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  1. The Motion Picture Association (MPA) would like stricter identity checks to become part of a new trade agreement between the U.S. and the Indo-Pacific region. These new obligations should apply to hosting companies and other online services. In addition, the movie industry group would like enforcement tools and procedures to apply equally offline and on the Internet. Online anonymity is a great good for many poeple but increasingly there are calls for stricter identity checks. Such requirements are fairly common offline but on the Internet, they are relatively rare; for now at least. Verified Identities The Motion Picture Association (MPA) would like this to change. The organization is particularly concerned with website operators who use fake or unconfirmed identities to sign up with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) services. The definition of IaaS services is open to interpretation but the MPA includes domain registrars, hosting companies, CDNs, and proxy services in this category. If these companies properly verified their customers, it would be easier to go after pirate site operators. There is currently no legal obligation to carry out such thorough identity checks. However, the MPA believes that a new trade agreement between the US and the Indo-Pacific region, as proposed by President Biden last year, offers an opportunity for change. IPEF Trade Agreement In a letter sent to the US Trade Representative, which co-chairs the U.S. during the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) negotiations, the movie industry group mentions verification as a key negotiation item. “Commercial entities that intentionally distribute illegal and harmful services or content online tend to hide their true identity when they sign up for online services, such as web hosting. This anonymity complicates law enforcement efforts to the detriment of consumers..,” the MPA writes. “By verifying and retaining the identity of business customers, IaaS providers can help deepen consumer trust in the safety and security of the online marketplace,” MPA’s letter adds. The MPA mentions malware, data theft, and unsafe products and services as examples of concrete threats. However, we assume that online piracy is one of the main concerns for the movie industry group. Online and Offline Enforcement Piracy is also mentioned more directly in another suggestion for the IPEF agreement. According to the MPA, a trade deal should include a specific obligation that offline enforcement tools and procedures are also available in the digital environment. “Piracy services steal and disseminate content, depriving creators of millions of dollars in fair remuneration that they would otherwise use to fund U.S. production and employ thousands of Americans. “Including a provision in IPEF to help ensure the full availability of online enforcement tools would respond to the harm of digital piracy on the U.S. economy and U.S. workers,” MPA notes. The IPEF is far from a done deal. A broad variety of stakeholders and members of the public have submitted their suggestions. It is now up to the negotiators to come up with a draft that will offer the best benefits. — A copy of MPA’s letter, written by Senior Vice President Global Policy and Federal Affairs Anissa Brennan, is available here (pdf) MPA Wants Stricter Online Identity Checks to Catch Pirates
  2. The Motion Picture Association and the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines have committed to developing a piracy monitoring system and "rolling site-blocking regime" to disrupt access to pirate sites. The promise is to provide a transparent system but according to the US government, a lack of transparency in the Philippines is a barrier to trade. Despite the absence of any similar coordinated scheme in the United States, Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. regularly criticize countries for not implementing measures to block pirate sites. When they do, however, praise isn’t far behind/ In April 2021, the Philippines joined the growing list of countries to implement site-blocking measures, in this case one that needs no oversight from the courts. The voluntary agreement saw the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the country’s internet service providers team up to block pirate sites in a swift and streamlined manner. In the same month, IPOPHL announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Asia Video Industry Association, which aims to increase information sharing alongside the development of piracy monitoring, site-blocking processes, and their implementation. The MPA welcomed these voluntary moves, highlighting “bureaucratic process” as an enemy in the fight against piracy, a nod towards actually having courts decide whether sites should be blocked or not. This week the MPA and IPOPHL signed a new site-blocking agreement of their own. Memorandum of Understanding In an announcement Tuesday, IPOPHL revealed that it has partnered with the MPA, which commits to support IPOPHL “in developing an effective piracy monitoring system and a rolling site-blocking regime that will disrupt accessibility to piracy sites.” “This newest partnership with MPA elevates IPOPHL’s whole-of-society efforts in fostering a digital environment that respects intellectual property (IP) rights,” IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba said at the signing ceremony. “Unfortunately, some people would watch illicit content because it is free rather than pay for legitimate ones, failing to see how this can destroy our economy and creativity as a nation in the long run.” According to a recent survey, carried out on behalf of the Coalition Against Piracy, piracy increased in the Philippines during the pandemic. YouGov found that 61% of consumers in the Philippines admit to accessing pirate services versus the 49% of Filipinos that admitted to accessing piracy sites in September 2020. It is hoped that blocking pirate sites will help bring the numbers down. “A site blocking framework, which incorporates transparency and due process, can be incredibly effective at reducing levels of online piracy in key markets like the Philippines,” says Jan van Voorn, the MPA’s Executive Vice President of Global Content Protection. Transparency – Something Lacking in Site Blocking Processes The statement from the MPA’s van Voorn that this framework will be transparent will be tested in time. The memorandum doesn’t appear to have been published so its precise contents remain a mystery for now. The announcement states that there will be a “lawful sharing of information” and the MPA has committed to conduct training on piracy takedown measures. Other than that, transparency appears to be minimal, something that is becoming more evident in blocking practices elsewhere. In the early days of site blocking in the UK, Europe and beyond, the legal processes that led to sites being blocked were indeed very transparent. Over time, however, there has been a shift towards keeping the details as secret as possible. Outside the content companies and cooperating Internet service providers, an accurate picture of how many domains are blocked is a complete unknown. Ostensibly this aimed at keeping pirates in the dark to prevent circumvention but even processes that aim to remove hundreds of sites from search engines (something that cannot be circumvented) are conducted in private and in some cases voluntarily, between interested corporations. As such, there appears to be no legal requirement to open these practices up to scrutiny. MPA Praises The Philippines, US Govt. Not So Sure In November 2021 at the MPA’s ‘Global Site Blocking Legal Conference’, the major Hollywood studios and Netflix gave the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines a fancy glass award titled “Site blocking in Asia Pacific – Government Leadership Award.” This suggests that the MPA probably likes what it sees in the Philippines vis-à-vis site-blocking and could press other countries to follow suit in the future. Behind the scenes, however, the MPA criticizes the country for not doing enough. “Market access barriers for the region’s theatrical, television, and streaming industries take several forms, including content quotas, foreign investment limitations, and dubbing and advertising restrictions,” the MPA wrote in its submission to the US Government’s 2022 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers. Local screen and content quotas applied to theatrical and/or payTV businesses “limit consumer choice and often contribute to piracy by restricting the licensed supply of content,” the MPA wrote, calling on the Philippines to “remove any consideration of a screen quota” in proposed legislative amendments. The Philippines, along with countries including New Zealand, were also called upon to extend copyright terms from 50 years to 70 years, with the former also being called out for being “a safe haven for some top piracy websites.” On top, the Philippines was also criticized for having long been “a primary source of camcord piracy of major motion pictures.” In its final report (pdf), the US Government recognized some improvements in the Philippines but noted that courts are influenced by bribery while “corruption is a pervasive and longstanding problem” in both national and government agencies. Some of the activities of the National Telecommunications Commission (a key signatory to the earlier site-blocking memorandum) are “inherently non-transparent”, the US added, noting that the country overall is declining according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. MPA Signs New Anti-Piracy Deal Committing to “Rolling Site-Blocking Regime”
  3. A coalition of entertainment companies headed up by Universal, Paramount, Columbia, Disney and Amazon has obtained an injunction to shut down 'pirate' IPTV service Nitro TV. A court in California has ordered all individuals acting in concert or participation with the service to stop infringing the companies' copyrights, including by disabling its domains. Last month several major movie and TV show companies filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Alejandro Galindo, the alleged operator of unlicensed IPTV provider Nitro TV, and 20 additional ‘Doe’ defendants. Owned by Columbia, Amazon, Disney, Paramount, Warner, and Universal, the companies alleged that Nitro TV offers subscription packages consisting of thousands of “live and title-curated television channels” available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the United States and abroad. Of particular interest to the entertainment companies were Nitro TV’s ’24/7′ channels and VOD service, consisting of movies and TV shows that, according to the lawsuit, could only function if their content had been unlawfully copied in advance. These included movies and TV shows including The Office, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Toy Story 3, Star Trek Beyond, Homecoming and Joker. Citing the ‘unfair competition’ presented by Nitro’s service, the companies’ complaint alleged willful direct copyright infringement and in the event Nitro claimed that third-parties streamed the content, contributory copyright infringement, with each offense carrying maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work. In common with most lawsuits of this type, the companies demanded preliminary and permanent injunctions not only against all of the defendants but also third-party companies acting in concert with them, such as domain registrars. In an April 23 filing, Galindo filed a notice of non-opposition to the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction but according to court records, did not shut down the Nitro TV service. This claim appears to be supported by numerous videos on YouTube discussing whether customers should ditch the service as soon as possible due to the lawsuit, despite it continuing to operate. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson was tasked with deciding whether in advance of a trial, Nitro TV should be shut down. In an injunction handed down Monday, he sided with the entertainment companies. “As copyright holders, Plaintiffs have the exclusive right to publicly perform the Copyrighted Works. 17 U.S.C. § 106(4),” his order reads. “The internet streaming of full copyrighted works without authorization constitutes a violation of this exclusive right. By streaming the Copyrighted Works on Nitro TV without authorization, Defendant likely violates this exclusive right. “Accordingly, Plaintiffs are likely to be successful on their copyright claims. Because Plaintiffs have successfully established a likelihood of success on their direct infringement claims, the Court does not reach Plaintiffs’ secondary infringement claims.” Despite concluding that the plaintiffs are likely to be successful in their copyright infringement claims against Nitro TV, Judge Wilson notes that he was required to consider whether, in the absence of an injunction, the plaintiffs would suffer “irreparable” injury. He decided that would indeed be the case. “Plaintiffs have shown they are likely to be irreparably harmed by the continued infringement of their copyrights. Due to the diffuse nature of streaming services, it will be difficult for Plaintiffs to discern the full extent of Defendant’s copyright violations,” he writes. “Not only is Defendant directly infringing Plaintiffs’ copyrights, creating a financial loss to Plaintiffs, but Plaintiffs have provided evidence that the unlawfully distributed Copyrighted Works may undermine the value of Plaintiffs’ legitimate licenses. This could also lead to unquantifiable customer confusion and an overall diminution of value of the Copyrighted Works.” Given that preliminary injunctions can have an effect on all parties in a dispute, the Judge also considered whether damage could be caused to Nitro. He found that since the operator of the service had not disputed he was infringing the entertainment companies’ rights and that illegal conduct does not merit “significant equitable protection”, no injury would be suffered by Nitro TV. “The balance of the equities tips strongly in Plaintiffs’ favor,” his order reads. Finally, the Judge considered whether a preliminary injunction would be in the public interest. Similarly, he found in the plaintiffs’ favor, noting that Nitro TV had offered no evidence to counter the claim that its alleged copyright infringements offered no lawful benefit to the public. The preliminary injunction handed down Monday requires that Galindo and all individuals acting in concert, participation, or in privity with him in connection with his alleged activities, must immediately cease all direct and secondary copyright infringement related to the plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, including all public performances and reproduction. In response to requests in the original complaint, the Judge specifically ordered Namecheap and Domain.com, the domain registrars for Tekkhosting.com and NitroIPTV.com respectively, to prevent the domains from being modified, sold, transferred or deleted. Alongside an instruction for the domains to be disabled, the Judge ordered that current WHOIS information must be preserved alongside all evidence related to the domains’ ownership. The preliminary injunction can be obtained here (pdf) Source
  4. Responding to questions from US Senators, the Motion Picture Association is stressing that DMCA takedown notices alone don't cut it anymore. The Hollywood group argues that the current legal framework should be complemented with other tools, such as pirate site blocking. The MPA believes that these blockades are highly effective and no danger to free speech, but that idea isn't shared by everyone. For a long time, pirate site blocking was regarded as a no-go topic in US politics. This was a remnant of the SOPA defeat, which drove copyright holders to focus on blocking efforts in other countries instead, with success. Now that nearly a decade has passed, momentum is changing. After Canada became the first North American country to impose a pirate site blockade, the issue is now openly debated on the Hill. Just a few weeks ago, it was the main topic during a Senate subcommittee hearing. This hearing was informative but also raised further questions from Senators Tillis, Coons, and Blumenthal, who asked participants to follow up in writing. Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director of the Motion Picture Association’s EMEA region, for example, was asked to go into the site-blocking issue in more detail. His answers, which have now been published, are carefully worded but clearly suggest that “takedown notices” alone are not effective in stopping piracy. According to the MPA, the standard takedown procedure must be paired with site blocking. “The lesson of our experience at the Motion Picture Association is that notice-and-takedown must be complimented [sic] by voluntary proactive measures and other legal tools, such as no-fault injunctive relief,” McCoy writes. This experience comes from the various blocking efforts in other countries. These have shown that the process works without significantly affecting the availability of legal content. [T]he experiences of numerous jurisdictions that have implemented site blocking to date demonstrate clearly that the remedy is highly effective and has posed no obstacle to innovation, nor has it adversely affected the internet and online services in those countries. “Quite the contrary in fact: By curbing piracy, this remedy enhances the opportunity for legitimate services to flourish,” McCoy adds. During the Senate hearing, it was stressed that site blocking is already an option in the US. Under DMCA section 512(j), copyright holders can request such an injunction, without making any changes to the current law. At the time, MPA’s Stan McCoy said this was a “hypothetical remedy” that may not work, so Senator Tillis asked him to explain what the problem is. In his response, McCoy writes that the MPA indeed believes that the relevant DMCA section allows courts to order pirate site blockades. However, the text of the law is not entirely clear on whether ISPs have to be held liable or not. “[T]his provision suffers from some drafting ambiguity – including its location within the overall safe harbor regime – and has likely not been used due to concern by rightsholders that the provision might be interpreted as requiring a finding of liability on the part of the ISP,” McCoy responds. According to some, this could be fixed by changing the provision to allow for so-called “no-fault” injunctions. However, the MPA understands that legislative change is not easy, so they are also looking for alternative legal options, while also trying to get ISPs and other intermediaries to cooperate voluntarily. Throughout his answers, the MPA executive repeats that site blocking is an effective tool. In response to a question from Senator Coons, McCoy confirms that the US can implement a similar framework while providing adequate due process protections and without violating free speech rights. “[M]any jurisdictions around the world that share a strong commitment to human rights, including freedom of speech, have implemented site blocking with due process safeguards appropriate to their legal systems,” McCoy writes. The responses clearly show that the MPA is continuing to push US lawmakers to consider options for ‘no fault’ site-blocking injunctions in the US. The hearing and subsequent questions also included different opinions, however. As highlighted earlier, former Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda stressed that the availability of affordable legal options should be the priority. More recently, Daphne Keller of Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center cautioned senators that site blockades have led to negative consequences in other countries, and that foreign standards may prove to be problematic in the US. “Whatever attempted safeguards may pass muster under European or international standards for protection of free expression, however, there will likely remain serious questions under the U.S.’s stringent constitutional standards,” Keller cautioned. As said before, these recent developments are a clear change compared to previous years, when the site-blocking topic was largely avoided. The question is whether this will result in any concrete legislative proposals. Source
  5. MPA and RIAA’s Megaupload Lawsuits Are Postponed Again A federal court in Virginia has granted Megaupload's request to keep the civil lawsuits filed by music and movie companies on hold until October. With no movement in the criminal case, this standstill could last for many years. Kim Dotcom and his colleagues are still fighting a US extradition request, a battle that started nearly a decade ago. In 2012, Google Glass was all the rage and Microsoft released its latest operating system, Windows 8. It was also the year where Internet blackouts took place in protest against the SOPA copyright law. And a few days later, Megaupload was raided and effectively shut down. Legal Battles Continue To many people, these events are little more distant memories. However, for the key players involved, it’s still a central part of their lives. That’s also true for the Megaupload defendants. The criminal case against Dotcom was billed as the largest copyright infringement case the U.S. Government had ever launched. It also turned into one of the longest criminal copyright battles in history. No Progress After nearly a decade, the Megaupload case has barely progressed. In New Zealand, lawyers have been very busy with the costly extradition proceedings against Dotcom, but it could be years before that battle ends. This means that the criminal lawsuit remains in limbo. The same is true for the civil cases the RIAA and MPA filed back in 2014. Since the civil cases may influence the criminal proceedings, Megaupload’s legal team previously managed to put these cases on hold, and a few days ago they requested another extension. RIAA and MPA Cases Remain On Hold In line with other recent requests, the RIAA and MPA didn’t object. As a result, District Court Judge O’Grady swiftly agreed to issue yet another extension, putting the cases on hold until October. Looking at the matter realistically, it will probably take many more years before these civil cases can finally get underway. First, the extradition process has to be concluded. This matter recently went back to the Court of Appeal in New Zealand and given the legal complications, it could take a while before a final conclusion is reached there. If the case eventually makes its way to the US criminal court system, that could take many years to resolve as well. If the RIAA and MPA cases have to wait that out, as is suggested now, October of this year seems a bit optimistic. In essence, these bi-yearly extensions are merely a formality. If anything, it’s a painful reminder of a legal battle that, thus far, only has losers. MPA and RIAA’s Megaupload Lawsuits Are Postponed Again
  6. MPA Targets Pirate Streaming Sites With More Than Half a Billion Visits Via the MPA, global anti-piracy coalition Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment is investigating several major streaming platforms. The sites, which offer mainstream movies and TV shows, are good for more than half a billion visits per year. With the help of a US court, the rightsholders are hoping to identify their operators, with disruption or even closure the ultimate aim. The world’s major movie and TV show studios are in fierce competition, aiming to release the next blockbuster or series to capture the imaginations of the public and generate much needed revenue. Industry counterparts are rivals in that respect but when it comes to dealing with piracy, especially when that propagates from hundreds if not thousands of unlicensed streaming platforms, teamwork is the key. Through their global coalition, Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), rivalries become partnerships, with resources shared to disrupt and destroy sites that dare to offer free movies and TV shows to the public. ACE Homes in On Several Major Streaming Platforms Investigations into pirate sites take place in the shadows, with little outward sign that a streaming platform is under investigation until it’s too late. However, there is a “canary in the coal mine” that can reveal early signs that legal or other enforcement action might not be far away. In legal terms, the DMCA subpoena application is a straightforward and cheap-to-file legal document yet it has the power to yield crucial information when building a case against pirate site operators. Late last week ACE and the MPA went to court in the United States with such a request, one that targets several streaming platforms with well over half a billion views per year. Cloudflare: Weak Link or Useful Proxy? With so many pirate platforms using Cloudflare, the company has become a go-to point of contact for ACE and the MPA. An application for a DMCA subpoena filed by the groups late Friday in a California court shows that at least in theory, Cloudflare could be in a position to give up valuable information. Listing sample infringements of movies including Almost Christmas, 47 Ronin, Varsity Blues, Forrest Gump and Flashdance, ACE and the MPA are now seeking to identify the operators of Lookmovie, Watchmovie, YesMovies, Himovies and Adfah. Say them quickly and the domains don’t sound like they would amount to much but together they account for well over half a billion ‘pirate’ views every year. The Targeted Domains Lookmovie.io is by far the most popular domain on the list. From a standing start last October, the platform captured a million visits in just a month. By December, that figure had risen to just shy of 15 million. By March 2021 the site was pulling in 18m visits per month – a potential 216 million per year – with around 30% of its traffic hailing from the United States. Interestingly, Lookmovie.io is not blocked by ISPs in the United Kingdom as similar platforms usually are, meaning that almost 14% of its traffic now comes from the region. Lookmovie.io appears to be an alternative domain for Lookmovie.ag, a domain blocked in Australia due to legal action in 2019. In traffic terms, Watchmovie.movie has also been on the rise. Last October the domain was good for around five million visits per month but by last month, that had risen to just short of 12.5 million, around 150 million visits per year. The domain has seen traffic increase from all major regions recently, with the United States accounting for around 19% of views. In common with Lookmovie.io, Watchmovie.movie is doing well in the UK, where traffic share is as high as the United States after recently receiving a 35% boost. The site, which is branded on-site as WatchSeries, is not blocked by ISPs so until that situation changes, UK visitors are likely to increase. Interestingly, data available from SimilarWeb relating to the site’s display advertising lists several ad companies but one in particular stands out. While potentially very small, Netflix.com – a prominent ACE and MPA member – is listed as a publisher. Generating around 9.2 million visits per month, YesMovies.ag is another streaming platform being eyed by MPA and ACE for some kind of legal or enforcement action. Its traffic has see-sawed for the past six months but in most regions traffic is on the increase, including in the United Kingdom where the site is not blocked by ISPs. Since there have been so many sites using YesMovies branding, it’s not straightforward to link this domain to the many others previously and currently in operation. However, YesMovies domains have been targeted in numerous earlier actions, including in the United States and Australia. The final sites listed on the MPA and ACE subpoena are HiMovies.to and Afdah.info. The former is currently enjoying around 6.25 million visits per month according to SimilarWeb, with the latter pulling in close to 6.2 million. Both are most popular in the United States but also in the United Kingdom too, where are neither are currently subjected to ISP blocking. ACE and MPA Subpoena Demands Action From Cloudflare “The ACE Members (via the Motion Picture Association, Inc.) are requesting issuance of the attached proposed subpoena that would order Cloudflare, Inc. to disclose the identities, including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account histories of the users operating the websites listed [above],” the DMCA subpoena application reads. Precisely what the applicants want to do with the information is unclear at this stage but we have seen in the past that in addition to direct legal action, sites listed in DMCA subpoenas can later appear in applications for ISP blocking in the UK. After previously demanding in a similar DMCA subpoena that Cloudflare should hand over the personal details behind several 123Movies-branded sites, the domains appeared in a High Court injunction and were subsequently blocked by the UK’s leading ISPs in February. Over the past several years Cloudflare has been heavily criticized for allowing its services to be used by pirate sites, particularly operations such as The Pirate Bay. The argument is that the CDN service should part company with infringing sites but to date, Cloudflare has dismissed its role as that of a simple intermediary. The ACE/MPA DMCA subpoena documents can be found here and here (pdf) Photo Credit: Chris Yang MPA Targets Pirate Streaming Sites With More Than Half a Billion Visits
  7. In other countries, the UK is often used as a prime example of how pirate site-blocking injunctions can function effectively. However, over the past several years, movie and music companies haven't requested any new blocks. As a result, new pirate sites can flourish, for now. Website blocking is without a doubt one of the favorite anti-piracy tools of the entertainment industries. The UK has been a leader on this front. Since 2011, the High Court has ordered ISPs to block access to many popular pirate sites. While official numbers are lacking, it’s believed that thousands of URLs are currently blocked, targeting sites such as The Pirate Bay, RARBG, Fmovies, NewAlbumReleases, and Team-Xecuter. UK Site Blocking Set an Example The UK approach has set an example for many other countries and has been used to argue in favor of site blocking measures in other regions including Australia and Canada. More recently, the UK example was highlighted in a US Senate hearing, with Hollywood’s MPA praising its effectiveness. “Studies in the UK and Australia have shown that this can lead to statistically significant and meaningful increases in legal online consumption. In that respect, the injunctive remedy in the European Union, the UK, Australia, and elsewhere has been decidedly more effective than the endless cycle of DMCA notice sending,” MPA’s Stan McCoy said. The comment was made to support a new push for ‘no-fault’ site-blocking injunctions in the US. The MPA speaks from personal experience here, as it was the driving force behind several UK court orders. That said, McCoy’s testimony leaves out some important context. Pirate Sites Flourish While the MPA is pushing site blocking in the US, the UK efforts have completely died down. The last blocking request from Hollywood studios dates back roughly years ago. Similarly, there hasn’t been any request from record labels since 2013. As a result, new pirate sites, and those that haven’t been blocked, were able to grow their audiences without much trouble. And indeed, if we take a look at the 500 most visited sites in the UK, names including Magnetdl, Filmix, Lookmovie, Rutor, and 9anime show up. For a site such as Magnetdl, roughly a quarter of all traffic comes from the UK, where the site isn’t blocked. Why No New Requests? This begs the question; if site blocking is so extremely effective in curbing piracy, why aren’t there any new requests? We reached out to the MPA’s EMEA office, which was kind enough to comment on the matter but didn’t offer any answers. “The MPA EMEA is continuing with site blocking across Europe. Site blocking is a legitimate and effective way of halting the spread of online piracy. Piracy affects everyone involved in the creative process – from the songwriters to authors and the makeup artists, a spokesperson informed us “Site blocking builds on years of work, and forms just one pillar of the MPA EMEA’s overall enforcement strategy. Online infringement is complex, and there is no single answer to addressing it.” Costs Play a Role Reading between the lines it appears that the MPA prefers to focus on other anti-piracy efforts, at least in the UK. This is likely the result of a cost-benefit analysis. Although it wouldn’t be hard to apply for new pirate site blockades, these anti-piracy measures come at a cost. Previously, it was estimated that an unopposed application for a section 97A blocking order costs roughly £14,000 per site, while maintaining it costs an additional £3,600 per year. With hundreds of blocked sites, the costs are quite significant, to say the least. BPI Will Request Stream Ripper Blocks in 2021 The music industry may have similar reasons. In recent years they have complained repeatedly about the copyright-infringing nature of YouTube rippers, but there haven’t been any attempts to have these sites blocked. That will change though. We reached out to the UK music group BPI which says that it still sees site blocking as a valuable tool. The group hasn’t requested any new blocks in years but it will soon request blocks against stream rippers. “There are a range of tools that we use to reduce stream ripping and music piracy in all its forms in the UK. We also expect others who are in positions of responsibility within the digital economy to do more.” “Website blocking is an important and very effective part of our tool kit and is used in a proportionate way. BPI intends to seek the High Court’s judgment in relation to stream rippers in 2021,” a BPI spokesperson added. While the movie and music industries have other priorities, site-blocking powers are not completely unused. In recent years various sports organizations, including UEFA and the Premier League, have repeatedly requested and renewed IP-address blocks of illegal IPTV services. Source: TorrentFreak
  8. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment has taken over domains previously connected to Firestick Plusman. In addition to 'seizing' the popular FSPMKodi.com repository, the group has also commandeered domains belonging to ACE TV. But the latest grabs don't stop there. Global anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment is forging ahead with its mission to sue, shut down, disrupt or otherwise hinder a broad range of unlicensed content providers or those who facilitate access. For years, mass shutdowns and domain seizures were relatively uncommon but the Alliance, which is compromised of some of the most powerful entertainment companies in the world, is setting records as it goes, albeit largely in the shadows. Closures and Domain ‘Seizures’ Rather than taking the more expensive option of suing alleged copyright infringers, ACE regularly deploys its considerable muscle to intimidate opponents into submission. The tactic isn’t popular with pirates but ACE picks its targets carefully and in the vast majority of cases, could easily win a court battle should it choose to pursue one. Instead, pirate players of all shapes and sizes are given the option to settle with ACE, which can simply mean a promise to shut down or could involve additional elements such as handing over domains and/or paying a settlement sum. In the past few days and weeks, there has been no shortage of new domains being taken over. Firestick Plusman / ACE TV The Firestick Plusman (FSPM) name is well known in the piracy community, with connections to various Kodi add-ons, IPTV, Android APKs, and for providing storage facilities so they can be accessed and installed by users. Earlier this year, disruption was apparent when Fspmkodi.com, a repository of software associated with various forms of streaming-related piracy (Kodi add-on ‘Fantastic’, for example), suddenly went down, taking access to some of the software listed below with it. Aside from the usual rumors that the shutdown was forced, no official confirmation was available to the wider public at the time. This week, however, the domain utilized by the popular repository was transferred into the hands of the MPA. This usually happens when a domain/service owner receives a cease-and-desist settlement offer from ACE members and takes the option to shut up shop rather than face a lawsuit. At the same time, three other domains connected to FSPM also suffered the same fate. Acetv.online, acehostingservice.com, and acetvpremium.com, which were all connected to the provision of pirate IPTV services, are now operated by the MPA and currently divert to the ACE anti-piracy portal when accessed by visitors. Sundry Other Domains Also Diverting to ACE As reported by TF in September, ACE also managed to close down IPTV provider Streams For Us, apparently taking other IPTV brands with it, including one called Nue Media. We can now confirm that Nue Media was one of the targets as its domain neumediatv.net is now in the hands of the MPA and also diverts to the ACE anti-piracy portal. The same goes for loveyour.tv, a domain previously used by Streams For Us. Also confirmed last month were the problems being faced by IPTV provider The Players Klub (TPK). We managed to identify several domains that had been seized by ACE, including MintPanel.net, MintPanel.co and MintPanel.digital. We can now add several other TPK domains to the list including thepk.co, tkotv.stream, and tpkshield.net, all of which display the now-familiar anti-piracy warning. Finally, we don’t know much about Elitestreamtv.com or Cosmostv.ca, other than they were involved in the supply of unlicensed IPTV services. What we can be sure of, however, is that ACE members got to their operators and forced them to hand over their domains to the MPA, thus adding to the growing list of platforms that disappear into the night following threats from the world’s largest entertainment companies. Source: TorrentFreak
  9. The MPA, Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, Homeland Security's National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and other groups have signed an agreement to collaborate on content protection efforts and launch a new public awareness campaign to deter citizens from engaging in IPTV, general streaming, and torrent-based piracy. In 2017, the MPA joined forces with dozens of entertainment industry companies to form the huge anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE). Two years later, the MPA bolstered its already considerable ranks with the addition of Netflix, an existing ACE member. Together with Amazon, the Hollywood studios and their partners are now engaged in legal action to bring down as many piracy platforms as they can, with a focus on IPTV and streaming. Thus far, however, ACE and MPA actions have lacked a visible or obvious connection to law enforcement and government entities. A corresponding, coordinated public awareness aspect has been missing too but that all changed this week with the announcement of yet more partnerships at a very high level. MPA and Partners Sign MoU With ICE IPR Center Late Wednesday, Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that its IPR Center, the MPA, ACE, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center plus industry marketing group CTAM, had formed a broad coalition to pool their content protection efforts. During what is described as a virtual ceremony, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Derek N. Benner, Executive Associate Director for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Karyn Temple, Senior Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel for the MPA. The stated aim of the new partnership is to use the combined resources of the groups to support Homeland Security Investigations and the IPR Center’s digital piracy investigations, including resource and information sharing with external anti-piracy groups. “Now more than ever, collaboration and partnerships between content creative industries and law enforcement agencies are essential to combat digital piracy and protect consumers,” Benner said. “Through this partnership, the IPR Center and its private sector partners will implement an aggressive multi-layered strategy to restore the digital ecosystem, educate consumers on the dangers of illegal streaming, enforce the nation’s intellectual property rights laws, and dismantle criminal enterprises that operate on the internet – thinking they are untouchable and above the law.” Public Awareness Campaign Alongside the signing of the MoU, the new coalition also launched a brand new public service awareness campaign. While the anti-piracy groups and law enforcement bodies tackle large-scale pirates using legal mechanisms, they hope to convince consumers of illicit content – who keep these services alive – to stop using them. Via the new ‘StreamSafely‘ portal, it’s hoped that the visual entertainment industries can convince mainly IPTV and streaming users to stop frequenting pirate services. The approach will come as no surprise. MALWARE! MALWARE! MALWARE! After perhaps growing more than a little bit tired of attempting to get pirates to think of the creators, the latest trend is to get pirates to think of themselves. The main goal of this campaign is no different and the StreamSafely portal is neck-deep in warnings about malware. Indeed, there are a number of videos, presented by TV host and journalist Katie Linendoll, among others, claiming that signing up to a piracy site or service is a dangerous thing to do. If users want their machines infected, bank details, social security numbers, and indeed their entire identities stolen by criminals, piracy is the way to go, the site claims again and again. But will consumers find the message credible? While the message is nothing new and may have some merits in certain circumstances, the alleged scale of the problem isn’t supported by much evidence. While the campaign links to various reports that claim malware is a problem, the site nor these linked papers provide any hard specifics to support the numerous claims. PSA’s are designed to be simple and easy to consume but many tech-savvy consumers aren’t easily swayed. This could be countered by providing precise evidence and specifics of malware and identity theft in relation to pirate platforms. It would also send a powerful message if malicious services were actually named alongside details of what they have supposed to have done. To date, this hasn’t happened. Nor have there been any efforts to explain the precise mechanisms through which these alleged dangers manifest themselves. Taking this important step would build confidence that the campaign is about protecting consumers, not just copyright holders. It would also have the desired deterrent effect. There are literally no downsides. The Campaign Does Have its Merits There are certain aspects of the StreamSafely campaign that aren’t up for debate. Given their very nature, legal services such as Netflix are absolutely safe to use and users can be very confident indeed that any personal or financial information provided to the platform won’t be criminally abused. The other issue, and this is a big one, is the unreliable nature of the illicit streaming market, particularly IPTV. Experienced users of such services tend to dig in their heels at this point and argue that they have few problems, but most consumers aren’t so savvy. Services do go down and people do lose money, sometimes considerable amounts. “Seemingly inexpensive piracy devices, apps or websites often get shut down for distributing pirated content, leaving users in the lurch,” the campaign says. It’s a message that will resonate with thousands of IPTV and app-based pirates whose services have disappeared and taken their money. The malware angle needs much more work. Next Post Source: TorrentFreak
  10. Under the banner of the MPA, the major Hollywood studios plus Netflix have filed a complaint with Github resulting in the removal of popular streaming app MediaBox HD. The takedown is the latest in a series setbacks for the Android-based movie and TV show piracy app which was previously mentioned in legal action unrelated to the MPA. Preventing the general public from accessing movies and TV shows without paying for them is a monumental task that, if anything, feels even more difficult than it was 15 years ago. In addition to hundreds, perhaps thousands of torrent and streaming sites, copyright holders also have to deal with the growing threat of premium IPTV, which grants access to every type of live TV under the sun for comparatively low prices. Somewhere in the middle of this organized chaos, movie and TV show companies are trying to tackle pirate apps. Mostly Android and iOS-based, these consumer-friendly tools present content in easy-to-navigate interfaces, pulling content from not just their own sources but in many cases third-party file-hosting and IPTV/streaming suppliers, much as other pirate sites do too. MediaBox HD Targeted By The MPA One of the more popular tools in this growing niche is MediaBox HD. Available for both Android and iOS, the app is in demand by those looking to access premium content on their phones or, as is increasingly the case, a tablet or Android-based set-top box. MediaBox HD’s popularity lies in its many features. Aside from a large free library of movies and TV shows, it supports services such as Real-Debrid for more reliable streaming, has Chromecast support, can offer subtitles and even allows for offline viewing. For groups like the MPA, however, these are all reasons to take the app down. MPA Sends Copyright Complaint to Github While MediaBox HD has its own site, at the time of writing it’s impossible to access the Android variant of its app from there. Rather than hosting the APK in the same location, the app’s developers chose to host the software on Github instead, meaning it was vulnerable to an easy takedown. Teaming up under the banner of the Motion Picture Association (MPA), Paramount, Sony, Universal, Warner, Disney and Netflix, sent a copyright complaint to Github, calling on the platform to remove the piracy-facilitating software. “We are writing to notify you of, and request your assistance in addressing, the extensive copyright infringement of motion pictures and television shows that is occurring by virtue of the operation of the APK software Mediabox HD, which is hosted on and available for download from your repository Github.com,” it reads. “Specifically, at the URL, the Repository hosts and offers for download the APK, which in turn is used to engage in massive infringement of copyrighted motion pictures and television shows.” MPA Demands Removal of MediaBox HD Under the DMCA Attached to the MPA’s complaint but unpublished by Github, the movie and TV show group provides screenshots that claim to show that MedaBox HD streams copyrighted content to the masses resulting in “massive infringement.” While providing various examples of alleged infringement, the MPA says that these are just the tip of the iceberg since the software goes much further by blatantly infringing other content owned by its members and copyrights held by others. On this basis, the MPA states that infringement is “plainly is its predominant use and purpose”, citing case law including the MGM v Grokster litigation (2005), the Arista Records v Usenet dispute from 2005, and the 2009 lawsuit between Columbia Pictures and former isoHunt operator Gary Fung. The MPA suggests that it doesn’t really mind on which basis Github removes the app, whether that’s under the DMCA’s takedown provisions, repeat infringer rules, or Github’s acceptable use policy. Interestingly, however, it does note that it is not trying to claim that the app’s code is copyright-infringing, merely that its sole purpose is to infringe. “Please note that, by this notice, the MPA Members are not addressing copyright ownership of the APK’s specific lines of code; rather, they are addressing the use of the APK as a whole to provide unauthorized, infringing access to streaming video content, and requesting that you remove or disable access to the APK as a whole on your Repository,” the notice adds. Github Complied With the Request Unlike the dispute currently engulfing youtube-dl, which has put Github at odds with the RIAA, there appears to be no such confusion here. Following the request from the MPA, Github removed the MediaBox HD app and, as a result, the software is no longer available from official sources. While MediaBox HD will likely solve this problem in due course, the attention from the MPA comes after the streaming software was featured in two earlier legal matters. In September 2019, following a subpoena from the makers of the movie Hellboy, third-party app-store TweakBox took the decision to remove MediaBox HD (plus Popcorn Time and CotoMovies) from its platform. A month earlier, a Pakistani man who operated a site that offered MediaBox HD, Showbox, Popcorn Time and similar software, agreed to pay a settlement of $150,000 to companies behind the movies The Hitman’s Bodyguard, London Has Fallen and Hunter Killer. His site, the now-defunct latestshowboxapp.com, was forced to remove MediaBox HD and similar tools, despite not being their developer. The MPA hasn’t yet shown any public signs of seeking a settlement from the developers of MediaBox HD but given past history, that might only be a matter of time. Source: TorrentFreak
  11. TorrentFreak understands that the MPA has delivered cease-and-desist letters to several individuals with alleged connections to massive anime torrent site Nyaa. Claiming that they are members of the so-called "Anime Cartel", the notices make several demands including the total shutdown of the site plus cash settlements totaling tens of thousands of dollars. Every year, TorrentFreak compiles a list of the most popular torrent sites in the world. The vast majority are general purpose sites that link to a wide variety of content, meaning they are of interest to most people. However, a major outlier is Nyaa, a site focused on anime and other East Asian media. That makes its position among the top five torrent sites in the whole world even more impressive since it derives large volumes of traffic from a relative niche audience Located at Nyaa.si, the platform is a reincarnation of the now-defunct Nyaa.se and like its predecessor has had its fair share of copyright-related issues. In 2018, Nyaa.si was kicked out by Cloudflare for alleged abuse of its copyright systems, a claim denied by the site. Now, however, things have become much more personal. MPA Targets Individuals Allegedly in Power at Nyaa Documents obtained by TorrentFreak dated September reveal the MPA, acting through legal representatives, attempting to pressure individuals who they believe are important at Nyaa and could have the ability to shut the site down. Information suggests that several people in North America, Europe, and Australia have all received similar correspondence. The letters allege massive copyright infringement via the Nyaa site and include a sample of copyrighted works, to which the MPA’s members hold the rights, that were allegedly infringed via the platform. The MPA clearly states that none of its cited members (Disney, Paramount, Universal, Columbia, Warner Bros, and Netflix, in addition to Amazon) have granted their permission for the works to be made available via Nyaa or the BitTorrent network(s) that underpin it. As a result, “significant, irreparable damage” has already been caused to the copyright owners by the site’s activities. The Targets and the Demands of the MPA While emailed threats are still a common anti-piracy strategy, we are informed that at least two of the individuals were personally served with legal documents at their homes. Others were served with similar documents via regular mail. We are currently unable to determine exactly how many people were served in total. At the moment the suggestion is around five but that may not be the full picture. What we do know is that some or all stand accused of being part of the mysterious ‘Anime Cartel’ supposedly behind Nyaa. TorrentFreak has no way to confirm whether those who received letters are in any position of power at Nyaa but we are told that some – if not all – were at some point involved in fansubbing – i.e creating subtitles for anime releases that appeared on Nyaa. Nevertheless, the MPA appears to be operating from the position that these individuals are key to the running of Nyaa so, as a result, are making several demands. With immediate effect, recipients have been told to take all necessary steps to ensure that Nyaa is completely shut down. The MPA also wants to take control of the site’s domain – Nyaa.si – a common tactic in other anti-piracy actions. Overall, recipients are warned that they must cease-and-desist any and all of their activities related to the site, including making available the copyrighted works of the MPA’s members. Demands for Cash Settlements Documentation seen by TorrentFreak indicates that the MPA’s outreach represents an opportunity to bring the allegedly-infringing activities to an early conclusion, thereby avoiding what could develop into costly legal action. Perhaps unsurprisingly, at least some of the individuals are being given an opportunity to pay a financial settlement to help that along. We understand that when combined, these settlements (payable in local currency) amount to many tens of thousands of dollars but based on current information, it is unclear whether any of the letter recipients have taken the movie group up on its offer. In addition to receiving settlements, it appears that the MPA also wants information on the Nyaa service and its operations. The MPA also wants the rights to the Nyaa site and any technologies connected to it, wherever the recipient has the ability to transfer those rights. The MPA also demands that those entering into a settlement agreement should never infringe its members’ rights again. MPA Demands Silence in Respect of the Settlement Agreement It is common for the MPA and associated Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment to demand confidentiality from their targets. On the other hand, it’s also common for them to insist that when they want to publicize a settlement, they may do so. The settlement offers currently on the table don’t deviate from this standard, noting that while the agreement must remain confidential, the MPA reserves the right to publicize its achievements in the event Nyaa is shut down. Nyaa is Still Online TorrentFreak isn’t able to confirm whether the individuals approached have anything to do with the running of Nyaa or whether any are negotiating with the MPA in some way, either along the lines of their settlement offers or perhaps outside of those less formally. What we can confirm is that the MPA demanded that the torrent site should be quickly shut down in September and that has clearly not happened. For the site’s tens of millions of monthly visitors that will come as a relief, particularly considering the untimely demise of HorribleSubs, a group dedicated to official stream-ripping, just over a month ago. Source: TorrentFreak
  12. The Motion Picture Association says that circumvention services such as VPNs, DNS masks and Tor networks can pose a direct threat to legitimate streaming services. In comments submitted to the US Trade Representative, the movie industry group highlights various other piracy challenges around the globe. The Motion Picture Association (MPA) represents several of the largest movie industry companies. Traditionally its members were restricted to top Hollywood studios such as Disney and Warner Bros, but last year streaming giant Netflix joined as well. The newcomer hasn’t changed the MPA’s main goal, which is to deter piracy around the globe. The group tackles copyright infringement directly by going after site owners and app developers, but it’s also heavily involved in lobbying efforts. Foreign Trade Barriers This week the MPA sent an overview of global copyright-related challenges to the US Trade Representative (USTR). The submission was sent in response to a request for comments in preparation for the Government’s yearly report on foreign trade barriers. The 85-page document provides a detailed overview of several major US trading partners. The US Government can use this as input for international discussions, hoping to improve the situation for US film companies. While many of the concerns and complaints are not new, there are a few that stand out, starting with the MPA’s concern about ‘circumvention services’ such as VPNs and the Tor Network, which can be used by ‘geolocation pirates’. Problematic VPN and Tor Use Whether the term piracy is appropriate here is up for debate, as the targeted users pay for legitimate streaming services. However, they can use tools such as VPNs to access them in locations where the platforms and content are not licensed. For example, if Netflix is not available in country X, people could use a VPN to make it appear they come from country Y, where the service is legally available. This is a problem, MPA notes, particularly in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Circumvention services, such as VPNs, DNS masks or Tor networks, are widely available in the UAE and are used to access and stream content from Internet-based TV and Video-On-Demand services that legitimately operate in different territories, but have not been licensed for the UAE. “This poses a direct threat to legitimate platforms which are currently offering the same content in the UAE,” MPA adds. The submission doesn’t state why this is a particular concern in the UAE, where Netflix is legally available. Nor does it mention which services are accessed without permission there. What stands out most is that the MPA brands these content-neutral tools as ‘circumvention services,’ which is a negative term in copyright circles. Also, the submission suggests that it’s a problem that these services are available, but what would the solution be? Banning VPNs and Tor would be excessive, as these have plenty of legitimate uses too. Pirate Bay Problems Besides the VPN and Tor problem, the MPA’s submission highlights more traditional piracy challenges as well. The Pirate Bay is mentioned a few times, for example, to highlight that German domain registrars are not as cooperative as the anti-piracy group would like. “Several German domain name registrars remain uncooperative, and as such, create a safe haven for internet access through notoriously rogue domain names, such as The Pirate Bay domain names,” the group writes. “Even when domains are disconnected by registrars, they fail to ‘freeze’ the domain, thus enabling the infringers to transfer the domain to a new registrar and continue the illicit activities.” The Pirate Bay is also highlighted in relation to Sweden. Despite the criminal convictions of several of the site’s founders, the notorious torrent site remains available. According to the MPA, Sweden must update its copyright law to properly tackle these and other piracy challenges. “Swedish law must also change in order to curb organized commercial piracy, as evidenced by the difficulties thwarting The Pirate Bay – an operation the court system has already deemed illegal. “These necessary changes should include better tools for the police and aim to stop illegal sites that keep running after being raided by the police, and even after being convicted by a court of law,” the MPA notes. Scene Raids and P2P Groups The MPA also mentions the recent Scene raids, which were partially linked to Sweden. Several topsites were taken down and the movie industry is keeping an eye on the situation to make sure that they don’t come back. “The Scene was substantially disrupted in August 2020 via a global action. However, the opportunity for new groups to take their place remains, and the MPA continues to monitor the landscape to confirm that the group does not resurface,” MPA writes. In the Western Hemisphere, there are plenty of piracy concerns as well. Here, the MPA highlights more activity among P2P release groups, which operate more openly than those from The Scene. “Internet release groups have been identified in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. These groups are overtly profit driven and utilize different distribution channels to release illicit content. “Rather than closely-held topsites, some of these groups operate public websites and work at the P2P level,” the MPA adds, noting that these groups also recruit operatives in Russia and the United States. Positive Notes The above are just a few of the topics that were highlighted in the MPA’s submission. While the group mostly focuses on shortcomings, it also signals some positive developments here and there. The MPA is most positive about Australia, which “developed excellent tools to fight online piracy” including pirate site blocking. The movie industry group says it will provide more guidance to the Australian Government to improve even further. — A copy of the MPA’s comments regarding the 2021 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  13. Anti-piracy coalition ACE is continuing its crackdown on pirate sites. Represented by the MPA, the group obtained a DMCA subpoena that requires the .to domain registry to hand over personal details relating to the operators of Cinecalidad, Myflixer, Streamplay, and several others. The question remains, how effective is this strategy? Over the past year, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) added a new tool to its anti-piracy toolbox. The coalition, which represents prominent members including major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and other entertainment giants, started using DMCA subpoenas to unmask pirate site operators. These subpoenas are relatively easy to obtain. They are not reviewed by a judge but are signed off by a court clerk. This makes it a pretty straightforward process that’s not very costly either. ACE Subpoenas .To Registry ACE’s enforcement campaign is led by the MPA and their subpoenas are mostly targeted at two service providers. The first is CDN provider Cloudflare, and the second is Tonic Domains Corp, which is the registry for .to domain names. A few days ago the MPA obtained a new subpoena from a California federal court, asking the domain registry to share information relating to the domains 1377x.to, cinecalidad.to, f2movies.to, myflixer.to, onionplay.to, streamplay.to, tinyzonetv.to, upstream.to, and yesmovieshd.to. Cinecalidad is probably one of the largest targets. The streaming site, whose .to domain currently redirects to an .is domain, is among the largest pirate streaming sites in Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Mexico. Names, IP-address and More Through the subpoena, the anti-piracy coalition asks Tonic to disclose information including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, payment information, account updates, and account history associated with the domain registrants. While .to is the top-level domain of the island kingdom of Tonga, the Tonic registry operates through Tonic Domains Corp., which has a U.S. presence and a California address. As such, it falls under the jurisdiction of US courts. This means that Tonic Domains Corp will likely hand over the requested info. However, it’s unclear how effective this will be. If we look at some of the earlier subpoenas obtained by the MPA and ACE, the results are mixed. Mixed Results For example, last October the anti-piracy coalition obtained a subpoena to uncover the operators of the streaming giant s.to. Despite this effort, the site continues to operate as usual from the same domain name. The same applies to pepecine.to, ddl-warez.to, pelis24.to, unblocked.to, torrentgalaxy.to, solarmovie.to, soap2day.to, supernova.to, flixtor.to, and several other domains. These were targeted in the past but remain available today. In some cases, site operators have decided to move to a new domain name, likely as a precaution. That is also the case with Cinecalidad. Finally, there are some sites that simply ‘disappeared’. While it’s hard to be sure that ACE’s enforcement efforts are tied to this, it certainly played a role in some cases, including the shutdown of Ololo.to a few weeks ago. The effectiveness of the subpoenas mostly depends on how actionable the information obtained from the Tonic registry proves to be. Many site owners will take measures to protect their identities, which makes it possible for them to continue business as usual. Those who don’t are in trouble. — A copy of ACE/MPA’s latest subpoena request is available here (pdf). Source: TorrentFreak
  14. Thailand's Department of Special Investigation has raided and shut down three pirate streaming services after they provided access to content owned by the MPA and local companies. The platforms were previously targeted as part of an earlier series of raids but had relocated to new domain names to continue serving customers. A recent survey commission by the Asia Video Industry Association’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) and conducted by YouGov revealed that around 53% of online consumers in Thailand use illegal streaming platforms or torrent sites to access otherwise premium content. The survey also found that of those who admitted using such platforms, around 66% claimed to have canceled some or even all of their legal subscriptions as a result. This and other similar reports helped sound alarm bells in the country so, last month, authorities carried out a series of actions to shut down pirate sites. Raids During October, Resurrected Sites Hit Again in November On October 22, the Department of Special Investigation carried out raids targeting a number of illegal sites, shutting several down while seizing computer equipment. Among them were Kingiptv.cc, Doohdbox.com, and Hdplay.tv but it appears that the operators of these platforms weren’t immediately ready to throw in the towel. According to local media reports, the three sites switched to new domains – Kingiptv.cc to Kingiptv.info, doohdbox.com to skyhdbox.com, and hdplay.tv to hdlive.site. This prompted further action by the authorities. Lieutenant Colonel Wichai Suwanprasert, head of the DSI’s Bureau of Technology and Cyber Crime, says that his unit traced the whereabouts of the resurrected sites and subsequently raided four locations in Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom, and two areas in the central province of Samut Prakan. In addition to shutting down the four streaming platforms, which together generated an alleged seven million baht per month (US$229,357), officers also seized computer hardware, mobile phones, bank books and ATM cards. “These websites were streaming copyright material belonging to True Visions Group Co and the Motion Picture Association without permission,” said Police Lieutenant Col Wichai. Earlier Collaboration Between the MPA and DSI TrueVisions is a cable and satellite television operator in Thailand and as the group representing the major Hollywood studios and Netflix, the Motion Picture Association needs little introduction. The MPA and DSI already have an operational relationship. Following an MPA request late 2019, the DSI shut down streaming portal Movie2free.com, arresting a 22-year-old man. At the time, Movie2free.com was Thailand’s most popular pirate site and one of the most popular on the Internet, period. It had previously appeared in the MPA’s overview of “notorious pirate sites”, which was submitted to the United States Trade Representative. Site-Blocking in Thailand Back in August, the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP), the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES), and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) announced new site-blocking provisions to deal more efficiently with the threat posed by pirate sites. After a court hands down a blocking injunction, Internet service providers now have just 15 days to block domains, including new domains that are used by pirate site operators to circumvent blocking orders. Failing to do so so means an ISP can be fined under the Computer Crimes Act. Source: TorrentFreak
  15. This week the MPA and RIAA reported the Tonic domain registry to the USTR as a notorious pirate market. As pressure mounts, two DMCA subpoenas obtained by the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment on behalf of the MPA and dozens of other companies now order the company to hand over all information it holds on more than two dozen 'pirate' sites. Every year the MPA and RIAA respond to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative to submit their recommendations for the annual “notorious markets” list. In many cases, the industry groups choose to nominate the world’s most popular pirate sites and services for a mention, including but not limited to The Pirate Bay, YTS, RarBG, 1337x, and Popcorn Time, for example. More recently, however, the MPA and RIAA have begun mentioning ancillary companies that in their judgment are not necessarily pirate services in themselves but due to their provision of systems and infrastructure, are in a position to act affirmatively to reduce the effectiveness of pirate sites. As reported this week, the MPA and RIAA has now chosen to nominate domain name companies and services including the Njalla privacy service associated with Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde and the Tonic domain registry that is often favored by pirate services. Pressure Has Been Building on Tonic Domain Registry In September, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the global anti-piracy coalition made up of the major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and dozens of other companies, obtained a DMCA subpoena compelling Tonic to hand over information held on major pirate sites including The Pirate Bay, YTS, 1337x, EZTV, Seasonvar, Tamilrockers, Lordfilms, and many others. A month later, ACE was back in court again, this time obtaining a DMCA subpoena requiring Tonic to hand over information held on massive Germany-focused streaming site S.to. The dust had barely settled when ACE returned to court once again, obtaining another subpoena forcing Tonic to give up the identities of the people behind torrent giant 1337x.to (again), streaming site BS.to, Kimcartoon.to, Vumoo.to, Ololo.to, Seriesflix.to, Kinox.to, Movie4k.to plus many more. Back Once Again With Yet Another Demand For Information It’s unclear exactly how many pirate sites utilize .to domains for their operations but ACE clearly sees the registry’s involvement as part of their infrastructure as a problem when it comes to its enforcement actions. As a result, a DMCA subpoena ACE obtained in recent days from a California court lists two dozen problematic platforms for which it seeks additional information. The majority of the domains are focused on streaming movies and TV shows, with sites including Lordfilm, Ymovies, Pelis24, Series24, HDGo, HDSS, Flixtor, Soap2Day and Solarmovie all getting a prominent mention. Also present in the demand for information is a selection of popular torrent indexes such as TorrentGalaxy, Monova, and Glodls. These make an appearance alongside sites operating in different niches such as popular Germany-focused piracy forum Boerse and proxy-centric platform Unblocked. DDL-Warez is also featured in the subpoena but at the time of writing appears to be down. Sites Infringe Copyrights in Popular Movies and TV Shows Along with each site is a claim that they infringed rights in a specific movie or TV show. These include the movies Frozen II, Dolittle, Wonder Woman, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Beautiful Boy, Bird Box, Triple Frontier, and Scoob! In the cases of Series 24 and Flixtor, both stand accused of illegally offering the first episode in the TV series Watchmen. The application was filed by Jan van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection for the Motion Picture Association. “The ACE Members (via the Motion Picture Association, Inc.) are requesting issuance of the attached proposed subpoena that would order Tonic Domains Corporation to disclose the identities, including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account histories of the users operating the websites [listed below],” it reads. A letter to Tonic Domains attached to the subpoena repeats a similar message. At the same time, ACE also obtained a second DMCA subpoena claiming that the linking site Huho.to infringed its members’ copyrights in the movies Beauty and the Beast and It Chapter Two. The claim is that Huhu.to connects users of the popular ‘Watched‘ mobile application to cyberlockers containing infringing content so, as a result, its operator’s details should be handed over. The anti-piracy coalition lists a number of sites where the movies were hosted including Clipboard.cc, GoUnlimited.to, Mixdrop.to, Upstream.to, Vivo.sx, Vidlox.me, and Clipwatching.com, but these sites don’t appear to be direct targets in the subpoena. Documents supporting the DMCA subpoenas can be found here 1,2,3,4 (pdf) List of Domains and Main Use (Both Subpoenas) lordfilm.to – streaming ddl-warez.to – down boerse.to – piracy forum pepecine.to – streaming ymovies.to – streaming pelis24.to – streaming kinoz.to – streaming (kinox.to alternate) monova.to – torrents unblocked.to – proxy site glodls.to – torrents byte.to – DDL/streaming enstream.to – streaming series24.to – streaming hdgo.to – streaming ilgeniodellostreaming.to – streaming movie-blog.to – DDL index torrentgalaxy.to – torrents goojara.to – streaming supernova.to – streaming levidia.to – streaming flixtor.to – streaming hdss.to – streaming solarmovie.to – streaming soap2day.to – streaming huhu.to (subpoena 2) Source: TorrentFreak
  16. During the summer, members of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment which include Hollywood studios, Netflix and Amazon, sued pirate IPTV service Crystal Clear Media for mass copyright infringement. According to documents now filed with the court, two Florida residents have agreed to pay the entertainment companies $40 million to end the lawsuit. Back in August, members of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy coalition featuring the major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, filed a lawsuit against US company TTKN Enterprises, LLC. Better known online as IPTV service Crystal Clear Media (CCM), TTKN and owners Todd and Tori Smith of Florida were accused by Disney, Paramount, Amazon, Warner, Universal, Netflix, Columbia and StudioCanal of operating a pirate service providing access to thousands of live and title-curated television channels in breach of their copyrights. “Blatantly Infringing Service” Citing blockbusters including Disney’s Frozen II, Warner Bros’ Harry Potter collection, Columbia Picture’s Bad Boys for Life, and Universal’s Mr. Robot, the companies alleged that TTKN/CCM’s operators had gone to great lengths to hide their roles in an operation that had illegally streamed these titles and more to the public. Domains including mediahosting.one, crystalcleariptv.com, ccmedia.one, ccbilling.org, cciptv.us, ccreborn.one, ccultimate.one, superstreamz.com, and webplayer.us, were mentioned as supporting the operation. Describing CCM as a “blatantly infringing service”, the entertainment companies noted that despite being acutely aware that rival service Vaders had previously come to an untimely end for similar actions at the hands of the same plaintiffs, CCM continued to provide an illegal VOD service to the public. Furthermore, the service also continued to expand its reach via a network of resellers. “Defendants’ reseller program plays a pivotal role in their infringing enterprise. Defendants’ resellers market and promote CCM as a substitute for authorized and licensed distributors,” the lawsuit claimed. Alleging willful direct copyright infringement, the plaintiffs demanded the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work plus the same amount per work as a result of CCM inducing others by “encouraging, and promoting” the use of CCM for copyright infringement purposes. Parties Reach Settlement Agreement While these kinds of cases have the potential to roll on for some time, it transpires the plaintiffs and TTKN/CCM plus named defendants Todd and Tori Smith have agreed to settle their dispute. The agreement was reached on November 2, 2020, and as a result, they are together asking the court to sign off on a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding a permanent injunction and damages. In respect of the injunction, the defendants comprehensively agree not to distribute any copyrighted content owned by the plaintiffs or their subsidiaries in any manner, including via streaming. All operations of Crystal Clear Media must be completely shut down within five days of any injunction and its operators are barred from distributing or otherwise releasing any of its source code, domain names, trademarks and other assets. “Defendants irrevocably and fully waive notice of entry of the Permanent Injunction, and understand and agree that violation of the Permanent Injunction will expose Defendant to all penalties provided by law, including contempt of Court,” it reads. “Defendants consent to the continuing jurisdiction of the Court for purposes of enforcement of the Permanent Injunction, and irrevocably and fully waive and relinquish any argument that venue or jurisdiction by this Court is improper or inconvenient.” Proposed Judgment Includes a Massive Damages Award The original complaint included references to the now-defunct Vaders IPTV service that was also targeted by the same plaintiffs in a largely secret lawsuit in Canada. However, while the Vaders/Vader Streams matter ended in a $10 million damages award in favor of the studios, TTKN/CCM has agreed to pay substantially more than its former rival. “Damages are awarded in favor of Plaintiffs and against Defendant TTKN Enterprises, LLC d/b/a Crystal Clear Media, in the total amount of forty million dollars ($40 million),” the proposed judgment reads. While the proposed consent judgment and permanent injunction are yet to be signed off by Judge George H. Wu in a California court, the nature of the agreement means that is likely to be a formality in the days to come. The proposed orders can be found here (1,2,3 pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  17. By their very nature, pirate IPTV services are clearly illegal and several have faced action through the courts in the US. To date, Hollywood studios have won every lawsuit in a devastating fashion. Yet, despite these cases being reported in detail, some IPTV services still haven't worked out how to stay off the radar. While torrent sites still play an important role in the piracy landscape, Hollywood and major content distributors consider illegal streaming to be a key threat. Of particular concern are pirate IPTV services that for just a small outlay per month, represent direct and credible competition for legitimate platforms. As a result, many IPTV services and sellers have been targeted around the world under various laws. ACE/MPA Subpoena Reveals Interest IPTV Service As we have previously reported, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment together with the MPA regularly obtain DMCA subpoenas in the US that compel companies such as Cloudflare to give up the personal details of pirate site operators. Thus far, the overwhelming majority have been torrent and web-based streaming sites but this week there was a small but interesting deviation. Who is Behind SentraTV? As far as IPTV providers go, SentraTV seems a pretty insignificant player. Its website doesn’t attract large numbers of visitors and searches don’t reveal much interest on the broader Internet. So why, given the large number of big targets available to ACE and the MPA, are they demanding that Cloudflare unmasks its operator? Due to their policy of not discussing ongoing investigations, we can only speculate on the motivation. However, there are some interesting factors, such as SentraTV providing an address in Delaware for correspondence. Indeed, this same address is used by numerous IPTV sellers, including PingIPTV, UpTickTV and Wave-TV, to name just three. The websites of these services are obviously similar too, with what appear to be identical packages and pricing. Whether these are all the same service, operated by the same or different people, or have connections to the same suppliers, are things for ACE to find out. All that having been said, if ACE/MPA choose to pursue SentraTV in a US court, they will win the case. VOD and 24/7 Channels Are The Achilles’ Heel When ACE/MPA targeted and then shut down the large Vaders IPTV service, the fact that the provider offered thousands of live channels wasn’t the main focus. Like other similar platforms, Vaders had a large VOD platform offering movies and TV shows, including so-called 24/7 channels dedicated to specific shows. With direct infringement easily provable, that ending up costing its operators $10m. After offering the same type of service, the owners of Crystal Clear Media were later handed a $40m bill. Despite knowing about these cases (surely?), SentraTV still offers a large VOD service including dozens of 24/7 channels. For ACE/MPA it’s now an easy target ripe for a lawsuit that Hollywood can’t lose or, alternatively, a settlement that will involve handing over large sums of money plus detailed information about its business, including its dealings with customers and suppliers. Of course, ACE/MPA are only at the subpoena stage but one can’t help think that without the easy target of VOD, the movie and TV companies might have picked a different target. The DMCA subpoena can be found here and here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  18. The MPA and Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment regularly obtain DMCA subpoenas against Cloudflare, often targeting the most significant pirate sites globally. Interestingly, a new subpoena obtained this week appears to target sites that are important to specific regions, notably around Europe. It also includes, to our knowledge, the first attempt to learn more about a private BitTorrent tracker. In what appears to be an increasing trend, global anti-piracy coalition Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment regularly heads off to court in the United States to obtain information about pirate site operators. The weapon of choice is the DMCA subpoena, a number of which are targeted at domain registrars and US-based Cloudflare, the CDN company utilized by thousands of pirate sites. In many cases, these subpoenas seek to obtain intelligence on the world’s largest streaming and torrent portals for use in enforcement and policy activities. A new subpoena obtained this week, however, suggests that ACE has an interest in learning about who is operating sites that are popular on a local level. Sites That Appear to Evade Blocking in the UK Since 2011, the UK High Court has handed down a number of blocking injunctions targeting pirate sites. Official data is a tightly held secret but it’s believed that thousands of URLs are blocked by the country’s ISPs, mostly targeting giants such as The Pirate Bay, RARBG, and similar well-known platforms. Despite maintaining that blocking leads to “meaningful increases in legal online consumption”, the MPA hasn’t made any blocking requests for years, leading to other sites increasing their traffic. These include MagnetDL, for example, whose traffic relies heavily on the UK market. Perhaps aiming to put a dent in this success, the MPA/ACE subpoena obtained this week aims to find out more about MagnetDL’s operator after informing the court that the site helps to distribute the movie Frozen II in breach of Disney’s copyrights. And there are others too. Knaben.net has only been gaining any significant traffic since the summer but the torrent search engine, which also helps people access blocked sites, is now doing rather well with an estimated two million visitors per month. Interestingly and according to SimilarWeb stats, around a third of that traffic is coming from the UK where the site is not blocked, with just over 5% coming from the US, the next most popular visitor location. A similar situation can be found in 0123movies.com which has been running for some time, pulling in up to five million visits per month since the summer, with around 30% of those coming from the UK. Only the US comes close in terms of traffic but even that huge nation is relegated to second place. Continuing on the 123movies theme, 123movies.net has even more traffic but it too is highly reliant on the UK market, with around a quarter of its visitors hailing from the region. 123moviesfree.com is a much smaller operation but again, around 30% of its traffic comes from the UK. The outlier is 0123movie.net, which derives almost 60% of its traffic from the US with the UK trailing behind, albeit with an estimated million visitors per month. Sites Thriving Around Europe With millions of visitors per month each, it’s no surprise that sites such as Goldesel.to, HD-Streams.org, and TopStreamFilm.com feature in the DMCA subpoena obtained by ACE/MPA. In these cases, the sites are all heavily reliant upon traffic from Germany with 66%, 65% and 52% traffic share currently hitting the sites. That being said, there are other sites even more reliant on traffic from specific European countries. Movie and TV show streaming site Cpasmal.info, for example, has almost 92% of its 2 to 4 million monthly visitors arriving from France. Vidcorn.tv, on the other hand, has around six million monthly visitors, with more than 80% hailing from Spain. And when it comes to reliance on the Italian market, Eurostreamingtv.com is right up there with 97%, with Switzerland, Germany. Belgium and the UK fighting over the remaining 3%. Finally, an Interesting Outlier The vast majority of ACE/MPA subpoenas target streaming and public torrent sites but this one contains a notable exception. Buried away in the list is Ethor.net, an invite-only private tracker specializing in French-language content. According to estimates from 2019, the site ‘only’ has around 20,000 members but with around 100,000 torrents, the site appears to be generating more than a million visits per month, three-quarters of which can be allocated to Canadian users. As far as we’re aware, this is the first time that a private BitTorrent tracker has made an appearance in a Cloudflare subpoena but at the rate they’re currently being obtained from courts in the US, this probably won’t be the last. The DMCA subpoena documents can be found here (1,2 pdf), full site list below 0123movie.net 0123movies.com 123movies.net 123moviesfree.com 123movies-free.sc azm.to cpasmal.info ethor.net eurostreaming.name eurostreamingtv.com filmpalast.to goldesel.to hdfilme.cx hdfull.io hd-streams.org knaben.net magnetdl.com mejortorrentt.net movidy.co pctmix.com pelismart.com tekilaz.co rarbgmirror.com repelishd.tv seriesflix.to tirexo.pro topstreamfilm.com torrentdownloads.me vidcorn.tv videospider.stream vumoo.to yesmovies.so zone-annuaire.top Source: TorrentFreak
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