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‘Copyright Trolls’ Enter Brazil Demanding Money from Suspected Pirates

In recent years, millions of BitTorrent users around the world have received settlement demands from copyright holders.

These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in countries such as Germany, Sweden and the United States. More recently, it started in Brazil as well.

The Usual Suspects

While the letters are sent from another continent, the key players involved are familiar names. The allegedly pirated films, such as Hellboy, Angel Has Fallen, and Rambo: Last Blood, are linked to companies that chase down alleged pirates in several other countries.

Brazilian news site Canaltech wrote an excellent report on the latest copyright troll invasion. The publication spoke to one of the targets, identified as YF, whose mother received the settlement demand as she is the household’s registered Internet subscriber.

“I never thought it would happen to me. My concern was to solve the case on my mother’s behalf, but I was wondering how [the lawyers] got access to all the information they required to send the notification,” YF said.

First Court Case in 2019

As it turns out, the personal details were obtained in court, where the copyright holders requested information on thousands of alleged pirates. While this largely went unnoticed until recently, the related court proceedings got underway last year.

In July 2019 the UK-registered company “Copyright Management Services LTD“, sued Algar Telecom in a Rio de Janeiro court, requesting the ISP to disclose the personal details of several suspected pirates. Since the number of targeted IP-addresses was relatively small, the case remained under the radar.

The same can’t be said for the case that the rightsholders filed in São Paulo this year, targeting subscribers of Claro, a much bigger ISP. Instead of going after a small number of users, this case revolves around more than 50,000 uploads of pirated films.

Guardaley Provided Evidence

These public torrent uploads are tracked by the German outfit Guardaley, which is another familiar name. GuardaLey was behind the record-breaking The Hurt Locker and The Expendables lawsuits in the US and is providing evidence for cases all around the world.

In court, Copyright Management Services used the evidence, which is little more than IP-addresses and timestamps, to request the personal details of the subscribers linked to these accounts. The court eventually signed off on this, after which Internet provider Claro shared a massive database of personal information.

Subscribers Exposed

Initially, the spreadsheet with 70,000 entries, including personal details, was posted in the court docket that could also be accessed by third parties including journalists. That document was redacted after complaints but the copyright holders have full access, of course.

Soon after, the information was used to send settlement requests to the alleged pirates. In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Brazilian Pirate Party, the copyright holders request a settlement fee of 3,000 Brazilian Real ($575).

A settlement letter (credit: Pirate Party)

brazil settlement troll

This settlement amount is disproportionate, according to YF. Especially since commercial piracy operations are operating throughout Brazil, apparently undeterred.

“I did not make a profit from the film, while there are large pirated film sales operations in any city. Compared to these, I am a small fish,” YF said. The accused pirate did reach out to the law firm offering to pay 1,000 Real instead, but that offer remains unanswered.

Educating Pirates

Rafael Lacaz Amaral, who represents the rights holders, informed Canaltech that his law firm is merely passing on data and sending out letters. The lawyer does, however, stress the ‘educational’ message of the settlement campaign.

“The objective is to make people aware that there is an investment being made in the production and also in the protection of these works, for which to copyright infringers are held responsible”, Amaral explains.

How to Respond?

Opponents counter that this campaign isn’t about education, but about monetization. These types of legal threats can be quite intimidating and some people may simply choose to pay up to avoid trouble, even when they’re innocent. After all, hiring a lawyer to fight the claims isn’t cheap either.

The other option would be to completely ignore the requests. The settlement offers are made out of court and according to the local Pirate Party, no file-sharers have been sued directly, yet.

“Our recommendation is that people do not give in and do not pay. As the old saying goes, don’t feed the trolls,” a Pirate Party member informed Canaltech.

This ‘ignore’ tactic has worked in other countries, but there are no guarantees. However, now that this campaign is out in the open we expect more legal experts will join in with advice and recommendations.

While our understanding of Brazilian law and legal proceedings is limited, it can pay off for defense lawyers to look at Copyright Management Services and the rights it owns or controls. Earlier this year, the Danish High Court dismissed several cases filed by the same company, concluding that it produced no content, distributed none, and wasn’t in a position to sue.

TorrentFreak reached out to a representative of the copyright holders to hear their side of the story, requesting more information, but at the time of writing we have yet to receive an official response.

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

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Court Suspends ‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer From Practicing Law

Over the past several years, independent photographers have filed more than a thousand lawsuits against companies that allegedly used their work without permission.

The majority of these cases, with prominent targets such as Yahoo.com, Verizon.com, MSN.com, MTV.com, Gawker.com, are handled by attorney Richard Liebowitz.

When we first spotted this emerging trend in 2016, Liebowitz told us that he was helping independent photographers to protect their rights. All too often, companies would take their work without paying, he said.

Liebowitz’ Repeated Misconduct

While that argument still holds true in many cases, the attorney himself has trouble sticking to the rules as well. In his relatively short career, courts have reprimanded and sanctioned him for various types of misconduct.

This summer, for example, in the Usherson v. Bandshell case, a New York federal court ordered the lawyer to pay over $100,000 in sanctions for violating several court orders and repeatedly lying under oath. This included a false claim that the photo’s copyright was registered when the case was filed.

In a detailed order, the court further concluded that, given the attorney’s “deplorable record,” steps should be taken to suspend the attorney’s ability to file new cases. As such, the matter was referred to the court’s Grievance Committee.

Suspended from Practicing Law

The Grievance Committee evaluated the findings recently and concluded that Liebowitz will be suspended from practicing law in the district until further order.

“After careful deliberation, the Committee is unanimously of the view that the Charges are strongly supported by the record. What is more, the Committee is unanimously of the view that interim disciplinary measures against Respondent must be put in place immediately,” the Committee writes.

The order, issued last week, notes that the measure is appropriate to protect the public from future violations. Given the attorney’s track record, this is a real threat.

“The record in this case — which includes Respondent’s repeated disregard for orders from this Court and his unwillingness to change despite 19 formal sanctions and scores of other admonishments and warnings from judges across the country — leads the Committee to the view that recurrence is highly likely.”

The suspension is temporary, as the court still has to finalize the full proceeding. For the time being, however, Liebowitz will have to halt all his legal activities in the district.

Further Sanctions?

Meanwhile, the various missteps continue to pile on. In addition to the $100,000 sanction in the Usherson v. Bandshell case a few weeks ago, the attorney was also instructed to send a copy of the scathing order to all of his clients. However, that didn’t happen.

In September he informed the court that he had failed to inform some clients right away. A month later, it became clear that he failed to do so in 113 cases, which is far from a minor oversight.

Yesterday, District Court Judge Jesse Furman wrote that this additional failure to comply with the court’s order is a strong argument to impose further sanctions.

“Had Mr. Liebowitz failed to file the Opinion and Order in a handful of cases, the failure to comply might have been understandable and excusable. But the failure to file it in 113 cases is astonishing and suggests contumaciousness, an egregiously disorganized case management system, or both.”

Nothing to Deter

Interestingly, however, the Court chose not to add any sanctions. While that may sound positive for the lawyer, the reasoning behind it is quite grim. Mr. Liebowitz may be a lost cause, Judge Furman suggests.

“[T]he ultimate purpose of sanctions is deterrence and, as Mr. Liebowitz’s extraordinary record of both sanctions and noncompliance with court orders demonstrates, it is far from clear that there is any additional sanction that would serve to deter him.”

In addition, there is no new misconduct to ‘deter’ at the movement, as the attorney is suspended from practicing law in the district now.

“Thus, for the time being, there will be nothing to deter when it comes to Mr. Liebowitz,” Judge Furman concludes.

A copy of the order issued by District Court Judge Jesse Furman, which includes a copy of the Grievance Committee’s decision, is available here (pdf). Photo credit: Liebowitz image by”King of Hearts” (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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

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US Court Orders Couple to Pay $35,000 For Sharing Pirated ‘YTS’ Movies

Over the years, hundreds of thousands of people have been accused of sharing pirated movies through BitTorrent. Quite often, these cases end up in private and undisclosed settlements.

This was also the plan when Kerry Culpepper reached out to Mrs. Parks, a woman in Arizona whose email address was linked to downloading pirated copies of the films “Lost Child” and “Saving Christmas.”

Settlement Offer

The movie companies were able to make this connection with help from the user database of popular torrent site YTS. This information was shared as part of an earlier settlement and is used by attorney Kerry Culpepper to negotiate settlements in and out of court.

Mrs. Parks, who allegedly downloaded the film “Lost Child,” was given the chance to resolve her case for $1,000 in four separate payments. If the first three payments arrived on time, the final $250 would be waived.

This same tactic is being used on dozens if not hundreds of alleged YTS users. It’s not clear how many people settle, but Mrs. Parks and her husband Mr. Dabney initially seemed willing to take the deal, which was confirmed over the phone and via email on June 8.

Things Escalated

After this initial agreement, communications between both sides went downhill. No payments were made and the husband made it very clear that the movie companies shouldn’t expect to be compensated anytime soon, accusing their lawyer of being “a fraud and a scam” while adding all sorts of profanities.

The movie companies and their lawyer didn’t seem impressed. Instead of backing off, they went to court, accusing the Arizona couple of copyright infringement and requesting damages.

The husband and wife received the legal paperwork but that didn’t change their tone. While they failed to respond in court, a person who identified himself as Dabney did leave a voicemail message at the attorney’s office.

“Hey this is case number you can suck my f*cking d*ck. Richard Dabney out in Arizona. I just got your papers. I don’t care if you sue me again for this. I don’t care if you call the cops. You’re gonna lose. I’m gonna win. Either way you slice it, Mrs. Kerry S. Culpepper is going down,” the message warned.

Default Judgment

Without a proper defense in court, the movie companies went ahead and requested a default judgment earlier this month. They asked the court for $15,000 in statutory copyright infringement damages for each movie. In addition, they requested another $5,000 for the use of altered copyright management information.

The second request isn’t something we have seen very often. It refers to section 1202 of the DMCA which prohibits people from using false or altered copyright management information. In this case, that refers to the “YTS” tag that was added.

This week, US District Judge Susan Bolton granted the default judgment. This means that the couple will have to pay a total of $35,000 in damages. This includes the claim for the altered copyright information.

“Defendants have willfully directly infringed and contributed to infringement of the Plaintiffs’ copyright protected motion pictures Saving Christmas and Lost Child,” the order reads.

“Defendants knowingly and with the intent to induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal infringement of the copyright protected Works distributed copyright management information (‘CMI’) that falsely included the wording ‘YTS’,” Judge Bolton adds.

More Than Damages Alone

In addition to the damages, the defendants will also have to pay over $5,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

The default judgment further includes a permanent injunction which states that all software used to “exchange unlicensed media content” should be removed. This also includes the torrent software that was used.

Culpepper informs TorrentFreak that his clients are happy with the outcome. However, they would have preferred to settle it out of court.

“Although we are pleased with the Court’s decision, it’s unfortunate that the Defendants threw away an opportunity to resolve this matter privately and save everyone time and money. My clients just want people to purchase their movies legally,” Culpepper says.

Whether his clients will indeed get the money has yet to be seen.

A copy of US District Judge Susan Bolton’s order granting the default judgment is available here (pdf)

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

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42,800+ ‘BitTorrent Pirates’ Targeted By Copyright Trolls in Sweden in 2020

For at least a decade and half, a relatively small number of movie companies have pursued revenue streams outside of those traditionally associated with movie making.

In response to millions of Internet users sharing copies of movies using systems including BitTorrent, some companies have transformed this unlicensed sharing into a part of their business. Tracking IP addresses of sharers in swarms, this information is used to file lawsuits that demand the personal details of alleged pirates. From there, they are pressured into paying cash settlements of between hundreds and thousands of dollars.

These mass defendant lawsuits have hit dozens of countries around the world, with those in the US perhaps the most reported on. However, Europe is also a hotbed of litigation and in recent years Sweden has emerged as one of the most important battlegrounds. Thus far in 2020, that position remains unchanged.

ISP Bahnhof: “Blackmail Activity” is Still Flourishing

Since 2016, local ISP Bahnhof has dedicated resources to not only fight but also shine a light on ‘copyright-trolls’ in Sweden. With most other ISPs staying silent on the issue, Bahnhof diligently scours legal records in order to keep its customers and the broader public informed. The company has just published its report for 2020 and even with six weeks to go before the year concludes, the stats paint an important picture.

“Judging by this year’s court documents, the blackmail activity has lived and flourished just as in previous years, and has not slowed down or stopped as large parts of the rest of society have been forced to do this year,” Bahnhof reports, referencing the coronavirus pandemic.

“To date, 118 applications for information injunctions have been received by the Patent and Market Court from copyright holders who wish to request information about Internet users who are alleged to have shared files. Each application can in turn include anything from 20 up to several thousand Internet users.”

Personal Details Behind More Than 42,000 IP Addresses Sought

With 118 applications thus far in 2020, that is very nearly one demand for information every three days. However, it is the volume of IP addresses (one IP address has the potential to identify one subscriber) per application that is perhaps the most important factor.

For example, two applications filed on January 7 (both by law firm Next Advokater on behalf of Germany company Chrystalis Entertainment) requested the personal details behind 46 and 59 IP addresses respectively. However, another filed just a few days later by NJORD Law demanded information behind 1609 IP addresses on behalf of US adult company MG Premium Ltd.

Indeed, in 2020 law firms have demanded the personal details of up to 2,177 subscribers in a single application.

According to Bahnhof’s research, this means that thus far in 2020, the Patent and Market Court in Sweden has received demands to hand over the personal information behind 42,689 IP addresses, which could potentially mean the same number of subscribers having their personal details handed over.

For comparison, 49 separate court cases were filed in 2018 requesting ISPs to disclose the personal details of the account holders behind 35,711 IP addresses. During 2019, a total of 140 new applications were submitted to the Patent and Market Court, together targeting 60,368 IP addresses.

The Most ‘Vulnerable’ ISP is Telia

Bahnhof’s database of applications reveals some interesting information, including the ISP most vulnerable to having requests made against it for subscribers’ personal details. While other ISPs including Com Hem, Telenor, and Hi3G Access were targeted in 2020, out of the 42,689 IP addresses listed in all applications, 30,997 were disclosed by telecoms company Telia. But why?

“Telia is the largest ISP, and they also retain data for long periods of time,” Bahnhof’s Carolina Lindahl informs TorrentFreak.

“They therefore have a lot to offer so to speak, even if the requests concern IP-data from a few months back.”

The big contrast here is with Bahnhof itself, which has taken measures to ensure that its own customers aren’t caught up in the copyright settlement dragnet by limiting what information it stores and for how long.

“Bahnhof customers have been completely spared from this type of extortion letter because, in accordance with EU regulations, we have limited our storage and disclosure of privacy-sensitive customer data to what is absolutely necessary for law enforcement agencies in the event of serious crime,” the company says.

Copyright Trolls Are Only Interested in Movies

In common in other regions of the world where this type of legal action is prevalent, the companies engaged in it in Sweden are currently only interested in tracking down people who share movies. According to Carolina Lindahl, the vast majority of the disclosure requests relate to pornographic content, a situation that’s mirrored in the United States.

It’s unclear whether the Patent and Market Court has denied any requests for information in 2020 but Bahnhof says that most cases appear to be handled very quickly and without any scrutiny whatsoever.

“Some of these requests get a court ruling (where the copyright holder is granted access to the personal data behind the IP-addresses that are attached to that particular request) within one day. Since our IPRED copyright law states that probable cause for copyright infringement is enough to grant access to personal data, the court doesn’t bother examining any of the requests closely,” Lindahl concludes.

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

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Judge On a Roll as Yet More Absent BitTorrent Pirates Receive Lenient Treatment

The tally of lawsuits being filed against alleged BitTorrent pirates in the United States is continuing to mount, with movie companies trying to extract cash settlements to make lawsuits disappear.

Some defendants grab these accusations by the horns, fighting back in court with varying results. This response can prove costly, however, and there’s no guarantee that defendants will come out on top with a victory. That said, when faced with a spirited defense, some plaintiffs find themselves trying to back away.

The other option, which isn’t generally advised, is to mount no defense at all. This tactic, which for poorer defendants may be their only option, is a risky one. If infringement is considered willful, they could be on the hook for $150,000 in statutory damages. On the other hand, cases might go in a much more acceptable direction.

Defendants in Default Treated Relatively Leniently

As reported last week, a three-year-old case filed in Utah targeting 30 alleged pirates ended relatively well for one defendant who failed to defend herself.

London Has Fallen owner LHF Productions accused the woman of pirating its movie and demanded considerable damages. However, Judge David Nuffer flat-out rejected LHF’s demand for $10,000 in statutory damages, awarding just $750 instead.

There are now clear signs that his reasoning in that case is spreading to others.

Six More Defendants in Other Cases Given The Same Treatment

The first case, which has LHF Productions accuse defendant Daniel Patrick of pirating the movie London Has Fallen, resulted in the movie company demanding a default judgment, again accompanied by $10,000 in statutory damages. The company also requested a permanent injunction to prevent future infringement by the defendant, plus attorney fees and costs.

The second, which targets defendants Johnothan Cox, Kaylie Goins, Jacqueline Lopez, Becky Martinez, and Trent Nicol, has Bodyguard Productions, Inc. accusing the individuals of pirating the movie ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard.’ Bodyguard Productions used the same lawyer as LHF, which appears to have led to a similar legal strategy, ending with a demand for $10,000 in statutory damages plus costs.

The perhaps predictable outcome here is that given the similarities, including the same presiding judge, the court has handed down decisions that match those in the LHF case.

$10,000 in Damages is Too Much, $750 Will Suffice

The judgments reveal that Judge Nuffer was satisfied that a default was warranted in both cases and accepted the plaintiffs’ assertions that the infringement was willful. This meant that the defendants faced a potential damages award of up to $150,000, at the Judge’s discretion.

However, both LHF and Bodyguard Productions opted to ask for a much smaller amount, ‘just’ $10,000, arguing that it was high enough to address the damages caused and deter future infringement. Citing earlier decisions, as he did in the previous LHF case, the Judge said that the amount was too high and that damages awards of $10,000 handed down by other courts had been handed down without any “meaningful analysis”.

In the current cases, the Judge ultimately fell back on his reasoning in the previously-reported LHF lawsuit. LHF and Bodyguard Productions failed to show that the defendants were original seeders of the movies, there was no data to describe the scale of the BitTorrent swarm, and no evidence to show how many people had downloaded the films from the defendants’ computers.

Furthermore, in his estimates, the losses to LHF and Bodyguard Productions amounted to the loss of a movie rental or sale. Equally, the defendants’ gain was not paying for those services or products. Noting that a $10,000 award against each would result in a “windfall” for the plaintiffs, he again settled on $750 in statutory damages, an amount that would also act as a deterrent.

More Cases Could Go This Way in Future

It’s unclear how many alleged pirates default in this manner but given this type of judgment appears to be gaining momentum with some judges, absent defendants could certainly benefit, in this jurisdiction at least. There are still attorneys fees and costs to factor in, of course, but considering some of the larger judgments of days gone by, these decisions represent a much less scary proposition.

The decisions handed down this week can be found here and here (pdf)

Update: Another three cases involving six defaulted defendants in LHF lawsuits have also ended in exactly the same manner under the same judge (1,2,3)

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

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Movie Company Demands $10K From BitTorrent Pirate, Court Awards $750

After roughly two decades of pirated movies being shared online, movie companies are still trying to find a way to stem the flow.

Despite its aggressive actions elsewhere, most Hollywood studios have largely shied away from targeting individual pirates with lawsuits. The same cannot be said about a relatively small subset of companies, who are very happy to target thousands of them worldwide, demanding cash settlements in lieu of a drawn-out court battle.

LHF Productions, one of the companies behind the blockbuster movie ‘London Has Fallen’ is one such company and over the years has filed lawsuits against alleged pirates in both the United States and Europe. In the former, the company has enjoyed some success but a case that has just gone all the way in the US, without the defendant mounting even a basic defense, hasn’t gone exactly to plan.

Multiple Defendants Targeted in a Utah Court

Early 2017, LHF Productions filed a lawsuit against 30 alleged pirates in a Utah court, claiming they downloaded and shared London Has Fallen using BitTorrent. The case has rolled on for more than three years, with various defendants removed from the action after appearing to reach settlement agreements with LHF.

The details of these settlements are private but one defendant, named as Amanda Steel, hasn’t played ball from the start. Mounting no defense, the alleged pirate could have faced a huge damages award but this week, in an order handed down by District Judge David Nuffer, Steel got off quite lightly.

Plaintiffs Demanded $10,000 in Damages, Judge Says No

After failing to respond to the lawsuit, Steel could’ve been on the hook for $150,000 in statutory damages, in theory at least. In the event, LHF put in a demand for a default judgment of $10,000 as well as a permanent injunction but the Judge wasn’t happy with that lowered figure either.

The judgment reveals that the Judge was satisfied that a default was warranted in this case and accepted the plaintiff’s allegations that the infringement was willful. This meant that Steel was facing a potential damages award of between $750 and $150,000, at the Judge’s discretion.

LHF argued that its $10,000 demand was reasonable and at a level that would deter future infringement. The company also cited five cases from other jurisdictions where that amount was deemed acceptable to the courts.

For example, one case dating back to 2012 saw the defendant hit with $1.5m in damages for pirating 10 movies. However, Judge Nuffer said that in that matter, no findings or conclusions were officially entered on file, other than the allegations and default. Another case two years later, where a default judgment of $10,000 was awarded for infringement of a single movie, was deficient in the same regard.

The Judge went to state that in the cited cases, the courts were willing to grant the requested amount in statutory damages, provided they did not reach the statutory maximum. He concluded that was likely due to the plaintiffs being unchallenged by the defaulted defendants. Describing the cases as lacking in “meaningful analysis”, the Judge concluded that along with several other similar cases between 2012 and 2017, they were “not persuasive.”

Other Courts have Awarded Substantially Less Than $10,000

Outside of the cases cited by LHF, the Judge noted that some courts had developed and applied factors that led to greater consistency in statutory damages awards against defaulted defendants. A Malibu Media case in 2014, for example, awarded $750 on the basis that the plaintiff provided very little factual detail regarding the defendant’s actions. Other cases shared similar traits.

In his decision, Judge Nuffer decided to apply six factors previously outlined in a 2016 case involving Malibu Media; whether the defendant was the original seeder, whether the defendant profited or saved money from the infringement, the plaintiff’s actual losses, whether the damages amount would result in a “windfall” for the plaintiff, the deterrent effect of the damages, and the defendant’s willfulness and intent.

The Judge in this case weighed those same factors and determined that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the request for $10,000 in statutory damages was over the top.

Judge Nuffer found that there was no evidence that Steel was an original seeder, no evidence relating to the number of users in the BitTorrent swarm, and no evidence showing how many people downloaded the file from the defendant’s computer. On top, the Judge said it was reasonable to conclude that the only monetary gain made by the defendant was the money saved on renting or buying a copy of the movie and the losses for the plaintiff would’ve been the same amount.

Given the above, $10,000 in damages would result in a windfall for the plaintiffs and at around 25 times the amount it would cost to rent or buy the movie, $750 would act as a deterrent. In respect of the defendant’s intent, LHF provided inadequate evidence.

“Ultimately, considering the relevant factors collectively, along with all the circumstances of this case, an award of the $750 statutory damages against Defendant is just,” the Judge wrote in his order.

“This award adequately serves the compensatory and punitive purposes of statutory damages to sanction Defendant and vindicates the statutory policy of discouraging future infringement. This award is also consistent with the nationwide trend in awarding minimum statutory damages against defaulted defendants.”

While the damages award is indeed relatively low, it is worth pointing out that the defendant is liable to pay LHF’s costs and reasonable attorney’s fees, which are yet to be decided.

The memorandum decision and default judgment can be found here (pdf)

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

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Movie Company Sues Pirates Who Used an Anonymous VPN

Millions of Internet users around the world use a VPN to protect their privacy online.

Another key benefit is that VPNs hide users’ true IP-address, making them more anonymous. This prevents third-party monitoring outfits from carrying out unwanted snooping.

This is one of the reasons why many torrent users have a VPN installed. Instead of displaying their own IP-address in torrent swarms, the VPN IP-address will show up. And when the provider doesn’t keep any logs, that address can’t be traced back to a single user.

Lawsuit Targets Pirating VPN Users

Such a setup seems secure, but it hasn’t prevented the makers of the action movie ‘Angel Has Fallen’ from suing several anonymous VPN users. In a recent lawsuit filed at a federal court in Colorado, the company lists fourteen alleged pirates that used an IP-address of the VPN service Private Internet Access, also known as PIA.

“Upon information and belief, Defendants DOES 3-5, 7-10 and 12-17 registered for paid accounts for Virtual Private Network (‘VPN’) service with the Colorado Internet Service Provider Private Internet Access,” the complaint reads.

The lawsuit in question lists the defendants as Does, which means that their true identities are unknown. However, attorney Kerry Culpepper, who represents Fallen Productions in this matter, hopes to find out more through third-party subpoenas.

Info From YTS User Database

The case relies in part on information from the YTS user database that was shared by the operator of the site earlier this year, as part of a settlement. This includes download details of several users, as well as their IP-addresses and email addresses.

pia does

The attorney has requested subpoenas to compel email providers, Internet providers, and Private Internet Access for more personal information. In the past, we have seen that Microsoft and ISPs such as Comcast will hand over what they have, but with a VPN this isn’t as straightforward.

PIA’s Confirmed No-Log Policy

PIA has a so-called ‘no logs’ policy which means that it can’t link a VPN IP-address and a timestamp to a unique user. This policy has been repeatedly tested and confirmed in courts.

Culpepper informs TorrentFreak that he will request a subpoena regardless. He argues that the use of a VPN shows that people were aware of their illegal activity.

“It is relevant because it shows they tried to hide their activities. It shows consciousness of the illegal activities,” Culpepper says, while pointing out an article where PIA warned YTS users that they were at risk.

PIA’s Jurisdiction Angle

In addition, by signing the terms of service, PIA users also subject themselves to the jurisdiction of Courts in Colorado. This is relevant in this case because not all defendants are from the western U.S. state.

“Most importantly, if they signed up for an account with PIA they agreed to jurisdiction in Colorado no matter where they are. Most of the PIA users were not in Colorado,” Culpepper notes.

pia colorado lawsuit

All defendants are accused of downloading a torrent titled “Angel Has Fallen (2019) [BluRay] [720p] [YTS.LT],” as well as other copyright-infringing content that isn’t specified.

Defendants Still at Risk

According to the complaint all defendants have received at least one DMCA notice. Fifteen of them were also contacted repeatedly on their known email address with cease and desist notices and settlement offers, but these were ignored.

With this lawsuit Fallen Productions hopes to uncover the identities of the people behind these IP- and email addresses.

TorrentFreak contacted PIA for a comment on the lawsuit. The company said that it hasn’t received a subpoena yet and reiterated that it can’t identify individual users.

“Private Internet Access has not received a subpoena in regards to this case. Even if we do, our response will be the same as always: PIA does not log VPN user activity,” a PIA spokesperson informed us.

That was also confirmed in more detail earlier this year in our annual VPN overview.

“There are no logs kept for any person or entity to match an IP address and a timestamp to a current or former user of our service,” PIA said at the time.

That said, defendants are still at risk, as their email addresses are known as well. That doesn’t prove anything, as YTS allowed members to sign up with a fake email, but it could lead to people being identified eventually, without PIA’s involvement.

If anything, this case shows that using a VPN only offers limited anonymity. When people use a VPN irregularly and leave other information behind, such as email addresses, they may eventually be exposed anyway.

A copy of Fallen Production’s complaint, filed as the US District Court in Colorado, is available here (pdf)

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

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Accused Movie Pirate Couple End Up in Court After Profane Tirade

Piracy warnings come in all shapes and sizes. While some notices have no teeth, others should be handled with extreme caution.

Typically, alarm bells should go off when a letter is sent by a lawyer who knows who you are.

One such warning was sent to Mrs. Parks in early June, both by first class mail and e-mail. The Arizona woman is one of the people whose personal details were shared by the torrent site YTS, an issue we addressed in detail earlier.

Exposed by YTS Database Info

This YTS database ended up in the hands of anti-piracy attorney Kerry Culpepper, who’s actively exploiting it. The lawyer represents several movie companies and has used the information in the database to request out of court settlements from pirates.

Mrs. Parks, who allegedly downloaded the film “Lost Child,” was given the chance to resolve her case for $1,000 in four separate payments. If the first three payments arrived on time, the final $250 would be waived.

This same tactic is being used on dozens if not hundreds of alleged YTS users. It’s not clear how many people settle, but Mrs. Parks and her husband Mr. Dabney initially seemed willing to take the deal, which was confirmed over the phone and via email on June 8.

Agreement to Settle for $1,000

After this initial agreement, communications stopped for a while. Parks and Dabney never sent back the signed settlement agreement and a reminder on August 31 remained unanswered.

This course of events was written up in a complaint filed at a federal court in Arizona yesterday. The plan was to resolve the matter outside of court, even after the same IP-address shared another movie last week.

“On or about September 21, 2020, after still having received no communication from Defendants, Plaintiffs’ counsel determined that the same IP address Defendants used to download the torrent file for Lost Child (47.216.212.227) was used to download and share copies of the motion picture Saving Christmas,” Culpepper informs the court.

The complaint lists both Mrs. Parks and Mr. Dabney as the defendants. They are accused of using one and the same YTS account and allegedly downloaded the film “Lost Child” last year and “Saving Christmas” a few days ago, after which the attorney sent another settlement request.

“On September 21, 2020, Plaintiffs’ counsel sent Defendant Dabney a demand by email for the full $1000 of the settlement agreement and an additional $750 as damages for infringing the motion picture Saving Christmas,” the complaint reads.

Husband Responds With Tirade

After weeks of silence, Mr. Dabney responded to that request. He was not open to any settlements, however, and accused the lawyer of being “a fraud and a scam,” threatening to take action against the lawyer and his “fake law firm.”

The movie companies’ attorney responded by confirming that he would indeed file a lawsuit, reminding the alleged pirate that he wouldn’t get far in court with such scandalous language. That didn’t change the man’s tone, however, on the contrary.

“Look here. You will NOT get a dime out out [sic] me. You think that language was bad you ain’t seen sh*t fa**ot. That’s not a threat that’s a f*ckin promise. Put that in your records f*ckin bitch ni**a. Dude with a girls [sic] name. Get the f*ck out here and leave me family alone,” he replied.

In a follow-up email, Mr. Dabney further urged the attorney to “…stop looking at [his] IP address…” while accusing him of “…watching [his] 3 year old through the camera…”

Case Goes to Court

Instead of backing off, the attorney quoted these emails in the complaint he filed at the US District Court of Arizona. Representing the owners of the films “Lost Child” and “Saving Christmas,” he accuses the two defendants of both direct and contributory copyright infringement.

In addition, the complaint also includes a “breach of contract” allegation against Mrs. Parks, who allegedly failed to honor the settlement agreement that was agreed on earlier.

In court, the husband and wife now face damages claims that may end up being substantially higher than the original settlement. In addition to the damages claim, the complaint also requests compensation for legal costs and attorneys’ fees.

A copy of the complaint, filed on behalf of Santa Files Productions LLC, and Laundry Films Inc is available here (pdf)

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

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841 Alleged Pirates of Movie ‘The Outpost’ Targeted in Canada Federal Court

Mass lawsuits targeting Internet subscribers who allegedly downloaded and/or shared copyrighted material have been a common tactic for content companies over more than 15 years.

The targets are nearly always BitTorrent users since without using a decent VPN, they are easy prey for anti-piracy companies.

The practice is widespread in the United States and in many countries across Europe but Canada is also popular with mass litigants, who are often labeled ‘copyright trolls’ due to their tactics.

Statement of Claim Filed in Federal Court of Toronto

Filed on September 23 by Outpost Productions, Inc., the action targets 841 IP addresses allocated to the same number of ‘Doe’ defendants, none of whom are currently known by name to the plaintiffs. It’s alleged that each person downloaded and/or uploaded the 2020 war drama movie ‘The Outpost’ in breach of copyright law.

According to the claim, the defendants shouldn’t be surprised that they are being targeted. After their infringement was detected on BitTorrent networks, they were each sent a notice via their ISPs informing them that they had been observed online sharing the movie. If they stopped at that point, no further action would be taken, they were told.

No Defendants Responded or Took the Advice to Stop

After the first notices were sent out, an anti-piracy company working on behalf of Outpost Productions continued to monitor BitTorrent swarms sharing the movie. During this period, it was possible to determine that the 841 IP addresses listed in the claim were still downloading and/or sharing the content days and in some cases weeks later.

As a result, they were sent a second notice, again via their ISP.

“As a result of each Defendant’s failure to respond to the First Notice and his or her continuation of the Unlawful Acts, a second notice..was sent to the Defendant by Counsel for the Plaintiff after the forensic software detected that the same IP address was offering for upload the same work,” the plaintiffs write.

“This Second Notice indicated that the work had not been removed and that legal action may be taken as against such Defendant. The Defendant failed or refused to respond to the Second Notice and continued his or her Unlawful Acts.”

The claim notes that it is illegal under the Copyright Act to make content available for download, advertise a work for download, and illegal not to take “reasonable, or any, steps” to ensure that the person downloading the work is authorized to do so by law.

ISPs Log IP Addresses By Time and Date

At this stage the true identities of the Does are not known by the plaintiffs but the claim notes that their respective ISPs carry time and date logs that allow them to correlate an IP address to the identity of a specific customer.

“The ‘customer’ may be the infringer of copyright, in particular if the assigned IP address is only used by a single device,” the claim adds, cautiously. However, even if the IP address is shared with multiple devices, the customer “should have, and ought to have, the knowledge of who was using the customer’s internet account at the specifically identified date and time.”

While the plaintiffs believe that it will be possible to trace an IP address to an ISP customer, they further note that “further examination of the customer” may be necessary.

Identifying Who Actually Infringed is More Difficult

Households with an ISP connection often have several users, each doing their own thing on their own devices. This can cause problems when trying to pin a specific act on an individual using the same IP address as everyone else. This eventuality is tackled in the claim by holding the person who pays the bill responsible for the actions of everyone else.

“[S]ome of the Defendants may not be the direct infringer, but through negligence or wilful blindness has authorized others to do the foregoing acts, including the Unlawful Acts. In this regard, the Plaintiff pleads that each Defendant possessed sufficient control over the use of his or her internet account and associated computers and internet devices such that he or she authorized, sanctioned, approved or countenanced the infringements…,” the claim adds.

There are 841 IP addresses listed in the lawsuit and while we haven’t researched every single one, a random sample of around 100 reveals that the addresses are registered to well known Canadian ISPs including Bell, Eastlink, Rogers, SaskTel, TekSavvy, and Telus Communications.

Claim for Injunction and Damages

The main goal in this and all similar claims is for the plaintiffs to receive financial compensation for the alleged actions of the infringers while preventing any infringement from continuing. In respect of the former, that can only be achieved once alleged infringers have been identified by their ISPs.

That is usually achieved via a so-called Norwich Order, which allows plaintiffs to bring an action against an innocent third-party (in this case ISPs) tied up in some wrongdoing to compel them to participate in a discovery process, i.e matching IP addresses to names and addresses, before handing those lists to the plaintiff.

Historically, TekSavvy is the most obvious ISP when it comes to the possibility of protecting its customers from being identified but whether it will put up a fight in this matter is currently unknown.

While the plaintiffs urge the court to prevent the defendants from continuing to infringe, the Doe defendants are being sent a copy of the case by the court, advising them that if they do want to put up a defense, they must do so within 30 days of receiving the claim.

This and Earlier Cases Linked to Millenium Media

As reported in February, more than 3,300 defendants are being targeted in similar actions brought by companies behind the movies Angel Has Fallen and Rambo: Last Blood.

In common with The Outpost, all entities are directly connected to Millenium Media, whose affiliates sued and then reached a settlement with torrent site YTS.

Part of that settlement involved YTS handing over user data to the companies in question, something that is now resulting in alleged pirates being sued in the United States. There is currently no suggestion that YTS data is being used in the present action.

A copy of the Statement of Claim can be found here (pdf, via Excess Copyright)

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

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Movie Companies Sue YTS Users Who Ignored Settlement Demands

In recent years, YTS.mx has become one of the most-used torrent sites, serving millions of visitors a day.

The site can be used without registering an account. However, those who sign up get some extra features, such as an option to bookmark titles. These added benefits can be handy but a few months ago we learned that having an account also comes with risks.

Movie Companies Target YTS site and Users

At the start of the year, a group of movie companies filed lawsuits against alleged YTS users. In doing so, they relied on information that appeared to come directly from the YTS user database, including email addresses.

The timing of these lawsuits was interesting. The complaints were filed around the same time the alleged operator of YTS signed a settlement deal with the same movie companies, agreeing to pay a substantial settlement fee.

We later learned that, in order to resolve the matter, YTS had shared information from its database with the movie outfits. While it was a one-time handover, there was enough information to go after a long list of users. Today we can report on the latest development in this saga.

Shared User Data Triggers Settlement Demands

As reported earlier, the YTS user data ended up at the makers of films such as “Hellboy” and “Rambo: Last Blood,” and “London has Fallen,” who used it to their advantage. In addition to filing lawsuits, they also approached alleged file-sharers with settlement demands directly.

With the threat of potential legal action, several users are likely to pay up. However, not everyone does. A few days ago, a dozen movie companies sued three alleged YTS users who failed to respond to these out-of-court settlement demands.

In a complaint filed at a federal court in Colorado, the copyright holders accuse the defendants of sharing pirated copies of titles including Hunter Killer, Rambo V: Last Blood, London Has Fallen, Hellboy, and Mechanic: Resurrection.

The legal paperwork identifies the three, who are all Colorado residents, as Stephen Moody, William Nelson, and Ty Tidwell. They all signed up with YTS using email addresses linked to Microsoft, which presumably shared information with the movie companies through a subpoena.

“Defendant William Nelson entered the name ‘William Nelson’ and the state ‘Colorado’ when initially registering for his email address ‘[redacted]@hotmail.com’ on September 26, 2000,” the complaint reads, adding that he registered for an account with the YTS website using that same email.

The same defendant also used a VPN on several occasions. According to the copyright holders he did so “to conceal his illicit activities,” however, that offered little help.

Sued YTS Users Ignored Settlement Demands

With the IP-addresses, email addresses, and download records from YTS, paired with information gathered from public torrent trackers, the movie companies reached out to the three men with a settlement offer. We believe that this is similar to the letters we reported on in the past, where a settlement of around $1,000 was proposed.

The three defendants didn’t respond to the offer, according to the complaint.

“Defendant [name] has ignored repeated communications from Plaintiffs’ counsel requesting him to cease and desist his unlawful activity and pay a portion of Plaintiffs’ damages,” it reads.

The three defendants are all accused of direct and contributory copyright infringement by sharing the various films. The movie companies request actual or statutory damages as compensation for the losses they suffered.

In addition, the three men also allegedly violated the DMCA by distributing content with altered copyright management information. According to the complaint, distributing files with words like “YTS” added to the title could induce others to pirate these films. For this, the movie companies want to be compensated too.

A copy of the full complaint, filed on behalf of Plaintiffs: Fallen Productions, Hunter Killer Productions, Rambo V Productions, LHF Productions, Millennium Funding, HB Productions, Stoic Productions, Voltage Holdings, Gunfighter Productions, SF Film, Definition Delaware, and After Productions, is available here (pdf)

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