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  1. The popular torrent meta-search engine Torrentz2 is suffering some technical problems, it seems. For more than a day the site has been returning a "503 Service Unavailable" error which indicates that the server is overloaded, possibly due to a DDoS attack. With millions of regular visitors, Torrentz2 is without a doubt the most popular torrent meta-search engine on the Internet. The site took this spot from the original Torrentz site, which shut down unexpectedly during the summer of 2016. Since then, not much has changed. The site has continued to operate quietly like its predecessor by indexing and linking to dozens of millions of links on external torrent sites. Torrentz2’s Domain Issues Earlier this year the site suffered a major setback. In June, the official Torrentz2.eu domain name was suspended by the EURid registry, an action that was taken following an order from the Belgian Public Prosecutor in Brussels. Torrentz2 swiftly responded and moved to Torrentz2.is, while adding several backup domains such as Torrentz.pl and Torrentsmirror.com. While these domains still work fine, torrents are hard to find at the moment. 503 Service Unavailable For more than a day, Torrentz2 has been returning a “503 Service Unavailable” error, as shown in the screenshot below. “503 Service Unavailable” is an HTTP status code that typically indicates that the server of a website is overloaded. This is often a temporary issue but, in this case, it’s taking unusually long. TorrentFreak reached out to the operator of Torrentz2 to ask whether the problem will be resolved in the near future, but we have yet to hear back. Without an official comment, we can only speculate as to the reason for the ‘downtime’. It seems likely, however, that it is of a technical nature. That could include DDoS attacks, which are not uncommon for torrent sites. Torrentz2 uses Cloudflare, which generally protects servers from DDoS attacks. However, if attackers know the origin IP-address, they can bypass that protection layer. There doesn’t appear to be a connection to the domain issues from earlier this year, which appeared to be linked to Hollywood. Torrentz2’s main .is domain, which is managed by Iceland’s ISNIC registry, is functioning properly. https://torrentfreak.com/torrentz2-suffers-prolonged-downtime-and-returns-a-503-error-201127/
  2. The Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance, which counts major TV broadcasters, sports rightsholders, and content security companies among its members, is seeking enhanced anti-piracy tools from the European Union. These include real-time stream takedown tools, toughened repeat-infringer policies, plus 'take down means stay down' measures. While groups such as the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment are mentioned frequently for their widespread anti-piracy activities, the Europe-based Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAPA) is also engaged in key work to reduce online infringement. Counting broadcasting giants BT, Sky, Canal+, beIN, DAZN, and OSN among its members, AAPA also plays home to major sports companies including the Premier League, Serie A, LaLiga and DFL. Not to mention powerful anti-piracy technology companies such as Irdeto, Nagra, and Viaccess-Orca. With a key interest in preventing streaming piracy, much of it consisting of live events, AAPA members have played a crucial role in many recent pirate IPTV investigations but in common with other organizations with similar goals, the group would like additional tools to make its job easier and more effective. Rapid Growth in Streaming Piracy Demands a Strong Response According to AAPA, its members are concerned by the rapid growth and availability of unlicensed content online and as a result, are seeking assistance from the European Union. One of the group’s first targets is Europe’s planned Digital Services Act (DSA), which rightsholders hope will include strict “know your customer” rules compelling hosting companies, domain registrars, and advertisers, to more closely vet their prospective clients. But for the AAPA, this is only the beginning. No Additional Liability Exceptions, ‘Duty of Care’ Given the nature of its members, AAPA majors on the need to introduce measures to mitigate the growth of pirate IPV operations which, according to the group, represent a “low risk, high return” business model that is being exploited during the coronavirus pandemic as people tend to stay at home. As the availability of illicit content availability soars, AAPA says there has been a lack of quality and response rate from online intermediaries to takedown notices. As a result, the European Commission’s intention to lay down “more stringent” rules is encouraging but “in no event” should that lead to new or broader liability privileges, exemptions, or protection regimes already provided for by existing law. In respect of the DSA, the AAPA is seeking better tools to deal with piracy of live content, which it says is underserved by the current framework. The AAPA says that most of its members’ content is finger-printed and/or watermarked so it is possible to swiftly identify it. That means it may be treated differently, outside current limits. “A proper ‘duty of care’ should apply to the so-called ‘passive platforms’, without putting into question current exemptions applicable to online intermediaries in the e-commerce Directive, it adds. Takedown/Staydown, Rapid Live TV Piracy Blocking In addition to the Know Your Customer proposals, AAPA is seeking the adoption of harmonized “notice and action” procedures, including broader criteria to justify takedown requests, the ability to send multiple links for removal in one notice to avoid delays in processing, and an obligation among platforms and providers to supply clear contact information where requests can be sent. AAPA is also seeking new powers when dealing with live content, which represents a large proportion of its members’ repertoires. The group says there should be an obligation to implement a system for expeditious removal of live pirated content, which should be removed immediately or in any event, no longer than 30 minutes after a complaint. Disputes over whether content should be taken down “should not result in the removal of illegal or potentially illegal content being delayed”, the group adds. In common with other rightsholders that are required to issue repeat takedown notices for what is essentially the same content, AAPA is calling for a takedown/staydown regime, meaning that once content has been removed following an official notice, it should not subsequently reappear on the same platform. Dealing With Repeat Infringers Taking a lead from the United States, AAPA is seeking measures from the EU designed to prevent people from repeatedly infringing copyrighted content. The group is therefore calling for service providers to have clear and published anti-policies that contain deterrent measures for dealing with repeat infringers, including by restricting and/or blocking access to users who have been reported for uploading and even downloading illegal content. Incorporating an additional element of ‘know your customer’, AAPA asks the EU to require that online platforms and services implement “layers of verification” to user accounts (one suggestion is ‘user-fingerprinting’ technology, to prevent pirate services from creating multiple accounts to evade suspensions and blocking. Measures to Tackle ‘Off-Platform’ Infringement According to AAPA, there are problems with platforms like YouTube and Facebook that go beyond pirated content stored on their platforms. In addition, these services also contain material, such as tutorial videos or comment sections, that direct users to off-site resources that allow for the consumption of unlicensed content. In these cases the Copyright Directive doesn’t apply, AAPA warns, so additional action is required. “Measures should be taken at EU level to increase liability and duty of care of online content sharing platforms in this respect, regardless of whether such online content sharing platforms are considered as active or passive hosting service providers.” Broader, More Flexible Injunctions Valid at the EU Level Blocking injunctions that require ISPs to restrict access to named pirate sites and more recently servers involved in the supply of pirate IPTV services have been gaining traction around Europe. However, the AAPA believes that these could be more effective if, in the future, they are not only valid across borders but also have the ability to be issued repertoire-wide. The suggestion appears to be based on the theory that an injunction obtained in one country of the EU should then be enforceable across all 27 countries, with the applicants’ entire catalog of content protected as a result. “[A] central repository/database could be set up for site blocking injunctions issued by member states at the EUIPO. The latter could verify the details of the injunctions and provide translations into all official EU languages. This site-blocking record could then be used as a reference by rightsholders to have ISPs implement the blocking in their local territories,” the AAPA writes. Auditing of Online Platform/Services’ Anti-Piracy Tools Finally, while platforms such as YouTube and Facebook have implemented their own anti-piracy systems (such as Content ID), the AAPA’s members don’t appear to be 100% convinced they can be trusted or operated without bias. As a result, the group is demanding audits to weed out any potential issues. “[C]ontent recognition tools deployed by online platforms to detect illegally uploaded copyright content should be made transparent to an independent authority (at national or European level) and regularly audited to make sure they do not include pro-piracy bias and that they cover the full spectrum of uploaded content with the same conditions,” the AAPA concludes. https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-coalition-seeks-powerful-new-tools-to-tackle-iptv-piracy-in-the-eu-201124/
  3. During the summer, Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider and Pirate Monitor sued YouTube in an attempt to gain access to its Content ID tools. YouTube then fought back, claiming that Pirate Monitor had already proved itself untrustworthy. However, in a motion to dismiss, Pirate Monitor now says that YouTube has provided zero evidence to back up its claims. During the summer, Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider and Virgin Islands-based Pirate Monitor Ltd teamed up to file a class-action lawsuit targeting YouTube. The complaint centered on allegations that YouTube’s copyright infringement mechanisms are deficient, claiming that the company refuses to grant “ordinary creators” access to its sophisticated copyright management tools known as Content ID. During September, YouTube fought back stating that it already goes above and beyond its obligations under the law when dealing with infringing content. The sting in the tail came in the form of additional claims, from YouTube and its owner Google, that Pirate Monitor could not be trusted to use Content ID. According to YouTube, Pirate Monitor deployed “authorized agents” to create bogus YouTube accounts that uploaded hundreds of videos which it later took down using copyright complaints. The alleged goal was to create the impression of mass infringement in support of the class action. Pirate Monitor Fights Back In a motion to dismiss YouTube and Google’s counterclaims, filed on Friday, Pirate Monitor states that YouTube provided no evidence to back up the general claims that the uploaders of the videos in question had anything to do with Pirate Monitor. “The counterclaims contain no factual allegations indicating whether the unidentified individuals were, for example, employees, officers, agents, or independent contractors of Pirate Monitor, or the scope of their authority to purportedly act on Pirate Monitor’s behalf,” the motion reads. “As a result, the Court should disregard Defendants’ conclusory allegation that the unidentified individuals were ‘authorized agents’ of Pirate Monitor as well as their improper references to the unidentified individuals as ‘Pirate Monitor’.” Based on the allegation that the uploaders were “authorized agents” of Pirate Monitor, YouTube previously said that declarations made to the company at the point of upload (that the content was not infringing) amounted to fraud since they breached YouTube’s Terms of Service. Pirate Monitor believes that such serious claims need to be backed up by hard evidence. “A claim of fraud must satisfy the heightened pleading requirements of Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and will be dismissed unless it ‘specif[ies] such facts as the times, dates, places, benefits received, and other details of the alleged fraudulent activity’,” the company writes, adding that information relating to “who, what, when, where and how” must be provided to the court. “Because Defendants fail to offer any well-pleaded facts plausibly showing that the unidentified individuals are agents of Pirate Monitor; and were acting in the course of and within the scope of that agency relationship when they engaged in the conduct alleged in Defendants’ three counterclaims, those counterclaims fail as a matter of law and should be dismissed,” Pirate Monitor adds. Counterclaims For Fraud & DMCA Abuse Should be Dismissed Pirate Monitor takes a similar position on YouTube’s claims that the DMCA notices that took down allegedly-infringing content were also submitted fraudulently. At no point does Pirate Monitor deny that YouTube’s claims are untrue but simply states that platform has failed to meet the standards required for such claims to be considered. Noting that “justifiable reliance” is a necessary part of any fraud claim under California law, Pirate Monitor insists that supporting facts must be sufficiently specific. The absence of such information in its pleadings is “fatal” to YouTube’s counterclaim, Pirate Monitor adds, noting that the video platform has not “alleged any facts showing they were justified in relying on the representations of individuals they cannot identify to this day, let alone the particularized facts necessary to avoid dismissal..” YouTube’s Demands For an Injunction Should Be Dismissed In its counterclaim, YouTube demanded damages to compensate for Pirate Monitor’s actions and also requested a punitive damages award to compensate for the company’s “fraudulent conduct”. The video platform further sought an injunction to prevent Pirate Monitor and its agents from submitting any additional DMCA notices with YouTube that wrongfully claim that content on the YouTube service infringes copyrights held by Pirate Monitor or anyone it claims to represent. According to Pirate Monitor, these requests should all be dismissed as YouTube lacks Article III standing. Again, this centers around YouTube’s failure to provide evidence, with Pirate Monitor pointing out that the request for injunctive relief is based on past wrongs, including the allegedly-fraudulent DMCA takedown notices for which YouTube has failed to support with “even a single fact showing a real and immediate threat that Pirate Monitor will commit those alleged wrongs in the future.” Given that it seems unlikely that YouTube simply pulled the serious allegations in its counterclaims out of thin air, at some point the supporting evidence against Pirate Monitor and/or its “agents” will probably be revealed at some point and could even prove pivotal to the case. Schneider/Pirate Monitor’s Motion to Dismiss Counterclaims can be found here (pdf) https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-failed-to-provide-evidence-in-copyright-class-action-counterclaim-201123/
  4. Every week we take a close look at the most pirated movies on torrent sites. What are pirates downloading? 'Greenland' tops the chart, followed by ‘Jiu Jitsu'. 'The New Mutants' completes the top three. The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. These torrent download statistics are meant to provide further insight into the piracy trends. All data are gathered from public resources. This week we have four new entries in the list. The American disaster movie Greenland is the most downloaded title this week. The most torrented movies for the week ending on November 23 are: Movie Rank Rank Last Week Movie Name IMDb Rating / Trailer Most downloaded movies via torrent sites 1 (3) Greenland 6.4 / trailer 2 (…) Jiu Jitsu 3.1 / trailer 3 (2) The New Mutants 5.4 / trailer 4 (1) Borat Subsequent Moviefilm 7.0 / trailer 5 (…) Fatman 6.0 / trailer 6 (5) The Witches 5.4 / trailer 7 (6) Mulan 5.7 / trailer 8 (…) Run 6.7 / trailer 9 (8) Unhinged 6.1 / trailer 10 (…) The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special 6.5 / trailer Note: We also publish an updating archive of all the list of weekly most torrented movies lists. https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-most-torrented-pirated-movies/
  5. The RIAA's takedown of youtube-dl and its subsequent reinstatement by Github has generated hundreds of headlines and a fierce debate over the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. However, similar takedowns, including those that target Deezer and Spotify-focused tools, are still going ahead. Youtube-dl may have a reprieve but these downloading tools are on very thin ice. Takedowns of tools and sites that help users to rip content from YouTube have been ongoing for years. Some platforms have wilted under lawsuits while others are regularly targeted using the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. Until last month, it was generally assumed that there was no effective way to counter these actions but when the RIAA targeted youtube-dl on Github, the entire situation came to be seen in a different light. While the future will be the judge of whether the RIAA made the right overall decision, having Github remove the wildly popular software now presents a dilemma for the labels. With the bear having been well and truly poked and with Github, the EFF, and other interested parties now putting their weight and money behind a legal defense, issuing takedowns for similar tools will now present a less straightforward proposition. That being said, the issue of stream-ripping isn’t going away anytime soon, and with Deezer and Spotify facing similar problems, legal solutions will probably need to found. However, comparing the youtube-dl fight with those faced by tools that extract content from other streaming services isn’t something that should be done in haste. Deezer Continues To Fight Against Stream-Ripping Tools For years, music streaming service Deezer has been trying to prevent people from accessing its premium service without paying and/or downloading tracks as DRM-free audio files. Last month, however, Deezer’s security team sent messages to pirate app users warning them that while they had been observed using unauthorized tools, the company wasn’t going to stop them. Well, not directly at least. Just recently, TorrentFreak received new information which indicates that while Deezer isn’t going after ‘pirate’ users, it is certainly keeping up the pressure on those who create or distribute third-party tools. In addition to various takedown notices filed with Google and Twitter (1,2,3), the company also targeted Git platform, Fuwafuwa.moe. A complaint filed with the project, forwarded to various app developers and obtained by TorrentFreak, has Deezer demanding that several Deezer-related projects – including ‘deemix’ (a tool based on Deezloader Remix), ‘freezer’, an app that claims to help users “Download and decrypt tracks from Deezer in style”, and ‘ayeBot’, a Discord bot that downloads music from Deezer – should be taken down on copyright grounds. “DEEZER..[..]..offers, since 2012, an international online music on demand service, through free and paying services…with a formidable presence on the Internet and has acquired renown in the music industry and among Internet users,” the complaint reads. “We have discovered that [links on the site] make available applications as Deemix, Deezloader or Freezer, which use illegal methods to bypass Deezer’s security measures to unlawfully download its music catalog, in total violation of our rights and those of our music licensors (phonographic producers, performing artists, songwriters and composers).” The Deezer notice is notable since it cites no specific law as a basis for the takedowns. However, while speaking with “lesderid”, the operator of the git at Fuwafuwa.moe, TorrentFreak learned that the takedowns of the allegedly-infringing projects were carried out as requested since they were sent by Deezer in good faith. “I try to be fair, but at the end of the day if it’s a legitimate notice sent by someone authorized to send it, I’ll take the content offline as required by EU law (largely equivalent to DMCA) to stay out of liability. I took down the repos and gave [the project operators] the option to submit a counter notice,” he explained. Youtube-dl v Deezer downloading tools Since these takedowns were actioned (and others too, according to various sources associated with the various projects), the question has been raised whether the youtube-dl matter could potentially render a better outcome for Deezer downloading tools moving forward. The knee-jerk reaction is probably not, but it’s still worth looking at some of the reasons why. The main reasons for Github reinstating youtube-dl can be found in advice offered by the EFF. When these potential defenses for youtube-dl are compared to those available to Deezer downloaders, the contrast is clear to see. The first key difference is that while both YouTube and Deezer have millions of users, only the former allows uploads from the public. This means that where it’s possible to say that youtube-dl has been used by “journalists and human rights organizations to save eyewitness videos” and “educators to save videos for classroom use”, such noble applications simply do not exist within a Deezer downloading tool. All of the content accessed is provided by companies or artists and is fully licensed, a massive difference when compared to YouTube. In respect of YouTube’s much-referenced “rolling cipher”, characterized by the labels as encryption but dismissed by the EFF as simply a part of web-browsing, it’s fairly simple to spot the differences at Deezer. Indeed, and like competitor Spotify, Deezer uses a type of encryption in its business that the EFF strongly attempts to distance youtube-dl from. “Importantly, youtube-dl does not decrypt video streams that are encrypted with commercial DRM technologies, such as Widevine, that are used by subscription video sites, such as Netflix,” the EFF statement reads. YouTube is a Free Service – Deezer Premium is Not Finally, it’s worth pointing out that most Deezer and Spotify downloaders are designed to circumvent either some of the restrictions placed on ad-supported accounts or provide full access to the related subscription service without paying for it. If we consider youtube-dl as a multi-purpose tool with substantial non-infringing uses, how Deezer downloaders operate sit in stark contrast. Indeed, this type of behavior led Spotify to label similar software as “instruments of fraud” earlier this year, a claim that on face value shouldn’t be too difficult to build a case around. In the unlikely event the copyright claims against downloaders fall short, that is. https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-dl-wins-reprieve-but-deezer-spotify-downloaders-are-on-thin-ice-201122/
  6. [hide] Tracker Name: HD-Space Genre: HD Sign-up Link: https://hd-space.org/index.php?page=signup Closing Date: Open until end of December Additional Information: HD-Space (HDS) is a Private Torrent Tracker for HD Movies / TV Releases.
  7. This week GitHub reversed an RIAA takedown by reinstating the youtube-dl repository. The Microsoft-owned developer platform, together with the EFF, sent a clear message that YouTube downloaders are not by definition illegal. This outspoken support is not only good news for youtube-dl, it might also be a gamechanger for the lawsuits against 2conv, Flvto, and Yout. The music industry is convinced. Downloading music from public streaming services, YouTube in particular, is the greatest piracy threat to the industry. The RIAA and several key music labels are doing everything in their power to counter this menace. They’ve sued several YouTube download sites, removed streamripper URLs from search engines, and most recently they targeted the open-source tool youtube-dl as well. The last move was a step too far for many. It immediately triggered outrage among developers and the public at large. The opposition reached new heights this week when GitHub and EFF drew a clear line in the sand. No further. After some modifications, youtube-dl’s repository was reinstated. This was great news for the developers, users, and many stream-ripping sites that rely on the tool. But the decision and the reasoning behind it are much, much bigger than that. In isolation, the youtube-dl code is a relatively small problem for the music industry. Similar tools will always be available. While the RIAA liked the message that was sent by the removal, they perhaps didn’t foresee that a refusal to take down the same code would be much worse. ‘YouTube Downloading Tools are Not Illegal’ Both GitHub and the EFF have made it very clear that YouTube downloading tools are not by definition illegal. On the contrary. “Youtube-dl is a lot like the videocassette recorders of decades past: a flexible tool for saving personal copies of video that’s already accessible to the public,” the digital rights group wrote in a recent post on the topic. GitHub also stressed that youtube-dl is a “socially beneficial tool” which can help researchers, journalists, and the public at large. These comments, which are only a tiny selection of the broader message, are a potential game-changer. The backing from GitHub is particularly notable, as the company is owned by Microsoft, which in its own right is one of the largest copyright holders in the world. That said, the legality of YouTube download tools is not impacted directly by the public commentary. Eventually, this is something that courts will have to decide over. In the US, there is no clear jurisprudence on this specific issue but that may change in the near future. The RIAA’s main argument is that these tools violate DMCA section 1201, which prohibits the circumvention of technical protection measures. In YouTube’s case, the RIAA cites the “rolling cipher” protection that YouTube uses to make downloading from the site somewhat more complicated. Rolling Cipher Encryption? The question is whether this “rolling cipher” is indeed a protection measure under the DMCA. That’s up to a court to decide, but we have previously shown that anyone with a browser can easily download from YouTube without extra tools. The RIAA’s position is strengthened by a 2017 order from a court in Germany, that was also cited in the GitHub takedown notice. There, the court ruled that the “rolling cipher” is a technical measure within the meaning of Germany’s Copyright Act. However, not everyone believes that the court was correct here. EFF stated that, contrary to the court’s ruling, there is no encryption involved. YouTube’s video streams are visible to everyone who uses a regular web browser. The ‘rolling cipher’ simply refers to a changing signature, readable by Javascript, that’s used for some videos. “The 2017 decision of the Hamburg Regional Court in Germany that RIAA references, which refers to YouTube’s “signature” mechanism, was wrongly decided and is not binding nor even persuasive under U.S. law,” EFF wrote. GitHub also believes that the German court made an error. Following EFF’s lead, the company concluded that youtube-dl was not circumventing a technical protection measure. “We concluded that the allegations did not establish a violation of the law,” GitHub said. Stream-Ripper Battle Continues in Court These are strong statements that will eventually have to be tested before a judge and that may happen sooner rather than later. There are currently two major US lawsuits where the legality of YouTube rippers could be decided. While EFF and GitHub are not part of those cases, their input will likely prove a factor. One of the lawsuits was filed by Jonathan Nader, the operator of the stream-ripper ‘Yout’, who sued the RIAA last month. Nader decided to be one step ahead of the music industry by demanding a declaratory judgment that his website doesn’t violate Section 1201 of the DMCA. TorrentFreak reached out to Nader, who said he prefers not to comment on the ongoing litigation. Especially since the RIAA has yet to formally reply. However, the photo he shared with us reveals that he’s happy with EFF’s stance on the matter. Nader’s lawsuit touches on the ‘rolling cipher’ argument as well, and he denies that anything is being decrypted or bypassed. Another lawsuit where the same issue may be brought up was filed by several of the largest music labels two years ago, with support from the RIAA. They sued the YouTube ripping sites FLVTO.biz, 2conv.com, and their Russian operator Tofig Kurbanov. Both sides are currently still fighting over whether a US court has jurisdiction. Kurbanov’s legal team recently petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear that matter. If the court decides that the site operator has to defend himself, he is surrounded by a legal team that is confident that they can defeat the copyright and anti-circumvention allegations. ‘RIAA Opposed Every Technological Advance’ Speaking with TorrentFreak, Kurbanov’s defense attorney Evan Fray-Witzer equates stream-ripping to the other technological advances that were protested by the music industry over the years. “It’s important to remember that the RIAA has consistently opposed virtually every technological advance from the 1970s forward including the advent of cassette tapes, compact discs, and MP3s. For 50 years they have been yelling that the sky is falling and yet – despite this hysteria – music continues not only to survive but to flourish.” According to Fray-Witzer, this latest attack on stream-ripping is equally misguided and will eventually fail. “Users have lots of legitimate uses for stream-ripping that have nothing to do with music. And, even when you’re talking about music, users have a legitimate right to time-shift, just as the courts found that people could record TV shows with their VCRs so that they could watch them at a different time,” he says. The Yout.com and Kurbanov’s cases are not the first stream-ripper lawsuits. A few years ago, the record labels already sued YouTube-MP3. That site eventually settled the case privately and shut down. While the RIAA celebrated this as a major win, this outcome has little effect on the current cases. “So far, the RIAA’s successes in court have been the result of defendants who lack the ability to fight back and to prove that these tools do not actually violate copyright law. Hopefully, that’s about to change,” Fray-Witzer notes. “Stream-ripping sites and software are simply tools – tools with lots of legitimate uses, as the EFF has recognized,” the attorney adds. DMCA Section 1201 Exceptions It’s clear that the YouTube downloaders find themselves supported by the recent backing from GitHub and the EFF, but the moral support is just part of the story. In addition, both are also calling on the Copyright Office to broaden the DMCA Section 1201 exceptions. “We are also advocating specifically on the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA to promote developers’ freedom to build socially beneficial tools like youtube-dl,” GitHub said this week, announcing their plan to get involved in the Copyright Office’s triannual review process. Right now, US law makes it illegal for most developers to use or distribute code that bypasses technical protection measures, even if that technology or code can also be used for non-infringing or legal means. Time will tell how these and other issues will develop over time but it’s clear that the RIAA’s takedown notice to GitHub was a wake-up call. Now we just have to see who and what it awakened. TorrentFreak also reached out to the RIAA to hear their comments on these recent events but the group hasn’t responded. It’s not a stretch to conclude that they are not happy with GitHub’s reversal, to say the least. https://torrentfreak.com/eff-and-githubs-support-for-youtube-rippers-is-bad-news-for-riaa-lawsuits-201121/
  8. 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 https://torrentfreak.com/new-mpa-subpoena-targets-private-bittorrent-tracker-locally-significant-pirate-sites-201121/
  9. In a new lawsuit filed in the US, Nintendo sues an Amazon seller who distributed RCM Loader, a device that the company claims has the sole purpose of allowing people to play pirated video games by circumventing the Switch console's technological protection measures. On top, Nintendo is also suing the defendant for abusing the DMCA's counter-notification system. Nintendo’s ongoing battle to prevent people from playing pirated content on Switch consoles is showing no signs of slowing down. Its main targets thus far have been distributors and sellers of products offered by the infamous Team-Xecutor but a new lawsuit filed in the United States yesterday targets a seller of another jailbreak-style device. Circumvention of Technological Protection Measures As detailed in a number of earlier and similar lawsuits, Nintendo is determined to take action against any product that undermines the security features baked into consoles such as the Switch. These features are designed to prevent unauthorized access to the console and its games with the aim of preventing people from playing pirated content. According to the latest lawsuit, a defendant identified as Le Hoang Minh, who on Amazon does business under the name ‘Winmart’, sold a device known as RCM Loader. The dongle/device, which operates via a USB-C connector, is marketed as a plug-and-play solution for injecting payload files that allow booting into custom firmware (CFW), including Team-Xecutor’s SX OS. “Once this circumvention has occurred, the unauthorized CFW modifies the authorized Nintendo Switch operating system, thereby allowing users to obtain and play virtually any pirated game made for the Nintendo Switch. All of this happens without authorization or compensation to Nintendo or to any authorized game publishers,” the company’s complaint reads. Another feature of the system criticized by Nintendo is the ability for owners of legal copies of games to copy and share those games with others who are also using unauthorized custom firmware. Nintendo says it has been working hard to reduce the availability of SX OS and similar custom firmware but due to the trafficking of devices like RCM Loader, that battle continues. Defendant Sold RCM Loader Via Amazon According to the lawsuit, Vietnam-resident Le Hoang Minh, sold RCM Loader devices on Amazon so, to counter this distribution, Nintendo filed a DMCA takedown notice on October 21, 2020, citing 17 U.S.C. § 512(c) and requesting that the listing be removed. While Amazon did take the listing down, the removal was only temporary. This short-lived takedown was due to the seller submitting a DMCA counter-notice to Amazon on November 4, 2020, under 17 U.S.C. § 512(g)(3), claiming that the listing was non-infringing and had been taken down in error. Defenses Listed in the DMCA Counter Notice Attempting to cover most available defenses, relevant or not, the counter-notice from Le Hoang Minh is comprehensive if nothing else. In addition to claiming that the devices are not copyrighted and are therefore in the public domain, the Amazon seller advised the platform that Nintendo’s claim is faulty due to the company failing to provide any copyright registration information in its takedown notice. “The complainant does not hold the copyright to the material in question, is not the designated representative of the copyright holder, and therefore lacks standing to assert that my use of the material is a violation of any of the owner’s rights,” it added. In addition to a laundry list of alleged technical failings in Nintendo’s takedown notice, Amazon was advised by the defendant that the use of “the material” was legally protected “because it falls within the ‘fair use’ provision of the copyright regulations” and if Nintendo disagrees with that assertion, it “must” work with the seller to solve the dispute. “This communication to you is a DMCA counter notification letter as defined in 17 USC 512(g)(3). I declare, under penalty of perjury, that I have a good faith belief that the complaint of copyright violation is based on mistaken information, misidentification of the material in question, or deliberate misreading of the law,” the counter-notice reads. Importantly, the declaration adds that Le Hoang Minh submits to the jurisdiction of any appropriate US district court in case of a legal dispute with Nintendo. Nintendo: Challenge Accepted The lawsuit filed yesterday is a clear indication that Nintendo believes it has the law on its side, in respect of the illegal nature of RCM Loader and the validity of the DMCA counter-notice that attempted to reinstate the listing. “Defendant manufactures, imports, offers to the public, provides, and otherwise traffics in a circumvention device and software that circumvents the technological measures on the Nintendo Switch — specifically, the RCM Loader,” the company states. “On information and belief, the only purpose of Defendant’s circumvention device is to circumvent Nintendo’s technological protection measures.” Demanding maximum statutory damages for each violation of the relevant sections of the DMCA, Nintendo also demands a permanent injunction preventing the defendant from offering to the public or otherwise trafficking in circumvention devices in the future. On top, Nintendo is demanding relief for the defendant’s alleged abuse of the DMCA counter-notification system by misrepresenting material facts to Amazon, crafted to have the listing restored on the platform, in violation of Nintendo’s rights. Finally, the gaming giant asks the court to issue an order that will allow for the seizure, impoundment and destruction of all RCM Loader devices in the defendant’s possession, including any related software. The complaint can be found here (pdf) https://torrentfreak.com/nintendo-files-lawsuit-against-seller-of-rcm-loader-jailbreak-device-201119/
  10. A man arrested in 2015 for running a site that provided information about the Popcorn Time piracy app has been sentenced in Denmark. The 38-year-old received 20 days probation and was subjected to a financial confiscation order after he admitted being criminally complicit in the infringements carried out by ordinary Popcorn Time users. Popcorn Time, the application that became known as the ‘Netflix for Pirates’, first appeared in 2014. It was a massive success and arguably paved the way for the dozens of similar piracy apps currently available on the Android and iOS platforms. In its various guises, Popcorn Time itself managed to attract the negative attention of copyright holders who were determined to reduce the availability and visibility of the popular piracy tool. At the same time, others worked counter to these goals, either by creating their own forks of the software, distributing them, or producing guides and tutorials. Arrests in Denmark and Guilty Verdict Following a court order in June 2015, police in Denmark arrested two men in their thirties for operating two sites – Popcorntime.dk and Popcorn-time.dk. Neither linked to pirated content but instead provided guides on how to use Popcorn Time while providing information on where the software could be downloaded. In 2018, the operator of Popcorntime.dk was handed a conditional six-month prison sentence after court ruled that by spreading information about Popcorn Time, he played a part in the infringements carried out by users of the software. The defendant appealed the decision to the High Court but without success. The case was subsequently heard by the Supreme Court but that was no more effective, with the now 41-year-old man held liable for contributory copyright infringement last January. He was handed a six-month conditional sentence, 120 hours of community service, and a confiscation order for around $67,000 in advertising revenue. Guilty Plea By The Operator of Popcorn-time.dk Given the outcome in the earlier prosecution of the Popcorntime.dk operator, the man behind Popcorn-time.dk was left with few options to effectively fight his corner. According to a new announcement by anti-piracy group Rights Alliance, which was deeply involved in both cases, the man eventually took the decision to plead guilty. The case was heard at the court in Odense, which ruled that in common with the operator of Popcorntime.dk, the person behind Popcorn-time.dk also contributed to the copyright infringements carried out by regular users of Popcorn Time. “From August 2014 to August 2015, the 38-year-old on the website popcorn-time.dk recommended and guided users to download and use the illegal streaming service Popcorn Time. Defendants have also received about 10,000 kroner (US$1,565) in advertising revenue from Google for ads on the site,” Rights Alliance reports. “Defendant confessed his complicity in the dissemination of the illegal streaming service and was thus convicted of complicity in the copyright infringements that occur using Popcorn Time.” As a result of the confession, the 38-year-old was handed a conditional sentence of 20 days probation and subjected to a confiscation order to seize the advertising revenue generated by the site. The domain name popcorn-time.dk was also forfeited. Rights Alliance says the differences in the sentences between this and the earlier case can be put down to the more detailed coverage of the Popcorntime.dk platform and the scale of the revenues it generated. Courts also tend to look more favorably on defendants who admit guilt rather than those who defend a case only to be found guilty. https://torrentfreak.com/operator-of-popcorn-time-information-site-receives-conditional-sentence-200927/
  11. 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) https://torrentfreak.com/movie-companies-sue-yts-users-who-ignored-settlement-demands-200924/
  12. Police in Italy are reporting a large operation against a network involved in IPTV. The Guardia di Finanza says that 58 sites and 18 Telegram channels have been blocked while four IT experts with familiar nicknames have been referred for prosecution along with 1,000 subscribers of pirate IPTV services. Over the past several years Italy’s Guardia di Finanza has been applying increasing pressure to various players in the piracy ecosystem. In addition to targeting distributors of movies, TV shows and live sports via subscription services, the authorities have also homed in on suppliers of pirated newspapers and periodicals. A new law enforcement operation revealed Wednesday continues along those same lines. Operation Evil Web The new action is being spearheaded by the Economic-Financial Police Unit of the Guardia di Finanza of Gorizia. The unit reports that following an investigation it was able to secure a preventative seizure order to block access to 58 websites and 18 Telegram channels. With combined annual traffic of around 80 million visits, the authorities claim that by blocking these platforms they have disrupted around 90% of the audiovisual and editorial piracy carried out in Italy. Given the availability of pirated content in the region, regardless of blocking, that figure sounds optimistic but the operation is clearly significant nonetheless. Investigation Into IPTV Expanded Overseas According to the GdF, the investigation began by targeting an IT expert operating under the online nickname of ‘Diabolik’. The authorities haven’t yet positively identified this developer but given the existence of a Kodi addon called Diabolik441 dedicated to Italian content with links to the Evil King branding (GdF’s operation is called ‘Evil Web’), it seems likely this was one of their targets. An Android application using the same name is also featured in a GdF video (see below). After reportedly identifying Diabolik, the investigation broadened to several regions of Italy and then overseas, including Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. Three other IT experts also became part of the investigation, identified by GdF as ‘Doc’, ‘Spongebob’, and ‘Webflix’. Again, GdF hasn’t identified these alleged IT experts using anything other than their nicknames but nevertheless describes them as “real oracles” when it comes to the illegal distribution of movies, pay TV, live sports, cartoons, newspapers, magazines, manuals, and even pornography. All four developers have been reported to the “competent judicial authorities” for prosecution. Authorities Trying to Identify 1,000 IPTV Subscribers In Italy, piracy-enabled set-top devices are called ‘pezzotto’ and in common with many regions, are used by huge numbers of end users hoping to gain free or cheap access to pirated movies, TV shows, and live sports. GdF says work is now underway to identify around 1,000 pezzotto/IPTV subscribers – some local, some overseas – so that they can be prosecuted for breaches of copyright law and receiving stolen goods. According to the authorities, penalties can reach up to three years in prison and a fine of 25,000 euros. Similar penalties were mentioned back in Febraury when the Guardia di Finanza said it had reported 223 subscribers of pirate IPTV services to the judicial authorities. Enhanced Site-Blocking Procedures GdF reports that thanks to a new “procedural innovation”, it is now possible to more effectively block sites that facilitate access to previously blocked domains. “This procedural innovation is allowing, day by day, the immediate inhibition of hundreds of new web domains illegally created in order to circumvent the original provision of the Judicial Authority,” its announcement reads. “In addition, the procedures for international judicial cooperation have been activated – and are still in progress – in order to seize the servers from which multimedia contents are distributed in violation of copyright.” https://torrentfreak.com/operation-evil-web-police-target-58-sites-4-it-experts-1000-iptv-subscribers-200924/
  13. Anti-piracy coalition ACE is continuing its crackdown on pirate sites, targeting several high profile actors. Represented by the MPA, the group requests a DMCA subpoena that requires Cloudflare to hand over personal information and account details relating to the operators of The Pirate Bay, YTS, 1337x, EZTV, Seasonvar, Tamilrockers, Lordfilms, and many others. As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe. This includes many pirate sites. Copyright holders would ideally like the company to cease its ties with these platforms, but Cloudflare sees things differently. It positions itself as a neutral third-party intermediary that will only take action in response to valid court orders. Cloudflare DMCA Subpoenas Thus far, court orders that have required Cloudflare to block or terminate a pirate site have been very limited. More commonly, rightsholders obtain DMCA subpoenas from US courts requiring the CDN provider to hand over information it has on the operators of pirate sites. During the first half of 2020, Cloudflare received 31 of these requests which targeted 83 accounts. Many of these were adult sites or relatively smaller pirate portals. This month, however, the anti-piracy coalition ACE has upped the ante. Last week we reported that ACE had obtained a subpoena to go after several pirate streaming sites. This week the crackdown continues, with the anti-piracy coalition requesting Cloudflare to expose information associated with The Pirate Bay and many other high profile sites. ACE Targets The Pirate Bay and Other Top Pirate Sites The list of targeted sites (46 in total) includes several of the top torrent sites, including YTS, 1337x, EZTV, LimeTorrents, and Tamilrockers. Other high profile non-English targets such as Cinecalidad, Pelisplus, Gnula, Altadefinizione, and DonTorrent are listed as well. The subpoena is requested by the MPA’s Jan Van Voorn, who writes on behalf of ACE and its members Amazon, Columbia Pictures, Disney, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, and Universal City Studios. The requested information will help the anti-piracy group to investigate the sites in question. “The purpose for which this subpoena is sought is to obtain the identities of the individuals assigned to these websites who have exploited ACE Members’ exclusive rights in their copyrighted works without their authorization,” the request reads. “This information will only be used for the purposes of protecting the rights granted under Title 17, United States Code,” Van Voorn adds. Cloudflare Will Hand Over Personal Details At the time of writing the subpoena has yet to be signed off by a court clerk, but that is usually not a problem. ACE will then forward it to Cloudflare which will hand over the requested details, including names, IP-addresses, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, and payment details. How useful the provided information will be to ACE remains to be seen. Many of the affected pirate sites should be aware of the possibility that their information can be shared, and could have taken precautions. Why Now? Aside from the many high profile targets in this legal request, ACE’s sudden attention to Cloudflare DMCA subpoenas is interesting by itself. In the span of just a few days, ACE has asked the company to identify the operators of more than 80 sites. Many of these sites, including The Pirate Bay, have been Cloudflare customers for years. Why ACE has decided to take action now, as opposed to years ago, is unknown. — A copy of ACE’s request for a DMCA subpoena, submitted to a California federal court, is available here (pdf). A full list of all the affected domain names is provided below. – yts.mx – pelisplus.me – 1337x.to F – seasonvar.ru – cuevana3.io – kinogo.by – thepiratebay.org – lordfilm.cx – swatchseries.to – eztv.io – 123movies.la – megadede.com – sorozatbarat.online – cinecalidad.is – limetorrents.info – cinecalidad.to – kimcartoon.to F – tamilrockers.ws – cima4u.io – fullhdfilmizlesene.co – yggtorrent.si – time2watch.io – online-filmek.me – lordfilms-s.pw – extremedown.video – streamkiste.tv – dontorrent.org – kinozal.tv – fanserial.net – 5movies.to – altadefinizione.group – cpasmieux.org – primewire.li – primewire.ag – primewire.vc – series9.to – europixhd.io – oxtorrent.pw – pirateproxy.voto – rarbgmirror.org – rlsbb.ru – gnula.se – rarbgproxied.org – seriespapaya.nu – tirexo.com – cb01.events – kinox.to – filmstoon.pro – descargasdd.net https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-coalition-wants-cloudflare-to-expose-operators-of-pirate-bay-yts-1337x-and-others-200923/
  14. In a letter sent to the European Commission, a large group of anti-piracy organizations and copyright holders calls for stricter online identity checks. As part of Europe's planned Digital Services Act, online services such as hosting companies, domain registrars, and advertisers, should be required to perform "know your customer" checks. This can help to combat all sorts of illegal activity including online piracy. Anonymity is a great good on the Internet but increasingly there are calls for stricter identity checks. Such requirements are not new. In daily life many people have encountered situations where they had to prove their identity. When opening a bank account, for example. But online it is rare. If it’s up to a large group of organizations with ties to copyright industries, this should change. They call for stricter policies so that hosting companies, domain registrars, and advertisers must properly check who their customers are. This message was sent in a letter to the European Commission this week. The signatories include anti-piracy outfits such as MPA, BREIN, BPI, IFPI, and RettighedsAlliancen, as well as the international brands Heineken, Nike, and Philips. Together, they call for thorough “know your customer” requirements. Europe’s Digital Services Act The letter was sent in response to a public inquiry on Europe’s proposed Digital Service Act, which will determine how online services and platforms are regulated. The senders zoom in on one element, namely, the “Know Your Business Customer” requirements for online platforms. In the impact assessment published by the European Commission, such a requirement is highlighted. However, that ‘online’ applies to online marketplaces only. This is a missed opportunity and should be broadened, the letter notes. Online Intermediaries Should Properly Identify Business Customers According to European law, online businesses are already required to identify themselves based on Article 5 of the e-Commerce Directive. However, this is often ignored by bad actors. This is where the new requirements could prove helpful. “The DSA represents a real opportunity to rectify the situation that allows bad actors to ignore Article 5 of the ECD with impunity,” the letter explains. “A business cannot go online without a domain name, without being hosted, or without advertisement or payment services. These intermediary services, having a direct relationship with the business, are therefore best placed to make sure that only businesses that are willing to comply with the law have access to their services.” A selection of the undersigned organizations The copyright holders and anti-piracy groups state that these checks won’t involve any active monitoring. Some simple due diligence checks based on information that’s publicly verifiable is already sufficient. Identification Helps to Tackle Online Piracy At the moment, scammers, counterfeiters, plus pirate sites and services can operate relatively easily in the dark. They often provide false information, when registering a domain name for example. More detailed checks could make this harder. Knowing who’s behind a pirate site or service obviously makes enforcement efforts much easier. And when the provided information turns out to be false, the customers should be disconnected. “Should the information provided prove to be manifestly wrong, or the intermediary be notified that the business customer isn’t who it claims to be, the intermediary should stop providing services until the business customer remedies the situation.” Bad actors have been flaunting the law for years and the Digital Service Act provides an opportunity to fix this, the letter notes. Implementing stricter checks facilitates a “safe and trustworthy online environment” and will make it harder to “distribute illegal content,” the senders add. Intermediaries Should (be forced) to Take Responsibility TorrentFreak spoke to Tim Kuik, director of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, which is one of the letter’s signatories. He says that it’s no surprise that criminals use fake identities online. However, that intermediaries are not properly verifying the identities of customers is surprising. “On the one hand, we see upstream providers that are reluctant to disclose customer identity to injured parties who then can not hold the perpetrators liable. On the other hand, we see that when customer identity is disclosed – ultimately providers have to in case of illegal activity – it is fake, either completely made up or of unsuspecting people and their addresses.” “This frustrates enforcement against all kinds of illegal activity while intermediaries – unknowingly or not – indirectly earn income from it,” Kuik adds. BREIN has repeatedly emphasized the importance of proper customer identification. Earlier this year it sued several hosting providers that worked with the pirate streaming CDN Moonwalk, to require these companies to verify the identity of customers and require resellers to do the same. “The latter is necessary because we see a tendency of upstream providers using foreign parties either offshore or to sell in their respective countries, who then do not have true identity information and refuse to provide other identifying information,” Kuik tells us. The idea to use stricter ‘know your customer’ regulations as a tool to thwart piracy is a hot topic. Just a few weeks ago, a group of prominent anti-piracy groups discussed the same matter in a webinar, which also involved Europol and the Italian Financial Police — A copy of the letter sent to Brussels earlier this week is available here (pdf) https://torrentfreak.com/rightsholders-ask-europe-for-broad-know-your-customer-checks-to-deter-piracy-200923/
  15. The Spanish pirate streaming giant Megadede will shut down within a week. The site's operators announced their surprise decision without providing any further detail. Megadede is among the 100 most visited sites in the country and will be missed by many. However, there certainly is no shortage of alternatives, as other sites are queuing up to welcome stranded pirates. Spain is an interesting country when it comes to piracy. On the one hand, it has one of the highest piracy rates worldwide, but there is no shortage of enforcement actions either. In recent years there have been several criminal investigations into unauthorized IPTV streaming, torrent and streaming portals have been taken to court, and ISPs have been ordered to block pirate sites as well. It appears that, despite all the legal pressure and threats, new pirate sites and services continue to appear online. Unlike in some other countries, these are often localized as well. Names such as “Don Torrent,” “DivxTotaL,” and “Megadede” are relatively unknown in most parts of the world. However, in Spain, they are listed among the 100 most visited sites in the country, mixed in with major brands such as Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix. Local Piracy Giant Megadede Shuts Down This week one of these giants announced its demise. In a message posted on the site, Megadede.com’s operators write that they are “forced” to announce that the site shuts down within a week. “The members of the team are forced to announce that in less than a week megadede will come to an end. We hope you have enjoyed this time with us and take the opportunity to download your lists. Thanks for everything #megabye.” It’s not clear who forced the operators to take action, but it is possible that legal pressure played a role. Unlike many other streaming sites, Megadede required an account to view all content. It didn’t rely on search traffic but had a dedicated user base. Megadede is one of the largest sites in Spain but has only been around for two years. It took over from Plusdede in 2018 after that site was ordered to shut down by the authorities. Plusdede, wasn’t unique either, as it was reportedly built based on the database of Pordede, which shut down after being hacked. Takeover is an Option While Megadede will soon be gone, there is room for a takeover of the domain name or even the entire project. In the site’s help and support section the operators write that they are willing to sell to a good bidder. “If someone wants to buy the domain or the project, you can send an offer through the contact page. We will only answer offers that may interest us,” they write. This means that Megadede may possibly continue under new ownership. However, there is no shortage of alternatives either. After the site announced its shutdown decision several competitors said they were ready to take over the traffic. Some, including DivMax.com, even offered to enable support for Megadede user ‘playlists’ to enable a smooth transition. “The DixMax administration welcomes you. Due to the recent closure of Megadede we invite you to meet and discover DixMax.com and all its applications available for free. Downloaded Megadede playlists will soon be added,” the site writes on Twitter. https://torrentfreak.com/spanish-piracy-giant-megadede-to-shut-down-successors-queue-up-200918/
  16. When officers from Hungary's National Tax and Customs Administration raided a pirate IPTV provider they were unsurprised to discover large amounts of satellite and computer equipment for capturing and distributing live TV . However, what they also found was hundreds of pounds of food that had been stockpiled by the operator, who hadn't been outside for months due to fears of catching the coronavirus. 2020 has developed into one of the most memorable years in living memory for the entire planet but for mostly the wrong reasons. Not a day goes by without news of the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating effect on individuals, families, the economy, and health in general. In common with many industries, coronavirus has hit the entertainment sectors too, with few new films and TV shows coming out (with notable exceptions such as Mulan) as people are either forced or inclined to stay home and stay safe. Throughout all of this, however, pirate operations have remained mostly online, with notable spikes in interest reported earlier in the year. IPTV Raid and Arrest But Authorities Didn’t Expect This As part of European efforts to crack down on the supply of IPTV, a few weeks ago officers in the National Tax and Customs Administration raided a pirate IPTV provider. What they found was extraordinary to say the least. Situated in what appeared to be a fenced-off barbed wire compound with CCTV surveillance, the outside of the building was perhaps not much of a surprise. Adorned with a large number of satellite dishes used to source original programming from the skies, the walls of the structure gave away what may lie inside. Indeed, the main contents of the building were as expected, such as an office with desks, chairs and various computers, plus a separate area containing what appear to be rows of servers used for capturing TV content from official providers and redistributing it over the Internet. In total, the authorities seized 52 computers, several decoders, TV cards, plus six servers dedicated to redistribution. The image above suggests that the operation wasn’t set up on the large budgets usually witnessed in police footage from raids elsewhere in Europe but with at least 8,000 paying customers, it was clearly functional. However, in a video released by the authorities, it is apparent that on some of the server shelves also sit items of food, including dozens and dozens of packets of flour. A panning camera shot also reveals a large refrigerator and then a small mountain of stacked canned food. Another shot, possibly in another area, reveals little floor space due to yet more stacked cans, a significant area occupied by box upon box of dried pasta packets, plus additional shelves loaded with soft drinks, other foodstuffs, and the coronavirus pandemic staple – dozens of toilet rolls. An Operator of the Service Was Scared of the Coronavirus According to the National Tax and Customs Administration, the service was founded by a man from Nagykanizsa who first set out to “redirect” his mother’s paid TV package to his own home for free. He teamed up with a man from Budapest to create a service that was subsequently offered to close friends too. Over time, however, they realized they could make money from the operation and began offering it on an invitation-only basis to outsiders. The network of customers grew and ultimately became available worldwide via the Internet. However, earlier this year, when the coronavirus started to sweep across Europe, one of the people in charge of the operation reacted like many across the region. In fear of catching what could be a deadly virus, he stockpiled the mountains of food detailed above – hundreds of pounds/kilos – so that he could keep the service running but without having to venture far outside. “In addition to IT equipment, durable food was in the Budapest property. The young man had accumulated hundreds of kilos of flour, canned food and pasta in fear of the coronavirus epidemic, and had not ventured into the streets for months,” the authorities explain. Damage to Copyright Holders But Also Paying No Taxes According to estimates provided by the tax authorities, the service is alleged to have generated around HUF 6 million (US$1.97m) for the pair but for reasons that aren’t explained, they “forgot” to pay the necessary duties to the state. This explains why the tax authorities were involved in the raid. “An illegal IPTV service that is provided without payment of royalties infringes copyright or copyright-related rights, which is a criminal offense. The offender can be sentenced to up to eight years in prison,” the National Tax and Customs Administration says. Whether the self-imposed prison sentence of a few months will now be extended to a forced sentence of a few years is currently unknown. https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-operator-hid-away-with-mountains-of-food-to-avoid-coronavirus-200919/