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Former Police Officer Handed 12 Month Sentence For Selling Pirate TV Devices

Over the years there have been many claims that people involved in piracy are linked to other areas of criminality but a case concluded yesterday probably wasn’t the leading example the authorities had in mind.

In 2017, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) assisted by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) launched an investigation into Daniel Aimson, who at the time was a serving officer with the force. Another matter, which we’ll come to shortly, triggered an investigation into Aimson’s finances and his connection to A1MSN Ltd, a company registered in the UK during October 2016 directed by his then-wife, Rachel Aimson.

It transpired that this company, which described itself as being involved in the “retail sale of audio and video equipment in specialized stores”, was being used to supply piracy-configured IPTV devices providing access to sport and movies for a monthly subscription.

According to GMP, the company also sold pirate streaming subscriptions that allowed users to log into a web-based portal where the content could be viewed without the need for a dedicated device.

“Over a seven-month period between January to August 2017, the turnover for just one of the accounts linked to the company was in excess of £300,000, none of which was declared to HMRC,” GMP said in a statement.

“Further analysis of the account revealed that between September 2016 and May 2017, approximately 1,640 illicit IPTV devices were sold.”

Alleged losses for SKY TV

In September 2017, Aimson was arrested at his home under suspicion and fraud and he was suspended from his role with the police. An analysis by Sky TV suggested it could have lost around £5 million in official subscriptions but a figure of $2.124m is now being cited by GMP.

Yesterday, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, a judge at Manchester Crown Court sentenced the former police officer to 12 months in prison.

“Aimson was making enormous amounts of money from what he knew to be an illegal activity,” commented Detective Constable Paul Bayliss of Greater Manchester Police.

“He was a police employee with a good career. That is now in tatters and he’s facing a lengthy prison sentence during which to contemplate his foolish and deceitful actions.”

While 12 months may sound like a long time in prison, many offenders spend just half of their sentences behind bars. However, Daniel Aimson’s case goes much deeper than that, something that went unmentioned in the force’s statement this morning.

Already Serving a Six-Year Sentence for Drugs Offenses

According to the archives of the Manchester Evening News, in 2015 when Daniel Aimson was still a serving officer, he and several other individuals were producing cannabis on a commercial scale. One of the growing locations was leased using the identity of the member of the public after Aimson stole the individual’s driving license during a spot check.

Aimson’s farms continued to produce cannabis for at least 30 months but in June 2017 the operation was raided by police and shut down.

“He (Aimson) was seen at various stages on his own CCTV hard drive to wear a t-shirt depicting the lead character Walt in the hit TV series called Breaking Bad,” Prosecutor Owen Edwards previously commented.

“In his various text messages it is clear that Aimson reveled in his double life as officer and criminal.”

IPTV Piracy Continued While Aimson Was On Bail

While Aimson was on bail for the drugs offenses, financial investigators found links to his still-operating set-top box business, his wife’s limited company through which they were sold, and bank accounts operated by other family members used to handle the money.

In 2017, Aimson was handed a prison sentence of six years and four months for running the cannabis operation. Yesterday, just two and a half years into that sentence, he was handed an additional 12 months inside for selling the pirate TV devices.

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

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BREIN Shut Down 564 Pirate Sites & Blocked 258 Pirate Bay Proxies in 2019

Founded in 1998, BREIN is one of the world’s most recognizable anti-piracy groups and has taken on some of the largest names in piracy, including the infamous Pirate Bay.

BREIN has a laundry list of significant anti-piracy victories under its belt, not only by introducing site blocking to the Netherlands via a case against The Pirate Bay but also winning a landmark decision in the Filmspeler case, which found that selling piracy-configured set-top boxes is illegal under EU law.

Many of BREIN’s achievements aren’t so widely publicized in real-time but via its annual report, the Dutch anti-piracy group shines a light on its activities of the preceding 12 months. Its latest publication reveals that 2019 was a busy year, as BREIN sought to protect the rights of copyright holders in the fields of movies, TV shows, music and publishing, plus games and images.

BREIN Investigations Increase Year on Year

The global anti-piracy landscape is huge and almost impossible to map comprehensively given its fluid nature. However, BREIN is certainly taking on its fair share of cases and looking into a surprising number of matters at any one time.

During 2019, BREIN said it completed 596 investigations, up from the 511 it concluded during the previous year. The anti-piracy group doesn’t provide a precise overview of the nature of each of these investigations or the reasons for discontinuing each of them. Nevertheless, at the close of last year, 243 were still active, up from the 97 that remained ongoing at the end of 2018.

The War Against Downloading and Streaming Platforms

For many years, BREIN has reported successes against pirate platforms, often taking down hundreds in a 12 month period and 2019 was no exception. When downloading and streaming platforms are combined, BREIN says that it disabled 564 overall during the period. Sites targeted by the anti-piracy group commonly operate in the torrent, Usenet, linking, and cyberlocker niches.

Continuing to Tackle The Pirate Bay

After unrelenting pressure by BREIN, in 2012 a Dutch court issued an order for ISPs to block The Pirate Bay in the Netherlands. While that decision was overturned two years later, BREIN took the matter to the Supreme Court, which led to an EU Court of Justice referral.

In 2017, Europe’s highest court ruled that The Pirate Bay could indeed be blocked. The case in the Netherlands is still pending but with an interim injunction in place, ISPs are blocking the site. That has led to the emergence of hundreds of mirrors and proxies, all of which keep BREIN busy.

According to the group’s annual report, 258 mirrors and proxies of The Pirate Bay were blocked by ISPs using IP address and DNS methods while 333 proxies “ceased their service” during 2019.

Illegal IPTV and VOD suppliers

One of BREIN’s most notable achievements in 2019 took place in partnership with the MPA. Together the groups took legal action against Russian pirate CDN ‘Moonwalk’ (1,2) which reportedly serviced around 80% of Russia-based streaming sites.

Lower down the chain of supply, BREIN reports it also curtailed the activities of “23 illegal dealers” in ‘pirate’ IPTV and VOD subscriptions plus another 12 sellers operating via Facebook. A seller of piracy-configured IPTV devices offered through an online marketplace agreed to pay a settlement to BREIN after being tracked down by the group. During the past several years, BREIN has taken down around 300 pirate IPTV sellers and obtained settlements worth tens of thousands of euros.

BREIN also took on a more unusual case targeting the operator of a so-called ‘Plex share’ offering 5,700 movies and 10,000 TV-shows. That individual agreed to shut down and pay a settlement to the anti-piracy group.

Uploaders and other distributors

BREIN doesn’t have a history of regularly targeting small-time ‘personal’ file-sharers but does take action against people who supply content for download or devices designed for copyright infringement on a larger scale.

During 2019, BREIN targeted several Facebook and other social media-based groups offering eBooks, shutting them down and obtaining settlements from their operators. The anti-piracy outfit also concluded a case against a seller of Nintendo R4 cartridges pre-loaded with up to 100 games after the seller signed a cease-and-desist with a financial penalty clause. A similar agreement was reached with a Usenet uploader.

In a sign that BREIN expects these types of settlements to be adhered to, the anti-piracy group reports that it took action against at least two offenders who previously agreed to comply and then reneged.

In response, a repeat eBook pirate who continued her activities had her house and assets seized by BREIN before payments were resumed. A major uploader who did not comply with the terms of his settlement was summoned to court, with additional legal and collection costs.

Upcoming Activities in 2020

After being granted permission to monitor BitTorrent users several users ago, BREIN indicated that it might be prepared to demand cash settlements from people who repeatedly upload infringing content. While that never appeared at any scale, the anti-piracy group does have something up its sleeve for the months ahead.

“The dealing with frequent uploaders includes an awareness program of 6 months in which a maximum of 1000 accounts a month will receive an educational warning by email. For research into its effect, funding has been obtained,” BREIN says.

“The start of the education is planned mid-2020. Whether enforcement will eventually take place is subject to the effect of the awareness program.”

The full BREIN Review 2019 report can be obtained here (pdf)

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

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Publishers Sue the Internet Archive Over its Open Library, Declare it a Pirate Site

Back in March, the Internet Archive responded to the coronavirus pandemic by offering a new service to help “displaced learners”.

Combining scanned books from three libraries, the Archive offered unlimited borrowing of more than a million books, so that people could continue to learn while in quarantine.

While the move was welcomed by those in favor of open access to education, publishers and pro-copyright groups slammed the decision, with some describing it as an attempt to bend copyright law and others declaring the project as mass-scale piracy.

Today, major publishers Hachette Book Group, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and Penguin Random House LLC went to war with the project by filing a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive and five ‘Doe’ defendants in a New York court.

The plaintiffs, all member companies of the Association of American Publishers, effectively accuse the Internet Archive (IA) of acting not dissimilarly to a regular pirate site. In fact, the complaint uses those very words.

“The Open Library Is Not a Library, It Is an Unlicensed Aggregator and Pirate Site”

“Defendant IA is engaged in willful mass copyright infringement. Without any license or any payment to authors or publishers, IA scans print books, uploads these illegally scanned books to its servers, and distributes verbatim digital copies of the books in whole via public-facing websites. With just a few clicks, any Internet-connected user can download complete digital copies of in-copyright books from Defendant,” the complaint reads.

“The scale of IA’s scheme is astonishing: At its ‘Open Library,’ located at www.openlibrary.org and www.archive.org.., IA currently distributes digital scanned copies of over 1.3 million books. And its stated goal is to do so for millions more, essentially distributing free digital copies of every book ever written.”

Internet Archive Does “Violence to the Copyright Act”, Publishers Claim

Since the library was launched there has been discussion over whether the library itself is legal, with the Internet Archive firmly believing that it sits on the right side of the law. However, the publishers’ lawsuit stresses that they aren’t suing over the “occasional transmission of a title under appropriately limited circumstances”. What they are concerned with is their belief that the IA’s library is a tool for mass infringement.

“[The lawsuit] is about IA’s purposeful collection of truckloads of in-copyright books to scan, reproduce, and then distribute digital bootleg versions online. IA’s Website includes books of every stripe — from bestsellers to scholarly monographs, from entertaining thrillers and romances to literary fiction, from self-help books to biographies, from children’s books to adult books,” it reads.

The publishers also counter IA’s assertions that it only offers older 20th-century books for download, stating that is neither “accurate nor a defense.” IA scans, uploads and distributes huge numbers of in-copyright titles, the publishers state, including those published in the last few years.

“IA’s unauthorized copying and distribution of Plaintiffs’ works include titles that the Publishers are currently selling commercially and currently providing to libraries in ebook form, making Defendant’s business a direct substitute for established markets. Free is an insurmountable competitor,” they write.

Controlled Digital Lending is an “Invented Theory”, Complaint Alleges

At the heart of IA’s reasoning that its library is both legitimate and legal is that it offers content via Controlled Digital Lending, with titles only loaned for a limited period and on a controlled volume basis. However, opponents claim that scanning and lending can not be used as a cover for copyright infringement and distribution. It’s a position held by the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.

Claiming that IA is hiding behind “an invented theory” simply labeled Controlled Digital Lending, the publishers maintain there is nothing in copyright law that allows anyone to systematically copy and distribute digital book files simply because they claim to own an original physical copy.

Furthermore, IA’s loosening of its own CDL rules at the time of the pandemic only made matters worse, as it came precisely when book market players were also under pressure to survive.

“IA’s blatant, willful infringement is all the more egregious for its timing, which comes at the very moment that many authors, publishers, and independent bookstores, not to mention libraries, are both struggling to survive amidst economic uncertainty and planning deliberatively for future, changing markets,” the lawsuit adds.

In summary, the publishers state that the function of the library is similar to that of the publishers themselves. Both distribute entire books to the public for reading but unlike the publishers, the IA avoids having to invest any money in order to do so.

“In short, Defendant merely exploits the investments that publishers have made in their books, and it does so through a business model that is designed to free-ride on the work of others. Defendant pays for none of the expenses that go into publishing a book and is nothing more than a mass copier and distributor of bootleg works.”

Damages Could Run Into Tens, Perhaps Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

The publishers are going straight for the jugular with their claim, alleging direct copyright infringement for each of the publishers’ copyright works offered by the library at a rate of $150,000 in statutory damages per infringement. In the alternative, should IA “attempt to evade responsibility” by blaming its own users for infringement, the lawsuit also alleges secondary copyright infringement.

“Defendant is secondarily liable under theories of contributory liability, inducement liability, and vicarious liability for the underlying reproduction, distribution, public display, and public performance of Plaintiffs’ Works, as well as the making of infringing derivatives of Plaintiffs’ Works,” it adds.

Summing up, the plaintiffs seek a declaration that the Internet Archive’s actions in respect of the Open Library constitute willful copyright infringement. On top, they demand preliminary and permanent injunctions to restrain it from offering their copyrighted works alongside a judgment for a yet-to-be-determined amount in statutory damages.

A copy of the complaint can be found here (pdf)

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

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ACE/MPA Seize Four More Sites For Facilitating Movie & TV Show Piracy

Domain takeovers and seizures have been part of the piracy landscape for at least 15 years.

Previously implemented mostly by government agencies, including the Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of criminal investigations, seizure banners are used as messages to deter former and would-be pirates.

Given the finite resources of law enforcement agencies and their tendency to focus on high-profile targets, domain seizures/takeovers are now much more likely to be actioned privately. This usually involves an approach to a site owner by entertainment industry lawyers, who politely request that all infringing activity ceases and domains are handed over to avoid more punishing action.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is now emerging as the leader in this type of enforcement tactic. Comprised of the world’s leading video-focused entertainment companies, ACE has shut down dozens of platforms in this manner. However, instead of shouting its achievements from the rooftops, ACE prefers to conduct most of this activity behind the scenes.

Four More Domains Officially ‘Seized’ by ACE/MPA This Month

1. Rokuenmexico.com

Until recently, visitors to ‘Roku in Mexico’ were greeted with an offer to buy what appears to have been an unlicensed IPTV product called Future TV.

“Premium TV at the best price. Forget about SKY and Netflix,” the site declared. “The largest catalog of films including some that are still in the cinema. Access the latest movies from your home.”

Priced at 230 pesos (around $10) per month, the service claimed to be compatible with Android, iOS, Windows and Mac devices, playable on up to three at any one time. The service could be ‘activated’ via WhatsApp with payments accepted via PayPal and other means.

Curiously, however, the underlying Future TV portal seems to have been unaffected by the MPA’s seizure of the Rokuenmexico.com domain. That remains available today, as the image below shows.

Future TV

2. Android-Latino.com

The MPA’s takeover of Android-Latino.com is more difficult to decipher. The minimal volume of cached pages available on the Wayback Machine suggest that the site published news and reviews of pirate IPTV services and apps. It may have also published links to URLs where people could watch IPTV channels for free.

In any event, the original page (which wasn’t professionally presented) is long gone and now diverts to the ACE anti-piracy portal.

3. TVnota10.net

In common with the above seizure, the takeover of TVnota10.net isn’t immediately straightforward either. While the main site is down and redirecting to ACE citing breaches of copyright law, it appears to have functioned as a sales/promotional platform for a similarly-named service, TVN10.com.

That site appears to be completely functional, offering access to an almost certainly unlicensed IPTV service offering everything from live TV channels and movies, to TV shows and international sports.

4. Crowdstream.ml

To complete this weird quartet of domain takeovers we have Crowdstream.ml. Not only had we never heard of this platform before, it seems that the major companies of ACE may have only heard of it recently too. Google’s Transparency Report reveals that Twentieth Century Fox and Disney sent a handful of takedown notices in December 2019 with French free-to-air television channel TF1 taking an interest at roughly the same time.

Major search engines only have a handful of Crowdstream pages indexed but the suggestion is that the service hosted or linked to mainstream movies and may have been directed at the French market.

Coverage of previous ACE/MPA domain seizures can be found here.

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

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Watch Tower DMCA Subpoena Row Settled After Judge Hands Out Vulgarity Warning

Back in March we reported that the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the publisher for the Jehovah’s Witness religious group, had gone to court to obtain a DMCA subpoena.

The aim of the group was to discover the personal details of a self-declared ‘apostate’ who uploaded Jehovah’s Witness sermons to YouTube in breach of copyright. These are usually open-and-shut cases but when an anonymous movant stepped in to contest the application, things got pretty stormy to say the least.

As reported in April, the anonymous individual filed a series of documents with the court, branding leaders of the religious group as ‘pedophiles’ and suggesting that Judge Cathy Seibel’s alleged friendship with Watch Tower’s attorney could be undermining the judicial process. While largely irrelevant to our copyright-focused reporting, it should be noted that those claims were just the tip of the iceberg.

Profanities aside (and they were present in abundance), the anonymous movant declared protection under fair use doctrines and drew attention to the fact that despite filing applications for 59 DMCA subpoenas, Watch Tower had never followed up with an actual copyright lawsuit. These matters and more were subsequently addressed by Watch Tower and Judge Seibel.

Watch Tower: DMCA Subpoena Process Was Used in Good Faith

In a memorandum and declaration, Watch Tower attorney Paul D. Polidoro said that beginning June 2018, the religious group undertook “concentrated efforts” to address the “global theft” of its intellectual property. Part of this was exercising its rights under the DMCA, including applying for subpoenas. According to Polidoro, however, these didn’t bear much fruit.

Using the words of the anonymous movant against him, the attorney noted that things like “VPNs, anonymous proxies, and TOR exit nodes” frustrate Watch Tower’s enforcement efforts to discover the true identities of alleged infringers.

“When some identifying information was obtained, usually the infringer resided outside of the United States, such as in South America or Europe,” Polidoro wrote.

“At the end of last year, Watch Tower’s Legal Department was finally able to identify a few potential domestic defendants to bring a copyright infringement action. Undertaking litigation with its attendant expenses was and is carefully considered because Jehovah’s Witnesses’ efforts are ‘supported entirely by voluntary donations’.”

In the end, however, Watch Tower decided that legal action against someone was required and in December 2019 took the decision to sue an alleged copyright infringer. According to the filing, work on the case has been taking place since the beginning of 2020 but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the complaint was delayed.

“Watch Tower’s forthcoming copyright infringement lawsuit will not end its efforts to take steps to address other ongoing continued infringements. To this end, Watch Tower will continue to avail itself of its statutory rights to pursue DMCA subpoenas to identify other potential defendants,” Polidoro warned.

Watch Tower: No Fair Use in This Case

What followed was a case-by-case analysis of five videos posted by the movant to YouTube. In previous filings, the movant stated that the videos were “undercover” recordings of Jehovah’s Witness sermons but according to the religious group, they were all posted in their entirety and without criticism, as might be the case when attempting to make a fair use claim.

Only making matters more complicated was a subsequent motion to quash by the anonymous movant which stated that the DMCA subpoena itself was invalid because the five videos referenced by Watch Tower had already been removed from YouTube by YouTube itself, before the notices had been issued.

“[B]y the time Watch Tower had issued its DMCA notices for the five allegedly infringing videos in the case at hand, the five videos had already been removed by Google/YouTube because Google is a huge piece of shit who doesn’t have to do their fucking jobs right,” the motion notes.

“So ‘Hooray for the pieces of shit at Google for being so quick on the trigger and heavy-handed with their ban hammer!’ But I guess that means that this subpoena must be quashed.”

No, Possibly, and Mind Your Language, Judge Declares

“Having heard further from the parties, I deny the motion to quash,” Judge Siebel wrote in her recent order settling the matter.

“Watch Tower has provided an explanation for why it has not pursued more cases, as well as evidence that the alleged infringement would not constitute fair use because the videos are full-length and not accompanied by criticism. That there may be criticisms in the comments section [on YouTube] does not render the initial postings fair use.”

On the validity of the DMCA subpoena, the anonymous movant may enjoy more success, but only within tight parameters.

“Movant argues that the subpoena is unenforceable because the videos were all taken down before Google received notice. I am dubious, because this allegation contradicts what Movant alleges elsewhere — that the videos were taken down only after the notices were received — and because in Watch Tower’s initial declaration, it attached a letter it sent to Google asking it to take down the videos,” the Judge notes.

“But the subpoena would be unenforceable if the material had been taken down before the notices were received, so Watch Tower’s counsel should provide Google with a copy of this text order, and Google is advised that compliance with the subpoena is not required if in fact the videos were taken down before Google received any notice of the possible infringement.”

With the matter of the DMCA subpoena now apparently over, Judge Siebel took the time to add some personal advice to conclude her order. Having made no attempt to rein in any of the language used in the dispute thus far, she had the last word indicating she was far from happy.

“Finally, some free advice for Movant: Inflammatory, vulgar and abusive language in court filings is not a good idea.”

Related court filings can be found here and here (pdf)

Image credit: Pixabay

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

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US Court Hands Down Preliminary Injunction Against Pirate IPTV Provider

Pirate IPTV services have flourished in the past few years with little to hold them all back.

To counter the threat, however, US-broadcaster DISH Network hasn’t taken its foot off the gas, filing numerous lawsuits in local courts in an effort to shut at least some of them down.

DISH seems to pick its targets wisely, enjoying success in many of not all of its lawsuits. This week the company added another victory to its collection after obtaining a preliminary injunction to prevent a pirate IPTV service from infringing its rights.

Filed under seal back in late January at a Florida court, the complaint targeted Robert Reich, an alleged resident of Riviera Beach, Florida. Reich’s IPTV service reportedly operates under various business names including Channel Broadcasting Corporation of Belize Ltd, Channel Broadcasting Cable, CBC Cable, and CBC.

The ‘Pirate’ Rebroadcasting Scheme

According to DISH, Reich is the owner and operator of the ‘CBC X-View Cable Service’ which does business at CBC.bz. DISH alleges that the service is actually a pirate TV operation that utilizes official DISH subscriber accounts (many of which have Florida addresses) to steal the company’s programming before retransmitting it via the Internet.

The image below shows around half of the channels offered by the service, many of which are licensed exclusively by DISH.

“Defendant sells subscriptions to the CBC pirate television service for $60 per month plus a $55 installation fee. To purchase a subscription, customers can contact CBC through a variety of means according to CBC’s website, including telephone, email, Facebook, and WhatsApp VOIP service,” the complaint reads.

In addition to regular subscribers, DISH alleges that the service is also being used in several hotels in Belize including the Radisson Fort George. DISH claims that error messages from its services were observed on television sets in the hotels showing that the programming had indeed been retransmitted from its platform.

DISH commonly files anti-IPTV lawsuits under copyright law or the Federal Communications Act, with the latter being used in this case. The company alleges breaches of 47 U.S.C. § 605(a) and 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(4) which covers the sale of device codes (aka subscriptions) and piracy devices such as configured set-top boxes.

Statutory damages of between $1,000 and $10,000 are available for each violation of Section 605(a) and up to $100,000 if the violation was committed willfully and for financial gain. Section 605(e)(4) allows for statutory damages up to $100,000 for each violation.

Defendant Tracked Down and Served in Belize

The docket shows that on April 24, 2020, a former police officer and process server hired by DISH served documents on Robert Reich at his residence in Belize, including an ex parte motion for temporary restraining order and motion for preservation order and asset freeze previously granted by the court.

In response, Reich filed a motion to quash, arguing that the court that it had no jurisdiction over him because he hadn’t been properly served. After highlighting conflicting statements submitted by Reich and his wife, earlier this month Judge Rodney Smith dismissed the motion and sided with DISH.

Temporary Restraining Order Converted to Preliminary Injunction

This week the court noted that it had previously granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Reich based on several findings, including that since DISH was likely to succeed in its claims under the FCA, the continued distribution of pirate subscriptions and devices would cause “irreparable injury” to the company.

Since then, however, the court acknowledged that the parties had met and agreed to convert the TRO into a preliminary injunction to be formalized by the court, in advance of an upcoming hearing.

As a result, Judge Smith was happy to carry that out by restraining Reich and all of his businesses from continuing to infringe DISH’s rights. That includes receiving and/or distributing DISH programming without permission and selling or distributing devices “marketed, designed or intended for receiving or assisting others” in receiving DISH programming.

Reich was further restrained from destroying, hiding or transferring any computer servers, satellite equipment, software, set-top boxes and documentation that have been used (or could be used) to support his pirate IPTV service.

Finally, Reich had severe restrictions placed on his assets, including physical items, cash and bank accounts, preventing any transfer beyond what’s required for “reasonable” living and business expenses. The court told Reich that he must now “keep detailed records” of all his expenditures.

“Defendant, and anyone acting in active concert or participation with Defendant or Defendant’s CBC TV Service at issue in this action who receives actual notice of this Order, is warned that any act in violation of any of the terms of this Order may be considered and prosecuted as contempt of this Court,” Judge Smith warned.

The complaint and supporting documents can be found here (1,2,3,4 pdf)

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

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Russia Adopts Law to Block Pirate Apps and if Necessary, App Stores Too

As torrent indexes and streaming portals continue to provide access to copyrighted content, there has also been a considerable increase in the availability of software applications that facilitate access to movies, TV shows and similar content.

These tools, which can be installed with minimal effort, often act as aggregators of content and presenting it in easy-to-use interfaces on mobile phones, tablets and similar devices. While the sources for this content can be handled with traditional takedown and blocking mechanisms, authorities in Russia have been seeking to take direct action against the apps themselves.

Following its third reading, Russia’s State Duma adopted new legislative amendments yesterday that will allow them to do just that.

How the New Law to Tackle Piracy Within Apps Will Work

After receiving a complaint from a copyright holder, local telecoms watchdog Roscomnadazor will have 72 hours to determine where the allegedly-infringing application is being hosted. This might typically be an official repository such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store but could also be a third-party distributor or website offering a similar service or functionality.

Roscomnadzor will then send an infringement notice to the platform informing it of the alleged violation while highlighting a requirement to limit the availability of the content identified in the notice. The app distribution platform will then have 24 hours following the receipt of the complaint to notify the application’s owner that an infringement complaint has been filed.

Within 24 hours of the developer being made aware of the details of the complaint, they will be required to prevent the specified content from being made available in their application. If they do not comply, the responsibility to prevent ongoing infringement will then fall back on the app distribution platforms themselves, requiring them to stop distributing the entire application.

In the event that the application distributor fails to take the mandated removal or blocking steps, Roscomnadzor will then be able to issue an instruction to have the distributor itself blocked by all Internet service providers in Russia, thereby preventing consumers from having access to the platform in its entirety.

“If the owner of the information resource [Google Play, Apple’s App Store] has not limited access to the software application, the information necessary for taking measures to restrict access to the software application is sent to telecom operators,” an announcement from the State Duma reads.

Last-Ditch Efforts to Soften the Law Were Ignored

In the original draft of the legislation, responsibility for blocking access to pirated content was limited to the developers/operators of the allegedly-infringing applications themselves. However, subsequent amendments expanded liability to application distribution platforms too.

Several trade groups made last-minute appeals to the State Duma requesting that measures to block distribution platforms be removed from the legislation but their calls went unheeded. As a result, there are now fears that key app distribution players could be negatively affected by the measures due to additional requirements to monitor for the alleged infringements of third-parties.

After two years in the making, the new law will be signed by President Vladimir Putin and into force on October 1, 2020.

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

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Vapor Store Looks a Lot Like a Popcorn Time For Pirated Steam Games

Websites are some of the most popular hangouts for pirates but over the past several years there’s been an increased appetite for app-based solutions.

Modified Kodi installations, for example, have proven popular for close to a decade but in 2014 Popcorn Time sparked a revolution by providing a Netflix-like experience for movie and TV show consumers.

Since then, dozens of Popcorn Time-like applications have appeared on the scene with varying levels of success but most have stuck to providing access to video content. This week, however, a new tool called Vapor Store debuted online targeting the video games niche.

As the image below shows, a fully-configured Vapor Store looks very much like a Popcorn Time for pirated games.

Vapor Store

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Vapor Store developer ‘Sushy’ (who appears to be still at school) says that he’d always liked the idea of having a simple-to-use program to download games. So, putting his newly-acquired coding skills to the test, he embarked on this “challenging and rewarding” open-source project.

“Vapor Store is a program that simplifies downloading and installing games on Windows,” Sushy informs TF.

“All games are direct downloads [not torrents as is the case with Popcorn Time] and to use Vapor Store you will need to find a source that already has a list of games with download links and import them into Vapor Store. Vapor Store will generate a list based on the data from the site the user inserted.”

For legal reasons, this step is pretty important. While Popcorn Time comes ready-configured with all pirate sources and resources, Vapor Store does not. Users are required to input a source site to render it useful and it’s already an open secret that the software currently only works with video game download site Steamunlocked.

Once connected to that site, Vapor Store utilizes the database at IGDB, presenting game titles, previews and screenshots along with cover art.

Vapor Store meta data

“When you click on a game you get even more information such as a short description and some screenshots. To install a game the user simply needs to click on the ‘Download’ button and then Vapor Store will do its thing,” Sushy explains.

“Once the install is complete the game will automatically get added to the user’s library and from there they will be able to run the game.”

Vapor Store is still very much in development over at Github, with updates to its interface, storefront and ability to work with ROM sites on the horizon. The developer acknowledges that there are things still to be fixed but believes the tool has reached the stage where it can be tested by the public.

Vapor Store is currently limited by the slow download speeds associated with file-hosting sites and due to the nature of games themselves (which cannot be streamed in the same way video can), it does not enjoy the immediacy of its movie and TV show equivalents. From a technical perspective, people shouldn’t begin holding their breath anytime soon for that kind of functionality.

That being said, Vapor Store is an interesting concept that could be built upon in the future. It’s no Steam replacement at this early stage but has the potential to spark plenty of curiosity.

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

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Cloudflare Ordered to Reveal Operators of Popular Pirate Sites Manga1000.com

Obtaining the personal details of individuals behind pirate sites is rarely straightforward.

When they’re visible at all, domain registrations can be hidden behind privacy services, faked, or even both, while hosting companies tend not to comply with demands to reveal information when they’re unsupported by a valid court order.

One of the methods increasingly deployed in recent times is to target a potential weak spot. Thousands of pirate sites use the services of CDN company Cloudflare and as a US-based entity, Cloudflare is compelled to comply with the orders of the court. So, with copyright infringement allegations in hand, rightsholders apply for a so-called DMCA subpoena to force Cloudflare to hand over site operators’ personal details.

This tactic was recently used by Shogakukan, one of Japan’s largest publishers of manga content. In an application for DMCA subpoena filed at a California district court this month, lawyers for the company explained that in order to protect its copyrighted content, Shogakukan needs to identify the people behind two domains – manag1000.com and manga1001.com.

Manga1000.com screenshot

“It has recently come to Shogakukan’s attention that certain users of your services have unlawfully published and posted certain contents on the website located at [manga1000.com and manga1001.com],” the application reads.

“We demand that you immediately disable access to the Infringing Work [detailed in the image below] and cease any use, reproduction, and distribution of the Original Work. Specifically, we request that you remove or disable the Infringing Work from [the websites] or any of your system or services.”

Shogakukan Infringed Works

In all but a slight domain difference, manga1000.com and manga1001.com seem identical. They both offer manga titles in ‘raw’ format and enjoy a decent number of visitors – around five million per month per domain according to SimilarWeb stats.

Manga1000 enjoys slightly more traffic at around 5.1 million visits per month which means it’s almost ready to break into the list of Top-500 most-visited sites in Japan, period.

Shogakukan has taken interest in both domains more recently, filing DMCA takedown complaints with Google to delist more than 500 URLs. Now, however, it appears to have more concrete legal plans on the horizon, demanding that Cloudflare spills the beans on its allegedly pirating customers.

The DMCA subpoena, which was duly signed off by the court, now compels Cloudflare to hand over highly-detailed information.

That includes all information sufficient to identify the operator and/or owner of both sites who “uploaded, hosted, and/or contracted with another provider to host the infringing content” owned by the publisher. Shogakukan also demands billing and administrative records that reveal the infringers’ names, physical addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, credit card numbers, and hosting providers, plus any and all logs of IP addresses.

Cloudflare is required to present the relevant details to Shogakukan’s legal team in San Francisco by June 5, 2020, but whether that request will lead to any useful information remains to be seen.

As reported last September, Shogakukan and three other major manga publishers previously sued Mangamura ‘replacement’ site Hoshinoromi in a New York federal court, noting that Cloudflare was helping the site’s operators to conceal their identities.

Earlier this month, however, the publishers filed a notice of voluntary dismissal after months of work trying to identify the operators of the site ended without bearing fruit. Back in February, a lawyer for the plaintiffs told the court (pdf) that the defendants had “gone to considerable lengths to conceal their identities and avoid legal process.”

After the court granted the publishers’ request for expedited discovery, the publishers served subpoenas on four Internet companies that provided services to Hoshinoromi, demanding that they hand over information on the defendants. While they received plenty of information back, things didn’t go especially well.

After receiving dozens of files including technical logs containing 1,000 unique records and more than 100 unique IP addresses spanning a 16-month period, the publishers were forced to hire an outside consulting company to perform an analysis of the data. In the end, however, none of the data personally identified the operators of Hoshinoromi.

Shogakukan will be hoping for a better result this time around.

Shogakukan’s application for DMCA subpoena against Cloudflare be found here (pdf)

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

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DISH Sues Canada-Based Pirate IPTV Provider ‘Voodoo IPTV’

TV broadcaster DISH Network has filed more lawsuits against ‘pirate’ IPTV providers and resellers than any other company in the world. Depending on how the services operate, the company either brings cases under the Copyright Act or the Federal Communications Act (FCA).

This week DISH won a $3.3 million default judgment against pirate IPTV reseller Boom Media and its operators John and Debra Henderson. The case was actioned under the FCA and before the judge’s ink was dry, DISH was in court again filing a similar lawsuit against Voodoo IPTV and its alleged operators.

“The Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service is, and has been, retransmitting the DISH Programming without authorization from DISH. The DISH Programming was received from DISH’s satellite television service without authorization,” the complaint alleges.

Unlike many other cases filed by DISH, the defendants in this matter aren’t based in the United States. Cren Motasaki, Atta Ur Rauf, Rafayet Alam and Pepin Woolcock are all said to be based in Ontario, Canada. A fifth defendant, Sajan Kyubi Shrestha, is reportedly a resident of Nepal while the locations of 11 ‘Doe’ defendants are yet to be determined.

Filed in a Texas court this week, the complaint alleges that Motasaki is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of Voodoo IPTV and has overall decision-making power. He is said to have a history of involvement with piracy-related activities and was identified as a member of the WorldofIPTV.com forum having made posts in an Xtream Codes-related thread.

Alam (aka Rafa Abdul) is reportedly in charge of sales at Voodoo, with DISH claiming that he operated CDN.tm which hosted VOD content for the JadooTV service, including DISH programming.

Woolcock, a programmer and developer for Voodoo, reportedly controls another domain offering IPTV services while Shrestha, who has the same role at Voodoo, is said to run four piracy-related repos on Github including Stalker, Xtream-Codes-2.2.0-Nulled, and eurekatv.

Rauf is said to be the person who manages sales and finance at Voodoo while several others are accused of being the sources for some of its content.

“Defendants Does 1-11 are one or more persons responsible for eleven DISH subscription accounts that were created with false information and used to receive DISH’s channels for retransmission on the Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service without authorization. An Internet Protocol (‘IP’) address located in Toronto, Canada was used to access at least seven of these eleven DISH subscription accounts,” the complaint reads.

DISH says that all defendants act in concert to steal its programming and as a result requests relief that holds them jointly and severally liable. The company says that the court has jurisdiction over the defendants because they have purposefully directed their conduct towards the United States while causing injury there.

“Upon information and belief, Defendants sold subscriptions to approximately 50,000 users of the Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service, many of whom are located in the United States,” DISH notes.

The complaint alleges that ‘device codes’ (aka IPTV subscriptions) were sold on various websites including IPTVVoodoo.com, VoodooTV.in, and BuyIPTVOnline.net. At the time of writing only the latter is still available, offering monthly subscriptions at US$15 or CAD$20 up to US$75 or CAD$100 for six months.

Voodoo IPTV subscription

As the image above shows, processors including PayPal are used to buy and sell the Voodoo service and DISH indicates it has identified at least three connected email accounts that were also used to pay for computer servers running the Voodoo platform.

“Defendants’ sale and distribution of Android TV Boxes and Device Codes [subscriptions] for accessing the Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service assists end users to receive the DISH Programming or the content therein, without having authorization from DISH and for the benefit of the Voodoo IPTV end users, in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605(a),” the complaint notes, adding:

“Defendants sell and distribute Android TV Boxes and Device Codes used for accessing the Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(4). The Android TV Boxes and Device Codes are knowingly provided by Defendants for purposes of enabling customers access to the servers that are used to stream the television programming on the Voodoo IPTV pirate streaming service, including the DISH Programming.”

In addition to a permanent injunction, DISH predictably requests a damages award to compensate for the activities of Voodoo in the United States.

Statutory damages of between $1,000 and $10,000 are available for each violation of Section 605(a) and up to $100,000 if the violation was committed willfully and for financial gain.

Section 605(e)(4) allows for statutory damages up to $100,000 for each violation which at least on paper has the potential to push any damages award into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The complaint filed by DISH this week can be found here (pdf)

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