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  1. Several movie companies have filed a new lawsuit targeting three users of the popular torrent site YTS. The alleged pirates were identified based on data that was previously provided by the site's operator. The three were initially approached for an out-of-court settlement but, according to the rightsholders, they failed to respond. In recent years, YTS.mx has become one of the most-used torrent sites, serving millions of visitors a day. The site can be used without registering an account. However, those who sign up get some extra features, such as an option to bookmark titles. These added benefits can be handy but a few months ago we learned that having an account also comes with risks. Movie Companies Target YTS site and Users At the start of the year, a group of movie companies filed lawsuits against alleged YTS users. In doing so, they relied on information that appeared to come directly from the YTS user database, including email addresses. The timing of these lawsuits was interesting. The complaints were filed around the same time the alleged operator of YTS signed a settlement deal with the same movie companies, agreeing to pay a substantial settlement fee. We later learned that, in order to resolve the matter, YTS had shared information from its database with the movie outfits. While it was a one-time handover, there was enough information to go after a long list of users. Today we can report on the latest development in this saga. Shared User Data Triggers Settlement Demands As reported earlier, the YTS user data ended up at the makers of films such as “Hellboy” and “Rambo: Last Blood,” and “London has Fallen,” who used it to their advantage. In addition to filing lawsuits, they also approached alleged file-sharers with settlement demands directly. With the threat of potential legal action, several users are likely to pay up. However, not everyone does. A few days ago, a dozen movie companies sued three alleged YTS users who failed to respond to these out-of-court settlement demands. In a complaint filed at a federal court in Colorado, the copyright holders accuse the defendants of sharing pirated copies of titles including Hunter Killer, Rambo V: Last Blood, London Has Fallen, Hellboy, and Mechanic: Resurrection. The legal paperwork identifies the three, who are all Colorado residents, as Stephen Moody, William Nelson, and Ty Tidwell. They all signed up with YTS using email addresses linked to Microsoft, which presumably shared information with the movie companies through a subpoena. “Defendant William Nelson entered the name ‘William Nelson’ and the state ‘Colorado’ when initially registering for his email address ‘[redacted]@hotmail.com’ on September 26, 2000,” the complaint reads, adding that he registered for an account with the YTS website using that same email. The same defendant also used a VPN on several occasions. According to the copyright holders he did so “to conceal his illicit activities,” however, that offered little help. Sued YTS Users Ignored Settlement Demands With the IP-addresses, email addresses, and download records from YTS, paired with information gathered from public torrent trackers, the movie companies reached out to the three men with a settlement offer. We believe that this is similar to the letters we reported on in the past, where a settlement of around $1,000 was proposed. The three defendants didn’t respond to the offer, according to the complaint. “Defendant [name] has ignored repeated communications from Plaintiffs’ counsel requesting him to cease and desist his unlawful activity and pay a portion of Plaintiffs’ damages,” it reads. The three defendants are all accused of direct and contributory copyright infringement by sharing the various films. The movie companies request actual or statutory damages as compensation for the losses they suffered. In addition, the three men also allegedly violated the DMCA by distributing content with altered copyright management information. According to the complaint, distributing files with words like “YTS” added to the title could induce others to pirate these films. For this, the movie companies want to be compensated too. — A copy of the full complaint, filed on behalf of Plaintiffs: Fallen Productions, Hunter Killer Productions, Rambo V Productions, LHF Productions, Millennium Funding, HB Productions, Stoic Productions, Voltage Holdings, Gunfighter Productions, SF Film, Definition Delaware, and After Productions, is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  2. A few days ago, popular torrent site YTS was flagged as a potential phishing site by Chrome and Firefox. Today, these warnings have disappeared but not because the problems were resolved. YTS simply switched to a new URL structure, ditching the problematic /movie/ subcategory. The Internet is full of threats. To help people steer clear from trouble, Google launched its Safe Browsing tool in 2012. This service marks problematic websites when there are potential malware and phishing problems. This information can then be used by third-parties to take action. In the past, several popular pirate sites have been flagged. These issues are usually caused by malicious advertisers. The operators of the sites get a heads up form Google, and after the problem is addressed, the flag is removed. YTS Pages Were Blocked by Chome and Firefox Last weekend, YTS had first-hand experience of this process. The torrent site, which serves millions of people per day, was branded a ‘phishing’ threat by Google. As a result, Chrome and Firefox blocked users from directly accessing some pages on the site. While the homepage showed no issues, the movie detail pages returned a full-screen red warning, cautioning people to stay away. Needless to say, these types of warnings will have a negative impact on the site’s traffic, whether they are warranted or not. In other words, fixing the issue should be a high priority for the site’s operator. And indeed, when we visited YTS today everything had returned to normal. Or so it seemed. The movie detail pages no longer threw up any warnings and downloading .torrent files worked just fine. Simple Trick Makes Security Warnings Disappear While this might appear to be a matter of ‘case solved’, taking a closer look at the site reveals a tiny but important change. The movie detail pages are no longer linked from a /movie/ subdirectory, but from /movies/, as shown below. Adding an ‘s’ to the URL appears to be insignificant but, in this case, it’s not. Apparently, this extra letter is the reason why users no longer see any warnings. The old URLs, without the ‘s’ remain blocked. It seems odd that a site can bypass Google’s elaborate Safe Browsing tool by simply updating a URL, but it works. A quick check in the Safe Browsing tool confirms that the new link to YTS.mx/movies is clean, while the old YTS.mx/movie link is still ‘unsafe.’ Whether YTS also tackled the underlying problem is unknown. However, we assume that the new links will eventually be flagged too if the issue persists. Enhanced Safe Browsing? The bypass trick comes just a few days after Google announced that it had started rolling out an ‘enhanced Safe Browsing’ for Chrome users. This has nothing to do with the YTS issues, but Google’s intro is worth noting. “Over the past few years we’ve seen threats on the web becoming increasingly sophisticated. Phishing sites rotate domains very quickly to avoid being blocked,” Google wrote. We wouldn’t classify the addition of extra letter in the URL as ‘sophisticated,’ but it certainly helped to get rid of the security warning. Source
  3. Last week, 1337x.to decided to ban YTS releases when it became apparent that information from the site's database was being used in lawsuits against file-sharers. Over the past few days, more torrent sites followed this example which, strangely enough, has made them a target as well. Over the past week and a half, we have documented a series of events that the torrent community has never witnessed before. It started when we were able to confirm that the supposed operator of YTS shared information from the site’s user base with Hawaiian anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper. Culpepper had previously settled two lawsuits with YTS and the data was shared as part of, or related to, that legal action. We have since learned that this was a one-time arrangement that only involved data from users who downloaded torrents that are linked to the lawyer’s clients. Some YTS Users Were Exposed This means that not all YTS users were exposed. However, those who were, now risk settlement demands from the movie companies, both in- and outside of court. When the news broke, several other torrent site operators were on high alert. Although they have nothing to do with the matter at hand, YTS releases were posted on their sites as well. This isn’t a good look, to say the least. Torrent site 1337x was the first to take action. After internal deliberations, the staff decided to ban the YTS user account permanently. While older releases remain on the site, all new uploads are barred. The same is true for the EZTV account, which started publishing YTS torrents shortly after the YTS account was banned. More Torrent Sites Ban YTS This radical decision didn’t go unnoticed by other sites. Soon after 1337x took action, TorrentGalaxy and Glotorrents followed suit. And after that, KATcr and ETTV took similar measures. Since several other sites scrape content from these sources, the overall impact is even bigger. TorrentFreak spoke to the KATcr team who report that they decided to ban YTS releases in the interests of the site’s users. “The right to personal privacy of each visitor should not be compromised, it is our duty to prevent YTS content from being shared on our platform,” the KAT team informed us, adding that they won’t compromise the privacy of the site’s users. GloTorrents took a similar decision and banned the accounts of both YTS and EZTV, which appear to be related. “We don’t condone this kind of behavior so as a result, we decided to stop the movie bots from YTS and TV bots from EZTV. Since some of our visitors download their stuff, we wouldn’t want them to fall victim to these selfish and greedy acts, hence the ban on YTS,” the GloTorrents team said. YTS itself hasn’t responded to the bans. However, it appears that the lawyer who filed lawsuits against former YTS users was triggered by these actions. As reported earlier this week, Culpepper obtained subpoenas against the .to registry and Cloudflare in order to uncover more information about 1337x’s operator. TorrentGalaxy and GloTorrents are Targeted as Well And it now appears that it didn’t stop there. During the week, two new subpoenas were obtained. One targets TorrentGalaxy and the other takes aim at GloTorrents. The subpoena in question requires the .to domain registry (Tonic) to hand over any information they have on the domain registrants. The movie companies’ lawyer informs TorrentFreak that he decided to take action in direct response to the bans, as these actions show that the sites in question can control what appears on their sites. “The purpose of the subpoenas is to enforce the rights of the owners,” Culpepper says, adding that it’s obvious that the sites maintain “editorial/moderating control of the content put on their sites.” Whether Culpepper can do anything with the data has yet to be seen. Many torrent sites take precautions to hide the identities of their operators, subpoena or not. Speaking with TorrentFreak, the GloTorrents team doesn’t appear to be impressed so far. “Going after our registry won’t stop us from running this service nor giving up any details related to our users as well,” GloTorrents says. “Call us pirates, and remember, thieves are never rogues amongst themselves.” — A copy of the subpoena targeting TorrentGalaxy and GloTorrents can be found here (pdf). It identifies torrentgalaxy.to as well as the non-existing iglodls.to domain name. Source: TorrentFreak
  4. Anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper has failed to secure $250,000 damages claims against sites and apps that used the YTS trademark he obtained. The court dismissed the case as it lacks sufficient evidence to prove that the defendants purposefully targeted the US. Meanwhile, the trademark infringement claims shed an interesting light on related YTS cases that were filed recently. Brands are important for most businesses. They identify a service or product and are often associated with certain qualities. The position is no different in the piracy ecosystem. Brands are essential there as well but are not always what they seem to be. YTS Copycats Given the nature of pirate sites, brand copying is widespread. This is also the case with YTS, the name of a long-defunct pirate release group. Today, there are still many YTS sites and apps online, using the name to attract visitors. It is easy for copycats to jump in as pirate sites are unlikely to sue each other over a stolen brand. However, anti-piracy lawyers can sue sites and apps, especially when they are the rightful trademark owner. This is exactly what happened earlier this year after anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper turned some of the most popular piracy brands into a powerful anti-piracy tool. The attorney, who is listed as director of the company ’42 Ventures,’ registered several piracy-related trademarks, including ‘YTS’ and ‘Popcorn Time.’ YTS Trademark Lawsuit Soon after the trademarks were granted Culpepper began using them as an enforcement tool. This includes a trademark infringement lawsuit that targeted the operators of yst.lt, ytsag.me, yts.ae, ytsmovies.cc, yts.ms, as well as apps such as “Y Movies,” “YTS Movies Library” and “YTS movies.” These pirate apps and tools used the YTS trademark without permission, Culpepper argued. And when the operators, who are believed to be from India, China and Egypt failed to respond, he demanded a default judgment of $250,000 against each defendant. Without any opposition, the case looked like it may turn into an easy win. However, that’s not what happened here. A few weeks ago, US Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter recommended the court to deny the $250,000 damages request and dismiss the complaint because the court lacks personal jurisdiction. A foreign citizen can only be subjected to the jurisdiction of a US court when several conditions are met. This includes evidence that the defendant specifically aimed his or her actions at the US. According to Judge Porter, that was not the case here. Culpepper disagreed and objected to the recommendation, but without success. In a final ruling released by District Court Judge Derrick Watson, the case is dismissed. Court Lacks Jurisdiction Judge Watson agrees with the Magistrate’s recommendation that the defendant’s connections with US-based services including Cloudflare, Amazon, and Namecheap, don’t prove that the site and app operators subjected themselves to US jurisdiction. “Amazon Web Services, which Plaintiff claims Defendant Mav used to host his website, boasts of ‘over a million customers in more than 190 countries.’ Surely, it cannot be said that each of these million plus customers use AWS for the purpose of targeting the United States market any more than it can be said of Defendants alone,” Watson writes. “Likewise, Cloudflare, whose services Plaintiff claims Defendants Vinit and Shan utilize, boasts that its network spans ‘over 200 cities in more than 100 countries.’ Defendants alleged use of the Google Play Store, Visa, Dynadot, and Namecheap, are no different.” “In short, these are all companies with global reach, and Plaintiff has failed to show they were selected by Defendants specifically to target the United States market.” Case Dismissed, No Damages Based on these and various other examples and arguments, the Court adopts the recommendation to dismiss the lawsuit against the three defendants. As a result, the $250,000 damages claims are also off the table. In his opposition, Culpepper asked the Hawaii court to transfer the case to California if it concluded that it doesn’t have jurisdiction because many of the US-based intermediaries are incorporated there. However, Judge Watson denied this request as well because he believes that no US court has jurisdiction. This means that the first-ever trademark dispute over a pirate brand is over, with most defendants walking away unscathed. We say most, because one of the targeted site operators already agreed to settle the trademark infringement matter for $200,000 a few weeks ago. In hindsight, that may not have been the best decision and certainly not the cheapest. — A copy of Judge Watson’s order adopting the findings and recommendations and dismissing the claims against the remaining defendants is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  5. In a new complaint filed at a Hawaii federal court, 19 'John Does' are accused of sharing pirated copies of the film Ava. The defendants, who are only known by their IP-addresses, are described as users of the site YTS. While there is no hard evidence to back up all claims, the accused may still be in trouble. In recent months we have reported in detail how users of the popular torrent site YTS were sued in US courts. In several of these cases, information shared by the site’s operator was brought in as evidence. The user info was obtained by anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper, as part of an undisclosed settlement agreement. This week the same attorney is back in court representing ‘Eve Nevada LLC,’ the company behind the film Ava, which is shared widely on various pirate sites. Again, YTS is prominently mentioned, but this time things are different. The complaint, filed at a Hawaii federal court, lists 19 ‘John Doe’ defendants who are only known by their IP-addresses. These addresses were caught sharing the film via public torrent trackers. Specifically, the complaint mentions a file titled “Ava (2020) [1080p] [WEBRip] [5.1] [YTS.MX].” This title leads the filmmakers to the conclusion that the defendant must have been users of the YTS site. Or as the complaint puts it: “Upon information and belief, each of the Defendants registered for an account on the YTS website using an email address or installed a BitTorrent Client application on their device that retrieved torrent files from the YTS website.” This same conclusion, in addition to the fact that defendants downloaded the same file, is also used as an argument to join the 19 defendants in one case. However, based on the information presented, it’s far from clear that at all of these people were indeed YTS users. Unlike in the other cases, the copyright holder didn’t present any information from the YTS user base, likely because it doesn’t have any. The data-sharing was a one-time arrangement several months ago, long before YTS released the movie Ava. While it’s possible that the defendants indeed used YTS, they could have easily downloaded the .torrent file from other sites where the same file was made available. Although several torrent sites banned YTS torrents, many haven’t, including the illustrious Pirate Bay. Whether the defendants are actually YTS users or not may not make much of a difference. At least not for the copyright infringement allegations. In addition to direct and contributory copyright infringement, the complaint also accuses the defendant of violating the DMCA by altering copyright management information (CMI). In this case, that means distributing the movie Ava with an edited title, which references YTS. “Particularly, the Defendants distributed the file names that included CMI that had been altered to include the wording ‘YTS’. Defendants knew that the wording “YTS” originated from the notorious movie piracy website for which each had registered accounts and/or actively used,” the complaint reads. It’s doubtful that any of these cases will be fought on the merits. When the defendant’s personal information is exposed it’s likely that they will receive a settlement request, which is usually around $1,000. Those who refuse to settle can argue their case in court, but that’s going to cost as well. They can eventually win the case, but not without investing in a legal defense first. As far as we know this is the first time people have been sued for downloading the film Ava. The company Eve Nevada is a new name as well, but one with familiar connections. It’s connected to the broader Voltage Pictures family, which has sued tens of thousands of people over the years. — A copy of the complaint filed at the US District Court of Hawaii is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  6. The operators of several YTS-branded apps and sites may escape a $250,000 damages claim from Hawaiian anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper, who accused them of trademark infringement, In a recommendation issued to the court, Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter notes that there isn't sufficient evidence that the defendants purposefully targeted the US. Earlier this year, Hawaiian anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper turned some of the most popular piracy brands into a powerful anti-piracy tool. The attorney, who is listed as director of the company ’42 Ventures,’ registered several piracy-related trademarks, including ‘YTS’ and ‘Popcorn Time.’ The company, which was founded last year, legally claimed these marks and uses them on a website that doesn’t draw any significant traffic. What did get people’s attention, however, were the enforcement actions that followed. Shortly after the trademarks were granted, Culpepper managed to suspend the Twitter account of a popular Popcorn Time fork. He offered to return it in exchange for a Popcorn Time licensing deal, which failed. Trademark Lawsuits Against YTS Sites and Apps In addition, the attorney also filed a trademark infringement lawsuit on behalf of 42 Ventures. The lawsuit targeted the operators of yst.lt, ytsag.me, yts.ae, ytsmovies.cc, yts.ms, as well as apps such as “Y Movies,” “YTS Movies Library” and “YTS movies.” The people behind these sites, who are believed to be from India, China and Egypt, used the YTS brand as a promotional tool. This isn’t uncommon, as YTS has been a popular pirate brand for years, after originally belonging to a long-defunct release group. Over the past weeks, one of the site operators agreed to settle the trademark infringement matter for $200,000, on paper. The other four didn’t respond to the allegations at all, which prompted the lawyer to request default judgments of $250,000 against all defendants. “Defendants purposefully utilize Plaintiff’s YTS mark in their domain registrations and app names in order to mislead consumers about the origins of its goods and services as connected to Plaintiff, resulting in a substantial loss of income, profits, and goodwill,” Culpepper informed the court. 42 Ventures Requests Default Judgment Since none of the defendants showed up in court there was little to stop a victory, except for the court itself, it now appears. In a ‘findings and recommendations’ issued this week, US Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter recommends the court to deny the $250,000 damages request and dismiss the complaint because the court lacks personal jurisdiction. For a court to decide over a defendant, it should have the right to do so. This is usually not a problem when a US citizen is taken to court in the US but, in this case, the defendants are foreigners. That changes everything. The court can only issue a judgment when it’s shown that the defendants “purposefully directed their activities towards the United States.” Here, Judge Porter is not convinced that this is the case. According to Culpepper, the trademark-infringing YTS sites and apps were available in the US, used US-based services including domain registrars, and used US-based payment providers, among other things. Judge Doesn’t Believe Court Has Jurisdiction Judge Porter doesn’t dispute these facts but doesn’t agree that this is sufficient to show that the court has personal jurisdiction. “The Court finds that Defendants’ use of United States-based companies for webhosting and domain name services and for paying for those services is insufficient to show that Defendants aimed their allegedly infringing acts at the United States,” Porter writes. The Judge notes that in some cases people simply choose to work with US-based companies because they are the biggest brands in their industries, or have a monopoly. Not because they’re from the US. “Indeed, as other district courts have recognized ‘it is more accurate to say that [the defendant] utilized Apple and Google because they arguably have a virtual monopoly on the channels in which developers can distribute application-based software—not because they have offices in [the United States]’.” If this logic indeed applies, then all foreigners with a Gmail account would subject themselves to the jurisdiction of US courts, which is something Judge Porter doesn’t agree with. Two of the defendants also used advertising services, cookies and web beacons, to gather information about individual visitors, some of whom are from the US. Culpepper brought this in as another argument to show that the court has jurisdiction but that was disregarded as well. “Finally, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s allegations regarding Defendants Mav and Shan collecting information about users on their websites is insufficient to show that these Defendants have done engaged in ‘conduct directly targeting the forum’.” Judge Recommends Dismissal All in all, Judge Porter concludes that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendants. He therefore recommends denying the motion for a $250,000 default judgment and suggests a dismissal of the entire case. This recommendation has yet to be adopted by the court in a final ruling and can be contested by Culpepper. However, the first signs don’t look positive for the trademark owner. In closing, it is worth pointing out that YTS.mx, which is by far the most popular YTS site, wasn’t targeted in this trademark case. However, the same lawyer previously negotiated copyright infringement settlements with the site’s owner, totaling well over a million dollars. — A copy of the findings and recommendations published by US Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  7. The owners of several apps and sites that use the popular pirate brand YTS risk substantial damages being awarded against them. Hawaiian anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper is requesting $250,000 default judgments against the operators, who failed to respond in court. Interestingly, the most popular YTS site, YTS.mx, is not targeted. Earlier this year, Hawaiian anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper turned one of the most popular piracy brands into a powerful anti-piracy tool. The attorney, who is listed as director of the company ’42 Ventures,’ registered several piracy-related trademarks, including ‘YTS’ and ‘Popcorn Time.’ The company, which was founded last year, legally claimed these marks which are used on a website that doesn’t draw any significant traffic. However, its partnership with the known anti-piracy lawyer definitely didn’t go unnoticed. Shortly after the trademarks were granted, Culpepper managed to suspend the Twitter account of a popular Popcorn Time fork. He offered to return it in exchange for a Popcorn Time licensing deal, which failed. In addition, the attorney also filed a trademark infringement lawsuit on behalf of 42 Ventures. The lawsuit targeted the operators of yst.lt, ytsag.me, yts.ae, ytsmovies.cc, yts.ms, as well as apps such as “Y Movies,” “YTS Movies Library” and “YTS movies.” The people behind these sites, who are believed to be from India, China and Egypt, used the YTS brand as a promotional tool. This isn’t uncommon, as YTS has been a popular pirate brand for years, after originally belonging to a long-defunct release group. YST.lt redirects to YST.mx which the logo of YTS.mx The lawsuit claimed that the use of the YTS ‘mark’ violates the newly obtained trademark of ’42 Ventures’ and the Hawaiian company demanded to be compensated. The trademark angle is a new scheme that raises all kinds of legal questions. However, pirate sites and services are not usually fond of litigating cases in court and in this case it’s no different, as all four defendants failed to respond in court. This lack of response prompted ’42 Ventures’ to request an entry of default, which was granted, and this week the company’s attorney laid out the demands in a motion for default judgment. “Defendants knew they were causing harm not only to the US companies that produced these movies, but also Plaintiff’s trademark,” Culpepper informs the Hawaiian federal court. “Defendants purposefully utilize Plaintiff’s YTS mark in their domain registrations and app names in order to mislead consumers about the origins of its goods and services as connected to Plaintiff, resulting in a substantial loss of income, profits, and goodwill,” he adds. While not mentioned in the motion, TorrentFreak was previously informed that 42 Ventures uses the YTS trademark on the website popcorntime4u.com, where it links to YouTube videos from the “Popcorned Planet” channel. As compensation for these alleged YTS trademark infringements, the company now demands $250,000 in statutory damages from four defendants. The fifth defendant, a Russian man named Patrick Petrov who owns YTS.ws, previously paid a settlement of $200,000. While this is a substantive claim, there’s a good chance that it will be awarded, as none of the app and site owners are putting up a defense in court. Whether the Hawaiian company will be able to recoup these potential damages is another question. In closing, it is worth pointing out that YTS.mx, which is by far the most popular YTS site, wasn’t targeted in this trademark case. However, the same lawyer previously negotiated copyright infringement settlements with the site’s owner, totaling well over a million dollars. A copy of 42 Ventures’ motion for a default judgment, which is currently being reviewed in court, is available here (pdf) Source
  8. A group of movie companies is demanding nearly $100,000 in statutory piracy damages from US army veteran Mical Mesot. While the evidence is often flimsy in piracy cases, the rightsholders managed to get logs from the popular pirate site YTS to back up their claim. That evidence is corroborated by the operator of YTS, under penalty of perjury. Lawsuits against pirating Internet subscribers are far from new. In the US, they first appeared more than a decade ago. Over the years, the evidence in these lawsuits was regularly contested. In some cases this led to success, with courts concluding that an IP-address alone is not enough. After all, an IP-address doesn’t identify a person. Most prominent was a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the Cobbler Nevada v. Gonzales case, where the court ruled the copyright holders needed “something more” than just an IP-address. This ruling has been cited in dozens of cases since. In response, some rightsholders have become more creative, fishing for piracy clues on social media accounts of alleged pirates. That already goes quite far. However, in a recent case in Hawaii, a group of movie companies took things up a notch after obtaining evidence directly from YTS, the most-visited torrent site. Lawsuit Against YTS User and Army Veteran The movie companies, including the makers of films such as “Hellboy” and “Rambo: Last Blood,” filed a lawsuit against US Army veteran Mical Mesot. As we revealed earlier, their claim was backed up with evidence that appeared to come directly from the database of YTS.mx. We have spotted similar lawsuits in the past and speculated that YTS could have handed over this information. YTS’s operator previously signed several settlement agreements with the same movie companies, so both parties were in contact. At the same time, it would be unprecedented for an operational torrent site to share user information with copyright holders. Our initial suspicions couldn’t be backed up and neither YTS nor the movie companies’ lawyer was willing to share further details. However, a recent court filing confirms what happened. A few days ago, the movie companies submitted a motion for a default judgment against the army veteran, who failed to respond in court. This motion again mentions the evidence from YTS’s database. “Defendant registered for an account with the YTS website using a specific email address ‘[email protected]’ and logged into the YTS website using this email address from IP address 72.130.106.50 to download torrent files of Plaintiffs’ Works,” the motion reads. Data Verified by YTS Operator In addition, the rightsholders’ lawyer adds that this data was ‘verified’ by the same YTS operator who previously settled copyright infringement lawsuits with movie companies. “The data showing this activity was verified by Senthil Segaran – the operator of the YTS website,” he writes. The lawyer references an exhibit where the YTS operator, who’s also the director of the UK company Techmodo Limited, declares under penalty of perjury that the database evidence is “the original or a duplicate of an original record.” The database information on its own doesn’t prove much. However, tied with other information, such as the IP-address that was tracked in the BitTorrent swarm and data gathered from Facebook, a pattern emerges. In any case, it’s certainly “something more.” Movie Companies Demand $97,704.79 The movie companies inform the court that it is highly unlikely that a third party is responsible for the alleged copyright infringements. As such, they hold the army veteran liable and demand $97,704.79 in statutory damages. This is a substantial amount, but according to the movie companies’ lawyer, it’s only a fraction of the number of downloads in the torrent swarm multiplied by the retail price of the films. That would be nearly $3 million. “Thus, despite Defendant being liable for $2,995,916.28 for the infringements in the World and his, profits, Plaintiff Fallen is only requesting damages of $97,704.79, which is merely 15 percent of the actual damages ($651,365.26) caused by his infringements in the United States and less than 3.3 percent of the actual damages Worldwide,” the motion reads. Privacy Concerns What stands out most, in this case, is the involvement of YTS’ operator in a lawsuit against a user of the site. We don’t know how much data YTS has shared but it’s something users of the site must now keep in mind. YTS previously informed us that users have the option to use fake email addresses and can also prevent their download histories from being tracked in the future by changing a setting. However, for army veteran Mical Mesot, that advice comes too late. The odds appear to be stacked against the defendant in this case but it’s still up to the court to decide if statutory damages are justified, and if so, the suggested amount is appropriate. A copy of the movie companies’ motion for a default judgment against Mical Mesot is available here (pdf) Source
  9. A group of movie companies has named a US army veteran as a pirating user of the popular torrent site YTS. The site hasn't commented on how the movie companies got access to its user data but the site's operator stresses that people can take several precautions to increase their privacy. In recent years, YTS.mx has become one of the most-used torrent sites, serving millions of visitors every day. The site can be used without registering an account. However, those who sign up get some extra features, such as an option to bookmark titles. These added benefits can be handy but a few months ago we learned that they also come with risks. Movie Companies Target YTS Users At the start of the year, a group of movie companies filed lawsuits against alleged YTS users. In doing so, they relied on information that appeared to come directly from the YTS user database. The timing of these lawsuits was interesting. They were filed around the same time the alleged operator of YTS signed a settlement deal with the same movie companies, agreeing to pay a substantial settlement fee. This remarkable settlement allowed YTS to remain online. The movie companies, including the makers of films such as “Hellboy” and “Rambo: Last Blood,” demanded that the site removed their films, which is indeed what happened. By targeting YTS users directly the filmmakers were looking for more settlements. Instead of merely targeting an IP-address they had more information too, such as an email address and a download history list, which presumably comes from the YTS database. Army Veteran Named as Defendant In one of these lawsuits, the defendant was recently identified as Mr. Mesot, a Hawaiian army veteran, who’s currently pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Hawaii. “Upon information and belief, Defendant worked for over 20 years in the United States Army performing technical inspections and maintenance,” the movie companies state, providing more background information. While the rightsholders already had the man’s email address months ago, they still needed a subpoena to compel Internet provider Charter to give up a name. The ISP shared this information recently which allowed the movie companies to officially name Mr. Mesot as the defendant this month. YTS Database Information In addition to tracking the defendant’s IP-address through public torrent swarms, the amended complaint also shows a copy of user database information, which appears to come from YTS. “As shown in Exhibit ‘4’, Defendant used the YTS account to download a torrent file associated with the Work Rambo V Last Blood from one or more computing devices under his control on Nov. 30, 2019 at 01:29:50 UTC,” the complaint reads. YTS has never officially confirmed that it shared user information with the movie companies but based on the provided evidence, it certainly appears that way. YTS Shares Privacy Suggestions When we reached out to the site last week the operator didn’t have any further details on the alleged handover of data. However, YTS indirectly confirmed it by pointing out that users can wipe their download history and take other privacy precautions. “As for the user’s privacy, they do not have to confirm their e-mail address,” YTS informed us, noting that the address is only needed to recover a lost password. “Also, from their profile settings, they have the option to disable their own downloads history, if they wish,” YTS added. We can confirm it’s entirely possible to sign up for a YTS account with a non-existent email address. Also, there is an option to disable the download history in the profile settings. “It is very important for any user to use a commercial VPN to download torrents. It is a must. Otherwise, they have a lot of problems,” YTS noted. While a VPN can indeed help, it can still lead to trouble when movie companies have access to private data. As we reported earlier this year, movie companies also sued a YTS user who was using a VPN. In any case, signing up with YTS using an easily traceable email address doesn’t sound like a smart move. A copy of the amended complaint naming Mr. Mesot as the YTS user who downloaded pirated content is available here (pdf) Source
  10. Increasingly, homepages of popular pirate sites are disappearing from search engines. In some cases, however, search engines help pirate brands to stand out. Bing, for example, highlights YTS movies with a fancy poster reel and it even manages to spot some full-length pirate releases on YouTube and the Internet Archive. For years, entertainment industry groups have been frustrated by the fact that “infringing sites” show up in search results. In fact, some see search engines as a fertile breeding ground for new pirates, as they can direct new users to unofficial sites. Most attention goes out to Google, which is the market leader, but Microsoft’s Bing certainly isn’t ignored. During the first half of 2020, copyright holders asked the search engine to remove over 66 million URLs. Bing has accepted the majority of these requests, over 99.77% to be precise. The company obviously wants to avoid copyright troubles where it can, but sometimes, its own automated features contradict this mission. In the past, we have covered how Google’s algorithmic features inadvertently promoted pirate brands, and this week we noticed that there are similar problems at Bing. Bing Features YTS Torrents When we searched for the term ‘YTS,’ the brand used by one of the largest torrent sites, Bing returned intriguing results. While the most popular YTS site was noticeably absent from the top spot, an eye-catching reel of movie posters showed up. This presentation was also used by Google in the past but was removed after it was picked up in the news. However, where Google never linked the movie posters to torrent sites, Bing does. Clicking on any of the images featured in the movie reel will lead directly to a YTS site, where people can download the torrent. So one could say that these catchy posters are advertising torrent downloads. It doesn’t stop there either. When we scroll down -though still on the first page- another movie reel shows up, this time for the more popular and controversial YTS.mx site. Again, the movie posters are linked to the torrent download pages. To top it off, Bing also links to a “YTS” video reel, which links to a dedicated video search. That’s quite intriguing as well. YTS Releases on YouTube, the Internet Archive, and More The video results don’t show any torrents, since these can’t be streamed from most sites, but a search for YTS movies does link to pirated movies on YouTube and the Internet Archive. These are not the dreaded fake videos that are floating around, but actual full-length pirated films. Bing can’t really be blamed for that of course, but the difference to Google is striking. Where Bing shows links to pirated movies, Google features videos that show people how to download from YTS. We’re not really sure which one is better, or worse. Also, after the first YouTube and Internet Archive links, Bing’s video search lists films from the pirate streaming site ytsmovies.to. We certainly haven’t seen these on Google. In summary, we could say that Bing offers exactly what users want. But whether copyright holders will be happy with that is doubtful. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the search engine follows in Google’s footsteps and removes the feature in the near future. Just like many popular pirate sites are slowly vanishing from the top search results. Source: TorrentFreak
  11. The makers of the film 'Angel Has Fallen' have filed a lawsuit against seventeen alleged pirates. According to the complaint, several defendants used the VPN service 'Private Internet Access,' which can expect to be subpoenaed. That effort will likely be fruitless as the VPN doesn't keep any logs. However, with help from information shared by torrent site YTS, users are still at risk. Millions of Internet users around the world use a VPN to protect their privacy online. Another key benefit is that VPNs hide users’ true IP-address, making them more anonymous. This prevents third-party monitoring outfits from carrying out unwanted snooping. This is one of the reasons why many torrent users have a VPN installed. Instead of displaying their own IP-address in torrent swarms, the VPN IP-address will show up. And when the provider doesn’t keep any logs, that address can’t be traced back to a single user. Lawsuit Targets Pirating VPN Users Such a setup seems secure, but it hasn’t prevented the makers of the action movie ‘Angel Has Fallen’ from suing several anonymous VPN users. In a recent lawsuit filed at a federal court in Colorado, the company lists fourteen alleged pirates that used an IP-address of the VPN service Private Internet Access, also . “Upon information and belief, Defendants DOES 3-5, 7-10 and 12-17 registered for paid accounts for Virtual Private Network (‘VPN’) service with the Colorado Internet Service Provider Private Internet Access,” the complaint reads. The lawsuit in question lists the defendants as Does, which means that their true identities are unknown. However, attorney Kerry Culpepper, who represents Fallen Productions in this matter, hopes to find out more through third-party subpoenas. Info From YTS User Database The case relies in part on information from the YTS user database that was shared by the operator of the site earlier this year, as part of a settlement. This includes download details of several users, as well as their IP-addresses and email addresses. The attorney has requested subpoenas to compel email providers, Internet providers, and Private Internet Access for more personal information. In the past, we have seen that Microsoft and ISPs such as Comcast will hand over what they have, but with a VPN this isn’t as straightforward. PIA’s Confirmed No-Log Policy PIA has a so-called ‘no logs’ policy which means that it can’t link a VPN IP-address and a timestamp to a unique user. This policy has been repeatedly tested and confirmed in courts. Culpepper informs TorrentFreak that he will request a subpoena regardless. He argues that the use of a VPN shows that people were aware of their illegal activity. “It is relevant because it shows they tried to hide their activities. It shows consciousness of the illegal activities,” Culpepper says, while pointing out where PIA warned YTS users that they were at risk. PIA’s Jurisdiction Angle In addition, by signing the terms of service, PIA users also subject themselves to the jurisdiction of Courts in Colorado. This is relevant in this case because not all defendants are from the western U.S. state. “Most importantly, if they signed up for an account with PIA they agreed to jurisdiction in Colorado no matter where they are. Most of the PIA users were not in Colorado,” Culpepper notes. All defendants are accused of downloading a torrent titled “Angel Has Fallen (2019) [BluRay] [720p] [YTS.LT],” as well as other copyright-infringing content that isn’t specified. Defendants Still at Risk According to the complaint all defendants have received at least one DMCA notice. Fifteen of them were also contacted repeatedly on their known email address with cease and desist notices and settlement offers, but these were ignored. With this lawsuit Fallen Productions hopes to uncover the identities of the people behind these IP- and email addresses. TorrentFreak contacted PIA for a comment on the lawsuit. The company said that it hasn’t received a subpoena yet and reiterated that it can’t identify individual users. “Private Internet Access has not received a subpoena in regards to this case. Even if we do, our response will be the same as always: PIA does not log VPN user activity,” a PIA spokesperson informed us. That was also confirmed in more detail earlier this year in our annual VPN overview. “There are no logs kept for any person or entity to match an IP address and a timestamp to a current or former user of our service,” PIA said at the time. That said, defendants are still at risk, as their email addresses are known as well. That doesn’t prove anything, as YTS allowed members to sign up with a fake email, but it could lead to people being identified eventually, without PIA’s involvement. If anything, this case shows that using a VPN only offers limited anonymity. When people use a VPN irregularly and leave other information behind, such as email addresses, they may eventually be exposed anyway. — A copy of Fallen Production’s complaint, filed as the US District Court in Colorado, is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  12. A federal court in Arizona has ordered a local couple to pay $35,000 for sharing pirated copies of the films “Lost Child” and “Saving Christmas.” This includes $5,000 for distributing the movies with altered “copyright management information,” such as the pirate term YTS. The couple failed to defend in court but repeatedly indicated, in rather profane language, that they're not planning to pay a dime. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of people have been accused of sharing pirated movies through BitTorrent. Quite often, these cases end up in private and undisclosed settlements. This was also the plan when Kerry Culpepper reached out to Mrs. Parks, a woman in Arizona whose email address was linked to downloading pirated copies of the films “Lost Child” and “Saving Christmas.” Settlement Offer The movie companies were able to make this connection with help from the user database of popular torrent site YTS. This information was shared as part of an earlier settlement and is used by attorney Kerry Culpepper to negotiate settlements in and out of court. Mrs. Parks, who allegedly downloaded the film “Lost Child,” was given the chance to resolve her case for $1,000 in four separate payments. If the first three payments arrived on time, the final $250 would be waived. This same tactic is being used on dozens if not hundreds of alleged YTS users. It’s not clear how many people settle, but Mrs. Parks and her husband Mr. Dabney initially seemed willing to take the deal, which was confirmed over the phone and via email on June 8. Things Escalated After this initial agreement, communications between both sides went downhill. No payments were made and the husband made it very clear that the movie companies shouldn’t expect to be compensated anytime soon, accusing their lawyer of being “a fraud and a scam” while adding all sorts of profanities. The movie companies and their lawyer didn’t seem impressed. Instead of backing off, they went to court, accusing the Arizona couple of copyright infringement and requesting damages. The husband and wife received the legal paperwork but that didn’t change their tone. While they failed to respond in court, a person who identified himself as Dabney did leave a voicemail message at the attorney’s office. “Hey this is case number you can suck my f*cking d*ck. Richard Dabney out in Arizona. I just got your papers. I don’t care if you sue me again for this. I don’t care if you call the cops. You’re gonna lose. I’m gonna win. Either way you slice it, Mrs. Kerry S. Culpepper is going down,” the message warned. Default Judgment Without a proper defense in court, the movie companies went ahead and requested a default judgment earlier this month. They asked the court for $15,000 in statutory copyright infringement damages for each movie. In addition, they requested another $5,000 for the use of altered copyright management information. The second request isn’t something we have seen very often. It refers to section 1202 of the DMCA which prohibits people from using false or altered copyright management information. In this case, that refers to the “YTS” tag that was added. This week, US District Judge Susan Bolton granted the default judgment. This means that the couple will have to pay a total of $35,000 in damages. This includes the claim for the altered copyright information. “Defendants have willfully directly infringed and contributed to infringement of the Plaintiffs’ copyright protected motion pictures Saving Christmas and Lost Child,” the order reads. “Defendants knowingly and with the intent to induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal infringement of the copyright protected Works distributed copyright management information (‘CMI’) that falsely included the wording ‘YTS’,” Judge Bolton adds. More Than Damages Alone In addition to the damages, the defendants will also have to pay over $5,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. The default judgment further includes a permanent injunction which states that all software used to “exchange unlicensed media content” should be removed. This also includes the torrent software that was used. Culpepper informs TorrentFreak that his clients are happy with the outcome. However, they would have preferred to settle it out of court. “Although we are pleased with the Court’s decision, it’s unfortunate that the Defendants threw away an opportunity to resolve this matter privately and save everyone time and money. My clients just want people to purchase their movies legally,” Culpepper says. Whether his clients will indeed get the money has yet to be seen. — A copy of US District Judge Susan Bolton’s order granting the default judgment is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  13. A pirated copy of the documentary "Rise of the Trolls" warns users about the potential dangers of using YTS and ExtraTorrent. The warning, which deserves some nuance, refers to the fact that YTS shared information from its user database with film companies, which was used to target alleged pirates with lawsuits and settlements. In recent years, YTS.mx has become one of the most-used torrent sites, serving millions of visitors every day. The site can be used without registering an account. However, those who sign up get some extra features, such as an option to bookmark titles. These added benefits can be handy but we learned that having an account also comes with risks. Movie Companies Target YTS Users In recent months, a group of movie companies filed several lawsuits against alleged YTS users. In several of these cases, they relied on information that came directly from the YTS user database, including email addresses and download histories. The information was shared by the YTS operator as part of a confidential settlement agreement. This revelation came as a shock to the affected users and was harshly criticized by other torrent sites, several of which decided to ban YTS torrents. Pirate Release Warns Downloaders Today, we can add another episode to this unfolding drama after a torrent for the documentary “Rise of the Trolls” appeared online with the addition of a rather unusual message. Roughly three minutes into the video, the following warning appears. “If you have downloaded this from either YTS or Extratorrent you can expect problems with the authorities. They cooperate with the film industry, more information can be found on Torrentfreak,” it reads. The shorturl suggests that the link might point to more information but when we tried to access it this morning it redirected to the shorturl homepage. However, we assume that it’s supposed to provide more detail on the YTS database sharing issue. The torrent, shared by SimplyTheBOSS, was uploaded to various torrent sites and copied by even more. This includes the popular ‘ExtraTorrent’ site extratorrents.it, that was formerly operating as Extratorrent.ag. This, understandably, raised questions among the site’s users as the comment below illustrates. TorrentFreak wasn’t in any way involved or consulted on the matter and the warning itself deserves some nuance. Nuance Required ExtraTorrent has frequently been linked to YTS and some believe that it is operated by the same ‘group’ of people. However, we’re not aware of any ExtraTorrent database info that was shared with film companies. Such information hasn’t been brought up in lawsuits either. Also, the warning in the video references problems with the authorities. This is not necessarily the case as the YTS-related lawsuits are all civil cases between film companies and the alleged pirates. There is no law enforcement agency involved, yet. The warning is correct by stating that YTS cooperated with film companies but whether they still share database information is unknown. We previously learned that it was a one-time arrangement, but details about the ‘deal’ were never officially made public. That said, many people have lost trust in the site, no matter what happens in the future, and this warning notice underlines that. The Troll Threat To find out more, TorrentFreak reached out to the uploader of one of the torrents but he or she preferred not to comment publicly on the matter. The same warning may also appear in other releases, but we have only seen it in the “Ride of the Trolls” torrent so far. The makers of the documentary have nothing to do with the lawsuits but their title was likely chosen for a reason. The film companies that go after individual pirates are often referred to as “copyright trolls,” after all. Also, the documentary discusses topics such as online anonymity and freedom on the internet. Finally, it is worth noting that anyone who downloads content via BitTorrent can potentially be tracked, no matter what site they use. Without a VPN, one’s public IP-address is visible to anyone, including copyright holders. The YTS database information gave filmmakers extra evidence though. They used this in various lawsuits but also sent settlement offers to YTS users directly, using the listed email address. Source: TorrentFreak
  14. The operator of YTS.ws has agreed to pay $200,000 in damages for using the YTS trademark without permission. While YTS is widely associated with torrent sites, the trademark was recently scooped up by a Hawaiian company that uses it to protect its rights. In addition to paying damages, YTS.ws will soon become unavailable as well. Brands are important for most businesses. They identify a service or product and are often associated with certain qualities. This is no different in the piracy ecosystem. Brands are essential there as well but are not always what they seem. Given the nature of pirate sites, brand copying is widespread. For example, EZTV is not operated by the original EZTV group, and the same goes for Torrentz, ExtraTorrent, NYAA, Popcorn Time, and many others. With the original operators gone or pushed aside, others have stepped in and taken over. It is easy for copycats to jump in as there are no trademarks that offer protection and pirate sites are unlikely to sue each other. However, over the past weeks, trademark disputes have become a thing in piracy circles, leading to unprecedented outcomes. In a consent judgment filed at a federal court in Hawaii this week, the operator of YTS.ws agreed to sign a consent judgment over his unauthorized use of the YTS trademark. YTS is the most popular torrent site online, which itself ‘copied’ the name from the defunct YTS group. However, this trademark claim isn’t being made by a torrent site. Instead, the lawsuit was filed by Kerry Culpepper, a well-known anti-piracy lawyer. He works for the company 42 Ventures which registered several piracy-related trademarks a few months ago, including Popcorn Time, Showbox, and YTS. These trademarks are used to pressure piracy-related sites and services to pay settlements. It’s a new scheme that raises all kinds of legal questions. However, pirate sites and services are not usually fond of litigating cases in court and in this case it’s no different. The owner of YTS.ws, a Russian man named Patrick Petrov, agreed to a settlement-type deal instead. The consent order signed off by US District Court Judge Derrick Watson this week requires Petrov to pay $200,000 in damages. In addition to paying a large sum of money, the YTS.ws operator agreed to a permanent injunction which requires him to stop using the YTS trademark within 30 days and to redirect the domain to a non-infringing site. At the time of writing YTS.ws still operates as one of the many YTS copycats but, based on the agreement, this will change soon. This is the first-ever case where the owner of a copycat pirate site has agreed to pay damages for trademark infringement. It may not be the last, however, as 42 Ventures has sued several other YTS sites as well. Whether the Russian operator of the site will indeed pay $200,000 in damages is unknown. It’s not uncommon to list high damages amounts on paper while a lower amount is agreed upon behind the scenes. A few weeks ago we reported that 42 Ventures had gone after a popular Popcorn Time fork, taking down their Twitter account. This revealed that both parties discussed a settlement to resolve the matter, which would cost the app’s developers ‘just’ $4,900. A copy of the consent judgment agreed and signed by both parties and approved by the federal court is available here (pdf). Source
  15. Pirate sites regularly get into trouble for breaching copyright law. However, a new case filed in Hawaii is of an entirely different order. A well-known anti-piracy lawyer has filed a lawsuit against several YTS sites because the company he represents obtained a similarly-named trademark this year. The complaint mostly targets 'clones' and the real YTS is not named. The Hawaiian company ’42 Ventures’ doesn’t immediately ring a bell with most torrent users. However, when we say that it owns the trademarks for ‘YTS’ and ‘Popcorn Time,’ interests will pique. Founded last year, the company doesn’t operate a pirate site. On the contrary, it’s represented by Kerry Culpepper, a well-known anti-piracy lawyer who works with several Hollywood film companies. Following its inception, 42 Ventures registered several piracy-related trademarks which it uses to target pirate sites and apps, including a popular Popcorn Time fork. The lawyer has used trademark complaints to suspend Twitter accounts, offering to lift the claims in return for a settlement. As the trademark owner 42 Ventures can do this. However, the method is unusual, to say the least, and some wonder whether it would hold up in court. The Popcorn Time dispute was never litigated though and the developers didn’t pay a settlement either. The Twitter handle remains suspended. A few days ago another trademark issue popped up. This time, 42 Ventures went directly to court where it filed an infringement lawsuit against the operators of YTS.ws, YTS.ms, YST.lt, YTS.tl, YTSag.me, YTS.ae, YTSmovies.cc and YTS-ag.com. “Defendants distributed and/or streamed motion pictures in violation of US Copyright law to numerous individuals in Hawaii and the United States via their interactive websites under names identical and/or confusingly similar to Plaintiff’s registered trademark,” 42 Ventures writes. The Hawaiian company obtained the YTS trademark earlier this year but wasn’t the first to use the YTS name of course. The name was first used by the original YIFY group which shut down years ago. Since then, others have used the brand, with YTS.mx turning it into one of the most-visited torrent sites. Interestingly, YTS.mx is not mentioned in this lawsuit. This is noteworthy not just because it’s by far the largest YTS site, but also because 42 Ventures’ lawyer previously reached settlements with the torrent platform. TorrentFreak contacted the lawyer to ask why YTS.mx was not targeted, but he prefers not to comment on the matter. We also asked how 42 Ventures uses the YTS trademark, but this question remains unanswered as well. The legal paperwork doesn’t provide any further detail either. 42 Ventures simply write the following: “Plaintiff distributes licensed content to the public from a plurality of means including, but not limited to, websites.” We previously learned that the company owns and operates Popcorntime4u.com through which it licenses and promotes YouTube videos. This site also includes a YTS link at the bottom, which links to the free app generator Appsgeyser. Perhaps that how 42 Ventures ‘uses’ the trademark. Whether any of the defendants will show up in court is uncertain. The complaint lists them as being in Serbia, Russia, India and China, and all face a damages claim of $2 million for willful trademark infringement. In addition to the damages, 42 Ventures also requests an injunction to prevent third-party intermediaries from facilitating access to the domains. This also applies to hosting companies, search engines, and domain registrars, which makes it likely that these sites will disappear if the injunction is granted. A copy of the trademark infringement lawsuit filed by 42 Ventures at a Hawaii federal court is available here (pdf). Source
  16. Chrome and Firefox are blocking direct access to the movie download pages of popular torrent site YTS. According to Google's safe browsing report, YTS.mx is a "deceptive site" that may trick visitors into doing dangerous things. The warning is likely the result of malicious advertisements. Google regularly checks websites for harmful and malicious content to help people avoid running into dangerous situations. This Safe Browsing service is used by popular browsers such as Chrome and Firefox. When a site is flagged, they throw up a warning before people attempt to visit risky sites. This is also what’s happening to YTS.mx at the moment, which is one of the most popular torrent sites around. While the site’s homepage can be visited just fine, navigating to a torrent detail page throws up the following warning in Chrome. “Deceptive site ahead. Attackers on yts.mx may trick you into doing something dangerous like installing software or revealing your personal information (for example, passwords, phone numbers, or credit cards).” Firefox shows a similar alert and also prevents people from going directly to the download pages. In both browsers, people can, however, accept the risk and visit the page they were looking for. It’s not clear what the exact problem is but the Chrome warning mentions that YTS was caught phishing. This is also reflected in Google’s Safe Browsing report, which states the torrent site recently tried to trick visitors into sharing personal info or downloading software. Whether any of this is intentional remains a question. It seems more likely that the warning was triggered by some type of malicious advertisement. While we don’t encounter these kinds of warnings on pirate sites often, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen them. Similar issues have affected other sites, including The Pirate Bay. These warnings generally disappear when the site operator takes appropriate action. We have checked several other popular pirate sites for similar warnings but this particular issue seems to be limited to YTS. The other sites we looked into were all reported as clean. However, Google has a caveat when it comes to The Pirate Bay. Instead of reporting the torrent site as safe or unsafe, Google asks users to check a more specific URL than the homepage. “It’s hard to provide a simple safety status for sites like thepiratebay.org, which have a lot of content. Sites that are generally safe sometimes contain some unsafe content. For more detailed safety info, check a specific directory or webpage,” Google notes. While we expect YTS to resolve the matter in due course, being flagged by Google is not without risk. A few years ago the Safe Browsing team announced that “repeat offenders” will remain flagged for 30 days at least, which will seriously harm traffic. Source
  17. Two movie companies have filed a lawsuit accusing an Arizona couple of downloading and sharing its movies through the YTS website. The husband and wife pair initially appeared to resolve the issue with an out-of-court settlement. However, instead of paying up, the husband lashed out in a tirade against the movie companies' lawyer, while accusing him of spying on their three-year-old kid. Piracy warnings come in all shapes and sizes. While some notices have no teeth, others should be handled with extreme caution. Typically, alarm bells should go off when a letter is sent by a lawyer who knows who you are. One such warning was sent to Mrs. Parks in early June, both by first class mail and e-mail. The Arizona woman is one of the people whose personal details were shared by the torrent site YTS, an issue we addressed in detail earlier. Exposed by YTS Database Info This YTS database ended up in the hands of anti-piracy attorney Kerry Culpepper, who’s actively exploiting it. The lawyer represents several movie companies and has used the information in the database to request out of court settlements from pirates. Mrs. Parks, who allegedly downloaded the film “Lost Child,” was given the chance to resolve her case for $1,000 in four separate payments. If the first three payments arrived on time, the final $250 would be waived. This same tactic is being used on dozens if not hundreds of alleged YTS users. It’s not clear how many people settle, but Mrs. Parks and her husband Mr. Dabney initially seemed willing to take the deal, which was confirmed over the phone and via email on June 8. Agreement to Settle for $1,000 After this initial agreement, communications stopped for a while. Parks and Dabney never sent back the signed settlement agreement and a reminder on August 31 remained unanswered. This course of events was written up in a complaint filed at a federal court in Arizona yesterday. The plan was to resolve the matter outside of court, even after the same IP-address shared another movie last week. “On or about September 21, 2020, after still having received no communication from Defendants, Plaintiffs’ counsel determined that the same IP address Defendants used to download the torrent file for Lost Child (47.216.212.227) was used to download and share copies of the motion picture Saving Christmas,” Culpepper informs the court. The complaint lists both Mrs. Parks and Mr. Dabney as the defendants. They are accused of using one and the same YTS account and allegedly downloaded the film “Lost Child” last year and “Saving Christmas” a few days ago, after which the attorney sent another settlement request. “On September 21, 2020, Plaintiffs’ counsel sent Defendant Dabney a demand by email for the full $1000 of the settlement agreement and an additional $750 as damages for infringing the motion picture Saving Christmas,” the complaint reads. Husband Responds With Tirade After weeks of silence, Mr. Dabney responded to that request. He was not open to any settlements, however, and accused the lawyer of being “a fraud and a scam,” threatening to take action against the lawyer and his “fake law firm.” The movie companies’ attorney responded by confirming that he would indeed file a lawsuit, reminding the alleged pirate that he wouldn’t get far in court with such scandalous language. That didn’t change the man’s tone, however, on the contrary. “Look here. You will NOT get a dime out out [sic] me. You think that language was bad you ain’t seen sh*t fa**ot. That’s not a threat that’s a f*ckin promise. Put that in your records f*ckin bitch ni**a. Dude with a girls [sic] name. Get the f*ck out here and leave me family alone,” he replied. In a follow-up email, Mr. Dabney further urged the attorney to “…stop looking at [his] IP address…” while accusing him of “…watching [his] 3 year old through the camera…” Case Goes to Court Instead of backing off, the attorney quoted these emails in the complaint he filed at the US District Court of Arizona. Representing the owners of the films “Lost Child” and “Saving Christmas,” he accuses the two defendants of both direct and contributory copyright infringement. In addition, the complaint also includes a “breach of contract” allegation against Mrs. Parks, who allegedly failed to honor the settlement agreement that was agreed on earlier. In court, the husband and wife now face damages claims that may end up being substantially higher than the original settlement. In addition to the damages claim, the complaint also requests compensation for legal costs and attorneys’ fees. — A copy of the complaint, filed on behalf of Santa Files Productions LLC, and Laundry Films Inc is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  18. One of the most common recurring questions in respect of downloading, sharing and even streaming, is whether service X or platform Y is 'safe' to use, from a copyright-infringement perspective. Recent developments show that no matter how safe users think they are, security is something that should never be taken for granted. When mainstream piracy was in its infancy two decades ago, the majority of file-sharers had no idea that they were even at risk from snoopers. Thanks to a massive wave of lawsuits from the RIAA in 2003, that perception soon changed. Somewhere around 2004, the MPAA embarked on a parallel campaign to drive the message home to pirates that the Internet is not anonymous. “If you can think you can get away with illegally swapping movies, you’re wrong,” the ‘You Can Click But You Can’t Hide’ posters read. “Illegally trafficking in movies is not just a dirty little secret between you and your computer. You leave a trail.” The MPAA also gave unquestionably good advice: the only way to guarantee that users weren’t caught for sharing pirated movies was not to share them at all. Of course, millions didn’t listen and by the time that VPNs really started to take off around 2006/2007, file-sharers were laughing into their keyboards. The biggest threat back then (as it is now) was sharing torrents without protection. Torrents are public and any rightsholder can monitor them before filing a lawsuit for damages. But by 2009 or so, when streaming sites had already embedded themselves as the next big thing, a whole new click-and-play generation had become complacent again, lulled to sleep by the perceived security offered by third-party hosting sources. Today, millions of people are streaming content via apps and so-called Kodi boxes, mostly with zero protection. The idea, if people even consider it, is that ‘pirate’ sites can’t or won’t give up their information. That is a dangerous assumption. As recently documented here on TF, there is a worrying situation playing out on YTS, one of the Internet’s most popular torrent indexes. Taking all the facts at hand and adding in some educated guesses, it seems that after being subjected to massive legal pressure, the owner of that torrent resource may be handing information on some of its users to movie companies. To many file-sharers, that might seem an outrageous proposition but when faced with multiple six-digit claims for damages, no one should expect anything different. Once the identity of the site’s operator became known to the movie company plaintiffs, the pressure seems to have increased to the point that skin-saving might now be the order of the day. That seems to have been the case at Cotomovies as well. The thing is, if a torrent site or app developer can be pressured in this way, so can any other site holding potentially incriminating user data. There can be little doubt that many file-hosting and streaming platforms carry detailed logs and if the proverbial hits the fan, they could be handed over. Even some so-called debrid download sites, that appear to offer enhanced security, state that they carry download logs for up to a year. The bottom line is that if users are expecting pirate sites (or even gray area sites like the now-defunct Openload) not to store their personal information or carry download and upload logs, they are effectively banking on a third-party’s security and their determination not to buckle under the most severe pressure imaginable. In 2020 and after almost two decades of aggressive litigation, it’s perhaps surprising that anyone is taking such things for granted. But people do. They use their regular email addresses to sign up for questionable services, access all kinds of pirate sites without using a VPN, use their personal PayPal accounts for payments and donations, and generally fail to take seriously what could be a very expensive exercise in complacency. As an example, just last week a user on Reddit reported that a copyright troll in the US had tracked him down with evidence that he’d shared 20 movies. To put that into settlement terms (to make a lawsuit go away) that could mean paying out $20,000, $40,000 or even $60,000 – a potentially life-changing or indeed life-ruining sum. A decade-and-a-half ago the MPAA’s “Click But Can’t Hide” campaign declared that the Internet is not anonymous. It was accurate (at least by default) but many people continue to believe that security isn’t important. The truth is, the Internet is getting less anonymous every single year and rightsholders know how to exploit that. Like the apparent YTS fiasco, expect more preventable ‘surprises’ in the months and years to come. Source
  19. Popular torrent site YTS has 'settled' another piracy lawsuit, this time with seven movie companies. The site's operator and an associated business agreed to a consent judgment totaling $1,050,000 in damages. YTS removed the relevant movie torrents from the site but remains online. The site's users are not in the clear though, and risk being sued as well. Traditionally, when copyright holders go after pirate sites their main mission is to shut them down permanently. This strategy has resulted in the demise of thousands of websites over the past decade or so. In some cases these shutdowns are easy, only requiring a cease and desist order to be delivered to the owner’s home address. However, there are also prolonged legal battles, such as the one against isoHunt. In Hawaii, a group of movie companies, tied to films such as ‘Hitman’s Bodyguard,’ ‘Hunter Killer’ and ‘Mechanic Resurrection,’ has taken a different path. They sued the operator of the popular torrent site YTS.mx last year but are allowing the site to stay online, under certain conditions. The tactic previously became public when attorney Kerry Culpepper struck a deal between YTS and other movie companies. This allowed YTS to stay online as long as it paid damages and made sure that their films were not listed at the torrent site. Now, a group of seven related movie companies has agreed to a similar deal. In a consent judgment, signed at the Hawaii federal court a few days ago, the torrent site operators agreed to pay $150,000 to each company, which amounts to a total of $1,050,000 in damages. The consent judgment lists a person named Senthil Vijay Segaran and the company Techmodo as the YTS operators. In addition to paying over $1 million in piracy damages, they also agreed to remove the torrents of the movie companies, and prevent these from being reuploaded. While a monetary settlement is not unprecedented, it is worth mentioning that YTS is being allowed to continue to operate as usual. Aside from removing torrents that point to the seven movies, nothing appears to have changed. YTS still lists hundreds of other pirated movies. This pragmatic stance is understandable. However, it does seem odd, especially considering the recent anti-piracy push from Millenium Media co-president Jonathan Yunger, who urged US Congress towards more stringent anti-piracy legislation. “Piracy is an existential threat to our business and the livelihoods of all the individual creatives who work so hard to bring entertainment to audiences,” Yunger told Congress last month. This is worth mentioning since Yunger’s company produced many of the movies that are at the base of this lawsuit. In fact, most of the companies that signed a deal with YTS are affiliates of Millenium Media. TorrentFreak spoke to attorney Kerry Culpepper, who informed us that his goal is to represent his clients, not the major studios. “I don’t represent the larger studios, so I have no authority to make any demands on their behalf to a website. If the piracy website removes my clients’ movies, agrees to adopt filters to keep them from popping back up and agrees to pay damages I consider it a victory.” “If those larger studios want me to make a demand on their behalf, they need to hire me,” Culpepper adds. YTS.mx today We also do know that these consent judgments are not the end of the story. At least not for YTS users. After the first deal was announced a few months ago, the movie companies started filing lawsuits against YTS users. This included some who were using a VPN. The associated complaints further included information that appeared to have come directly from the torrent site’s database. So, it’s possible that the rightsholders received more from YTS than money alone. Details from the user database perhaps? That would be in line with earlier enforcement efforts, where the film companies obtained user information from the operator of the piracy app CotoMovies. TorrentFreak spoke to the attorney of the movie companies this week who confirmed that YTS users are indeed at risk. However, in recent weeks, no new lawsuits have been filed as far as we can see. We will keep a close eye on these and other cases to see if more details emerge. In addition to the proposed consent judgment against YTS, the seven movie companies also agreed to a similar deal with the operator of YIFYmovies.is. This torrent site was considerably smaller and shut down months ago, however, the operator also agreed to pay $1,050,000 in damages, on paper. Here is a copy of the consent judgment, signed by the YTS operator as well as Venice PI LLC, MON LLC, Millennium Funding Inc., Bodyguard Productions Inc., TBV Productions LLC, UN4 Productions Inc., and Hunter Killer Productions Inc. Source
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