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Marwan

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About Marwan


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  1. Telenor, an ISP that has long fought against site-blocking in Sweden, will now begin blocking The Pirate Bay, apparently voluntarily. The development isn't the result of a direct court order against the company, rather its final consolidation with Bredbandsbolaget, an ISP owned by Telenor that was previously ordered to block the infamous torrent site. Back in 2014, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry filed a lawsuit against Bredbandsbolaget, one of Sweden’s largest ISPs. The copyright holders asked the Stockholm District Court to order the ISP to block The Pirate Bay and streaming site Swefilmer, claiming that the provider knowingly facilitated access to the pirate platforms and assisted their pirating users. Soon after the ISP fought back, refusing to block the sites in a determined response to the Court. “Bredbandsbolaget’s role is to provide its subscribers with access to the Internet, thereby contributing to the free flow of information and the ability for people to reach each other and communicate,” the company said in a statement. “Bredbandsbolaget does not block content or services based on individual organizations’ requests. There is no legal obligation for operators to block either The Pirate Bay or Swefilmer.” In February 2015 the parties met in court, with Bredbandsbolaget arguing in favor of the “important principle” that ISPs should not be held responsible for content exchanged over the Internet, in the same way the postal service isn’t responsible for the contents of an envelope. But with TV companies SVT, TV4 Group, MTG TV, SBS Discovery and C More teaming up with the IFPI alongside Paramount, Disney, Warner and Sony in the case, Bredbandsbolaget would need to pull out all the stops to obtain victory. The company worked hard and initially the news was good. In November 2015, the Stockholm District Court decided that the copyright holders could not force Bredbandsbolaget to block the pirate sites, ruling that the ISP’s operations did not amount to participation in the copyright infringement offenses carried out by some of its ‘pirate’ subscribers. However, the case subsequently went to appeal, with the brand new Patent and Market Court of Appeal hearing arguments. In February 2017 it handed down its decision, which overruled the earlier ruling of the District Court and ordered Bredbandsbolaget to implement “technical measures” to prevent its customers accessing the ‘pirate’ sites through a number of domain names and URLs. With nowhere left to go, Bredbandsbolaget and owner Telenor were left hanging onto their original statement which vehemently opposed site-blocking. “It is a dangerous path to go down, which forces Internet providers to monitor and evaluate content on the Internet and block websites with illegal content in order to avoid becoming accomplices,” they said. In March 2017, Bredbandsbolaget blocked The Pirate Bay but said it would not give up the fight. “We are now forced to contest any future blocking demands. It is the only way for us and other Internet operators to ensure that private players should not have the last word regarding the content that should be accessible on the Internet,” Bredbandsbolaget said. While it’s not clear whether any additional blocking demands have been filed with the ISP, this week an announcement by Bredbandsbolaget parent company Telenor revealed an unexpected knock-on effect. Seemingly without a single shot being fired, The Pirate Bay will now be blocked by Telenor too. The background lies in Telenor’s acquisition of Bredbandsbolaget back in 2005. Until this week the companies operated under separate brands but will now merge into one entity. “Telenor Sweden and Bredbandsbolaget today take the final step on their joint trip and become the same company with the same name. As a result, Telenor becomes a comprehensive provider of broadband, TV and mobile communications,” the company said in a statement this week. “Telenor Sweden and Bredbandsbolaget have shared both logo and organization for the last 13 years. Today, we take the last step in the relationship and consolidate the companies under the same name.” Up until this final merger, 600,000 Bredbandsbolaget broadband customers were denied access to The Pirate Bay. Now it appears that Telenor’s 700,000 fiber and broadband customers will be affected too. The new single-brand company says it has decided to block the notorious torrent site across its entire network. “We have not discontinued Bredbandsbolaget, but we have merged Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget and become one,” the company said. “When we share the same network, The Pirate Bay is blocked by both Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget and there is nothing we plan to change in the future.” TorrentFreak contacted the PR departments of both Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget requesting information on why a court order aimed at only the latter’s customers would now affect those of the former too, more than doubling the blockade’s reach. Neither company responded which leaves only speculation as to its motives. On the one hand, the decision to voluntarily implement an expanded blockade could perhaps be viewed as a little unusual given how much time, effort and money has been invested in fighting web-blockades in Sweden. On the other, the merger of the companies may present legal difficulties as far as the court order goes and it could certainly cause friction among the customer base of Telenor if some customers could access TPB, and others could not. In any event, the legal basis for web-blocking on copyright infringement grounds was firmly established last year at the EU level, which means that Telenor would lose any future legal battle, should it decide to dig in its heels. On that basis alone, the decision to block all customers probably makes perfect commercial sense. Update May 21, 2018: Telenor’s Head of Communication Aron Samuelsson says that Telenor did previously block The Pirate Bay but it was previously focused on a subset of the ISP’s customers. “Telenor has been encompassed by the blocking of TPB since the court ruling in 2017. This has primarily applied to mobile broadbands prior to the consolidation,” Samuelsson says.
  2. Earlier this week Fairplay Canada, the coalition lobbying for a national piracy blocking mechanism, countered its critics in a detailed reply. Buried in the footnotes, the document also included a stab at TorrentFreak, 'discrediting' our coverage by labeling us a "pro-piracy" site. Interestingly, however, the same report later cites TorrentFreak as a reputable source on site-blocking jurisprudence. At TorrentFreak we do our best to keep readers updated on the latest copyright and piracy news, highlighting issues from different points of view. We report on the opinions and efforts of copyright holders when it comes to online piracy and we also make room for those who oppose them. That’s how balanced reporting works in our view. There is probably no site on the Internet who reports on the negative consequences of piracy as much as we do, but for some reason, the term “pro-piracy” is sometimes attached to our reporting. This also happened in the recent reply Fairplay Canada sent to the CRTC. The coalition of media companies and ISPs is trying to get a pirate site blocking regime implemented in Canada. As part of this effort, it’s countering numerous responses from the public, including one from law professor Michael Geist. In his submission, Geist pointed out that the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that site blocking is disproportional, referring to our article on the matter. This article was entirely correct at the time it was written, but it appears that the Court later clarified its stance. Instead of pointing that out to us, or perhaps Geist, Fairplay frames it in a different light. “Professor Geist dismisses Mexico because, relying on a third party source (the pro-piracy news site TorrentFreak), he believes its Supreme Court has ruled that the regime is disproportionate,” it writes. Fairplay does not dispute that the Supreme Court initially ruled that a site blockade should target specific content. However, it adds that the court later clarified that blockades are also allowed if a substantial majority of content on a site is infringing. The bottom line is that, later developments aside, our original article was correct. What bothers us, however, is that the Fairplay coalition is branding us as a “pro-piracy” site. That’s done for a reason, most likely to discredit the accuracy of our reporting. Pro piracy news site Luckily we have pretty thick skin, so we’ll get over it. If Fairplay Canada doesn’t trust us, then so be it. Amusingly, however, this was not the only TorrentFreak article the coalition referenced. In fact, our reporting is cited twice more in the same report but without the pro-piracy branding. A few pages down from the Geist reference, Fairplay mentions how pirate site blockades do not violate net neutrality in India, referring to our thorough article that explains how the process works. No pro piracy? Similarly, we’re also pretty reliable when it comes to reporting on MUSO’s latest piracy data, as Fairplay cites us for that as well. These are the data that play a central role in the coalition’s argumentation and analysis. We’re not entirely sure how it works, but apparently, we are a “pro-piracy” news site when Fairplay Canada doesn’t like our reporting, and a reliable source when it suits their message. In any case, we would like to point out that this entire opinion article is written without any pro-piracy messaging. But it appears that every sentence that deviates from the agenda of certain groups, may be interpreted as such. Not sure if you could call that fair play?
  3. Several major ISPs have blocked dozens of pirate torrent and streaming platforms following orders from the Singapore High Court. The action, which covers platforms including The Pirate Bay plus KickassTorrents and Solarmovie variants, follows a successful application from the MPAA, which accuses the platforms of flagrant copyright infringement. Under increasing pressure from copyright holders, in 2014 Singapore passed amendments to copyright law that allow ISPs to block ‘pirate’ sites. “The prevalence of online piracy in Singapore turns customers away from legitimate content and adversely affects Singapore’s creative sector,” said then Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah. “It can also undermine our reputation as a society that respects the protection of intellectual property.” After the amendments took effect in December 2014, there was a considerable pause before any websites were targeted. However, in September 2016, at the request of the MPA(A), Solarmovie.ph became the first website ordered to be blocked under Singapore’s amended Copyright Act. The High Court subsequently ordering several major ISPs to disable access to the site. A new wave of blocks announced this morning are the country’s most significant so far, with dozens of ‘pirate’ sites targeted following a successful application by the MPAA earlier this year. In total, 53 sites across 154 domains – including those operated by The Pirate Bay plus KickassTorrents and Solarmovie variants – have been rendered inaccessible by ISPs including Singtel, StarHub, M1, MyRepublic and ViewQwest. “In Singapore, these sites are responsible for a major portion of copyright infringement of films and television shows,” an MPAA spokesman told The Straits Times (paywall). “This action by rights owners is necessary to protect the creative industry, enabling creators to create and keep their jobs, protect their works, and ensure the continued provision of high-quality content to audiences.” Before granting a blocking injunction, the High Court must satisfy itself that the proposed online locations meet the threshold of being “flagrantly infringing”. This means that a site like YouTube, which carries a lot of infringing content but is not dedicated to infringement, would not ordinarily get caught up in the dragnet. Sites considered for blocking must have a primary purpose to infringe, a threshold that is tipped in copyright holders’ favor when the sites’ operators display a lack of respect for copyright law and have already had their domains blocked in other jurisdictions. The Court also weighs a number of additional factors including whether blocking would place an unacceptable burden on the shoulders of ISPs, whether the blocking demand is technically possible, and whether it will be effective. In common with other regions such as the UK and Australia, for example, sites targeted for blocking must be informed of the applications made against them, to ensure they’re given a chance to defend themselves in court. No fully-fledged ‘pirate’ site has ever defended a blocking application in Singapore or indeed any jurisdiction in the world. Finally, should any measures be taken by ‘pirate’ sites to evade an ISP blockade, copyright holders can apply to the Singapore High Court to amend the blocking order. This is similar to the Australian model where each application must be heard on its merits, rather than the UK model where a more streamlined approach is taken. According to a recent report by Motion Picture Association Canada, at least 42 countries are now obligated to block infringing sites. In Europe alone, 1,800 sites and 5,300 domains have been rendered inaccessible, with Portugal, Italy, the UK, and Denmark leading the way. In Canada, where copyright holders are lobbying hard for a site-blocking regime of their own, there’s pressure to avoid the “uncertain, slow and expensive” route of going through the courts.
  4. Shani, the brains behind the popular Kodi-addon ZemTV, has asked his attorney to stop defending him. The London-based developer says he doesn't have the funds to fight the legal battle against Dish Networks in a US court. As a result, there's a high likelihood that the broadcast provider will win a default judgment. Last year, American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network targeted two well-known players in the third-party Kodi add-on ecosystem. In a complaint filed in a federal court in Texas, add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were accused of copyright infringement, with both facing up to $150,000 for each offense. While TVAddons operator Adam Lackman responded to the allegations last week, ZemTV’s developer ‘Shani’ decided not to reply. Shahjahan Durrani, Shani for short, never denied that he was the driving force behind the Kodi-addons ZemTV, LiveStreamsPro, and F4MProxy. While the London-based developer had never set foot in Texas, he initially planned to put up a defense. Financially, however, this was a problem. ZemTV’s developer launched a fundraiser last fall to crowdsource the legal battle. While he was able to raise close to £1,000, the legal costs already exceeded that the case even got fully underway. Without the ability to pay the legal costs Shani is unable to put up a proper defense. But speaking with TorrentFreak, he explains that after the motion to dismiss was denied, he didn’t have much hope for a fair trial anyway. “I was shocked and disappointed, not only by reading that the court dismissed my jurisdiction appeal, they did so with just one sentence. It seems unfair and doesn’t give any confidence to me that the court/judge would be fair,” Shani tells us. This left the developer with two options. Find a way to fund the legal battle, money which may never be recovered, or give up the fight and face a default judgment. Shani chose the latter option. Shani told his attorney Erin Russel to cease all activity on the case and to take no further steps on his behalf. “I don’t have enough resources to fight this case completely with four kids that I am raising and anything more I do will be seem to be submitting to the US Courts which I am not going to do unless I have enough money to fight the case,” the developer wrote in an email to Russel. The attorney informed the court of this decision late last week and withdrew from the case. This means that the lawsuit is steering towards a default judgment, and indeed, Dish has already moved for an entry of default. “To date, Durrani has not filed an answer or other responsive pleading or requested additional time to do so,” Dish’s motion reads. “Accordingly, the Clerk should enter a default against Durrani.” Shani still hopes that Dish will not push through. The developer stresses that he never operated any of the servers that provided copyright-infringing streams, nor has he ever made money from his addons. “I hope they would let the matter go as the addon code has been taken down for more than a year now. Plus, they already know by the return of the subpoena to the servers that none of them were handled or paid by me,” Shani says. “This was an open source addon and no one would pay hundreds of pounds to host the servers/streams in the hope that people would donate. I actually never ever asked for any donation and never ever earned a single penny from Kodi addons.” ZemTV, like many other addons, merely offered the interface that makes it possible to watch third-party streams on the Kodi platform. While that may be infringement or not, the developer notes that despite the lawsuit, these third-party streams are still online. “The irony of all this mess is that those servers and apps are still functional and working while I am dealing with this illogical case,” Shani concludes. If the Texas District Court enters the default, Dish will demand a judgment which likely includes thousands of dollars in damages. However, since Durrani lives in the UK and has no assets in the US, these damages may be hard to recoup.
  5. In response to alleged failures by Ukraine in the fight against online piracy, last year the MPAA, RIAA and other groups asked the U.S. Government to impose sanctions while the European Commission warned that Ukraine risks damaging relations with the EU. But according to the head of Ukraine's cyber-police unit, complaints received by him are few in number and are actually going down. On a large number of occasions over the past decade, Ukraine has played host to some of the world’s largest pirate sites. At various points over the years, The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents, ExtraTorrent, Demonoid and raft of streaming portals could be found housed in the country’s data centers, reportedly taking advantage of laws more favorable than those in the US and EU. As a result, Ukraine has been regularly criticized for not doing enough to combat piracy but when placed under pressure, it does take action. In 2010, for example, the local government expressed concerns about the hosting of KickassTorrents in the country and in August the same year, the site was kicked out by its host. “Kickasstorrents.com main web server was shut down by the hosting provider after it was contacted by local authorities. One way or another I’m afraid we must say goodbye to Ukraine and move the servers to other countries,” the site’s founder told TF at the time. In the years since, Ukraine has launched sporadic action against pirate sites and has taken steps to tighten up copyright law. The Law on State Support of Cinematography came into force during April 2017 and gave copyright owners new tools to combat infringement by forcing (in theory, at least) site operators and web hosts to respond to takedown requests. But according to the United States and Europe, not enough is being done. After the EU Commission warned that Ukraine risked damaging relations with the EU, last September US companies followed up with another scathing attack. In a recommendation to the U.S. Government, the IIPA, which counts the MPAA, RIAA, and ESA among its members, asked U.S. authorities to suspend or withdraw Ukraine’s trade benefits until the online piracy situation improves. “Legislation is needed to institute proper notice and takedown provisions, including a requirement that service providers terminate access to individuals (or entities) that have repeatedly engaged in infringement, and the retention of information for law enforcement, as well as to provide clear third party liability regarding ISPs,” the IIPA wrote. But amid all the criticism, Ukraine cyber police chief Sergey Demedyuk says that while his department is committed to tackling piracy, it can only do so when complaints are filed with him. “Yes, we are engaged in piracy very closely. The problem is that piracy is a crime of private accusation. So here we deal with them only in cases where we are contacted,” Demedyuk said in an Interfax interview published yesterday. Surprisingly, given the number of dissenting voices, it appears that complaints about these matters aren’t exactly prevalent. So are there many at all? “Unfortunately, no. In the media, many companies claim that their rights are being violated by pirates. But if you count the applications that come to us, they are one,” Demedyuk reveals. “In general, we are handling Ukrainian media companies, who produce their own product and are worried about its fate. Also on foreign films, the ‘Anti-Piracy Agency’ refers to us, but not as intensively as before.” Why complaints are going down, Demedyuk does not know, but when his unit is asked to take action it does so, he claims. Indeed, Demedyuk cites two particularly significant historical operations against a pair of large ‘pirate’ sites. In 2012, Ukraine shut down EX.ua, a massive cyberlocker site following a six-month investigation initiated by international tech companies including Microsoft, Graphisoft and Adobe. Around 200 servers were seized, together hosting around 6,000 terabytes of data. Then in November 2016, following a complaint from the MPAA, police raided FS.to, one of Ukraine’s most popular pirate sites. Initial reports indicated that 60 servers were seized and 19 people were arrested. “To see the effect of combating piracy, this should not be done at the level of cyberpolicy, but at the state level,” Demedyuk advises. “This requires constant close interaction between law enforcement agencies and rights holders. Only by using all these tools will we be able to effectively counteract copyright infringements.” Meanwhile, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has maintained Ukraine’s position on the Priority Watchlist of its latest Special 301 Report and there a no signs it will be leaving anytime soon.
  6. A 22-year-old man from California has pleaded guilty to uploading a pirated copy of the movie Deadpool to Facebook. The film was shared to the social media network, shortly after it premiered, where it was viewed 6,386,456 times. The man was indicted following an FBI investigation last year and faces a one-year prison sentence. Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook to share photos, videos and other information. While most of the content posted on the site is relatively harmless, some people use it to share things they are not supposed to. A pirated copy of Deadpool, for example. This is what the now 22-year-old Trevon Franklin from Fresno, California, did early 2016. Just a week after the first installment of the box-office hit Deadpool premiered in theaters, he shared a pirated copy of the movie on the social network. To be clear, Franklin wasn’t the person who originally made the copy available. He simply downloaded it from the file-sharing site Putlocker.is and then proceeded to upload it to his Facebook account, using the screen name “Tre-Von M. King.” This post went viral with more than six million viewers ‘tuning in.’ While many people dream of this kind of attention, in this case, it meant that copyright holder Twentieth Century Fox and the feds were alerted as well. The FBI launched a full-fledged investigation which eventually led to an indictment and the arrest of Franklin last summer. After months of relative silence, Franklin has now signed a plea agreement with the Government where he admits to sharing the pirated film on Facebook. In return, the authorities will recommend a sentence reduction. “Defendant admits that defendant is, in fact, guilty of the offense to which defendant is agreeing to plead guilty,” the plea agreement reads. The legal paperwork, signed by both sides, states that Franklin downloaded the pirated copy from Putlocker, knowing full well that he didn’t have permission to do so. He then willfully shared it on Facebook where it was accessed by millions of people. “Between February 20 and 22, 2016, while Deadpool was still in theaters and had not yet been made available for purchase by the public for home viewing, the copy of Deadpool defendant posted to his Facebook page had been viewed over 6,386,456 times,” the paperwork reads. From the plea agreement While a federal case over Facebook uploads is unlikely, the risk of legal trouble was pointed out to Franklin by others. According to Facebook comments from 2016, several people warned “Tre-Von M. King” that it wasn’t wise to post copyright-infringing material on the social media platform. However, Franklin said he wasn’t worried. It’s unclear why the US Government decided to pursue this case. Copyright infringement isn’t exactly rare on Facebook. However, it may be that the media attention and the high number of views may have prompted the authorities to set an example. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Franklin will be sentenced for a Class A misdemeanor. This can lead to a maximum prison sentence of one year, followed by probation or a supervised release, as well as a fine of $100,000. Meanwhile, he has waived his right to a trial by jury.
  7. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, announced the launch of a consultation on new legislative measures to clean up the 'Wild West' elements of the Internet. In response, music group BPI says the government should use the opportunity to tackle piracy with advanced site-blocking measures, repeat infringer policies, and new responsibilities for service providers. For the past several years, the UK Government has expressed a strong desire to “clean up” the Internet. Strong emphasis has been placed on making the Internet safer for children but that’s just the tip of a much larger iceberg. This week, the Government published its response to the Internet Safety Strategy green paper, stating unequivocally that more needs to be done to tackle “online harm”. Noting that six out of ten people report seeing inappropriate or harmful content online, the Government said that work already underway with social media companies to protect users had borne fruit but overall industry response has been less satisfactory. As a result, the Government will now carry through with its threat to introduce new legislation, albeit with the assistance of technology companies, children’s charities and other stakeholders. “Digital technology is overwhelmingly a force for good across the world and we must always champion innovation and change for the better,” said Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “At the same time I have been clear that we have to address the Wild West elements of the Internet through legislation, in a way that supports innovation. We strongly support technology companies to start up and grow, and we want to work with them to keep our citizens safe.” While emphasis is being placed on hot-button topics such as cyberbullying and online child exploitation, the Government is clear that it wishes to tackle “the full range” of online harms. That has been greeted by UK music group BPI with a request that the Government introduces new measures to tackle Internet piracy. In a statement issued this week, BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor welcomed the move towards legislative change and urged the Government to encompass the music industry and beyond. “This is a vital opportunity to protect consumers and boost the UK’s music and creative industries. The BPI has long pressed for internet intermediaries and online platforms to take responsibility for the content that they promote to users,” Taylor said. “Government should now take the power in legislation to require online giants to take effective, proactive measures to clean illegal content from their sites and services. This will keep fans away from dodgy sites full of harmful content and prevent criminals from undermining creative businesses that create UK jobs.” The BPI has published four initial requests, each of which provides food for thought. The demand to “establish a new fast-track process for blocking illegal sites” is not entirely unexpected, particularly given the expense of launching applications for blocking injunctions at the High Court. “The BPI has taken a large number of actions against individual websites – 63 injunctions are in place against sites that are wholly or mainly infringing and whose business is simply to profit from criminal activity,” the BPI says. Those injunctions can be expanded fairly easily to include new sites operating under similar banners or facilitating access to those already covered, but it’s clear the BPI would like something more streamlined. Voluntary schemes, such as the one in place in Portugal, could be an option but it’s unclear how troublesome that could be for ISPs. New legislation could solve that dilemma, however. Another big thorn in the side for groups like the BPI are people and entities that post infringing content. The BPI is very good at taking these listings down from sites and search engines in particular (more than 600 million requests to date) but it’s a game of whac-a-mole the group would rather not engage in. With that in mind, the BPI would like the Government to impose new rules that would compel online platforms to stop content from being re-posted after it’s been taken down while removing the accounts of repeat infringers. Thirdly, the BPI would like the Government to introduce penalties for “online operators” who do not provide “transparent contact and ownership information.” The music group isn’t any more specific than that, but the suggestion is that operators of some sites have a tendency to hide in the shadows, something which frustrates enforcement activity. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the BPI is calling on the Government to legislate for a new “duty of care” for online intermediaries and platforms. Specifically, the BPI wants “effective action” taken against businesses that use the Internet to “encourage” consumers to access content illegally. While this could easily encompass pirate sites and services themselves, this proposal has the breadth to include a wide range of offenders, from people posting piracy-focused tutorials on monetized YouTube channels to those selling fully-loaded Kodi devices on eBay or social media. Overall, the BPI clearly wants to place pressure on intermediaries to take action against piracy when they’re in a position to do so, and particularly those who may not have shown much enthusiasm towards industry collaboration in the past. “Legislation in this Bill, to take powers to intervene with respect to operators that do not co-operate, would bring focus to the roundtable process and ensure that intermediaries take their responsibilities seriously,” the BPI says. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Home Office will now work on a White Paper, to be published later this year, to set out legislation to tackle “online harms”. The BPI and similar entities will hope that the Government takes their concerns on board.
  8. Two movie studios have sued an employee of a Hawaiian phone store who allegedly recommended the 'pirate' application Showbox to a customer. The makers of the films 'Mechanic: Resurrection' and 'A Family Man' accuse the woman of contributory copyright infringement and demand damages in federal court. In recent years, a group of select companies have pressured hundreds of thousands of alleged pirates to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions. Traditionally, the companies go after BitTorrent users, as they are easy to track down by their IP-addresses. In Hawaii, however, a newly filed case adds a twist to this scheme. The studios ME2 Productions and Headhunter, who own the rights to the movies ‘Mechanic: Resurrection‘ and ‘A Family Man‘ respectively, are suing an employee of a phone store who allegedly promoted and installed the ‘pirate’ application Showbox on a customer’s device. Showbox is a popular movie and TV-show streaming application that’s particularly popular among mobile Android users. The app is capable of streaming torrents and works on a wide variety of devices. While it can be used to stream legitimate content, many people use it to stream copyrighted works. In fact, the application itself displays this infringing use on its homepage, showing off pirated movies. In a complaint filed at the US District Court of Hawaii, the studios accuse local resident Taylor Wolf of promoting Showbox and its infringing uses. According to the studios, Wolf works at the Verizon-branded phone store Victra, where she helped customers set up and install phones, tablets and other devices. In doing so, the employee allegedly recommended the Showbox application. “The Defendant promoted the software application Show Box to said members of the general public, including Kazzandra Pokini,” the complaint reads, adding that Wolf installed the Showbox app on the customer’s tablet, so she could watch pirated content. From the complaint The movie studios note that the defendant told the customer in question that her tablet could be used to watch free movies. The employee allegedly installed the Showbox app on the device in the store and showed the customer how to use it. “Defendant knew that the Show Box app would cause Kazzandra Pokini to make copies of copyrighted content in violation of copyright laws of the United States,” the complaint adds. The lawsuit is unique in the sense that the studios are going after someone who’s not directly accused of sharing their films. In the traditional lawsuits, they go after the people who share their work. The complaint doesn’t mention why they chose this tactic. One option is that they initially went after the customer, who then pointed ME2 and Headhunter toward the phone store employee. Neither studio is new to the piracy lawsuit game. ME2 is connected to Millennium Films and Headhunter is an affiliate of Voltage Pictures, one of the pioneers of so-called copyright trolling cases in the US. As in most other cases, the copyright holders demand a preliminary injunction to stop Wolf from engaging in any infringing activities, as well as statutory damages, which theoretically can go up to $150,000 per pirated film, but are usually settled for a fraction of that.
  9. A court in Wales has handed hefty jail sentences to former partners who ran a business selling fully-loaded Kodi boxes. Michael Jarman and Natalie Forber, who sold more than 1,000 devices over a two year period, pleaded guilty to operating a fraudulent business. Jarmain was jailed for 21 months while Forber, who had no previous convictions, was handed a 16-month suspended sentence. While users of older peer-to-peer based file-sharing systems have to work relatively hard to obtain content, users of the Kodi media player have things an awful lot easier. As standard, Kodi is perfectly legal. However, when augmented with third-party add-ons it becomes a media discovery powerhouse, providing most of the content anyone could desire. A system like this can be set up by the user but for many, buying a so-called “fully-loaded” box from a seller is the easier option. As a result, hundreds – probably thousands – of cottage industries have sprung up to service this hungry market in the UK, with regular people making a business out of setting up and selling such devices. Until three years ago, that’s what Michael Jarman and Natalie Forber of Colwyn Bay, Wales, found themselves doing. According to reports in local media, Jarman was arrested in January 2015 when police were called to a disturbance at Jarman and Forber’s home. A large number of devices were spotted and an investigation was launched by Trading Standards officers. The pair were later arrested and charged with fraud offenses. While 37-year-old Jarman pleaded guilty, 36-year-old Forber initially denied the charges and was due to stand trial. However, she later changed her mind and like Jarman, pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent business. Forber also pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property by shifting cash from the scheme through various bank accounts. The pair attended a sentencing hearing before Judge Niclas Parry at Caernarfon Crown Court yesterday. According to local reporter Eryl Crump, the Court heard that the couple had run their business for about two years, selling around 1,000 fully-loaded Kodi-enabled devices for £100 each via social media. According to David Birrell for the prosecution, the operation wasn’t particularly sophisticated but it involved Forber programming the devices as well as handling customer service. Forber claimed she was forced into the scheme by Jarman but that claim was rejected by the prosecution. Between February 2013 and January 2015 the pair banked £105,000 from the business, money that was transferred between bank accounts in an effort to launder the takings. Reporting from Court via Twitter, Crump said that Jarman’s defense lawyer accepted that a prison sentence was inevitable for his client but asked for the most lenient sentence possible. Forber’s lawyer pointed out she had no previous convictions. The mother-of-two broke up with Jarman following her arrest and is now back in work and studying at college. Sentencing the pair, Judge Niclas Parry described the offenses as a “relatively sophisticated fraud” carried out over a significant period. He jailed Jarman for 21 months and Forber for 16 months, suspended for two years. She must also carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. The pair will also face a Proceeds of Crime investigation which could see them paying large sums to the state, should any assets be recoverable.
  10. A large coalition of independent movie studios, including the makers of Dallas Buyers Club, has filed a lawsuit against the alleged 'founder' and several distributors of the popular movie streaming application Showbox. In their complaint, they brand the Android application as a pirate tool that's used to mislead the public. For many years media companies have focused their anti-piracy efforts on pirate sites, including torrent and streaming portals. More recently, these efforts expanded to streaming boxes, with the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) targeting several vendors of such devices. This week, a group of independent movie studios has targeted yet another largely overlooked element of the piracy ecosystem. Dallas Buyers Club, Cobbler Nevada, Bodyguard Productions, and several other studios are going after the popular Android-based app Showbox. Showbox hasn’t caught many headlines, but the tool is used by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. It allows users to stream movies and TV shows via torrents and direct sources, all through a Netflix-style interface. In a lawsuit filed at the US District Court of Hawaii, the movie companies are now taking action against several people and sites which distribute the application. This includes the alleged founder and developer ‘Andrew Crow,’ Showboxappdownload.co founder ‘Mark Willow,’ and the people behind Showboxappdownload.com and Showbox.en.uptodown.com/android. In addition, the complaint also targets the persons who made the application available on Rawapk.com/showbox-apk-download/, a repository of APK files. “Plaintiffs bring this action to stop the massive piracy of their motion pictures brought on by the software application Show Box app,” the complaint reads. “The Defendants misleadingly promote the Show Box app as a legitimate means for viewing content to the public, who eagerly install the Show Box app to watch copyright protected content, thereby leading to profit for the Defendants.” The lawsuit follows on the heels of another case where a phone store employee was accused of promoting the Showbox app. Similar to that case, the current lawsuit also relies on input from an alleged user of the application. In this case, that’s Hawaiian resident James Sosa. “I visited the website showboxappdownload.com and followed the instructions on the website to download the Show Box app to my Dell tablet,” Sosa testifies. “The language on the website led me to believe that I could use the Show Box app to watch free movies legally.” From the complaint According to the movie studios, most of which have thus far been very active in filing lawsuits against individual BitTorrent downloaders, Showbox is a pirate tool, plain and simple. “Defendants promote the use of the Show Box app user for overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, infringing purposes, and that is how the users use the Show Box app,” the studios write. The defendants all stand accused of contributory copyright infringement. The studios are asking the court for actual or statutory damages to compensate their losses, as well as temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctions to stop the allegedly infringing activities. In addition, the studios also request an order preventing internet search engines, hosting companies, domain-name registrars, and domain name registries to stop facilitating access to the allegedly infringing domain names and websites. The two recent Showbox related cases reveal an interesting trend. Where many of these movie studios were previously engaged in so-called copyright trolling lawsuits, they are now going after the people who promote, develop, and distribute a popular streaming app. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues. — A copy of the complaint filed by Venice PI, Headhunter, MON, LHF Productions, Cook Productions, Glacier Films, Colossal Movie Productions, Automata Productions, Criminal Productions, Dallas Buyers Club, Clear Skies Nevada, Bodyguard Productions, I.T. Productions, SVZ Productions, Splintered, Cobbler Nevada and Justice Everywhere Productions is available here (pdf).
  11. Since 2017, tens of thousands of alleged file-sharers in Sweden have received threatening letters demanding cash settlements to make a supposed lawsuit go away. Yet an investigation carried out by Sweden's SVT has failed to unearth a single instance where a claim has resulted in a conviction for so-called copyright trolls. "Legal blackmail," says a professor of law at Stockholm University. While several countries in Europe have wilted under sustained pressure from copyright trolls for more than ten years, Sweden managed to avoid their controversial attacks until fairly recently. With Germany a decade-old pit of misery, with many hundreds of thousands of letters – by now probably millions – sent out to Internet users demanding cash, Sweden avoided the ranks of its European partners until two years ago In September 2016 it was revealed that an organization calling itself Spridningskollen (Distribution Check) headed up by law firm Gothia Law, would begin targeting the public. Its spokesperson described its letters as “speeding tickets” for pirates, in that they would only target the guilty. But there was a huge backlash and just a couple of months later Spridningskollen headed for the hills, without a single collection letter being sent out. That was the calm before the storm. In February 2017, Danish law firm Njord Law was found to be at the center of a new troll operation targeting the subscribers of several ISPs, including Telia, Tele2 and Bredbandsbolaget. Court documents revealed that thousands of IP addresses had been harvested by the law firm’s partners who were determined to link them with real-life people. Indeed, in a single batch, Njord Law was granted permission from the court to obtain the identities of citizens behind 25,000 IP addresses, from whom it hoped to obtain cash settlements of around US$550. But it didn’t stop there. Time and again the trolls headed back to court in an effort to reach more people although until now the true scale of their operations has been open to question. However, a new investigation carried out by SVT has revealed that the promised copyright troll invasion of Sweden is well underway with a huge level of momentum. Data collated by the publication reveals that since 2017, the personal details behind more than 50,000 IP addresses have been handed over by Swedish Internet service providers to law firms representing copyright trolls and their partners. By the end of this year, Njord Law alone will have sent out 35,000 letters to Swede’s whose IP addresses have been flagged as allegedly infringing copyright. Even if one is extremely conservative with the figures, the levels of cash involved are significant. Taking a settlement amount of just $300 per letter, very quickly the copyright trolls are looking at $15,000,000 in revenues. On the perimeter, assuming $550 will make a supposed lawsuit go away, we’re looking at a potential $27,500,000 in takings. But of course, this dragnet approach doesn’t have the desired effect on all recipients. In 2017, Njord Law said that only 60% of its letters received any kind of response, meaning that even fewer would be settling with the company. So what happens when the public ignores the threatening letters? “Yes, we will [go to court],” said lawyer Jeppe Brogaard Clausen last year. “We wish to resolve matters as much as possible through education and dialogue without the assistance of the court though. It is very expensive both for the rights holders and for plaintiffs if we go to court.” But despite the tough-talking, SVT’s investigation has turned up an interesting fact. The nuclear option, of taking people to court and winning a case when they refuse to pay, has never happened. After trawling records held by the Patent and Market Court and all those held by the District Courts dating back five years, SVT did not find a single case of a troll taking a citizen to court and winning a case. Furthermore, no law firm contacted by the publication could show that such a thing had happened. “In Sweden, we have not yet taken someone to court, but we are planning to file for the right in 2018,” Emelie Svensson, lawyer at Njord Law, told SVT. While a case may yet reach the courts, when it does it is guaranteed to be a cut-and-dried one. Letter recipients can often say things to damage their case, even when they’re only getting a letter due to their name being on the Internet bill. These are the people who find themselves under the most pressure to pay, whether they’re guilty or not. “There is a risk of what is known in English as ‘legal blackmailing’,” says Mårten Schultz, professor of civil law at Stockholm University. “With [the copyright holders’] legal and economic muscles, small citizens are scared into paying claims that they do not legally have to pay.” It’s a position shared by Marianne Levine, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Stockholm University. “One can only show that an IP address appears in some context, but there is no point in the evidence. Namely, that it is the subscriber who also downloaded illegitimate material,” she told SVT. Njord Law, on the other hand, sees things differently. “In Sweden, we have no legal case saying that you are not responsible for your IP address,” Emelie Svensson says. Whether Njord Law will carry through with its threats will remain to be seen but there can be little doubt that while significant numbers of people keep paying up, this practice will continue and escalate. The trolls have come too far to give up now.
  12. Today we bring you the next episode of the Steal This Show podcast, discussing renegade media and the latest decentralization and file-sharing news. In this episode, we talk to Chris Beams again, founder of the decentralized cryptocurrency exchange Bisq. stslogo180If you enjoy this episode, consider becoming a patron and getting involved with the show. Check out Steal This Show’s Patreon campaign: support us and get all kinds of fantastic benefits! This is the second part of our interview with Chris Beams, founder of the decentralised cryptocurrency exchange, Bisq. We discuss the inner workings of the Bisq service, how it compares to the widely used platform Local Bitcoins, and the intricacies of designing decentral P2P systems for financial operations. From there, we move into some of the political/philosophical implications of Bisq as a Distributed Autonomous Organisation (DAO): are we evolving, with Bitcoin and other P2P networks, functionalities which parallel certain present-day institutions, and which could one day eliminate the need for establishment altogether? And could a future democracy be composed of “opt-in” components that actually do better at providing for our basic human needs? — Steal This Show aims to release bi-weekly episodes featuring insiders discussing copyright and file-sharing news. It complements our regular reporting by adding more room for opinion, commentary, and analysis. The guests for our news discussions will vary, and we’ll aim to introduce voices from different backgrounds and persuasions. In addition to news, STS will also produce features interviewing some of the great innovators and minds.
  13. Ahead of tonight's Champions League final, anti-piracy firm Irdeto has released fresh data on the prevalence of unauthorized streaming on social media platforms and elsewhere. During the knock-out stage alone it found more than 5,000 streams, which were seen by millions of people. According to Irdeto, more needs to be done to stop these streams. This evening, Liverpool and Real Madrid will go head to head in the Champions League final, one of the biggest sports events of the year. Hundreds of millions of football fans from around the world will be glued to their televisions to follow the spectacle, while the hashtags #RMALIV and #UCLfinal are trending on social media. While Twitter, Facebook and other social media are great ways to keep fans engaged and generate traction, they also present a threat. According to data released by the global anti-piracy outfit Irdeto, social media rivals traditional pirate streaming sites. The company analyzed the number of pirated streams it ran into during the knockout stages of the Champions League and found 5,100 unique illegal streams that were rebroadcasting the matches. Roughly 40 percent of these unauthorized broadcasts came from ‘social’ platforms including Periscope, Facebook and Twitch. Irdeto found 2,093 streams on these sites with an estimated 4,893,902 viewers. Regular web-based streams on traditional sports pirate sites were the most popular (2,121), followed by ones found through Kodi-addons (886). “These viewing figures combined with the number of UEFA Champions League streams detected across a variety of channels suggests that more needs to be done to stop the illegal distribution of high profile live European football matches,” the company writes.
  14. In a report presented to President Vladimir Putin, Internet Ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev says there should be an investigation into the actions of telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor after it tried to block Telegram last month. Millions of innocent IP addresses were caught up in the dragnet, a result of Roscomnadzor not carrying out a damage assessment, Marinichev says. After a Moscow court gave the go-ahead for Telegram to be banned in Russia last month, the Internet became a battleground. On the instructions of telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, ISPs across Russia tried to block Telegram by blackholing millions of IP addresses. The effect was both dramatic and pathetic. While Telegram remained stubbornly online, countless completely innocent services suffered outages as Roscomnadzor charged ahead with its mission. Over the past several weeks, Roscomnadzor has gone some way to clean up the mess, partly by removing innocent Google and Amazon IP addresses from Russia’s blacklist. However, the collateral damage was so widespread it’s called into question the watchdog’s entire approach to web-blockades and whether they should be carried out at any cost. This week, thanks to an annual report presented to President Vladimir Putin by business ombudsman Boris Titov, the matter looks set to be escalated. ‘The Book of Complaints and Suggestions of Russian Business’ contains comments from Internet ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev, who says that the Prosecutor General’s Office should launch an investigation into Roscomnadzor’s actions. Marinichev said that when attempting to take down Telegram using aggressive technical means, Roscomnadzor relied upon “its own interpretation of court decisions” to provide guidance, TASS reports. “When carrying out blockades of information resources, Roskomnadzor did not assess the related damage caused to them,” he said. More than 15 million IP addresses were blocked, many of them with functions completely unrelated to the operations of Telegram. Marinichev said that the consequences were very real for those who suffered collateral damage. “[The blocking led] to a temporary inaccessibility of Internet resources of a number of Russian enterprises in the Internet sector, including several banks and government information resources,” he reported. In advice to the President, Marinichev suggests that the Prosecutor General’s Office should look into “the legality and validity of Roskomnadzor’s actions” which led to the “violation of availability of information resources of commercial companies” and “threatened the integrity, sustainability, and functioning of the unified telecommunications network of the Russian Federation and its critical information infrastructure.” Early May, it was reported that in addition to various web services, around 50 VPN, proxy and anonymization platforms had been blocked for providing access to Telegram. In a May 22 report, that number had swelled to more than 80 although 10 were later unblocked after they stopped providing access to the messaging platform. This week, Roscomnadzor has continued with efforts to block access to torrent and streaming platforms. In a new wave of action, the telecoms watchdog ordered ISPs to block at least 47 mirrors and proxies providing access to previously blocked sites.
  15. The latest MPAA tax filing shows that the revenue generated by the anti-piracy group has fallen after a few years of modest growth. The decrease is the result of lower membership fees paid by the major Hollywood studios, which resulted in a significant loss. The filing further reveals that the MPAA's former CEO Chris Dodd earned $3.4 million during his final year. As a united front for Hollywood, the MPAA has booked many anti-piracy successes in recent years. Through its involvement in the shutdowns of Popcorn Time, YIFY, isoHunt, Hotfile, Megaupload and several other platforms, the organization has worked hard to get results. Less visibly but at least as important, the MPAA uses its influence to lobby lawmakers, while orchestrating and managing anti-piracy campaigns both in the United States and abroad. All this work doesn’t come for free, obviously. To pay the bills the MPAA relies on six major movie studios for financial support. Over the past several years, these revenues had stabilized, but according to its latest tax filing, they are dropping now. The IRS filing, covering the fiscal year 2016, puts total revenue at $57 million, down from $73 million. The Hollywood studios paid the bulk of this sum through membership fees which total $50 million. That’s a 22% reduction compared to a year earlier. At the end of the year, this resulted in a significant loss of $8 million. While that’s a lot of money, the MPAA is not in imminent danger, as the organization still has over $10 million in net assets and funds. We haven’t seen any explanation for the lower membership fees. It could be more permanent, but it may also be an agreed decision, as there’s enough money in the bank. Going over the numbers, we see that salaries make up a large chunk of the expenses. Chris Dodd, the former MPAA Chairman and CEO, was the highest paid employee with a total income of more than $3.4 million, including a $275,000 bonus. This compensation was for Dodd’s last full year as CEO. He was replaced by Charles Rivkin last year, another political heavyweight, who previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs in the Obama administration. Dodd’s compensation took up nearly 10% of the entire salary budget. The rest is divided over the MPAA’s other 196 employees. This brings the total workforce to 197, which is down as well, from 224 employees a year earlier. Moving on, it’s always interesting to see where the MPAA’s grants and other types of funding go to. As reported previously, the group donates handsomely to various research initiatives. This includes a recurring million dollar grant for Carnegie Mellon’s ‘Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics’ (IDEA), which focuses on piracy related topics. Another major beneficiary is the Copyright Alliance, a non-profit that represents copyright holders large and small on a variety of issues. The group was co-founded by the MPAA and received $750,000 in support according to the latest filing. The total grants budget is $3.1 million and includes many smaller payments, which is not that different from previous years. Other large cost items are the lobbying budget, which totaled $3.6 million, and $5.3 million in legal fees. Aside from the big dip in revenues, there are no real outliers in the filing.