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Supreme Court Denies Petition from YouTube Rippers ‘FLVTO’ and ‘2Conv’

In 2018, a group of prominent record labels sued two very popular YouTube rippers, FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com.

The labels, including Universal, Warner Bros, and Sony, accused the sites of copyright infringement and hoped to quickly shut them down.

That didn’t go as expected. The owner of the sites, a Russian man named Tofig Kurbanov, lawyered up and fought back. Before the copyright issues were even discussed in court, the complaint was already dismissed.

A Battle over Jurisdiction

A Virginia federal court ruled that the music companies lacked personal jurisdiction. The sites were operated from abroad and didn’t ‘purposefully’ target or interact with US users, the court concluded.

This finding was not without controversy. The music companies disagreed and appealed the matter at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sent the case back to the district court a few months ago.

The appeals court found that there are more than sufficient facts to conclude that Kurbanov purposefully conducted business in the US, specifically the state of Virginia. Kurbanov and his legal team disagreed but their request for a rehearing was denied.

Petitioning the Supreme Court

In an ultimate effort to take a victory over the matter, Kurbanov and his legal team filed a petition for certiorari at the US Supreme Court. The country’s highest court would be best equipped to decide on the issue, especially because there are conflicting precedents at lower courts.

Specifically, Kurbanov questioned whether his due process rights are violated when he is subjected to the jurisdiction of a US court, simply because his websites are frequently used there. Also, whether minor internet-based and internet-initiated transactions are sufficient to warrant jurisdiction.

Supreme Court Denies to Take the Case

This week the Supreme Court denied the petition, much to the disappointment of Kurbanov and his lawyers. This means that the case will now revert back to the district court to answer outstanding jurisdiction questions.

“Although we’re obviously disappointed that the Supreme Court did not take this opportunity to provide much-needed clarity on the issue, the matter now returns to the district court,” counsel Evan Fray-Witzer tells TorrentFreak.

In its first decision on the motion to dismiss, the district court chose not to conduct a “reasonability test” because the other arguments were sufficient to warrant a dismissal. Following the appeal and the Supreme Court denial, this will now be the first point on the agenda.

If the lower court decides that the complaint fails the reasonability test, it can still be dismissed over a lack of jurisdiction. Otherwise, Kurbanov will have to defend himself and his sites against the record labels’ copyright infringement claims.

‘YouTube Rippers Will Win this Case’

The defense, nonetheless, remains confident and believes it will be able to win the lawsuit no matter what direction it goes.

“It’s a longer path, but we remain confident that at the end of the day, the claims against Mr. Kurbanov will fail,” Fray-Witzer says.

“The record companies have fought technology at every step and yet cassettes, CDs, and streaming services still exist and the music industry continues to thrive,” the attorney adds.

When this lawsuit was filed there wasn’t much public debate about the legality of YouTube rippers but that has changed in recent months. The RIAA’s request to remove the youtube-dl software from GitHub triggered a heated debate that remains ongoing.

At the same time Yout.com, another YouTube ripper site, filed a lawsuit against the RIAA asking the court to declare its service as operating legally.

While they may take years to complete, these cases will be fought tooth and nail by both sides. That will ultimately decide whether people can continue to ‘rip’ content from online streaming services, or not.

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

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RIAA Defeats False DMCA Takedown Notice Claims in Court

Last March, popular hip-hop mixtape service Spinrilla filed a lawsuit against the RIAA.

Spinrilla accused the music industry group of sending inaccurate DMCA takedown notices that waste resources and harm the site’s goodwill and reputation.

‘RIAA Doesn’t Listen’

The mixtape platform said the RIAA was using automated text-based searches instead of actually listening to tracks. As a result, the group allegedly reported non-infringing content. These inaccurate notices put Spinrilla users at risk of having their accounts terminated.

The RIAA swiftly responded to these allegations, assuring the court that it had the best intentions. The example of a ‘faulty’ takedown notice Spinrilla listed in the complaint was a legitimate claim and was sent in good faith, it countered.

No Action

On top of that, the music group said that Spinrilla had no case because the alleged DMCA abuse would only be relevant if the site removed the contested music track. That didn’t happen, as Spinrilla refused to take action. As such, the RIAA asked the court to dismiss the case.

Spinrilla disagreed and countered that RIAA’s interpretation of the DMCA is too narrow. The site doesn’t believe that content has to be removed to suffer damages. And even if that is the case, Spinrilla would like an injunction to prevent future false takedown notices.

Court Sides With RIAA

After hearing the arguments from both sides, US District Court Amy Totenberg ruled on the motion to dismiss this week. Without determining if the RIAA’s takedown notices were accurate or not, the Judge sided with the music industry group.

Based on earlier jurisprudence, it is clear that to argue takedown notice abuse and a violation of the DMCA’s ‘Section 512(f)’, Spinrilla has to show that it either ‘removed’ or ‘disabled’ the content in response.

Put simply, someone can’t argue that a copyright holder sent false, abusive, or deceptive DMCA takedown notices if the content isn’t taken down.

Nothing Was Taken Down

In this case, Spinrilla complained about takedown notices the RIAA sent in 2019 and 2020. It specifically references one ‘non-infringing’ audio file which the group falsely asked to remove. However, the site never removed this file.

“[B]ecause Spinrilla contends that the audio file is not infringing, the Complaint does not allege that the audio file was removed or disabled as a result of the takedown notice,” Judge Totenberg writes.

“Rather, Spinrilla alleges it has been forced to spend time looking into each of the numerous takedown notices, resulting in ‘lost revenue’ and damage to its reputation and goodwill. These are not the types of damages recoverable under Section 512(f).”

The Judge says that even if the RIAA willingly requested the takedown of a non-infringing file, Spinrilla can’t claim damages. To do so, the file had to be removed or disabled.

“Spinrilla has failed to allege it took any of the actions involving removing or disabling access to the material required under Section 512(f) as necessary to state a claim under the DMCA for material misrepresentation and damages.”

Case Dismissed

Based on the above, Judge Totenberg sees no other option than to grant the RIAA’s motion for dismissal and to close the case.

spinrilla-order

This is another victory for the RIAA, whose notices came under the scrutiny of various parties last year. Earlier this month ISP Bright House Networks lost a similar case over ‘false’ takedown notices, and last November the court dismissed Charter’s takedown abuse claims as well.

The ISPs and Spinrilla are all engaged in separate legal battles against the RIAA and/or its members, which sued the companies for failing to terminate repeat infringers. Those cases remain ongoing.

A copy of US District Court Amy Totenberg’s ruling is available here (pdf)

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

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Member of SPARKS Scene Piracy Group Pleads Guilty

Last year, the US Department of Justice booked one of its biggest successes in its battle against online piracy.

In August, law enforcement upset the international piracy ecosystem by taking out a prominent Scene group, which was the source for many pirated movies and TV-shows.

SPARKS Raids Throw Piracy Scene in Turmoil

With help from international law enforcement partners, several raids and arrests were carried out, with the SPARKS group at the center of it all. The authorities later confirmed that three people had been indicted with all facing ‘copyright infringement conspiracy’ charges.

The crackdown didn’t just affect these three but it hit the entire warez Scene. Dozens of topsites are believed to be taken down in the raids and many more halted their operations as a precaution, which significantly reduced the volume of pirate releases.

With many of the court records not being available, it is hard to track the progress of the case. However, this week one of the defendants, Jonatan Correa (aka ‘Raid’), appeared in court before US District Court Judge Richard M. Berman.

Correa was the only defendant arrested in the US last summer. After being placed in custody in Kansas, the defendant was released on a $75,000 bail bond the next day. Initially, he maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty but that changed yesterday.

SPARKS Member Pleads Guilty

During a hearing via a telephone conference yesterday, Correa changed his earlier statement. The defendant signed a plea agreement with the US Government and pleaded guilty to the copyright infringement conspiracy charge.

Among other things, Correa admits to conspiring with other members of the SPARKS group to commit copyright infringement. According to the indictment, that involved obtaining pre-release Blu-ray discs from wholesale distributors several weeks before their retail release date.

During the hearing, Correa admitted that he ripped these discs and uploaded the pirated videos to a co-conspirator’s server, located in Westchester County. From there, these files were distributed further, eventually ending up on public sites. This allegedly cost the movie industry millions of dollars in damages.

At the time of writing the plea agreement isn’t publicly available. This means that details are scarce at this point.

correa guilty

US Government attorney Andrew Chan did mention during the hearing that they have ample evidence, including financial records and photos of the obtained discs, taken from the defendant’s email account.

Correa informed the judge that he is fully aware of the consequences of his guilty plea. He further agreed to waive several rights and promised to fully cooperate with the Government’s preparation of a presentence investigation report.

Correa Faces Prison Sentence

In theory, a conviction for a copyright infringement conspiracy is punishable by five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. However, both parties agreed to a sentencing guideline of 12 to 18 months for Correa, taking his cooperation and criminal history into account.

The court scheduled the Sparks defendant to be sentenced in May and it’s likely that more details will become available before that date.

The two other defendants, George Bridi from Great Britain and Norway resident Umar Ahmad (aka ‘Artist’), haven’t appeared in US court. According to the information we have available, Bridi has yet to be extradited from Cyprus where he was previously detained while Ahmad is still at large.

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

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Court Confirms $1 Billion Piracy Damages Verdict Against Cox

Late 2019, Internet provider Cox Communications lost its legal battle against a group of major record labels.

Following a two-week trial, a Virginia jury held Cox liable for its pirating subscribers, ordering the company to pay $1 billion in damages.

Heavily disappointed by the decision, Cox later asked the court to set the jury verdict aside and decide the issue directly. In addition, the ISP argued that the “shockingly excessive” damages should be lowered. If that wasn’t an option, Cox wanted a new trial.

Last June, the court denied Cox’s request for a new trial. The damages amount of $99,830 per work wasn’t seen as excessive either. Cox had summed up a list of arguments why this is “historic” amount is “shockingly” excessive. However, unlike Cox, the court saw no “miscarriage of justice.”

While the vast majority of Cox’s arguments fell flat there was a small win for the ISP as well, one that could have large financial consequences. The court agreed with the ISP that damages should be issued per ‘work’ and not for each ‘copyright.’

There are 10,017 copyrights listed in the case which were multiplied by $99,3830 in damages per work, which led to the final figure of $1 billion. However, that could be adjusted as there are some overlapping works as well, where one song is covered by multiple copyrights.

After going over all the compilations and the various copyrights involved, Cox concluded that 2,438 works should be removed. This represents a total damages value of $243,386.25, which is nearly a quarter of the total damages sum.

The record companies didn’t contest that there was overlap, but they informed the court that it’s not correct to lower the damages award on this basis after the jury already had already gone over all the evidence. They argue that Cox should have brought this issue up during trial, not afterward.

After reviewing the briefs from both sides, US District Court Judge Liam O’Grady issued an order yesterday that sides with the record labels.

While Cox already brought up the ‘duplicate’ issue in a motion for summary judgment before trial, it didn’t raise the matter before the jury. This was despite an earlier ruling from the court the issue should be determined at trial.

“Clearly, the number of derivative works in play in this case was a question for the jury. The jury answered that question with the information available, and Cox did not provide the information to the jury that it has provided to the Court in its post-trial brief,” Judge O’Grady writes.

This means that the court’s earlier suggestion that the damages award should be reduced was wrong. Cox had its chance at trial but failed to properly address it at the time.

“The Court was therefore wrong that this re-calculation could be made on the trial record by the Court performing a ministerial act. Cox’s failure to present evidence to the jury that it had infringed on only 7,579 works resulted in the jury’s determination that Cox had infringed on 10,017 works.”

This means that the damages amount would be lowered and the original $1 billion judgment still stands.

The Internet provider has yet to comment on the ruling. Given the gravity of the case, it is likely that the company will explore further options to appeal.

cox billion

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

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Anti-Piracy Coalition Continues to Unmask .To Pirate Sites, But is it Effective?

Over the past year, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) added a new tool to its anti-piracy toolbox.

The coalition, which represents prominent members including major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and other entertainment giants, started using DMCA subpoenas to unmask pirate site operators.

These subpoenas are relatively easy to obtain. They are not reviewed by a judge but are signed off by a court clerk. This makes it a pretty straightforward process that’s not very costly either.

ACE Subpoenas .To Registry

ACE’s enforcement campaign is led by the MPA and their subpoenas are mostly targeted at two service providers. The first is CDN provider Cloudflare, and the second is Tonic Domains Corp, which is the registry for .to domain names.

A few days ago the MPA obtained a new subpoena from a California federal court, asking the domain registry to share information relating to the domains 1377x.to, cinecalidad.to, f2movies.to, myflixer.to, onionplay.to, streamplay.to, tinyzonetv.to, upstream.to, and yesmovieshd.to.

Cinecalidad is probably one of the largest targets. The streaming site, whose .to domain currently redirects to an .is domain, is among the largest pirate streaming sites in Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Mexico.

Names, IP-address and More

Through the subpoena, the anti-piracy coalition asks Tonic to disclose information including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, payment information, account updates, and account history associated with the domain registrants.

subpoena tonic

While .to is the top-level domain of the island kingdom of Tonga, the Tonic registry operates through Tonic Domains Corp., which has a U.S. presence and a California address. As such, it falls under the jurisdiction of US courts.

This means that Tonic Domains Corp will likely hand over the requested info. However, it’s unclear how effective this will be. If we look at some of the earlier subpoenas obtained by the MPA and ACE, the results are mixed.

Mixed Results

For example, last October the anti-piracy coalition obtained a subpoena to uncover the operators of the streaming giant s.to. Despite this effort, the site continues to operate as usual from the same domain name.

The same applies to pepecine.to, ddl-warez.to, pelis24.to, unblocked.to, torrentgalaxy.to, solarmovie.to, soap2day.to, supernova.to, flixtor.to, and several other domains. These were targeted in the past but remain available today.

In some cases, site operators have decided to move to a new domain name, likely as a precaution. That is also the case with Cinecalidad.

Finally, there are some sites that simply ‘disappeared’. While it’s hard to be sure that ACE’s enforcement efforts are tied to this, it certainly played a role in some cases, including the shutdown of Ololo.to a few weeks ago.

The effectiveness of the subpoenas mostly depends on how actionable the information obtained from the Tonic registry proves to be. Many site owners will take measures to protect their identities, which makes it possible for them to continue business as usual. Those who don’t are in trouble.

A copy of ACE/MPA’s latest subpoena request is available here (pdf).

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

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Band Shares Torrents of Master Recordings and Invites Fans to Create Bootlegs

Over the years, hundreds of artists have shared their music online for free. These are mostly newcomers who realize that exposure can ultimately help grow their fanbase.

Some established musicians have ventured down this part as well. For example, Radiohead shared their music via torrents and Nine Inch Nails even ran their own torrent tracker in the past.

Ten years later the music industry has changed, particularly the discovery part. With the rise of online streaming subscriptions and the dominance of YouTube, sharing music via BitTorrent has gone out of fashion. But that doesn’t mean it’s lost its purpose.

Torrenting Master Recordings

Late last month, Australian ‘rock’ band ‘King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard‘ started an experiment that highlights the power of sharing. The band decided to release the master files for several recordings, including concerts, completely free of charge.

The collection of nine recordings, covering more than a hundred individual tracks, are available for download via torrent magnet links, directly from the band’s site.

The King Gizzard approach differs from other more traditional giveaways though. While anyone is able to download and share the music for free, the band doesn’t want this to be a one-way street. Instead, it invited the public to create their own bootleg releases.

Bootlegs

“Yo indie labels, bootleggers, fans, weirdos. We’ve got a deal for ya… If anyone wants to release these albums, you’re free to do so. Below you’ll find links to audio master files and cover art,” the band notes.

As far as we know it’s the first time that a band has shared their work while encouraging fans and even labels to create their own releases. For most artists, this is impossible to do as they are usually restricted by the record labels who own part of the rights.

‘King Gizzard’ aren’t asking much in return either. However, if people use the master recordings to create their own releases, they’d like some copies to sell in their own shop.

“Feel free to get creative with it if you like – it’s yours. Only deal is you’ve gotta send us some of them to sell on GIZZVERSE.COM – whatever you feel is a fair trade is cool with us.”

This is a great opportunity for fans, who would love to see ‘their’ release in the official store. And small labels may want to seize the opportunity as well.

bootlegger official

All the master recordings are being offered via magnet torrent links, using public trackers such as Opentrackr.org and RARBG.to. This means that the band doesn’t have to pay bandwidth costs, aside from hosting the initial seed.

Video Clip Files

This isn’t the first time King Gizzard has experimented with torrents and free sharing. Just a few months ago, it released the raw audio recording and raw video clip files for the single Automation, encouraging fans to get creative.

This resulted in some great fan-made projects, several of which can be found on YouTube. This includes a video created by Jaron Hall, who used his video editing skills to create his own video clip.

“This was a super fun project to learn and incorporate some new video processing techniques such as ASCII conversion, deep dream neural networks, replicating a Windows 95 desktop environment,” Hall writes.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard hopes that the bootleg editions will be just as creative. Thus far, the response has been overwhelming.

“HOLY SHIT thanks everyone who hit us up with a plan to bootleg records already!” the band wrote on Twitter. “Don’t forget you gotta send us copies for us to sell on gizzverse too. Whatever you feel is a fair trade for the use of our tunes.”

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

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Court: Texas Man Must Stop Selling Pirate Boxes on Facebook

ABS-CBN is the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines but also has a strong presence in the US.

This reach isn’t just limited to its online news and media, the company is active in the courts as well.

In recent years the company has singled out dozens of streaming sites and services that offer access to ‘Pinoy’ content without permission, demanding substantial damages.

Selling Pirate Boxes on Facebook

The defendants are often ‘John Doe’ site operators but in December 2018, ABS-CBN identified a very specific target; a Texas man named Anthony Brown. According to a complaint filed at a US federal court, Brown sold pirate streaming boxes through Facebook.

Some pirate box sellers take extreme measures to conceal their identities. In this case, however, the defendant was easily identified through an undercover operation which arrived at several damning conclusions.

According to the complaint, Brown didn’t just sell pirate boxes to the ABS-CBN representative. In private messages, chatting as “Ann Ong,” he also shared the name and address of his company, which matched the information tied to his PayPal address.

A Cut of The Business

On top of that, the defendant explained the ins-and-outs of his business, offering the investigator a piece of the action for referring new clients.

“‘Ann Ong’ stated ‘I hope you can also refer more when you have the box and then I give you a cut in the market in California’,” ABS-CBN previously informed the court.

After ABS-CBN filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas not much happened. Brown was served last January but never responded to the allegations. As a result, the media company requested a default judgment.

Default Judgment

The media company accused the Texas man of selling pirate boxes “that have been designed or modified to circumvent ABS-CBN’s encryption technology,” allowing customers to “unlawfully intercept and access ABS-CBN’s copyrighted programming.” To cover the alleged damages, the company demanded compensation.

While copyright infringement plays a role in the case, the requested damages are based on trademark infringement and a violation of the Communications Act, which Brown violated by importing and/or selling pirate devices.

Earlier this week, United States District Judge Jeffrey V. Brown ruled on the default judgment, ABS-CBN’s demands in part.

$1.6 Million?

ABS-CBN initially listed four trademark violations, requesting $500,000 in damages each. On top of that, it asked for $100,000 for a violation of the Communications Act, bringing the total to $2.1 million.

However, during a hearing last week this demand was lowered to $1.6 million, effectively removing two trademark violations. While this appeared to be a kind gesture, it raises questions with the court.

“In support of this lower figure, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant was infringing on their two trademarks in two distinct services: cable services and online streaming services. Yet in the plaintiffs’ complaint, default-judgment motion, and evidence in support of that motion, there is no distinction made between these two services.”

“In light of the uncertainty about the amount of damages the plaintiffs request, and the relationship these damages have to the defendant’s sale of goods or services, the court invites the plaintiffs to file supplemental briefing to clarify this issue.”

This means that the court can’t grant any damages at this point. However, Judge Brown did issue a permanent injunction preventing the defendant from infringing ABC-ABS’s rights. That obviously includes a ban on selling pirate streaming boxes.

A copy of the order and the permanent injunction is available here (pdf).

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

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Cloudflare Calls For Sanctions Over False Claims in Piracy Lawsuit

Earlier this year Texas-based model Deniece Waidhofer sued Thothub for copyright infringement after the site’s users posted many of her ‘exclusive’ photos.

While Cloudflare isn’t new to copyright infringement allegations, this case has proven to be more than a nuisance. The company previously countered the claims with a motion to dismiss, but Waidhofer and her legal team are not backing off.

In an amended complaint some of the most egregious allegations, including the RICO conspiracy, were dropped. However, the copyright infringement claims remain and with two new cosplay models joining the action, the list of defendants has grown.

Last week Cloudflare responded to these new allegations, again denying any wrongdoing. In addition, the company filed a separate motion for sanctions a few days earlier, accusing the defendants of fabricating a fatally flawed theory of contributory copyright infringement.

The issue revolves around Cloudflare’s “Argo Tunnel” service, which allows website operators to secure their systems from outside attacks. Put simply, it does so by routing all traffic to a site through Cloudflare’s network via an encrypted tunnel.

The models argue that Thothub used this Argo Tunnel and that the CDN provider could have shut the site down by disabling this service. That would counter Cloudflare’s defense that terminating Thothub’s account would have had a limited impact.

Cloudflare informs the court that the Argo Tunnel wasn’t created to help pirates, but to better secure the sites of its users. Not just that, it notes that Thothub never used this service.

“[I]t is clear that Argo Tunnel is a cyber security product of general applicability, created for and used by thousands of users,” the company writes.

“And fatal to Plaintiffs’ claims, Argo Tunnel was never used by the Thothub.tv website or any of its subdomains, which were the alleged source of the direct infringement.”

argo

Cloudflare repeatedly told the defense attorneys that Thothub didn’t use the Argo Tunnel and warned of potential sanctions, but the claims were added nonetheless.

This went a step too far for the CDN provider which is now asking the court to sanction the defendants and their attorneys for failing to conduct a reasonable investigation.

In addition, they should be sanctioned for “knowingly or recklessly maintaining false and frivolous allegations for the improper purpose of harassing Cloudflare with overbroad copyright infringement claims,” the company writes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the models and their legal team aren’t happy with the accusations and swiftly fired back this week.

Turning the tables, their detailed reply accuses Cloudflare’s attorneys of failing to conduct a reasonable investigation and failing to provide evidence. For this conduct, Cloudflare’s lawyers should be sanctioned.

“Cloudflare’s counsel’s baseless and insulting accusations impugning Plaintiffs’ counsel’s integrity and professionalism, simply because Cloudflare and its counsel baldly assert the Argo Tunnel allegations are false,” they counter.

“Because the Motion is frivolous and apparently lodged for an improper purpose to circumvent discovery, obtain privileged information, drive up litigation costs, and delay, distract, harass, and intimidate Plaintiffs, it should be denied and Cloudflare should be sanctioned.”

The plaintiffs also provide further information that is supposed to substantiate their claims. Relying on an investigation from a technical expert, who previously worked at Akamai, they conclude that it’s reasonable to believe that Thothub indeed used the Argo Tunnel.

Part of this evidence is based on the “Error 1003 Access Denied: Direct IP Access Denied” message that appeared when accessing one of the site’s Cloudflare IP-addresses.

“Based on independent research, Mr. Bell learned that this error message indicated that the site could be using an Argo Tunnel,” the models’ lawyer writes.

While that may be true, it’s no guarantee. The same error message also appears when one tries to access TorrentFreak.com’s Cloudflare IP-address, and we don’t use the Argo Tunnel.

In addition, the plaintiffs allege that Thothub used server port 8443, arguing that this is “often” used to implement an Argo Tunnel.

At the end of the day, both parties are calling for sanctions over unsubstantiated claims. Cloudflare wants the frivolous Argo Tunnel claims removed from the complaint, while the models seek to punish Cloudflare for its frivolous call for sanctions.

It is now up to the court to decide if any sanctions are indeed needed, but it’s clear that this case is proving to be quite the handful.

—-

Cloudflare’s motion for sanctions is available here and the models’ motion can be found here

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

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Sci-Hub Founder Criticises Sudden Twitter Ban Over Over “Counterfeit” Content

By offering free access to millions of ‘paywalled’ research papers, Sci-Hub is often described as “The Pirate Bay of Science”.

The site is used by researchers from all over the world, to access papers they otherwise have a hard time accessing.

Academic publishers are not happy with the service. They see the site as a threat to their multi-billion dollar businesses and have tried to shut it down through several lawsuits. At the same time, publishers work to have the site blocked by ISPs around the world.

Blocking Lawsuit in India

In recent weeks, Sci-Hub has become the focus of a high-profile lawsuit in India where Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society want the site blocked. The case isn’t as straightforward as in other countries, in part because access to Sci-Hub is seen as vital by many local academics.

Earlier this week, the Indian High Court declared the case an “issue of public importance,” inviting experts and scientists to testify on the matter. Meanwhile, however, the pressure on Sci-Hub grows.

Twitter Suspends Sci-Hub Permanently

This morning, Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan informed us that Twitter has suspended the site’s official account, which had over 185k followers and operated without notable issues for nine years. Elbakyan believes that it may be directly related to the legal action in India.

“It happened right after Indian scientists revolted against Elsevier and other academic publishers after Sci-Hub posted on Twitter about the danger of being blocked – thousands of people spoke up against this on Twitter.

“Now Twitter said to all of them, SHUT UP!” Elbakyan adds.

One of Sci-Hub’s Latest Tweets

sci-hub tweet

The reason for the suspension is related to Twitter’s “counterfeit policy.” The social media platform doesn’t list any concrete takedown requests but simply mentions the policy violation and the fact that its decision can’t be appealed.

“Your account has been permanently suspended due to a violation of Twitter policies, in particular the Counterfeiting Policy. This decision is not subject to appeal,” Twitter writes, translated from Russian.

Twitter’s email to Sci-Hub

sci-hub twitter

According to Sci-Hub’s founder, the suspension is an effort to censor her and all those who support the site in its legal battle against the powerful publishers.

Massive Support From Academics

Over the past several days, many Indian researchers and academics voiced their support of the site in replies to Sci-Hub’s tweets. While the tweets from these researchers are still up, they’re harder to find. And Sci-Hub can no longer call for support either.

“Now after the Sci-Hub Twitter ban that’s all gone. Now they can lie and pretend, that there was no support and there will be no easy way to check that!”

Before the suspension, Elbakyan already started archiving Sci-Hub’s tweets and responses. Not just for the historical record but also to use in court, where they will be used as evidence.

“I collected these responses and forwarded them to my lawyer in India, Nilesh Jain. We were planning to read them aloud in court to prove that Sci-Hub should not be blocked,” Elbakyan tells us.

Some responses, more here, archived by Sci-Hub

researchers support sci-hub

While there are some academics who would prefer to see Sci-Hub gone, the site is supported by researchers all over the world. This is no different in India, where many scholars don’t have access to expensive subscriptions.

Damaging Paywalls

A lot of the top research papers are hidden behind paywalls, which is a continued source of frustration for many.

“The only reason students from egregiously underfunded institutions in India manage to do quality research is because of platforms like Sci-Hub and Libgen. If you block them, you block research. Period,” writes Sushmita Pati, Assistant Professor of Political Science.

TorrentFreak reached out to Twitter asking for clarification on their decision to ban the account but the company didn’t immediately reply.

Questions Remain, as does Sci-Hub

As far as we know, Sci-Hub’s Twitter account didn’t link directly to infringing content. There were some tweets linking to the Sci-Hub site, but these have been around for a long time. Nothing seems to have changed substantially.

Twitter is known to terminate repeat infringers but Elbakyan notes that this account suspension came out of the blue. At this point, it’s unclear if Twitter acted on its own or if rightsholders complained.

With Sci-Hub removed from Twitter, the site has lost its presence on the social media platform. However, whether that will do much to stop researchers from accessing the site is doubtful. If recent history has shown anything, it’s that increased legal pressure on the site only increases its popularity.

Suspended…

sci hub suspended

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

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Rights Alliance Declares Victory in Its War On Danish Pirate Sites

Private torrent sites with Danish roots have long been the go-to place for file-sharers in Denmark, but that changed rapidly in recent weeks.

After a series of enforcement actions and legal threats, ‘all’ local trackers are gone.

Arrests

The trouble started in October last year when DanishBits suddenly went offline. At the time, several sources informed us that the owner had been arrested and these claims were later confirmed by the police.

Acting on a complaint from local piracy group Rights Alliance, the State Prosecutor for Serious Economic Crime (SØIK) arrested a 33-year-old Danish man in Morocco. And that wasn’t the only site that was targeted.

Law enforcement also went after the private tracker Nordicbits. The authorities identified a 69-year-old Danish man as the operator. The man, who resided in Spain, was apprehended by local police in September and passed away a few weeks later as the result of an illness.

Other Sites Tooks Over

The shutdown of these sites was a major blow to the local piracy ecosystem but it didn’t take long before other sites stepped up. Both Asgaard and ShareUniversity opened their doors to new members, resulting in an explosive growth of these sites.

This is a common pattern that we have seen over and over again. This time, however, the replacements didn’t last.

Rights Alliance increased the pressure on the remaining trackers, urging them to give up their illegal activities. If not, they would get the same treatment as DanishBits and NordicBits. This looming threat of legal action ultimately proved too much. A few weeks ago we reported that Asgaard had decided to shut down voluntarily.

“The thought of having to risk the doorbell ringing one day for a visit from the police overshadows the coziness of running this project. We will not expose you to that. Or ourselves. We have therefore chosen to close the ASGAARD project,” Asgaard’s staff said.

‘All’ Sites Shut Down

Soon after, ShareUniversity decided to throw in the towel as well. This means that all popular Danish trackers are effectively offline, leaving tens of thousands of users ‘homeless’.

denmark

Rights Alliance confirms that the shutdown of the last illegal Danish pirate services is a massive victory. Director Maria Fredenslund is delighted with the outcome, which the group has worked on for many years.

Result of 10 Years of Work

“We have worked hard to get rid of illegal services rooted in Denmark. It is the fruit of more than 10 years of dedicated work, that it is now a reality that for the first time there are no Danish illegal services, which is a huge victory for the Danish rights holders,” she says.

“Meanwhile, we are of course aware that new smaller pirate services may emerge on an ongoing basis, which will try to find a foothold. But it is our clear expectation that with these latest developments, we have drawn a line under the Danish-anchored illegal services,” Fredenslund adds.

Declaring victory on pirates is always tricky, as some may see it as a challenge to start something new. However, such an endeavor won’t be without risk.

Remaining Vigilant

Rights Alliance is aware of this, and it knows that estranged pirates can find their way to foreign sites as well. However, it hopes that their efforts will have made a sizeable impact on the long-term piracy rate.

Meanwhile, the group is encouraging the Government’s SØIK’s IP-Task Force to keep up the pressure. Now that Danish sites are gone, law enforcement has the room to focus more on users.

“It is extremely important that the Task Force continues its good work, and now focuses on the committed users who are constantly looking for new ways to share illegal content,” Fredenslund says.

“The Task Force has already proved to be extremely effective and impactful in closing down the illegal services, and we can see from the various platforms that it resonates with the users,” she adds.

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