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Group Who Operated 20 Pirate ‘beIN’ Streaming Sites Found Guilty, Leader Jailed

The Association Against Audiovisual Piracy (ALPA) has been active in France since 1985.

The group is predominantly focused on protecting the rights of companies in the audiovisual and movie sectors and over the years has targeted everything from file-sharing forums through to torrent and movie/TV show streaming platforms.

In more recent years, ALPA has worked with companies in the broadcasting sector, targeting individuals who run apps and sites dedicated to live TV programming. That work included an investigation into the administrators of beinsport-streaming.com and several other related sites.

Criminal Complaint Against ‘Beinsport-Streaming’ Sites

ALPA and rightsholders Canal+ Group, beIN Sports and RMC Sports subsequently filed a joint complaint with the authorities in France against the sites. Following an investigation carried out by the Cybercrime Group of the Research Section of the National Gendarmerie of Rennes, the alleged founders and administrators of the sites were arrested in June 2018 under suspicion of intellectual property crimes.

At the time, it was estimated that during the six months preceding their closure, the sites were visited by around 500,000 users every month. The sites were said to generate revenue mainly via advertising which supported the streaming of sports programming and live events.

The rightsholders involved suggested that the crimes were so serious that the suspects could be imprisoned for up to 10 years for offenses including organized counterfeiting and aggravated money laundering.

Court Finds Five Individuals Guilty

Now, more than two years later, the matter has come to a close. According to Canal+, a court in Renne has found five people guilty of reproducing, communicating and distributing copyrighted content via the 20-site ‘beinsport-streaming’ ring.

The currently unnamed leader of the group received a 12-month prison sentence, with six months suspended. The fate of his accomplices is yet to be publicly announced.

In a statement, Céline Boyer, Content Protection Director of the Canal + Group, welcomed the verdict, noting that between 2014 and 2017, just nine of the most popular sites operated by the defendants generated 7.5 million visits to illicitly-streamed content.

“The Rennes decision reinforces the position of the Canal + Group as a player committed to the fight against piracy, an expanding and multifaceted scourge which has a daily impact on the entire sports ecosystem, from professional sport to amateur sport, as well as the media and pay-TV industry,” Boyer said.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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EU Court: YouTube Not Required to Share Email and IP-Addresses of Movie Pirates

YouTube’s millions of users upload staggering amounts of content to the site every day and while most of it doesn’t present any issues, some of that material inevitably infringes someone’s copyrights.

In 2013 and 2014, three YouTube users uploaded the movies Scary Movie 5 and Parker to the platform, something which caught the eye of Constantin Film, the exclusive rights holder for the titles in Germany. Since the illegal uploads had been viewed thousands of times, the movie company decided to enforce its rights.

Demands for Extended Personal Information Rejected By YouTube

In correspondence with YouTube and owner Google, Constantin Film demanded access to the personal details of the alleged infringers, including their email addresses, IP-addresses, and phone numbers. The companies denied the request and the matter went to court.

In the first instance, the case went to the Frankfurt District Court in Germany, which rejected the demands of Constantin Film. However, a higher court partly overruled the decision, ordering YouTube to hand over the email addresses of the users but not their IP addresses and phone numbers.

The ruling was acceptable to neither party and the matter was sent to Germany’s Federal Court of Justice. In order to make its decision, however, the Court made a referral to the EU Court of Justice, seeking clarification of the term “address” as laid out in Article 8 of the EU Copyright Directive.

Win for YouTube and Google

In a judgment handed down this morning, Europe’s highest court firmly sided with YouTube and Google and arguably, by extension, the individuals who uploaded the movies several years ago.

“In the judgment in Constantin Film Verleih (C-264/19), delivered on 9 July 2020, the Court ruled that, where a film is uploaded onto an online video platform without the copyright holder’s consent, Directive 2004/481 does not oblige the judicial authorities to order the operator of the video platform to provide the email address, IP address or telephone number of the user who uploaded the film concerned,” a summary provided by the Court reads.

“The directive, which provides for disclosure of the ‘addresses’ of persons who have infringed an intellectual property right, covers only the postal address.”

While the Court notes that the Copyright Directive does provide a mechanism for judicial authorities to order disclosure of personal information to rightsholders in order to settle intellectual property disputes, the term ‘address’ is specific to physical locations. The Court cites an individual’s “permanent address or habitual residence” and expressly excludes email addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses.

“That interpretation is, according to the Court, consistent with the purpose of the provision of Directive 2004/48 on the right to information,” the Court writes.

“In view of the minimum harmonization concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights in general, such harmonization is limited, according to that provision, to narrowly defined information. Furthermore, the aim of that provision is to reconcile compliance with various rights, inter alia the right of holders to information and the right of users to protection of personal data.”

Interestingly the EU Court says that obtaining additional information on users isn’t completely ruled out but such decisions are to be made by EU Member States after balancing various fundamental rights, including acting proportionately.

“The Court nevertheless stated that the Member States have the option to grant holders of intellectual property rights the right to receive fuller information, provided, however, that a fair balance is struck between the various fundamental rights involved and compliance with the other general principles of EU law, such as the principle of proportionality,” the Court adds

This final decision is in line with an opinion from Advocate General Saugmandsgaard Øe handed down earlier this year, which concluded that the term ‘address’ is restricted to a physical location.

“There is little doubt that, in everyday language, the concept of a person’s ‘address’, about which the referring court asks in particular, covers only the postal address, as YouTube and Google have rightly submitted,” Saugmandsgaard Øe wrote.

Following the clarification provided in today’s decision, the case will now head back to the German courts.

At the time of writing the full judgment is only available in German and French

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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Amazon, Lee Child & John Grisham Sue ‘Kiss Library’ Pirate eBook Sites

Well over a decade ago, music platforms like AllofMP3 were a thorn in the side of record labels, selling tracks at cut-down prices without appropriate licensing in place.

Today, similar sites are available in many niches, eBooks included. It’s a growing problem that authors, publishers and distributors would like to reduce, in part via a lawsuit filed in a Washington court this week.

US Lawsuit Targets ‘Pirate’ Sites Under the ‘Kiss Library’ Brand

The complaint sees Amazon Content Services, publisher Penguin Random House and several authors including John Grisham and Lee Child, target a range of ‘pirate eBook sites operating under the Kiss Library brand.

The 19-page lawsuit lists several domains (Kissly.net, Wtffastspring.bid, Libly.net, Cheap-Library.com) that claim to offer a “premium selection” of books at “unbeatable prices”. The reason for this, the plaintiffs claim, is that they are “replete” with pirated eBooks.

“Through Kiss Library, Defendants engage in rampant and willful infringement of Plaintiffs’ intellectual property rights and divert potential customers to Defendants’ sites — where the Plaintiff Authors and Publishers do not receive any royalties for the sales — to purchase and download the unauthorized works,” the complaint reads.

The stated claim of the action is to “bring down” the sites and put them out of business. It names several individuals as defendants, including alleged Ukrainian nationals Rodion Vynnychenko and Artem Besshapochny, who are said to have created Kiss Library and actively participate in and profit from its activities.

Australian national Jack Brown is said to work as a software developer while also being listed as Kiss Library’s customer service representative. Together with an additional 10 ‘Doe defendants’, Brown is said to act in concert with Kiss Library’s creators to distribute the plaintiffs’ copyright works.

Background to Kiss Library’s Activities

According to the complaint, Kiss Library first appeared at KissLibrary.com back in June 2017 after being registered by Vynnychenko in Ukraine. However, due to what the plaintiffs describe as “increased negative reviews and assertions of piracy”, the defendants registered new ‘mirror’ sites including kisslibrary.net, kissly.net, wtffastspring.bid, libly.net, and cheaplibrary.com.

Libly.net, Kissly.net and Wtffastspring.bid purportedly operate out of Canada but the plaintiffs couldn’t find any matching registrations in the country. Cheap-library.com is said to operate out of Bulgaria but again, no registrations could be found. Attempts by plaintiffs to make contact via the supplied telephone numbers failed.

Distribution of Pirated Content, Non-Compliance Under the DMCA

“Defendants, through these and other known and unknown Kiss Library websites, engage in the rampant, illegal copying, display, and distribution of copyright-protected ebooks for their direct financial benefit, including works written by the Authors and exclusively published or distributed by the Publishers,” the complaint alleges.

All of the targeted domains claim to have official DMCA agents to handle takedown complaints but according to the plaintiffs, the Copyright Office has no record of any registrations. Furthermore, when the defendants processed copyright infringement claims and took down eBooks, they reappeared on the platforms shortly after.

“As a result of Defendants’ wrongful conduct, Defendants also damage and harm the Publishers in the form of losses to sales, prospective customers, goodwill from authors who exclusively publish with them, goodwill from customers who receive Defendants’ inferior ebook copies, and resources expended in discovering and combatting infringement, as well as disruption and harm to their distribution arrangements, brands, and prospective business relationships with authors and others,” it continues.

Copyright Infringement Claims

Alleging willful direct copyright infringement, the plaintiffs demand actual damages and profits of the infringers or statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed work. They further demand injunctive relief, including an order impounding all copies of the infringing materials.

Alleging vicarious and/or contributory copyright infringement in respect of offenses carried out by Kiss Library’s users, the plaintiffs demand actual damages and defendants’ profits attributable to the infringements, or statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed work and a similar injunction.

In addition, the lawsuit demands an order requiring Kiss Library’s domain names to be disabled or handed over to the plaintiffs and preventing any commercial entities doing business with the platform, including banks, credit card companies and payment providers, from doing so.

At the time of writing, all of the listed domains are either completely down or advising maintenance issues.

The complaint, filed by plaintiffs Amazon, Random House, Lee Child, Sylvia Day, John Grisham, C.J. Lyons, Doug Preston, Jim Rasenberger, T.J. Stiles, R.L Stine, Monique Troung, Scott Turow, Nicholas Weinstock and Stuart Woods, can be found here (pdf)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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The Pirate Bay: OVPN Responds to Movie Companies’ Court Injunction

Last month, movie companies Svensk Filmindustri and Nordisk Film, and anti-piracy partner Rights Alliance were handed an IP address by Cloudflare believed to be in use by The Pirate Bay.

Armed with this information they went to court in Sweden, obtaining an injunction targeting Obenetwork, claiming the ISP operated the IP address. It transpired the address was actually owned by VPN provider OVPN and the injunction was thrown out.

In response, the plaintiffs filed for a new injunction against OVPN, demanding that the provider hand over the information about its customer, which they believe to be The Pirate Bay. Last week, OVPN informed TF that they would fight the case and we can now provide some details on its initial position.

The injunction application is disputed by OVPN in its entirety but the company also homes in on specific aspects that it hopes will resolve the matter.

No-Logs to Hand Over, Specific IP Address No Longer in Use

Firstly, as a no-log provider, OVPN says that it does not have access to the information requested in the injunction, including the name and address of the customer who used its IP address, how long that customer used the service, or how much money was handed over.

While that’s straightforward enough, it’s alleged that the OVPN customer used the provider’s Public IPv4 add-on. That tool is covered by exactly the same no-logging policy but since in this case a static IP address is assigned to a specific customer, OVPN does have a limited ability to determine who is using it, but only at the time it’s in use. Once that use has expired, it has no ability to carry out retroactive checks.

“[W]e can not provide any information as to who had a specific Public IPv4 address at a specific date, as users are free to change Public IPv4 address at will, and another user might have been using that Public IPv4 address at that time,” the company explains.

To illustrate this restriction, OVPN told the court that anyone attempting to access The Pirate Bay using the IP address listed in the application would find that the website can’t be reached. Furthermore, anyone trying to ping the address would find that it’s completely unavailable. Since it’s not currently in use, OVPN can’t say who was using it.

The Electronic Communications Act

According to OVPN’s response to the injunction, the provision of a VPN service “does not constitute a notifiable activity” as referenced by Sweden’s Electronic Communications Act. As a result, VPN services are exempt from the data storage obligations of the legislation.

OVPN argues that VPN services operate over the top of an Internet connection like any other Internet-based service might. Citing the Tele2 case that went all the way to the European Court of Justice, the provider says that it does not provide an electronic communications service as described under the Act and is not subject to its storage obligations.

Precautionary Measures and Financial Damage

In their application (which was conducted without OVPN being aware of the procedure) the studios and Rights Alliance demanded financial penalties if OVPN did not provide the requested information plus penalties if they deleted any user information that could show who used the IP address at the specified time.

According to OVPN, the precautionary measures demanded by the applicants were not backed up by evidence showing exceptional circumstances, as required under case law. The company further rejects suggestions made in the application that it is somehow a bad actor for providing a privacy service.

“We wholeheartedly disagree with the Rights Alliance claims that we’re running a ‘disloyal service’ used to circumvent law enforcement. On the contrary, we have a wide range of different customers, such as journalists, lawyers, politicians, government agencies and consumers.

“To be perfectly clear: We do not, in any way, endorse or advocate using OVPN to commit crimes,” the company says.

In its response, OVPN told the court that as a provider of services designed to offer a high degree of confidentiality, any order granted on behalf of private parties requiring it not to destroy information (even if any was available) would put the entire company at risk of great financial damage.

Therefore, the claim that it would not “suffer any economic injury” as a result of precautionary measures is incorrect, the provider added.

Not a Party to Copyright Infringement, Standing Firm

Finally, OVPN informed the court that as a service provider, it is not a party to any of the infringements allegedly carried out by The Pirate Bay or its users. As a result, should the injunction be dismissed, it should be entitled to have its costs covered by the applicants.

“Our main goal is to protect people from hackers and avoid being monitored online,” an OVPN statement adds.

“We wholeheartedly believe that people have a right to communicate privately whether it is in a physical or a digital world. Communications online should be as private as a communication in a room between two people. We are standing firm.”

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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Anti-Piracy Company & Record Labels Are “Running Pirate Sites”, Investigation Claims

Earlier this year we reported on a brand new anti-piracy initiative with an aim to shut down 200 professionally-operated music piracy sites.

Headed up by anti-piracy company AudioLock, music distributor Label Worx, and supported by hundreds of distributors, labels, and other industry players, The Music Mission has a focus on sites that give the impression of being legitimate competition for digital portals such as Beatport, Juno, and Traxsource.

After many weeks of investigations the project has now begun to release some of its initial findings. They are extremely surprising and tend to suggest that parts of the music industry may have allowed the foxes into the hen house. But first, an idea of the scale of just one of these pay-piracy sites.

Almost Eight Years’ Worth of Music on Just One Site

According to information just released by The Music Mission, an analysis of a single ‘pirate’ store has revealed a database of 780,000 unique tracks available for download in MP3 format. All told, the offer totals 10,050 GBs of music or, as the project puts it, more music than anyone could get through in the next decade.

“If all are 320kbps mp3 files, [it] would amount to a shocking 69,791 hours of music or put another way, 7.96 years of music! If you listened to all that whilst walking then you would have got to the moon before having to listen to anything twice,” the coalition says.

Seemingly Legitimate Companies Running Pirate Sites

One surprising revelation is that a company supplying what would normally be viewed as an anti-piracy service is reportedly running a pay-piracy site. Somewhat ironically claiming that its “legal team will make sure that the leaks of your files will be eliminated from illegal sharing websites”, the company appears to be playing for the other side too.

“One particular pirate store owner conveniently have their own anti-virus software company as well as a music watermarking company. Both good partners to an anti-piracy company,” The Music Mission reveals.

The project, which has some heavyweight label supporters plus music licensing group PRS for Music, is currently withholding the name of this company for legal reasons, according to documentation made available to TorrentFreak. However, the allegations against other supposedly industry-supporting entities don’t stop there.

Record Labels and Pro DJs Implicated in Running Pirate Sites

“Several site owners also run/own record labels – at a glimpse, it appears that music from these labels does not appear to be available through the pirate stores, which will be a big help for their chart positions because the other releases in those charts will be losing a large proportion of sales when copies are purchased through the many pirate stores,” The Music Mission continues.

Again, the names of these labels haven’t yet been revealed but given the hundreds of well-known labels supporting this project, it seems unlikely that this conclusion has been pulled out of thin air. The Music Mission says its investigations are continuing so more detail is expected in due course.

On top of this specific threat, there also appears to be another interesting angle.

According to the project, it has identified a number of site owners that are “moonlighting as pro DJs” who have established sizeable fan bases across social media with “gig lists that include international festivals and world-famous nightclubs of which they have graced the decks.”

Somewhat disappointingly, no DJ names have been released, with legal reasons cited once again for the omission.

Pirates Were Aware They Were Being Monitored

One of the aims of The Music Mission is to have a delisting program aimed at reducing the visibility of the sites targeting by its campaign. This appears to have suffered some delays, partly because the true scale of the pirate operations wasn’t immediately apparent and partly because the pirates may have realized they were being watched.

According to the people behind the project, the pirates went to some lengths to prevent the investigation taking place, for both the delisting program and the collection of broader forensic evidence. These “hurdles” have reportedly been overcome now but what exactly has been found remains a question.

So Who Are the Foxes in the Hen House?

Despite asking this question, TorrentFreak was unable to gain any additional information on the players involved in this alleged behavior. That being said, the list of music watermarking companies who also have an anti-virus product can’t be particularly long so if the allegations stand up to scrutiny, they will now be on notice that their adversaries are homing in.

Labels themselves will be harder to identify due to their sheer numbers but the fact that The Music Mission is prepared for this information to be heard in public may affect how these entities behave in the weeks and months ahead.

The only other surprising thing is why The Music Mission hasn’t turned this into a criminal referral, given the alleged scale and organization.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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Pirate IPTV Crackdown Underway in England & Northern Ireland, Arrests Mount

As reported early June, Spain’s National Police shut down a pirate IPTV operation that allegedly serviced two million customers.

The operation was a multi-national affair, with participation from law enforcement authorities across Europe, Canada and the United States. Almost €5 million in funds plus €1.1 in bank assets were frozen. This was a big operation by most standards but it’s clear that this didn’t mark the end of anti-IPTV activity in Europe.

Police Hit Another Supplier and ‘Hijacked’ its Streams

This week, news of a particularly interesting enforcement action appeared in the UK. After arresting a 24-year-old man in the Hollesley area of East Suffolk under suspicion of involvement in a pirate IPTV operation, police hijacked the service’s streams to deliver an anti-piracy message to subscribers of the service. The image below, supplied to TF by Suffolk Police, shows what customers saw.

Police Seize IPTV

This is the first time that police in the UK have used an IPTV service itself to deliver an anti-piracy warning and to our knowledge, this method has never been carried out in other countries either. If it had, perhaps the events we’ll mention now would’ve attracted more attention in the media.

Another Raid, Another Arrest, High-Value Assets Seized

On Thursday, June 25, Lancashire Police executed a search warrant at a house on Buckley Grove in the seaside resort of Lytham St Annes. Carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, a 28-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the supply of pirate IPTV services and illegal TV streaming devices.

While these cases are increasingly common, particularly in mainland Europe, it is rare for police in the UK to immediately seize high-value assets in connection with local cases. As the images below show, police walked away with a couple of pretty nice vehicles.

Cars Seized IPTV

In addition to the Range Rover Sport SVR V8 and Audi A5 convertible shown above, police also seized designer clothing, bags and watches.

“I hope this case shows people that we will work to find those responsible for what ultimately amounts to fraud, seeing people make thousands of pounds illegally. We will also look to seize what they spend their fraudulent profits on,” said DS Mark Riley from Lancashire’s Economic Crime Unit.

The name of the service hasn’t yet been published by the police and with insufficient evidence to back up the rumors, we won’t name it here.

Two People Arrested and Charged in Northern Ireland

To the west of Lytham and across the Irish Sea, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has also been busy cracking down on the provision of pirate IPTV services.

Details are scarce but it transpires that following an investigation in the Mid Ulster area, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) detectives and local officers in Bellaghy, County Londonderry, uncovered what is being described as the “sale of illegal subscriptions for TV channels”.

“A 34-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman have been charged with a range of offenses including making or supplying articles for use in fraud, possessing articles infringing copyright, unauthorized use of a trademark and concealing criminal property,” a police spokesperson confirmed.

Again, police haven’t named the service but online chatter points firmly towards an IPTV supplier that disappeared offline last month. Without direct confirmation we won’t publish its name here but there are some signs that should the case go all the way to a conviction and sentencing, it could be a less than straightforward matter.

Fraud and Money Laundering Are the Common Factors

For many years people considered the operation of torrent sites and streaming platforms only from the angle of copyright law but what we are seeing with most IPTV cases are continual references to offenses under the Fraud Act (defrauding rightsholders) and Proceeds of Crime Act (money laundering).

These offenses not only attract significant custodial sentences in their own right but can also lead to those convicted being stripped of their property, if the authorities believe those assets were obtained from criminal activity.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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Illegal Streaming Business Models to be Investigated By Royal United Services Institute

Founded way back in 1831, the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) is a British defence and security think tank.

With an original mission to study military science, RUSI’s current president is the Duke of Kent and today focuses on defense and security matters. More recently it has expanded into the realms of terrorism and organized crime, illustrated in its report on the links between illicit tobacco and the funding of terror attacks.

This week RUSI announced a new project that will examine the criminal activity linked to intellectual property infringement, with a focus on “financial business models of organized crime groups involved in illicit streaming, piracy and the counterfeiting of related merchandise.”

RUSI states that intellectual property offenses have often been viewed as victimless crimes, despite connections with fraud and similar activity. RUSI says that this had led law enforcement to classify it as low priority offending.

“Despite intellectual property crime representing a growing national security threat to the UK, it does not, in my view get the attention it deserves,” says Keith Ditcham, Director, Organised Crime and Policing at RUSI.

“Through increasing our understanding of intellectual property crime we could not only make a positive impact on this crime but also help disrupt the criminal activities of those organized crime groups engaged in wider criminality that affects the national security of the UK.”

With funding being provided by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Alliance for Intellectual Property, the Premier League, Motion Picture Association (MPA EMEA), and the British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE), RUSI appears set to reframe perceptions among policymakers with its upcoming report. The key questions set by the project are as follows:

  • What types of criminal structures are involved in illicit streaming, piracy and related counterfeiting in the audio-visual sector and what business models do they exploit?
  • What volume of criminal proceeds is derived from illicit streaming, piracy and related counterfeiting in the audio-visual sector and how are these proceeds moved?
  • What is currently being done to track and disrupt the illicit financial flows derived from IP crime?
  • How can intermediaries, such as financial institutions, play a role in the disruption of illicit streaming and piracy?
  • How can the UK improve its response to IP crime from a follow-the-money perspective?

While the project’s findings will no doubt prove interesting, the fairly obvious aim is to elevate the status of intellectual property offenses by framing them as potential fuel for organized crime groups that have a tendency to commit what are currently perceived as more serious crimes.

The Alliance for Intellectual Property, which counts entities such as the BPI, the Publishers Association, and many other groups as members, says the project will not only be a learning exercise but will also provide an opportunity to nudge law enforcement and policymakers in the right direction.

“We know there is serious criminality involved in counterfeiting and piracy but we don’t have a deep understanding of how these criminals operate and how it links to other forms of crime,” says Director General Dan Guthrie.

“The in-depth study by RUSI will provide an opportunity to shine a light on a form of criminality that brings cultural, economic and social damage across our communities. We will then look forward to sharing the research with law enforcement bodies and policymakers to find ways to reduce this harmful crime.”

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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YouTube Hit With Class Action Lawsuit Over Copyright Enforcement, Repeat Infringer Policy

For many years, Google-owned YouTube has been wrestling with the vast amounts of copyright-infringing content being uploaded by users to its platform.

The challenge is met by YouTube by taking down content for which copyright holders file a legitimate infringement complaint under the DMCA. It also operates a voluntary system known as Content ID, which allows larger rightsholders to settle disputes by either blocking contentious content automatically at the point of upload or monetizing it to generate revenue.

Content ID Should Be Available to All Copyright Holders

A class action lawsuit filed Thursday in a California court by Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider tears apart YouTube’s efforts. It claims that the video-sharing platform fails on a grand scale to protect “ordinary creators” who are “denied any meaningful opportunity to prevent YouTube’s public display of works that infringe their copyrights — no matter how many times their works have previously been pirated on the platform.”

The 44-page complaint leaves no stone unturned, slamming YouTube as a platform designed from the ground up to draw in users with the lure of a “vast library” of pirated content and incentivizing the posting of even more material. YouTube then reaps the rewards via advertising revenue and exploitation of personal data at the expense of copyright holders who never gave permission for their work to be uploaded.

The lawsuit further criticizes YouTube for not only preventing smaller artists from accessing its Content ID system but denouncing the fingerprinting system itself, describing it as a mechanism used by YouTube to prevent known infringing users from being terminated from the site under the repeat infringer requirements of the DMCA.

Content ID Allows YouTube to Avoid Terminating Repeat Infringers

“Content ID is not only unavailable to Plaintiffs and the Class, but it actually insulates
the vast majority of known and repeated copyright infringers from YouTube’s repeat infringer policy, thereby encouraging its users’ continuing upload of infringing content”, the complaint reads.

Highlighting Google’s claims that 98% of YouTube copyright issues are resolved with Content ID, the action turns this statement on its head, stating that what the company really means is that all but a fraction of copyright-infringing material is “entirely insulated” from its repeat infringer policy.

“This two-tiered system essentially trains YouTube’s billions of uploading users that there is essentially minimal risk to uploading to their hearts’ content,” it reads.

“And while YouTube’s Content ID partners are protected from these repeat infringers because their uploads will always be screened against the Content ID catalog before publication, Plaintiffs and the Class remain at risk of recurring infringement by these same repeat infringers.”

The complaint says this undermines YouTube’s repeat infringer policy, which mandates that users will be terminated when they accrue three active strikes in a 90 day period. Its claim to safe harbor protection is also nullified, the complaint adds, due to YouTube placing a limit on the number of takedown notices it will process and restricting access to “certain automated tools” designed to locate infringing content on the platform.

No Takedown / Staydown Mechanism

Turning to how YouTube has affected Schneider herself, the action lists a number of songs that have been posted to YouTube without her permission. She claims to have applied to be included in the Content ID system twice but was rejected, so must now “self-police” for infringement instead of enjoying the “automatic and preemptive blocking” afforded to larger rightsholders via Content ID.

Schneider is joined in the action by a British Virgin Islands company called Pirate Monitor Ltd, which reportedly obtained the rights back in January to several non-U.S. movies first published in Hungary. One of those works, titled Immigrants – Jóska menni Amerika, was registered with the US Copyright Office earlier this year.

All of the Pirate Monitor works have been previously uploaded to YouTube in violation of copyright and the company was also denied access to Content ID. Takedown notices were processed by YouTube but the company says that removal took several days, with titles being subsequently reposted by infringers.

“Put simply, copyright holders should not be forced to repeatedly demand that the same platform take down infringing uses of the same copyrighted work, while other rights holders are provided access to standard digital fingerprinting and blocking tools,” the complaint adds.

“By not allowing Plaintiffs to block the upload of infringing materials at the time of upload, Defendants force Plaintiffs and the Class into a time consuming, cumbersome, inaccurate, and flawed ‘manual’ process to enforce their copyrights, all to the benefit of Defendants’ money-making machine.”

No Respect for Copyright Management Information

The complaint also takes a deep dive into YouTube’s alleged misconduct in respect of Copyright Management Information (CMI), metadata that can be found in lawfully sold copyright works which can provide a means to discover who owns it, in YouTube’s case at the point of upload to its platform.

“YouTube neither encourages nor protects the original CMI metadata during the upload process, even though YouTube knows it exists and its value for protecting the rights of creators,” the plaintiffs write.

“Defendants have created a system that not only disregards, but eliminates or conceals, and/or encourages uploaders to eliminate or conceal, CMI from the video files published on the YouTube platform.”

YouTube Not Entitled to Safe Harbor Protection Under the DMCA

Due to its actions, YouTube cannot rely on the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, the complaint alleges. These include placing limits on the number of takedown notices it will process, preventing plaintiffs from properly enforcing their rights. When these limits are exceeded, the lawsuit states that rights holders risk losing access to YouTube’s infringement mitigation tools.

It further alleges that YouTube now requires some notice senders to identify what part of an allegedly-infringing work infringes their rights by supplying time stamps. While this is automated under Content ID, those outside the system find themselves with additional work.

“By conditioning these notification and takedown procedures on the provision of additional information — information not required under the DMCA — YouTube has violated the requirements of the DMCA and forfeited its safe harbor protections.”

The action further alleges that YouTube’s ‘three strikes in 90 days’ termination policy is deficient since when timed appropriately, it allows users to safely upload eight copyright infringing works in a year without being terminated.

“By erasing copyright strikes after 90 days, YouTube has not satisfied the safe harbor requirements of the DMCA and forfeited its safe harbor protections,” it adds.

Piling on the pressure, the complaint says that YouTube has constructive knowledge that repeat infringers are infringing works of the plaintiffs’ and class since these are being shielded from termination by the Content ID system which does not deliver ‘strikes’. It further adds that YouTube is profiting from infringements that it could control, another disqualifier from the safe harbor provisions.

Potentially Billions in Copyright Infringement Damages

In summary, the complaint alleges direct copyright infringement, inducement of copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, vicarious infringement, and removal of CMI, contrary to the Copyright Act. As a class action, many more rights holders could now pile on, with the potential for calculator-busting claims for damages.

The full complaint can be obtained here (pdf)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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The Pirate Bay: VPN Provider OVPN Hit With Court Injunction, Vows to Fight

Early June, movie companies Svensk Filmindustri and Nordisk Film, supported by anti-piracy partner Rights Alliance, obtained an IP address from Cloudflare which they hoped would lead to The Pirate Bay.

The parties subsequently went to court in Sweden and obtained an injunction compelling local ISP Obenetwork, to which the parties had linked the address, to hand over information about its dealings with the site.

It soon became clear that the IP address wasn’t operated by Obenetwork and had actually been allocated to Swedish VPN provider OVPN. As a result, the Stockholm District Court threw out the injunction but the movie companies weren’t done just yet.

New Court Injunction Targeting OVPN

Undeterred by this setback, the movie companies and Rights Alliance returned to court last week demanding that OVPN, on pain of financial penalties, should hand over customer information relating to the IP address including name and address, how long the service had been used for, and how much was paid for it.

“The defendant [OVPN] sells VPN services. A VPN service means that the traffic was tunneled off the original [IP address] via a VPN service and then out to the internet. This means that only the VPN service’s [IP-address] is publicly visible,” the application reviewed by TF reads.

Citing an earlier TF interview with OVPN, the applicants stated that they now believe the IP address does belong to the VPN provider and was in use by The Pirate Bay early June. Furthermore, in common with the matter against Obenetwork, the applicants asked the court to keep OVPN in the dark about the application. However, according to OVPN’s David Wibergh, that was unsuccessful.

Case is Already Public Knowledge, Secrecy Unjustified

“The Rights Alliance filed that we should not be involved, but the court overruled that decision and referenced that we were already made aware of the circumstances due to [TorrentFreak’s] article where I was quoted,” Wibergh informs TF.

“The Rights Alliance requested a penalty of 100,000 SEK if we did not provide the requested information, as well as a penalty of 100,000 SEK in case we delete any user information connected to who had the IP address at the specified time, i.e penalties connected to information that we don’t have.”

OVPN Will Fight the Injunction

As previously reported, OVPN states that its entire structure is built to ensure that no logs can be stored, with servers locked in cabinets and operated without hard drives. The studios are seeking names and addresses, the length of time the service was in use, and how much was paid for it.

However, while OVPN could in theory have a username it could hand over, there is no requirement for its customers to provide physical or email addresses, or pay with anything other than Bitcoin or cash.

“We are responding to the court order [Wednesday], as we were made aware of it [Monday] and were only given 48 hours to provide a response,” Wibergh informs TF.

“We have retained legal counsel and are contesting the injunction in court. As always, we are prepared to go the entire way to ensure our customers’ privacy and safety.”

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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Police Arrest Pirate IPTV Operator & ‘Hijack’ Streams With Anti-Piracy Warning

Sometime during Tuesday, users of a pirate IPTV provider marketed under the Global / Global Entertainment brands were given a surprise.

Instead of accessing the live TV package they’d originally subscribed to, they’re now being treated to a warning that claims to originate from two police forces in the UK.

“This illegal stream has been seized By Norfolk and Sussex Police,” it begins.

“Watching illegal broadcasts is a crime. Your IP address has been recorded. You are instructed to cease and desist immediately from all illegal media streaming.”

As news of the message spread around various IPTV discussion forums, the speculation began. Some put forward the theory that the operator of the service had orchestrated some kind of cut-and-run scam, faking the seizure notice and then fleeing with subscribers’ money. Others stated that it was some kind of hack designed to scare users of the service.

To find out the truth, TorrentFreak contacted Suffolk Police with a copy of the message. They confirmed that the notice is part of a criminal investigation and should be taken seriously.

Message is Genuine, One Man Arrested

“Officers are aware that speculation is circulating online stating that the on screen message is a ‘hack’. However, recipients should be clear that this is a genuine police operation,” the force informs TF.

Police are not yet naming Global as a target and it’s certainly possible that additional providers are also affected by the action. However, they did confirm that officers from the local Cyber and Serious Organised Crime team carried out a warrant at a property in the Hollesley area of East Suffolk yesterday, in connection with premium pay-TV channels that were “being facilitated to tens of thousands of people.”

According to the police, a 24-year-old man was arrested under section 44 of the Serious Crime Act and Section 11 of the Fraud Act under suspicion of obtaining services dishonestly and concealing/converting criminal property, i.e money laundering. He was taken to Martlesham Police Investigation Center for questioning and was released under investigation pending further inquiries.

First Time a Seizure Notice Has Appeared Via an IPTV Service

In respect of the anti-piracy message now being displayed on former customers’ screens, police say this was made possible after gaining access to the IPTV provider and disabling the suspected illegal streams.

While seizure and similar anti-piracy warnings have appeared on dozens of pirate websites over the years, this is the first instance that we’re aware of that has managed to deliver the same type of message via an IPTV provider, direct to people’s television sets. It’s an intriguing development that may yet resonate with the public.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.