy to put pressure on apps, sites, and even third-party services which they believe play a role in the piracy ecosystem. For example, phone store Victra was sued more than once, Internet backbone provider Hurricane Electric was taken to court, and VPN provider LiquidVPN was targeted for alleged facilition of piracy. Popcorn Time, VPN, and ‘Hosting’ Provider Yesterday, another lawsuit appeared on our radar. In a complaint filed at a federal court in Virginia Culpepper, together with attorney Timothy Hyland, accuse PopcornTime.app, several of its users, VPN.ht (Wicked Technology), and hosting service Voxility of massive copyright infringement. The plaintiffs include familiar movie companies such as Fallen Productions, Millennium Funding, and Voltage Holdings, who argue that the defendants all play a role in distributing pirated copies of their films. “Massive piracy of these motion pictures on the Internet via peer to peer (‘P2P’) networks by customers of Internet Service providers (‘ISPs’) and data centers such as Voxility and Wicked and the willful failure of the ISPs to deal with this issue despite clear notice of it have hindered this opportunity,” the complaint reads. Seeing the PopcornTime.app software and several pirating users as defendants is not a major surprise. The app has often been described as a piracy tool, even by the US Government, and the users were simply caught pirating through their IP-addresses. In this case, these IP-addresses were linked to a VPN. This often makes the actual pirates impossible to identify, which is why the movie companies are going after VPN.ht and its hosting partner Voxility. Voxility’s Role Voxility LLC is incorporated in the US and allegedly housed servers that were used by the VPN. While it’s a neutral intermediary, the movie companies argue that the company should have taken action when it received multiple takedown notices about infringing activity that took place over its network. “Voxility continued to provide service to Wicked despite knowledge from at least the Notices that their customer Wicked was using the service to encourage Wicked customers to pirate copyright protected Works including Plaintiffs’ exactly as promoted, encouraged and instructed by Wicked,” the complaint reads. Apart from sending takedown notices, the movie company attorneys repeatedly contacted Voxility to point out the infringing activities. One of the letters explicitly stated that Wicked promoted its VPN to be used in combination with Popcorn Time. The hosting provider eventually agreed to terminate the account of VPN.ht. However, it took several months before that actually happened, the complaint alleges. VPN.ht’s Involvement Voxility itself doesn’t promote the use of Popcorn Time but the movie companies accuse Hong Kong-based VPN.ht owner Wicked Technology of encouraging its subscribers to use the app. “Wicked actively promotes its VPN service as a tool to use the notorious movie piracy application Popcorn Time,” the complaint reads, adding that the company “actively promotes its VPN service for the purpose of movie piracy, including of infringing Plaintiffs’ Works.” The complaint lists various screenshots where VPN.ht mentions Popcorn Time, adding that a VPN helps “to avoid getting in trouble.” These comments were not limited to Popcorn Time. The service also has a landing page for users of the torrent site YTS, a popular source for pirated movies. The movie companies note that based on this “encouragement” the users of VPN.ht installed piracy apps or visited torrent sites to download and share pirated films. The complaint doesn’t specify how IP-addresses were linked to actual Popcorn Time or YTS users. Needless to say, these are serious allegations that have to be proven in court. Holding online service providers liable is far from straightforward and jurisdiction issues may arise as well. Pressure Tool and Blocking Demands That said, lawsuits are the ultimate pressure tool and recent history has shown that these movie companies are not averse to settling matters. As mentioned earlier, they settled with torrent site YTS, phone company Victra, and Hurricane Electric resolved matters behind closed doors too. With regard to VPN.ht, the movie companies also hope to compel the company to identify the operator of PopcornTime.app, possibly through payments that were made between both parties. All in all, the allegations amount to direct and contributory copyright infringement claims against Wicked, PopcornTime, and its users. Voxility is accused of contributory copyright infringement due to its alleged ‘failure’ to take action. When we look at the demands for damages and relief, there are striking similarities with the recently filed case against LiquidVPN. In addition to halting any infringing activity, Wicked and Voxility also face demands to make it impossible for pirate sites to be accessed through their networks. In addition, the companies should block ports 6881-6889 on all servers, as these are commonly used for BitTorrent traffic. These are unprecedented demands, to say the least, so we’ll keep a close eye on the lawsuit going forward.
  8. LONDON—The cost of sports piracy has been revealed via a new report from Synamedia and Ampere Analysis, with as much as $28.3 billion in new revenue being available to service providers and rights holders each year if they are able to reduce sports piracy. The report, “Pricing Piracy: The Value of Action,” uses a model that evaluates how different illegal viewers respond to anti-piracy measures and identifies the demographics and characteristics of those illegal users who are most likely to convert to legal services. By understanding the motivations of those who access pirated streams, the report says that service providers can target those most likely to switch—aka “the converter cohort”—by implementing disrupting streams as well as providing them with incentives. Of more than 6,000 sports fans in 10 markets, Ampere found that 74% are willing to switch from illegal streams if a legitimate alternative is available and illegal streams become unreliable. This converter cohort tends to be younger and is often families with young children, the report finds, with them watching as many as 10 or more different sports on connected devices. As many as 40% of the converter cohort would subscribe to OTT streaming sports services, while the remaining balance would opt for traditional pay-TV, particularly those offering exclusive sports rights. More than half of the converter cohort actually already pay for legitimate services (57%), while 52% pay for pirate services. (Image credit: Synamedia) To convert pirate customers to legitimate services requires service providers to address the reasons that they sought illegal services out to begin with. Per the report, these include flexible access without complex installations or long contracts; ease of use; availability on every device in any location; and, for OTT services, a price point that is lower than traditional pay-TV services with premium sports tiers included. If able to access this new revenue, Synamedia and Ampere estimate that of the $28.3 billion, about $22.9 billion would be split among pay-TV providers and $5.4 billion would be for OTT sports streaming services.
  9. After it was recently announced that film funding groups were suing a VPN provider for advertising illegal content, production companies have now set their sights on yet another service. In addition to "VPN.ht", they are also suing a hosting provider and Popcorn Time. We recently reported a lawsuit against VPN provider Liquid VPN for allegedly advertising illegal torrents and streaming portals. With "VPN.ht" another of these providers is now in the crossfire. Smaller production companies are suing the service for massive copyright violations. In the complaint that attorney Timothy Hyland has submitted to the federal court of Virginia, hosting partner Voxility and the "PopcornTime.app" are mentioned. Various production companies such as Fallen Productions, Millennium Funding and Voltage Holdings are on the side of the plaintiffs. The fact that you have the BitTorrent client Popcorn Time on your screen may not come as a surprise. The allegation of copyright infringement is anything but new in the context . The approach of including the VPN service "VPN.ht" (Wicked Technology) and its hosting provider Voxility in the application is more unusual. Because hosting the VPN server is actually a neutral matter. For what purposes they are used, legal as well as illegal, is ultimately up to the user. However, the plaintiffs accuse the hosting service of having known exactly what its services are used for. Voxility has already been informed several times that Internet users are committing copyright violations via the VPN service. Nevertheless, Wicked would have continued to offer his services. Popcorn Time was apparently advertised openly Top 5 Products in PC Games € 39.00Red Dead Redemption 2 (PC)" to offerfrom € 39.00 € 59.00 € 39.00 € 98.00 € 33.00 Lawyers reportedly notified Voxility in writing that Wicked is promoting its VPN service in connection with Popcorn Time. The providing partner actually agreed to terminate the VPN service's account. But months had passed by then. To support the charges, plaintiffs have attached several screenshots. There you can see, among other things, how Wicked encourages users to use Popcorn Time. Other torrent sites also appear in the screenshots. More on the topic: Black copies: lawsuit against VPN providers for advertising illegal content As in the case of "Liquid VPN", the plaintiffs call on Wicked and Voxility to make access to pirate sites impossible. To do this, they should block ports 6881 to 6889, for example, because they are usually used by bittorrent providers. In connection with "VPN.ht", the production companies also seem to be hoping to identify the operator of "PopcornTime.app"; for example through money that flowed between the companies.
  10. In what is said to be the first calculation of the true cost of sports piracy, a report from Synamedia has revealed that service providers and rights holders can unlock up to $28.3 billion in new revenue each year by reducing the phenomenon. The online quantitative study of over 6,000 sports fans aged 18-64 in Brazil, Egypt, Germany, India, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US was undertaken by data and analytics firm Ampere Analysis, the third in a series carrried out on behalf of Synamedia. Consumers were pre-filtered and chosen based on their experience of watching sport on TV. The report, Pricing Piracy: The Value Of Action, identified the demographics and characteristics of those illegal users most likely to convert to legal services, including their reaction when illegal viewing is disrupted. As service providers address the triggers that lead consumers to seek out illegal services, the research evaluated how different illegal viewers respond to anti-piracy measures and how they have the power to transform piracy from a cost centre into a revenue opportunity with measurable ROI. It observed that OTT sports streaming services stood to gain $5.4 billion, or 19% of the total, with the balance up for grabs by other pay-TV providers. With an understanding about pirate users’ motivations and behaviour, Synamedia said that service providers can target interventions - such as disrupting streams and incentives – at those viewers most likely to switch to legitimate services: the ‘converter cohort’. It found that nearly three quarters of sports fans were willing to switch from illegal streams if a legitimate alternative is available and if the illegal streams become unreliable. The study also discovered that the converter cohort tended to be younger and are often families with young children. They are avid sports viewers with many watching ten or more different sports using connected devices. Two-fifths of the converter cohort said they would subscribe to OTT streaming sports services, including single-sport services run by rights owners, with the balance opting for traditional pay-TV services, particularly those that offer exclusive sports rights. Almost three-fifths (57%) of the converter cohort already paid for legitimate services and just over half (52%) paid for pirate services. Yet despite the opportunity, Synamedia cautioned that converting pirate customers to legitimate ones required service providers to address the triggers that encourage consumers to seek out illegal services in the first place. These include a flexible access without complex installations or long contracts, ease of use, and availability on every device in any location, coupled with a price point that is often much lower than a traditional pay-TV service with premium sports tiers included. “After years of growth, a recent downturn in rights fees has been exacerbated by the pandemic, hitting sports rights hard. But just as the value of rights is being eroded, there is now the prospect of creating new revenues by converting illegal viewers into paid subscribers,” said Yael Fainaro, senior vice president of security at Synamedia commenting on the Pricing Piracy: The Value Of Action report. “While previous attempts to value the revenue leakage from sports streaming piracy took a crude approach, we now have the detail to develop targeted approaches and the tools to deliver quantifiable results, ensuring every investment hits the jackpot.”
  11. Digital piracy is not all about movies and music—pretty much anything that people feel is unfairly priced will find its way online in large numbers. Even academic papers. In October 2015, a New York district court ruled in favor of the academic publisher Elsevier, which had accused Sci-Hub, a website that offers pirated versions of academic papers, of copyright violation. That decision allowed authorities to take down the site’s domain name, sci-hub.org. Suspending a domain name does not delete a website forever, though, it just prevents visitors from knowing where exactly to find it. It’s trivial enough to relaunch the same site under another domain, as Sci-Hub did, setting up as sci-hub.io. Now knowledge of the new domain has spread far and wide, with mentions of it showing up across social networks like Reddit and Hacker News, and with coverage in publications like Big Think and The Atlantic (our sister publication). Sci-Hub’s tagline is “to remove all barriers in the way of science.” It was created by Alexandra Elbakyan, a neuroscience researcher from Kazakhstan, and is effectively an automated version of the #icanhazpdf hashtag. Most academic papers are behind some kind of paywall, coming out to around $30 per paper, according to one estimate. In the manual way of getting around this, someone tweets a link to a paper along with their email address and the hashtag #icanhazpdf. Someone else, who has access to the paper, perhaps through a subscription or their university, then downloads and emails the paper to them. Sci-Hub, on the other hand, takes a link to a paper and automatically tries credentials for various universities until it manages to gain access to the paper, retrieving the PDF. This method gives it access to more information than any individual researcher or institution, and Sci-Hub estimates its total access at 47 million papers. The new domain will be hard for a US-based lawsuit, like Elsevier’s from last year, to shut down. The US only has jurisdiction over registrars based in the US, such as .com, .net, and .org. The trendy .io domain is actually registered to the British Indian Ocean Territory, meaning the UK would have to act, as happened with PopcornTime.io, the Netflix-for-pirates. But as The Atlantic points out, Sci-Hub will be able to survive any number of domain seizures thanks to its existence on the “dark web.” Accessing the site in this way, through the distributed Tor network, does not involve any centralized registry, meaning there is no single entity that authorities can shut down. The main beneficiaries of Sci-Hub are outside of the US, like the site’s creator herself. The traffic figures from Alexa.com, though only a crude estimate, list users from China, Iran, India, Brazil, and Russia as the top visitors to sci-hub.io, with the US outside the top five. While even Harvard has said it can’t afford the steep prices of some publishers, most American universities offer relatively robust access, and researchers may be able to afford the $30 or so it usually costs to purchase a paper. “For me, even the purchase of one such article would be a financial setback,” Alexandra told Russia Today via email. “So I had to go about acquiring all the articles by pirate means.”
  12. Being dissatisfied with YouTube’s actions on handling the infringing content, a copyright holder has now demanded YouTube to share all the copyright notices served since 2015! As this amounts to a huge trove of data, YouTube declined to share, so calling it unduly burdensome. Instead, it agrees to share only a month-long data with her. YouTube Fails in Handling Copyright Takedown Notices Like others, YouTube has become one of the common places for posting copyrighted material without permission and being slammed with actions like account termination if flags are raised. But, Maria Schneider, a Grammy award-winning musician, isn’t satisfied with the ongoing YouTube’s actions. In a lawsuit she filed against YouTube, she blamed the platform for not taking appropriate actions against the copyright infringers after complaining through a notice. More specifically, she pointed out that YouTube identifies the infringement with Content ID, which is ineffective in dealing with such cases. In her filing, she said YouTube’s “two-tiered system essentially trains YouTube’s billions of uploading users that there is essentially minimal risk to uploading to their hearts’ content.” To prove this, she demanded YouTube to share with her all the copyright infringement notices served on the platform since 2015! While this plea was rejected by YouTube, calling it’s too much, Schneider narrowed her asking to provide the data such as account names, email addresses, IP addresses used for uploading the content, and timestamps of those infringers, since 2015 again. Also, she demanded an explanation on how YouTube has handled them all. YouTube called these demands “overly broad” and “unduly burdensome” repeatedly in its response. While we look at how YouTube tries to thwart these demands, it’s interesting to see how judge reacts to this and deliver the judgment.
  13. An adult star from OnlyFans, a platform that lets content creators earn money from their paid subscribers, has filed DMCA notices with Reddit to takedown her infringing content. Her lawyer complained that some users share the images and videos of her commercial content from OnlyFans on Reddit for free and seek details of those users. DMCA Notices to Reddit Though content piracy is becoming normal these days, copyright holders are trying their best to stop at least a few of them through various means. One such copyright holder named Natasha Noel, an adult performer, is now taking on infringers through her lawyer. As Torrent Freak saw, a lawyer named Jason Fischer representing Noel has filed a DMCA notice with Reddit about infringing content. As per the DMCA notice on March 9, Fischer asks Reddit to remove the copyrighted content (photos and videos) on their platform belonging to her client, Natasha Noel, collected from the OnlyFans account. While this seemed normal, Fischer has filed yet another DMCA subpoena in California district court on March 23rd, which lists out several URLs mentioned in the Reddit DMCA takedown notice earlier. Here, Fischer and her client asks the court to order Reddit records custodian to share the details of all those asked infringers. What Fischer and Noel are planning to do with this obtained information isn’t known yet. The information requested includes the related users’ usernames, account names, actual names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses (including dates and times of access), and all billing information. Also, Fischer has filed another DMCA subpoena on the same day on behalf of Valerie Loureda, an MMA fighter, and a model. While she doesn’t have an OnlyFans account to share private content, she does it through her dedicated website. A subreddit on her name is sharing that commercial stuff for free. While Reddit took down the subreddit for too many infringing notices, Fischer now demands Reddit to share the details of those infringers who shared the content for free on that subreddit.
  14. Reporting about piracy can get sites and blogs accused of copyright violations and potentially removed from Google’s be-all and end-all search results, as a new bogus DMCA claim shows. These false notices regularly crop up in the ocean of takedowns that Google regularly receives from the entertainment industry to remove links from search results for real or fake copyright infringement. Now the website TorrentFreak once again became the target of one such takedown notice, being falsely accused of “piracy” for publishing a news article about – piracy. The article was about Disney’s The Mandalorian being the most pirated series in 2020. The link to the write-up appeared among the many URLs reported to Google as infringing. The news report published under the headline, “The Mandalorian is the Most Pirated TV Show of 2020,” is categorized as one of the allegedly infringing URLs, along with what seemed as two separate pages instructing readers how to use VPNs to download content via torrent clients, and several links to sites that might in fact be infringing on Disney’s content. Interestingly enough, the takedown request did not come from the giant itself, but a company called GFM Film. TorrentFreak, which obviously and rightly denies that writing about piracy is a violation of copyright, said they are not familiar with this company and are unsure if it is based in Germany or the UK. The one with “GFM” in its name from Germany manufactures cameras and has been involved in the making of The Mandalorian, while the other is GFM Film Sales. Good news for TorrentFreak is that the URL in question has not yet been removed from Google search as its status is pending, which means that it will likely receive manual review that should show the copyright violation claim is meritless. TorrentFreak also said that although it is often hit with these bogus notices, Google usually in the end correctly identifies them as such. In 2019 alone, TorrentFreak had 11 false DMCA notices submitted against it by those representing Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures, Dreamworks, and other industry heavy hitters or their third party copyright enforcers.
  15. "We were happy and we didn't know it." Surely many feel identified with that phrase when remembering the times when Messenger was our WhatsApp and YouTube videos were rated with stars. It was also the time when the Ares and eMule programs were used to download movies that, on more than one occasion, turned out to be something else. These were P2P programs that revolutionized the internet at the time, although P2P continues to lead the digital forefront, in a sense, considering that the Bitcoin system is based on it. Piracy was in its golden age to gradually atrophy in a path that Apple led by distributing iPods and linking them to iTunes, the online music store that knew how to start fighting against illegal downloading. Two decades later, P2P BitTorrent is very popular, even though a taste for immediacy takes some of the patience out of downloading files and prioritizes streaming web pages instead . Thus, websites that link to pirated content continue to appear ... and die, very quickly. Legal pressure against piracy has been increasing in recent years in favor of the entertainment giants (Amazon, Netflix, HBO, Disney, Movistar + in Spain ), making it increasingly difficult for websites to survive that allow free watching series and movies to change from a few (too many) punctures to advertising pop-ups and junk links that bring them profit per click. Thank you for watching Precisely in Spain, the number of pirate websites that end up eliminated has increased exponentially in 2020, after the Mercantile Court 7 of Madrid considered valid a claim from Telefónica Audiovisual Digital (owner of Movistar +) motivated by the websites that stole the sign of their football matches. By virtue of the ruling, Telefónica now has the ability to draw up a weekly list of pirate websites that all telecommunications companies in Spain (Vodafone, Orange, MásMóvil ...) have to isolate their URL by blocking their URL in no more than three hours from the sending of the ready. List that, in addition, does not even have to go through the judicial system, but is sent directly to the rest of the providers. To this must be added the success of the Second Section of the Intellectual Property Commission of the Ministry of Culture and Sports , also called the Anti-Piracy Section, which between 2019 and 2020 brought down up to 640,000 cultural contents that were being offered online. According to the 2019 balance , the Commission has managed to block 138 domain names, including pelis24.com, cuevana2.com or seriesflv.net. In this context, pirate link websites fight against companies and regulators to continue operating. Faced with the blocks, many continue to reappear with different domains (from cuevana2.com to cuevana.se), but it involves extra work when having to move content, and also for users, who lose sight of their favorite websites. Something similar also happens with torrent link websites , a format with which it is possible to download not only movies, but also music, programs, books, video games and all kinds of heavy files. BitTorrent is one of the most used P2P programs, becoming another bastion of modern piracy. The Pirate Bay portal, known for being the largest torrent aggregator in the world, suffers from constant technical problems and blockades from the authorities, including Spanish ones: the Spanish Anti-Piracy Section has four of its domains blocked (thepiratebay.com,. org, .se and .net). Other torrent platforms such as grantorrent.com and elitetorrent.com are also blocked. Even so, the public continues to find a way to access it by making some adjustments to the computer, such as changing the VPN or using the deep web browser Tor. Indeed, in recent years, companies that offer to adjust the VPN of a device have flourished, such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN or Surfshark, since doing this allows access to many more websites and content restricted by countries, as well as availing themselves of cheaper rates in some services. PLAYDEDE A well-known case is that of Pordede, the most famous Spanish online series and movies website, which was renamed Plusdede, then Megadede, and now Playdede, although in his case, rather due to technical failures or internal conflicts between administrators, according to an interview for Engadget. The current Playdede , born at the end of January, rises among the most visited websites in Spain , currently ranking 489, according to the analysis portal Similarweb. Visits in February amounted to 2.74 million. The 'dede' project continues like this, growing and becoming professional. The new website enhances the community factor (it is still necessary to register to access), and through Twitter the portal invites users to become a moderator or uploader of the page. With these efforts, Playdede tries to be, as its predecessors were, a website characterized by cleanliness and order, compared to other chaotic pages with so much publicity that navigation through them was almost impossible. With these numbers, the 'dede' empire confirms that it continues to lead the anti-copyright resistance, far surpassing other Spanish websites such as seriesly.org, with 1.27 million visits in February, seriespapaya.tv, with 167 thousand, or pelis-online.tv, with almost 450 thousand visits in February. Also HDfull or seriesflv.me are used in our country. Another high-impact website is Gnula , a Mexican portal that adds almost 10 million visits in February. Also Mexican is the domain that confirms the mass anime phenomenon, www3.animeflv.net, which ranks no less than 26 on the list of most visited websites in the country, with a whopping 167 million visits in February. THE CREATORS OF SERIESYONKIS ARE SAVED With the current legal framework, managing a website of this type is difficult. Fortunately for the creator and subsequent owners of Seriesyonkis and Peliculasyonkis, other of the most famous pirate pages, having gone ahead of the law has freed them from accountability. At the beginning of this month, the Murcia Court confirmed the acquittal of the founder, Alberto García Sola, and of the subsequent managers of these domains, because during the years in which the websites were active, what they did was not yet a crime .
  16. Via the MPA, global anti-piracy coalition Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment is investigating several major streaming platforms. The sites, which offer mainstream movies and TV shows, are good for more than half a billion visits per year. With the help of a US court, the rightsholders are hoping to identify their operators, with disruption or even closure the ultimate aim. The world’s major movie and TV show studios are in fierce competition, aiming to release the next blockbuster or series to capture the imaginations of the public and generate much needed revenue. Industry counterparts are rivals in that respect but when it comes to dealing with piracy, especially when that propagates from hundreds if not thousands of unlicensed streaming platforms, teamwork is the key. Through their global coalition, Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), rivalries become partnerships, with resources shared to disrupt and destroy sites that dare to offer free movies and TV shows to the public. ACE Homes in On Several Major Streaming Platforms Investigations into pirate sites take place in the shadows, with little outward sign that a streaming platform is under investigation until it’s too late. However, there is a “canary in the coal mine” that can reveal early signs that legal or other enforcement action might not be far away. In legal terms, the DMCA subpoena application is a straightforward and cheap-to-file legal document yet it has the power to yield crucial information when building a case against pirate site operators. Late last week ACE and the MPA went to court in the United States with such a request, one that targets several streaming platforms with well over half a billion views per year. Cloudflare: Weak Link or Useful Proxy? With so many pirate platforms using Cloudflare, the company has become a go-to point of contact for ACE and the MPA. An application for a DMCA subpoena filed by the groups late Friday in a California court shows that at least in theory, Cloudflare could be in a position to give up valuable information. Listing sample infringements of movies including Almost Christmas, 47 Ronin, Varsity Blues, Forrest Gump and Flashdance, ACE and the MPA are now seeking to identify the operators of Lookmovie, Watchmovie, YesMovies, Himovies and Adfah. Say them quickly and the domains don’t sound like they would amount to much but together they account for well over half a billion ‘pirate’ views every year. The Targeted Domains Lookmovie.io is by far the most popular domain on the list. From a standing start last October, the platform captured a million visits in just a month. By December, that figure had risen to just shy of 15 million. By March 2021 the site was pulling in 18m visits per month – a potential 216 million per year – with around 30% of its traffic hailing from the United States. Interestingly, Lookmovie.io is not blocked by ISPs in the United Kingdom as similar platforms usually are, meaning that almost 14% of its traffic now comes from the region. Lookmovie.io appears to be an alternative domain for Lookmovie.ag, a domain blocked in Australia due to legal action in 2019. In traffic terms, Watchmovie.movie has also been on the rise. Last October the domain was good for around five million visits per month but by last month, that had risen to just short of 12.5 million, around 150 million visits per year. The domain has seen traffic increase from all major regions recently, with the United States accounting for around 19% of views. In common with Lookmovie.io, Watchmovie.movie is doing well in the UK, where traffic share is as high as the United States after recently receiving a 35% boost. The site, which is branded on-site as WatchSeries, is not blocked by ISPs so until that situation changes, UK visitors are likely to increase. Interestingly, data available from SimilarWeb relating to the site’s display advertising lists several ad companies but one in particular stands out. While potentially very small, Netflix.com – a prominent ACE and MPA member – is listed as a publisher. Generating around 9.2 million visits per month, YesMovies.ag is another streaming platform being eyed by MPA and ACE for some kind of legal or enforcement action. Its traffic has see-sawed for the past six months but in most regions traffic is on the increase, including in the United Kingdom where the site is not blocked by ISPs. Since there have been so many sites using YesMovies branding, it’s not straightforward to link this domain to the many others previously and currently in operation. However, YesMovies domains have been targeted in numerous earlier actions, including in the United States and Australia. The final sites listed on the MPA and ACE subpoena are HiMovies.to and Afdah.info. The former is currently enjoying around 6.25 million visits per month according to SimilarWeb, with the latter pulling in close to 6.2 million. Both are most popular in the United States but also in the United Kingdom too, where are neither are currently subjected to ISP blocking. ACE and MPA Subpoena Demands Action From Cloudflare “The ACE Members (via the Motion Picture Association, Inc.) are requesting issuance of the attached proposed subpoena that would order Cloudflare, Inc. to disclose the identities, including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account histories of the users operating the websites listed [above],” the DMCA subpoena application reads. Precisely what the applicants want to do with the information is unclear at this stage but we have seen in the past that in addition to direct legal action, sites listed in DMCA subpoenas can later appear in applications for ISP blocking in the UK. After previously demanding in a similar DMCA subpoena that Cloudflare should hand over the personal details behind several 123Movies-branded sites, the domains appeared in a High Court injunction and were subsequently blocked by the UK’s leading ISPs in February. Over the past several years Cloudflare has been heavily criticized for allowing its services to be used by pirate sites, particularly operations such as The Pirate Bay. The argument is that the CDN service should part company with infringing sites but to date, Cloudflare has dismissed its role as that of a simple intermediary.
  17. Every week we take a close look at the most pirated movies on torrent sites. What are pirates downloading? 'Godzilla vs. Kong' tops the chart, followed by ‘Zack Snyder's Justice League'. 'Chaos Walking' completes the top three. The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. These torrent download statistics are meant to provide further insight into the piracy trends. All data are gathered from public resources. This week we have one new entry in the list. “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the most downloaded title. The film can be watched online legally on HBO Max, but that’s not available everywhere. The most torrented movies for the week ending on April 12 are: Movie RankRank Last WeekMovie NameIMDb Rating / Trailer Most downloaded movies via torrent sites 1(1)Godzilla vs. Kong 6.7 / trailer 2(2)Zack Snyder’s Justice League 8.4 / trailer 3(3)Chaos Walking 5.7 / trailer 4(…)Thunder Force 4.4 / trailer 5(4)Raya and the Last Dragon 7.7 / trailer 6(6)Wonder Woman 1984 5.8 / trailer 7(5)The Fathe r8.3 / trailer 8(7)Coming 2 America 5.5 / trailer 9(8)Monster Hunter 5.3 / trailer 10(back)Tenet
  18. A federal court in Virginia has signed a temporary restraining order that requires PayPal to freeze the assets of VPN provider VPN.ht. The company is being sued by several movie studios and stands accused of facilitating piracy. The court also signed off on a request to lock the domain name of a Popcorn Time fork, which already appears to have thrown the towel. Hawaiian attorney Kerry Culpepper has made a habit of putting pressure on key players in the piracy ecosystem. Representing the makers of films such as “Hunter Killer,” “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” and “London Has Fallen,” he’s gone after individual file-sharers, apps such as Popcorn Time and Showbox, and pirate sites including YTS. Most recently, Culpepper and his clients expanded their reach to VPN services. Last month, they filed lawsuits against LiquidVPN and VPN.ht, accusing the companies of promoting and facilitating online piracy. VPN.ht and Popcorn Time Lawsuit Generally speaking, VPN providers are neutral services. However, these VPNs allegedly crossed a line by explicitly encouraging people to use the service for unauthorized activity. VPN.ht, for example, advised people to use the piracy app Popcorn Time with a VPN “to avoid getting in trouble.” These allegations have yet to be backed up in court but, before VPN.ht responded to the complaint, the movie studios moved for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to freeze the company’s PayPal funds. The rightsholders believe that this measure is warranted as VPN.ht’s alleged operator, Mohamed Amine Faouani, previously dissolved another company after it came under fire in a Canadian Popcorn Time lawsuit. They believe that the same could happen with “Wicked Technology,” which currently owns the VPN service. Freezing PayPal Funds In an order released late last week, Virginia District Court Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. agrees that this is indeed likely. As such, he granted the motion to freeze VPN.ht’s PayPal funds. The court concludes that jurisdiction is appropriate and mentions that Popcorn Time poses a significant threat to the copyright holders. And without a restraining order, VPN.ht could indeed move its PayPal funds outside of the court’s reach. “Plaintiffs would be irreparably harmed absent a TRO because Defendants would have the incentive and capacity to transfer their assets from any account within the United States, depriving Plaintiffs of the ability to obtain monetary relief,” Judge Alston Jr. writes. No Harm? According to the court, there is a strong likelihood that the movie companies will win this case anyway, which weighs in favor of granting the request. At the same time, the VPN provider isn’t really harmed by this decision, the order notes. “Defendants are unlikely to suffer any cognizable harm from the TRO as they will merely be prevented from profiting from past infringement and moving their funds beyond the reach of the Court.” While the court suggests otherwise, seizing the assets of a company can seriously impede its operation. That said, PayPal is just one of the payment options used by the VPN and several other alternatives remain available. Discovery and Locked Domain Name In addition to freezing the PayPal funds, the court also allows the movie companies to request further information from PayPal, Cloudfare and GitHub. This could help to find out more about VPN.ht’s operation as well as the Popcorntime.app software, which is part of the same lawsuit. Finally, the court also signed off on a request to order Google or its reseller to lock the Popcorntime.app domain name, so that it can’t be transferred outside of the court’s reach. At the time of writing VPN.ht remains online and the operator has yet to respond in court. The pressure on Popcorntime.app appears to have paid off, however, as the domain now redirects to a “goodbye” message on Medium. Meanwhile, the movie companies have just requested yet another temporary restraining order, this time keeping it away from public view. However, it is likely that the copyright holders want to freeze additional funds or assets.
  19. An adult star from OnlyFans, a platform that lets content creators earn money from their paid subscribers, has filed DMCA notices with Reddit to takedown her infringing content. Her lawyer complained that some users share the images and videos of her commercial content from OnlyFans on Reddit for free and seek details of those users. DMCA Notices to Reddit Though content piracy is becoming normal these days, copyright holders are trying their best to stop at least a few of them through various means. One such copyright holder named Natasha Noel, an adult performer, is now taking on infringers through her lawyer. As Torrent Freak saw, a lawyer named Jason Fischer representing Noel has filed a DMCA notice with Reddit about infringing content. As per the DMCA notice on March 9, Fischer asks Reddit to remove the copyrighted content (photos and videos) on their platform belonging to her client, Natasha Noel, collected from the OnlyFans account. While this seemed normal, Fischer has filed yet another DMCA subpoena in California district court on March 23rd, which lists out several URLs mentioned in the Reddit DMCA takedown notice earlier. Here, Fischer and her client asks the court to order Reddit records custodian to share the details of all those asked infringers. What Fischer and Noel are planning to do with this obtained information isn’t known yet. The information requested includes the related users’ usernames, account names, actual names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses (including dates and times of access), and all billing information. Also, Fischer has filed another DMCA subpoena on the same day on behalf of Valerie Loureda, an MMA fighter, and a model. While she doesn’t have an OnlyFans account to share private content, she does it through her dedicated website. A subreddit on her name is sharing that commercial stuff for free. While Reddit took down the subreddit for too many infringing notices, Fischer now demands Reddit to share the details of those infringers who shared the content for free on that subreddit.
  20. Last April, ACE - a coalition of entertainment companies headed up by Universal, Paramount, Columbia, Disney and Amazon - sued the alleged operator of pirate IPTV service Nitro TV. In a second amended complaint, ACE expands the list of defendants to include YouTuber 'Touchtone', who is said to have received more than half a million dollars to sell and market the service. With pirate IPTV services all the rage among millions of pirates, companies operating in the movie and TV show space are trying to bring the phenomenon under control. As part of this effort, last April companies owned by Columbia, Amazon, Disney, Paramount, Warner, and Universal (all members of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment) filed a lawsuit in the US against the operators of Nitro TV. This ‘pirate’ provider had been gaining traction for some time and the lawsuit alleged significant wrongdoing. “Massive and Blatant Infringement” In a nutshell, the complaint claimed that Nitro TV, under the control of alleged operator Alejandro “Alex” Galindo, engaged in “massive and blatant infringement” of the plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, movies and TV shows including The Office, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Toy Story 3, Star Trek Beyond, Homecoming and Joker. According to the ACE members, Nitro TV logins were primarily sold through the website TekkHosting.com and acquired in one of two ways – either via a direct purchase or from a Nitro TV reseller. With Nitro apparently having obtained a significant part of the market, the lawsuit demanded huge damages – $150,000 per infringed work and an injunction. The latter was awarded last May but according to the plaintiffs, the service continued to operate, with Galindo later accused of destroying and withholding evidence. New names were also entering the mix. The plaintiffs identified a Richard Horsten as someone who worked with Galindo and received tens of thousands of dollars in payments from an account in Galindo’s wife’s name. Server company FDCServers revealed that it had an account under the name Martha Galindo – Alejandro Galindo’s mother – and PayPal revealed that other payments had been made in the name of Anna Galindo, Alejandro Galindo’s wife. In a second amended complaint made public this week, these people and more are named as defendants alongside an extremely interesting addition – Raul Orelanna – better known by his YouTube handle ‘Touchtone’. Touchtone Accused of Being an Integral Part of Nitro TV The amended complaint begins by adding more specific allegations against Anna, Martha, and Osvaldo Galindo. They are accused of playing key roles in Nitro TV by operating payment processor and bank accounts through which “millions of dollars’ worth” of Nitro TV reseller credits and subscriptions were sold. Anna Galindo is said to have paid tens of thousands of dollars to Dominican Republic resident Richard Horsten (aka Rik De Groot) and others involved in Nitro TV. The big standout here is that Anna allegedly paid Raul Orellana (known as ‘Touchtone’) more than half a million dollars to promote the service online. The funds were reportedly paid to Firestream LLC (a company that the plaintiffs claim is held in the name of Touchtone’s wife, Veronica Orellana) for, among other things, “their extensive promotion and marketing of the infringing Nitro TV service designed to expand the Nitro TV network of subscribers and resellers and the distribution of the infringing service.” Touchtone Marketed Nitro on YouTube, Gave Away Trials Regular viewers of Touchtone’s YouTube channel will have already noticed that Nitro TV was his preferred IPTV service and this certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the members of ACE. Their amended complaint notes that the YouTuber marketed Nitro TV as “the best hands down” while giving away seven-day trials of the service “to induce people to induce people to pay for subscriptions to the infringing service from which he profited.” “In his marketing, Orellana hyped Nitro TV as the most reliable streaming service on the market and emphasized the breadth of its channel offerings, including local channels from across the United States, all-sport packages, and pay-per-view channels offering special sporting events,” the complaint filed this week reads. “Along with displaying the overview of the offerings, as depicted in the screenshot below, he promoted Nitro TV by reviewing screen after screen of specific channels available on Nitro TV.” After TorrentFreak reported on the original complaint in 2020, Touchtone took to YouTube, informing users of Nitro that they shouldn’t believe everything they read. The stream was captured by another channel (here) and was also noticed by the plaintiffs. “In addition, Raul Orellana continued to promote Nitro TV, informing Nitro TV subscribers that they would be taken care of and encouraging them not to believe the news about the prospect of Nitro TV being shut down,” the amended complaint notes. With Touchtone now named as a defendant in the case, the lawsuit has clearly expanded in scope. It also suggests that, where appropriate, individuals promoting pirate services on YouTube and elsewhere, in order to profit from their sale, can become targets too.
  21. Russia’s Tricolor has revealed the scale of its new agreement with Warner Bros. In a statement, it says that its online service will include over 300 movie classics from the Hollywood Studio. The movies will be available to buy or rent through the Tricolor Cinema and TV application and the web version of the online service kino.tricolor.tv. Separately, Tricolor has announced the results of its anti-piracy activities in 2020. These saw its initiatives result in law enforcement agencies initiate 11 criminal cases. It notes that the most common cases of violation of the company’s interests were the production and distribution of pirated smart cards, modification of equipment for receiving satellite channels, as well as illegal broadcasting of content in the HoReCa segment. As a result, 13 people were prosecuted in connection with the manufacture and distribution of modified equipment. The heaviest punishment was received by a resident of the Republic of Dagestan, who was imprisoned for 18 months.
  22. In what is said to be the first calculation of the true cost of sports piracy, a report from Synamedia has revealed that service providers and rights holders can unlock up to $28.3 billion in new revenue each year by reducing the phenomenon. The online quantitative study of over 6,000 sports fans aged 18-64 in Brazil, Egypt, Germany, India, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US was undertaken by data and analytics firm Ampere Analysis, the third in a series carrried out on behalf of Synamedia. Consumers were pre-filtered and chosen based on their experience of watching sport on TV. The report, Pricing Piracy: The Value Of Action, identified the demographics and characteristics of those illegal users most likely to convert to legal services, including their reaction when illegal viewing is disrupted. As service providers address the triggers that lead consumers to seek out illegal services, the research evaluated how different illegal viewers respond to anti-piracy measures and how they have the power to transform piracy from a cost centre into a revenue opportunity with measurable ROI. It observed that OTT sports streaming services stood to gain $5.4 billion, or 19% of the total, with the balance up for grabs by other pay-TV providers. With an understanding about pirate users’ motivations and behaviour, Synamedia said that service providers can target interventions - such as disrupting streams and incentives – at those viewers most likely to switch to legitimate services: the ‘converter cohort’. It found that nearly three quarters of sports fans were willing to switch from illegal streams if a legitimate alternative is available and if the illegal streams become unreliable. The study also discovered that the converter cohort tended to be younger and are often families with young children. They are avid sports viewers with many watching ten or more different sports using connected devices. Two-fifths of the converter cohort said they would subscribe to OTT streaming sports services, including single-sport services run by rights owners, with the balance opting for traditional pay-TV services, particularly those that offer exclusive sports rights. Almost three-fifths (57%) of the converter cohort already paid for legitimate services and just over half (52%) paid for pirate services. Yet despite the opportunity, Synamedia cautioned that converting pirate customers to legitimate ones required service providers to address the triggers that encourage consumers to seek out illegal services in the first place. These include a flexible access without complex installations or long contracts, ease of use, and availability on every device in any location, coupled with a price point that is often much lower than a traditional pay-TV service with premium sports tiers included. “After years of growth, a recent downturn in rights fees has been exacerbated by the pandemic, hitting sports rights hard. But just as the value of rights is being eroded, there is now the prospect of creating new revenues by converting illegal viewers into paid subscribers,” said Yael Fainaro, senior vice president of security at Synamedia commenting on the Pricing Piracy: The Value Of Action report. “While previous attempts to value the revenue leakage from sports streaming piracy took a crude approach, we now have the detail to develop targeted approaches and the tools to deliver quantifiable results, ensuring every investment hits the jackpot.”
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