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ALAN30

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  1. University College London, the third largest in the UK with an annual income of £1.3 billion, is offering a massive trove of copyrighted content to the public. In addition to hundreds of Hollywood and international movies, servers at the University are making available huge numbers of documentaries including the BBC's brand new Blue Planet II. If someone wants to obtain the latest movies for free, all they need to do is head over to the nearest torrent or streaming portal, press a few buttons, and the content appears in a matter of seconds or minutes, dependent on choice. Indeed, for those seeking mainstream content DRM-free, this is the only way to obtain it, since studios generally don’t make their content available in this fashion. But we know an establishment that does, on a grand scale. University College London is the third largest university in the UK. According to accounts (pdf) published this summer, it has revenues of more than £1.32 billion. Somewhat surprisingly, this educational behemoth also has a sensational multimedia trick up its considerable sleeve. The university’s website, located at UCL.ac.uk, is a polished affair and provides all the information anyone could need. However, until one browses to the Self-Access Centre, the full glory of the platform remains largely hidden. Located at resources.clie.ucl.ac.uk/home/sac/english/films, it looks not unlike Netflix, or indeed any one of thousands of pirate streaming sites around today. However, it appears to be intended for university and educational use only. UCL’s Self-Access Centre “Welcome to the Self-Access Centre materials database. Here you can find out about the English materials we have in the SAC and explore our online materials,” the site reads. “They were designed to help you improve your English skills. Most of the video materials, including films and documentaries, are now available to be watched online. Log on with your UCL id and password to watch them!” According to a university video tutorial, all content on the SAC can be viewed on campus or from home, as long as a proper login and password is entered. The material is provided for educational purposes and when viewed through the portal, is accompanied by questions, notes, and various exercises. Trouble is, the entire system is open to the wider Internet, with no logins or passwords required. A sample of the movies on offer for direct download The above image doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. In one directory alone, TorrentFreak counted more than 700 English language movies. In another, more than 600 documentaries including all episodes of the BBC’s Blue Planet II. World Cinema produced close to 90 results, with hundreds of titles voiced in languages from Arabic to Japanese to Welsh. Links can be pasted into VLC and streamed direct Quite how long this massive trove of films and TV shows has been open to the public isn’t clear but a simple Google search reveals not only the content itself, but also links to movies and other material on sites in the Middle East and social networks in Russia. Some of them date back to at least 2016 so it’s probably safe to assume that untold terabytes of data have already been liberated from the university’s servers for the pleasure of the public. https://torrentfreak.com/university-college-london-is-accidentally-running-a-huge-pirate-movie-site-171216/
  2. Academic publishers want Sci-Hub wiped from the Internet, but thus far their efforts have failed. While several of the site's domain names were suspended in recent weeks, it appears as if the controversy is only drawing more traffic. And with plenty of alternatives in hand, it's turning into a Pirate Bay-esque game of domain name Whack-a-Mole. Sci-Hub is often referred to as the “Pirate Bay of Science,” and this description has become more and more apt in recent weeks. Initially, the comparison was made to illustrate that Sci-Hub is used by researchers to download articles for free, much like the rest of the world uses The Pirate Bay to get free stuff. There are more parallels though. Increasingly, Sci-Hub has trouble keeping its domain names. Following two injunctions in the US, academic publishers now have court orders to compel domain registrars and registries to suspend Sci-Hub’s addresses. Although there is no such court order for The Pirate Bay, the notorious torrent site also has a long history of domain suspensions. Both sites appear to tackle the problem in a similar manner. They simply ignore all enforcement efforts and bypass them with new domains and other circumvention tools. They have several backup domains in place as well as unsuspendable .onion addresses, which are accessible on the Tor network. Since late November, a lot of Sci-Hub users have switched to Sci-Hub.bz when other domains were suspended. And, when the .bz domain was targeted a few days ago, they moved to different alternatives. It’s a continuous game of Whack-a-Mole that is hard to stop. Suspended… There’s another striking similarity between TPB and Sci-Hub. Unlike other pirate sites, their founders are both vocal. In the case of Sci-Hub this is Alexandra Elbakyan, a researcher born and graduated in Kazakhstan. She recently responded to people who had trouble accessing the site. “The site is working properly, but the capitalists have started blocking Sci-Hub domains, so the site may not be accessible at the regular addresses,” she wrote on VK. Instead of complaining, Elbakyan encouraged people to do some research of their own, as there are still plenty of alternative domains up and running. And indeed, at the time of writing Sci-hub.la, Sci-hub.tv, Sci-hub.tw, Sci-hub.hk, and others can be accessed without any hassle. While Sci-Hub’s classification as the “Pirate Bay of Science” is certainly warranted, there are also differences. The Pirate Bay was raided several times and the founders were criminally prosecuted. That’s not the case for Sci-Hub. But who knows what will happen next… https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-battles-pirate-bay-esque-domain-name-whack-a-mole-171216/
  3. The FCC has repealed U.S. net neutrality rules. As a result of today's vote, Internet providers have the freedom to restrict, or charge for, access to certain sites and services if they please. This also means that BitTorrent throttling and blocking could become commonplace once again, as it was a decade ago. In recent months, millions of people have protested the FCC’s plan to repeal U.S. net neutrality rules, which were put in place by the Obama administration. However, an outpouring public outrage, critique from major tech companies, and even warnings from pioneers of the Internet, had no effect. Today the FCC voted to repeal the old rules, effectively ending net neutrality. Under the net neutrality rules that have been in effect during recent years, ISPs were specifically prohibited from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of “lawful” traffic. In addition, Internet providers could be regulated as carriers under Title II. Now that these rules have been repealed, Internet providers have more freedom to experiment with paid prioritization. Under the new guidelines, they can charge customers extra for access to some online services, or throttle certain types of traffic. Most critics of the repeal fear that, now that the old net neutrality rules are in the trash, ‘fast lanes’ for some services, and throttling for others, will become commonplace in the U.S. This could also mean that BitTorrent traffic becomes a target once again. After all, it was Comcast’s ‘secretive’ BitTorrent throttling that started the broader net neutrality debate, now ten years ago. Comcast’s throttling history is a sensitive issue, also for the company itself. Before the Obama-era net neutrality rules, the ISP vowed that it would no longer discriminate against specific traffic classes. Ahead of the FCC vote yesterday, it doubled down on this promise. “Despite repeated distortions and biased information, as well as misguided, inaccurate attacks from detractors, our Internet service is not going to change,” writesDavid Cohen, Comcast’s Chief Diversity Officer. “We have repeatedly stated, and reiterate today, that we do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.” It’s worth highlighting the term “lawful” in the last sentence. It is by no means a promise that pirate sites won’t be blocked. As we’ve highlighted in the past, blocking pirate sites was already an option under the now-repealed rules. The massive copyright loophole made sure of that. Targeting all torrent traffic is even an option, in theory. That said, today’s FCC vote certainly makes it easier for ISPs to block or throttle BitTorrent traffic across the entire network. For the time being, however, there are no signs that any ISPs plan to do so. If they do, we will know soon enough. The FCC requires all ISPs to be transparent under the new plan. They have to disclose network management practices, blocking efforts, commercial prioritization, and the like. And with the current focus on net neutrality, ISPs are likely to tread carefully, or else they might just face an exodus of customers. https://torrentfreak.com/fcc-repeals-u-s-net-neutrality-rules-171214/
  4. Google Play has rejected a popular BitTorrent client because it uses the word "BitTorrent" in the full description. Apparently, Google now sees references to an open source transfer protocol as a no-go, stating that BitTorrent is another brand. While BitTorrent Inc. had the term trademarked years ago, the company didn't ask Google to take this action. In recent years we’ve written several articles on Apple’s aversion to BitTorrent-related apps in the iOS store. Until this day, no fully-featured torrent client has managed to get listed in the store, at least not permanently but Google Play has been more welcoming. The popular app store for Android devices has had a nice collection of BitTorrent apps for years, including several well-known brands. Last weekend, however, the developers of the relatively new BitTorrent client BiglyBTlearned that the term “BitTorrent” is no longer allowed. When they pushed an update of their app on Google Play they were informed that their description violated the metadata policy. “I reviewed your app and had to reject it because it violates our metadata policy. The app’s full description mentions other brands: Bittorrent.” Play Store rejection Needless to say, the BiglyBT developers were astounded. The app is created by seasoned BitTorrent developers who previously worked on Azureus and Vuze. Since BitTorrent is the name of the transfer protocol their app is using, they expected no issues. Initially, this wasn’t the case. When the app was first submitted, Google didn’t flag the description as problematic, but something apparently changed. “Looks like either Google just newly considered ‘Bittorrent’ a brand, or Bittorrent Inc has decided to enforce their name. I guess it’s not good enough anymore that bittorrent is also the protocol name,” BiglyBT developer TuxPaper informed us. It could indeed have been possible that BitTorrent Inc, which owns the relevant trademark in the US, had started to enforce it. However, that’s not the case. The San Francisco company informs TorrentFreak that they haven’t asked Google to take any action. Interestingly, BitTorrent Inc.’s own uTorrent app also disappeared from Google’s app store for a few days last month, but it’s unclear to us why this was. The app eventually returned though, and there are also plenty of other apps with BitTorrent mentions on Google Play. The good news for BiglyBT’s developers is that their app was allowed back on Google Play after they changed all “BitTorrent” mentions to “torrent.” Google rejections can happen automatically or after a manual review. If the former applies in this case, other developers may face the same issue in the future. “If it’s an automated one, then other Bittorrent Apps will also be getting this rejection the next time they update their app or play metadata,” TuxPaper notes. TorrentFreak reached out to Google for a comment on the situation but a few days have passed without a reply. So for now, it remains a mystery why Google is taking action against “BitTorrent,” and on what grounds. https://torrentfreak.com/google-play-store-rejects-app-for-using-the-word-bittorrent-171213/
  5. A series of documents released by the US Department of State have revealed how Sweden was pressed to take action against The Pirate Bay. According to US officials, this directly led to law enforcement's decision to shut down the torrent site more than ten years ago. Sweden, meanwhile, avoided a spot on the feared US Trade Representative's 301 Watch List. It’s well known that the US Government is actively involved in copyright enforcement efforts around the globe. In some countries they’ve actively helped write copyright law. Elsewhere, U.S. authorities provide concrete suggestions for improvement, including in Sweden. After The Pirate Bay was raided for the first time, more than ten years ago, the media highlighted that the U.S. Government and Hollywood pulled strings behind the scenes. However, little was known about what this actually entailed. Today we can provide more context, thanks to a Freedom of Information request that was sent to the U.S. Department of State. While the events happened a decade ago, they show how action against The Pirate Bay was discussed at the highest political level. The trail starts with a cable sent from the US Embassy in Sweden to Washington in November 2005. This is roughly six months before the Pirate Bay raid, which eventually resulted in criminal convictions for four men connected to the site. The Embassy writes that Hollywood’s MPAA and the local Anti-Piracy Bureau (APB) met with US Ambassador Bivins and, separately, with Swedish State Secretary of Justice at the time, Dan Eliasson. The Pirate Bay issue was at the top of the agenda during these meetings. “The MPA is particularly concerned about PirateBay, the world‘s largest Torrent file-sharing tracker. According to the MPA and based on Embassy’s follow-up discussions, the Justice Ministry is very interested in a constructive dialogue with the US. on these concerns,” the cable reads. “Embassy understands that State and Commerce officials have also met with Swedish officials in Washington on the same concern,” it adds, with the Embassy requesting further “guidance” from Washington. The document adds that there has been some movement on the piracy enforcement front in Sweden, with two legal cases pending. However, those were not the targets Hollywood was looking for. “We have yet to see a ‘big fish’ tried – something the MPA badly wants to see, particularly in light of the fact that Sweden hosts the largest Bit Torrent file-sharing tracker in the world, ‘Pirate-Bay’, which openly flaunts IPR,” the cable writer comments. Interestingly, Hollywood and the authorities were aware of the fact that a case against The Pirate Bay wouldn’t be an easy one. The site never stored any infringing material directly and had proper legal backing, the cable points out. “However, it is not clear to us what constraints Sweden and even U.S. authorities would be under in pursuing a case like this when the site is legally well advised and studiously avoids storing any copyrighted material.” At the time there were some rumors that Sweden would be placed on the US Trade Representative’s 301 Watch List. This could possibly result in negative trade implications. However, in a cable written April 2006, the US Embassy in Sweden was informed that, while there were concerns, it would not be listed. Not yet at least. “We understand that a specialized organization for enforcement against Internet piracy currently is under consideration,” the cable reads, while mentioning The Pirate Bay once again. “We are encouraged by reports of ongoing efforts related to Internet piracy in Sweden; however, the increase in Pirate Bay peers, up 74 percent in just the last 7 months, demonstrates the urgent need to step up current efforts dramatically to address this issue in the near term.” Then the ‘inevitable’ happened. On May 31, 2006, The Pirate Bay was raided by 65 Swedish police officers. They entered a datacenter in Stockholm with instructions to shut down the Pirate Bay’s servers and collect vital evidence. A few weeks after the raid, the Embassy sent another cable to Washington informing the homefront on the apparent success of their efforts. “Starting with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) visit to post last fall, Embassy Stockholm has engaged intensely with our Swedish interlocutors in efforts to improve IPR enforcement, in particular with regard to Internet piracy. The actions on May 31 thus mark a significant victory for our IPR efforts.” The US clearly saw a link between their diplomatic maneuvering and the Pirate Bay raid. This link was also brought up in the media at the time, with news reports citing sources claiming that Justice Minister Bodström and his State Secretary Dan Eliasson ordered the police raid under US pressure. Interestingly, both Bodström and Eliasson denied any direct involvement of the Justice Ministry with the work of the police and prosecutors in the Pirate Bay case. While the cables make it very clear that the US wanted The Pirate Bay gone, the Embassy said that the raid went beyond their expectations, suggesting they were not directly involved. The pressure was clearly there though. In future cables, the Pirate Bay case was often mentioned, with regular updates on the media backlash and progress in the criminal investigation. According to the US Embassy in Sweden, shutting down The Pirate Bay “should not be underestimated as a sign of [Sweden’s] willingness to take action and their position against illegal piracy.” The cables also make clear that in Washington, the Pirate Bay raid was celebrated as a victory that was directly triggered by US diplomacy. In a cable sent in April 2007, the Embassy nominated one of its employees, whose name is redacted, for the State Department’s Foreign Service National (FSN) of the year award. Again, The Pirate Bay case was brought up. “REDACTED has spearheaded-work on Internet piracy enforcement in Sweden. The issue is particularly acute here as Sweden was home to the largest Internet piracy site (Pirate Bay) in the world. The work has involved extensive contacts with the Ministry of Justice, the Motion Picture Agency, as well as the Anti-Piracy Bureau.” The employee is praised for her diplomatic efforts behind the scenes which directly led to the decision to raid The Pirate Bay, the Embassy writes. “REDACTED skillful outreach directly led to a bold decision by Swedish law enforcement authorities to raid Pirate Bay and shut it down. This was recognized as a major achievement in Washington in furthering U.S. efforts to combat Internet piracy worldwide.” Despite US officials taking credit for the Pirate Bay raid, it didn’t turn out to be the success they had hoped for. The notorious torrent site was back online after three days, “flaunting IPR” bolder and braver than ever before. The press coverage was largely unfavorable towards the US Government and Hollywood, while the people behind the site were seen as heroes by many. The US Embassy in Sweden was well aware of the delicate situation but kept pushing for stronger copyright measures behind the scenes. This time even further in the background than before. “The Pirate Bay raid was portrayed as caving to USG pressure. The delicate situation made it difficult, if not counter-productive, for the Embassy to play a public role on IPR issues. Behind the scenes, the Embassy has worked well with all stakeholders,” Washington was informed February 2008. At the time, Sweden was being considered for the 301 Watch List once again. The Embassy pointed out that, given the public suspicion, this could backfire. The other option was to keep a potential watch list entry as a “looming threat” while Sweden implements the changes they’re looking for. “The USG [US Govt] has to carefully determine which course of action will be the most productive; (1) a Watch-Listing with potentially negative repercussions in future GOS [Swedish Govt.] cooperation and in the public eye; or (2) continuing to exercise influence behind the scenes, with a potential Watch-Listing looming in the background as a continued threat.” As our earlier coverage has shown, Sweden then went on to implement a list of copyright changes which also happened to be proposed by US copyright holders. Needless to say, Sweden was never placed on the US Trade Representative’s 301 Watch List. TorrentFreak spoke with Peter Sunde, one of the Pirate Bay co-founders who was indicted after the raid, and who has since served a jail sentence for his involvement with the site. He is happy to see the new information being released. This is yet more confirmation of what he and many others have known for quite some time. While former Swedish State Secretary of Justice Dan Eliasson, who now happens to be the national police commissioner, denied any direct orders from the Justice Ministry, it’s clear that US pressure made an impact. “It’s been an open secret that the USG was behind the unlawful raid against The Pirate Bay, and exerting their power with threats against Sweden like this. It’s nice to see these documents coming up, interestingly enough from the most secretive of governments,” he says. There is still a lot of information missing though. The documents mention a fifth person that was supposed to be indicted, for example, which is completely new information. Sunde hopes that Sweden will open up its secret archives as well. “I’m hoping that Sweden will not follow up and release the 747 documents they’ve classified as secret regarding this affair. The Minister of Justice at the time, Thomas Bodström, said that he would put all the cards on the table so the public would now what happened, but then classified these 747 documents as secret. “Sweden has a proud history of transparency, celebrating 250 years of freedom of the press this year, and it’s an open sore that these documents are being held as classified,” Sunde adds. — The relevant responses to the Freedom of Information request, which was submitted by Rachael Tackett and shared with TorrentFreak, are available here. https://torrentfreak.com/how-the-us-pushed-sweden-to-take-down-the-pirate-bay-171212/
  6. A 16-year-old boy has been arrested by police in France for running a pirate TV service. The ARTV website and its associated Android app offered 176 channels belonging to Canal +, M6, TF1 Group, France Télévision Group, Paramount, Disney, and FOX. The teenager now faces up to three years in prison and a 300,000 euro fine. After more than a decade and a half in existence, public pirate sites, services, and apps remain a thorn in the side of entertainment industry groups who are determined to close them down. That trend continued last week when French anti-piracy group ALPA teamed up with police in the Bordeaux region to raid and arrest the founder and administrator of piracy service ARTV. According to the anti-piracy group, the ARTV.watch website first appeared during April 2017 but quickly grew to become a significant source of streaming TV piracy. Every month the site had around 150,000 visitors and in less than eight months amassed 800,000 registered users. “Artv.watch was a public site offering live access to 176 free and paid French TV channels that are members of ALPA: Canal + Group, M6 Group, TF1 Group, France Télévision Group, Paramount, Disney, and FOX. Other thematic and sports channels were broadcast,” an ALPA statement reads. This significant offering was reportedly lucrative for the site’s operator. While probably best taken with a grain of salt, ALPA estimates the site generated around 3,000 euros per month from advertising revenue. That’s a decent amount for anyone but even more so when one learns that ARTV’s former operator is just 16 years old. “ARTV.WATCH it’s over. ARTV is now closed for legal reasons. Thank you for your understanding! The site was indeed illegal,” a notice on the site now reads. “Thank you all for this experience that I have acquired in this project. And thanks to you who have believed in me.” Closure formalities aside, ARTV’s founder also has a message for anyone else considering launching a similar platform. “Notice to anyone wanting to do a site of the same kind, I strongly advise against it. On the criminal side, the punishment can go up to three years of imprisonment and a 300,000 euro fine. If [individual] complaints of channels (or productions) are filed against you, it will be more complicated to determine,” ARTV’s owner warns. ALPA says that in addition to closing down the site, ARTV’s owner also deactivated the site’s Android app, which had been available for download on Google Play. The anti-piracy group adds that this action against IPTV and live streaming was a first in France. For anyone who speaks French, the 16-year-old has published a video on YouTube talking about his predicament. https://torrentfreak.com/16-year-old-boy-arrested-for-running-pirate-tv-service-171211/
  7. The top 10 most downloaded movies on BitTorrent are in again. 'Dunkirk' tops the chart this week, followed by ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle'. 'Mother!' completes the top three. This week we have four newcomers in our chart. Dunkirk is the most downloaded movie. The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise. RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart. THIS WEEK’S MOST DOWNLOADED MOVIES ARE: Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer Most downloaded movies via torrents 1 (…) Dunkirk 8.3 / trailer 2 (1) Kingsman: The Golden Circle 7.2 / trailer 3 (…) Mother! 7.0 / trailer 4 (2) The Foreigner 7.2 / trailer 5 (3) American Assassin 6.3 / trailer 6 (…) American Made 7.2 / trailer 7 (5) Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets 6.7 / trailer 8 (7) Justice League (HDTS) 7.2 / trailer 9 (…) Coco (HDTS) 8.9 / trailer 10 (9) Thor Ragnarok (HDTS/Cam) 8.2 / trailer
  8. Popular torrent site ExtraTorrent is no more, but several torrent distribution groups carrying its name are still very much alive. ETTV and ETHD torrents are shared by millions of people every week, and they recently launched a new brand, ETMovies. Today, we ask the team how it all got started and where things go from here. Earlier this year, the torrent community was hit hard when another major torrent site suddenly shut its doors. Just a few months after celebrating its tenth anniversary, ExtraTorrent’s operator threw in the towel. While an official explanation was never provided, it’s likely that he was pressed to make this decision. The ExtraTorrent site was a safe harbor for millions of regular users, who became homeless overnight. But it was more than that. It was also the birth ground of several popular releasers and distribution groups. ETTV and ETHD turned into well-known brands themselves. While the ET is derived from ExtraTorrent, the groups have shared TV and movie torrents on several other large torrent sites, and they still do. They even have their own site now. With millions of people sharing their uploads every week, they’ve become icons and heroes to many. But how did this all come to be? We sat down with the team, virtually, to find out more. “The idea for ettv/ethd was brought up by ExtraTorrent users,” the ETTV team says. There was demand for a new group that would upload scene releases faster than the original EZTV, which was the dominant TV-torrent distribution group around 2011, when it all started. “At the time the real EZTV was still active. They released stuff hours after it was released from the scene, leaving sites to wait very long for shows to arrive in public. In no way was ettv intended for competitive purposes. We had a lot of respect for Nova and the original EZTV operators.” While ETTV is regularly referred to as a “group,” it was a one-person operation initially. Just a guy with a seedbox, grabbing scene releases and posting them on torrent sites. It didn’t take long before people got wind of the new distribution ‘group,’ and interest for the torrents quickly exploded. This meant that a single seedbox was no longer sufficient, but help was not far away. “It started off with one operator and a seedbox, but it became popular too fast. That’s when former ExtraTorrent owners stepped in to give ETTV the support and funding it needed to keep the story going.” One of the earliest ETTV uploads on ExtraTorrent In addition to the available disk space and bandwidth, the team itself expanded as well. At its height, a handful of people were working on the group. However, when things became more and more automated this number reduced again. What many people don’t realize is that ETTV and ETHD are mostly run by lines of code. The entire distribution process is automated and requires minimal intervention from the people behind it. “Ettv/Ethd is a bot, it doesn’t require human attention. It grabs what you tell the script to,” the team tells us. The bot is set up to grab the latest copies of predefined shows from private servers where the latest scene release are posted. These are transferred to the seedbox and the torrents are then pushed out to the public – on ETTV.tv, but also on The Pirate Bay and elsewhere. Everything is automated. Even most of the maintenance is taken care of by the ‘bot’ itself. When disk space is running out older content is purged, allowing fresh releases to come through. “The only persons involve with the bots are the bill payers of our new home ettv.tv. All they do check bot logs to see if it has any errors and correct them,” the team explains. One problem that couldn’t be easily solved with some code was the shutdown of ExtraTorrent. While the bills for the seedboxes were paid in advance until the end of 2017, the groups had to find a new home. “The shutdown of ExtraTorrent didn’t affect the bots from running, it just left ettv/ethd homeless and caused fans to lose their way trying to find us. Not many knew where else we uploaded or didn’t like the other sites we uploaded to.” After a few months had passed it became clear that they were not going anywhere. Quite the contrary, they started their very own site, ETTV.tv, where all the latest releases are published. ETTV.tv In the near future, the team will focus on turning the site into a new home for its followers. Just a few weeks ago it launched a new release “tag,” ETMovies, which specializes in lower resolution films with a smaller file size, for example. “We recently introduced ETMovies which is basically for SD Movies, other than that the only plan ettv/ethd has is to give a home to the members that suffered from the sudden shut down of ExtraTorrent.” Just this week, the site also expanded its reach by adding new categories such as music, games, software, and Books, where approved uploaders will publish content. While they are doing their best to keep the site up and running, it’s not a given that ETTV will be around forever. As long as there are plenty of funds and no concrete legal pressure they might. But if recent history has shown us anything, it’s that there are no guarantees. “No one is here seeking to be a millionaire, if the traffic pays the bills we keep going, if not then all we can say is (sorry we tried) we will not be the heroes that saved the day. “Again and again, the troublesome history of torrent sites is clear. It’s a war no site owner can win. If we are ever in danger, we will choose freedom. It’s not like followers can bail you out if the worst were to happen,” the ETTV team concludes. For now, however, the bot keeps on running. https://torrentfreak.com/ettv-how-an-upload-bot-became-a-pirate-hero-171210/
  9. A group of major Hollywood studios plus Amazon and Netflix have asked a California court to halt the infringing activities of TickBox TV, a Kodi-powered streaming device. As part of their ongoing lawsuit, the companies request an injunction requiring Tickbox to remove infringing add-ons and for existing devices to be seized. More and more people are starting to use Kodi-powered set-top boxes to stream video content to their TVs. While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons give it a bad reputation. According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors. Earlier this year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The Tickbox devices use the Kodi media player and come with instructions on how to add various add-ons. According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. “TickBox promotes and distributes TickBox TV for infringing use, and that is exactly the result of its use,” they told court this week. After the complaint was filed in October, Tickbox made some cosmetic changes to the site, removing some allegedly inducing language. The streaming devices are still for sale, however, but not for long if it’s up to the media giants. This week ACE submitted a request for a preliminary injunction to the court, hoping to stop Tickbox’s sales activities. “TickBox is intentionally inducing infringement, pure and simple. Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court enter a preliminary injunction that requires TickBox to halt its flagrantly illegal conduct immediately,” they write in their application. The companies explain that that since Tickbox is causing irreparable harm, all existing devices should be impounded. “[A]ll TickBox TV devices in the possession of TickBox and all of its officers, directors, agents, servants, and employees, and all persons in active concert or participation or in privity with any of them are to be impounded and shall be retained by Defendant until further order of the Court,” the proposed order reads. In addition, Tickbox should push out a software update which remove all infringing add-ons from the devices that were previously sold. “TickBox shall, via software update, remove from all distributed TickBox TV devices all Kodi ‘Themes,’ ‘Builds,’ ‘Addons,’ or any other software that facilitates the infringing public performances of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works.” Among others, the list of allegedly infringing add-ons and themes includes Spinz, Lodi Black, Stream on Fire, Wookie, Aqua, CMM, Spanish Quasar, Paradox, Covenant, Elysium, UK Turk, Gurzil, Maverick, and Poseidon. The filing shows that ACE is serious about its efforts to stop the sale of these type of streaming devices. Tickbox has yet to reply to the original complaint or the injunction request. While this is the first US lawsuit of its kind, the anti-piracy conglomerate has been rather active in recent weeks. The group has successfully pressured several addon developers to quit and has been involved in enforcement actions around the globe. — A copy of the proposed preliminary injunction is available here (pdf). https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-and-netflix-ask-court-to-seize-tickbox-streaming-devices-171209/
  10. Just a few months ago TVAddons was decimated after being dragged into two copyright infringement lawsuits. Despite the legal trouble and a devastating domain seizure, millions of people have found their way back to the platform. Now that the dust has settled somewhat, the site also plans to ditch the proactive addon vetting process that's currently in place. After years of smooth sailing, this year TVAddons became a poster child for the entertainment industry’s war on illicit streaming devices. The leading repository for unofficial Kodi addons was sued for copyright infringement in the US by satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network. Around the same time, a similar case was filed by Bell, TVA, Videotron, and Rogers in Canada. The latter case has done the most damage thus far, as it caused the addon repository to lose its domain names and social media accounts. As a result, the site went dead and while many believed it would never return, it made a blazing comeback after a few weeks. Since the original TVAddons.ag domain was seized, the site returned on TVaddons.co. And that was not the only difference. A lot of the old add-ons, for which it was unclear if they linked to licensed content, were no longer listed in the repository either. TVAddons previously relied on the DMCA to shield it from liability but apparently, that wasn’t enough. As a result, they took the drastic decision to check all submitted add-ons carefully. “Since complying with the law is clearly not enough to prevent frivolous legal action from being taken against you, we have been forced to implement a more drastic code vetting process,” a TVAddons representative told us previously. Despite the absence of several of the most used add-ons, the repository has managed to regain many of its former users. Over the past month, TVAddons had over 12 million unique users. These all manually installed the new repository on their devices. “We’re not like one of those pirate sites that are shut down and opens on a new domain the next day, getting users to actually manually install a new repo isn’t an easy feat,” a TVAddons representative informs TorrentFreak. While it’s still far away from the 40 million unique users it had earlier this year, before the trouble began, it’s still a force to be reckoned with. Interestingly, the vast majority of all TVAddons traffic comes from the United States. The UK is second at a respectable distance, followed by Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands. While many former users have returned, the submission policy changes didn’t go unnoticed. The relatively small selection of add-ons is a major drawback for some, but that’s about to change as well, we are informed. TVAddons plans to return to the old submission model where developers can upload their code more freely. Instead of proactive screening, TVAddons will rely on a standard DMCA takedown policy, relying on copyright holders to flag potentially infringing content. “We intend on returning to a standard DMCA compliant add-on submission policy shortly, there’s no reason why we should be held to a higher standard than Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Reddit given the fact that we don’t even host any form of streaming content in the first place. “Our interim policy isn’t pragmatic, it’s nearly impossible for us to verify the global licensing of all forms of protected content. When you visit a website, there’s no way of verifying licensing beyond trusting them based on reputation.” The upcoming change doesn’t mean that TVAddons will ignore its legal requirements. If they receive a legitimate takedown notice, proper action will be taken, as always. As such, they would operate in the same fashion as other user-generated sites. “Right now our interim addon submission policy is akin to North Korea. We always followed the law and will always continue to do so. Anytime we’ve received a legitimate complaint we’ve acted upon it in an expedited manner. “Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other online communities would have never existed if they were required to approve the contents of each user’s submissions prior to public posting.” The change takes place while the two court cases are still pending. TVAddons is determined to keep up this fight. Meanwhile, they are also asking the public to support the project financially. While some copyright holders, including those who are fighting the service in court, might not like the change, TVAddons believes that this is well within their rights. And with support from groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, they don’t stand alone in this. https://torrentfreak.com/resilient-tvaddons-plans-to-ditch-proactive-piracy-screening-171207/
  11. The recently-formed Coalition Against Piracy, which counts Disney, Fox, Sony, HBO, NBCUniversal, BBC Worldwide and the Premier League among its members, is demanding greater action against illicit streaming. The powerful group has called on the government in Singapore to not only block 'pirate' streaming software but also unlicensed streams from entering the country. Earlier this year, major industry players including Disney, HBO, Netflix, Amazon and NBCUniversal formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a huge coalition set to tackle piracy on a global scale. Shortly after the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) was announced. With a focus on Asia and backed by CASBAA, CAP counts Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, Viacom International, and others among its members. In several recent reports, CAP has homed in on the piracy situation in Singapore. Describing the phenomenon as “rampant”, the group says that around 40% of locals engage in the practice, many of them through unlicensed streaming. Now CAP, in line with its anti-streaming stance, wants the government to do more – much more. Since a large proportion of illicit streaming takes place through set-top devices, CAP’s 21 members want the authorities to block the software inside them that enables piracy, Straits Times reports. “Within the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the worst in terms of availability of illicit streaming devices,” said CAP General Manager Neil Gane. “They have access to hundreds of illicit broadcasts of channels and video-on-demand content.” There are no precise details on CAP’s demands but it is far from clear how any government could effectively block software. Blocking access to the software package itself would prove all but impossible, so that would leave blocking the infrastructure the software uses. While that would be relatively straightforward technically, the job would be large and fast-moving, particularly when dozens of apps and addons would need to be targeted. However, CAP is also calling on the authorities to block pirate streams from entering Singapore. The country already has legislation in place that can be used for site-blocking, so that is not out of the question. It’s notable that the English Premier League is part of the CAP coalition and following legal action taken in the UK earlier this year, now has plenty of experience in blocking streams, particularly of live broadcasts. While that is a game of cat-and-mouse, TorrentFreak sources that have been monitoring the Premier League’s actions over the past several months report that the soccer outfit has become more effective over time. Its blocks can still be evaded but it can be hard work for those involved. That kind of expertise could prove invaluable to CAP. “The Premier League is currently engaged in its most comprehensive global anti-piracy programme,” a spokesperson told ST. “This includes supporting our broadcast partners in South-east Asia with their efforts to prevent the sale of illicit streaming devices.” In common with other countries around the world, the legality of using ‘pirate’ streaming boxes is somewhat unclear in Singapore. A Bloomberg report cites a local salesman who reports sales of 10 to 20 boxes on a typical weekend, rising to 300 a day during electronic fairs. He believes the devices are legal, since they don’t download full copies of programs. While that point is yet to be argued in court (previously an Intellectual Property Office of Singapore spokesperson said that copyright owners could potentially go after viewers), it seems unlikely that those selling the devices will be allowed to continue completely unhindered. The big question is how current legislation can be successfully applied. https://torrentfreak.com/coalition-against-piracy-wants-singapore-to-block-streaming-piracy-software-171204/
  12. The top 10 most downloaded movies on BitTorrent are in again. 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' tops the chart this week, followed by ‘The Foreigner'. 'American Assassin' completes the top three. This week we have three newcomers in our chart. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the most downloaded movie again. The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise. RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart. THIS WEEK’S MOST DOWNLOADED MOVIES ARE: Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer Most downloaded movies via torrents 1 (1) Kingsman: The Golden Circle 7.2 / trailer 2 (…) The Foreigner 7.2 / trailer 3 (2) American Assassin 6.3 / trailer 4 (…) Detroit 7.5 / trailer 5 (3) Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets 6.7 / trailer 6 (4) Geostorm (Subbed HDRip) 5.5 / trailer 7 (…) Justice League (HDTS) 7.2 / trailer 8 (5) Logan Lucky 7.2 / trailer 9 (9) Thor Ragnarok (HDTS/Cam) 8.2 / trailer 10 (6) Wind River 7.8 / trailer
  13. The recently introduced CASE Act proposes to establish a small claims board for copyright holders, providing them with a cheaper legal option than the Federal Court. While the bill aims to help smaller copyright holders, it poses a threat to legally unsophisticated targets and a potential breeding ground for copyright trolls, digital rights groups warn. Nearly five years ago, US lawmakers agreed to carry out a comprehensive review of United States copyright law. In the following years, the House Judiciary Committee held dozens of hearings on various topics, from DMCA reform and fair use exemptions to the possibility of a small claims court for copyright offenses. While many of the topics never got far beyond the discussion stage, there’s now a new bill on the table that introduces a small claims process for copyright offenses. The CASE Act, short for Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement, proposes to establish a small claims court to resolve copyright disputes outside the federal courts. This means that legal costs will be significantly reduced. The idea behind the bill is to lower the barrier for smaller copyright holders with limited resources, who usually refrain from going to court. Starting a federal case with proper representation is quite costly, while the outcome is rather uncertain. While this may sound noble, digital rights groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge, warn that the bill could do more harm than good. One of the problems they signal is that the proposed “Copyright Claims Board” would be connected to the US Copyright Office. Given this connection, the groups fear that the three judges might be somewhat biased towards copyright holders. “Unfortunately, the Copyright Office has a history of putting copyright holders’ interests ahead of other important legal rights and policy concerns. We fear that any small claims process the Copyright Office conducts will tend to follow that pattern,” EFF’s Mitch Stoltz warns. The copyright claims board will have three judges who can hear cases from all over the country. They can award damages awards of up to $15,000 per infringement, or $30,000 per case. Participation is voluntary and potential defendants can opt-out. However, if they fail to do so, any order against them can still be binding and enforceable through a federal court. An opt-in system would be much better, according to EFF, as that would prevent abuse by copyright holders who are looking for cheap default judgments. “[A]n opt-in approach would help ensure that both participants affirmatively choose to litigate their dispute in this new court, and help prevent copyright holders from abusing the system to obtain inexpensive default judgments that will be hard to appeal.” While smart defendants would opt-out in certain situations, those who are less familiar with the law might become the target of what are essentially copyright parking tickets. “Knowledgeable defendants will opt out of such proceedings, while legally unsophisticated targets, including ordinary Internet users, could find themselves committed to an unfair, accelerated process handing out largely unappealable $5,000 copyright parking tickets,” EFF adds. In its current form, the small claims court may prove to be an ideal tool for copyright trolls, including those who made a business out of filing federal cases against alleged BitTorrent pirates. This copyright troll issue angle highlighted by both EFF and Public Knowlege, who urge lawmakers to revise the bill. “t’s not hard to see how trolls and default judgments could come to dominate the system,” Public Knowledge says. “Instead of creating a reliable, fair mechanism for independent artists to pursue scaled infringement claims online, it would establish an opaque, unaccountable legislation mill that will likely get bogged down by copyright trolls and questionable claimants looking for a payout,” they conclude. Various copyright holder groups are more positive about the bill. The Copyright Alliance, for example, says that it will empower creators with smaller budgets to protect their rights. “The next generation of creators deserves copyright protection that is as pioneering and forward-thinking as they are. They deserve practical solutions to the real-life problems they face as creators. This bill is the first step.” https://torrentfreak.com/digital-rights-groups-warn-against-copyright-parking-tickets-bill-171203/
  14. Various music industry groups want Google to implement proactive anti-piracy measures to deal with constantly reappearing links to infringing content in search results. The demand isn't new, but this week Google's President of EMEA Business & Operations reiterated that such proactive measures are "just not possible." Over the past few years the entertainment industries have repeatedly asked Google to step up its game when it comes to its anti-piracy efforts. These calls haven’t fallen on deaf ears and Google has steadily implemented various anti-piracy measures in response. Still, that is not enough. At least, according to several prominent music industry groups who are advocating a ‘Take Down, Stay Down’ approach. Currently, Google mostly responds to takedown requests that are sent in by copyright holders. The search engine deletes the infringing results and demotes the domains of frequent infringers. However, the same content often reappears on other sites, or in another location on the same site. Earlier this year a group of prominent music groups stated that the present situation forces rightsholders to participate in a never-ending game of whack-a-mole which doesn’t fix the underlying problem. Instead, it results in a “frustrating, burdensome and ultimately ineffective takedown process.” While Google understands the rationale behind the complaints, the company doesn’t believe in a more proactive solution. This was reiterated by Matt Brittin, President of EMEA Business & Operations at Google, during the Royal Television Society Event in London this week. “The music industry has been quite tough with us on this. They’d like us proactively to know this stuff. It’s just not possible in this industry,” Brittin said. That doesn’t mean that Google is sitting still. Brittin stresses that the company has invested millions in anti-piracy tools. That said, there can always be room for improvement. “What we’ve tried to do is build tools that allow them to do that at scale easily and that work all together … I’m sure there are places where we could do better. There are teams and millions of dollars invested in this. “Combatting bad acts and piracy is obviously very important to us,” Brittin added. While Google sees no room for proactive filtering in search results, music industry insiders believe it’s possible. Ideally, they want some type of automated algorithm or technology that removes infringing results without a targeted DMCA notice. This could be similar to YouTube’s Content-ID system, or the hash filtering mechanisms Google Drive employs, for example. For now, however, there’s no sign that Google will go beyond the current takedown notice approach, at least for search. A ‘Take Down, Stay Down’ mechanism wouldn’t “understand” when content is authorized or not, the company previously noted. And so, the status quo is likely to remain, at least for now. https://torrentfreak.com/google-says-it-cant-filter-pirated-content-proactively-171202/
  15. Game developer and publisher Epic has settled one of its copyright lawsuits against cheaters. Both parties agreed on a permanent injunction which, if breached, will cost the cheater $5,000 in damages. In a separate case, Epic also responded to a letter sent by the mother of a 14-year-old offender that made headlines in recent days. Frustrated by thousands of cheaters who wreak havoc in Fortnite’s “Battle Royale,” game publisher Epic Games decided to take several of them to court. One of the defendants is Minnesota resident Charles Vraspir, a.k.a. “Joreallean,” The game publisher accused him of copyright infringement and breach of contract, by injecting unauthorized computer code in order to cheat. According to Epic’s allegations, Vraspir was banned at least nine times but registered new accounts to continue his cheating. In addition, he was also suspected of having written code for the cheats. “Defendant’s cheating, and his inducing and enabling of others to cheat, is ruining the game playing experience of players who do not cheat,” Epic games wrote. While the complaint included all the elements for an extensive legal battle, both sides chose to resolve the case without much of a fight. Yesterday, they informed the court that a settlement had been reached. Epic Games’ counsel asked the court to enter the agreement as well as a permanent injunction, which both have agreed on. The proposed injunction, signed today, forbids Vraspir from carrying out any copyright infringements in the future, to destroy all cheats, and to never cheat again. Among other things, he is prohibited from “creating, writing, developing, advertising, promoting, and/or distributing anything that infringes Epic’s works now or hereafter protected by any of Epic’s copyrights.” While there is no mention of a settlement fee or fine, Vraspir will have to pay $5,000 if he breaches the agreement. From the injunction Based on the swift settlement, it can be assumed that Epic Games is not aiming to bankrupt the cheaters. Instead, it’s likely that the company wants to set an example and deter others from cheating in the future. In addition to the settlement, Epic Games also responded to the mother of the 14-year-old cheater who was sued in a separate case. After we first covered the news last week it was quickly picked up by mainstream media, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the game publisher either. The mother accused Epic of taking a minor to court and making his personal info known to the public. In a response this week, the company notes that it had no idea of the age of the defendant when it filed the complaint. In addition, Epic notes that by handing over his full name and address in the unredacted letter, she exposed her son. The rules dictate that filings mentioning an individual known to be a minor should use the minor’s initials only, not the full name as the mother did. While the mother may have waived this protection with her letter, Epic says it will stick to the initials going forward. “Although there is an argument that by submitting the Letter to the Court containing Defendant’s name and address, Defendant’s mother waived this protection […] we plan to include only Defendant’s initials or redact his name entirely in all future filings with the Court, including this letter.” Given the quick settlement in the Vraspir case, it’s likely that the case against the 14-year-old boy will also be resolved without much additional damage. That is, if both sides can come to an agreement. — A copy of the yet unsigned stipulation and injunction is available here (pdf). The reply to the mother can be found here (pdf). https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-settles-first-copyright-case-against-fortnite-cheater-171201/

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