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Anti-Piracy Plug-In Spots Pirate IPTV Sales But Also Makes Big Blunders

Online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon offer an impressive range of products but to the disappointment of various companies, some have the potential to infringe trademarks or copyrights.

Rogue sales have traditionally taken the form of counterfeit clothing, perfumes and similar products. These days, however, troublesome listings are increasingly likely to involve piracy-enabled set-top boxes, pirate IPTV subscriptions, or similar tools used to access content without paying for it.

New Anti-Piracy Browser Plug-In

In an effort to counter this threat, this week Scotland-based Vistalworks announced the launch of a new browser plug-in which, according to its press release, “alerts consumers to illicit internet streaming services” ahead of the new English Premiership season.

“Vistalworks has developed the free warning system which tells online shoppers about the risks of opening up their personal data to criminals through cut-price IPTV subscriptions. It is hoped the pop-up warning will discourage people from purchasing illicit IPTV, as well as make consumers aware that this is not a victimless crime,” the company says.

Does the Plug-In Perform as Advertised?

Available for Chrome, the plug-in (available here) demands access to all customer browsing activities on both eBay and Amazon to do its job. In our initial tests it performed reasonably well, spotting pirate IPTV packages on eBay along with streaming devices that have been modified to provide access to content without paying the legal provider.

Vistalworks Plug In

“This listing is associated with illegally streamed content. You won’t get your money back if the service ends without warning, your personal data is exposed to criminals and there is an extremely high risk of exposure to malware, phishing and spyware,” the warning reads.

The warning is absolutely correct that pirate streaming services are prone to going down and not issuing refunds. However, as we’ve pointed out numerous times before, the claims of malware, phishing, and spyware are far-fetched when it comes to buying a simple username and password subscription (as most listings offer) on eBay or Amazon.

Nevertheless, when the circumstances are known, these packages are illegal to sell, illegal to buy, and illegal to use, so the basic warning isn’t without some merit. Importantly, the plug-in was effective in spotting the majority of listings we tested, sometimes producing a ‘High Risk’ alert and sometimes erring on the side of caution with an appropriate ‘Caution’ alert.

In other circumstances, however, the plug-in not only manages to get things wrong but also provides cautionary advice that’s detrimental to both consumers, legitimate sellers and official broadcasters alike.

The Bad and the Ugly

Somewhat ahead of its time, IPTV Crash Course was a book released in 2006 that aimed to educate people on the world of IPTV. Not pirate IPTV, of course, but simply the delivery of TV content over the Internet. It’s available on Amazon and gets a big green tick of approval from the plug-in. Search for the same on eBay, however, and users are warned against making a purchase.

Vistalworks High Risk

“Characteristics of this listing are often associated with fake or illicit products. There may be a higher risk of this product being poor quality, faulty or unfit for purpose,” the warning reads.

While the words “often” and “may” give some room for maneuver, the registered business seller on eBay trying to sell this completely legal paperback book is unlikely to be pleased that his listing has been flagged as poor quality or unfit for purpose.

The same goes for a pair of listings on Amazon and eBay, both offering the completely legitimate MAG 322 IPTV set-top box manufactured by Infomir.

On Amazon, the product gets a green tick of approval but on eBay, it’s flagged as a device connected to illegal streaming. It comes with a warning of personal data being exposed to criminals alongside an “extremely high risk of exposure to malware, phishing and spyware.”

Vistalworks High Risk 3

Not only is device manufacturer Infomir known to work with copyright holders to prevent illegal access to content, but the company is also extremely sensitive when it comes to being associated with piracy.

Mentions of malware, spyware, and personal data being exposed to criminals through their product is unlikely to sit well either, not least since it’s untrue.

Unfortunately, Blunders Can Be Anti-Consumer Too

With most people trying to cut costs these days, Amazon and eBay are well-known for their ability to direct consumers to a bargain. As a result, these platforms are often the first port of call for online buyers hoping to save a few dollars, pounds or euros on their purchase.

Sadly, the plug-in manages to blunder here too, not only casting doubt over sales of completely legitimate IPTV-related products but in some cases, preferring Amazon over eBay for no good reason.

For example, Now TV is a legal IPTV streaming service operated by broadcaster Sky, which is currently going to great lengths to prevent and deter piracy. People searching for its streaming device on Amazon again get a green tick, indicating that sales are legitimate.

However, after searching for exactly the same thing on eBay, they are presented with a warning.

Vistalworks Caution

This ‘Caution’ warning is a watered-down version of the ‘High Risk’ version seen earlier. It clearly says that the plug-in “can’t yet give a clear answer” on the product, which in isolation is perhaps fair enough. However, the additional advice, to check whether it’s plausible that “a seller could be offering legitimate products at this price” is really problematic in this instance.

On Amazon, the price for the Now TV device and a free trial is currently £29.85. On eBay, the exact same product is being offered for just £19.99, representing a significant saving. What the caution does here is cast doubt over the validity of the eBay listing for being too cheap when compared to Amazon at £10 more.

However, both listings are by exactly the same seller (Boss Deals), with the higher costs on Amazon most likely indicative of the extra charges incurred when selling on the platform.

Obviously, if consumers compare these two listings and decide to buy from Amazon as a result of the caution, Boss Deals still gets the order. However, if this was a competitor, the company would be much less pleased. Not to mention, of course, that the consumer would be parting with more money for exactly the same thing, ‘thanks’ to the plug-in.

Conclusion – Word Filters Are Notoriously Untrustworthy

It’s clear that at some level the Vistalworks plug-in relies on word filters and considering the focus on IPTV, it’s obvious that the term is causing some of the issues here, no matter what products are searched for, even when they’re legal.

The underlying systems currently aren’t smart enough to burrow into the details (especially on eBay) since it’s even possible to trigger a ‘caution’ alarm when buying a BitTorrent t-shirt or a Pirate Bay mug. This raises the prospect of plug-in users seeing too many false alarms and simply switching the thing off.

For those who still want to test, the plug-in is available here

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

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Amazon, Lee Child & John Grisham Win Preliminary Injunction Against Pirate Sites

In July, Amazon Content Services, publisher Penguin Random House and several authors including John Grisham and Lee Child, targeted a range of eBook download sites operating under the ‘Kiss Library’ brand.

Listing several domains including kisslibrary.net, kissly.net, wtffastspring.bid, libly.net, and cheaplibrary.com, among others, the lawsuit alleges that the sites offer a wide selection of books at “unbeatable prices”. The plaintiffs allege that this deep discounting is possible for only one reason – the content is pirated.

Alleging willful direct copyright infringement, among other things, the plaintiffs demanded statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed work. They further demanded injunctive relief, including an order impounding all copies of the infringing materials.

Temporary Restraining Orders Quickly Handed Down

Noting that the defendants had gone to “great lengths” to conceal their identities, within days of the filing of the lawsuit a Washington court handed down a comprehensive temporary restraining order in an effort to shut down the allegedly-infringing activities of the sites.

The orders included evidence preservation instructions and restrained many entities, including payment processors, domain registrars, Internet service companies, advertisers and search engines, from doing business with the sites.

In addition, the order required financial companies such as banks, payment processors and credit card companies to locate the defendants’ accounts and temporarily freeze them. Domain companies were instructed to do the same, rendering the sites inaccessible.

The restraining order was valid for just 48 days, meaning that the defendants’ had until August 25, 2020, to appear and put up a fight. Despite being notified of the action via a KissLibrary.com email address, that did not happen.

Kiss Library Defendants Did Not Appear

After failing to respond to the plaintiffs correspondence or the court’s order, the Kiss Library defendants also failed to attend a show cause hearing this week. As a result, the court went about its business in a predictably one-sided manner, declaring that on the basis of the plaintiffs’ allegations, their case against the defendants is likely to succeed.

“Defendants have engaged in direct copyright infringement of those Works by reproducing, displaying, and distributing the Works for profit through the Websites identified in the Complaint,” the court’s order reads.

“Defendants have induced, caused, and materially contributed to others’ infringement of those Works, through the intentional solicitation, facilitation, and ability to control and supervise others’ upload of the infringed Works on the Websites for profit,” and as a result, “third-party purchasers have also impermissibly copied Plaintiffs’ protected works, further infringing Plaintiffs’ rights in those Works.”

Declaring that the defendants intentionally contributed to the infringing activity and at a minimum acted with “willful blindness” or in “reckless disregard” of the plaintiffs’ copyrights, Senior District Judge Marsha J. Pechman handed down a broad preliminary injunction Thursday against the Kiss Library defendants and those doing business with them.

Preliminary Injunction

While the Kiss Library sites appear to have gone offline following the filing of the lawsuit in July, the preliminary injunction handed down yesterday should make it extremely difficult for them to reappear in any recognizable form.

Targeting the defendants and any third-party entities connected to them, the injunction prevents banks, payment and cryptocurrency processors, email providers, domain registrars, hosts, ISPs and a wide range ancillary web companies, including search engines, ad companies and even web designers, from doing any business that might contribute to the infringement of the plaintiffs’ copyrights.

Furthermore, if any of these entities have documents, business records, computer files or other evidence relating to the defendants’ websites, assets and operations, these must not be moved, destroyed or otherwise disposed of. This instruction will stay in place until the court rules otherwise.

Ex Parte Asset Restraint

In an effort to ensure that the Kiss Library defendants don’t disappear with the profits of their activities while leaving nothing for the plaintiffs in the event of a damages award, a wide range of financial institutions are ordered to immediately locate all accounts connected to the defendants and/or the websites and prevent them from transferring or disposing of any funds.

These include named entities FastSpring, PayPal, BitPay, and MasterCard but extends to any company or organization served with the order, such as “banks, savings and loan associations, payment processors or other financial institutions.”

On the technical front, the court requires companies including Cloudflare, Tucows, Whois Privacy Corp., NameCheap, 1337 Services LLC (Njalla), NameSilo, Web.com, White & Case, and Pork Bun LLC to disable the Kiss Library domains within three days and prevent them from being transferred.

Expedited Discovery

After concluding the plaintiffs had “engaged in reasonable but fruitless efforts” to uncover the identities of the people behind the Kiss Library operation, the court has now stepped in to assist.

All entities covered by the instructions in the preliminary injunction must hand over all information and records they hold on the defendants and/or their websites within five days. This includes names, addresses, financial accounts, details of assets and any other information, without limitation, that could allow the plaintiffs to positively identify the defendants.

The preliminary injunction and expedited discover order can be obtained here (pdf)

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

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How Do Delivery Robots Work? How They Safely Deliver Your Packages

A distant future involving robotic package deliveries is now very much a reality. Advances in robotics, GPS tracking, automation, and navigation now mean you might not find a delivery person at your door with your package.

You might find a delivery robot instead.

With semi-autonomous robots beginning to enter the world, here’s a look at how delivery robots work.

What Is a Delivery Robot?

A delivery robot is an automated robot that brings your delivery directly to your door. These robots aren’t walking and talking humanoids; rather, these robots are cute delivery containers on six wheels, resembling giant (but friendly-looking!) bugs.

As with other delivery services, you make your purchases through an app with vendors based on your location. The robot trundles to the vendor—whether for shopping, food, drinks, or otherwise—and then it makes its way to your home.

How Does a Delivery Robot Work?

The primary example of delivery robots in action comes from Starship Technologies, a company based out of San Francisco with engineering facilities in Estonia and Finland. Starship Technologies is the brainchild of Skype co-founders Janus Friis and Anti Heinla, and they are currently the largest “last mile” delivery robot company around.

So, how does an autonomous delivery robot make a delivery?

The robots have a cargo capacity of around 9kg, can travel at a maximum speed of 4 mph, weigh around 25kg, and cost over $5,000 to manufacture. The delivery robot uses many of the same features as an autonomous car: 10 cameras for 360-degree vision, several ultrasonic sensors, GPS navigation, measurement units, gyroscopes, and much more.

How Do Delivery Robots Navigate?

The route between a vendor and a delivery point might look A-to-B if you plug the locations into a navigation app… but there are extra considerations for a delivery robot, including sidewalks, crossings, driveways, humans, animals, vehicles, and so on.

Starship’s robots calculate a route based upon the shortest distance and satellite imagery detailing the route. Each feature on the route (crossings, driveways, etc.) receives a time calculation, which the robot factors into route selection and delivery time.

Over time, the robots build a collaborative memory of an area, creating a wireframe map of constant features (buildings, crossings, statues, pathways, etc.) and ensuring that future journeys through the area are faster. The collaborative area-building makes navigation easier for every robot in the vicinity, with all units contributing to building out the local map.

But navigation isn’t always smooth sailing. Aside from regular navigational dilemmas, a malfunctioning robot comes with its own problems. For example, a Starship robot in Milton Keynes malfunctioned—and drove straight into a canal.

Does Anyone Control the Delivery Robot?

While the Starship Technology robots are autonomous, they are not disconnected from their operators. If a robot comes up against a significant challenge, such as a particularly massive curb (they can climb up and over regular sidewalk curbs), a human operator can take control and find a solution.

But for the most part, the robots are designed to take everything into account, focusing strongly on the sidewalk. Delivery robots sharing the same routes as pedestrians has all the potential for irritation.

All these potential issues are all considered, but the robots must learn the correct way to interact with humans. How many times have you faced the awkward situation of walking at a similar pace to someone just ahead of you? Do you speed up to pass, then continue walking faster? Do you slow down to give them time to move further ahead? Is your destination close enough so that you don’t need to overtake?

The delivery robots are learning how to solve these problems, as well as countless others.

If you want to get involved with robotics, check out these DIY robotic arm kits.

How Do You Order Take-Out From a Robot?

Starship’s robotic delivery team are currently operating in several US cities but in limited geographic areas. For example, you can order via Starship at Arizona State University, in Fairfax City, Virginia, or Modesto, California—but only in a limited area. The images below show the delivery areas for those respective locations:

If the vendor you want to order from and your delivery address are with the bounds of the robot, you can order from the Starship Delivery app. The app displays a list of vendors you can make an order with. You place your order, and a local delivery robot makes its way to the vendor to pick up your order. The robot then trundles to your front door. You track the delivery robot using an app, as well as unlock the secure cargo compartment, too.

The Starship Technologies delivery service costs $1.99 per delivery.

For vendors, the reality is slightly different. The delivery robots are cute and get the job done, but Starship’s terms of partnership can take up to a 20% cut per delivery, after a free month’s trial of the service.

Delivery Robots and COVID-19

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic provided a new and interesting dynamic for Starship Technologies and its delivery robots. With huge numbers of people entering lockdown at differing times and with many people attempting to self-isolate and socially distance from the general public, the delivery robots present a perfect non-human delivery system.

In Milton Keynes, UK, the demand for robot deliveries rose significantly during the early stages of the UK COVID-19 lockdown. The US cities and university campuses also saw similar demand for robotic, almost zero-human interaction deliveries. For those on at-risk lists due to pre-existing conditions or healthcare workers struggling to purchase groceries after a long shift, robotic deliveries are a vital lifeline.

Does Amazon Have Delivery Robots?

Starship Technologies was the first company to use delivery robots as its core delivery method. Recognizing that last-mile delivery is a phenomenally large market is a masterstroke. But the world’s largest online marketplace, Amazon, isn’t far behind.

Amazon Scout is another six-wheeled robot that moves across sidewalks and crossings at walking pace, but this one brings your Amazon delivery directly to your door. Scout is currently available to Amazon customers in the area near Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, as well as Irving, California, with recent trial expansions to Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee.

Delivery Robots Are Coming to Your Home

A friendly delivery robot bringing curry to your door is charming and is a reality for millions of people. The rollout of delivery robots won’t be overnight, and there are significant challenges for the delivery robotics sector, as well as rural communities.

If you like the sound of robots, check out these robots that’ll do your chores!

Image Credit: JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock

Read the full article: How Do Delivery Robots Work? How They Safely Deliver Your Packages

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