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  1. Following an investigation carried out by a regional police organized crime unit, a UK man is due to appear in court next month charged with copyright and proceeds of crime offenses . Sources familiar with the case say the man is the alleged operator of Marvel Streams, a pirate IPTV service that shut down suddenly earlier this year. Rightsholders seeking to crack down on pirate streaming services in the UK can do so under civil and criminal law but the former has mostly been abandoned. Rightsholders such as the Premier League, Sky and BT Sport, with support from the Federation Against Copyright Theft, now tend to conduct their investigations before referring them to the police. When cases are progressed, this usually means police-led raids, arrests, and seizures of key evidence. Then, based on a number of factors, subsequent prosecutions are handled by the state or via private prosecutions. According to sources familiar with the matter, a new criminal case will be heard in court next month, one that could lead to a custodial sentence for the suspect. Marvel Streams Goes Offline Early this year, UK-based IPTV service Marvel Streams appeared to be operating much like any other, offering live TV channels plus movies and TV shows as part of a cheap monthly subscription package. By the second week of March, the service’s Twitter account found itself dominated by complaints. The general theme was that the service had disappeared without notice and nobody knew what was happening. “Is your system down or is there another link?” one user wrote. “I’m trying to renew and haven’t been able to, is the website down?” added another. While some IPTV services manage to stay online for extended periods of time, others tend to come and go. While this means that customers lose any money paid in advance, it’s hardly an unexpected event and people move on. With Marvel Streams a fairly distant memory, earlier this month we were surprised to receive a tip offering information on the IPTV service’s demise. Alleged Marvel Streams Operator Arrested in March According to the source, Marvel Stream’s downtime in March was due to the service’s operator being raided in the UK. A second source familiar with the matter confirmed that was indeed the case, with one questioning why police hadn’t reported the arrest at the time, as is usually the case. Here’s what we know. As part of an investigation reportedly carried out by the Federation Against Copyright Theft on behalf of Sky and BT Sport, investigators purchased a Marvel Streams subscription and confirmed that the broadcasters’ content was being made available illegally. The case was later referred to NWROCU – the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit – which has been involved in similar cases over the past couple of years, including one that targeted three men in late March. NWROCU officers accompanied by FACT/Sky/BT Sport representatives subsequently targeted a man in Claughton, Merseyside, believing him to be the operator of Marvel Streams. No other arrests were made, our sources say. Relatively Rare Copyright Charge Documents seen by TF indicate that a man in his mid-thirties was subsequently charged with two sets of offenses, both covering the period February 2021 to October 2021. It is common for IPTV operators to be charged under the Fraud Act but as far as we can see, that’s not the case here. The first charge alleges offenses under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) 1988, specifically section 296ZB(2)(a). It’s alleged that in the course of a business, the suspect marketed a service (Marvel Streams UK) that enabled or facilitated the circumvention of effective technological measures. For cases normally handled under the easy-to-understand Fraud Act, the use of the CDPA in this matter is somewhat unusual. Charges related to circumvention of content protection measures are rarer still in IPTV cases, although in the United States they have been increasing in recent years. A person guilty of an offense under 296ZB subsection 2 is liable (on summary conviction) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both, according to the CDPA. A conviction on indictment carries the possibility of a fine, a prison sentence not exceeding two years, or both. Charge Under the Proceeds of Crime Act The second charge relates to an alleged offense under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, specifically section 329(1). Under Section 329, a person commits an offense if they acquire criminal property, use criminal property, or have possession of criminal property. In this case the alleged operator of Marvel Streams stands accused of possessing around £19,500, which appears to relate to revenue generated by the IPTV service during an eight-month period in 2021. Penalties available under Section 329 vary from a maximum prison sentence of six months, a fine, or both, to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment, a fine, or both. We’re informed that the alleged operator of Marvel Streams will appear in a magistrates’ court (district court) early October and from there the case will be referred to a Crown Court for an appearance no later than November. Pirate IPTV Operator Faces Prison Following Organized Crime Investigation
  2. A man in his 40s who sold subscriptions to two pirate IPTV services has been sentenced to six months in prison. The man and his partner, both from Sweden, were acquitted of money laundering charges after the court found insufficient evidence to show that income was directly linked to two named IPTV services. Early September, Swedish anti-piracy group Rattighetsalliansen (Rights Alliance) reported on a trial that took place at the specialist Patent and Market Court in Stockholm. A man and woman, a couple from Eskilstuna in eastern Sweden, faced accusations of running an illegal IPTV business and laundering the proceeds. The man, reportedly in his 40s, was said to have run two different IPTV services from which he generated around SEK 2.3 million (around US$213.2k) in revenues over an unspecified period. The woman denied any knowledge of her partner being an IPTV operator and said that as far as she was concerned, he only repaired set-top boxes. Rights Alliance said that revenues were funneled to the woman from IPTV-related sales and as a result, she faced charges of money laundering. Rights Alliance and Police Investigation Following an investigation launched by Rights Alliance and taken up by the police in 2020 following a criminal referral, evidence showed that the man sold illegal IPTV subscriptions and set-top boxes pre-configured for piracy. Documents released by Swedish police linked the couple to IPTV brand Nordens Bästa IPTV (The Nordics’ Best IPTV). Information released by Rights Alliance this week indicates the man sold subscriptions to NorthTV and PlayTV, which together offered access to live TV channels plus movie and TV show libraries. Payments for PlayTV subscriptions were accepted via a PayPal account, which over a six month period in 2020 amounted to roughly SEK 1.2 million (around US$111,800). Other payments were received into the man’s Swish account. Man Sentenced to Prison This week the Patent and Market Court found that the scale of the crime was worthy of time behind bars. The man received a six-month prison sentence, which is a notable step up from some of the conditional and community sentences handed down in similar cases during the past year. “By accepting payments, he has controlled which people have received the supply on the illegal services and by sending boxes, he has made the films in question available. He is therefore convicted as a perpetrator,” Rights Alliance says. “The verdict shows once again that the people behind the illegal services cannot hide behind objections that they only did a minor part, such as posting boxes or answering questions from customers. The investigation also shows how the illegal services bring in large sums that end up directly in the pockets of the perpetrators.” While a custodial sentence is significant, Rights Alliance and the police didn’t get everything they’d hoped for. The man and his partner were acquitted of money laundering charges after concluding that the evidence didn’t convincingly link the income to PlayTV and NorthTV. Pirate IPTV is a “Big Problem” in Sweden “Illegal IPTV is a big problem,” Rights Alliance says, commenting on the sentencing. “It affects both the film and television industries as well as society at large. As many as 380,000 Swedish households (9%) pay for illegal IPTV services, according to Mediavision. This generates millions of kroner in revenue for criminals and organized crime.” To combat threats from IPTV and similar illegal services, Rights Alliance and partners, including the MPA, IFPI, local film producers, and the gaming industry, signed a deal earlier this year with internet service providers in Sweden to simplify the blocking of pirate sites. The signatories will also work together to help form clear legislation that will pave the way for a streamlined administrative site-blocking regime. Pirate IPTV Subscription Seller Sentenced to Six Months in Prison
  3. In most regions of the world, the problem of IPTV piracy isn't going away, despite attempts to take illegal services down using enforcement agencies and ISP blocking. In Hungary a new anti-piracy option has been placed on the table - cyberattacks against IPTV pirates. What could possibly go wrong? Like most online services, pirate IPTV platforms use regular domains, IP addresses, websites, servers, and cloud services. But unlike most regular online platforms, they already know that rightsholders are watching their every move. This means that they are mostly prepared for domain seizures and similar interference, IP address and DNS blocking, attempts to cut off payment processing, plus any other measures from the smorgasbord currently available. No doubt that this is a major irritant for rightsholders attempting to shut them down. But what if there was another way, one that didn’t rely on the success of any of the above but is considered a crime? Authorities Fail to Act In common with its counterparts around the world, the Hungarian Communications Association (MKSZ) also has to deal with illegal IPTV services. The group says it has reported more than 100 illegal distributors to the authorities in recent years, but investigations are slow and ineffective. Since 2018, just one case has been closed and while that ended in a guilty verdict and a damages award, the accompanying one-year suspended prison sentence wasn’t enough for the rightsholders looking to send a deterrent message. As a result, they’d like to begin launching cyberattacks instead. Cyberattacks – A Valid Option to Fight Piracy? According to a statement sent to Hungary’s Media1, the Hungarian Communications Association says it is initiating a round table discussion with domestic stakeholders, including legislators, copyright holders, neighboring rights holders, Internet service providers, and broadcasters. The aim is to discover whether it’s possible to launch DDoS attacks against IPTV providers while enjoying protection under the law. The premise is as follows: “For the sake of legal validity and international transparency, RIPE, at the initiative of the Hungarian communications authority, should designate a certain IPv4/IPv6 address range for the use of legal and registered DDOS attacks and make it publicly available,” the proposal reads. “The authority should appoint a suitable professional organization, which would be entitled – subject to the necessary level of official supervision and control – after a preliminary expert investigation based on a stakeholder report, with the appropriate legal authorization, against the detected illegal service IP addresses launched from the authorized DDoS address range for a legitimate DDoS attack.” DDoS Attack – Again and Again If sanctioned, MKSZ believes such an attack would degrade the quality of an illegal distributor’s service and ruin the viewing experience for subscribers too. The plan is to keep up the pressure so that any mitigation methods are overcome. “If the illegal service provider detects [a DDoS attack] and changes an IP address and continues the illegal signal distribution from there, he could only do this with a significant time delay, and the process could be used continuously with IP address tracking,” the proposal notes. “By repeating this action several times, sooner or later, it would be possible within a short period of time that, on the one hand, the consumers of the person carrying out the illegal activity would stop their subscription due to the frequent poor quality and thus the perpetrator would not receive any income.” What Could Possibly Go Wrong? If the mere suggestion of launching cyberattacks isn’t enough to sound alarm bells, another major red flag is that the potential for collateral damage has not only been considered, but may even be part of the strategy. For example, disruption of innocent third-party services isn’t seen as a problem since the ensuing chaos would send a message to hosting companies to pick better customers in the future. “On the other hand, if the service is not provided from [the operator’s] own server but from a rented server, the owner of the server that provides the technical background for the service should also consider it undesirable and terminate its contract with such a customer, and thus the perpetrator would not easily find a server to implement the illegal service,” the telecoms group adds. It seems highly improbable that MKSZ and partners will receive special permission to carry out what would otherwise be a highly illegal act. However, should some kind of authorization be forthcoming, it might be prudent to consider the possibility of retaliation. Having legal services to sell won’t be much use if nobody can access them. Telecoms Group Wants to DDoS IPTV Pirates Off The Internet
  4. The operator of pirate IPTV service Nitro TV was recently ordered to pay $100m in damages to DISH and a second lawsuit, brought by members of ACE, is set to cause additional financial pain. This week a judge handed down an order requiring Nitro's operator to pay $181k in costs and legal fees, but also informed the plaintiffs they need to provide more evidence of infringement. In August 2021, US broadcaster DISH Network, Sling and NagraStar sued pirate IPTV service Nitro TV. The case focused on Nitro operator Alex Galindo and other members of his family, alleging mass violations of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions and the Federal Communications Act (FCA). The case went undefended and this June came to a close, with the plaintiffs being awarded over $100m in statutory damages. Since that judgment was handed down the docket has been kept busy with sealed documents. From the available information, it seems that the plaintiffs are attempting to garnish property owned by one or more of the Galindos. While the process won’t be pretty it’s perhaps necessary given that other people are also queuing up to get paid. ACE Copyright Infringment Lawsuit A coalition of entertainment companies headed up by Universal, Paramount, Columbia, Disney and Amazon filed their complaint against Nitro in 2020 but for a number of reasons the case is still open after more than two years. In contrast to the DISH lawsuit, Alex Galindo did mount some kind of defense here, and at one point even tried to have the whole thing dismissed. Perhaps the $7m processed through the Galindo’s accounts is a motivating factor but the studios seem determined to prevail against the defendants, who now find themselves without an attorney. Clock Ticks, Costs Mount, Galindo Must Pay According to the studios, the defendants have been uncooperative at best, deliberately obstructive at worst. Allegations of evidence destruction and other misconduct led to a motion for sanctions, followed by a recent report from a judge to the district judge recommending a finding that Alex Galindo willfully violated court orders, failed to cooperate in discovery, and should be held liable for infringement. Meanwhile, the studios have continued to run up huge legal and administrative bills. Attorney’s fees and costs associated with their discovery motion alone reached $88,080, while those for the plaintiffs’ sanctions motion topped out at $93,000. United States District Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong conducted a review but found nothing to contradict the recently submitted report. “Galindo’s assertions and arguments have been reviewed carefully. The Court, however, concludes that nothing set forth in Galindo’s Response or otherwise in the record for this case affects or alters, or calls into question, the findings and analysis set forth in the Report,” Judge Frimpong’s order reads. With the court accepting the findings and recommendations in the report, Alex Galindo now has just 60 days to pay $88,080 in attorneys’ fees and costs associated with the plaintiffs’ discovery motion, plus $93,000 in fees and costs associated with their sanctions motion, to a total of $181,080. That may seem like a small amount when compared to the $100m already owed to DISH, but the studios are nowhere near finished. Plaintiffs Seek Default Judgment, Judge Wants to See Evidence The parties in the case have rarely been in agreement but one point of contention has now been resurrected by the Judge. The defense previously noted that if the studios had clarified the full nature and extent of infringement at Nitro, the case would’ve gone to a default judgment a long time ago. The Judge now says that the court will need to see more information to move on. Judge Frimpong raises the possibility of a default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs but notes that would not automatically entitle the plaintiffs to the damages requested. Noting that the court has “considerable leeway” to determine what information it requires before an entry of default, the Judge says the plaintiffs need to submit evidence in greater detail. “In this case, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have neither provided a complete enumeration of the copyrighted works at issue, a full accounting of the corresponding amount of statutory damages sought pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(2), nor evidence to support either of the above. In the absence of these items, the Court declines to enter Judgment at this time,” the Judge notes. Columbia Pictures, Amazon Content Services, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Universal Studios Productions, Universal Television, and Universal Content Productions, now have 60 days to file a brief identifying every movie and TV show for which they are seeking damages, along with relevant evidence. The studios must also identify the factors the court should consider when calculating statutory damages. The studios previously submitted a list of copyright works to the court (pdf) but that was over two years ago. Judge Frimpong’s order can be found here (pdf) IPTV Pirates Must Pay ACE $181k But More Evidence Needed For Damages
  5. Last week LaLiga and Serie A issued new warnings over the use of pirate IPTV. Then the unthinkable happened. In their respective home countries of Spain and Italy, technical problems meant that legal subscribers missed matches at the start of the new season. Fortunately, a new Serie A anti-piracy campaign advertised in stadiums was 100% successful in reaching IPTV pirates. As Europe’s top football leagues launch their 2022/23 season campaigns, pressure to balance the books at the continent’s most prestigious clubs remains a top priority. In the summer transfer window alone, LaLiga club Barcelona spent €153m euros, but that’s peanuts compared to the paychecks it hands to its top players. The club has a weekly payroll of €5.3m, of which more than 10% goes to Dutch player Frenkie de Jong. His weekly pay of €560,962 means that by the time his contract expires in 2026, Barcelona will have paid him €116,680,000. For this reason, and a couple of dozen more just like it, Barcelona needs cash flooding in from fans buying tickets and premium TV subscriptions. According to LaLiga, the survival of the game is dependent on these revenues. When fans turn to pirate IPTV subscriptions to save money, they not only upset club accountants but also fund criminals providing ‘unreliable’ bootleg services. Movistar and DAZN Deal Heralds New Era Telefónica-owned Movistar Plus+ and DAZN were awarded LaLiga rights late last year in a five-year deal worth €4.95bn, with Movistar Plus+ later agreeing to pay DAZN €1.4bn to iron out broadcasting clashes. So, to help protect their investment, this month Movistar Plus+ and LaLiga obtained a court order to quickly block pirate IPTV services. With fans’ ears ringing with LaLiga piracy warnings but soothed by the benefits of going legal, the stage was set last weekend for Barcelona vs. Rayo Vallecano and the launch of the Movistar/DAZN partnership. From multiple angles, things went badly. Movistar Plus+ subscribers were told that they could not access DAZN content through their existing app and were told to download an additional app from DAZN. “You will see the DAZN [matches] in their app: if you have DAZN included in your offer, you only have to create your account,” Movistar Plus+ tweeted on Saturday. “It’s very easy.” It should’ve been easy – easier than buying a pirate IPTV service for sure – but it wasn’t. Having already signed up for one service, Movistar Plus+ subscribers found that in order to download the DAZN app, they had to sign up for an account at DAZN as well. However, DAZN’s servers couldn’t cope with the volume of Movistar Plus+ subscribers, which meant that they couldn’t issue accounts or activate access to the services paid for. By the time the problems were solved, Barcelona and Rayo fans had missed half of the first match on the opening weekend of the season, despite paying for a legal subscription. Movistar Plus+ pointed the finger at DAZN, which later admitted to having suffered technical problems. The pair say that measures have been taken to ensure there are no further problems but, if unreliability was a reason for fans to move away from pirate IPTV services, that might be a tough sell in future. For new Movistar Plus+ pirate converts, missing half the match probably ran counter to what they were promised. Sadly, the trials and tribulations of financially supporting the beautiful game didn’t stop there. Italian Football Fans Experience Worse Just like LaLiga, Italy’s Serie A finds itself in a perpetual war against pirate IPTV services and set-top boxes locally known as ‘pezzotto’. Serie A is also a fan of ISP blocking, which is regularly backed up by stern messages from its CEO that pirates are killing the sport. This weekend, fingers of blame were being pointed in other directions. Due to ‘technical problems’ suffered by DAZN, Serie A fans couldn’t watch the football matches they’d paid for. Large numbers of subscribers couldn’t log into their accounts and for those that could, being randomly kicked out became a feature of the season’s opening weekend. With fans on Twitter declaring that Serie A and DAZN are those responsible for “killing football”, swathes of pirates with uninterrupted access to the matches gloated as legitimate buyers fumed in frustration. When Pirates Receive a Better Product, It’s Already Over From both PR and anti-piracy perspectives, the weekend was a disaster. Serie A recently relaunched its ‘Piracy Kills Football’ campaign which is being promoted in all football stadiums via graphics and a big screen video spot during the first two rounds in the new season. If the only aim was to reach the eyes of pirates, the campaign was a complete success because only pirates had continuous access to the matches. If the goal was to encourage behavioral change among pirates, the damage might last for years. But just when things couldn’t possibly get any worse, they did just that. Here Comes The Government Six-time Olympic gold medalist and 16-time world champion fencer Valentina Vezzali now spends her time dueling in politics as Italy’s cabinet undersecretary for sports. After seeing the football debacle at the weekend, she’s demanding a meeting between Serie A and the government to find out what went wrong. Italian telecoms regulator AGCOM, which is also responsible for blocking piracy sites, is also invited. Quite what AGCOM can do isn’t clear but a presentation of how blocked piracy sites can deliver a better quality service than multi-billion euro companies could be a potential PPV event in its own right. According to a local report, at some point over the weekend DAZN was forced to create a separate link to a low-resolution broadcast. Viewers reportedly abandoned their TVs for smaller devices since the image quality was so poor. Again, highly amusing to pirates; “Breaking news: #DAZN buys the #pezzotto’s servers to bring their service up to standards. As a gift to all customers, as compensation, also documentaries and hot channels,” one user wrote in response. When approached for an explanation on the chaos, Serie A said it wouldn’t be commenting. Considering that even the “criminals” behind pirate IPTV services tend to offer explanations to upset customers (while also offering an apparently superior content delivery experience), one has to wonder who is in the wrong business and what it will take to put things right. In the meantime, DAZN will be broadcasting the rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua in the United States and other markets this coming Saturday. That’s what’s been announced, at least. IPTV Pirates Defeat LaLiga & Serie A After DAZN Sustains Major Injury
  6. Top-tier football league LaLiga and subscription TV platform Movistar Plus+ have won a joint lawsuit in Spain that allows them to block IPTV services until 2025 without needing permission from the courts. A second lawsuit won by Movistar Plus+ allows the TV platform to advise local ISPs of piracy-facilitating sites on a weekly basis and have them blocked within three hours. Spanish top-tier football league LaLiga is a corporate giant. During the 2020/21 season, LaLiga clubs achieved revenues of almost 3.2 billion euros and with the assistance of LaLiga’s own anti-piracy division, the football group only wants to see that increase. Owned by Telefónica, one of the world’s largest telecoms and internet companies, Movistar Plus+ is the largest TV subscription platform in Spain. Through sports streamer DAZN, Movistar Plus+ has a distribution deal to air LaLiga matches until 2027, and everyone involved would prefer LaLiga fans to pay for their content, not pirate it. LaLiga and Movistar have previously made separate efforts to curtail piracy by going after notorious sports streaming site RojaDirecta and teaming up with the police to take down pirate IPTV suppliers. In the background, however, one of the key goals is to increase and improve ISP blocking. LaLiga & Movistar Plus+ Win Enhanced Blocking Powers In an announcement Thursday, Telefónica revealed that subsidiary Movistar Plus+ and LaLiga had emerged with a joint win following a lawsuit heard before the Commercial Court No. 9 of Barcelona. The court heard that enhanced ISP blocking powers are necessary to protect the companies’ rights. Due to the fluid nature of pirate IPTV and other streaming services, it’s no longer sufficient to block domain names and IP addresses in the hope they will stay the same over time. Instead, ISP blocking needs to be more nimble – more dynamic – and that can’t be achieved with ever-recurring visits to the court to obtain permission. The Court agreed and on July 25 handed down a decision that will allow LaLiga and Movistar Plus+ to respond in a much more timely manner. Once new URLs, domains, and IP addresses of pirate services are identified as infringers of the companies’ rights, blocking of the same will take place on a weekly basis, with no need to identify the Court in advance. The new arrangement follows in the footsteps of previous blocking orders won by LaLiga. “The decision will be in force until the 2024/2025 season and will begin its operation from the week of August 8, before the start of LaLiga football on August 12,” Telefónica’s statement adds. Movistar Plus+ Victorious in Separate Lawsuit Given that effective blocking orders need to be applied across all internet service providers, it’s no surprise that Movistar Plus+ wants local ISPs on board to protect its own content. In addition to the LaLiga deal, the subscription TV platform holds rights to UEFA competitions and has agreements with DAZN, Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video, among others. A decision handed down July 27 by the Mercantile Court number 6 of Barcelona should help Movistar Plus+ to achieve its goals. Valid for three sports seasons until the end of the football championships in the 2024/25 season, the order allows the pay TV platform to supply continuously updated pirate IPTV blocking instructions to local internet service providers. “[T]he blockade must be carried out within a maximum period of three hours from the notification of new list,” Telefónica explains, adding that the list does not need to be approved by the court and covers all Movistar Plus+ content, not just football matches. One Spanish telecoms company that won’t mind helping out Movistar Plus+ is Orange España. While it directly competes with Movistar, a telecoms company also owned by Telefónica, Orange recently did a deal with Telefónica to offer coverage of LaLiga and UEFA matches in Spain. What Could Possibly Be Driving People to IPTV Piracy? The announcement comes on the heels of a new Uswitch report revealing that Premier League fans in the UK will need to dig deep if they want to enjoy the new season on TV. After subscribing to Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime Video to gain access to all televised matches (but not all matches played), the average cost to a fan watching all of their team’s games will be £21.93 per match. “However, fans of Bournemouth, Fulham and Nottingham Forest – the three promoted sides – will be paying £35.67 per game to watch their favorite club, based on how often each team’s games are televised,” Uswitch added. For perspective, users of pirate IPTV services in the UK and Spain will probably pay less than £10/€10 per month for several thousand channels, including every match and event offered by Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, NHL, NBA, and UFC. Plus every movie and TV show, including everything Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video has to offer. Expensive TV sports packages are known to drive uptake of cheap pirate IPTV services so until something changes to make legal options more affordable, ISP blocking will attempt to frustrate fans towards legality. What blocking can’t do is put more disposable money into people’s pockets. Update: List of Services to Be Blocked (via cincodias) 6irmz.top (IPTV) chiletv.xyz (IPTV) dropfile.com (IPTV) e7b8bcf34bb8735ca8fe0dad79183299.lig.4retnec.co (IPTV) emyb.in (IPTV) firetvset.net (IPTV) fjernsynet.xyz (IPTV) fre7.flycany.me (IPTV) full003tv.xyz (IPTV) gioggg.net (IPTV) golatin.online (IPTV) huang6nis.xyz (IPTV) sharks.com (IPTV) magadam1.xyz (IPTV) nitrotv.us (IPTV) pelisyseriespty.xyz (IPTV) santmarcta.life (IPTV) somosvip.xyz (IPTV) suptv-nord.com (IPTV) tecno(IPTV).es (IPTV) theredball.ddnsgeek.com (IPTV) xentv.club (IPTV) (IPTV)paratodos.app (Web / IPTV) tvpremiumhd.tv (Web / IPTV) bobres.co (Web / IPTV) (IPTV)wink.com (Web / IPTV) joker(IPTV).net (Web / IPTV) getsportztv.com (Web / IPTV) onetvservices.com (Web / IPTV) 1stream.top (Web Streaming) 3papahd3.icu (Web Streaming) bdnewszh.com (Web Streaming) cricfree.live (Web Streaming) cricfree.top (Web Streaming) dzeko11.net (Web Streaming) es5.sportplus.live (Web Streaming) freelive365.nl (Web Streaming) hd.crichd.cx (Web Streaming) hockeyweb.live (Web Streaming) izlemac16.xyz (Web Streaming) jokersecretpage.xyz (Web Streaming) m.rojadirecta.fun (Web Streaming) motornews.live (Web Streaming) p2pstreams.live (Web Streaming) pepperlive.info (Web Streaming) socolive.pro (Web Streaming) sportinglive.co (Web Streaming) sportsnest.co (Web Streaming) stakes100.xyz (Web Streaming) techoreels.com (Web Streaming) tezgoal.com (Web Streaming) vipboxs.com (Web Streaming) weakstreams.com (Web Streaming) www.cyfostreams.com (Web Streaming) www.hdmatch.xyz (Web Streaming) www.ovostreams.com (Web Streaming) www.rojadirectatvenvivo.com (Web Streaming) www.sportnews.to (Web Streaming) www.zdsports.org (Web Streaming) acestream.org (BitTorrent Site) arenavision.site (BitTorrent Site) www.futbolgratis.workers.dev (BitTorrent Site) explodie.org (BitTorrent Site) open.acgtracker.com (BitTorrent Site) open.stealth.si (BitTorrent Site) share.camoe.cn (BitTorrent Site) thetracker.org (BitTorrent Site) t.nyaatracker.com (BitTorrent Site) tracker.coppersurfer.tk (BitTorrent Site) tracker.electro-bittorrent.pl (BitTorrent Site) tracker.internetwarriors.net (BitTorrent Site) tracker.tfile.co (BitTorrent Site) tracker.tfile.me (BitTorrent Site) tracker.tiny-vps.com (BitTorrent Site) tracker.bittorrent.eu.org (BitTorrent Site) tracker.tvunderground.org.ru (BitTorrent Site) tracker.vanitycore.co (BitTorrent Site) zephir.monocul.us (BitTorrent Site) LaLiga & Movistar Will Block IPTV Pirates, No Court Process Needed
  7. SmoothStreams - one of the most reliable and well-known pirate IPTV providers - suddenly went offline this month. A two-week TorrentFreak investigation has determined that members of MPA-Canada and ACE, including Bell and Rogers, have been tracking the service's operators for years. Legal action is already underway, but the process isn't going exactly to plan. Pirate IPTV services disappear on a regular basis but when SmoothStreams.tv ran into trouble mid-July, there were ominous signs that this wasn’t just a regular technical problem. One early confusion was that not all of SmoothStreams’ channels had gone dark and presumably some kind of raid would’ve ensured a complete shutdown of the platform. Information obtained from a number of sources pulled us in two directions. One suggested that the service was merely facing a technical hitch related to a specific supplier of streams. Another strongly suggested that SmoothStreams was already stuck in a legal quagmire. Earlier this week we contacted Lomic Law, a Canadian law firm based in Toronto, asking them to confirm or deny they were representing two people we believed to be the operators of SmoothStreams. We received no response. When we contacted the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the anti-piracy group we’d managed to connect to the SmoothStreams shutdown, they initially responded but declined to make a statement. We can now confirm that SmoothStreams (SSTV) was indeed shut down and that members and affiliates of MPA-Canada (Motion Picture Association Canada) and ACE are those responsible. Massive Coalition of Companies Take Action The epicenter of the legal action can be found in Canada so it’s no surprise to see Bell Media and Rogers Media heading the list of plaintiffs. Other companies involved in the action include Disney, Paramount, Columbia, Warner Bros., plus two divisions of Universal. On June 17, 2022, these companies filed a statement of claim against two individuals – Marshall Macciacchera and Antonio Macciacchera (son and father respectively) – plus several companies based in Canada and elsewhere that they allegedly control. The plaintiffs’ claims are straightforward. They allege that Marshall and Antonio are the owners and operators of SmoothStreams.tv and several additional platforms including live247.tv, StreamTVNow.tv and StarStreams.tv. These platforms enabled subscribers to access large volumes of live TV channels and movies, something that infringed the plaintiffs’ rights. Plaintiffs Obtained an Injunction, Anton Piller Order On the same day their statement of claim was filed, the plaintiffs requested an immediate hearing to obtain an interim injunction to shut SmoothStreams down. They also sought an Anton Piller order, a special type of court authorization that would allow them to search premises linked to Marshall and Antonio and seize evidence, without having to give any prior warning. The same type of order was previously used against Adam Lackman, the former operator of TVAddons. Obtained by the plaintiffs late June, an interim order containing an interim injunction prevents Marshall and Antonio from operating any SmoothStreams-affiliated service or similar platform. The order also requires Marshall and Antonio to shut down the entire SmoothStreams system and hand control of its infrastructure to an independent solicitor. The interim order prohibits SmoothStreams and related entities from disposing of or distributing assets outside Canada. It further requires Marshall and Antonio to authorize banks and other financial entities to hand over details of their assets to the entertainment company plaintiffs. Two Locations Targeted For Search and Seizure The defendants were served on July 14, 2022. In Marshall’s case, two locations were targeted – his home and a commercial property in Barrie, Ontatio. Antonio was served at his home in Woodbridge, Ontario. Both were informed that any failure to comply with the terms of the order could lead to them being held in contempt of court, an offense carrying a fine or a prison sentence. Late last week TorrentFreak learned that things didn’t go entirely to plan. We understand that those involved in executing the order on behalf of the plaintiffs were present at the locations for at least two days and didn’t receive full cooperation from Marshall or Antonio. After refusing to read the paperwork or give his consent for the court’s interim order to be executed, the plaintiffs filed for an order to charge Antonio with contempt. The motion was granted and Antonio is now required to appear in court during August to face that charge. Marshall’s compliance was reportedly mixed and that shines light on why parts of the SmoothStreams service stayed up after the execution of the order. During the search, the plaintiffs’ representatives seized dozens of TV receivers and encoders, plus a number of servers believed to have been used for capturing and redistributing the infringing content available via SmoothStreams. However, when those were disconnected a few dozen streams remained up – and Marshall refused to explain why that was the case. A Complex Network of Companies and Entities Those familiar with SmoothStreams will already be aware that subscriptions could be purchased on a number of affiliated websites including Armhosting.ca, Starhosting.me, and Romaworks.co. Our investigations over the past two weeks found that each was operated by a separate corporate entity – Arm Hosting, Inc. (Ontario, Canada), Star Hosting Limited (Hong Kong), Roma Works Limited (Hong Kong), and Roma Works, S.A. (Panama). An investigation launched in 2018 by MPA-Canada reached the same conclusions but also determined that Marshall holds directorships in Arm Hosting Inc., Star Hosting Limited, and Roma Works Limited. The alleged SmoothStreams owner did provide the plaintiffs with login details for the ArmHosting.ca payment portal but stonewalled them when questioned about the financial details of both Hong Kong entities. As a result, Marshall was also charged with contempt of court. During the next handful of days, both Marshall and Antonio are required by law to identify any and all third parties involved in the SmoothStreams operations. An unknown third party gained access to the SmoothStreams system during the execution of the order and there is a suspicion that a person identified as ‘Sam’ could also be involved. How Were The SmoothStreams Operators Identified? As indicated earlier, the plaintiffs have been investigating SmoothStreams for four years, which must have been an extremely expensive operation. There’s no doubt that every detail will have been immaculately documented and supported by necessary audit trails, which of course makes things much more laborious. We have no information on that specific investigation. However, the hard reality is that despite massive efforts to maintain anonymity, the people behind SmoothStreams were not difficult for us to identify over a handful of days using readily available tools. We’ll reveal how we did that in an upcoming report. SmoothStreams IPTV Shut Down By MPA/ACE After Secret Legal Process
  8. Following an investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, five people have been charged with distributing pirate IPTV services. RCMP officers raided GaloTV (Soltv) in 2021, seizing hundreds of set-top boxes, receivers and broadcasting devices. One of the men was previously sued by DISH and agreed to settle a civil suit for more than half a billion dollars. The world of pirate streaming and IPTV services is one of intrigue. Like the internet itself, it’s a web of interconnected networks populated by devices, ad hoc groups, and individuals who can appear in one place, only to pop up in another. The case of pirate IPTV entrepreneur Carlos Rocha certainly fits the profile. In December 2020, US broadcaster DISH Network and tech partner Nagrastar filed a civil suit under seal in the United States, naming Carlos Rocha plus SolTV and Stream Solutions, a pair of known IPTV brands operated by the Toronto resident. Rocha also had connections to SET TV, a supplier that collapsed under the weight of a $90 million judgment in the US. He sold subscriptions to several other IPTV services too, some of which have since gone down or are close to a service that has. Despite having a civil lawsuit to contemplate over Christmas lunch in 2020, what Rocha probably didn’t know is that he was also the subject of a criminal investigation in Canada. RCMP Cybercrime Team Launch ‘Project OLoki’ In January 2020, the Cybercrime Team of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police launched ‘Project OLoki’, an investigation targeting a group of individuals running what police describe as a “large-scale” unlawful IPTV distribution service. With the separate civil lawsuit in the US just six months old, on June 29, 2021, the RCMP Cybercrime Team executed a search warrant on a retail location of GaloTV, also known as Soltv – the IPTV brand referenced in the DISH complaint. “The search warrant resulted in the seizure of a large number of set top boxes (used to decode and decrypt video signals) and hundreds of TV receivers and equipment used to re-broadcast video signals,” a new statement from RCMP reads. Local business directories and the DISH complaint show that GaloTV/Soltv had an unassuming retail unit at 455 Rogers Road, Toronto. RCMP believes that the group targeted in ‘Project OLoki’ bought legitimate access to TV content from several companies and then redistributed it to the public at a “considerable discount.” It’s taken more than a year but police say that several people have now been charged for offenses relating to the unlawful obtaining and distribution of unlicensed content. Five Individuals From Toronto A statement from RCMP O Division (Ontario) reveals that five individuals, all from Toronto, have been charged with the same offenses, albeit to varying degrees, under Canada’s Criminal Code. Manuel Da Rocha (age 67): Fraud over C$5,000 X 2 – Section 380(1)(a); Theft of Telecommunication Services – Section 326. Sell or distribute a device to obtain Telecommunication service without payment of a lawful charge – Section 327(1) Carlos Da Rocha (age 29): Fraud over C$5,000 X 2 – Section 380(1)(a); Theft of Telecommunication Services – Section 326. Sell or distribute a device to obtain Telecommunication service without payment of a lawful charge – Section 327(1) Carla Da Rocha (age 29): Fraud over C$5,000 – Section 380(1)(a); Theft of Telecommunication Services – Section 326. Sell or distribute a device to obtain Telecommunication service without payment of a lawful charge – Section 327(1) Carlos Lopes (age 48): Fraud over C$5,000 X 2 – Section 380(1)(a); Theft of Telecommunication Services – Section 326. Sell or distribute a device to obtain Telecommunication service without payment of a lawful charge – Section 327(1) Elvis Da Rocha (age 37): Fraud over C$5,000 – Section 380(1)(a); Theft of Telecommunication Services – Section 326. Sell or distribute a device to obtain Telecommunication service without payment of a lawful charge – Section 327(1) Under Canada’s Criminal Code, Section 380(1)(a) carries a term of imprisonment not exceeding 14 years. Section 327 carries a term of imprisonment of not more than two years. “This investigation is a great example of the RCMP’s commitment to keeping our communities safe by effectively disrupting cyber and economic crime,” says Inspector Lina Dabit, Officer in Charge, O Division Cybercrime Investigative Team. The five individuals will appear at the Toronto North Ontario Court of Justice later today. In May 2022, Carlos Rocha and DISH agreed to settle their differences after the Toronto man signed a settlement judgment of US$585 million. Pirate IPTV: Five Charged Following RCMP Cybercrime Investigation
  9. The former operator of pirate IPTV service HeHeStreams has reached a plea agreement with the US government. After being indicted on several counts carrying sentences of up to 20 years each, Joshua Streit has admitted to a single cybercrime offense. In addition to a potential prison sentence, Streit will now forfeit $500K. There are many options for those seeking a cheap pirate IPTV package but it’s rare for any single provider to offer consistently solid streams, in decent quality, and at a fair price. HeHeStreams was one of the few to exceed expectations. With a focus on MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL content, HeHeStreams built an enthusiastic customer base so when it disappeared last year following an investigation by the Alliance for Creativity (ACE) and Motion Picture Association (MPA), obvious replacements were in short supply. The same couldn’t be said about the controversy that was about to engulf HeHeStream’s owner. HeHeStreams Settled With Hollywood, But Not the US Govt. Under pressure from the ACE anti-piracy coalition, HeHe’s owner Joshua Streit (aka Josh Brody) accepted an offer to settle his case and move on. That involved giving up his domain names to the MPA and shutting down his site. No cash settlement was mentioned publicly but it’s likely that ACE members received financial compensation. In theory that should’ve ended Streit’s legal problems but that wasn’t how things panned out. More serious problems lay ahead and were directly connected to Streit’s skills and HeHe’s unique mode of operation. Traditional IPTV suppliers provide access to pirate streams by rebroadcasting captured content from their own servers. It’s bandwidth-intensive, expensive, and prone to issues. HeHeStreams eliminated most of these additional costs by using techniques to connect customers to genuine streams, offered by the sports broadcasters themselves, directly from their own servers. The upsides could be found in rock-solid streams, low server costs, and many happy customers. The downsides proved more complicated for Streit. A Criminal Investigation Was Already Underway There are two angles on what happened next, depending on the mood, tone and lighting. Ultimately, only one mattered. According to the US government, Streit emailed an MLB (Major League Baseball) employee in March 2021 to explain that he’d previously disclosed a network vulnerability in their systems (i.e a way to get streaming content without paying for it) and was disappointed by the lack of gratitude. The US government says that in a follow-up email, Streit complained to MLB that other vulnerabilities he’d disclosed hadn’t been given proper attention either. An MLB executive eventually telephoned Streit and informed him that the company operated no ‘bug bounty’ style programs. According to the US government, Streit then indicated that financial compensation for his security work would be appropriate under the circumstances. Placed in a deliberately more favorable light for a moment, Streit’s approach to MLB could’ve been seen as an opportunity to stop operations like his from accessing MLB content from company servers. With the benefit of the doubt and weighed against much bigger savings, $150,000 might even sound like a good security consultancy opportunity. In the cold light of day, Streit’s comment about being chased down on the basis of his “unauthorized access to systems” was to prove prophetic. Both MLB and the FBI framed Streit’s conduct as extortion. US Government Indicts Joshua Streit In October 21, the Department of Justice announced that Streit had been charged with several crimes, including one under a new law designed to reduce illegal streaming. The 30-year-old from Minnesota was charged as follows: One count of knowingly accessing a protected computer in furtherance of a criminal act and for purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain (max five years in prison). One count of knowingly accessing a protected computer in furtherance of fraud (max five years in prison), one count of wire fraud (20 years), and one count of sending interstate threats with the intent to extort (20 years). A final count of illicit digital transmission, carrying a potential five-year sentence, was added for good measure. The details of that count weren’t made public but could’ve been a reference to the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act (PLSA) signed into law late 2020. With such a lot on the line, Streit entered into negotiations with the government. The ins and outs of those talks aren’t for public consumption but we can reveal that a deal has been reached. It’s hard to imagine Streit being pleased with the outcome but when stuck between a rock and a hard place, something had to give. Streit Enters Guilty Plea on a Single Count Around June 13, 2022, Streit pleaded guilty to one count of ‘Computer Fraud – Unauthorized Access to Obtain Information From a Protected Computer’. According to the charge, from around July 2017 to around July 2021, Streit intentionally accessed and attempted to access computers without authorization. As a result, he obtained information from protected computers, for the purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain. Specifically, Streit obtained unauthorized access to the online accounts of users of a website belonging to Major League Baseball and used that access to “conduct illegal streaming of sporting events” that he sold to others for a profit. In advance of his sentencing on that single count, the matter of forfeiture has been settled. $500,000 to Be Forfeited to the United States In a consent preliminary order of forfeiture submitted to a New York district court, the single count against Streit is repeated alongside details of forfeiture pursuant to 18 U.S. Code § 1030(i). The forfeiture relates to “any and all property, real or personal, constituting or derived from, any proceeds that such person obtained, directly or indirectly, as a result of the offense,” plus “any and all personal property that was used or intended to be used to commit or to facilitate the commission of the offense.” According to the plea agreement reached with the US government, Streit will forfeit $500,000, an amount said to represent “the amount of proceeds traceable to the commission of the offense.” Streit will also forfeit a small mountain of computer and electronics hardware seized from him in October 2021. The haul includes six Apple MacBook Pro devices, several Apple, Google, and Samsung-branded smartphones, tablets, hard drives, and other assorted storage media. Potentially Lengthy Prison Sentence Ahead The specific charge Streit faces relates to an offense under 18 U.S. Code § 1030 (Fraud and related activity in connection with computers) where information valued at more than $5,000 was obtained. At least potentially he could face up to five years in prison. If he’d previously been convicted of a crime under § 1030, the sentence could reach ten years but we understand that’s not the case here. Documents related to the charge and forfeiture can be found here (1,2, pdf) HeHeStreams: Pirate IPTV Owner Admits Cybercrime, Forfeits $500K
  10. Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN continues its crackdown on pirate IPTV services. The Hollywood-supported group says it has reached a €70,000 settlement with a major vendor after information exposed through the court located the person in Brazil. BREIN, meanwhile, reports that it has shut down dozens of illicit IPTV vendors and hundreds of sites that offered these services. There are dozens of anti-piracy groups active around the world and BREIN is one of the frontrunners. The Dutch organization is mainly active in Europe where it’s responsible for taking down illicit sites and services, while also obtaining several favorable precedents. In 2017, BREIN booked a prominent victory at the European Court of Justice, which ruled that it’s illegal to sell devices that are pre-configured to access copyright-infringing content. This “Filmspeler” order was the death knell for sellers of pirate streaming boxes. Paired with the earlier GS Media ruling, which held that companies with a for-profit motive can’t knowingly link to copyright-infringing material, this provides a powerful enforcement tool. GoFastIPTV.eu Chase In the years that followed BREIN went after hundreds of pirate streaming tools and operators of IPTV services. One of the main targets was GoFastIPTV.eu, which offered unauthorized access to movies, TV shows and pay TV channels, plus more than 85,000 on-demand titles. BREIN was initially unable to track down the operator through its regular private enforcement options. The paper trail went all over the world through companies in the UK and Brazil, eventually running dead at a hotel in Lisbon, Portugal. There was one significant lead left, however, as the IPTV service used the Dutch Rabobank to process payments. The bank wasn’t willing to hand over the data right away, so BREIN decided to take the matter to court. Rabobank was forced to cooperate last year. Operator Located, Settlement Reached This information led to a breakthrough as BREIN was able to track down the IPTV operator in South America. The person initially failed to respond to communications but that changed when BREIN started legal procedures last year. The anti-piracy group now reports that it has reached a conditional €70,000 settlement with the operator of the now-defunct GoFastIPTV.eu service. That carries a fine of €25,000 per day if the service is restored, as well as a €10,000 fine for each future infringement. This settlement figure is relatively modest compared to what we have seen elsewhere. That said, the big achievement for BREIN is that a large illegal IPTV supplier has ceased its operations. In addition, BREIN has another court ruling in hand that will make it easier to obtain the personal details of suspected pirates. Subscribers Lose Too BREIN notes that its enforcement actions don’t focus on the users of IPTV services. However, these subscribers are indirectly hit as well since they lose access to the service, which is often paid months in advance. “Although BREIN focuses on providers, the use of illegal services at home is also copyright infringing. When the service is taken down, customers will lose their money and their illegal access, while they usually have to pay half to a whole year in advance.” For the Dutch anti-piracy group, IPTV services remain an enforcement priority. EUIPO research found that the Dutch are using these services more than all other Europeans. It’s big business too, generating hundreds of millions of euros in revenue in Europe alone. Thus far, BREIN reports that it has tracked down more than 50 providers of illegal IPTV services since 2017, while shutting down over 300 sites where these subscriptions were on offer. This tally is expected to continue increase over the years to come. BREIN Settles With Pirate IPTV Seller Afer Global Chase
  11. Reasonable profits can be made from the sale of pirate IPTV subscriptions but there's always a chance of drawing the wrong type of attention. According to the Federation Against Copyright Theft, several unlucky pirates were visited at their homes in the UK this week, where they were presented with cease-and-desist notices. Unpleasant? Maybe. But much better than the alternatives. Once upon a time the vast majority of piracy and counterfeiting involved physical goods. Not even movies changed hands without first being recorded onto an analog videotape or more recently, optical media. These days everything is done online. A movie is just another file to be silently downloaded and the days of buying hacked satellite cards from the small ads in specialist computer magazines are long gone. Armed with a web browser and a little patience, it’s now possible for novices to have a pirate IPTV subscription up and running in no time. But for many, it’s even more simple than that. In 2022, many people are exposed to these subscriptions through friends or the marvels of social media. Sellers are easily found on Facebook where they tout their wares for all to see, either completely oblivious or entirely indifferent to the risks. The problem is that this type of offense is viewed as fraud, a criminal offense. The chances of getting caught are admittedly low but, for the unlucky minority, a criminal conviction could be life-changing. Fortunately, in most cases rightsholders and the police seem to recognize that too. Rise of the ‘Knock-and-Warn’ This week the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) announced another wave of enforcement action in the UK against people suspected of supplying illegal IPTV subscriptions. FACT teamed up with officers from West Midlands and Warwickshire Police and instead of kicking doors off their hinges at 05:00, they took a more considered approach towards bringing any offending to an end. Targeting homes in Alcester, Solihull, and Birmingham, investigators and police officers served so-called ‘cease-and-desist’ notices requiring suspects to cease any illegal activity with immediate effect, or face more serious consequences. This may be an unpleasant experience for those served but given the possible alternatives, i.e a criminal prosecution by the police or even a private prosecution by FACT, a simple commitment not to keep breaking the law represents a simple get-out-of-jail-free card. Cease-and-Desist Notices Are More Common in Fraud Cases Documents seen by TorrentFreak indicate that police forces in the UK accept that cease-and-desist notices are little more than a tool in an administrative process. However, if they are issued appropriately, the fact that a notice has been served can provide evidence to support a subsequent criminal prosecution or even civil action. Some forces say their responses to alleged fraud offenses are based on common sense and where it’s possible to innovate with partners (in this case, FACT), that can be the preferred approach to bring alleged offending to an end. However, other factors also come into play, with police balancing the seriousness of the alleged crime, the resources available, and the prospect of getting a conviction. The FACT Approach is Reportedly Successful According to the Intellectual Property Office’s IP Crime and Enforcement Report 2020-21 (pdf), FACT operations largely target lower-level offenders selling piracy-configued set-top boxes and IPTV subscriptions on social media. In the year covered by the report, FACT claimed a success rate of 90%; 84 ‘cease and desist’ notices were issued and 70 offenders fully complied with their terms. At that time, investigations into 14 cases continued with FACT warning that in some cases, prosecutions could follow. The image below from that report shows the regions where notices were issued during 2020-21. The individuals targeted this week are located in the region marked ‘West Midlands’, which sits just below the clear ‘danger’ area of Cheshire and to its right, Lancashire and Yorkshire. FACT works with the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) to gather intelligence on suspects and believes that the warning process was appropriate to those targeted this week. “This latest action targeted individuals who were promoting unauthorized access to premium television content, which affects broadcasters and rights owners in the UK and worldwide, causing financial harm to the industry and the economy,” FACT’s statement reads. “Whilst all the individuals visited were operating at a relatively low level, the objective was to prevent them from undertaking further criminal activity, and to deter others from getting involved.” FACT says that further actions of a similar nature are planned to take place throughout 2022. UK Pirate IPTV Sellers Receive In-Person Warnings From Police Officers & FACT
  12. A Las Vegas company and its owner have been named in a DISH Network lawsuit targeting pirate IPTV service VNest TV. DISH says the service offered more than 5,000 channels including some obtained from its satellite feeds and others from Sling TV's online broadcasts. DISH believes VNest TV obtained channels from Nitro TV, a service recently hit with a $100m+ judgment. DISH Network, Sling TV and technology partner Nagrastar are keeping their feet firmly on the gas in their mission to disrupt pirate IPTV services. Last month the companies won a $100m judgment against the former operators of pirate IPTV service Nitro TV. It comes as no surprise to see another lawsuit filed in the United States against a service with alleged connections to Nitro. Lawsuit Targets VNest TV The companies’ latest anti-piracy lawsuit was filed in a Nevada court. It targets Las Vegas company Ventura’s Nest LLC and its alleged sole manager, Las Vegas resident Santina Fulton. The plaintiffs claim that Fulton is behind a pirate IPTV service called VNest TV. Also known as VNest IPTV, the service was sold through a number of domains including vnestiptv.com and venturasnest.com. DISH believes that Fulton registered the domains, something borne out by historical WHOIS records. “Defendants advertised VNest TV as a subscription-based service providing more than 5,000 channels, movies, sports programs, and other premium content, all for a low monthly fee,” the complaint reads. “According to Defendants, VNest TV offers ‘the best content and up time than anyone else in the business.’ VNest TV advertising emphasized converting customers from legitimate cable or satellite services, such as those provided by DISH, by encouraging customers to ‘cut the cord’.” VNest’s sites were offline after the complaint was filed but archived copies show that monthly subscription packages were available for $20. A one-year subscription cost $180. VNest TV Was Told to Shut Down But Warning Was Ignored The plaintiffs say that at least in part, VNest TV was fueled by unlicensed streams captured from DISH Network’s satellite broadcasts and content obtained directly from servers controlled by partner Sling TV. Some of these channels (‘numerous’ according to the complaint) were sourced from Nitro TV, the pirate IPTV platform that owes DISH more than $100 million in damages related to its own rebroadcasting scheme. Identifying Fulton as the operator of VNest TV doesn’t appear to have been difficult. As the image below shows, investigators for the plaintiffs signed up for the service and made two test payments, one through PayPal and another through Venmo. When information from the payment receipts is combined, there’s enough to show company and personal names plus connections to social media accounts. Despite VNest TV’s operator being terribly exposed, at least one cease-and-desist notification sent by the plaintiffs went ignored. The complaint notes that the defendants were notified that their service violated federal laws as early as October 2021 but the platform continued to operate. Plaintiffs Seek Damages and Injunction The allegations of infringement in the complaint are based on violations of the Federal Communications Act (content sourced from DISH satellite broadcasts) and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (content obtained from Sling’s servers). In respect of the former, DISH says that VNest TV violated 47 U.S. Code § 605(a) by accessing unauthorized communications willfully and for commercial advantage. They also willfully sold access to those communications, in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(4). The plaintiffs also allege breaches of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention measures under 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(2)). The complaint notes that Sling’s content is protected by DRM technologies including Google’s Widevine DRM, Apple’s FairPlay DRM, and Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM, so the plaintiffs’ are entitled to claim damages. It’s impossible to state with any accuracy how much the plaintiffs might be entitled to but in cases of willful violations of the FCA, every violation can reach $110,000. The DMCA-related offenses top out at $2,500 in statutory damages each so when combined, the damages claim could easily reach double-digit millions. In the meantime, DISH, Sling and Nagrastar are seeking an injunction plus an order requiring VNest TV to hand over all domains and business records. The complaint can be found here (pdf) VNest IPTV Faces US Piracy Lawsuit After Failing to Cease-and-Desist
  13. Perhaps the most important aspect of running any kind of pirate site or service is not getting caught. Being exposed by anti-piracy groups can mean legal trouble or in a worst-case scenario, a criminal referral. So how do the authorities track operators down and identify them? According to their own training sessions, it's all about OSINT. In some cases the process is very easy indeed. Measures to tackle online piracy are often described as a game of whac-a-mole, in this case a game where pirates get bashed on the head only to pop up somewhere else – supply of movies, TV shows, live sports and music intact. From the average pirate’s perspective, the game is completely pointless – futile even. But for anti-piracy groups all around the world, engaging pirates in this irritating game is an important form of disruption. It’s the next best option given the 0% chance of killing all piracy and the greater than 0% chance they’ll switch to a legal service. The massive proliferation of pirate IPTV services in recent years is a big problem for many rightsholders. They’re able to annoy a few with ISP blocking but behind the scenes they’re also shutting a few down here, and a few down there. How they do that is rarely for public consumption but documents made available to TorrentFreak shine a little light on the basics. But first a short primer. OSINT – Open Source Intelligence At the lowest level, OSINT is available to all by simply gathering and processing data found using a search engine. In the world of OSINT, however, search engines represent only a handful of tools in an extremely large toolbox. When these tools are combined and harvested data is processed effectively, it’s possible to obtain worrying levels of information on all but the most hardened targets. The screenshot below shows just some of the tools listed by OSINT Framework but even this selection barely scratches the surface, especially if we include the associated skills needed to effectively gather and then correlate data. When it comes to online anti-piracy investigations, OSINT tools and techniques can feel almost tailored for the task at hand. Any single piece of information about a site operator (such as a domain name, IP address, or email address) has the potential to expose a person’s online footprint. And since today’s online lives tend to be inextricably entwined with those enjoyed offline, it’s not hard to see where things can end up. IPTV – Investigation Examples In 2021, a project funded by the European Union/EUIPO gave a presentation in Asia that focused on the investigation of various players in the illegal IPTV ecosystem. The chart below lists everything from content providers, aggregators and developers, to money and ‘subscription mules’ – otherwise known as ‘resellers’. One interesting section concerns server devices known as ‘transcoders’. Video streams are sent to these servers from external sources (live TV or IP streams) and then transcoded/converted into multiple streams for delivery to multiple users’ viewing devices, usually via other networking infrastructure. The specific model mentioned in the slides (TBS8520) can be managed using a system called ‘Kylone’ which is accessible using a web browser. So, when the investigators searched for ‘Kylone’ using ‘ZoomEye‘ (an OSINT search engine for the ‘Internet of Things’) the system was able to provide information on more than 141 transcoders. (Note: Using Shodan is also an option) Knowing where these servers are located is useful information for obvious reasons. An IP address (such as the first result in the chart above) has the potential to lead to a hostname or even a physical location using simple tools. (Note: Hosting companies, including the one in the example, may have no idea a customer is involved in illegal activities and, in any event, the customer in question is probably long gone) Ulango.TV: A Lesson in How To Get Caught In January 2020, we discovered that the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment had taken down Ulango.tv, an ‘IPTV solution’ offering thousands of live channels through an app. As far as we’re aware, ACE still hasn’t claimed responsibility but there’s no doubt they took it down or were involved in some way. According to slides in the EU/EUIPO presentation, cracking the case was simplicity itself. Armed with the site’s domain name (ulango.tv) and a WHOIS service, the investigators were able to obtain an IP address and the details of the company hosting the server. Next they created a map of the ulango.tv site using this tool, which produced a list of external sites the .tv domain linked to. That included a link to a Twitter account and another piece of the puzzle. Turning then to Hunter.io, a very powerful service for email-related investigations, they searched for the Ulango.tv domain and found an email address connected to it. At this point they appear to have used a little bit of skullduggery. Using the services Fakemail and Fake Person Generator they made an account on Ulango.tv with bogus information. Obviously, there are reasons investigators don’t want to expose themselves in situations like these since that could be counterproductive. As the slide shows, the next step was to move towards a purchase of the site’s premium service for the princely amount of two euros. Then, after clicking the ‘checkout’ button, they were given the option to pay by credit card or bank transfer. Out of necessity an IBAN number was provided along with the name of the account holder, a name that had also appeared earlier in the investigation. It wasn’t difficult but it appears to have been effective. IPTV Investigation Using Multiple Tools Finally, the slides detail another investigation but since our checks indicate the platform is still live, we don’t intend to name it here. Instead, we’ll simply walk through the steps. Using the site’s domain name, investigators used Viewdns.info to conduct a WHOIS search to reveal the name of the domain registrant. Armed with that name they conducted a reverse WHOIS search, which displays other domains registered by the same person. In total, these steps turned up a name, an email address, a potential physical address and 10 additional domains, mostly connected to pirate IPTV services. The next step was to load up the main domain and view its source using a regular browser. By searching that source code for the term ‘UA-‘, they were able to find the site’s Google Analytics ID. By conducting a Reverse Google Analytics search, other sites using the same ID were revealed and connected to the first site. Then it was a matter of attempting to pay for a subscription at the first site and noticing that payment was being processed by another. That site was (and still is) presented as a legitimate business and as such is incorporated as a limited company in the UK. All limited companies in the UK have a listing at Companies House (another great OSINT resource) and a search there gave up the name of the director (a foreign national), a date of birth, and an address in London. The latter is a known virtual office and the home of many people who prefer not to give up their real address. At this point the slides reveal no more so it’s unclear whether the investigation ended there or is still ongoing. The sites in question appear to be up so for educational and entertainment purposes only, we’ll see if the case can be cracked using the incredible capabilities of Maltego and Spiderfoot. These tools allow users to automate their OSINT queries and investigations but such a short description does them both a huge disservice. They both have a free option so there’s no excuse for not giving them a try, preferably in a virtual machine and certainly behind a VPN, especially in the case of the latter. How Investigators Use OSINT to Track Down IPTV Pirates
  14. Seven people behind a pirate IPTV and card-sharing operation have been sentenced to prison for fraud offenses. Two leaders of the network received 44-month prison sentences and the other five were ordered to serve between 9 to 18 months. After the defendants gave up around one million euros of the amount they generated from the fraud, a court suspended their custodial sentences. In many countries around Europe, pirate IPTV services, suppliers and resellers have become primary targets for entertainment industry groups. These cut-price subscription streaming platforms are both widely available and popular with consumers but rightsholders view them as criminal enterprises with no legitimate place in the market. That belief is shared by law enforcement agencies across the continent, with Spain just one of the battlegrounds. EGEDA Files Complaint, Police Carry Out Raids In May 2019, audiovisual rights management group EGEDA filed a criminal complaint against Comprarccam, a supplier of pirate IPTV and card-sharing subscriptions. A police investigation led to a report stating that the pirate operation was servicing at least 15,000 customers in Spain. Two of its leaders had been identified and traced to the cities of Salamanca and Zamora. Police followed up with a two-phase operation in February and March 2020. Officers were able to seize documents and accounts information and then follow up with coordinated raids. Searches were carried out at six locations and seven individuals were arrested – one each in Zamora and Salamanca, one in Córdoba, three in Valencia, and another in Málaga. All were detained under suspicion of IP-related crimes, including telecommunications fraud. Police seized computer equipment, mobile phones, more than 10,000 euros in cash, plus seven gold bars. The group’s website and associated pirate services were closed down. Financial accounts and payment processing facilities were frozen based on claims that the group cost rightsholders around 11.8 million euros. The Criminal Organization According to prosecutors the ‘criminal organization’ behind the IPTV and card-sharing operation was led by two men. One reportedly operated the ‘logistics center’ from his home in Zamora, carrying out tasks such as IPTV panel management and the servicing of users via online messaging. A second man from Salamanca was the administrator of a service that redirected users to streams enabling illegal access to sports content, movies and TV shows. Five other members, responsible for distributing the infringing subscriptions to customers, operated from Córdoba, Valencia (x3) and Málaga. These individuals were considered important players but not as crucial as the men in Zamora and Salamanca. An investigation carried out by the Technological Crimes Group of the Valladolid National Police determined that between May 2019 and May 2020, the defendants’ fraud netted them around 1.2 million euros. Defendants Sentenced to Almost Nine Years in Prison More than two years after the raids, a court in Zamora (Audiencia Provincial) has now sentenced all seven defendants for fraud offenses based on the facilitation of access to infringing content. The two leaders were each sentenced to 23 months in prison. Two others received sentences of 18 months and 16 months, with the remaining three handed 9 months each. However, it appears the defendants will avoid an immediate custodial sentence after pleading guilty and taking steps to repay the money they earned during the fraud period. According to a local report, the defendants have already paid back most of the $1.2 million euros they earned with 250,000 euros left as a pending amount. If any of the defendants commit any new crimes during the next two years, they will be sent straight to prison to serve their sentences. Seven Pirate IPTV Operators Sentenced to Almost Nine Years in Prison For Fraud
  15. A US court has ordered the former operators of pirate IPTV service Nitro TV to pay more than $100m in piracy damages to broadcaster DISH. While the defendants are likely to be somewhat upset, major Hollywood studios are absolutely fuming. Despite their lawsuit against Nitro being filed months earlier, it's still not over, allowing DISH to strike first against any available cash. In August 2021, US broadcaster DISH Network plus Sling and NagraStar sued pirate IPTV service Nitro TV. According to the complaint, Alex, Anna, Martha and Osvaldo Galindo were behind the unlicensed streaming service which obtained its content from DISH satellite broadcasts and Sling’s internet-based programming. Documents obtained by the plaintiffs revealed the sale of at least 100,363 subscriptions (‘device codes’) which allowed Nitro customers to receive live TV programming and a movie/TV show VOD service at discount prices. Two accounts at Wells Fargo and Chase operated by Alex and Martha received at least $5.5m relating to the IPTV service. DISH and the other plaintiffs claimed that the defendants were responsible for mass violations of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions and the Federal Communications Act (FCA). Since none of the defendants appeared in court, these allegations went unchallenged. Default Judgment and Massive Damages In February 2022, DISH, Sling and NagraStar filed a motion for default judgment, demanding over $100m in damages for FCA violations and a broad injunction for violations of the FCA and DMCA. An order handed down by District Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown last week acknowledged the defendants’ failure to appear and granted the plaintiffs’ motion for default, finding the Galindos liable for violations of 47 U.S.C. §§ 605(a), 605(e)(4), and 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)(a). DISH and NagraStar were awarded $100,363,000 in statutory damages against the defendants, jointly and severally, for their violations of the Federal Communications Act. Via a permanent injunction, the Galindos were also restrained from infringing DISH and Sling’s rights by operating a similar IPTV platform in future, or being involved in the sale of devices or subscriptions that exploit their programming. The judgment (pdf) appears to give DISH everything it asked for, including a huge damages award that will hurt the defendants, if the broadcaster is able to track them down. That is a big ‘if’ but DISH has a reputation for not letting such things go. While these types of piracy awards are usually considered a win for the broader entertainment industry due to the deterrent message they send, the plaintiffs in a separate piracy lawsuit filed against Nitro TV are far from happy. Their irritation in that action is now palpable, with the studios’ legal team directing criticism at Alex Galindo’s lawyer, much to his consternation. Lawsuit Filed By ACE Members Against Nitro In April 2020, around 16 months before DISH filed their lawsuit against the Galindos, a coalition of entertainment companies led by Universal, Paramount, Columbia, Disney and Amazon filed a copyright infringement complaint against Nitro’s operators. Unlike the DISH lawsuit, the action brought by these members of the Alliance for Creativity against Alex and Anna Galindo, YouTuber ‘Touchtone‘, and others, was more complex. The plaintiffs obtained an injunction against Nitro in May 2020 and later claimed evidence had been destroyed or withheld. The main problem, however, was Alex Galindo’s mounting of a defense. In June 2020, he accused plaintiff Amazon of profiting from pirate IPTV devices sold on its platform and in October the same year, asked the court to dismiss the case in its entirety. Strained Relations, Short Supply of Patience Galindo said that he was concerned that the civil lawsuit could later turn into a criminal prosecution and for their part, the plaintiffs refused to rule that out. Therefore, when discovery was supposed to take place, Galindo asserted his Fifth Amendment rights not to self-incriminate. The plaintiffs said this amounted to a discovery abuse so demanded sanctions and a default judgment. Alex Galindo’s attorney Steven Vondran later accused the plaintiffs of allowing the case “to drag on” after they sought additional time to serve Martha Galindo. Vondran also asked for the entire case to be dismissed, noting that Alex had previously agreed to accept a default judgment, a proposal the studios rejected. The response from the studios pulled no punches. Using terms such as “outright lies” and “frankly laughable” it was clear that the supply of patience was drying up. The plaintiffs had discovered that Nitro had processed $7 million through accounts maintained by Martha Galindo and they Wanted access to that money. Nitro Boss Stops Paying His Attorney, After Alex reportedly refused to cooperate with the plaintiffs who were trying to find Martha and get access to the money, he later stopped paying Vondran and ended communications. A “complete breakdown” of the attorney-client relationship ensued so Vondran asked the court’s permission to withdraw from the case. With a hearing scheduled for June 30, the studios say that allowing Vondran to withdraw now would create a risk of “yet further prejudicial delay”, hindering their efforts to bring the case to a conclusion. They also believe that it’s unlikely that Alex Galindo will appear in person, since he previously missed a court-ordered appearance in April. But if patience was in short supply late last year, it now appears to have completely dried up. The studios are now suggesting that Vondran is in some way responsible for his client’s alleged misconduct – a client that owes him money and isn’t returning his calls. Delays Reduce Chances of Recovering Damages “While Plaintiffs to date have refrained from seeking sanctions against Mr. Vondran, virtually all of the conduct underlying the Sanctions Motion (e.g., destruction of evidence, false discovery responses provided under oath, failure to produce a single document, and violation of a court order compelling responses and production) occurred under his watch,” a studio filing dated June 10 reads. “Plaintiffs have done everything in their power to bring this matter to a conclusion in a manner that vindicates their rights and does not reward Defendant for his gross misconduct and complete disregard for his obligations to this Court,” they continue. “Importantly, these are obligations that Defendant affirmatively opted to take on by choosing to defend against the allegations against him not once, but twice — and always while represented by Mr. Vondran.” It’s at this point the studios make a direct reference to the DISH lawsuit, the relative ease with which it has just concluded in favor of the plaintiffs, and the early jump DISH has on the Nitro money. “To put a fine point on it, the plaintiffs in the Texas action, who filed suit over a year after Plaintiffs filed this action and after the Sanctions Motion was filed, have obtained a judgment on the same misconduct at issue here, and are now able to start enforcing their judgment against Defendant while Plaintiffs are still awaiting ruling on the Sanctions Motion,” a statement in opposition to Vondran’s withdrawal reads. Vondran Doesn’t Appreciate Plaintiffs’ Tone In a response filed less than a day after the studios’ most recent filing, Steven Vondran describes the allegations against him as “unprofessional and unsubstantiated character attacks” that imply he was somehow involved in discovery abuses. “There was no need for them to make these unfounded insinuations,” Vondran informs the court. “There is absolutely no evidence anything was done improper by Defense counsel and in nearly 18 years of legal practice and having handled several hundred litigations (mostly federal court) I have never been accused of such abuses as they are now insinuating.” Vondran then references the “very large” DISH judgment, which in his opinion leaves the Hollywood plaintiffs with “no likely way to ever recoup their alleged damages.” He believes this is entirely down to the plaintiff’s refusal to clarify the full nature and extent of the infringements at Nitro. If they had done so, the case would’ve gone to default long ago. “In other words, it appears they are now upset because they are now in second position due to their prolonged delay.” Vondran concludes by asking the court to grant his motion to withdraw, noting that there would be no way to effectively defend Alex without potentially affecting his Fifth Amendment rights, even if he hadn’t abandoned all contacts with Vondran and his company. Update: After the latest exchange in the case, Judge Gail J. Standish issued a 27-page report (pdf) which recommends the district judge to find that Alex Galindo willfully violated court orders, failed to cooperate in discovery, should be held liable for infringement, and should pay $181,080 in attorneys’ fees and costs to the plaintiffs. Source documents can be found here (1,2, pdf) Nitro IPTV Loses $100m Piracy Lawsuit Leaving Hollywood Studios Fuming
  16. The company behind Xtream-Codes, the IPTV management system shut down as part of a massive law enforcement operation in 2019, is reporting a significant legal win. After a regional court in Italy found no evidence to show that Xtream Codes Ltd acted unlawfully, an appeal to the Supreme Court of Cassation was dismissed. Assets seized during the raid will be returned. In September 2019, the IPTV market was thrown into turmoil following a huge law enforcement operation in Europe. Italy’s Guardia di Finanza (GdF), a law enforcement agency under the authority of the Minister of Economy and Finance, reported that the main targets were IPTV management system Xtream-Codes and its operators. With an estimated 700,000 users of the system prevented from accessing the platform directly and 50 million end clients disrupted globally, the immediate fallout was unprecedented. Despite some reports in the media to the contrary, Xtream-Codes was essentially just an IPTV management system that provided no content whatsoever, infringing or otherwise. Nevertheless, Italian authorities and anti-piracy groups branded Xtream-Codes an illegal pirate service and over the months and years that followed, revealed no evidence to the contrary, despite repeating the claims regularly. In January 2021, operating company Xtream Codes Ltd broke its silence to protest new claims that it was behind Xtream-Codes replacement Xtream UI, but that did little to stop similar allegations in the months ahead. Xtream Codes Ltd now hopes to set the record straight with a new announcement. ‘No Evidence Xtream Codes Ltd Acted Unlawfully’ After staying quiet for nearly a year, Xtream Codes Ltd has revealed the existence of court processes in Italy. The company says that following an earlier appeal, on August 3, 2021, the Court of Appeals of Naples found there was no evidence to show that Xtream Codes Ltd acted illegally at any time between 2015 and its closure in 2019. Supporting text, provided by the company, indicates that the court acknowledged the failure of Italian police to carry out a specific and detailed analysis of billing data seized from Xtream Codes to determine profits from alleged crimes. Instead, they simply added up the amounts on all invoices issued from 2015 to 2019 and came up with a profit figure based on all turnover. “This is a modality that could be shared only if one were to hypothesize that the company was created by the present appellants for the exclusive purpose of carrying out the actions that are the subject of these proceedings, only then could the entire activity carried out over the years be considered illicit, to the point of identifying the profit with the total proceeds earned,” the Court said, according to Xtream Codes’s statement. In summary, no evidence was produced to show that any revenue generated by Xtream Codes Ltd was illegal. An appeal by the prosecutor to Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation was dismissed. Xtream Codes Ltd Celebrates The company says that since all revenue seized by the authorities was deemed lawful by the Court of Naples, it has now been released. The company also hopes that being branded a ‘pirate service’ by the authorities and anti-piracy groups will now be a thing of the past. “The first step towards reaching the TRUTH has therefore been taken. A truth that we are obliged to share with you, since no newspaper, large or small, published this news even though in 2019, when our platform was shut down, tons of articles, including highly defamatory ones, were written against us,” the company says. “Even the Guardia di Finanza itself, in a recent post at the end of May 2022, insisted on calling our company a ‘worldwide pirate platform,’ even though the Court of Appeal of Naples made it clear that there was not the slightest evidence within their investigative activities to suggest the unlawfulness of Xtream Codes Ltd.” Having this court ruling in hand is clearly a big victory for Xtream Codes Ltd, not least since prosecutions turn on evidence and there appears to be none supporting the claims that the company operated illegally. This does not signal an abrupt end to all legal matters related to all parties affected by the huge raids in September 2019, but it’s a significant milestone nonetheless. Xtream-Codes IPTV Company Declared Lawful, Assets Seized in Raid Returned
  17. In 2019, three men from the UK received prison sentences totaling more than 17 years for selling illegal access to the Premier League's matches. Scheme ‘mastermind’ Steven King was sentenced to seven years and four months but has now been told that if he doesn't pay back £963,000 within three months, six years and eight months will be added to his custodial sentence. Over a period of more than 10 years, companies run by businessman Steven King found ways to utilize copyrighted content owned by others to generate substantial profits. According to the Premier League, Steven King, Paul Rolstona and Daniel Malone offered subscription packages to more than 1,000 pubs, clubs and homes throughout England and Wales, via their websites DreamBoxTV.co.uk and YourFootie.com. The companies behind these sites traded under the names Dreambox (an unincorporated entity), Dreambox TV Limited, and Digital Switchover Limited. During a decade of operations, the defendants reportedly generated more than £5 million in revenues, most recently from the reselling of illegal broadcast streams. Overall, more than 20 broadcasters had their content fraudulently obtained and then supplied by the trio but it was the Premier League that decided to bring the operation to an end. Three Men Jailed For a Total of 17 Years With assistance from anti-piracy company FACT, in 2019 a private prosecution brought by the Premier League resulted in a four-week trial at Warwick Crown Court that would end badly for the men. As the scheme’s ‘mastermind’, King was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison. Accomplice Paul Rolston was imprisoned for six years and four months, while Daniel Malone received three years and three months behind bars. They were among the most significant sentences for this type of offense ever handed down by a UK court but a big question remained. £5 Million is a Significant Sum of Money While it’s impossible to put a price on freedom, the question of where the £5 million in fraudulently-obtained funds had gone remained. At the time of sentencing we asked the Premier League whether there would be any attempt at recovery through the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and they confirmed that proceedings were already underway. According to an announcement by the Premier League, on Monday and more than three years later, King is under pressure once again. “At Warwick Crown Court today, he has been ordered to forfeit the proceeds of his criminal activities and pay back £963,000 within three months, or face having his prison sentence extended by an additional six years and eight months,” the Premier League says. “The judge ruled King must also surrender his passport within 28 days and cannot travel abroad until the sum has been paid.” Premier League Doesn’t Want The Money Precisely when King began serving his initial prison sentence of seven years and four months is unclear but given the June 2022 instruction that he cannot travel abroad, assuming that he served substantially less than the 88-month sentence imposed in 2019 seems reasonable. Whether King has almost a million pounds hidden away or would prefer to extend his sentence is unknown but at least in this case, the Premier League is not looking for a corporate windfall. “This result clearly shows that supplying illegal streams is a criminal offense leading to prison sentences and significant financial consequences,” says Premier League General Counsel, Kevin Plumb. “We are pleased the courts have recognized the seriousness of piracy-related crimes and the Premier League has requested all money recovered goes back to public bodies, including law enforcement agencies, to help them continue the fantastic work they do in helping bring people like this to justice. “We will continue to work with law enforcement to tackle piracy of our content and to educate fans on the dangers of watching Premier League matches via unauthorized streams.” IPTV Pirate Must Pay £963K or 88 Month Prison Sentence Becomes 168 Months
  18. PrimeStreams is one of the most recognizable pirate IPTV brands but after dealing with a hacker attack in 2019, more serious troubles lie on the horizon. The operators of PrimeStreams are now being sued in the United States, with potential damages easily running to tens of millions of dollars. Most suppliers, sellers and resellers in the pirate IPTV space face an interesting conundrum. On one hand, being unsuccessful dramatically reduces the odds of legal trouble but isn’t conducive to getting rich. On the other, a good product coupled with brand awareness can lead to commercial success, at least until that profile attracts the wrong type of attention. As one of the most recognizable IPTV brands around, PrimeStreams appears to fall into the latter category. In late 2019, the IPTV provider found itself being extorted by a hacker who claimed to have obtained the details of around 121,000 of its subscribers. To PrimeStreams’ credit, customers were immediately informed and somehow a total disaster scenario was avoided. Now, however, PrimeStreams’ operators have new adversaries to deal with, ones that will be demanding a lot more than ‘just’ $70K in bitcoin. PrimeStreams Sued in the United States In a lawsuit filed in a Kentucky court this month, US broadcaster DISH Network and streaming platform Sling TV accuse PrimeStreams of infringing their rights on a grand scale via their internet ‘rebroadcasting’ operation. The complaint names Daniel Scroggins, Steven Daugherty, and corporate entity Dscroggs Investments LLC as defendants, citing large-scale breaches of the Federal Communications Act and the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. “Defendants provide an illicit streaming service known as PrimeStreams that allows users to access, without authorization, Plaintiffs’ internet communications of television programming that were acquired by circumventing security measures implemented by Plaintiffs,” the complaint reads. DISH and Sling claim that Scroggins, a resident of Burlington, Kentucky, and Daugherty, a resident of Havana, Illinois, are the co-owners of PrimeStreams. It’s alleged that they used Dscroggs Investments LLC to process payments related to the PrimeStreams IPTV service. The PrimeStreams Operation The plaintiffs allege that Scroggins registered several PrimeStreams domains including primestreams.tv, primestreamstv.com, and primehosting.one. The service was marketed and sold to users via these domains and through social media platforms. “PrimeStreams was advertised as a subscription-based streaming service providing over 3,000 channels, movies on demand, pay-per-view events, and sports programming, among other content, all for a low monthly fee,” the plaintiffs note, adding that at least some of the content offered had been illegally obtained from their subscription services. “The Programming retransmitted on the PrimeStreams service was received from Plaintiffs’ internet communications. Identifiers unique to Plaintiffs’ internet communications were detected when viewing the Programming on the PrimeStreams service.” Circumventing DRM to Obtain Content DISH and Sling say their internet transmissions are secured using Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies including Google’s Widevine DRM, Apple’s FairPlay DRM, and Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM. Utilizing key-based encryption and decryption processes, these systems are deployed to ensure that only authorized subscribers can access programming and to prevent retransmission by unauthorized parties. The complaint alleges that the defendants (or someone acting in concert with them) circumvented these protections 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 the Programming, or a man-in-the-middle attack whereby customized software is used to bypass the DRM by intercepting the Programming passing from the DRM’s decryption library to the user’s viewing platform.” The plaintiffs claim that the illegally obtained content was subsequently made available via the PrimeStreams service on a subscription basis, in breach of their rights. Direct Sales and Resellers According to the lawsuit, PrimeStreams subscriptions were sold via the platform’s domains for roughly $10 per month, with longer periods and additional connections for multiple viewing devices sold at varying prices. In addition, PrimeStreams offered so-called ‘reseller credits’ to authorized resellers of the PrimeStreams service who service their own customers. Prices per credit (one credit for one month of access) varied between $2.50 and $4.00, depending on quantity. Payments for these reseller credits were made by wire transfer and checks to Dscroggs Investments LLC, with the latter being physically mailed to Daugherty. Some authorized resellers of PrimeStreams allegedly sold the service under their own brands, including Firesticksteve or FSS, Bing TV, and Better Than Cable TV. PrimeStreams Ignored Warning The complaint states that around September 24, 2021, the defendants were notified that their service violates federal laws and told to cease and desist. It appears that the warning was either ignored or rejected, and that’s what led to this lawsuit. The decision could prove costly. In addition to a permanent injunction to shut PrimeStreams down and prevent it from reappearing, the plaintiffs are requesting an order that will allow them to “take possession of and destroy” any item or technology that was used to violate the Federal Communications Act or the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. The order should also include a transfer of all PrimeStreams domains to the plaintiffs along with “all hard copy and electronic records regarding persons involved in the PrimeStreams service.” One of the domains sought by the plaintiffs currently shows a message dated May 13, two days after the lawsuit was filed. Pinpointing an exact damages figure is impossible at this stage given the available information but when combining the alleged breaches of the FCA and DMCA, it could easily be tens of millions of dollars. Just recently, DISH asked a court to sign off an award of more than half a billion dollars for what appeared to be a lower level of infringement. DISH and Sling’s complaint against PrimeStreams can be found here (pdf) PrimeStreams IPTV Targeted in Multi-Million Dollar Piracy Lawsuit
  19. The rise of premium pirate IPTV services is well-documented but sports companies are also concerned about completely free alternatives. So-called "Open Web Piracy" allows internet users to watch pirate IPTV streams without paying a penny. Not only that, anyone with access to a legal stream can easily make it available to the masses, even from their own home. By now it’s hardly breaking news that for a small monthly fee, people can subscribe to pirate IPTV services supplying everything from live TV and sports to movies and TV shows. These pay services have surged in popularity but millions of people still prefer to rely on websites that embed or link to pirate streams and offer them for free. Legitimate content companies would like to see these platforms shut down but recent submissions to the European Commission show that the websites are part of an thriving ecosystem, one that allows people to view pirate streams and also share them with the masses. Open Web Piracy vs Closed Web Piracy Major sports rightsholder the Premier League describes subscription-based IPTV services as “Closed Network Piracy” because the content is only available to those who pay for access. “Open Web Piracy”, on the other hand, is described as freely accessible content available on the web without users having to pay anything. The image below submitted to the European Commission provides a basic overview of how “Open Web Piracy” works. The TV screen graphic top/left represents an official broadcast signal (such as a football match) being captured, often by a ‘professional’ pirate. According to the Premier League, this can be achieved by using an HDMI splitter connecting a legitimate set-top box to a computer or by other means. The graphics to the right represent the captured content being sent to a streaming platform (and its servers) from where it can be viewed by users on various devices. It’s important to note that there is also an arrow pointing from the viewers to the streaming platforms. This indicates that users can also become content suppliers if they know how the system works. The Premier League’s report suggests that it’s not at all difficult. Pirate Streams Can Be Viewed and Shared Too To illustrate how internet users can create or capture video content before distributing it to the masses, one needs to look no further than YouTube. It’s the perfect example of how lone creators (or copiers) can reach millions of people with relatively little effort but, for pirates, YouTube is not ideal. YouTube’s Content ID system (and Facebook’s Rights Manager) can quickly identify pirated content, a feature used by the Premier League to take down pirate streams from the platforms in near real-time. But these are not the only platforms that allow users to view pirate streams and upload their own for viewing by others. The Premier League has a shortlist of problematic platforms and other rightsholders are weighing in too. Streaming Platforms Used to Receive & Spread Content The first platform to receive criticism is a blast from the past. Originally marketed under the name Torrent Stream, Ace Stream is a BitTorrent-based peer-to-peer service dedicated to streaming. In common with regular torrent magnet links, Ace Stream content is accessed using special URLs in the format ‘acestream://********’, with the asterisks representing the unique code for a specific stream. Search engines exist for such content and in common with YouTube, the material can range from the entirely legal through to pirated streams. The latter can be found on dedicated indexing sites for those who simply wish to view but for those who have a stream to share, Ace Stream makes things pretty easy too. As a result, the Premier League is unhappy with Ace Stream’s alleged Ukrainian operators. This type of sharing has been going on for years and there is no cooperation when it comes to takedowns. “Despite thousands of notices being sent to the software operators over many years, and being included in the Premier League’s previous submissions to the Watch List, no action has ever been taken by Acestream to stop infringements,” they note. Other platforms that offer similar but more centralized functionality include Wigistream.to which, in common with Ace Stream, also makes an appearance in the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAPA) submission. “The operator of the platform has taken extensive measures to obfuscate their identity, rendering any attempts to enforce against the platform or the streams it offers extremely challenging,” the Premier League complains. The football organization also labels China-based ‘Just Fun’ (zhuafan.tech) as a threat. The platform looks a little like YouTube but appears to carry huge numbers of infringing live sports streams accessible on Just Fun itself and embedded in other sites around the web. Again, users can simply view pirate streams or choose to upload their own for others to watch. “The platform enables individuals to upload live and on-demand content to the platform, with live streams of Matches indexed and accompanied by commentators / anchors provided by the platform,” the submission continues. The separate AAPA submission lists many more additional platforms that operate along similar lines including telerium.tv/teleriumtv.com, assia.tv/org, wstream.to, livestream.com, ezcdn462.net, uzcdn828.net, jokerswidget.com, cloudstream.to, stephn.xyz, wmsxx.com, streammart.club, ragnarp.net, worldwidestream.net and liveonlivetv.com. At the time of writing, availability on some sites seems patchy but given their ability to leverage visitors as both viewers and suppliers of infringing streams, their popularity looks set to continue. The submissions to the EC from Premier League and AAPA can be found here (1,2 pdf) Free IPTV Platforms Make Sports Piracy Easy to Watch and Simple To Spread
  20. In 2018, a court in the Netherlands ruled that companies selling access to a pirate IPTV playlist acted illegally, even though they weren't the suppliers of the infringing streams. The decision was a win for Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, which later demanded a cash settlement from the companies' directors. They ultimately refused to pay so BREIN filed a full lawsuit and has now come out on top. An interesting feature of the file-sharing and streaming landscapes of the past couple of decades is their interaction with existing copyright law. Over the years many sites, services and platforms providing or facilitating access to infringing content have taken sanctuary in perceived loopholes but most found that few – if any – exist. In Europe, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has been the engine behind several important cases featuring defendants who believed they had found a legal foothold in an otherwise illegal market. In one of these lawsuits, BREIN took on Leaper Beheer BV, a Netherlands-based company and related business entities, that sold pirate IPTV subscriptions in .M3U playlist form. These types of playlists carry no infringing content but they can direct users to where infringing content can be found. In this case, around 4,000 live TV channels and 1,000 movies via an unlicensed IPTV service. In its defense, Leaper argued that it supplied no infringing content itself and that the playlists did not make anything available that wasn’t already available on the internet. BREIN insisted that the distribution of the playlist amounted to a ‘communication to the public’ under EU copyright law. In 2018 the court sided with BREIN, noting that when Leaper Beheer BV, Growler BV, DITisTV and their respective directors distributed the playlist, they made the linked content available to a ‘new audience’ beyond that envisioned by the copyright holders. Court Orders Infringement to Stop After copyright infringement was determined, the court ordered the defendants to stop facilitating access to the unlicensed streams or face penalties of 5,000 euros per playlist/IPTV subscription sold, to a maximum of one million euros. Having been found potentially liable, the three companies and their directors signed agreements with BREIN to cease and desist, in order to avoid a full lawsuit that would incur additional costs and a damages award. BREIN says the defendants were also required to pay a settlement fee. When no such payment was forthcoming, BREIN made good on its threat. In partnership with media companies including Talpa and RTL, BREIN seized evidence and initiated legal proceedings. Predictably, the plaintiffs came out on top. Court Rules in Favor of BREIN – Again BREIN now reveals that on March 16, 2022, the Court of Maastricht ruled that four companies (Leaper, Growler, DITisTV and Ultimo) and their two directors are liable for the damage caused by their sale of IPTV subscriptions, links to illegal IPTV, and associated set-top boxes. BREIN says that it tried to get the traders to stop selling the 10 euros per month subscriptions as far back as 2014 and had to take the matter to court in 2018 to show infringement was taking place. When the offer to pay a settlement in lieu of a full lawsuit was refused, a case was presented on the merits. Evidence was presented to show that the two directors and their companies willfully set out to infringe copyright, something that is considered an aggravating factor when calculating a damages award. The following email between the directors certainly didn’t help in that respect. Perhaps the market will be really destroyed by the entire competition and BREIN within a year. With 100 shops we can fuck the market all the way to its mother! If we have a lot of money in a year’s time, we can then step into a new business. Court Finds Directors Personally Liable A corporate structure can sometimes offer a level of protection for directors when things don’t go to plan but that isn’t the case here. The Dutch court found the companies (and their directors personally), jointly and severally liable for the damage caused to the copyright holders. The exact amount is yet to be determined but the financial costs are already mounting. The Court ordered the defendants to pay the costs of the proceedings, estimated at €20,764 ($22,986), plus legal costs of €2,252 ($2,493). At this point the defendants are worse off financially than they were when a settlement was first offered. However, BREIN suggests that it is still open to the matter being settled out of court. If not, then a separate proceeding to determine damages will go ahead. That’s unlikely to be a small amount. In the meantime, BREIN seems pleased with the results so far. “These guys tried to sing it out as long as possible to rake in as much money as possible. That’s going to cost them now,” says BREIN director Tim Kuik. “Because they are also personally liable, they can no longer hide behind their companies.” The decision can be found here Pirate IPTV Sellers Who Refused to Pay a Cash Settlement Get Sued & Lose
  21. The latest IP Crime and Enforcement Report, published by the UK Government, signals a wide variety of ongoing and emerging piracy threats. Pirate IPTV services remain a growing problem that could become worse with the rollout of 5G, it reads. There are also concerns about the use of cryptocurrencies and the growth of stream-rippers. Last week the UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office published its annual IP Crime and Enforcement Report. The report provides an overview of the latest anti-piracy achievements of copyright holders and also signals emerging threats. Like every year, the general consensus is that piracy and counterfeiting remain a problem. However, specifics and priorities change over time. When the first report was published fifteen years ago P2P file-sharing was the top concern. Today, this is a relatively small part of the piracy landscape. The 120-page report covers a wide range of “IP crimes” but we will zoom in on some of the top piracy threats and responses as reported by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), and PRS for Music. The Growing IPTV Piracy Problem To begin, FACT highlights that the number of IPTV piracy complaints increased sharply over the past few years. In 2014 there were just three complaints but by last year this number had grown to 682. “Over the past 6 years, FACT has seen a steady year-on-year increase in public complaints regarding suppliers of illegal IPTV services,” the group notes, showing that its intel on these IPTV services has grown as well. As a result of this development, FACT’s enforcement efforts are prioritized on IPTV piracy. This has resulted in various successes including “Operation Saturn” where several people associated with IPTV services stopped their activities after a visit from FACT investigators. PIPCU, the dedicated IP-crime department of the City of London Police, also mentioned IPTV as a growing threat. According to the police, this problem may worsen when 5G is rolled out across the UK. “IPTV services are likely to increase, a reason for this is that 5G is being rolled out across the country allowing broadband to increase in availability,” the police unit forecasts in the report. Police Keep an eye on Cryptocurrencies The use of cryptocurrencies by pirate sites and services is far from new. The Pirate Bay, for example, started accepting Bitcoin donations many years ago and various pirate services have a cryptocurrency payment option. In the most recent IP Crime and Enforcement Report, cryptocurrencies receive several noteworthy mentions nonetheless. The report highlights these financial mechanisms as part of sophisticated business models that are used by copyright infringers. According to PIPCU, the police are keeping a close eye on these crypto transactions, which they signal as a threat that will get worse over time. “Payment using cryptocurrencies has now been a feature of PIPCU investigations. It is predicted that payment by cryptocurrency will be an increasing threat due to the level of anonymity cryptocurrency provides,” the report reads. PRS also mentions cryptocurrencies as a problem. The music group notes that the majority of the stream-ripping sites, which include YouTube rippers, rely on advertising as the prime source of revenue but cryptocurrencies are up and coming. “Donations by cryptocurrency have been observed for the first time as a revenue source for 3% of stream-ripping services,” PRS reports. Stream-Ripping is the Music Industry’s Main Piracy Threat These same stream-ripping sites remain the music industry’s top anti-piracy priority. They were identified as the top threat years ago but the problem has only increased. According to new data shared by PRS, stream-rippers account for more than 80% of all top music pirate sites. This is a significant increase compared to a few years ago. This dominance is also reflected in the graph below, where other pirate sites follow at a distance. The website y2mate.com is seen as the largest threat of all with the most traffic, according to PRS. Aside from dedicated sites, stream-ripping apps and browser add-ons are also viewed as a major threat. However, on this front, the enforcement efforts of PRS’s Rights Protection Unit have been rather effective. “By using a range of methods, the RPU’s greatest successes have been in tackling stream-ripping plug-ins and stream-ripping download apps where a 100% success rate in both areas was achieved. “Stream-ripping plug-ins were removed from the Google Chrome browser and stream-ripping download apps were removed or the ripping functionality was disabled from the apps available on the Apple App store,” the report adds. All in all, the latest IP Crime and Enforcement Report doesn’t include many surprises. It is mostly a summary of past achievements paired with a broad overview of the current piracy landscape. However, it does clearly show where the current priorities lie, and how these have changed over time. Source: TorrentFreak
  22. 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
  23. With IPTV piracy seemingly still on an upwards trajectory, the powerful Copyright Alliance is urging Congress to close a loophole in US law that places limits on how cases can be prosecuted. Despite being against copyright law, streaming piracy is currently just a misdemeanor, rendering it "virtually immune from meaningful prosecution." Last month, entertainment industry-backed group Digital Citizens Alliance and content protection company NAGRA published a new study that estimated the pirate IPTV market to be worth a billion dollars each year in the US alone. These types of piracy studies are nothing new but what is interesting about this particular market is that even the biggest ‘pirate’ US players, if they take caution in what type of content they offer and how, are unlikely to find themselves on the wrong end of an aggressive criminal prosecution. There are caveats and exclusions but in general terms, streaming piracy is not a felony in the United States. The ‘Streaming Loophole’ That such a loophole exists in the United States under what many believe are some of the most strict copyright laws in the world is a surprise in itself. But exist it does and here’s how it came to be. Under existing criminal copyright laws, felony penalties are only available for infringements that breach the exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution, i.e the unlawful copying of content and distribution to others. In many cases, however, streaming is viewed as infringing public performance rights, which is considered a misdemeanor. The end result is that, regardless of the scale of a pirate streaming operation and how much revenue is generated by it, the hands of the authorities are effectively tied in respect of offenses that would otherwise attract years in prison. Exceptions Exist, It’s Not a Complete Free-For-All As ongoing cases against Megaupload and Jetflicks demonstrate, streaming offenses can sometimes enter the criminal realm. While some streaming services exploit the loophole cited above, others can face criminal charges when they are deemed to have breached reproduction and distribution rights, by copying infringing content and distributing it to others. Also, as highlighted by the Department of Justice in a letter to the Senate last year, criminal prosecutions may also follow when unlicensed streaming operations are alleged to have committed other crimes, such as money laundering and racketeering, charges also being faced by Kim Dotcom and his Megaupload co-defendants. Pressure Building To Close The Loophole In an opinion piece published in The Hill yesterday, Keith Kupferschmid, chief of powerful industry group Copyright Alliance, again raised the issue of the loophole. Echoing the sentiments of law enforcement groups, entertainment companies, filmmakers and sports groups that have contributed to the debate thus far, he urged Congress to ensure that “in appropriate large-scale commercial cases”, felony penalties are available to federal prosecutors. “Virtually every significant form of willful, commercial piracy can be prosecuted as a felony under appropriate circumstances — including copying CDs, illegal file sharing, and even ‘camripping’ movies in the theater,” he wrote. “But unlike all of these, streaming piracy — no matter how widespread or organized, and regardless of the amount of damage done — can only be prosecuted as a misdemeanor simply because when the laws were drafted streaming video wasn’t an option.” Indeed, the laws that currently limit felony penalties to infringements involving reproduction and distribution were put in place almost three decades ago. At that time, widespread Internet use wasn’t yet a thing and the possibility of streaming movies or TV shows to the public was a distant dream. Congress “Working Hard” to Close the Loophole “Fortunately, Congress is working hard to solve this problem — convening negotiations and developing a simple two-page proposal that would close this ‘streaming loophole’ and ensure that in appropriate large-scale commercial cases, felony penalties are available to federal prosecutors,” Kupferschmid wrote. “The resulting proposal is a consensus product with broad-based support. It is narrowly tailored to address the serious problem of commercial streaming piracy ensuring ordinary internet users, legitimate businesses, and non-commercial actors have nothing to fear from this proposal.” The mention of ordinary Internet users remaining unaffected by these proposals is of interest. The last time a bill was presented to amend the relevant sections of the law – 17 U.S.C. § 506 and 18 U.S.C. § 2319 – to render criminal breaches of public performance rights punishable as felonies, things didn’t go well for copyright holders. The Commercial Felony Streaming Act Back in 2011, Bill S.978 – labeled the Commercial Streaming Felony Act – was introduced to the Senate in an effort to render unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content for “commercial advantage or personal financial gain” a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. However, despite assurances that the intent wasn’t to penalize regular Internet users, concern began to build that ‘normal’ people (such as Justin Bieber who launched his career by posting cover versions of songs to YouTube) could be considered felons under the amendments. Ultimately, however, the contents of the proposed amendments, which later formed part of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), were never passed due to unprecedented public outcry. Not a Done Deal, But Momentum is Building While companies that rely on streaming and physical product sales are desperate for the “streaming loophole” to be well and truly closed, this time around they will not have to contend with the scale of the uproar that accompanied the far-reaching SOPA bill. Indeed, there seems to be optimism that Congress will see fit to accept the proposals which, according to Kupferschmid, are being formed with the assistance of tech companies, not potentially at their expense as per last time around. “This highly transparent and rigorous process which included participation from groups and organizations of all perspectives — including the creative community and victims of streaming piracy as well as those representing internet users, technology companies, internet service providers and civil society — has been lauded across Capitol Hill as a model way to vet and develop new proposals,” he wrote in The Hill. “It’s time for Congress to close the streaming loophole.” Given all of the circumstances and developments of the last decade, particularly considering the rise of legal and illegal streaming, the environment today is literally and figuratively years apart from SOPA. As a result, it arguably presents the perfect opportunity for Congress to deliver. Source: TorrentFreak
  24. Police in Italy are reporting a large operation against a network involved in IPTV. The Guardia di Finanza says that 58 sites and 18 Telegram channels have been blocked while four IT experts with familiar nicknames have been referred for prosecution along with 1,000 subscribers of pirate IPTV services. Over the past several years Italy’s Guardia di Finanza has been applying increasing pressure to various players in the piracy ecosystem. In addition to targeting distributors of movies, TV shows and live sports via subscription services, the authorities have also homed in on suppliers of pirated newspapers and periodicals. A new law enforcement operation revealed Wednesday continues along those same lines. Operation Evil Web The new action is being spearheaded by the Economic-Financial Police Unit of the Guardia di Finanza of Gorizia. The unit reports that following an investigation it was able to secure a preventative seizure order to block access to 58 websites and 18 Telegram channels. With combined annual traffic of around 80 million visits, the authorities claim that by blocking these platforms they have disrupted around 90% of the audiovisual and editorial piracy carried out in Italy. Given the availability of pirated content in the region, regardless of blocking, that figure sounds optimistic but the operation is clearly significant nonetheless. Investigation Into IPTV Expanded Overseas According to the GdF, the investigation began by targeting an IT expert operating under the online nickname of ‘Diabolik’. The authorities haven’t yet positively identified this developer but given the existence of a Kodi addon called Diabolik441 dedicated to Italian content with links to the Evil King branding (GdF’s operation is called ‘Evil Web’), it seems likely this was one of their targets. An Android application using the same name is also featured in a GdF video (see below). After reportedly identifying Diabolik, the investigation broadened to several regions of Italy and then overseas, including Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. Three other IT experts also became part of the investigation, identified by GdF as ‘Doc’, ‘Spongebob’, and ‘Webflix’. Again, GdF hasn’t identified these alleged IT experts using anything other than their nicknames but nevertheless describes them as “real oracles” when it comes to the illegal distribution of movies, pay TV, live sports, cartoons, newspapers, magazines, manuals, and even pornography. All four developers have been reported to the “competent judicial authorities” for prosecution. Authorities Trying to Identify 1,000 IPTV Subscribers In Italy, piracy-enabled set-top devices are called ‘pezzotto’ and in common with many regions, are used by huge numbers of end users hoping to gain free or cheap access to pirated movies, TV shows, and live sports. GdF says work is now underway to identify around 1,000 pezzotto/IPTV subscribers – some local, some overseas – so that they can be prosecuted for breaches of copyright law and receiving stolen goods. According to the authorities, penalties can reach up to three years in prison and a fine of 25,000 euros. Similar penalties were mentioned back in Febraury when the Guardia di Finanza said it had reported 223 subscribers of pirate IPTV services to the judicial authorities. Enhanced Site-Blocking Procedures GdF reports that thanks to a new “procedural innovation”, it is now possible to more effectively block sites that facilitate access to previously blocked domains. “This procedural innovation is allowing, day by day, the immediate inhibition of hundreds of new web domains illegally created in order to circumvent the original provision of the Judicial Authority,” its announcement reads. “In addition, the procedures for international judicial cooperation have been activated – and are still in progress – in order to seize the servers from which multimedia contents are distributed in violation of copyright.” Source: TorrentFreak
  25. Several major Hollywood studios plus Amazon and Netflix have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against 'pirate' IPTV provider Crystal Clear Media (CCM). The lawsuit claims that, in addition to offering thousands of live channels, CCM provides a VOD service carrying 14,000 movies and 3,000 TV shows. Members of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy coalition featuring Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, are targeting a large IPTV provider via the US courts. Filed yesterday by Disney, Paramount, Amazon, Warner, Universal, Netflix, Columbia and StudioCanal, the lawsuit names TTKN Enterprises, LLC, better known online as IPTV service Crystal Clear Media (CCM). It further names Todd and Tori Smith of Florida as defendants and identifies the pair as the owners of TTKN and operators of CCM. Massive and Ongoing Infringement “Defendants own and operate the Crystal Clear Media service, an infringing streaming service that sells — directly and through an expanding network of resellers — unauthorized access to copyrighted movies and television programs through thousands of live and title-curated television channels (Internet Protocol television (‘IPTV’)) and video-on-demand (‘VOD’) offerings,” the complaint reads. “Defendants’ title-curated channels stream the Copyrighted Works in packaged offerings that are not available through legitimate services. These offerings include, among many others, 24/7 marathons of Disney’s movie Frozen II and Warner Bros.’s Harry Potter movie collection, newly-released movies including Paramount’s Like a Boss and Columbia Picture’s Bad Boys for Life, and enormously popular television series such as Universal’s Mr. Robot.” The plaintiffs describe the defendants’ ongoing infringement as willful, noting that they have engaged in “concerted efforts” to conceal their roles while profiting from their “blatantly infringing service”, offered from websites including mediahosting.one, crystalcleariptv.com, ccmedia.one, ccbilling.org, cciptv.us, ccreborn.one, ccultimate.one, superstreamz.com, and webplayer.us. The comprehensive VOD service offered by CCM appears to be central to the complaint. It’s alleged that the defendants knew that offering VOD was a major security risk but went ahead anyway. Warning Signs About VOD Were Ignored In May 2019, TorrentFreak published an article revealing that the Vaders IPTV service had been taken offline. The complaint states that after this news broke, the defendants issued an urgent announcement, stating they would “BE ELIMINATING VOD, CATCHUP SERVICES, AND TV SERIES…IN LIGHT OF RECENT EVENTS.” However, the lawsuit says that despite noting the problems experienced by Vaders, VOD was still offered by CCM. “Defendants did not stop their VOD offering. Instead, Defendants continue to sell subscriptions to their VOD service for $10 a month under the false label of ‘Virtual Reality Gaming…Addon.’ The Virtual Reality Gaming label is a deliberate effort to hide what Defendants are really providing,” the entertainment companies state. “Extensive and Expanding” Reseller Network In common with many similar operations, CCM allegedly reaches its customer base by running a network of resellers who bulk buy “credits” from CCM. These are converted into subscriber login credentials when sold to customers looking to watch IPTV. “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 notes. “If left unchecked, Defendants’ infringing conduct will continue to grow. Defendants’ network of resellers and subscribers will continue to expand, and with it the infringement of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works will grow exponentially.” Copyright Infringement Claims Alleging willful direct copyright infringement, the plaintiffs demand the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work and an injunction preventing the ongoing infringement. In the event that the defendants claim that third-parties are directly violating the plaintiffs’ rights, the lawsuit alleges contributory copyright infringement, since the defendants have “actual knowledge” that infringement is taking place in respect of the content being offered. Again, the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per work are demanded. The same sum is requested due to CCM inducing others by “encouraging, and promoting the use of CCM” for copyright infringement. In addition to preliminary and permanent injunctions to effectively shut down the CCM service, the entertainment companies request that all resellers are prevented from offering its products to the public. They also want the platform’s domain names and an eventual trial by jury. The complaint is available here (pdf) Source
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