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Wrong Pirate Bay URL in BBC Video Report Triggers Malware Warnings

During these uncertain times caused by the coronavirus pandemic, people are increasingly turning to pirate sources for their entertainment fix.

As previously reported, downloads of the movie Contagion skyrocketed, and torrent-based piracy went up in several countries in line with their lockdown measures.

This morning the BBC published a video news piece titled ‘Why I’m downloading pirated films in lockdown’. It begins with a short interview with MUSO CEO Andy Chatterley, who discussed data captured by his monitoring company during the lockdown indicating that piracy had increased significantly. The piece also features ‘Freddy’, a disguised 29-year-old New Yorker who explains why he’s downloading films during the pandemic.

To illustrate the process, the BBC report shows ‘footage’ of The Pirate Bay in action, revealing that movies including 1917 and Bad Boys For Life are available on the platform. However, instead of showing The Pirate Bay’s true domain, the BBC fell into the trap of showing the wrong site.

BBC shows the wrong domain for The Pirate Bay

At first view, this may not appear to be a significant blunder but the publication of the wrong domain is likely to have prompted some people who aren’t aware of The Pirate Bay’s real domain (or may not have even heard of the site before) tapping the URL into their browser in search of movies to watch. Unfortunately, movies might not be the only thing on offer.

People who visit the URL in question who have MalwareBytes installed are informed that the domain quickly accesses another domain, tpb.party, which immediately triggers a trojan warning from the anti-malware software, blocking the platform.

TPB.party malware warning

TorrentFreak has contacted Malwarebytes for more information on why it considers tpb.party and/or thepirate-bay.org unsafe and will update this article when that response comes in. However, we can confirm right now that there a no malware warnings at all on thepiratebay.org, The Pirate Bay’s true domain.

Importantly, this isn’t really a question of the BBC making a massive error here. Rather, it appears they may have been led into a search trap, a by-product of anti-piracy activities that force Google to make pirate popular sites harder to find and gives prominence to lesser-known domains.

For some time and under massive industry pressure, Google has been downranking pirate sites in its search results. The precise algorithm is unknown but Google says it uses the number of DMCA notices received against a domain as a marker to show that the site is problematic to rightsholders and should be pushed down in search results.

In fact, if one carries out a search for ‘the pirate bay’ on Google from a UK IP address (where the BBC is based), thepiratebay.org won’t appear in at least the first 10 pages of results. Instead, due to the downrankings, Google now prioritizes a Wikipedia and entry and two sites that claim to be The Pirate Bay but are not.

Both of them trigger the same malware warning and one of them is the domain published by the BBC.

Google results for The Pirate Bay search

While only the creator of the BBC video will know why he or she included the wrong URL for The Pirate Bay, it seems likely that they expected a very high-ranking Google search result to be authoritative. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with these types of Google searches anymore. That will be music to the ears of copyright holders for a number of reasons.

Firstly, true pirate sites with plenty of quality releases are already harder to find in many regions, something entertainment companies have been trying to achieve for a long time. Also, poor quality results are pushed from the bottom to the top of search results, leading to dissatisfaction among people looking for content.

Finally, the claim that pirate site visitors are vulnerable to malware can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as the sites where that is least likely to happen are disappeared and the ones that are in it to make money from any means possible get more and more traffic.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also help you to find the best anonymous VPN.

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MPA/ACE Wants Cloudflare to Identify Operators of Nites Pirate Streaming Site

There are many strategies for disrupting the activities of pirate sites and services. Blocking, for example, leaves sites intact but aims to prevent users from visiting platforms so easily.

This presents a window of opportunity for pirates who through VPNs, proxies and mirror platforms, can still access the sites in question. A much more permanent option is shutting services down completely, a tactic currently being deployed by the Motion Picture Association and global anti-piracy coalition ACE, the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment.

While details are hammered out behind the scenes, ACE – which is headed up by the studios of the MPA plus Netflix and Amazon – reaches agreements with site operators to shut down their operations. This can sometimes involve a cash settlement (such as in the Openload case) but the most visible sign is the handing over of domain names to the MPA, to prevent any resurrection.

This appears to have been the plan behind the recent closure of Nites.tv, a polished streaming and torrent platform that rapidly grew in popularity over the past several months. In April, following an announcement that it was shutting down to protect copyrights, Nites.tv disappeared and its domain was eventually taken over by the MPA. However, that wasn’t the end of the matter.

This week, an almost perfect clone of Nites.tv reappeared under a new domain, Nites.is. It has all of the features of the old site with identical functionality, suggesting that the ACE action to shutter the original site had been seriously undermined. Who is behind this reincarnation isn’t known but several major Hollywood studios are now trying to find out.

In an application for a DMCA subpoena filed at a California court this week, Jan Van Voorn, the Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection at the MPA, explained that Nites.is infringing on the rights of Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal City Studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Amazon Content Services and Netflix Studios.

“The purpose for which this subpoena is sought is to obtain the identities of the individuals assigned to these websites who have exploited ACE Members’ exclusive rights in their copyrighted motion pictures without their authorization,” the application reads.

“This information will only be used for the purposes of protecting the rights granted to ACE Members, the motion picture copyright owners, under Title II of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”

The companies, all members of ACE and represented by the MPA, request an order that would compel Cloudflare to hand over the personal details of the entities behind Nites.is. That information, according to the MPA, should include names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, payment information, account updates and account histories.

What happens next is dependent on a few factors, starting with the information held by Cloudflare. Presuming the subpoena is granted, the big question is whether the CDN company has any useful information to hand over to the MPA. If it doesn’t, the trail could go cold, at least for now. If Cloudflare does have pertinent details, however, then the people behind Nites.is can expect a follow-up from the MPA.

The big question is whether those people, whoever they might be, are the same people as those behind Nites.tv. If they are (and presuming a settlement agreement was signed with the MPA/ACE to shut down permanently), then it will be a question of whether MPA/ACE are open to another settlement or in light of any breach, feel inclined to take the matter further.

ACE does not respond to requests to comment on any ongoing cases so at least for now, it will be a waiting game to see how this plays out.

The DMCA subpoena application documents can be found here (1,2,3)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also help you to find the best anonymous VPN.

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Movie & TV Giants Obtain Court Injunction to Shut Down Nitro TV

Last month several major movie and TV show companies filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Alejandro Galindo, the alleged operator of unlicensed IPTV provider Nitro TV, and 20 additional ‘Doe’ defendants.

Owned by Columbia, Amazon, Disney, Paramount, Warner, and Universal, the companies alleged that Nitro TV offers subscription packages consisting of thousands of “live and title-curated television channels” available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the United States and abroad.

Of particular interest to the entertainment companies were Nitro TV’s ’24/7′ channels and VOD service, consisting of movies and TV shows that, according to the lawsuit, could only function if their content had been unlawfully copied in advance. These included movies and TV shows including The Office, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Toy Story 3, Star Trek Beyond, Homecoming and Joker.

Citing the ‘unfair competition’ presented by Nitro’s service, the companies’ complaint alleged willful direct copyright infringement and in the event Nitro claimed that third-parties streamed the content, contributory copyright infringement, with each offense carrying maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work.

In common with most lawsuits of this type, the companies demanded preliminary and permanent injunctions not only against all of the defendants but also third-party companies acting in concert with them, such as domain registrars.

In an April 23 filing, Galindo filed a notice of non-opposition to the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction but according to court records, did not shut down the Nitro TV service. This claim appears to be supported by numerous videos on YouTube discussing whether customers should ditch the service as soon as possible due to the lawsuit, despite it continuing to operate.

District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson was tasked with deciding whether in advance of a trial, Nitro TV should be shut down. In an injunction handed down Monday, he sided with the entertainment companies.

“As copyright holders, Plaintiffs have the exclusive right to publicly perform the Copyrighted Works. 17 U.S.C. § 106(4),” his order reads.

“The internet streaming of full copyrighted works without authorization constitutes a violation of this exclusive right. By streaming the Copyrighted Works on Nitro TV without authorization, Defendant likely violates this exclusive right.

“Accordingly, Plaintiffs are likely to be successful on their copyright claims. Because Plaintiffs have successfully established a likelihood of success on their direct infringement claims, the Court does not reach Plaintiffs’ secondary infringement claims.”

Despite concluding that the plaintiffs are likely to be successful in their copyright infringement claims against Nitro TV, Judge Wilson notes that he was required to consider whether, in the absence of an injunction, the plaintiffs would suffer “irreparable” injury. He decided that would indeed be the case.

“Plaintiffs have shown they are likely to be irreparably harmed by the continued infringement of their copyrights. Due to the diffuse nature of streaming services, it will be difficult for Plaintiffs to discern the full extent of Defendant’s copyright violations,” he writes.

“Not only is Defendant directly infringing Plaintiffs’ copyrights, creating a financial loss to Plaintiffs, but Plaintiffs have provided evidence that the unlawfully distributed Copyrighted Works may undermine the value of Plaintiffs’ legitimate licenses. This could also lead to unquantifiable customer confusion and an overall diminution of value of the Copyrighted Works.”

Given that preliminary injunctions can have an effect on all parties in a dispute, the Judge also considered whether damage could be caused to Nitro. He found that since the operator of the service had not disputed he was infringing the entertainment companies’ rights and that illegal conduct does not merit “significant equitable protection”, no injury would be suffered by Nitro TV.

“The balance of the equities tips strongly in Plaintiffs’ favor,” his order reads.

Finally, the Judge considered whether a preliminary injunction would be in the public interest. Similarly, he found in the plaintiffs’ favor, noting that Nitro TV had offered no evidence to counter the claim that its alleged copyright infringements offered no lawful benefit to the public.

The preliminary injunction handed down Monday requires that Galindo and all individuals acting in concert, participation, or in privity with him in connection with his alleged activities, must immediately cease all direct and secondary copyright infringement related to the plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, including all public performances and reproduction.

In response to requests in the original complaint, the Judge specifically ordered Namecheap and Domain.com, the domain registrars for Tekkhosting.com and NitroIPTV.com respectively, to prevent the domains from being modified, sold, transferred or deleted.

Alongside an instruction for the domains to be disabled, the Judge ordered that current WHOIS information must be preserved alongside all evidence related to the domains’ ownership.

The preliminary injunction can be obtained here (pdf)

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also help you to find the best anonymous VPN.

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‘Viral’ Pirate Site Nites.tv is Back From the Dead Following ACE Seizure

If there’s one thing that movie and TV show companies hate more than regular pirate streaming services, it’s pirate streaming services that look and feel like the real deal.

Popcorn Time was arguably the first mainstream entrant to this niche but, over the past six years, there have been many pretenders to the throne. Nites.tv certainly fell into that category and then some.

Appearing seemingly out of nowhere just a few short months ago, Nites.tv gained significant traction with an unusually polished interface that in presentation terms certainly gave Netflix a run for its money. But then, just as the site was beginning to soar, a major setback became apparent.

Around April 19, Nites.tv suddenly disappeared and was replaced by the familiar ‘seizure’ notice of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the global anti-piracy coalition that has taken down dozens of piracy-related domains during the past couple of years.

Two days later Nites.tv made an announcement via Twitter, declaring that since it took “copyright violations very seriously” and intended to “vigorously protect the rights of legal copyright owners”, it would be shutting down. By early May the circle was complete when its domains were officially taken over by the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

At that point, it seemed unlikely that we would be writing about Nites again. But, today, we have news that can be firmly filed under the “ACE isn’t going to like this” category.

Nites.tv appears to be back in full effect under a new domain, Nites.is, and as the image below shows, the reincarnation is indistinguishable from the original.

The new Nites.is domain was registered on April 23, just days after the original domain first displayed signs of conflict with the dozens of entertainment industry giants that make up ACE. It was registered with Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde’s Njalla privacy service, meaning that it won’t be easy to find out who is behind it, a big plus for whoever’s at the helm.

There’s little doubt that ACE will now seek to take the site down and there is no shortage of reasons for that. Putting the obvious embarrassment aside for a moment, with its tight interface, video previews, and even a Netflix-like “+MY LIST” feature, Nites.is is an unusually glossy platform with a number of interesting features behind the scenes.

Aside from streaming the latest movies and TV shows from direct hosting sources in both 720 and 1080 qualities, the site provides movie trailers for those undecided on what to watch next and even provides torrent download links culled from popular torrent index YTS. It also has other BitTorrent technologies quietly waiting under the hood including Webtorrent tracker OpenWebTorrent and Webtorrent client βtorrent.

The only thing the new site doesn’t have at the moment is a new logo but the text “Nites is Back” on some open tabs is a clear statement that Nites.is aims to pick up where Nites.tv left off.

The big question now, however, is how long it will last.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also help you to find the best anonymous VPN.

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Nintendo Lawyers File Copyright Complaints Against Super Mario 64 PC Port

All the way back in 1996, the world of videogaming witnessed a massive event. Edge, the most adult, cerebral video game magazine available at the time, reviewed the Nintendo 64 title Super Mario 64 and gave it an unprecedented 10/10.

In today’s world where games publications saturate the Internet, it’s difficult to state the importance of that moment. Edge, without exception, had previously found fault with every other game ever reviewed and when other publications gave out 7/10 scores for average titles, Edge stubbornly refused to give a middling game any more than 50% approval.

That was 24 years ago and despite the massive technological changes witnessed during the last quarter-century, the warmth gamers feel towards Super Mario 64 has only grown. That’s why there were few dry eyes in the house when a fan-made PC port of the legendary title hit the Internet last weekend.

“The fan-made port, which was first shared on social media sites this weekend, was made possible by a 2019 recompilation project which saw fans reverse engineer the game’s source code,” wrote VGC, which first reported the news.

Unlike the emulated versions of SM64 that preceded it, this was a full-blown DirectX 12 port that enabled 4K resolutions, support for ultra-widescreen monitors, plus gameplay facilitated by modern interfaces such as the Xbox One controller. But while modern gamers and historians bathed in the sunshine of this N64 classic, many realized that dark clouds would eventually appear on the horizon.

Perhaps more than any other videogame company in existence today, Nintendo has become associated with a determination to vigorously defend its intellectual property rights and it didn’t take long for this PC-powered title to land on its radar. Despite most discussion forums such as Reddit suppressing links to the game’s executable, it soon began to disappear from file-hosting sites.

The action, at least in part, was taken by US-based law firm Wildwood Law Group LLC, a company known to work with Nintendo in its efforts to suppress the availability of modding tools and products. One of its complaints filed with Google this week and obtained by TorrentFreak reads as follows:

“The copyrighted work is Nintendo’s Super Mario 64 video game, including the audio-visual work, software, and fictional character depictions covered by U.S. Copyright Reg. No. PA[REDACTED],” the notice reads.

“The reported file contains an unauthorized derivative work based on Nintendo’s copyrighted work.”

While the registration number has been redacted in the complaint, the copyright registration number is almost certainly PA0000788138. That was also referenced in a complaint filed by Nintendo against Cloudflare in 2015 when the gaming company was attempting to remove a browser-based version of Super Mario 64 from the Internet.

At the time of writing, at least one of the recent complaints filed by Nintendo’s law firm has curiously failed to take down the content in question. We obviously won’t link to it here but the SM64 PC-port executable is very much alive on the targeted Google Drive URL, as the image below shows.

Other locations haven’t been so lucky, however. Copies uploaded to various file-hosting sites have now been removed and several Reddit posts linking to the game have been deleted too. Fans have been sharing hash values of the files though, which can still yield results with the right search techniques.

Attempting to spoil the fun for those who’d simply like to see the game in action, Nintendo has also been targeting YouTube videos featuring the title running on PC. One example, titled “[ Gameplay ] Super Mario 64 – DX12 PC Port – 4K” was deleted following a copyright complaint, as the image below shows.

In other news, Nintendo suffered a significant data leak this week which included the original Nintendo 64’s source code, among a trove of other data. The twist here is that according to sources familiar with the Super Mario 64 PC port, that data was leaked too and wasn’t yet scheduled for public consumption.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also help you to find the best anonymous VPN.

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MPA and Amazon Ask Github to Suspend Kodi Add-On Developer’s Account

Following a massive surge in interest over the past several years, Kodi remains the platform of choice for millions of people looking to access movies and TV shows for free.

In its standard form, the Kodi software is entirely legal but when augmented with third-party add-ons, it turns into a piracy powerhouse.

As a result, the developers of Kodi are legally in the clear but the same cannot be said for the developers of the countless add-ons designed for the express purpose of finding, accessing, and delivering infringing content. The MPA and like-minded companies are in a constant battle to disrupt their activities, sometimes ending up in court to achieve those goals.

Some of these actions are heavily publicized but others maintain a lower profile. In February 2018, a developer known online as ‘Blamo’ (aka ‘Mr. Blamo’) revealed that he, in common with several of his counterparts, had been threatened by content companies. From there the trail went cold but according to a complaint filed against Github this week, legal action in Canada followed.

On September 7, 2018, a dozen companies including the studios of the MPA/MPA-Canada plus Amazon and Netflix launched a copyright infringement lawsuit at Canada’s Federal Court against an individual “doing business” as Mr. Blamo.

“In the context of that action, our clients alleged that [Blamo] notably developed, hosted, promoted and distributed infringing add-ons for the Kodi media center, which provided unauthorized access to motion pictures and television content for which the copyright is owned by our clients,” the MPA writes.

According to Federal Court records, Blamo did not mount any kind of defense so as a result, the matter was decided in his absence. On January 15, 2019, the Federal Court handed down a final judgment, including a declaration of infringement and a permanent injunction.

“The permanent injunction enjoins and restrains [Blamo] from, inter alia, hosting, distributing or promoting infringing Kodi add-ons and their repositories, including notably the ‘Blamo’ repository and the ‘Chocolate Salty Balls’ infringing add-ons,” the MPA adds.

The problem here is that, according to the MPA and associated companies, Blamo has a Github account where it is claimed he continues to “host and distribute infringing Kodi add-ons and their repository, including notably the Chocolate Salty Balls infringing add-on and the Blamo repository.” This, the MPA says, amounts to contempt of court.

What’s particularly interesting here, however, is that the MPA isn’t asking for the specified URLs to be deleted. Instead, it asks for Blamo’s entire Github account to be deactivated instead. According to the studios they wrote to Blamo, most recently on December 19, 2019, to request that he “cease his infringing activities” but that correspondence apparently fell on deaf ears.

“We request that GitHub, Inc. (‘GitHub’) suspend the account github.com/MrBlamo6969 (the ‘Account’). The Account is used by its operator to engage in ongoing acts of copyright infringement in contravention of an Order of the Federal Court (Canada) issued on January 15, 2019, which amounts to contempt of Court by the Account’s operator,” the MPA’s complaint reads.

“We therefore request that GitHub immediately suspends the Account to preserve our clients’ rights and ensure that the letter and spirit of the final Judgment of the Federal Court are respected.”

As the image above shows, Github declined to delete the entire account as requested. However, it has deleted the first two URLs listed in the MPA’s complaint, URLs that contained the content specifically covered by the injunction handed down by the Federal Court in Canada.

Whether that will be the end of the matter remains unclear but at least from a functional perspective, Github does appear to have acted in the ‘spirit’ of the court order.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also help you to find the best anonymous VPN.

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HydraX.net ‘Google Drive Streaming Proxy’ Traffic Being Sent to ACE Anti-Piracy Coalition

The Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment, the global anti-piracy coalition boasting the major Hollywood studios, Netflix, and dozens of other key entertainment players, is well known for taking down piracy-linked services.

In addition to several high-profile lawsuits, ACE also takes less well-publicized action behind the scenes, shutting down everything from IPTV providers to streaming services without any announcements at all. Today we can report on the strange behavior of a platform sending lots of traffic to ACE’s site.

HydraX.net was/is a service that allowed people to upload videos to the service, via a Google Drive account, for example. A recent posting by the platform on Facebook suggested that the platform offered unlimited free storage of video files up to 4.5GB and in return, users were given a direct link via an API and were able to embed videos on their own websites using an iFrame.

It seems pretty clear that the service has been utilized by webmasters to serve pirated movies and TV shows to the public.

Pricing schemes offered by HydraX in 2019 suggested that users could embed its player for free but would then be served ads on the embedded videos and wouldn’t have access to the API. The premium plan was touted at $1 for 30,000 plays.

Until recently and according to a Facebook posting, API access was charged at $0.02 per video view, up to a maximum charge of $500 per month. In early February there was another revision, with the API price adjusted to $1 per 5,000 video views. However, just a week later the premium service was reportedly withdrawn, with HydraX stating that its API wasn’t stable.

Noting that users could switch to its free iFrame embedding service instead, HydraX’s operators (who appear to be linked to Vietnam) also made an interesting statement in respect of copyright infringement.

“For keep Hydrax continue running, please accept DMCA request and take down all violation video [sic],” it read.

On May 2, 2020, HydraX told its users that it had updated its player, adding a new picture-in-picture option. However, at the time of writing, something strange is happening at the self-proclaimed “Proxy CDN Service” that says it hosts no content on its own servers.

People visiting HydraX links directly can no longer automatically expect to see movies or TV shows. While the main Hydrax.net domain appears to be functioning as normal, attempts to access content from hydrax.net/watchXXXXXXXXXXXX URLs are now greeted with a swift redirection to the website of the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment.

The familiar graphic, which counts down and advises that a website has been shut down for copyright infringement, isn’t present. Instead, the video links simply redirect to the ACE portal and, as the image from SimilarWeb shows, the effects are already pretty dramatic.

While we have no intimate knowledge of its behind-the-scenes operations, this seems to be a service designed, at least in part, to monetize Google Drive storage and protect pirated content from being taken down. Whether that’s the reason for the ACE redirections is up for debate though because several things don’t add up.

While there appear to be signs that ACE might be responsible for the bizarre behavior of the HydraX service, a source familiar with HydraX informs TF that when the links in question are embedded in a website (rather than visited directly), the videos (wherever they are hosted) appear as normal. That raises the possibility that HydraX has put this ‘system’ in place itself, perhaps to deter people from avoiding its ad-supported video player.

Unfortunately, ACE routinely ignores any request for comment on live investigations, so finding out more from them is impossible. HydraX hasn’t made any statement either and its email address bounces, which doesn’t help things. Nevertheless and all things considered, redirecting traffic to ACE by choice seems like a very strange course of action for any platform and is unlikely to go unnoticed.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also help you to find the best anonymous VPN.

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MPA Suggests Github Could Be Held Liable For Popcorn Time’s Copyright Infringements

As the organization heading up the major Hollywood studios and more recently Netflix, the Motion Picture Association is continually engaged in a battle to prevent infringing content reaching the masses.

The job is both massive and diverse, from filing lawsuits against allegedly-infringing sites and services to filing millions of DMCA notices to have content disappeared from search engines. Somewhere in the middle sits the latest effort to disrupt the activities of the world-famous Popcorn Time app.

As the so-called ‘Netflix For Pirates’, Popcorn Time needs little introduction. Starting out as a single project, it has now spread into multiple forks, each taking a variant of the project in a slightly different direction under various development teams. At least in some cases and to a certain extent, that development takes place on Github, the code repository owned by Microsoft.

Given its size, Github receives relatively few copyright complaints but when it does, they mostly target specific content that directly infringes someone’s copyrights, i.e an exact copy of someone’s code or leaked databases, for example. However, a notice just filed by the MPA takes a slightly different approach.

The complaint, filed under the DMCA, is dated May 1, 2020, begins by referencing an earlier complaint filed by the MPA on March 21, 2020, of which there is no obvious record on Github’s site. In this new and amended form, the MPA requests Github’s “assistance” to deal with the “extensive copyright infringement of motion pictures and television programs that is occurring by virtue of the operation and further development of the Popcorn Time repositories…”

The complaint targets two URLs, one containing a repository for the Popcorn desktop application and another concerned with its API. An exhibit, which hasn’t been published by Github, reportedly contains screenshots of “copyrighted works” (movies and TV shows) that are owned or controlled by the MPA and are “being infringed by the project.”

“Exhibit A is provided as a representative sample of the infringements being committed as a result of the operation of the Project and to demonstrate the readily apparent nature of the massive infringement occurring via the Project,” the complaint reads.

“The list is not intended to suggest that the identified infringements are the only ones occurring via the Project. Having been informed, through the representative examples, of the nature and scope of infringements occurring through the Project, we hope that you will act appropriately to address all infringement by the Project, not merely the identified representative examples.”

This is where things start to get a little more complex. The MPA isn’t claiming that the code carried on Github is their work and in direct breach of their copyright (the MPA didn’t write the code and has no direct claim over it in that sense) but that the code as developed enables people who download software that infringes the copyrights of its members.

Specifically, the MPA highlights four modules in the repositories (image below), which are designed to utilize the features of other third-party sites (including torrent platforms) thereby presenting links to infringing content in the Popcorn Time software, when it is run on a user’s machine.

“[T]he attached file tilted ‘GitHub-Code’ which shows code hosted on GitHub that provides links to pirate sites, pirate APIs, and pirate torrent trackers used to access infringing copies of motion pictures and television shows that are scraped by the Popcorn Time app to provide access to the infringing content that users are looking for.

“The identified files and code are preconfigured to find and provide infringing copies of our Members’ film and tv content to Popcorn Time users in violation of copyright law,” the MPA’s complaint reads.

Requesting Github’s “immediate assistance” in stopping its customer’s “unauthorized activity”, the MPA then cites a specific element of the DMCA, namely 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A)(ii). This is a reference to the requirement that for a complaint to be processed, the complainant should identify the copyrighted work that has been infringed or, in the case that multiple works have been infringed, provide a “representative list of such works at that site.”

This is interesting because not only does the MPA hold no copyrights in respect of the actual copyright code inside Popcorn Time, none of the movies or TV shows listed by the MPA are present in the Github repositories listed in the complaint. The MPA also asks Github to consider its repeat infringer policy in respect of Popcorn Time but then cites another area of law that can raise a sweat under the right circumstances.

“Moreover, the Project in question hosts software that is distributed and used to infringe on the MPA Member Studios’ copyrights. See Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster Ltd., 545 U.S. 913, 940 n.13 (2005) (‘the distribution of a product can itself give rise to liability where evidence shows that the distributor intended and encouraged the product to be used to infringe’),” the group adds.

The Grokster decision was handed down in 2005 (pdf) by the United States Supreme Court and held that Grokster and Streamcast (the maker of the Morpheus P2P software) could be sued for inducing copyright infringement.

Whether Github (the distributor in this case) “intends or encourages” the use of Popcorn Time for infringing purposes could be a matter for intense debate but given that it’s now clearly on notice of what the software does and how it achieves its goals, Github has taken the decision (clearly after discussion with the MPA, given the ‘amended’ nature of the current complaint) to remove the Popcorn Time repositories in question.

The MPA previously filed a similar complaint with Github over the Popcorn-like software TeaTV, which resulted in that repository being taken down. That too was actioned following discussion with the MPA, with Github seemingly having offered the movie group “guidance” on how to structure its complaint.

But while TeaTV went down without a fight, Popcorn Time has already indicated a willingness to fight back. In a counter-complaint filed with Github last night, a Popcorn Time representative contests the notice on the grounds that the MPA owns none of the team’s code.

“Yes, I am the content owner. All code are owned by Popcorn Time Team as you can see commits,” it reads.

“[We want to] dispute the notice. The code is 100 % ours and do not contain any copyright material please check again [sic].”

As a result of this counter-complaint, the Popcorn Time team has now consented to the jurisdiction of either the Federal District Court for wherever they are located (unlikely to be in the United States) or the Northern District of California where GitHub is located, should the matter escalate.

For now, however, the repositories are down and it seems unlikely that Github will reinstate them, at least to their standing before the takedown.

The MPA’s complaint and the counter-complaint from Popcorn Time can be found here and here

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also help you to find the best anonymous VPN.

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Massive Private Torrent Site Filelist.ro Has Domain Seized Due to Criminal Investigation

The vast majority of BitTorrent users on the Internet today download their torrents from ‘public’ sites. These are platforms such as The Pirate Bay, RARBG and YTS, that anyone can access without pre-conditions.

Sitting under the surface, however, are ‘private’ trackers which can only be accessed by users who have signed up for a membership.

Private trackers offer more tightly curated collections of every type of content imaginable, often accompanied by systems that enforce strict sharing. These have the aim of ensuring that everyone contributes to the site in some way, thus producing improved download speeds. As a result, membership is considered a privilege by many.

Most private trackers are smaller than their public counterparts but some buck the trend. An excellent example is Romania-based Filelist.ro, which currently boasts more than a million members who, according to SimilarWeb stats, made between 7.5 million and 10 million monthly visits this year.

Filelist was founded way back in 2007, celebrated its 12th birthday last December, and is frequented by users from all over the world thanks to its largely English-language interface. Now, however, trouble is on the horizon.

After the site’s main domain (Filelist.ro) became inaccessible, the usual rumors about raids and similar events began to circulate. Early reports suggested that the domain may have been seized but actions of this type are relatively rare in Romania so were initially passed off as rumor by some, despite the site’s administrators previously informing users that a move to Filelist.io was underway.

It is now clear the site is facing a criminal investigation.

While a seizure image on the site’s former homepage is enough to raise the alarm, the domain’s underlying technical details reveal that the domain has indeed been seized.

After being registered in August 2007, the domain now uses the nameservers of mpublic.ro, Romania’s Public Ministry which is comprised of various prosecutor’s offices and together with the courts represents the country’s judicial authority.

The notice reveals that the seizure took place as part of a criminal investigation being overseen by the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the highest court in the land. A statement issued by the site’s operators indicates they are in the dark about the seizure so initially delayed making an announcement hoping further information would become available.

It appears they knew something was wrong almost a month ago, when they announced that the site’s filelist.ro and flro.org domains would begin redirecting to a new domain, filelist.io. That new domain was registered on April 6, 2020.

The authorities in Romania are yet to issue a statement about the seizure but according to an announcement by Filelist’s operators just as the weekend was set to begin, users of the site have no need to be concerned.

“Since the beginning of this site measures have been taken to protect users. Meaning that, even if by one method or another the authorities seize the server, there are multiple protection and encryption systems to prevent access to the database and/or other files,” they wrote.

“We care very much about the security and anonymity of our users. No personal data is stored on the server anyway. No allegations have been brought to our attention and we will continue to fight for the right of our users to free speech and communication.”

That Filelist is operating from its new domain seems a fairly clear indication that the tracker’s server has not been seized. However, the existence of a criminal investigation is not good news for its operators or users.

No one but Filelist’s operators can know what type of security measures have been put in place to protect user data but private trackers are known for collating lots of information about their members as part of their efforts to ensure that sharing polices are tightly adhered to.

As highlighted in the USTR’s latest Special 301 Report, Romania kept its place on the Watch List this year, with the agency noting that online and broadcast piracy remains a “challenging enforcement issue” in a country “lacking effective enforcement”. Filelist was not reported in the USTR’s overview of Notorious Markets, however.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also help you to find the best anonymous VPN.

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Nites.tv Mystery Solved as MPA Takes Over Domain of ‘Viral’ Pirate Site

Any pirate movie or TV show site operating on the Internet today at any scale can eventually expect to find copyright holders breathing down their neck.

Aside from the thousands and in some cases millions of DMCA takedown notices filed with Google aimed at disappearing their platforms from search results, site operators can also find themselves targeted more personally. For the past couple of years that attention has increasingly come from ACE, the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment.

Compromised of dozens of leading content companies, distributors and broadcasters and headed up by the Motion Picture Association, ACE is now the most potent anti-piracy coalition on the planet. With massive resources at its disposal, ACE has filed and won lawsuits against several streaming operations and in many cases, has had piracy-focused platforms capitulate following the mere threat of force.

In the weeks leading up to mid-April, streaming site Nites.tv suddenly started getting a lot of attention in the press. Quite why this happened seemingly out of nowhere remains unclear but several publications noted a social media campaign promoting the streaming platform. With a large library of movies and TV shows and a happy userbase, things appeared on the up but within days, Nites.tv was no more.

As previously reported by TF, the Nites.tv domain suddenly started redirecting to the ACE anti-piracy portal. However, the apparent ‘seizure’ bore none of the usual behind-the-scenes technical hallmarks usually associated with an ACE/MPA takeover.

But if nothing else, Nites.tv seemed spooked. Instead of the usual promotional messages on Twitter, the site’s operators suddenly surprised their followers, changing their tone in a single tweet.

“We take copyright violations very seriously and will vigorously protect the rights of legal copyright owners. For that we decided to shut down our services. We are working on other ways to show you good content in a legal way,” the platform announced.

The domain diversion to ACE and the tweet certainly suggested that trouble was afoot but at no point did Nites.tv reference the anti-piracy group, a position maintained today. However, this week it was all but confirmed that ACE had jumped in to shut Nites.tv down, when its domain was transferred to the Motion Picture Association.

In common with the majority of domains registered in the name of the MPA, the domain registrar is now MarkMonitor, the brand protection company that works with the MPA and other companies to protect them from piracy, fraud and cybersquatting. The details are an exact match for other domains taken over by the MPA/ACE and suggest that beyond a reasonable doubt, ACE threats were the reason for Nites.tv’s sudden closure.

The only missing piece of the puzzle is that most ‘pirate’ domains seized by the MPA (or, more accurately, transferred) are quickly switched to nameservers operated by the Hollywood group. In Nites’ case, that didn’t happen until a day or two ago but with that now established, the seizure is complete.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also help you to find the best anonymous VPN.