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.


Cloudflare Ordered to Reveal Operators of Popular Pirate Sites

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 – and 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 [ and],” 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, and 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.


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 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 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,, and 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.


Spotify Launches Crackdown on Tools Offering Premium Service For Free

Spotify is currently the most popular music streaming platform in the world with 286 million users. An impressive 130 million subscribe to the company’s premium service with the remainder using the ad-supported tier.

Somewhere in those figures are a small minority who enjoy the features of Spotify Premium but yet manage to do so without paying the subscription fees charged by the company. This is achieved by deploying various hacks and workarounds that remove the restrictions imposed on users of the ad-supported service.

In many cases this means users obtaining a hacked variant of the Spotify software, often on the Android platform. These applications don’t subject users to adverts and in some cases claim to enable other features such as unlimited track skipping and a departure from enforced shuffling.

Needless to say, Spotify views these applications as a threat to its business model. The company has previously taken action against specific tools in an effort to make them harder to find but more recently the Swedish streaming service appears to have stepped up its efforts.

Beginning back in March but increasing as the weeks have passed, Spotify AB has been sending DMCA notices to Google targeting domains that appear to be offering the types of tools highlighted above. Torrentfreak learned of the complaints from a third-party and we were able to track many of them down using the Lumen Database repository.

The majority targeted at Google’s search indexes contain similar wording, with claims that the domains in question are infringing on Spotify’s intellectual property rights. However, the company goes further still with allegations that the tools are designed for fraudulent purposes.

“This site uses Spotify intellectual property in its content without authorization and this falsely suggests Spotify sponsorship or endorsement of the website and violates Spotify exclusive rights,” many read.

“We reasonably believe that it is the intention of its owners to use it as an instrument of fraud.”

Spotify DMCA complaint to Google

At the time of writing Spotify has targeted at least 20 domains with requests like this one to remove more than 60 URLs. Many seem to be so-called APK download sites or similar platforms giving hints and tips about how to obtain Spotify and indeed other services for free, with accompanying links.

However, when testing the domains in the numerous takedown notices our interest was piqued by at least one that triggered a Malwarebytes ‘fraud’ alert. Spotify took a particular interest in this domain by targeting 14 of its URLs, which raises the question of what type of fraud is taking place on the site. blocked

Spotify appears to use the term in connection with using its intellectual property and accessing its platform in an unauthorized manner but it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to think that something even more nefarious might be at play with some modified APK files available online today.

In the vast majority of cases, Google has complied by delisting the requested URLs. At the time of writing there are a handful of more recent Spotify complaints marked as pending a decision (1,2,3)but it would be no surprise if they were removed during the days to come.

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


Hacker Mods Old Calculator to Access the Internet, CASIO Files DMCA Complaint

Hobbyist electronics hacker and YouTuber ‘Neutrino’ only has 10 videos on his channel but many are extremely popular.

Back in April he constructed his own interactive and contactless handwash dispenser to help people avoid the coronavirus and earlier this month published an absolute gem, transforming an old CASIO scientific calculator into something better.

After a not inconsiderable amount of work, Neutrino’s device was able to communicate with similar devices nearby and even connect to the Internet. Pretty impressive for a supposed amateur.

As standard, the CASIO calculator chosen for the project can be picked up on eBay for just a few dollars but other components are also required, as listed on Neutrino‘s YouTube channel. After desoldering the solar panel and various other steps, Neutrino managed to squeeze an OLED display into the space, along with a WiFi module and other goodies.

“Since we were in lockdown I wanted to do something really fun, which can keep me occupied for a week or two,” Neutrino informs TF.

“I did not have many components to work with so using this calculator (CASIO fx-ms991) was not a problem, because it was roughly 5+ years old and it was given by my uncle.”

Gizmodo published an article on the invention earlier this month, highlighting that it could potentially be used to cheat in exams. Neutrino says he doesn’t want that but does hope that the hack will inspire others to learn and participate in the ‘maker community’.

But now, just a couple of weeks after winning plenty of praise, the project has also attracted the attention of an anti-counterfeiting organization working for CASIO.

REACT describes itself as a not-for-profit organization with over 30 years experience in fighting counterfeit trade. “One of our main objectives is to keep the costs of anti-counterfeiting actions affordable,” its site reads. A wide range of high-profile companies are listed as members, from Apple to Yves Saint Laurent and dozens in between.

This week REACT wrote to Github, where Neutrino has his ‘Hack-Casio-Calculator‘ repository, with a demand that it should be completely taken down for infringing its client’s intellectual property rights.

“I am writing on behalf of CASIO, which is a member of REACT (also known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Network ). REACT actively fights the trade-in counterfeiting products on behalf of its members,” the complaint reads.

“It came to our attention that the below-mentioned repository is using copyrighted source code in order to modify Casio’s copyrighted program.

“The code the repository contains is proprietary and not to be publicly published. The hosted content is a direct, literal copy of our client’s work. I hereby summon you to take expeditious action: to remove or to disable access to the infringing content immediately, but in any case no later than ten days as of today.”

The full DMCA notice submitted to Github is available here and claims that the “entire repository is infringing” and that hosted content is a “direct, literal copy of [CASIO’s] work.

The repository has been disabled by Github in response to the complaint so validating the notice’s claims is not straightforward. That being said, Neutrino informs TF that the claim is nonsense and all work is his own.

“They accuse me of using copyrighted source code in order to modify CASIO’s copyrighted program. But my code has nothing to do with it,” he explains.

“The code was written completely from scratch and all the libraries included in my source file were open-source. Everything was clearly mentioned in the [now removed] readme file of my GitHub repository. They also allegedly accuse me by stating that ‘The entire repository is infringing’, but in reality whatever the original content they pointed out has nothing to do with my code.”

Neutrino informs us that he has already filed a DMCA counternotice with Github to get his project back. While he may yet be successful, this is just the type of action that has ‘freedom-to-tinker’ proponents throwing their hands up in despair wondering why big corporations have nothing better to do.

Unfortunately, these types of complaints can discourage people from being innovative or sharing their ideas and knowledge, the exact opposite of what Neutrino hoped to achieve. CASIO may somehow feel it’s in the right here but it does seem just a little bit petty.

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


YouTube Faces Permanent ISP Blocking in Repeat Copyright Infringer Lawsuit

Five years ago, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki revealed that 400 hours of video were being uploaded to the platform every minute. Today that volume has increased to a staggering 500 hours per minute, a vast amount of content by any standard.

While the majority of the video uploaded to YouTube isn’t problematic for the company or third-parties, some users breach copyright law by uploading content that infringes on the rights of others. When that content is discovered by YouTube’s Content ID system or is manually claimed by a rightsholder it can be monetized or removed, but not everything goes smoothly.

In 2018, Russia-based HR-solutions company OnTarget obtained a ruling from the Moscow City Court which compelled Google-owned YouTube to remove some of its content uploaded without permission. Among other things, the company creates personnel assessment test videos and some of these had been uploaded to YouTube by channels that reportedly assist people to obtain jobs by gaming the system.

According to a report from Kommersant, Google appealed in 2019, stating that the content was no longer on YouTube. However, the court dismissed the case, stating that the platform had “not eliminated the threat” of the plaintiff’s rights being violated in the future. It now appears that prediction has come to pass.

OnTarget has now filed another copyright infringement complaint against Google at the Moscow City Court. Founder and CEO of the company Svetlana Simonenko says that YouTube channels informing job seekers on how to “trick future employees and pass tests for them” has posted video tests developed by OnTarget to the platform in breach of copyright.

Speaking with Kommersant, Simonenko says that the lawsuit demands that YouTube should be completely blocked by local ISPs as the violations against her company continue. She claims that Google has not deleted the infringing content and this means YouTube should be considered a repeat infringer under Russia’s anti-piracy laws.

The permanent blocking of websites is a measure only usually taken against the most blatant of infringing platforms, such as massive torrent site RuTracker that despite repeated warnings, fails to remove any copyrighted content following complaints.

As written, Russia’s copyright laws require that sites that repeatedly infringe copyright should be completely blocked in the country but according to experts, demands to have a site like YouTube blocked across Russia over a few videos are likely to fail under pressure.

“It is clear that the requirement to block the whole of YouTube due to several videos is excessive, and the Moscow City Court should reject the normal course of events due to the fact that it is not proportional to the violation,” says Anatoly Semenov, Deputy Head of the IP Committee of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP).

Semenov says that due to the way the law is written the Court isn’t in a position to push aside the requirement to block the entire site and replace that with a requirement to block individual links to content. However, it could simply refuse to apply it in this case or even refer the matter to the Constitutional Court.

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


Pirate IPTV Reseller Boom Media Ordered to Pay $3.3m in Damages

Last October, DISH Network filed a lawsuit in the United States targeting Boom Media LLC, a reseller of IPTV services sourced from a number of well-known ‘pirate’ suppliers.

Filed in a New York district court, the complaint also named John Henderson of New York and Debra Henderson of North Carolina as defendants, stating that the LLC was operated from John’s home (with him as the sole member) while his mother provided key support for the operation by receiving customer payments.

“The codes [DISH terminology for subscriptions] are designed and produced to enable a set-top box or other Internet-enabled device to access servers used to transmit DISH programming to customers of the MFG TV, Beast TV, Nitro TV, Murica Streams, Epic IPTV, Vader Streams and OK2 services,” the complaint read.

DISH claimed that subscriptions were sold to customers for between $10 and $20 per month with an option to buy a “pre-loaded” set-top box for $150. Boom Media’s sales efforts were high-profile, with DISH pointing to YouTube videos of John Henderson telling his customers that “[y]ou guys are buying pirated streams, this shit is not Hulu, it’s not Netflix, it’s pirated f**cking streams. It’s no different than buying f**king knockoff shoes. It’s black market shit.”

As reported in November 2019, John Henderson said he would take the case all the way to trial but to finance that he would need at least $250,000 in donations. In the end his fundraiser made just $1,029.

The case has simmered along in the background ever since but for all parties the show is now over after Boom Media and the Hendersons failed to mount a defense.

In a memorandum decision and order handed down yesterday by District Court Judge Mae D’Agostino, the Court found that the defendants violated Section 605(a) of the Federal Communications Act after they “retransmitted DISH Programming originating from DISH’s satellite communications to customers of the Services, or worked closely with others to do so.”

Additionally, the defendants were found liable under Section 605(e)(4), which makes it unlawful to distribute “any electronic, mechanical, or other device or equipment”, knowing or having reason to know that the device or equipment is primarily of assistance in the unauthorized decryption of direct-to-home satellite services.

“The Device Codes [IPTV subscriptions], which Defendants sold individually and preloaded onto a set-top box, were designed and produced for purposes of allowing access to the servers that support the Services, and thus are a ‘device; or ‘equipment’ for purposes of Section 605(e)(4),” the judgment reads.

Having established defendants’ liability in response to DISH’s request for default judgment, Judge D’Agostino turns to the question of appropriate damages.

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 of between $10,000 and $100,000 for each violation.

In the event, DISH sought statutory damages of ‘just’ $1,000 for each violation of Section 605(e)(4) but given that amount relates to each subscription, that figure was always set to explode. However, since DISH didn’t have access to enough information to put a precise figure on the number of subscriptions, it was forced to get creative.

Back in June 2019, John Henderson took to YouTube to complain that a credit card processor Boom used between February 2019 and May 2019 had refused to release $50,000 owed to Boom following the sale of IPTV subscriptions. Hoping to get revenge on the processor, he asked Boom subscribers to initiate chargebacks with their credit card issuers to get a refund, without risking the accounts they had with Boom.

“Defendants sold Device Codes [IPTV subscriptions] for an average price of $15.00 for each month of service. Accordingly, Defendant John Henderson’s statement that Defendants were waiting for $50,000 in payments owed to them for Device Codes previously distributed to customers is evidence of 3,333 Device Codes sold by Defendants,” the judgment reads.

“Given that Plaintiffs ‘are entitled to all reasonable inferences from the evidence they presented’ when seeking damages against a party in default…the Court finds that this number represents a fair approximation of the total number of Device Codes sold during this time frame (February through May of 2019).”

Multiplying 3,333 device codes by $1,000 damages per violation, the Court awarded DISH $3.33 million in statutory damages, with Boom Media LLC and John and Debra Henderson held jointly and severally liable.

The Court found this to be a reasonable amount, given that the $50,000 represented a fraction of Boom Media’s sales. Also, the Court acknowledged that DISH could’ve demanded much more, given the willfulness of John Henderson’s behavior generally and his comments posted to YouTube mentioning DISH.

Boom Media - Henderson comments

While DISH did not seek attorneys’ fees or costs, it did demand a permanent injunction.

The Court was happy to oblige, enjoining all defendants and anyone acting in concert with them from “conducting the Rebroadcasting Scheme, or otherwise receiving or assisting others in receiving DISH’s satellite communications or the television programming that comprises such communications without authorization from DISH.”

The Court also ordered the defendants to stop selling IPTV subscriptions granting unauthorized access to DISH programming.

The memorandum decision and order can be downloaded here (pdf)

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


The Simpsons Writer Promotes Disney+ Premiere With Pirate Movie Screenshot

In 2012, the short film ‘The Longest Daycare’ hit the big screen attached to screenings of the 20th Century Fox release Ice Age: Continental Drift.

At just five minutes long it’s much shorter than a standard The Simpsons episode but, according to Al Jean who has worked on the show for more than 30 years, it was a “thank you” note to Simpsons fans who had stuck with the show for two-and-a-half decades. And things went well.

The Longest Daycare was nominated for an Oscar and now, more than eight years later, is about to make its debut on the streaming platform Disney+. That was pointed out by Al Jean himself just an hour ago on Twitter, who posted the following in celebration.

Al Jean Simpsons tweet

While that presents nothing out of the ordinary at first view, those who take the time to scratch below the surface will find something amusing. Clicking on the image to expand it fully reveals that the screenshot was taken from a pirate release of the show that was released more than seven years ago on torrents and then uploaded to YouTube.

The Longest Daycare

The release,, is still being seeded today and can be found without too much difficulty on The Pirate Bay. The upload date on TPB is February 18, 2013 and the copy on Youtube, which currently has 88,337 views, was uploaded a day later on February 19, 2013.

We won’t embed it here but as the screenshot below illustrates, this is the exact pirate release showcased in Jean’s tweet, which is available all over the place for download albeit in much lower quality than will be available on Disney+ next week – hopefully.

Maggie SImpson YouTube

The big question perhaps is whether this was intentional. The writers of The Simpsons haven’t shied away from the topic of piracy in the past, that’s for certain.

In addition to Bart scrawling, “I must not illegally download this movie” on a school blackboard as penance for his sins, he has also been seen surfing ‘The Bootleg Bay’ on his laptop. The writers of the show have also been happy to poke fun at the heavy-handed tactics of Hollywood in their mission to chase down TV show and movie pirates.

All that being said, it could have been a good old-fashioned blunder. After all, Jean couldn’t get a screenshot from Disney+ yet and YouTube is way more convenient, even if it does reveal a little bit more than perhaps intended.


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

News Technology

Take That’s Gary Barlow: Use a VPN to Bypass YouTube Geoblock of Lockdown Concert

The coronavirus pandemic has managed to spread its misery to every corner of the earth, with millions out there feeling there’s little to look forward to. For fans of Take That, however, there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel.

This Friday 29th May at 8:00pm, Take That’s Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, and Mark Owen – together with former band member Robbie Williams – will perform a charity concert directly from their own homes. The event is being put together by insurance company Compare the Market (Compare the Meerkat) at a reported cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds, without an official venue in sight.

Instead, the quartet will broadcast to fans via the Meerkat Music YouTube channel and Facebook Live and considering the absolute dearth of new programming currently on TV (not to mention the massive popularity of Take That and Robbie Williams), millions are expected to tune in.

That, however, comes with a caveat. The one-off event is reportedly only going to be available for residents of the UK, so for fans across the rest of Europe, the United States and beyond, the concert will be off-limits. This is already proving a source of frustration for international fans and there have been a number of complaints that restricting the show, especially at such a sensitive time, is really unfair.

Of course, people aren’t just going to sit back and accept that so, inevitably, there have been many people posting online on how to access the show on YouTube from outside the UK. VPNs are the logical choice since they allow people to change their online locations and convince YouTube that they’re in good old Blighty.

What was slightly unexpected was for Gary Barlow himself to give the movement his support. After receiving advice on VPN use from a fan on Twitter, Barlow gave a shout out to fans, asking “the army” to spread the word on how to bypass YouTube’s restrictions.

Gary Barlow VPN

That Gary Barlow himself is encouraging fans to skirt geo-blocking is interesting for a number of reasons, not least that given the planned restrictions, music licensing is probably at the root of the issue. The details of the Compare the Market / Take That / Williams / YouTube deal aren’t public but if the concert isn’t planned for worldwide broadcast, it probably isn’t licensed for that eventuality.

Of course, millions of fans around the world could care less about that and it’s difficult not to have sympathy with them.

“How about just make it global like other artists are? You have fans worldwide. We want to support you. It’s sometimes like you don’t believe you have that many fans. It’s the same with gigs on iTunes. Can’t get them in NZ,” a fan wrote on Twitter. ”

“It’s a shame things like that are necessary for ‘the army’ outside the UK,” added another.

While the VPNs suggested in the tweet may very well do the job, there should be concerns that Take That fans who aren’t so tech-savvy will head off to Google Play to download any old VPN in the hope that they grant access to the event. That isn’t advisable.

Given the numerous reports that free VPNs can be a privacy and security nightmare, fans should exercise caution by doing their research before choosing one for long-term use.

In summary, Take That fans should never forget that picking the right VPN could help them rule the world, even if they do take a little patience to set up. These days, fortunately, most only take a minute, so for many fans Friday might turn out to be the greatest day after all.

I’ll get my coat…

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


The Music Mission Campaign Aims to Shut Down 200 Music Piracy Sites

The existence of torrent indexes and streaming portals is broadly acknowledged online. Equally, people are well aware of the hundreds of lower-quality music sites that often pull their content from YouTube for download.

However, there is another class of music piracy sites that are mentioned in public much less often. These are professionally presented, so much so that many consumers could be forgiven for thinking they are official platforms. While that may sound attractive to pirates, users soon find that access to the content on offer is conditional on paying a fee, albeit at a fraction of the rates offered by officially-sanctioned distributors.

This combination of highly-polished interfaces, advanced features, alongside a broad range of content means that these pirate platforms represent direct competition for digital platforms such as Beatport, Juno, and Traxsource, undermining their business models and those of the labels that rely upon them.

To illustrate how similar these platforms are and the type of advanced features they offer, the images below show the same track – the first on Beatport and the second on a pirate competitor. From cover art, genre, artist tags, BPM and even a DJ-friendly track key, the pirate platform has everything covered.

Beatport track image

Beatport pirate competition

In response to this threat, a new anti-piracy initiative has just been launched. Spearheaded by anti-piracy company AudioLock and digital label service LabelWorx, The Music Mission campaign aims to tackle around 200 of these unlicensed competitors.

After mapping and investigating the underlying infrastructure and dependencies of these sites, the project will target their hosting providers but perhaps more importantly, seek to cut off their source of revenue by disrupting their payment gateways, thus preventing them from taking orders from subscribers.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, AudioLock founder and CEO Ben Rush explains that with well-architected structures designed to funnel traffic to other resources and provide protection from takedowns, the mission to take these sites won’t be straightforward. However, given that they are mostly professional paysites, there is a determination to do whatever is needed to disrupt their activities and return revenue to official distributors.

“The expectation is that pirate means free and when discussing piracy with rights holders such a belief is often followed by ‘How can you fight free?’,” Rush says.

“The awareness of what is occurring and the size of it needs to be pushed because not only are the majority of the sites not providing a free option, so users can only access the music by paying, but there is a section of users who have been paying infringing sites without knowingly doing so. So this should mean that more of the money being paid to these infringing sites can be redirected to legitimate platforms.”

While some coordinated anti-piracy initiatives struggle to gain support, the same cannot be said for The Music Mission. As its supporter page shows, the project currently boasts hundreds of distributors, labels and other industry players, including the UK’s PRS For Music, an entity that has previously undertaken successful anti-piracy operations of its own.

For operational reasons AudioLock doesn’t want to make the full list of targeted sites public at this stage but a sample shared with TorrentFreak reveals sites making revenue via at least two mechanisms.

While some present ‘download’ buttons that link to file-hosting platforms where content can be downloaded, that can only be achieved by taking out a premium account with the file-hosting provider. However, the main goal, it appears, is to have site users sign up to a subscription with the platforms themselves, with packages ranging from one months’ access right up to a discounted one year plan.

Considering these are pirate platforms, those reviewed by TF request a lot of personal information even before an account can be obtained. This includes full name, email address, country of origin, and even links to valid social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud, with the suggestion that platforms will vet prospective customers.

Despite apparent barriers to entry, The Music Mission believes that these sites are causing considerable financial damage to their partners. While Beatport, Juno Download and Traxsource alone pull in around 9.4 million visitors to their portals every month, it’s estimated that these pay-piracy sites trump that with around 11 million visits.

“The subscriptions on these infringing sites range from £8.50 to £41 per month, in comparison to our legitimate dance music stores charging between £1 to £2 per track and are paying the content owners,” Rush explains.

“While it is impossible to be sure, even if you assume that out of those 11 million visits to pay-for-access pirate sites, that only 35,000 visitors (0.32%) decide to pay for a subscription (at an average of £15 per month), that is still over £500,000 paid to the pirates currently per month. This cash injection back to our industry would make a substantial difference.”

In order to bring more labels on board, The Music Mission site has a tool they can use to see how much of their content is currently being made available illegally via these platforms. Rush informs TF that the scanner is being developed all the time and from tomorrow will be updating daily to scan for the latest releases.

Scan for Defected releases

Targeting payment gateways is not a new anti-piracy strategy but The Music Mission hopes that by attracting a large volume of labels keen to support the cause, leverage against payment processors and server companies will be more effective. And with more scanning and information tools just around the corner, we are informed that this is just the beginning.

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