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  1. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the world's most powerful anti-piracy coalition, has announced further expansion. ACE/MPA chief Charles Rivkin says the addition of two new members - Hong Kong-based streaming platform Viu and Thailand’s leading cable satellite TV provider True Visions - will strengthen ACE's global reach. But the coalition doesn't plan to stop there. In the summer of 2017, a large coalition of major entertainment industry companies announced a new phase in the war against piracy. With a focus on web-based illegal streaming, pirate IPTV, and associated apps, the Alliance of Creativity and Entertainment embarked on a mission to protect its members rights. Through the MPA, Hollywood studios including Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, and MGM teamed with streaming giants Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu. Content-creating broadcasters Sky and BBC were also in the mix but ACE had even bigger plans. At launch in 2017, ACE had 30 members but with steady growth over the past few years and the addition of two new members this week, the anti-piracy coalition now boasts 39 member companies, all of them determined to disrupt illegal streaming piracy. ACE Adds First Two Asia-Based Companies Hong Kong-based video streaming platform Viu is available in seven Asian markets including Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar. Operating ad-supported and premium tiers, Via also produces original content under its ‘Viu Original’ branding. True Visions is Thailand’s leader cable satellite TV provider and in 2020 teamed with the MPA to shut down three pirate streaming sites. More recently it worked with ACE to shut down We-Play, one of the largest piracy portals in Thailand. Both are now members of the ACE coalition, swelling its ranks to 39 companie. MPA/ACE Chief Welcomes New Members Charles Rivkin, Chairman of ACE and the Motion Picture Association, says the addition of Viu and True Visions is the beginning of an ACE expansion to include local media companies from key markets around the world. “By growing ACE’s footprint throughout the APAC region, we are building new relationships with local law enforcement authorities and other key partners in our ongoing effort to shut down piracy operations around the world,” Rivkin says. “These new members further strengthen ACE’s global reach and collective approach to disrupting a piracy ecosystem that harms the creative economy worldwide.” Sompan Charumilinda, Executive Vice Chairman of True Visions, believes that joining ACE will allow his company to tackle piracy more effectively and improve its reputation overseas. “We want to support Thai people, as they compete in a globalized marketplace, by protecting their work with strong intellectual property rights stewardship,” he says. “We are pleased to be the first member of ACE based in Thailand and look forward to helping drive important actions in this market that will improve the piracy landscape and pave the way for a brighter future.” Janice Lee, CEO of Viu, notes that one of her company’s goals is to encourage users of piracy sites to move to legal services like Viu. The disruption services offered by ACE will help Viu to achieve that. “As one of the leading video-on-demand services offering premium Asian content, we recognize the need to address the piracy that is widespread in our markets,” Lee says. “We are committed to ensuring that consumers move from illegal piracy sites to legal options like Viu by providing an unparalleled viewer experience and investing in the creative ecosystem.” These two new members of ACE mark the coalition’s official expansion into Asia. In April 2022, ACE also broke new ground with the addition of sports broadcaster beIN SPORTS and a promise to disrupt piracy of live sporting events. More sports rightsholders are expected to join ACE in the coming months. ACE Anti-Piracy Alliance Expands Into Asia to Disrupt Illegal Streaming
  2. The world's leading anti-piracy coalition ACE continues to expand with beIN as its newest member. Speaking with TorrentFreak, global anti-piracy chief Jan van Voorn shares a peek behind the scenes and a glimpse into ACE's future plans. "If someone is running a pirate business of any significance, they can be 100% sure that their case is somewhere in our pipeline," van Voorn says. During the summer of 2017, several of the world’s largest entertainment industry companies teamed up to create a new anti-piracy coalition. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) brought together well-known Hollywood companies including Disney, Warner Bros, NBCUniversal, media giants such as Sky and BBC, as well as streaming-based newcomers Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu. Heading towards its fifth anniversary, the coalition is stronger than ever. ACE continues to expand and now has 35 members, with beIN becoming the latest addition just this week. The addition of the sports rightsholder also represents an expansion into the live streaming arena. The coalition’s growth is not limited to its member count, the number of people involved in ACE’s anti-piracy operations also continues to grow. The team currently consists of more than 100 full-time professionals speaking 30 languages across 24 countries. Expansion appears to be paying off. While many pirate site operators manage to avoid ACE’s grasp, those who fail to take extreme precautions have become easy prey. ACE’s global content protection chief Jan van Voorn informs us that more investigators and attorneys continue to be added to the alliance in various parts of the world. These “boots on the ground” allow access to local governments and law enforcement, to target local piracy players. ACE Books Progress Over the years ACE has built a dedicated library of open-source intelligence. This has resulted in a wealth of information that is now paying off at a rapid pace. “Over the past three years, we have built up a significant pipeline of investigations. These are coming to fruition week by week and month by month. If someone is running a pirate business of any significance, they can be 100% sure that their case is somewhere in our pipeline,” van Voorn says. These strong words are expected, as ACE wants site operators to feel vulnerable, but they’re not hollow threats. Over the past few months alone the coalition has shut down several prominent piracy players, including Pelisplushd.net, Afdah.video, and Altered Carbon. And those names are just the tip of the iceberg. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of illegal websites and streaming subscription services operated from North America reportedly dropped from 1,400 to just 200. ACE believes this is in large part the result of its anti-piracy efforts. Cease and Desist There are a variety of enforcement actions available to ACE. The coalition takes a holistic approach, searching for vulnerabilities wherever it can. While court cases are also part of the repertoire, a cease-and-desist letter is usually the first step taken. “Whenever the case at hand allows for it, ACE’s preferred course of action is to serve cease and desist notices on pirate operators and then open discussions to shut down their illegal enterprise voluntarily. The increasing number of pirate services’ domains taken over by ACE is a testament to the effectiveness of such direct action,” van Voorn tells us. While this sounds easy, finding out who’s behind a pirate site isn’t always straightforward. The operators of these sites and services often go to extremes to hide their identities, using proxies, VPNs, and fake names and addresses. ACE regularly tries to uncover information through DMCA subpoenas in the U.S. or Right of Information (ROI) claims in the EU. These target intermediaries such as hosting providers and Cloudflare, who are compelled to hand over customer information. “Disclosure requests have been a very effective way for ACE to expand its investigations. Through these processes we target all relevant intermediaries that have customer information that can help us identify the operator of a pirate site or service, including hosting providers, payment processors, advertising networks, etcetera.” “Having targeted more than 200 online intermediaries this way, it also allows us to identify patterns of piracy friendly intermediaries across the globe,” van Voorn notes. Even when intermediaries cooperate, information obtained isn’t always useful. Many operators of pirate sites and services use fabricated or inaccurate details to sign up. “The information we receive from intermediaries is mixed. While the information obtained does not always instantly identify the individual running a pirate operation, there are almost always leads we can follow that either give us investigative insights or that help confirm prior suspicions.” KYBC Frustrations In recent years many ACE members have lobbied for stricter “Know Your Business Customer” (KYBC) requirements for online intermediaries. The lack of identity verification is one of the greatest frustrations for ACE at the moment. Making these checks mandatory would be a game-changer. Van Voorn says that it’s not hard for people to stay anonymous and run a commercial pirate enterprise. Online service providers hardly ever check who their customers really are. And while ACE doesn’t want to limit the privacy of regular Internet users, it believes that pirates are in a different league. “Private individuals are entitled to their personal privacy, of course. But when you start running a business that is taking people’s money and selling services, you incur certain obligations to tell the world who you are and to obey the law,” van Voorn says. “What’s illegal offline should be illegal online. Online service providers should be able to respond to legitimate civil judicial and law enforcement requests to identify their customers. If they can’t do that, they are enabling illegal activity, and there should be consequences.” Identifying people behind pirate sites and services is a priority but when intermediaries can’t or won’t hand over any useful information, ACE will look for other ways to go after the culprits. “There are many more ways to make the lives of pirate operators unpleasant, make their websites less user-friendly, and significantly impact their bottom line. We can, and we always will, disrupt and ultimately identify pirate operators by pouring more resources into our investigations.” Civil and Criminal Lawsuits As ACE is expanding, the cease-and-desist approach has become a more international endeavor. And with employees around the globe, it becomes more difficult for pirate sites and services to stay under the radar. Cease-and-desist letters can be effective but they are no silver bullet. In some cases, operators of pirate sites and services will continue undeterred. When that happens, ACE will consider taking action in court, or referring the operators to local prosecutors. “We think of litigation or criminal referrals as the logical next step when discussions with pirate operators are unsuccessful, or when operators try to go back into business despite agreeing not to do so. There are certainly more civil and criminal cases to come in the near future,” van Voorn notes. At the end of 2020, the United States adopted the ‘Protecting Lawful Streaming Act’ which was seen as a game-changer since it made running an illegal streaming service a felony. Thus far, this hasn’t resulted in a wave of prosecutions. This isn’t due to a lack of referrals, according to ACE’s global anti-piracy chief. “Illegal streaming is now a felony in the US, and we are doing our best to help ensure that those criminal offenders will face justice. We know that DOJ is aware of some significant pirate operators in the US, and we trust that they will take appropriate action.” In recent months ACE has published a steady stream of enforcement successes on its website. While not all achievements can be shared publicly, the alliance sees the shutdown of PrimeWire, Altered Carbon, 123movies.la, Afdah.video, and Pelisplushd.net as some of the biggest successes of the past year. Future Plans Looking ahead, van Voorn mentions a few areas where ACE plans to spend more time and effort. This includes enforcement targeted at live streaming, which in part motivated beIN to join the coalition. ACE already has some experience in going after IPTV services and they have learned that a lot of IPTV sellers rely on a relatively small group of wholesalers. Targeting these big players is a priority. In addition, the alliance also takes a special interest in release groups at the top of the ‘piracy pyramid’. Last year, ACE shut down the movie and TV show release group NTG and it plans to use the same strategy to go after other key players. “Another important issue we are dedicating even more time to are release groups, in particular those that focus on ripping content from ACE Members’ streaming services,” van Voorn says. “Following our success in shutting down the NTG release group last year, we are currently focusing on major release groups following the same strategy and we are working closely with law enforcement on these cases,” he adds. All in all, ACE is confident that it can severely disrupt the piracy ecosystem. While it’s undeniable that the alliance has booked several major successes, history has shown that the most stubborn pirates are hard to catch. In any case, it will be an interesting battle to watch. Anti-Piracy Coalition ACE Gets Bigger, Stronger and More Effective
  3. In 2013, pirate streaming site Afdah began offering a comprehensive library of infringing movies to millions of users. This attracted the attention of rightsholders and ever since there have been efforts to disrupt its activities. After reporting the site to the United States government in 2021, Afdah's domains have now been 'seized' by the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment. Over the past decade, hundreds of pirate streaming sites gained traction as free alternatives to official streaming platforms such as Netflix. In 2013, Afdah.com entered the already crowded market and quickly attracted millions of users tempted by a comprehensive library of copyright-infringing movies. But of course, along with a rise in Afdah’s popularity came increased interest from copyright holders determined to shut down or disrupt the site. Afdah Was Originally Fueled By Content Stored on Google In 2014, a German anti-piracy outfit identified more than 18,000 pirated videos stored on Google’s servers, noting that more than a dozen pirate sites were using the library as fuel for their own sites. Google described this as a violation of its terms of use, adding that infringing content is removed when rightsholders complain. Nevertheless, several well-known ‘pirate’ brands exploited the ‘loophole’, including Movie4K, Putlocker, Yify and Afdah. Whether Afdah continued to use Google’s servers following the complaint is unclear but the site continued to grow. In 2015 it found itself among the top 250 most popular pirate sites in the world meaning that it would remain on Hollywood’s hit list. Movie Companies Increase The Pressure With Afdah increasing in popularity, in 2015 the Motion Picture Association obtained a High Court injunction compelling the UK’s leading ISPs to block Afdah.com. Whether blocking was the direct reason is unclear but Afdah later deployed new domains including Afdah.tv and Afdah.to. These were blocked by ISPs following a legal process in Singapore in 2018. This dynamic injunction was also used to block additional domains deployed by Afdah in more recent years. A year later, leading movie studios including Disney Enterprises, Universal City Studios, Netflix Studios and Village Roadshow applied for an ISP blocking injunction in Australia covering dozens of pirate sites including Afdah.com. But the studios weren’t done. In April 2021 we discovered that MPA and ACE had obtained a DMCA subpoena in the United States compelling Cloudflare to hand over the personal details of an individual behind an Afdah domain. At the time the domain was receiving more than six million hits per month. Just weeks later, Google received a request to remove Afdah from its search results but did not reveal the details “due to the nature of the court’s order”. In October 2021, the MPA labeled Afdah.video (another new domain) a ‘notorious market’ in a submission to the United States Trade Representative, claiming that its operator lives in Singapore. Around six months ago reports suggested that the original Afdah may have gone down but given the number of other unrelated sites using its name to get traffic, some believed it may have been resurrected. We can now confirm that the site’s official domains definitely won’t be making a comeback. MPA/ACE Get Results After Years of Legal Action On April 8, 2022, Afdah’s confirmed official domains – Afdah.com and Afdah.video – found themselves under new ownership. As the latter’s WHOIS information shows, it’s now under the control of the Motion Picture Association. The ‘seizure’ of these domains hasn’t been officially confirmed by the MPA or ACE but it’s likely they were handed over as part of a legal agreement between Afdah’s owner and the movie companies. In many similar cases the studios’ investigators have been able to find out the real identities of site owners and contact them directly with an order to cease and desist. One of the conditions for site operators not being sued by the studios is that they hand over domains to the MPA. These are then used to display a deterrent message to would-be users of the shuttered platforms suggesting that they go legal to avoid putting themselves at risk. Afdah’s oldest domain (Afdah.com) and its newest (Afdah.video) now display such a warning. It took the MPA more than seven years but as the case against PrimeWire (an even older site) shows, the MPA’s anti-piracy division is always prepared for the long haul. ACE Finally Seizes Pirate Streaming Domains After Years of Legal Action
  4. The Players Klub was a popular IPTV service that initially offered live TV channels and a VOD package at prices starting at just $5. Over the years the prices began to rise then the service rebranded, reportedly due to a hostile takeover. It now transpires that the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment has taken over the portals through which the service was sold. In 2020, people looking for a pirate IPTV supplier are presented with dozens upon dozens of options. While it’s believed there are relatively few groups supplying high-level sources for much of the content, many smaller providers plus sellers and resellers are saturating the marketplace, each looking for a piece of what has become a massive market. The Players Klub During 2017 or thereabouts, a new brand entered the market with a splash. Labeled The Players Klub (TPK), the service attracted a loyal following with pretty cheap plans (including what appears to have been limited free giveaways) offering a wide range of live TV channels plus a comprehensive movie and TV show VOD platform. Late 2019, The Players Klub reported ‘changes’ to the service, reporting that it had suffered a “hostile takeover within the business” and as a result would be rebranding under a different name. The new name, ‘TopDog’ (or TPKTopDog) didn’t appear to last long, however. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the change took place but the ‘TopDog’ branding was later changed to ‘Game Masters’ but even that appeared problematic. According to the service, someone who used to work for the platform (but left under a cloud) was spreading fake information in order to cause trouble. In a tit-for-tat move, the warring parties asked users to report each others’ pages to Facebook for abusive practices. The Players Klub Declared Dead…. One thing that remained relatively constant (at least through early name changes and disruption which continued until recently) was the ability to acquire TPK/TopDog using various sites under the MintPanel branding. However, those domains proved themselves to be unreliable, with various options – MintPanel.net, MintPanel.co and MintPanel.digital – all appearing and then dropping out of use, to the apparent frustration of customers. The sequence of events is muddy, to say the least, but we can confirm without any shadow of a doubt that none of those domains remain in the possession of TPK/TopDog/Game Masters. In fact, they are all under new management at the Motion Picture Association (MPA), which is clearly not a good sign. Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment There’s no easy way of knowing when global anti-piracy coalition ACE, with MPA at the helm, started to put pressure on the variously-branded IPTV providers using the MintPanel domains. What we can be sure of, however, is that early this month they changed hands and now sport the ownership details of the MPA. While MintPanel.net was transferred on September 1, 2020, MintPanel.co took a little longer and was transferred over to Hollywood control four days later, the same day as Mintpanel.digital. All now show the familiar Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment seizure banner before redirecting users (including prospective and existing customers) to the ACE anti-piracy portal for an unwelcome surprise. Game Masters IPTV Lives On? Around three months ago, a long thread developed on Reddit after a Game Masters customer alleged that the IPTV supplier wasn’t providing service after taking payment. The problems appear to have raised their heads after the payment portal used at the time (Gmasterpanel.com) suffered difficulties along with a Discord support channel, that also disappeared. However, Gmasterpanel.com isn’t in the hands of the MPA/ACE, neither is its alleged replacement Gamers.services. It currently doesn’t seem possible to sign up to Game Masters from that domain itself but according to various reports, the underlying service is working, although who is providing that now is anyone’s guess. The ACE Juggernaut Rolls On As reported last week, ACE is currently pressuring Android piracy app TVZion to shut down but that action, like this against TPK/TopDog (and potentially Game Masters), has gone completely unreported by the anti-piracy group. In fact, just a tiny proportion of ACE actions are made public by the coalition itself, possibly due to confidentiality agreements reached with piracy players but, at least in some instances, because ACE isn’t ready to reveal its achievements in public yet. Part of the problem, at least potentially, is that some services agree to die then morph into something else. Source: TorrentFreak
  5. Several members of the team behind pirate streaming app TVZion have been reportedly served with cease-and-desist notices by global anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment. A partial copy of a letter seen by TF orders domains to be handed over but according to a source familiar with the situation, the app won't be shutting down. Over the past several years there has been an explosion of piracy apps that run on mobile devices, mostly on the Android platform. Most of the big-name piracy apps such as Popcorn Time have an Android variant and due to the relative ease of development offered by the OS, dozens of similar tools for viewing the latest content are available online. One that has been gaining traction since it appeared a couple of years ago is TVZion. It offers access to movies and TV shows hosted on various external platforms and presents them in a slick Netflix-style interface. However, according to copies of documents shared with TorrentFreak, TVZion may be in for a bumpy ride. Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment Global anti-piracy group ACE is a massive coalition of the world’s major entertainment companies, encompassing the main Hollywood studios under the MPA alongside Netflix, Amazon and dozens of other content producers. Since its inception, ACE has been working to shut down apps like TVZion with some success. Now, however, TVZion itself seems to be under the spotlight. A source who requested anonymity shared partial documents with TF on Thursday, which bear all the hallmarks of an ACE ‘shut down or else” settlement letter. The first page of the document, which was heavily cropped to obscure personal details, reveals that it was sent by Jan van Voorn, Chief of Global Content Protection at the MPA, on behalf of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment. Cease and Desist / Settlement Agreement It’s unclear how many people received the cease-and-desist letter but our source estimates that perhaps four people were targeted. It demands that multiple social network and support accounts for TVZion are shut down, including at least four on Facebook, TVZion’s Discord channel, its Telegram group, Twitter channel and sub-Reddit. From the documents reviewed by TF, it appears that MPA/ACE are currently prepared to let TVZion’s these individuals go quietly, but with many strings attached. “Within ten (10) days of the Effective Date [REDACTED] shall transfer the domains Zionapp.live, Tvzion.me, Tvzionapk.com, and Tvzion.io, and all trademarks related to the Infringing Service, to the Rightsholders at no cost, and shall execute whatever documents and take whatever actions are necessary to effect the transfer,” the settlement offer reads. “Following transfer of the domains, Rightsholders shall have all rights to the domains, including, but not limited to, posting a message of their choosing on the domains.” This seems like a reference to the usual ACE seizure banner that’s currently posted on several dozen other domains that were previously shut down following legal pressure. Developer Overlooked and the Show Goes On Late Thursday, even the developer of TVZion claimed to be oblivious to what is unfolding. While lower tier mods and support staff were apparently disappearing, deleting YouTube and other support accounts as they went, he told users on Reddit that he was as “clueless” as they are about what is happening. No mention was made of him receiving a similar letter. However, he did acknowledge that he was longer able to contact the people in his own team but during the past few hours, that position seems to have changed. “The moderators finally responded back. They said that they enjoyed maintaining the groups but they recently had a change of heart and for personal reasons they no long want to maintain groups,” TVZion’s developer wrote on Reddit. “I am as surprised as you are. But it’s possibly a burn out issue and this has happened before with the last group. They worked a lot on those groups, attending to everyone, defending when they faced toxic people, it’s possible that they are just burnt out and just wanted out.” At least from the tone of statements issued thus far, the developer seems intent on carrying on with TVZion. At the time of writing the app appears to be functional albeit with a few hiccups, but users in need of assistance currently find no support staff available. Source: TorrentFreak
  6. Popular streaming video search engine Ololo.to has thrown in the towel leaving around two million monthly visitors behind. Earlier this month, Ololo was targeted in a DMCA subpoena obtained by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, which required the Tonic domain registry to hand over the personal details of its operator. Back in 2018, streaming search engine Alluc announced that it would be closing down. Considering the site’s length of service, an impressive 13 years, a sizeable gap was left in the market for some kind of replacement. While there are plenty of indexing sites around, dedicated search engines have proven less easy to find in the current climate. The Rise of the Ololo Streaming Video Search Engine On April 1, 2018, a new streaming video search engine appeared. Named Ololo and located at Ololo.to, the site gave users the ability to search for the latest movies and TV shows. By crawling some of the largest video hosting platforms on the planet, including the now-defunct Openload, Streamango, Rapidvideo and Verystream, for example, the site became a hit with users. “With ololo you can search hundreds of websites at one place and you can also use ololo as an alluc alternative. Help us spread the word and tell your friends who are looking for alluc alternatives,” the site previously announced. One Year Ago: Ololo Takes a Big Hit Exactly a year ago, the unlicensed video streaming market received a huge blow when Openload, a massive file-hosting platform generating more traffic than legal services such as Hulu or HBO Go, was suddenly shut down along with stablemates Streamango, Streamcherry, and Verystream. All had been shuttered after coming under pressure from global anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, which required their operators to pay a “significant” damages award. The action had a serious knock-on effect for Ololo too, which previously crawled the platforms looking for content. “Goodbye openload, streamango, verystream. This is gonna hurt us for a long time,” the site reported at the time. Recovering and Moving On – For a While During the months to follow, Ololo added support for even more sites including Viduplayer.com, mystream.to, upstream.to, videobin.co, prostream.to, onlystream.tv, and many more. As recently as May this year, Ololo began offering support for other platforms including streamtape.com and oogly.io. As a result and from a standing start a little over two years earlier, the site was generating significant traffic, pulling in an estimated two million visitors per month**, many of whom commented on the quality of the platform and the results produced. However, trouble lay ahead. At some point, the site’s Twitter account was suspended for violating the platform’s rules. The nature of the violation isn’t known but the account, which was supposed to be used to notify users of outages, would’ve come in handy. Without warning from the site’s operator/s, Ololo suddenly went down in the past few days leaving the following message: “ololo says goodbye! The ololo search engine has been discontinued.” While many of the site’s users felt the closure was a complete surprise, recent history reveals that the search engine had some problems. It isn’t clear whether these were the direct cause of the site shutting down but in the scheme of things, it’s likely they played a part. Pressure from Hollywood – Blocking Earlier this month we reported how group of major Hollywood studios, Netflix, and other movie companies had obtained a new pirate site-blocking injunction in Australia. The injunction targeted 78 domains, requiring that the majority of ISPs in Australia block them moving forward. On the list was Ololo, with the applicants in the case stating that the search engine’s “primary purpose or effect” was to infringe or facilitate the infringement of copyright. While a blocking order in Australia wouldn’t have affected the site’s traffic too much, another more significant event was on the horizon. After successfully shuttering Openload and colleagues a year ago, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) was on the heels of Ololo too. Pressure from Dozens of Companies – DMCA Subpoena This month, ACE obtained a DMCA subpoena compelling the Tonic domain registry, the operator of Ololo’s .to domain, to hand over information on many sites, including Ololo. As a result, Tonic was ordered to disclose the identities, including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account histories of the people operating the sites, Ololo.to included. Again, it is not clear whether the blocking, subpoena, or the prospect of being unmasked caused the shutdown of Ololo but the timing of the site’s closure raises plenty of questions. However, with the platform now consigned to history, perhaps it will be allowed to just fade away. Update: “A statement sent to TF by Ololo indicates that contrary to SimilarWeb stats, Ololo only received 6,000 to 8,000 visitors daily.” The site supplied additional information as follows; “We never made a single cent from this website, although there was one popup to cover server costs it was not enough. With such small traffic we had to pay this site from our pockets,” the statement reads. “With that being said, closing ololo was in our minds many times before. The recent Australian block and now ACE taking actions were the final signals for us to shut down this site for good. Source: TorrentFreak
  7. By their very nature, pirate IPTV services are clearly illegal and several have faced action through the courts in the US. To date, Hollywood studios have won every lawsuit in a devastating fashion. Yet, despite these cases being reported in detail, some IPTV services still haven't worked out how to stay off the radar. While torrent sites still play an important role in the piracy landscape, Hollywood and major content distributors consider illegal streaming to be a key threat. Of particular concern are pirate IPTV services that for just a small outlay per month, represent direct and credible competition for legitimate platforms. As a result, many IPTV services and sellers have been targeted around the world under various laws. ACE/MPA Subpoena Reveals Interest IPTV Service As we have previously reported, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment together with the MPA regularly obtain DMCA subpoenas in the US that compel companies such as Cloudflare to give up the personal details of pirate site operators. Thus far, the overwhelming majority have been torrent and web-based streaming sites but this week there was a small but interesting deviation. Who is Behind SentraTV? As far as IPTV providers go, SentraTV seems a pretty insignificant player. Its website doesn’t attract large numbers of visitors and searches don’t reveal much interest on the broader Internet. So why, given the large number of big targets available to ACE and the MPA, are they demanding that Cloudflare unmasks its operator? Due to their policy of not discussing ongoing investigations, we can only speculate on the motivation. However, there are some interesting factors, such as SentraTV providing an address in Delaware for correspondence. Indeed, this same address is used by numerous IPTV sellers, including PingIPTV, UpTickTV and Wave-TV, to name just three. The websites of these services are obviously similar too, with what appear to be identical packages and pricing. Whether these are all the same service, operated by the same or different people, or have connections to the same suppliers, are things for ACE to find out. All that having been said, if ACE/MPA choose to pursue SentraTV in a US court, they will win the case. VOD and 24/7 Channels Are The Achilles’ Heel When ACE/MPA targeted and then shut down the large Vaders IPTV service, the fact that the provider offered thousands of live channels wasn’t the main focus. Like other similar platforms, Vaders had a large VOD platform offering movies and TV shows, including so-called 24/7 channels dedicated to specific shows. With direct infringement easily provable, that ending up costing its operators $10m. After offering the same type of service, the owners of Crystal Clear Media were later handed a $40m bill. Despite knowing about these cases (surely?), SentraTV still offers a large VOD service including dozens of 24/7 channels. For ACE/MPA it’s now an easy target ripe for a lawsuit that Hollywood can’t lose or, alternatively, a settlement that will involve handing over large sums of money plus detailed information about its business, including its dealings with customers and suppliers. Of course, ACE/MPA are only at the subpoena stage but one can’t help think that without the easy target of VOD, the movie and TV companies might have picked a different target. The DMCA subpoena can be found here and here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  8. Several pirate IPTV providers and resellers, including the popular Streams For Us, have decided to close their doors under pressure from global anti-piracy coalition ACE. Precise details on the decisions behind some of the closures aren't yet clear but an ACE cease-and-desist notice against a primary provider may have had a domino effect. As the popularity of pirate IPTV suppliers, sellers, and resellers continues to grow, entertainment industry companies – which were initially quite slow to combat the threat – are now piling on the pressure. The momentum arrives via the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the huge anti-piracy coalition featuring the combined power of Hollywood, Netflix, Amazon, plus a broad array of global entertainment industry names. While ACE’s press office sits quietly by, knowing all but saying pretty much nothing, news of fresh ACE activity hits TF’s newsdesk several times every month and regularly features action against IPTV providers. This week offers no let-up in that trend. ‘Streams For Us’ Shuts Down Under ACE Pressure There are hundreds of IPTV brands on offer today and Streams For Us was one of the better-known providers. Until this week, that is, when it suddenly shut down. As always, rumors varied from the operators “doing a runner” with the cash to being forced out of business due to actual or potential legal action. From the information received by TF thus far on the matter, it appears that the latter applies in this case. It is extremely common for ACE pressure to begin with a cease-and-desist notice. At this point it’s up to the IPTV entity to decide on the direction – ignore it and carry on or comply with its terms. Streams for Us was placed under pressure by ACE and subsequently shut down. That will almost certainly not be the end of the matter though, as ACE also likes to tie up loose ends, including taking over domains and perhaps reaching a settlement offer. The terms of any settlement are almost always confidential but depending on how quickly an agreement can be reached, it’s likely that Streams For Us domains will be transferred to the MPA shortly after. Precisely when this pressure to close began isn’t clear but according to reports, the Streams For Us 24/7 VOD channels were removed a few days ago. So-called 24/7 channels specialize in a particular TV series, showing episodes constantly. While popular with customers, these channels require copies of the episodes to be stored on – and distributed from – a server, a breach of copyright law and a clear head above the parapet for those seeking to exploit the ‘streaming loophole‘. At the time of writing, streamsforus.net and forushosting.com are both down along with the service’s social media accounts. Other IPTV Brands Go Down, Potentially Due to the Above After Streams For Us went down, other IPTV brands – some of which appear to have connections to the targeted provider – also disappeared according to users. Thunder IPTV, Commando IPTV, Nue Media, Net Streams are all reportedly down at the time of writing, with reports suggesting that some acted as resellers or rebrandings of the Streams For Us service. TheHeroTV also appears to have gone down during the past few days too but we were unable to establish if connections exist to the above. Whether any of these brands were targeted individually by ACE is currently unknown but if the claims of reliance on Streams For Us channels are true, cutting off the head may have achieved the desired result without that being necessary. Source: TorrentFreak
  9. Anti-piracy coalition ACE is going after the operators of several pirate streaming sites. The members of ACE obtained a DMCA subpoena that requires Cloudflare to hand over the personal details and account information related to 37 domain names, including Flixtor.to, Myflixer.to, Watchserieshd.tv, HDSS.to and Soap2day.to. The online piracy ecosystem is constantly evolving. Ten years ago the entertainment industries were mostly concerned with torrent sites. Today, online streaming sites and services are the main challenges. To tackle this threat, some of the largest companies in the world bundled their powers. In 2017 they formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), which lists prominent members including major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and other entertainment giants. ACE’s Ongoing Anti-Piracy Efforts The coalition has been very active both in- and outside of court. It has shut down various streaming sites and tools, including Kodi add-ons and builds, pirate streaming box vendors, and unauthorized IPTV services. These efforts often start with intelligence gathering. At ACE, a dedicated team of investigators is constantly trying to identify the people behind these sites and services. One way to do this is by subpoenaing Cloudflare for information. Late last week, ACE obtained such a DMCA subpoena at a California District Court. The subpoena specifically directs CDN provider Cloudflare to hand over all useful information it has on a wide range of popular pirate streaming sites. “The purpose for which this subpoena is sought is to obtain the identities of the individuals assigned to these websites who have exploited ACE Members’ exclusive rights in their copyrighted works without their authorization,” ACE wrote while requesting the subpoena. Targeting Flixtor.to, HDSS.to, Soap2day.to and others The legal paperwork lists 37 separate domain names, listed below. Several domains point to similar sites and the targets include Flixtor.to, Myflixer.to, Watchserieshd.tv, HDSS.to and Soap2day.to, which are all among the top hundred most-visited pirate streaming sites. Myflixer At the time of writing all these sites are still operational. Cloudflare doesn’t have to take any direct action against the targeted customers either, it merely has to hand over the requested information. Among other things, ACE is looking for the account holders’ names, IP addresses, and payment details. This information will be used “for the purposes of protecting the rights” of the Hollywood studios, Amazon, and Netflix. Cloudflare is legally required to comply with the subpoena. Previously, it was unknown what information the company typically hands over but the latest transparency report, published last week, provided further insight. Cloudflare to Share Names, IP-addresses, and More The CDN provider said that, in response to valid legal requests, it shares IP-addresses that are used to login to the site as well as the login times. In addition, it hands over ‘basic subscriber info.’ including names, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, and payment details. How useful the provided information will be to ACE remains to be seen. However, it does show that the anti-piracy coalition is watching these sites closely. As such, it will likely do everything in its power to take them down. Finally, it is worth mentioning that several of the targeted domains are tied to the Donuts domain registry. For example, those with the .movie and .email extension. This is odd since Donuts has a voluntary agreement with the MPA, which is part of ACE, to suspend pirate site domains when they are properly reported. The MPA informed TorrentFreak that, in this case, they prefer to go for the Cloudflare subpoena route to support ACE’s investigations and the planned actions against the sites. Suspending the domains remains an option. — A copy of the letter ACE sent to Cloudflare informing it about the subpoena is available here (pdf). A full list of all the affected domain names is listed below. – flixtor.im – flixtor.is – flixtor.se – flixtor.vc – flixtor.it – flixtor.to – myflixer.site – myflixer.to – myflixer.com – xmovies8.pl – xmovies8.ac – xmovies8.com – xmovies8.si – xmovies8.tv – watchserieshd.tv – watchserieshd.cc – watchserieshd.io – gowatchseries.movie – gowatchseries.fm – gowatchseries.tv – series.movie – gowatchseries.video – 123movies2020.org – memovies.to – putlockers.email – top123movies.com – putlockers.me – putlockers.cr – 0123movies.su – hdss.to – moviesjoy.net – watchseries.movie – fmovie.sc – 1movies.is – soap2day.to – soap2day.se – soap2day.im Source: TorrentFreak
  10. Anti-piracy coalition ACE is continuing its crackdown on pirate sites, targeting several high profile actors. Represented by the MPA, the group requests a DMCA subpoena that requires Cloudflare to hand over personal information and account details relating to the operators of The Pirate Bay, YTS, 1337x, EZTV, Seasonvar, Tamilrockers, Lordfilms, and many others. As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe. This includes many pirate sites. Copyright holders would ideally like the company to cease its ties with these platforms, but Cloudflare sees things differently. It positions itself as a neutral third-party intermediary that will only take action in response to valid court orders. Cloudflare DMCA Subpoenas Thus far, court orders that have required Cloudflare to block or terminate a pirate site have been very limited. More commonly, rightsholders obtain DMCA subpoenas from US courts requiring the CDN provider to hand over information it has on the operators of pirate sites. During the first half of 2020, Cloudflare received 31 of these requests which targeted 83 accounts. Many of these were adult sites or relatively smaller pirate portals. This month, however, the anti-piracy coalition ACE has upped the ante. Last week we reported that ACE had obtained a subpoena to go after several pirate streaming sites. This week the crackdown continues, with the anti-piracy coalition requesting Cloudflare to expose information associated with The Pirate Bay and many other high profile sites. ACE Targets The Pirate Bay and Other Top Pirate Sites The list of targeted sites (46 in total) includes several of the top torrent sites, including YTS, 1337x, EZTV, LimeTorrents, and Tamilrockers. Other high profile non-English targets such as Cinecalidad, Pelisplus, Gnula, Altadefinizione, and DonTorrent are listed as well. The subpoena is requested by the MPA’s Jan Van Voorn, who writes on behalf of ACE and its members Amazon, Columbia Pictures, Disney, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, and Universal City Studios. The requested information will help the anti-piracy group to investigate the sites in question. “The purpose for which this subpoena is sought is to obtain the identities of the individuals assigned to these websites who have exploited ACE Members’ exclusive rights in their copyrighted works without their authorization,” the request reads. “This information will only be used for the purposes of protecting the rights granted under Title 17, United States Code,” Van Voorn adds. Cloudflare Will Hand Over Personal Details At the time of writing the subpoena has yet to be signed off by a court clerk, but that is usually not a problem. ACE will then forward it to Cloudflare which will hand over the requested details, including names, IP-addresses, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, and payment details. How useful the provided information will be to ACE remains to be seen. Many of the affected pirate sites should be aware of the possibility that their information can be shared, and could have taken precautions. Why Now? Aside from the many high profile targets in this legal request, ACE’s sudden attention to Cloudflare DMCA subpoenas is interesting by itself. In the span of just a few days, ACE has asked the company to identify the operators of more than 80 sites. Many of these sites, including The Pirate Bay, have been Cloudflare customers for years. Why ACE has decided to take action now, as opposed to years ago, is unknown. — A copy of ACE’s request for a DMCA subpoena, submitted to a California federal court, is available here (pdf). A full list of all the affected domain names is provided below. – yts.mx – pelisplus.me – 1337x.to F – seasonvar.ru – cuevana3.io – kinogo.by – thepiratebay.org – lordfilm.cx – swatchseries.to – eztv.io – 123movies.la – megadede.com – sorozatbarat.online – cinecalidad.is – limetorrents.info – cinecalidad.to – kimcartoon.to F – tamilrockers.ws – cima4u.io – fullhdfilmizlesene.co – yggtorrent.si – time2watch.io – online-filmek.me – lordfilms-s.pw – extremedown.video – streamkiste.tv – dontorrent.org – kinozal.tv – fanserial.net – 5movies.to – altadefinizione.group – cpasmieux.org – primewire.li – primewire.ag – primewire.vc – series9.to – europixhd.io – oxtorrent.pw – pirateproxy.voto – rarbgmirror.org – rlsbb.ru – gnula.se – rarbgproxied.org – seriespapaya.nu – tirexo.com – cb01.events – kinox.to – filmstoon.pro – descargasdd.net Source: TorrentFreak
  11. The MPA, Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, Homeland Security's National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and other groups have signed an agreement to collaborate on content protection efforts and launch a new public awareness campaign to deter citizens from engaging in IPTV, general streaming, and torrent-based piracy. In 2017, the MPA joined forces with dozens of entertainment industry companies to form the huge anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE). Two years later, the MPA bolstered its already considerable ranks with the addition of Netflix, an existing ACE member. Together with Amazon, the Hollywood studios and their partners are now engaged in legal action to bring down as many piracy platforms as they can, with a focus on IPTV and streaming. Thus far, however, ACE and MPA actions have lacked a visible or obvious connection to law enforcement and government entities. A corresponding, coordinated public awareness aspect has been missing too but that all changed this week with the announcement of yet more partnerships at a very high level. MPA and Partners Sign MoU With ICE IPR Center Late Wednesday, Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that its IPR Center, the MPA, ACE, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center plus industry marketing group CTAM, had formed a broad coalition to pool their content protection efforts. During what is described as a virtual ceremony, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Derek N. Benner, Executive Associate Director for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Karyn Temple, Senior Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel for the MPA. The stated aim of the new partnership is to use the combined resources of the groups to support Homeland Security Investigations and the IPR Center’s digital piracy investigations, including resource and information sharing with external anti-piracy groups. “Now more than ever, collaboration and partnerships between content creative industries and law enforcement agencies are essential to combat digital piracy and protect consumers,” Benner said. “Through this partnership, the IPR Center and its private sector partners will implement an aggressive multi-layered strategy to restore the digital ecosystem, educate consumers on the dangers of illegal streaming, enforce the nation’s intellectual property rights laws, and dismantle criminal enterprises that operate on the internet – thinking they are untouchable and above the law.” Public Awareness Campaign Alongside the signing of the MoU, the new coalition also launched a brand new public service awareness campaign. While the anti-piracy groups and law enforcement bodies tackle large-scale pirates using legal mechanisms, they hope to convince consumers of illicit content – who keep these services alive – to stop using them. Via the new ‘StreamSafely‘ portal, it’s hoped that the visual entertainment industries can convince mainly IPTV and streaming users to stop frequenting pirate services. The approach will come as no surprise. MALWARE! MALWARE! MALWARE! After perhaps growing more than a little bit tired of attempting to get pirates to think of the creators, the latest trend is to get pirates to think of themselves. The main goal of this campaign is no different and the StreamSafely portal is neck-deep in warnings about malware. Indeed, there are a number of videos, presented by TV host and journalist Katie Linendoll, among others, claiming that signing up to a piracy site or service is a dangerous thing to do. If users want their machines infected, bank details, social security numbers, and indeed their entire identities stolen by criminals, piracy is the way to go, the site claims again and again. But will consumers find the message credible? While the message is nothing new and may have some merits in certain circumstances, the alleged scale of the problem isn’t supported by much evidence. While the campaign links to various reports that claim malware is a problem, the site nor these linked papers provide any hard specifics to support the numerous claims. PSA’s are designed to be simple and easy to consume but many tech-savvy consumers aren’t easily swayed. This could be countered by providing precise evidence and specifics of malware and identity theft in relation to pirate platforms. It would also send a powerful message if malicious services were actually named alongside details of what they have supposed to have done. To date, this hasn’t happened. Nor have there been any efforts to explain the precise mechanisms through which these alleged dangers manifest themselves. Taking this important step would build confidence that the campaign is about protecting consumers, not just copyright holders. It would also have the desired deterrent effect. There are literally no downsides. The Campaign Does Have its Merits There are certain aspects of the StreamSafely campaign that aren’t up for debate. Given their very nature, legal services such as Netflix are absolutely safe to use and users can be very confident indeed that any personal or financial information provided to the platform won’t be criminally abused. The other issue, and this is a big one, is the unreliable nature of the illicit streaming market, particularly IPTV. Experienced users of such services tend to dig in their heels at this point and argue that they have few problems, but most consumers aren’t so savvy. Services do go down and people do lose money, sometimes considerable amounts. “Seemingly inexpensive piracy devices, apps or websites often get shut down for distributing pirated content, leaving users in the lurch,” the campaign says. It’s a message that will resonate with thousands of IPTV and app-based pirates whose services have disappeared and taken their money. The malware angle needs much more work. Next Post Source: TorrentFreak
  12. Anti-piracy coalition ACE has obtained a subpoena to compel the Tonic domain registry to hand over all information it has on the owner of S.to. With hundreds of thousands of registered users, S.to is the largest German-language pirate TV streaming community. These requests are a core part of the anti-piracy toolbox, a source informs us. With hundreds of thousands of registered users and millions of regular visitors, the pirate TV-streaming community S.to is a force to be reckoned with. The site targets a German-language audience and currently lists more than 750,000 streaming links to well over 5,000 TV-series. This public display of piracy is a thorn in the side of major copyright holders. This includes the anti-piracy coalition ACE, which counts Netflix, Amazon, and several Hollywood studios among its members. ACE wants Domain Registry to Identify S.to operator In recent weeks, ACE has obtained several subpoenas to compel Cloudflare to hand over all information it has on dozens of pirate sites. This effort continued recently, but this time it’s directed at Tonic, the official registry of the .to domain name, with S.to as the single target. Through the subpoena, the anti-piracy coalition asks Tonic to disclose information including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, payment information, account updates, and account history associated with the domain registrant. While .to is the top-level domain of the island kingdom of Tonga, the Tonic registry operates through Tonic Domains Corp., which clearly has a U.S. presence with a California address. As such, it will generally fall under the jurisdiction of US courts. As is usually the case with DMCA subpoenas, this request was approved by a court clerk without oversight from a judge. That will require the registry to hand over the requested information. How valuable that will be, has yet to be seen. Part of the Anti-Piracy Toolbox An anti-piracy source familiar with the matter informs TorrentFreak that some information obtained through these subpoenas is fake or unusable. However, it can result in actionable intelligence as well, and even false information can have its value. Generally speaking, our source says that DMCA subpoenas are just another part of a larger anti-piracy toolbox, one that ACE now uses to its full potential. In the long term, copyright holders are hoping subpoenas will become even more effective. This can be achieved by making sure that information kept by online services is more accurate. This is a topic that’s high on the anti-piracy agenda at the moment. KYBC Push Last month, a coalition of more than 50 groups sent a letter sent to the European Commission asking it to consider broader “Know Your Business Customer” (KYBC) requirements as part of the Digital Services Act. The groups wrote that they would like third-party intermediaries, including hosting providers and domain registrars, to carry out more checks to properly confirm the identities of customers. At the moment, this information is often missing. This means that, even if ACE’s current subpoena efforts prove to be fruitless, they can still use that failure as ammunition to show that stricter regulations are needed. In other words, it’s pretty much a win-win situation. — A copy of the declaration from MPA/ACE in support of their subpoena request is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  13. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the anti-piracy coalition featuring the world's largest content creation companies, has a brand new member. Subscription VOD service AppleTV+ has been welcomed to the fold, not just a regular member, but as an addition to the governing body, a move that will provide Apple with considerable power not available to ordinary members. In June 2017, an unprecedented number of global content creators and distribution platforms announced the formation of a brand new coalition to collaboratively fight Internet piracy on a global scale. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) initially brought together 30 companies to form a who’s who of the global entertainment market. With Amazon, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros. leading the charge, the aim was to pool resources to combat the rise of illegal streaming services and other unlicensed content providers. Since then the coalition has slowly expanded, adding various entertainment companies to what has become the world leader in content protection enforcement. A few hours ago, ACE welcomed the most important addition to the coalition since its founding more than three years ago. AppleTV+ Joins ACE Needing little introduction, AppleTV+ is the subscription streaming service operated by tech giant Apple Inc. Having launched in November 2019, AppleTV+ didn’t exist when ACE was formed but its addition to the global anti-piracy initiative cannot be understated. Since 2016, Apple has been producing and distributing its own original content and by late 2019, its spend was believed to have reached more than $6 billion. While production is currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Apple will be keen to protect its works moving forward and given ACE’s experience and momentum, there’s arguably no better partner available today. “The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the world’s leading coalition dedicated to protecting the dynamic legal market for creative content, today announced that Apple TV+ is its newest member and will join its governing board,” ACE said, officially welcoming AppleTV+ to the fold. “The addition of Apple’s streaming service further strengthens ACE’s collective approach to disrupting a piracy ecosystem that harms creators.” Not Just a Regular Member of ACE Over the past two years, ACE has added several new members including Discovery, the UK’s Channel 5, Viacom-owned Telefe and even ISP Comcast. However, none of these companies will enjoy the power apparently being granted to AppleTV+. The key term in the ACE announcement is that Apple’s VOD platform will join the ACE governing body. This group was initially limited to the founders of ACE – Netflix, Inc., Amazon Studios LLC, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios LLC, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures – so AppleTV+ is the first company to sit at the top of ACE having not been there at the start. With this new standing, AppleTV+ will have considerable power within the coalition. Not long after ACE was founded, a confidential source shared an internal ACE document with TorrentFreak. It revealed how ACE was set to operate, including the power thresholds of various members and how much they would have to contribute to the operation. At the time, governing body members were required to contribute $5m each annually, unless they were already a member of the MPAA (now MPA). This effectively meant that only Amazon and Netflix paid the full amount of $5m per year each but given that Netflix is now an MPA member, that position may well have changed. Nevertheless, being at the top of ACE brings certain privileges. Governing Body Powers With reference to the ACE founding document seen by TF, ACE governing members were set to meet at least four times every year, with each company nominating a senior executive as a representative at meetings chaired by the MPA’s General Counsel. Importantly, the governing members (which now include AppleTV+) set the direction of ACE and are granted full voting rights on ACE business. This includes the approval of initiatives and public policy, anti-piracy strategy, budget-related matters, plus final approval of legal action. On top, governing members have the power to vote for new members to join the coalition or expel those that are no longer needed. AppleTV+ Could Be the Last Governing Member of ACE Referring again to the ACE founding documents, the original plan was for the coalition to never have more than nine governing body members. With the appointment of AppleTV+, that limit has now been reached. In a rapidly moving market, it’s certainly possible that will change in time, but given that even one persistent objection by a governing member is enough to stop any matter from being approved, adding even more new members to the governing body opens up the possibility of deadlock. The Ascent of AppleTV+ Only Brings Benefits As a content creator itself, Apple will be happy to utilize the anti-piracy resources available at ACE. Equally, having AppleTV+ on board will boost the strength of ACE itself and it will certainly welcome the considerable financial contributions from the company. Whether those contributions will be used to boost overall resources or reduce the financial contributions made by other members will remain a closely-guarded secret. But whatever the outcome, it’s safe to say that ACE isn’t going anywhere – much to the disappointment of pirates everywhere. Source: TorrentFreak
  14. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment has taken over domains previously connected to Firestick Plusman. In addition to 'seizing' the popular FSPMKodi.com repository, the group has also commandeered domains belonging to ACE TV. But the latest grabs don't stop there. Global anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment is forging ahead with its mission to sue, shut down, disrupt or otherwise hinder a broad range of unlicensed content providers or those who facilitate access. For years, mass shutdowns and domain seizures were relatively uncommon but the Alliance, which is compromised of some of the most powerful entertainment companies in the world, is setting records as it goes, albeit largely in the shadows. Closures and Domain ‘Seizures’ Rather than taking the more expensive option of suing alleged copyright infringers, ACE regularly deploys its considerable muscle to intimidate opponents into submission. The tactic isn’t popular with pirates but ACE picks its targets carefully and in the vast majority of cases, could easily win a court battle should it choose to pursue one. Instead, pirate players of all shapes and sizes are given the option to settle with ACE, which can simply mean a promise to shut down or could involve additional elements such as handing over domains and/or paying a settlement sum. In the past few days and weeks, there has been no shortage of new domains being taken over. Firestick Plusman / ACE TV The Firestick Plusman (FSPM) name is well known in the piracy community, with connections to various Kodi add-ons, IPTV, Android APKs, and for providing storage facilities so they can be accessed and installed by users. Earlier this year, disruption was apparent when Fspmkodi.com, a repository of software associated with various forms of streaming-related piracy (Kodi add-on ‘Fantastic’, for example), suddenly went down, taking access to some of the software listed below with it. Aside from the usual rumors that the shutdown was forced, no official confirmation was available to the wider public at the time. This week, however, the domain utilized by the popular repository was transferred into the hands of the MPA. This usually happens when a domain/service owner receives a cease-and-desist settlement offer from ACE members and takes the option to shut up shop rather than face a lawsuit. At the same time, three other domains connected to FSPM also suffered the same fate. Acetv.online, acehostingservice.com, and acetvpremium.com, which were all connected to the provision of pirate IPTV services, are now operated by the MPA and currently divert to the ACE anti-piracy portal when accessed by visitors. Sundry Other Domains Also Diverting to ACE As reported by TF in September, ACE also managed to close down IPTV provider Streams For Us, apparently taking other IPTV brands with it, including one called Nue Media. We can now confirm that Nue Media was one of the targets as its domain neumediatv.net is now in the hands of the MPA and also diverts to the ACE anti-piracy portal. The same goes for loveyour.tv, a domain previously used by Streams For Us. Also confirmed last month were the problems being faced by IPTV provider The Players Klub (TPK). We managed to identify several domains that had been seized by ACE, including MintPanel.net, MintPanel.co and MintPanel.digital. We can now add several other TPK domains to the list including thepk.co, tkotv.stream, and tpkshield.net, all of which display the now-familiar anti-piracy warning. Finally, we don’t know much about Elitestreamtv.com or Cosmostv.ca, other than they were involved in the supply of unlicensed IPTV services. What we can be sure of, however, is that ACE members got to their operators and forced them to hand over their domains to the MPA, thus adding to the growing list of platforms that disappear into the night following threats from the world’s largest entertainment companies. Source: TorrentFreak
  15. Global anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment has obtained a DMCA subpoena requiring the Tonic domain registry to hand over all information it holds on a wide range of 'pirate' sites. These include torrent giant 1337x.to and streaming portal BS.to, which are good for 78 million visits per month. Veterans Kinox.to and Movie4K.to are among the remaining targets. After launching more than three years ago in June 2017, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) quickly became the most powerful anti-piracy coalition on the planet. Focused on reducing infringement of movies and TV shows, ACE is constantly involved in actions against torrent sites, streaming platforms, infringing apps, file-hosting sites, and everything in between. Rarely a month or even a week goes by without fresh ACE action being uncovered and this week is no exception. As reported last Sunday, ACE is currently in possession of a DMCA subpoena which compels Tonic, the official registry of the .to top-level domain, to hand over all information it holds on S.to, one of the most-visited pirate streaming portals targeting the German market. A second subpoena, recently obtained by ACE, seeks to obtain even more piracy-fighting information. DMCA Subpoena Targets Official Registry of .TO Domains The subpoena application was filed in a California district court by Jan van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection for the Motion Picture Association (MPA), on behalf of the members of ACE. Together, they want to find out who is responsible for a list of websites that allegedly exploit ACE members’ exclusive rights by offering movies and TV shows without permission. Heading the list is 1337x.to, which in 2019 was the world’s most popular torrent index. This year its position fell slightly to occupy the number three slot but the platform still commands significant traffic. According to SimilarWeb stats, 1337x’s traffic hit a peak early this year with 75 million visits per month but since June that flow has now steadied to around 52 million. In pure traffic terms, streaming portal BS.to is the next most significant site in the ACE subpoena. With around three-quarters of its traffic coming from Germany, the platform is currently pulling in around 26 million visitors per month and is currently the 127th most popular site in Germany, period. Swatchseries.to, which according to ACE is responsible for offering shows including Grey’s Anatomy without permission, was attracting around 30 million visitors per month in April. While that has recently reduced to around 25 million users (with 40% from the United States), the anti-piracy coalition remains keen to unmask its operators. With around 11.5 million visitors per month and 42% of them coming from the United States, streaming site kimcartoon.to is certainly no slouch. ACE accuses the platform of distributing movies including Frozen II and Despicable Me but the site’s library goes way beyond those two titles. Interestingly, kimcartoon was also featured in a DMCA subpoena obtained last month by ACE. On that occasion, Cloudflare was ordered to hand over information related to the site. With ‘just’ six million and four million visits per month respectively, streaming portals 5movies.to and azm.to are significantly smaller than the sites detailed above but their libraries of movies, including the screeners that leaked this week, remain of interest to ACE. The same goes for Vumoo.to, Ololo.to, and seriesflix.to which are also targeted in the subpoena. Germany Focused Sites Make Up Much of the List For reasons that aren’t immediately clear, ACE has included a number of sites that tend to focus on the German market. The 4.6 million-visitor Goldesel.to and 3.6 million-visitor Filmpalast.to are two of the more prominent examples but ACE is also looking for more information on two older classics – Kinox.to and Movie4k.to. Only the former can claim visitors in their millions now but both sites have been subjected to law enforcement actions for years, with little to no success. While Cine.to has a 68% audience share in Germany and in excess of 1.4m visitors per month, similar sites also listed include Stream.to, Kinomax.to, HD-streams.to and Cinenator.to, all of which have relatively low levels of traffic. This raises the question of why ACE is so interested in them when there are much larger targets around. Since the .to registry is a popular choice for many pirate sites, there may be an element of pressure here too. Only time will tell what the long term plan is but if the registry cooperates as the law requires, Hollywood and its partners could be just a step away from delivering a fatal blow to one or more of the targeted sites. The ACE DMCA subpoena targeting the Tonic registry can be found here (1,2 pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  16. The MPA and Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment regularly obtain DMCA subpoenas against Cloudflare, often targeting the most significant pirate sites globally. Interestingly, a new subpoena obtained this week appears to target sites that are important to specific regions, notably around Europe. It also includes, to our knowledge, the first attempt to learn more about a private BitTorrent tracker. In what appears to be an increasing trend, global anti-piracy coalition Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment regularly heads off to court in the United States to obtain information about pirate site operators. The weapon of choice is the DMCA subpoena, a number of which are targeted at domain registrars and US-based Cloudflare, the CDN company utilized by thousands of pirate sites. In many cases, these subpoenas seek to obtain intelligence on the world’s largest streaming and torrent portals for use in enforcement and policy activities. A new subpoena obtained this week, however, suggests that ACE has an interest in learning about who is operating sites that are popular on a local level. Sites That Appear to Evade Blocking in the UK Since 2011, the UK High Court has handed down a number of blocking injunctions targeting pirate sites. Official data is a tightly held secret but it’s believed that thousands of URLs are blocked by the country’s ISPs, mostly targeting giants such as The Pirate Bay, RARBG, and similar well-known platforms. Despite maintaining that blocking leads to “meaningful increases in legal online consumption”, the MPA hasn’t made any blocking requests for years, leading to other sites increasing their traffic. These include MagnetDL, for example, whose traffic relies heavily on the UK market. Perhaps aiming to put a dent in this success, the MPA/ACE subpoena obtained this week aims to find out more about MagnetDL’s operator after informing the court that the site helps to distribute the movie Frozen II in breach of Disney’s copyrights. And there are others too. Knaben.net has only been gaining any significant traffic since the summer but the torrent search engine, which also helps people access blocked sites, is now doing rather well with an estimated two million visitors per month. Interestingly and according to SimilarWeb stats, around a third of that traffic is coming from the UK where the site is not blocked, with just over 5% coming from the US, the next most popular visitor location. A similar situation can be found in 0123movies.com which has been running for some time, pulling in up to five million visits per month since the summer, with around 30% of those coming from the UK. Only the US comes close in terms of traffic but even that huge nation is relegated to second place. Continuing on the 123movies theme, 123movies.net has even more traffic but it too is highly reliant on the UK market, with around a quarter of its visitors hailing from the region. 123moviesfree.com is a much smaller operation but again, around 30% of its traffic comes from the UK. The outlier is 0123movie.net, which derives almost 60% of its traffic from the US with the UK trailing behind, albeit with an estimated million visitors per month. Sites Thriving Around Europe With millions of visitors per month each, it’s no surprise that sites such as Goldesel.to, HD-Streams.org, and TopStreamFilm.com feature in the DMCA subpoena obtained by ACE/MPA. In these cases, the sites are all heavily reliant upon traffic from Germany with 66%, 65% and 52% traffic share currently hitting the sites. That being said, there are other sites even more reliant on traffic from specific European countries. Movie and TV show streaming site Cpasmal.info, for example, has almost 92% of its 2 to 4 million monthly visitors arriving from France. Vidcorn.tv, on the other hand, has around six million monthly visitors, with more than 80% hailing from Spain. And when it comes to reliance on the Italian market, Eurostreamingtv.com is right up there with 97%, with Switzerland, Germany. Belgium and the UK fighting over the remaining 3%. Finally, an Interesting Outlier The vast majority of ACE/MPA subpoenas target streaming and public torrent sites but this one contains a notable exception. Buried away in the list is Ethor.net, an invite-only private tracker specializing in French-language content. According to estimates from 2019, the site ‘only’ has around 20,000 members but with around 100,000 torrents, the site appears to be generating more than a million visits per month, three-quarters of which can be allocated to Canadian users. As far as we’re aware, this is the first time that a private BitTorrent tracker has made an appearance in a Cloudflare subpoena but at the rate they’re currently being obtained from courts in the US, this probably won’t be the last. The DMCA subpoena documents can be found here (1,2 pdf), full site list below 0123movie.net 0123movies.com 123movies.net 123moviesfree.com 123movies-free.sc azm.to cpasmal.info ethor.net eurostreaming.name eurostreamingtv.com filmpalast.to goldesel.to hdfilme.cx hdfull.io hd-streams.org knaben.net magnetdl.com mejortorrentt.net movidy.co pctmix.com pelismart.com tekilaz.co rarbgmirror.com repelishd.tv seriesflix.to tirexo.pro topstreamfilm.com torrentdownloads.me vidcorn.tv videospider.stream vumoo.to yesmovies.so zone-annuaire.top Source: TorrentFreak
  17. This week the MPA and RIAA reported the Tonic domain registry to the USTR as a notorious pirate market. As pressure mounts, two DMCA subpoenas obtained by the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment on behalf of the MPA and dozens of other companies now order the company to hand over all information it holds on more than two dozen 'pirate' sites. Every year the MPA and RIAA respond to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative to submit their recommendations for the annual “notorious markets” list. In many cases, the industry groups choose to nominate the world’s most popular pirate sites and services for a mention, including but not limited to The Pirate Bay, YTS, RarBG, 1337x, and Popcorn Time, for example. More recently, however, the MPA and RIAA have begun mentioning ancillary companies that in their judgment are not necessarily pirate services in themselves but due to their provision of systems and infrastructure, are in a position to act affirmatively to reduce the effectiveness of pirate sites. As reported this week, the MPA and RIAA has now chosen to nominate domain name companies and services including the Njalla privacy service associated with Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde and the Tonic domain registry that is often favored by pirate services. Pressure Has Been Building on Tonic Domain Registry In September, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the global anti-piracy coalition made up of the major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and dozens of other companies, obtained a DMCA subpoena compelling Tonic to hand over information held on major pirate sites including The Pirate Bay, YTS, 1337x, EZTV, Seasonvar, Tamilrockers, Lordfilms, and many others. A month later, ACE was back in court again, this time obtaining a DMCA subpoena requiring Tonic to hand over information held on massive Germany-focused streaming site S.to. The dust had barely settled when ACE returned to court once again, obtaining another subpoena forcing Tonic to give up the identities of the people behind torrent giant 1337x.to (again), streaming site BS.to, Kimcartoon.to, Vumoo.to, Ololo.to, Seriesflix.to, Kinox.to, Movie4k.to plus many more. Back Once Again With Yet Another Demand For Information It’s unclear exactly how many pirate sites utilize .to domains for their operations but ACE clearly sees the registry’s involvement as part of their infrastructure as a problem when it comes to its enforcement actions. As a result, a DMCA subpoena ACE obtained in recent days from a California court lists two dozen problematic platforms for which it seeks additional information. The majority of the domains are focused on streaming movies and TV shows, with sites including Lordfilm, Ymovies, Pelis24, Series24, HDGo, HDSS, Flixtor, Soap2Day and Solarmovie all getting a prominent mention. Also present in the demand for information is a selection of popular torrent indexes such as TorrentGalaxy, Monova, and Glodls. These make an appearance alongside sites operating in different niches such as popular Germany-focused piracy forum Boerse and proxy-centric platform Unblocked. DDL-Warez is also featured in the subpoena but at the time of writing appears to be down. Sites Infringe Copyrights in Popular Movies and TV Shows Along with each site is a claim that they infringed rights in a specific movie or TV show. These include the movies Frozen II, Dolittle, Wonder Woman, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Beautiful Boy, Bird Box, Triple Frontier, and Scoob! In the cases of Series 24 and Flixtor, both stand accused of illegally offering the first episode in the TV series Watchmen. The application was filed by Jan van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection for the Motion Picture Association. “The ACE Members (via the Motion Picture Association, Inc.) are requesting issuance of the attached proposed subpoena that would order Tonic Domains Corporation to disclose the identities, including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account histories of the users operating the websites [listed below],” it reads. A letter to Tonic Domains attached to the subpoena repeats a similar message. At the same time, ACE also obtained a second DMCA subpoena claiming that the linking site Huho.to infringed its members’ copyrights in the movies Beauty and the Beast and It Chapter Two. The claim is that Huhu.to connects users of the popular ‘Watched‘ mobile application to cyberlockers containing infringing content so, as a result, its operator’s details should be handed over. The anti-piracy coalition lists a number of sites where the movies were hosted including Clipboard.cc, GoUnlimited.to, Mixdrop.to, Upstream.to, Vivo.sx, Vidlox.me, and Clipwatching.com, but these sites don’t appear to be direct targets in the subpoena. Documents supporting the DMCA subpoenas can be found here 1,2,3,4 (pdf) List of Domains and Main Use (Both Subpoenas) lordfilm.to – streaming ddl-warez.to – down boerse.to – piracy forum pepecine.to – streaming ymovies.to – streaming pelis24.to – streaming kinoz.to – streaming (kinox.to alternate) monova.to – torrents unblocked.to – proxy site glodls.to – torrents byte.to – DDL/streaming enstream.to – streaming series24.to – streaming hdgo.to – streaming ilgeniodellostreaming.to – streaming movie-blog.to – DDL index torrentgalaxy.to – torrents goojara.to – streaming supernova.to – streaming levidia.to – streaming flixtor.to – streaming hdss.to – streaming solarmovie.to – streaming soap2day.to – streaming huhu.to (subpoena 2) Source: TorrentFreak
  18. During the summer, members of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment which include Hollywood studios, Netflix and Amazon, sued pirate IPTV service Crystal Clear Media for mass copyright infringement. According to documents now filed with the court, two Florida residents have agreed to pay the entertainment companies $40 million to end the lawsuit. Back in August, members of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy coalition featuring the major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, filed a lawsuit against US company TTKN Enterprises, LLC. Better known online as IPTV service Crystal Clear Media (CCM), TTKN and owners Todd and Tori Smith of Florida were accused by Disney, Paramount, Amazon, Warner, Universal, Netflix, Columbia and StudioCanal of operating a pirate service providing access to thousands of live and title-curated television channels in breach of their copyrights. “Blatantly Infringing Service” Citing blockbusters including Disney’s Frozen II, Warner Bros’ Harry Potter collection, Columbia Picture’s Bad Boys for Life, and Universal’s Mr. Robot, the companies alleged that TTKN/CCM’s operators had gone to great lengths to hide their roles in an operation that had illegally streamed these titles and more to the public. Domains including mediahosting.one, crystalcleariptv.com, ccmedia.one, ccbilling.org, cciptv.us, ccreborn.one, ccultimate.one, superstreamz.com, and webplayer.us, were mentioned as supporting the operation. Describing CCM as a “blatantly infringing service”, the entertainment companies noted that despite being acutely aware that rival service Vaders had previously come to an untimely end for similar actions at the hands of the same plaintiffs, CCM continued to provide an illegal VOD service to the public. Furthermore, the service also continued to expand its reach via a network of resellers. “Defendants’ reseller program plays a pivotal role in their infringing enterprise. Defendants’ resellers market and promote CCM as a substitute for authorized and licensed distributors,” the lawsuit claimed. Alleging willful direct copyright infringement, the plaintiffs demanded the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work plus the same amount per work as a result of CCM inducing others by “encouraging, and promoting” the use of CCM for copyright infringement purposes. Parties Reach Settlement Agreement While these kinds of cases have the potential to roll on for some time, it transpires the plaintiffs and TTKN/CCM plus named defendants Todd and Tori Smith have agreed to settle their dispute. The agreement was reached on November 2, 2020, and as a result, they are together asking the court to sign off on a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding a permanent injunction and damages. In respect of the injunction, the defendants comprehensively agree not to distribute any copyrighted content owned by the plaintiffs or their subsidiaries in any manner, including via streaming. All operations of Crystal Clear Media must be completely shut down within five days of any injunction and its operators are barred from distributing or otherwise releasing any of its source code, domain names, trademarks and other assets. “Defendants irrevocably and fully waive notice of entry of the Permanent Injunction, and understand and agree that violation of the Permanent Injunction will expose Defendant to all penalties provided by law, including contempt of Court,” it reads. “Defendants consent to the continuing jurisdiction of the Court for purposes of enforcement of the Permanent Injunction, and irrevocably and fully waive and relinquish any argument that venue or jurisdiction by this Court is improper or inconvenient.” Proposed Judgment Includes a Massive Damages Award The original complaint included references to the now-defunct Vaders IPTV service that was also targeted by the same plaintiffs in a largely secret lawsuit in Canada. However, while the Vaders/Vader Streams matter ended in a $10 million damages award in favor of the studios, TTKN/CCM has agreed to pay substantially more than its former rival. “Damages are awarded in favor of Plaintiffs and against Defendant TTKN Enterprises, LLC d/b/a Crystal Clear Media, in the total amount of forty million dollars ($40 million),” the proposed judgment reads. While the proposed consent judgment and permanent injunction are yet to be signed off by Judge George H. Wu in a California court, the nature of the agreement means that is likely to be a formality in the days to come. The proposed orders can be found here (1,2,3 pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  19. ACE Targets Popular ‘Watched’ Streaming App Add-Ons in US Court The popular 'Watched' streaming app is used by large numbers of viewers to watch movies, TV shows and live sports for free. However, global anti-piracy group ACE is taking action to undermine the user experience, including by attempting to track down the operators of sites that form crucial parts of the extended 'Watched' infrastructure. In recent years, software applications that provide access to the latest movies, TV shows, live TV and premium sports events have become increasingly popular. Most commonly available for Android, PC, and iOS platforms, these tools often come pre-configured for piracy meaning that when they installed, the latest content is just a few clicks away. This approach means that such apps can be quickly ejected from Apple’s App Store and Google Play on the basis they are self-contained piracy tools. However, there is another way. Evading App Store and Google Play Removal Exposure on official app stores is a tried-and-tested method to grow public awareness of an app but if they are quickly removed for infringement, that all falls apart. To prevent this from happening, apps have been appearing on both platforms that are capable of supplying infringing content but have crucial components missing at the point of download. These need to be added in at a later point to provide functionality. One example is the ‘Watched‘ streaming app which at the time of writing is in the Top 30 most popular entertainment apps on Apple’s App Store. No content is presented in the app but after installation, users are prompted to supply a ‘bundle’ via a URL of their choosing. No information is provided as to what this URL should be but a little searching online reveals that certain URLs make ‘Watched’ much more useful. ‘Watched’ Bundle Available at Oha.to One of the more popular ‘bundle’ URLs is Oha.to and when this is entered into ‘Watched’ it transforms the app in much the same way as adding a third-party repository/addon to Kodi might. The website at this URL contains the necessary components to fill ‘Watched’ with movies, TV shows and live TV channels, which are all accessible via the provided interface. (Before adding ‘Oha.to on the left, after on the right) While the ‘Watched’ app remains accessible on app stores and via the software’s homepage, there are moves by global entertainment industry companies to target bundle URLs, including Oha.to. ACE Goes to Court in the United States The Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a global anti-piracy coalition that brings together dozens of the most powerful entertainment industry companies in the world. These include the major Hollywood studios plus Netflix and Amazon, all of which aim to disrupt the illegal streaming market to protect their businesses. Yesterday, ACE members filed an application for a DMCA subpoena against Cloudflare in a California court and the complaint itself shows how convoluted these matters can become. Cloudflare provides services to Oha.to but at least as far as we can tell (and like Cloudflare), Oha.to doesn’t carry any infringing content either. Instead, Oha.to provides a service that enables end-users of ‘Watched’ to find content to which ACE members hold the rights. “We have determined that individuals operating and controlling Oha.to have infringed ACE Members’ Copyrighted Works by using Cloudflare servers, networks, and other services, to connect end users of the ‘Watched’ mobile application to websites containing infringing content,” explains MPA Executive Vice President & Chief of Global Content Protection, Jan van Hoorn. “The Oha.to service receives requests for infringing content from the Watched application, scrapes various links to identify cyberlockers containing the requested infringing content, and returns a response containing the scraped links to the application, which allows users of the Watched application to stream infringing content.” ACE Wants To Unmask The Operator(s) Of Oha.to The purpose of the ACE legal action is to find out who is behind the Oha.to repository/bundle. In common with similar requests, it requires Cloudflare to hand over the personal identities of the people behind the website, including their names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, payment information and account histories. Whether Cloudflare will have any useful information to hand over is unclear but this is not the first time that ACE has gone after component services that allow ‘Watched’ to function. As reported last November, ACE previously filed an application for a similar DMCA subpoena against the Tonic domain registry in an effort to discover the identities of the individuals behind Huhu.to. This domain operates in a similar if not identical manner to Oha.to, in that people who use the ‘Watched’ app can enter the domain when prompted to supply a ‘bundle’ URL, prompting the ‘Watched’ app to do something useful. It’s unknown whether Tonic was able to provide any useful information in this case but the domain is fully functional at the time of writing. The ACE application for DMCA subpoena can be found here (1,2) ACE Targets Popular ‘Watched’ Streaming App Add-Ons in US Court
  20. Beast IPTV, a popular pirate IPTV service that has faced numerous issues over the past few weeks, has shut down and will not be returning. In a pair of statements, one of which goes into more detail than the other, the service says it was "forced" to close its doors. Fingers are pointing to action by the Alliance of Creativity and Entertainment and what appears to be legal action in the United States and Canada. Over the past several weeks, users of pirate IPTV service Beast IPTV have been reporting numerous issues with their accounts. Some initial downtime coupled with an inability to make new payments, an obvious lack of customer support, then a complete disappearance of the service itself, all provided the tell-tale signs of a platform on the way out. The big question was why. As is common in IPTV circles when a service shows signs of stress, rumors had been circulating for some time that Beast was in trouble. While technical issues are always an option, when site staff go dark and information is hard to come by, theories of legal problems are never far away. It now appears that could be what Beast is facing. Two Shutdown Messages Provide Some Guidance Over the past couple of days, Beast appears to have published two announcements to its users but while both read along the same lines, one offers considerably more information than the other. “BEAST IPTV HAS BEEN FORCED TO SHUT DOWN,” the shorter variant reads. “We wanted to get this message out to let everyone know that the service is gone for good and will not be returning. If someone is telling you beast has moved or become another service this is untrue and we are advising you to take caution when dealing with these people. We cannot get into details as to why the service has been shut down.” It continues by explaining that Beast was “left with no choice but to CLOSE everyone’s account and TURN OFF all services to protect its data.” Second Announcement Indicates Legal Action The second message, which appears to have been issued first and was pasted by concerned users of the service on social media, offers considerably more information. Worryingly, it seems to confirm that legal action was responsible for the closure of the platform. “We wanted to get this message out before the court order to take over the Beast domains is completed and all forms of communication with its customers will cease,” it begins. “U.S. & Canadian Authorities served legal documents to Beast and its service providers from companies such as Disney, Netflix, Bell Media, Warner Bros, and other companies. The court order states all domains, servers, client data etc. will be seized. It further states that Beast IPTV and its providers must shut down its service immediately while the court orders go into effect.” Notable Similarities With Vader Shutdown in 2019 Even without the additional detail provided in the longer message, the manner in which Beast faded away and then ultimately shut down fits the pattern of behavior displayed by other services targeted by the entertainment companies mentioned above. Indeed, the demise of the Vader IPTV service in 2019 seems to provide an obviously similar template. That platform shut down following action by the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment following a legal process in Canada. That matter ultimately ended in a $10m settlement but took months to be officially announced. Under the instruction of the court, it also required Vader to “cede administrative control” over its entire “piracy infrastructure”. If the details in the long statement from Beast are accurate, there appears to be a strong possibility that the Vader situation will be mirrored at Beast. Currently, the usual signs indicating domain seizures by ACE have not yet appeared, however. Warning to Users Regarding Chargebacks When customers pay for a service or product using a financial tool such as a credit card but don’t go on to receive what they paid for, it is possible to carry out a chargeback. If this process is successful, the customer can reclaim the money spent and have it credited back to their payment method. In both announcement variants, Beast advises former subscribers to avoid that. “Beast was left with no choice but to CLOSE everyone’s account and TURN OFF all services to protect its data. Please DO NOT CHARGE BACK because you will be at RISK of exposing your personal information to the authorities. Any account that is refunded or if a Chargeback occurs, it will trigger the payment processor to send info back to the domain which will be in the hands of the authorities,” one notice reads. The second provides a little more detail, advising it will “trigger the payment processor to send info back to the domain which will be in the hands of US and Canadian authorities.” Instead, Beast is urging former customers to contact them directly but whether many will is open to question. While there will be no shortage of people who would like a refund, keeping their distance from the obviously compromised service might be the preferred option for the more cautious. Source: TorrentFreak
  21. Anti-piracy coalition ACE is continuing its crackdown on pirate sites. Represented by the MPA, the group obtained a DMCA subpoena that requires the .to domain registry to hand over personal details relating to the operators of Cinecalidad, Myflixer, Streamplay, and several others. The question remains, how effective is this strategy? Over the past year, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) added a new tool to its anti-piracy toolbox. The coalition, which represents prominent members including major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and other entertainment giants, started using DMCA subpoenas to unmask pirate site operators. These subpoenas are relatively easy to obtain. They are not reviewed by a judge but are signed off by a court clerk. This makes it a pretty straightforward process that’s not very costly either. ACE Subpoenas .To Registry ACE’s enforcement campaign is led by the MPA and their subpoenas are mostly targeted at two service providers. The first is CDN provider Cloudflare, and the second is Tonic Domains Corp, which is the registry for .to domain names. A few days ago the MPA obtained a new subpoena from a California federal court, asking the domain registry to share information relating to the domains 1377x.to, cinecalidad.to, f2movies.to, myflixer.to, onionplay.to, streamplay.to, tinyzonetv.to, upstream.to, and yesmovieshd.to. Cinecalidad is probably one of the largest targets. The streaming site, whose .to domain currently redirects to an .is domain, is among the largest pirate streaming sites in Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Mexico. Names, IP-address and More Through the subpoena, the anti-piracy coalition asks Tonic to disclose information including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, payment information, account updates, and account history associated with the domain registrants. While .to is the top-level domain of the island kingdom of Tonga, the Tonic registry operates through Tonic Domains Corp., which has a U.S. presence and a California address. As such, it falls under the jurisdiction of US courts. This means that Tonic Domains Corp will likely hand over the requested info. However, it’s unclear how effective this will be. If we look at some of the earlier subpoenas obtained by the MPA and ACE, the results are mixed. Mixed Results For example, last October the anti-piracy coalition obtained a subpoena to uncover the operators of the streaming giant s.to. Despite this effort, the site continues to operate as usual from the same domain name. The same applies to pepecine.to, ddl-warez.to, pelis24.to, unblocked.to, torrentgalaxy.to, solarmovie.to, soap2day.to, supernova.to, flixtor.to, and several other domains. These were targeted in the past but remain available today. In some cases, site operators have decided to move to a new domain name, likely as a precaution. That is also the case with Cinecalidad. Finally, there are some sites that simply ‘disappeared’. While it’s hard to be sure that ACE’s enforcement efforts are tied to this, it certainly played a role in some cases, including the shutdown of Ololo.to a few weeks ago. The effectiveness of the subpoenas mostly depends on how actionable the information obtained from the Tonic registry proves to be. Many site owners will take measures to protect their identities, which makes it possible for them to continue business as usual. Those who don’t are in trouble. — A copy of ACE/MPA’s latest subpoena request is available here (pdf). Source: TorrentFreak
  22. The powerful global anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment has taken over yet more pirate IPTV-related domains. The latest wave includes more than three dozen new additions to a rapidly growing list. All indications suggest that ACE gave the suppliers an ultimatum - shut down and hand over your domains or face more vigorous legal action. Pirate IPTV and similar streaming services are considered one of the greatest threats to the global market for legitimate movie and TV show content. As a result, content companies of all kinds are going to extreme lengths to reduce unlicensed supply. The most significant anti-piracy program by scale is operated by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, a global coalition that counts the major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and dozens more giants among its members. From Apple TV+ to the BBC, Bell Canada, and Canal+, ACE members want pirate streaming platforms out of business as quickly as possible. Not Afraid of Court Action But ACE Prefers Compliance One of the key ACE strategies is to use its momentum and sheer power to force pirates into submission. In a nutshell, ACE gathers evidence on pirate IPTV operators and then approaches them with an offer they may be unwise to refuse – shut down or face potentially dire consequences. And then have to shut down anyway. Part of this process involves operators having to sign over their domains for use by the Motion Picture Association. Over the past few years, ACE has taken control of more than 200 domains in this fashion and in the past couple of weeks has been particularly busy. The group is yet to make any announcements but we can reveal the number of domains ‘seized’ has grown by more than three dozen. Pirate IPTV Domains Seized in Their Dozens The first set of domains appear to be connected to each other. In the past they have been advertised separately and together on platforms including Reddit and even Pintrest, making them relatively easy pickings for ACE. Abon-sat.com, abon-iptv-ott.com, king-platinum-iptv.com, electrotv-sat.com, electro-tvsat.com, electro-tv-sat.com, electrotvsat.net, electro-tv-sat.net, king-premium-iptv.com, king-platinum-iptv.com and salah-sat.com have all been promoted by a single user on Reddit and now divert to ACE, presumably having been shut down. King-platinum-iptv.com, which claimed to offer 17,000+ channels and VOD. It even had its own DMCA page noting that the service “DOES NOT! broadcast any TV channel from its servers, nor is in any way connected with the channel broadcasting” but that didn’t prevent it from being placed under ACE/MPA control with all of the others. Other domains scooped up by Hollywood include volkatvpro2.com and volkatv-pro2.com after offering access to global TV at a cheap price, including live sports from Sky and Bein, and TV shows from Canal+. It too shows the familiar ACE seizure banner after presumably caving to legal pressure And the list goes on. Juice TV and Others Also Shuttered By ACE Up until the summer Juice TV was being promoted as a great alternative to services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, offering channels from the United States and United Kingdom, plus PPV, movies and TV shows available across a wide range of devices for as little as $4.99 per month. That and all other offers now appear to be over. In the past few days, many former Juice TV domains have been transferred over to the Motion Picture Association and now divert to the ACE ‘seizure’ banner. They read as follows: juicetv.ca, jaccounting.ca, juiceaccounting.ca, juicepay.app, juicetv.plus, juicetv.org, juicetvmax.pro, juicetv.app, juicetv.in, juicetv.co, juicetv.app and juicetvmax.pro. Other IPTV-related domains to fall to ACE control include the following: recepteur-iptv.com, orca-pro.com, ottrapid.com, smartstb-ott.com, ip-tv-ott.com, ott-premium-iptv.com, ott-tvbox.com, premium-kingott.com, ott-rapid.com, buyiptv-ott.com and akhbar-ma.com plus ezstreamtv.com, esiptv-pro.com and estilotv.pro. ACE is Relentless This global anti-piracy action by ACE is part of the MPA’s war on all kinds of unlicensed services, focused mainly on IPTV and similar streaming operations. As reported yesterday, Hollywood still considers piracy to be its biggest threat so these seizures certainly won’t be the last. Indeed, the work of the MPA is being recognized at the highest levels, including by Spanish law enforcement which yesterday awarded the industry group with the Distinguished Cross of the Police Merit with Distinction for its anti-piracy efforts. In part, recognized the MPA’s work in the shut down of streaming app Mobdro earlier this year. ACE Anti-Piracy Coalition Takes Control of Dozens of Pirate IPTV Domains
  23. In 2020, pirate IPTV service Nitro TV was sued by members of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment for millions in copyright infringement damages. A year later the operators of Nitro have now been hit with a new lawsuit filed by DISH Network, which alleges violations of the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions and breaches of the Federal Communications Act. In April 2020, a coalition of entertainment companies headed up by Universal, Paramount, Columbia, Disney and Amazon filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the operators of ‘pirate’ IPTV service Nitro TV. The lawsuit alleged that Nitro TV offered subscription packages consisting of thousands of “live and title-curated television channels” available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the United States and abroad. Naming Alejandro Galindo as the alleged administrator of the service, the lawsuit also identified family members Anna Galindo, Martha Galindo, and Osvaldo Galindo as defendants. The main focus of the lawsuit was Nitro’s VOD offering and so-called ’24/7′ channels, which are only possible to offer after content is copied and stored, contrary to copyright law. YouTuber ‘Touchtone’ (Raul Orelanna) was later added as a defendant in an amended complaint alongside accusations he was paid $500,000 to market the service. That particular lawsuit is still active with the studios now claiming that Alejandro Galindo deliberately destroyed evidence to hinder the case. However, Alejandro Galindo, Anna Galindo and Martha Galindo are now facing more headaches after the trio were sued again in the United States, this time by broadcaster DISH Network and NagraStar. Lawsuit Summary According to DISH, Nitro illegally accessed both DISH satellite programming and Sling programming and distributed it to subscribers paying $20 per month to $170 per year. “Nitro TV was advertised as a subscription-based streaming service providing 7500 high-definition channels, movies and television series on demand, pay-per-view events, and sports programming, among other content, all for a low monthly fee. Nitro TV advertising emphasized converting customers from cable or satellite television services such as those provided by DISH,” the complaint reads. Nitro allegedly sold these subscriptions (described as ‘device codes’) into the market either directly or via its network of resellers, with the latter buying “reseller credits” at a discount so they could be sold at a profit. “[D]efendants received millions of dollars from the sale of Device Codes using merchant services accounts and bank accounts held in the name of Alejandro, Anna, Osvaldo, and Martha, including accounts at PayPal, Stripe, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, and Woodforest National Bank,” the lawsuit adds. “Statements on Nitroiptv.com touted having ‘a large number of satisfied members,’ with ‘[o]ver 45,000 customers activated in the last 12 months,’ and ‘96% of the clients renew’.” Lawsuit Alleges Different Type of Copyright Infringement The earlier lawsuit filed by the studios alleges willful direct copyright infringement, contributory infringement and inducement of copyright infringement. The DISH lawsuit goes in a different direction by alleging violations of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions and breaches of the Federal Communications Act, with the former relating to its online Sling service and the latter relating to its satellite broadcasts. In respect of the Federal Communications Act count, DISH alleges that Nitro accessed its satellite broadcasts and distributed them to its subscribers, knowing that breached 47 U.S.C. § 605(a) and 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(4). The DMCA violations count is more complex. Breaches of the DMCA’s Anti-Circumvention Provisions According to DISH, Sling’s internet transmissions are protected by a number of DRM technologies including Google’s Widevine DRM, Apple’s FairPlay DRM, and Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM. Each system has a key-based encryption and decryption process designed to restrict playback to only authorized Sling subscribers. It’s claimed that Nitro TV either directly carried out (or aided and abetted others to carry out) circumvention of Sling’s DRM in order to retransmit Sling programming. “The DRMs are believed to be circumvented using either a differential fault analysis attack where faults are injected into the DRM to disrupt its operation and create pathways to extract the keys necessary to decrypt Sling Programming, or a man-in-the-middle attack whereby customized software is used to bypass the DRM by intercepting Sling Programming passing from the DRM’s decryption library to the user’s viewing platform,” the broadcaster says. This amounted to violations of 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)(A), DISH notes, adding that the violations were “willful and for purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain.” DISH Demands Broad Injunction DISH demands a permanent injunction that prohibits the defendants from receiving or assisting others to receive DISH content without permission, including via the Nitro TV service. The broadcaster also wants to prevent the sales of subscription and reseller credits for Nitro and any similar service. It further seeks to restrain the defendants from circumventing its DRM. In keeping with its usual strategy, DISH also wants to take control of all hard copy and electronic records relating to Nitro TV. This type of data is often used to support DISH legal action against other players in the IPTV scene. On top, DISH demands a damages award of up to $100,000 for each breach of the FCA, $2,500 for each breach of the DMCA, plus attorney’s fees and costs. The full amount is yet to be determined but it could run to tens of millions of dollars. The DISH complaint against the operators of Nitro TV can be found here (pdf) After Being Sued By ACE, Nitro IPTV Now Faces a New DISH Network Lawsuit
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