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  1. Pirate movie and TV show apps are extremely popular, with some proving more popular than others. For developers of these higher-profile apps, a large audience is a dream come true. The downside features more attention from anti-piracy groups, ACE in particular. Popular Android applications TeeTV, BeeTV and CyberFlix, have popularity all wrapped up, but the hard bit comes next. In the early days of file-sharing, many of those involved couldn’t believe that music could be downloaded for free. Today, many pirates not only expect more, they demand more, and get it too. As a result, and when everything goes to plan, many of today’s piracy apps are indistinguishable from their legal counterparts. They are as easy to install and feature similar graphical interfaces, with all the latest movies and TV shows a couple of taps away. Such is their prevalence, apps offering less are easily ignored. The most successful pirate apps offer access to superior content libraries than those available on legal services, without charging a penny. Hollywood, Netflix, and almost every other player in the streaming market would love to shut them all down, but that’s more easily said than done. ACE/MPA Take Closer Interest With finite resources, anti-piracy groups usually concentrate on higher-profile apps with larger audiences. This suggests a direct link between the success of an app and the chances of it being shut down. Piracy apps TeaTV, BeeTV and CyberFlix are clearly popular enough to warrant some extra attention. Jan van Voorn is the Executive Vice President & Chief of Global Content Protection at the Motion Picture Association. He’s also head of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the anti-piracy coalition that has shut down more pirate services in five years than most people knew existed. Documents filed at a California court earlier this month are the first public sign that TeaTV and BeeTV are on the ACE radar. Signed by van Voorne, the DMCA subpoena application targets Cloudflare and requires the company to hand over whatever information it holds on the alleged infringers identified by ACE. The subpoena requires Cloudflare to hand over the following: Information sufficient to identify the alleged infringers of the motion pictures described in the attached notification letter. This would include the individuals’ names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account history. The deadline to hand over that information is today, November 25, 2022, so it’s likely that Cloudflare has already complied. Whether Cloudflare had anything useful to hand over is unknown, but from the last five years of ACE operations, we know that DMCA subpoenas are only the start and the group never gives up. MPA/ACE Target Github Repos Exactly a week after the DMCA subpoena application, the Motion Picture Association sent a pair of takedown notices to Github – one targeting TeaTV and the other CyberFlix TV, a popular piracy app with similar functionality. Representing Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal City Studios, Warner Bros., Disney and Netflix Studios, LLC, the MPA described both apps as engaged in “massive infringement of copyrighted motion pictures and television shows” with infringement their “predominant use and purpose.” The MPA also provided a document (Exhibit A) containing a “representative list of infringements” occurring via both apps. Those aren’t published by Github but it appears that the MPA wanted to present a clear case of infringement so that Github could see for itself that the apps needed to be taken down. TeaTV is no stranger to publicity having hit the headlines following a high-profile article published by CNBC in Canada. The situation for CyberFlix is also precarious. The app is reported to be a clone of Terrarium TV, which shut down in 2018 under legal pressure, widely attributed to ACE. In 2021, the domain Cyberflix.app ended up in the hands of the MPA. No official announcement followed but seeing the CyberFlix app grow in popularity was always likely to result in a follow up from ACE. Whether ACE was responsible for another recent shutdown is unclear. The developer of Cinema HD reportedly stopped pushing updates to the popular streaming app after facing “legal issues”, a not-uncommon event since ACE appeared on the scene. Whether the same fate awaits TeaTV, BeeTV, and CyberFlix, remains to be seen but life in the spotlight has never been easy for piracy services. The only solution is to remain unsuccessful but that’s never been much of an attraction.
  2. The United States Navy must pay $154,400 in copyright infringement damages to German software company Bitmanagement. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims awarded the compensation after the Navy was shown to have copied and used software without permission. Whether Bitmanagement will celebrate this win is up for question as the damages are less than 0.1% of the $155 million it asked for. Six years ago, the US Navy was sued for mass copyright infringement and accused of causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. The lawsuit was filed by German company Bitmanagement. It wasn’t a typical piracy case where software was downloaded from shady sources, but the end result was the same. It all started in 2011 when the US Navy began testing Bitmanagement’s 3D virtual reality application ‘BS Contact Geo’. The Navy subsequently installed the software across its network, assuming that it had permission to do so. This turned out to be a crucial misunderstanding. Bitmanagement said it never authorized this type of use and when it discovered that the Navy had installed the software on hundreds of thousands of computers, the company took legal action. Bitmanagement Wins Appeal In a complaint filed at the United States Court of Federal Claims in 2016, the German company accused the US Navy of mass copyright infringement and demanded damages totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. The Court initially dismissed the complaint so Bitmanagement appealed. Last year, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sided with the German software company, concluding that the US Government was indeed liable. The matter was reverted back to the Federal Claims court, to determine the appropriate damages amount through a ‘hypothetical negotiation’ process at a behind-closed-doors trial. Millions or Thousands in Damages? Over the past several months, the court heard both sides and a crucial expert witness. The goal was to establish what the Navy would have paid for the software licenses if an agreement had been reached. The court also had to decide how many copies the Navy should pay compensation for. Bitmanagement claimed that over 600,000 copies were installed but the Court of Appeals specified that damages should be based on “actual usage” of the software. To reach its final verdict the Federal Claims Court relied in part on testimony from the Navy’s expert witness, David Kennedy, who has vast experience with establishing damages claims. After reviewing various log files, Mr. Kennedy concluded that the software was used by a few hundred unique users at most. In addition, he believes that it’s reasonable that Bitmanagement would have agreed to a price of up to $200 per license. This figure is lower than the $370 per install that was negotiated earlier. However, the expert witness believes that this is warranted due to the large volume of the deal and the fact that the software company’s cash position was rather low at the time. Court Awards $154,400 Federal Claims Court Judge Edward J. Damich largely agrees with this expert opinion. In his order, he awards $154,400 in total damages. The damages figure is based on 635 unique users and a license fee of $200. The court also awards an additional $350 for each of the 100 simultaneous-use licenses the Navy would have agreed to. Judge Damich notes that these conclusions are supported by “objective considerations”, adding that the damages amount is “fair and reasonable”. Whether Bitmanagement agrees with this conclusion has yet to be seen. The company requested $155 million in damages, arguing that the Navy has installed 600,000 copies of its software, for which it should have paid ~$259 a piece. The $154,400 in compensation represents a tiny fraction of the claim, even if we add an award for delayed compensation, which will be established later.
  3. UK police are reporting the arrest of a 43-year-old man as part of a "large-scale" TV piracy investigation. Officers from Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit teamed up with South Yorkshire Police to execute warrants on Tuesday. The arrest arrives in the wake of stronger-than-usual rumors that police were preparing to hit pirate IPTV entities during the World Cup. similar cases have featured offenses related to the possession or supply of articles for use in fraud – a pirate box or subscription, for example. Since streams tend to be sold as part of a subscription package, any revenue is illegal according to the Proceeds of Crimes Act 2002. Police say the man arrested Tuesday is suspected of money laundering, which includes possession or handling of criminal property, or facilitation of the same. Police also mention an offense under the ‘Serious Offences Act’ but probably meant to write Serious Crime Act instead. Charges under this legislation have succeeded against sellers of pirate TV boxes (1,2) and have also appeared in IPTV provider cases. Police describe the arrest as “an excellent example of our officers working with private partners to enforce the law,” adding that the suspect is now free pending further inquiries. How the case will progress is unknown, but the arrest itself doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Rumors that the police were planning something like this have been circulating since the start of the World Cup, but where and against whom remained a mystery.
  4. A copyright lawsuit filed last week targeting DaftSex.com and PornWild.com is progressing at a surprising pace. With Google, Cloudflare, Namecheap, and EasyDNS named as defendants, the court has already ordered the suspension of several domains and their removal from Google's search results. Interestingly, DaftSex.com was recently seized by MindGeek so is not a pirate site. After the application was filed on November 15, Judge Diane J Humetewa responded by ordering a telephone hearing on November 17. In the meantime, summons were reportedly issued to Cloudflare EasyDNS, Google, and NameCheap. What happened during the telephone hearing isn’t revealed in the docket but it was subsequently reset for November 21. Google Appears, Dismissals Begin An entry dated November 18 shows that Fornix and CP Productions voluntarily dismissed their case against EasyDNS. Hoping to learn more about this fast moving case, TorrentFreak contacted EasyDNS with some questions. CEO Mark Jeftovic told us that he knew nothing about it. “We have never been served any papers regarding this case. Your email was the first I’ve ever heard about any of this,” Jeftovic informed TF. After consulting their systems, EasyDNS did manage to find some related information. One ticket related to a copyright removal request forwarded to a customer and later confirmed as complete by the complainant. Another contained a notice from Verisign advising that a domain was being moved onto the EuroDNS registrar tag to comply with the MG/DaftSex injunction. That left one more. “[The third ticket] was an email thread amongst several lawyers asking if we will participate in some hearing five days ago, received the day of the hearing. Our agent responded ‘What is our involvement with this case?’ and we never heard back,” Jeftovic explained. Jeftovic then offered a theory on EasyDNS’ dismissal from the case. “My guess is one of Google, Namecheap or Cloudflare did attend the hearing, pointed to Section 230 or other safe harbour provisions, and got all of the ISPs dropped from the defendants,” he said. Coincidence or probably not, an appearance was made on behalf of Google on November 18. The very next day, Namecheap, Cloudflare, and Google were voluntarily dismissed too. Temporary Restraining Order Granted Following a telephone hearing this Monday, Judge Humetewa granted the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order, minimal details as follows: “Plaintiffs are not required to post a bond. Defendants are to disable infringing domain names, suspend service to those infringing domain names, and prevent transfer,” the entry reads, adding: “Google shall, to the extent necessary, remove the infringing domain names from search results.” The preliminary injunction will be handled separately.
  5. The troubles for Z-Library continue. The popular shadow library lost access to hundreds of domains after two alleged operators were arrested as part of a criminal investigation. The site remained accessible through the Tor network but today that's no longer the case. With nearly 12 million books, Z-Library advertised itself as the largest repositories of pirated books on the Internet. The site had millions of regular readers who found a wealth of free knowledge and entertainment at their fingertips. This reign ended abruptly two weeks ago when the U.S. Department of Justice seized its domain names. Following an FBI investigation, the authorities identified Russian nationals Anton Napolsky and Valeriia Ermakova as prime suspects. The pair were arrested in Argentina and now await potential extradition to the United States. Tor Network As part of the criminal investigation, the U.S. authorities seized 241 domain names. This effectively made the site unavailable on the open web. But Z-Library wasn’t completely wiped out and continued to operate through .onion domains on the Tor network. The remaining team members initially continued to respond to inquiries as well, suggesting that the two arrestees were not the only people running the site. Over the past 24 hours, however, Z-Library appears to have run into new issues. Those who try to access the platform’s .onion domains receive an error message informing them that Z-Library is unreachable. This suggests that there may be issues with the server or the technical setup. “Onionsite Not Found. The most likely cause is that the onionsite is offline. Contact the onionsite administrator,” the message reads. Whether U.S. authorities have anything to do with these recent developments is unknown. The Z-Library team has yet to comment on these issues and didn’t immediately reply to our request for comment. The Invisible Internet Project (I2P) While attempts to access Z-Library are currently problematic, that isn’t confirmation that the remaining team members have thrown in the towel. At the time of writing, the library remains accessible through The Invisible Internet Project, also known as I2P. I2P isn’t widely recognized among the general public but the network, which initially started as the “Invisible IRC Project”, has been around for more than two decades. I2P relies on peer-to-peer transactions and aims to be an uncensorable, anonymous, and secure communication system. That sounds like a good fit for Z-Library but novices will find it harder to set up than other alternatives. Disappointed On social media, Z-Library users appear frustrated by the new Tor problems. As we reported earlier this week, these people still support the shadow library, despite the criminal allegations. For their part, many book authors and publishers are disappointed to see this level of public support. While Z-Library ‘regrets’ that some writers suffered from its actions, the site is still not completely offline. Further information on the progress of the criminal prosecution has not been made available. As far as we know, the two named defendants have yet to be extradited to the United States.
  6. The FIFA World Cup is in full swing, and rightsholders are working around the clock to keep live-streaming pirates at bay. Anti-piracy coalition ACE did its part by shutting down two popular sites after signing a confidential settlement with their Moroccan operator. Overall, however, defeating sports piracy is much easier said than done. ACE is usually very conservative when it comes to sharing details on these enforcement efforts. However, the group confirmed to TorrentFreak that livekoora.online and yalla-shoot-new.tv were operated by the same person, a Moroccan resident. The alleged operator was tracked down by ACE and agreed to a settlement deal. As part of this confidential agreement, the domain names were signed over to ACE. “The sites were shut down via a confidential settlement that includes the transfer to ACE of the domain names connected to the illegal streaming services,” an ACE spokesperson informs TorrentFreak. “ACE relies on its vast network of investigators and various legal tools such as subpoenas to identify and track persons of interest behind mass-scale piracy operations globally. The person has cooperated, and details of the settlement remain confidential.” Indeed, those who access the two sports streaming sites today see an ACE banner, informing them that the site is no longer available due to copyright infringement. We Will Find You! The anti-piracy group has reported quite a few of these shutdowns over the past several months but none reference any type of damages payment. While it’s certainly possible that settlements contain a financial component, we get the impression that shutting down sites is the main priority. These actions are then reported publicly to deter other site operators and to prevent aspiring sports pirates from joining the game. This is also stressed in a comment from ACE head Jan Van Voorn on the recent action. “Working with our member, beIN SPORTS, we have sent a clear message to piracy operators around the world, including anyone planning to steal content from the upcoming World Cup games, that we will find you and shut you down,” Van Voorn said. More Problems It’s too early to tell if this strategy will pay off, but right now opportunities for new ACE operations are in abundant supply. While two major sites were closed recently, dozens of others with similar names such as live-kooora, kooora4lives, and yalla-shoot, remain readily accessible. ACE is aware of this, of course, and informs us that this certainly isn’t their last enforcement action. “This action, while important, is not the end of our planned live enforcement activities in the region. We will continue to take actions either civilly or criminally via our law enforcement partners,” a spokesperson says. Notorious sports streaming sites are not the only problem. Beyond the ACE efforts, rightsholders also have to deal with FIFA World Cup piracy on legitimate social media platforms such as Twitter. When we looked at the most recent copyright takedown requests received by Twitter, a large percentage relate to the World Cup. These takedowns are not just limited to live streams but also target short highlights, and even six second clips of a cheering audience.
  7. Columbia, Paramount, Disney, Warner, Universal and Amazon, have been awarded $51.6m in copyright damages against the operators of the defunct pirate IPTV service, Nitro TV. A California court awarded damages for willful infringement of 2,216 movies and TV shows. Six defendants, including YouTuber 'Touchtone', are also liable for almost $2m in post-judgment interest. In April 2020, Columbia Pictures, Amazon Content Services, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, plus three companies owned by Universal, filed a copyright infringement complaint at a California district court. The plaintiffs alleged that Nitro TV offered subscription packages consisting of thousands of live and title-curated television channels available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the United States and abroad. The Office, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Toy Story 3, Star Trek Beyond, Homecoming and Joker, were among the many titles owned by the plaintiffs and illegally distributed by Nitro. The complaint initially featured Alejandro (Alex) Galindo as the sole named defendant but in time Galindo family members Anna, Martha and Osvaldo also found their names on the docket. Richard Horsten (aka ‘Rik de Groot’), Raul Orellana (aka YouTuber ‘Touchtone’) and his company Firestream LLC, completed the set. Just a handful of years ago, Nitro TV was among the most recognized pirate IPTV brands online, but will be remembered for the huge damages awards it now faces. Judge Awards Studios $51.6 Million In a judgment handed down on November 18, 2022, California District Court Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong found the Nitro defendants jointly and severally liable for $51,600,000 in statutory damages. “This reflects an award of the statutory maximum of $150,000 per work for the Nitro Defendants’ willful infringement of each of Plaintiffs’ identified 344 representative works,” Judge Frimpong’s judgment reads. “This damage award also reflects an award of $27,200.84 per work for the Nitro Defendants’ willful infringement of Plaintiffs’ identified 1,872 Works,” the Judge added. Interest, Costs, Fees Given that interest is allowed on money judgments in civil cases, the Judge also held the defendants jointly and severally liable for an additional $1,976,280 under 28 U.S.C. § 1961(a). The movie and TV show companies were further awarded $88,080 in attorneys’ fees and costs relating to their discovery motion plus $93,000 associated with a sanctions motion, both against Alex Galindo, as previously reported. Permanent Injunction The plaintiffs obtained a preliminary injunction in 2020 and with this judgment, that was made permanent. It restrains the defendants and third-party companies, including those in control of various Nitro-related domains such as TekkHosting.com, NitroIPTV.com, Lalaluhosting.com, and Nitro.ltd. Tucows, Namecheap, Domain.com, and Peter Sunde’s Njalla, must prevent any of the domains from being modified, sold, or deleted, until they are transferred to the plaintiffs. Two Years of Litigation The plaintiffs’ victory comes as no surprise but the case itself presented many interesting moments. Alex Galindo was accused of violating the preliminary injunction and withholding and destroying evidence, including 1,500 emails from his Gmail account. He also pleaded the Fifth Amendment, ostensibly due to fears of a follow-up criminal prosecution. Earlier this year, Galindo called for the case to be dismissed on the basis that the plaintiffs weren’t prosecuting him quickly enough. Meanwhile, Galindo’s attorney asked to be excused from the case after his client went quiet after failing to pay his defense bills. It’s claimed that Nitro TV generated at least $7 million from illegal subscriptions, with YouTuber ‘Touchtone’ (Raul Orellana), receiving more than half a million dollars for marketing Nitro online.
  8. Z-Library has responded to the U.S. criminal indictment against two of its alleged operators and associated domain name seizures. The remaining team members still haven't confirmed the involvement of the two Russians but say they are determined to keep going. Z-Library also promises to take the complaints of authors seriously and asks for their forgiveness. With millions of regular visitors, Z-Library is one of the largest repositories of pirated books on the Internet. The site has nearly 12 million copies of books in its digital archive, which is shared with the world for free. U.S. Z-Library Crackdown Many authors and publishers are unhappy with the ‘shadow library’ and are now receiving support from the U.S. Department of Justice. Earlier this month, the authorities seized 241 Z-Library-associated domain names, making the site much harder to reach. The seizures followed an FBI investigation and an indictment and complaint against two alleged operators of Z-Library. After authorities identified Russian nationals Anton Napolsky and Valeriia Ermakova as prime suspects, the pair were arrested in Argentina and now face potential extradition to the United States. While all this was ongoing Z-Library remained accessible through the dark web In addition, questions sent to the site’s official email address were still being answered after the arrest of the two alleged operators, suggesting that part of the team was intact. The initial responses we received from Z-Library weren’t very helpful, however. They failed to acknowledge the domain name seizures and pointed to hosting and server troubles instead. Z-Library Responds After the indictment was unsealed, Z-Library’s position became untenable. That led to the publishing of an official response. It confirms that part of the Z-Library team is operational but refrains from commenting on the alleged involvement of the two arrestees. “We refrain commenting on the alleged Anton and Valeria involvement in the Z-Library project and the charges against them. We are very sorry they are arrested [sic],” the announcement reads (Tor link). Z-Library does, however, realize that its site is causing trouble for authors so asks for their forgiveness. “We also regret that some authors have suffered because of Z-Library and ask for their forgiveness. We do our best to respond to all complaints about files hosted in our library if it violates authors’ rights.” The above suggests that Z-Library will do its best to respond to all takedown requests from authors but that doesn’t mean the site will cease operating. On the contrary, it is still up and running on the dark web, serving millions of books to registered users. Z-Library Thanks Users, Who Thank Z-Library Z-Library doesn’t just respond to rightsholders. In its message, the site also addresses its users, especially those who continue to donate to the site. “We see the resonance recent events caused, we see how many people support and believe in Z-Library. Thank you for your support, it is extremely valuable to us. Thank you for each donation you make. You are the ones who making the existence of the Z-Library possible.” Donations may help to keep Z-Library afloat and that is what the site appears to aspire to. Instead of waving the white flag, it is doubling down on its goal to make knowledge freely accessible to people around the world. “We believe the knowledge and cultural heritage of mankind should be accessible to all people around the world, regardless of their wealth, social status, nationality, citizenship, etc. This is the only purpose Z-Library is made for.” This message resonates with many Z-Library users, with hundreds sending well wishes and words of support in response to the announcement, as shown in the selection below. – Zlibrary is one of the best resources to ever grace the internet and ya’ll should be proud of the work you’ve accomplished. -brook – Thank you for all you do. Zlib helped me during college when I couldn’t afford books. I still use this for college books and continuing education. -CJirishlez – Thanks so much for everything. This site has helped me a lot with school and accessing the tools for education I wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise. -Sahar098 – What Z-library is doing is a real noble work for all humanity. We support every principle Z-library stands for. Knowledge should be available and accessible to everyone and not a privilege a few can get. -aissami123 – You have definitely accomplished your goal in my case. As a citizen of a country where I could never have access to this amount of information, I am grateful for the extremely valuable service your provide. -ReadingPineapple – You’re quite literally one of the most important websites on the whole internet for me, your work is a blessing for thousands of people. -antithesis29 – As far as I’m concerned the FBI and the Department of justice are the Villians in this story, Long live Zlibrary. -Pyrophilia – You changed the internet, you changed the world, we thank you for your courage, not all heroes wear capes, some share the knowledge for all who are unfortunate to be able to pay for it. -Laith1294 The problem for Z-Library is that the U.S. Department of Justice clearly disagrees with these users, and will likely do its best to ensure that the remaining members of the Z-Library team will be also held accountable. In any case, this certainly isn’t the last chapter in the Z-Library saga. How it will end is highly uncertain, however.
  9. In May 2022, Italian police claimed that thousands of people had unwittingly subscribed to a pirate IPTV service being monitored by the authorities. When users tried to access illegal streams, a warning message claimed that they had already been tracked. With fines now being received through the mail, police are making some extraordinary claims about how this was made possible. Over the past two decades, pirate sites and services frequented by millions of users have been shut down following legal action. No longer useful for spreading files, many were repurposed to spread fear. In the wake of Hollywood’s 2005 win at the U.S. Supreme Court, the website of file-sharing service Grokster was transformed into a personalized warning. Anyone visiting the site saw their own IP address alongside a message claiming it had been logged. “Don’t think you can’t get caught. You are not anonymous,” the message added. Variations on this theme have since appeared on dozens of platforms, most famously via an MPA campaign that declared “You can click but you can’t hide.” These messages were designed to instill fear and uncertainty but didn’t lead to any notable action against those who viewed them. Until now, at least. Italy’s War on IPTV Pirates Hits The Streets Most top-tier copyright holders avoid targeting consumer-level pirates, mainly because the optics aren’t great. No matter how carefully targets are chosen, suing someone’s grandma is terrible PR and even when things go smoothly, results are limited. Today’s general consensus is that hitting site operators is much more effective but whenever the opportunity appears, undermining user confidence should be part of the strategy. Italian police have been following the same model by shutting down pirate IPTV services (1,2,3) and warning users they’re up next. No Bluff: Police Tracked IPTV Subscribers Letters recently sent to homes in Italy reveal that police were not bluffing. A copy letter obtained by Iilsole24ore identifies the send as the Nucleo Speciale Tutela Privacy e Frodi Tecnologiche, a Guardia di Finanza unit specializing in IT-related crime. It refers to an anti-IPTV police operation in May. companies that respect the rules,” Berruti says. Around 1,600 people are believed to have been targeted in this first wave of letters but according to Andrea Duillo, CEO of Sky Italia, this is just the start. “These first fines show that it is doubly dangerous to use pirated services, because not only do you hand over your personal data to criminal organizations, but you also commit an offense for which you are fined and prosecuted,” Duillo concludes.
  10. In a joint operation carried out by Spain's Policía Nacional and EUROPOL, a major pirate IPTV service serving half a million users across Europe has been shut down. Police say packages included 2,600 live TV channels and a 23,000-item VOD library, generating annual profits of more than €3 million for the operators. Four people have been arrested and 95 resellers placed on alert. In the wake of Italian police shutting down a 900,000 user pirate IPTV service last week, police in Spain have followed up with an operation of their own. Information provided by Policía Nacional and EUROPOL does not include the service’s name but according to the numbers, the operation appears significant. The IPTV service had more than 500,000 subscribers all over Europe, serviced by a network of resellers. Police say they disabled 10 administration panels connected to 32 servers located in France, the Netherlands and Spain. Those locations are reported as playing host to “illegal television content” and related computer equipment. Packages bought by subscribers gave them access to 2,600 live TV channels plus a library of 23,000 movies and TV shows. An interesting factor is the reported age of the service – at least a decade of operations according to Spanish police. Investigation Launched in 2020 The investigation began in 2020 following a complaint from the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment. Police say that they uncovered a network, operating through various companies, that had been fraudulently commercializing video content since 2012. Websites were used to advertise and sell the illegal subscription packages and like many similar IPTV platforms working at scale, a network of resellers helped to cascade sales from the top-level service into the consumer market below. Police say that than 95 resellers represented the service in Spain, UK, Malta, Portugal, Cyprus, and Greece. Big Service, Big Money Numbers provided today by Policía Nacional will almost certainly change, if and when a case goes to trial, but by most standards they remain significant. Annual profit – not revenue – is currently estimated at 3,000,000 million euros. Investigators say the money was laundered in Spain and elsewhere. Through bank accounts held by companies in Spain, the suspects allegedly transferred money to bank accounts held by other companies under their control, located in unnamed paraísos fiscales, aka tax havens. Profits also funded luxury homes in the Malaga region of Spain and the formation of new companies to support criminal activity. Arrests and Seizures Police say they seized two high-end vehicles with an estimated value of 180,000 euros along with 2,800 euros in cash, IT-related materials, and other documentation. Eight bank accounts were frozen and four people were placed under arrest. “The operation ended with four detainees in the Málaga municipalities of Benahavís (2), Mijas (one person arrested and another under investigation) and Benalmádena (1),” a police statement reads. Efforts to identify more people involved in the organization continue in other countries. Update:The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment played a key role in this investigation and has just provided new information regarding the IPTV service targeted. The service worked under various brands including TV Choice Spain, Great TV Choice, and Best TV Choice. ACE reports that the services were promoted via real estate agencies, mainly in the coastal areas of Spain, and were actually shut down on October 19, 2022. Authorities raided the main suspects’ residences in Marbella, shut down nine IPTV servers, and froze bank accounts containing 3 million euros. “ACE is proud to support the effective actions taken by the Spanish National Police and Europol against this illegal IPTV piracy ring,” said Jan van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection for the Motion Picture Association and Head of ACE. “We are honored to continue our work with law enforcement agencies and other partners around the world in our crucial fight to combat large-scale piracy operations and protect the creative marketplace.”
  11. TV escapades. October’s figures were only slightly down, a suggestion that the sponsorship exercise may have boosted traffic, but not all publicity is good publicity. In a DMCA notice sent last week to Github, Star India called PikaShow “a rogue standalone pirate application” that has plagued the industry, OTT platforms especially. “Based on our investigation, we have found that ‘Pikashow’ is using your services for ‘app update check’ functionality on their application. Which is further indulged in the act of copyright piracy by providing unauthorized streams of digital content without consent of the copyright owner,” the company wrote. Github responded as expected by taking the repo down but Star India is nowhere near finished. Civil Lawsuit, Injunction, Criminal Investigation After Star filed a copyright complaint against PikaShow at the High Court of Delhi, Justice Prathiba M. Singh responded with an injunction last week (pdf) directed at the country’s ISPs, numerous intermediaries supplying services to PikaShow, and PikaShow itself. Gambling company 1XBET and Github India are required to disclose any information they hold, including payment information, bank account details, plus any contracts in place with PikaShow. Domain name companies NameSilo, Tucows, and GoDaddy, must disable several domains (pikashows.com, strms.in, strms.one, jonahz-viccen-i-202.site, i-cdn-0.jonahz-viccen-i-202.site, cdn4506.jonahz-viccen-i-202.site) and hand over everything they hold on PikaShow’s operator. India’s ISPs must immediately block a list of PikaShow-related names. Whether PikaShow has any regrets over these civil matters is unclear but future prospects look bleak. On October 27, 2022, Star India filed a criminal complaint against PikaShow and an investigation by Delhi Police is currently underway. A second criminal complaint, filed by Disney, has also been recorded. The next hearing is scheduled for January 25, 2023. Whether PikaShow will still be online remains to be seen.
  12. After Z-Library was targeted by U.S. law enforcement, a group of anonymous archivists worked around the clock to get a shadow library search engine online. This week, the 'team' behind the Pirate Library Mirror launched "Anna's Archive" which offers a gateway to various book resources. A brazen move, but one where risks and privacy were carefully considered. anna's archiveWhen the file-sharing revolution hit the mainstream well over a decade ago, many site operators and users positioned ‘sharing’ as an ideology. This altruistic belief has started to fade in recent years. For most pirate sites and services, money is the main driver, with piracy as the means to that end. There are some notable exceptions of course, especially in the publishing industry where free access to knowledge is advocated by Sci-Hub, LibGen, and others. The law is often blind to these motivations but they are fuel for discussion, even among well-respected scholars. PiLiMi This year a new team entered the piracy arena in the form of the Pirate Library Mirror. As the name suggests, the team behind it is well-aware of the legal status of their operation. “We deliberately violate the copyright law in most countries. This allows us to do something that legal entities cannot do: making sure books are mirrored far and wide,” they note. The goal of the team is to preserve as much written material as possible. This included archiving a full copy of Z-Library, which was completed in September. That was just the start, however. Anna’s Archive This week, another chapter was added to the saga. “Anna”, who was one of the driving forces behind the Pirate Library, decided to release her own site, simply called “Anna’s Archive“. While this name sounds benign, its impact certainly isn’t. Anna’s Archive is basically a meta-search engine that can find content from third-party ‘pirate’ sources. This includes direct downloads through Library Genesis forks and Z-Library, two well-known shadow libraries. In addition, torrent links are included as well. anna archive The site presents all information in a slick and easy-to-navigate format that rivals commercial vendors. However, Anna’s Archive doesn’t come with a paywall or shopping cart. “We strongly believe in the free flow of information, and preservation of knowledge and culture. With this search engine, we build on the shoulders of giants,” Anna writes. From The Ashes… The site isn’t completely finished yet and may still have quite a few bugs. But given the situation with Z-Library, the team wanted to get the search engine up and running as soon as possible. The Z-Library links rely on the Tor version of the site, which remains online. However, the goal is to ultimately make all content available through IPFS as well. This would make it pretty much impossible to take down, similar to the Library Genesis forks, which also use IPFS. wizard of oz 1900 Anna informed TorrentFreak that the Z-Library domain seizures came as a shock but not a deterrent. They only increased the team’s motivation to go full steam ahead, while being mindful of their privacy. “For us, it underscores the importance of being careful, and the importance of this data being widely available and redundant across the globe,” Anna said. Leave No Trace The privacy angle is a topic that has become very relevant this week. Details of the criminal indictment of Z-Library’s alleged operators show that law enforcement has a lot of tools to track people down, even those who prefer to remain anonymous. Anna and the team know the stakes. In a recent post, she wrote that Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyian, whose identity became public, risks being arrested if she travels to a Western country. This is why Anna’s team does all it can to remain anonymous. “We are at the other end of the spectrum; being very careful not to leave any trace, and having strong operational security,” she wrote. We asked a series of questions to find out more about the motivations behind the project but Anna says they’re not ready to do interviews just yet. For now, the team will focus on its archival ‘duties’. “We are planning to write an in-depth essay about our motivations at some point,” she said, noting that in-depth interviews may be an option later.
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