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Plex Sues Streaming Service That Will Run Blockbuster Movies Before Theaters

Soon after the latest blockbuster movies hit cinemas, pirated copies are available for download from the Internet.

It’s a problem that studios have been struggling to mitigate for decades but the practice of granting an exclusive theatrical window leaves a convenient gap for millions of pirates to exploit.

Day-and-Date Movies Delivered to Living Rooms

In an effort to service the market by offering more choice, several companies have publicized plans to bring first-run movies to the small screen, notably Napster co-founder Sean Parker and his company Screening Room. Over in India, local media company Zee Entertainment Enterprises has a similar project of its own almost ready to launch but is now facing legal opposition from the US.

Set to go live on October 2, 2020, premium VOD service Zee Plex is primed to not only provide a legal alternative to day-and-date piracy but also offer a service to millions of customers who are currently unable to visit cinemas due to coronavirus restrictions.

“We are very excited to bring this new offering to all the movie buffs across India and around the globe,” Zee Studios CEO Shariq Patel announced earlier this month.

“While we all love to catch the latest movies at the nearest theatres, we sensed the need for a solution like Zee Plex, which gives the consumers flexibility and convenience, to catch their favorite films in the comfort of their homes, along with friends and family. We have received great interest from producers and are looking forward to release a strong slate of blockbusters across languages.”

The big launch day will feature the new blockbuster movie Ka Pae Ranasingam featuring local superstar actor Vijay Sethupathi but not everyone is pleased by the move.

Plex, Inc. Says Zee Plex is Trading on its Good Name

With roots as a freeware project to port XBMC (now known as Kodi) to Mac OS X in 2007, OSXBMC quickly took a different direction to XBMC and renamed itself Plex. In 2009, Plex, Inc. was founded to carry the Plex project forward commercially and over the next 11 years established itself as one of the most recognizable brands in the media player space.

According to Plex, Inc., Zee Plex operator Zee Entertainment Enterprises is illegally trading off that hard-earned goodwill.

“Plex, the popular global streaming media platform for all your favorite media, today announced it has taken legal action against Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited for trademark infringement,” Plex, Inc. announced last evening.

“In September 2020, Zee announced it was launching a competing video service, titled Zee Plex, in an obvious attempt to trade off of the Plex brand and global goodwill. Available to consumers globally, Plex is taking measures to defend its intellectual property, and specifically, in this case, to protect its trademark and brand.”

Plex is Not Just a Media Player – It’s a Streaming Service Too

Plex is often associated with piracy due to some users utilizing the software to organize pirated media to create their own personal Netflix variants. As a result, it has been slammed as a “dangerous digital player” by content industry lobbyists for not doing enough to police users’ behavior.

However, to dismiss Plex as “just another media player” is only telling half the story.

Last year the company revealed it had been forging deals to offer large libraries of licensed movies to its users and it now looks set to continue moving forward as a legitimate software and content distributor. This brings it face-to-face with various entities looking to trade on the Plex branding.

Trademark Breaches Are Common

Speaking with TorrentFreak just a few months ago, Plex told us that it was in a game of “whack-a-mole” trying to fight back against people using the Plex trademark for nefarious purposes. These breaches take many forms but at least one company had set up a VPN service claiming it was run by Plex, Inc. That software has now disappeared from Google Play but problems clearly still exist.

Plex, Inc. holds live trademarks covering various aspects of its business including ‘Plex’ (“Downloadable computer software in the field of digital media management for use in playing, organizing, indexing, searching, and transcoding digital video, audio and images”.

Others that are “published for opposition” include Plex asDownloadable computer software for use in streaming via the internet of ad-supported video on demand, subscription video on demand, transaction video on demand, music and podcasts and transmission of ad-supported video on demand, subscription video on demand, transaction video on demand, music and podcasts.”

Plex, Inc. says its lawsuit alleging trademark infringement has been filed with the High Court of India and papers have been served on Zee Entertainment Enterprises via email. The matter should come up for hearing the coming days, Plex concludes.

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

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Alleged Operators of Epic Stream IPTV Face List of Piracy Charges in Canada

Large scale criminal prosecutions of alleged copyright infringers are relatively rare in Canada but according to information just revealed by the Novia Scotia RCMP, a big case is on the horizon.

Operation Hotwire Targets Illegal IPTV

According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in June 2019 the Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit (FSOC) began an investigation after receiving a complaint from a local telecoms company that its content was being streamed for profit by an individual using IPTV.

The telecoms company, which isn’t being named, reportedly carried out an investigation of its own and then referred the matter to the police. That generated enough interest for the police to begin their own inquiry and in August 2019, police supported by investigators from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada searched a home on Shore Drive in Bedford, Nova Scotia, seizing electronic equipment and financial documents.

A 35-year old man from Bedford was arrested at the home “without incident” and was later released from custody. Fast-forward exactly a year and on August 13, 2020, Nova Scotia RCMP FSOC filed court documents related to charges against two individuals in Nova Scotia. They are now being named as Riad Thomeh, 36, and Kayla Thomeh, 33, both of Bedford.

Laundry List of Copyright Infringement Related Charges

As per RCMP, Riad Thomeh is charged with the following:

  • Possession of a Device to Obtain Use of Telecommunication Facility or Service
  • Laundering the Proceeds of Crime
  • Possession of Property Obtained by Crime x18
  • Distribute Copyrighted Material – Copyright Act
  • Re-transmit Encrypted Programming Signal – Radiocommunication Act
  • Decode Encrypted Programming Signal – Radiocommunication Act

Kayla Thomeh is charged as follows:

  • Laundering the Proceeds of Crime
  • Possession of Property Obtained by Crime

“Three companies operated by Riad and Kayla Thomeh are also facing 44 charges, including Possession of a Device to Obtain Use of Telecommunication Facility or Service, Laundering the Proceeds of Crime and Possession of Property Obtained by Crime, as well as charges under the Copyright Act and the Radiocommunication Act,” a police statement adds.

Who Are the Alleged Offenders and What Were They Involved In?

Riad and Kayla Thomeh are a husband and wife team. The information released by police thus far doesn’t include the name of the IPTV service allegedly being offered by the pair but after receiving additional information from a familiar source, it wasn’t hard for us to put together the pieces.

Company information published by Dun and Bradstreet reveals that Riad Thomeh is/was the president of Nova Scotia-based company ‘Nova Scotia Limited’. Employing a total of three people and located in Shore Drive, Bedford, the company is listed as part of the IT sector and at last count generated US$517,503 in sales.

Importantly, the company was given the registration number 3303398 after its founding in 2017, which leads directly to IPTV provider Epic Stream. Indeed, the information published by DNB clearly lists the trading name of Epic Stream located at the address in Bedford occupied by Nova Scotia Limited.

Epic Stream

Epic Stream used the domain epicstream.net, a site that remains active today. It clearly and repeatedly lists the Canadian company registration number 3303398 in both its privacy policy and terms and conditions (pdf).

Just two weeks after Riad Thomeh was arrested in Bedford, an announcement on the epicstream.net site advised all users having problems with the service to “updated there user information to be able to connected and view….Please take time and Updated your information ASAP[sic].”

The last service update on the site was during October 2019 and according to reports on Reddit around a year ago, the service went down around the same time.

Further Action This Week

Earlier this month, a Restraint Order and Special Search Warrant was issued in respect of the Thomeh’s assets. In response, this week a total of 14 properties were restrained, including two houses and 12 plots of land. Two vehicles were also seized.

If found guilty the RCMP is warning that under the Copyright Act, the pair could each face a five-year prison sentence, a CAD$1m penalty, or even both.

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

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TuneIn Blocks 1,000s of Radio Channels in UK But a VPN Restores Service

TuneIn is one of the most prominent providers of radio content in the world.

Available for free or on a premium basis, its site and associated app provide access to more than 100,000 stations and podcasts. Unless you happen to live in the UK, which is now dramatically underserved by the company.

Sued by Labels in the UK For Mass Copyright Infringement

In 2017, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group sued the US-based radio index in the High Court of England and Wales, alleging that the provision of links to stations unlicensed in the UK represented a breach of copyright.

One of the most interesting aspects of the case is that TuneIn is marketed as an “audio guide service”, which means that it indexes stations that are already freely available on the web and curates them so that listeners can more easily find them.

When stations are more easily found, more people listen to them, which means that TuneIn arguably boosts the market overall. Nevertheless, the labels claimed this was illegal and detrimental to the music industry in the UK on licensing grounds.

Decision by the High Court Handed Down in 2019

In November 2019, the High Court sided with the labels, ruling that unlike Google – which TuneIn had attempted to compare itself to – TuneIn did “much more than that”, in part due to its curation and search features in respect of those stations.

“I find therefore that the activity of TuneIn does amount to an act of communication of the relevant works; and also that that act of communication is to a ‘public’, in the sense of being to an indeterminate and fairly large number of persons,” Judge Birss wrote in his decision.

When TuneIn supplied UK users with links to radio stations that were not licensed for the UK or were not licensed at all, the Judge said the company infringed the labels’ rights. On the other hand, he also determined that when TuneIn supplied UK users with links to radio stations that are already licensed in the UK, the company did not infringe Sony or Warner’s copyrights.

TuneIn sought to paint this latter point as a victory but that still meant that it had breached copyright on a large scale as the majority of stations indexed by TuneIn and supplied to the UK market did not fit into this scenario.

Appeal and Subsequent Geo-Blocking of the UK

In December 2019 it was revealed that the High Court had granted permission for both sides to appeal. Pending an outcome in that matter, TuneIn’s service in the UK apparently remained unchanged but during the past few days, users of the service reported a major shift in the type and amount of content being provided to UK users.

In response to the apparent decimation of its offering, TuneIn took to Twitter to address the complaints.

“Due to a court ruling in the United Kingdom, we will be restricting international stations to prohibit their availability in the UK, with limited exceptions. We apologize for the inconvenience,” the company wrote.

TorrentFreak contacted TuneIn to ask why this action had been taken now and to receive an indication of precisely how many channels had been blocked and their nature. However, at the time of publishing the company had failed to offer a response, leaving customers – some of whom pay for a premium service – to simply guess where their favorite stations had gone and when (or even if) they would ever return.

TuneIn UK Block

With TuneIn staying completely silent on the important details, it’s impossible to know whether the company will obtain appropriate licensing to reinstate the lost channels in the future. In the meantime, listeners now have access to a fraction of the channels previously available on the TuneIn site and app.

Geo-Blocking Measures Easily Circumvented

As pointed out by a reader last evening, in common with many services that restrict output in various regions, TuneIn’s blocking efforts are not comprehensive and can be easily circumvented by listeners in the UK.

It transpires that with the use of a decent VPN, one that’s able to switch the user’s virtual location out of the UK and to some other country, the blocked channels/stations are restored to their former glory and accessible in exactly the same way as before. The precise blocking method being used by TuneIn isn’t clear but it’s nowhere as stringent as that deployed by Netflix, for example.

An aspect of TuneIn’s blocking that shouldn’t be overlooked is a ‘feature’ of the service itself. TuneIn is a catalog of streams that are already freely available on the Internet. This means that TuneIn acts only as a middleman, indexing stations and making them searchable. While this function is extremely convenient for users, those locked out by TuneIn may only have to do a little research to regain access to their favorite stations.

A Little Manual Work

Since the company appears to be keeping quiet on the precise details for the moment, it’s hard to conclude whether TuneIn went through its entire station list with a fine toothcomb so that only unlicensed channels were blocked, or whether it erred on the side of caution and blocked everything that it couldn’t be sure of.

Presuming the latter is the case (licensing can be difficult to determine), it’s likely that there will be some element of over-blocking and that some channels that shouldn’t have been blocked will now be inaccessible in the UK via TuneIn. This is a particular irritant to listeners of stations that carry no content owned by the labels that brought the lawsuit.

In these cases, interested users can bypass TuneIn altogether by visiting the website associated with the station they were listening to, which tend to have their own embedded audio players. However, if visiting multiple sites is inconvenient, some stations publish a URL that can be opened in software such as VLC or other radio apps such as XiaaLive, which also has its own searchable station catalog.

Some radio station homepages do not clearly publish their stream URLs but by right-clicking the related audio player in Chrome, for example, it’s possible to view the page’s source code which usually contains the URL of the stream when searching for the term ‘http’ or ‘https’.

Experienced users will spot the correct URL quickly but for the less tech-savvy, trial and error or dedicated tools will help. Once a list of URLs is obtained, these can be saved in a VLC playlist, for example, completely negating the need for the TuneIn software.

Blocking the Messenger Not the Message

While TuneIn may have been largely knee-capped in the UK in terms of international stations, the High Court action has done absolutely nothing to prevent the blocked radio stations from transmitting on the Internet. None of them have anything to do with TuneIn itself as they are operated by third-parties.

What the action has achieved, therefore, is to selectively tear up TuneIn’s UK ‘phonebook’. What it hasn’t done is tear up every phonebook available, nor has it taken down a single station indexed by TuneIn, which remain fully operational via their own websites and URLs. It’s a little harder to find them now but hardly a massive undertaking.

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

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Hollywood, Netflix & Amazon Win Injunction Against CCM IPTV & Resellers

In addition to serving cease-and-desist notices on various players involved in the supply of pirated movies and TV shows, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment often takes matters a step further.

Mostly via copyright infringement lawsuits filed in the United States, the global anti-piracy coalition has accused several providers of acting outside the law, hoping to shut the services down and achieve a damages award or significant settlement.

Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against CCM

During August, ACE sued pirate provider Crystal Clear Media (CCM) under its business name TTKN Enterprises LLC. It also named Todd and Tori Smith of Florida as defendants, identifying them as the operators of CCM.

A key feature of the case is the emphasis placed on so-called VOD content. While CCM and other providers tend to provide thousands of live TV channels, they also delivered so-called 24/7 channels (which reportedly offered “marathons of Disney’s movie Frozen II and Warner Bros.’s Harry Potter movie collection”) along with other mainstream movies on-demand.

According to the complaint, CCM knew this was a problem after ACE successfully shut down the Vaders IPTV platform last year. However, instead of backing away, CCM continued to provide access to video-on-demand while cultivating a network of resellers dedicated to servicing existing and prospective CCM customers.

Lawsuit Demands Injunctive Relief and Damages

The ultimate goals of the lawsuit against CCM are to win a permanent injunction to take it offline while obtaining a substantial damages award. With statutory damages running to $150,000 per title infringed, significant amounts are on the table.

In the first instance, however, the ACE members – including Disney, Paramount, Amazon, Netflix and others – sought a preliminary injunction with a number of key elements. That was comprehensively achieved via an order handed down by Judge George H. Wu in a California district court this week.

Preliminary Injunction

Addressing the plaintiffs’ claims under 17 U.S.C. § 106 of the Copyright Act, Judge Wu ordered the defendants not to directly or secondarily infringe any of the rights owned or controlled by the plaintiffs in respect of their copyrighted works.

While that effectively prevents the CCM service from operating, the Judge also responded to requests from the plaintiffs to render unusable a wide range of domain names previously deployed by the IPTV provider.

“Except to as requested by Plaintiffs, Defendants shall not transfer or otherwise relinquish control to the domains: mediahosting.one, crystalcleariptv.com, ccmedia.one, ccbilling.org, cciptv.us, ccreborn.one, ccultimate.one, superstreamz.com and webplayer.us,” the order reads.

Along those same lines, the Judge further ordered GoDaddy, One.com and their respective registrars to disable access to the above domains while preventing them from being modified, sold, transferred or deleted. The WHOIS information of the domains must also be preserved, including all contact and similar identifying information.

Additionally, the listed domain companies, plus all others receiving notice of the order, must preserve all evidence that may be used to identify the people that used the domains in question to infringe copyright.

Injunction Also Targets Resellers of the CCM Service

The original complaint alleges that CCM operated an “extensive and expanding” reseller network. These people bulk-bought “credits” from CCM that were converted to subscriber login credentials when purchased by customers.

“Defendants’ reseller program plays a pivotal role in their infringing enterprise. Defendants’ resellers market and promote CCM as a substitute for authorized and licensed distributors,” the lawsuit claims.

After hearing that this expansion poses an exponential infringement threat, Judge Wu agreed that the network of sellers must also be prevented from operating. With that, he granted permission for the entertainment companies to complete service of process on anyone acting in concert with the defendants, including resellers of the service.

“Upon receipt of a copy of this Order, these individuals and entities shall cease directly or secondarily infringing any of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works through any means including publicly performing, reproducing, or otherwise infringing in any manner…any right under 17 U.S.C § 106 in any of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works by continuing to provide access to Defendants’ service or by any other means,” the Judge added.

While CCM is already believed to be out of action, the above paragraph indicates that if resellers of CCM are currently offering other IPTV packages from a different supplier that also offer illegal access to the plaintiffs’ content, they must stop doing that too after receiving a copy of the order.

The preliminary injunction is available here (pdf)

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

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DISH Network Sues Universe IPTV For Mass Copyright Infringement

US broadcaster DISH Networks is well known for its seemingly relentless pursuit of groups and individuals who access and rebroadcast the company’s content without permission.

In recent years, DISH has targeted a number of ‘pirate’ IPTV providers, sometimes under the Federal Communications Act and in other instances under copyright law. A new lawsuit filed in the United States falls into the latter category and claims that unlicensed IPTV service Universe IPTV infringes its exclusive rights.

Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Targets Universal IPTV

The suit targets five ‘doe’ defendants, together doing business as Universe IPTV and Universe TV. The complaint alleges that the service’s business was carried out via several domains, including but not limited to World-Universeiptv.com, Uni-Update.com, and UniWeb.online.

DISH explains that it has contracts and licensing deals to transmit more than 400 channels in the United States and also acquires copyrights for shows that air on various channels, whether transmitted via satellite or the Internet. Some of these works are registered with the Copyright Office in the US while DISH holds the exclusive distribution and public performance rights for others that are unregistered.

Universal IPTV has not been authorized by DISH to distribute these protected works and channels, the suit claims, so has therefore breached the company’s exclusive rights.

“Defendants distribute, sell, and promote Universe Subscriptions to consumers, including Service Users, and to resellers, including Universeonlinetv.co; Universeiptv.stream; Universeiptvs.com; Iptvuniverse.net; and Universe2iptv.com, with knowledge that these and other resellers distribute, sell, and promote Universe Subscriptions to Service Users,” the complaint reads.

“Defendants promoted the Universe Service on their World-Universeiptv.com website, instructing consumers that ‘[t]here are more than 40,000 channels, films and series in every country in the world,’ ‘we are constantly expanding the number of channels,’ they have ‘[a]ll channels,’ and ‘we continuously update our service’,” DISH adds.

Universe Advertised on Facebook and Instagram

The complaint alleges that Universe advertised to consumers and potential resellers of its service on social media, including Instagram and two Facebook accounts, where it promoted the availability of channels including CBC and CBC Drama, among others.

DISH says that the social media platforms removed these pages for violations of Facebook’s policy on copyright infringement. A Twitter account was also deleted but a Telegram page offering the service remains online.

DISH Asked About Becoming a Reseller Via WhatsApp

Via its websites and social media, subscriptions were offered at the rate of $70 for 12 months, $40 for six months and $22 for three months worth of access. The IPTV supplier also invited people to get in touch via WhatsApp to become a reseller, so that’s exactly what DISH did as part of its investigation.

“In July 2020, DISH’s investigator contacted Defendants through WhatsApp at +43 [redacted] to inquire about becoming a reseller of Universe Subscriptions.

“Defendants responded that the price for one three month Universe Subscription was 20 Euro (approximately $22) and the price for ten three month Universe Subscriptions was 200 Euro (approximately $220) with payments to be made to their PayPal account [redacted]@gmail.com,” the complaint reveals.

Attempts to Take Down Universal IPTV Failed

Universe IPTV reportedly told DISH investigators that they live in Austria but it appears that the broadcaster’s attempts to take their service down weren’t successful.

Between August 27, 2019 and the filing of its lawsuit, DISH sent at least 10 cease-and-desist notices to the IPTV outfit, none of which received a response. During roughly the same timeframe, DISH also filed at least 14 complaints with CDN networks associated with the Universe service, some of which were forwarded to the defendants. However, DISH claims that even CDNs took action to remove content, Universe simply shifted to other CDNs or locations.

Copyright Infringement Claims Running to At Least $5 Million

In addition to demanding a permanent injunction against the defendants under 17 U.S.C. § 502 of the Copyright Act, preventing Universe IPTV from streaming, distributing, publicly performing, and selling or providing its content in the United States, DISH also demands substantial damages.

“For 37 or more registered works, statutory damages as awarded by the Court up to $150,000 per registered work infringed under 17 U.S.C. § 504(c), or the Defendants’ profits attributable to the infringement of those registered works under 17 U.S.C. § 504(b),” the complaint requests.

For any and all unregistered works (DISH lists more than 200), the company demands defendants’ profits attributable to the infringement of those works. When all is considered, the broadcaster is requesting well in excess of $5 million in damages and potentially, depending on the discretion of the court, substantially more.

In common with other pending lawsuits of its type, DISH also seeks to take control of Universe IPTV’s domains.

A copy of the complaint can be found here (pdf)

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

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Movie & TV Giants Tell Court That Nitro IPTV Operator Destroyed & Withheld Evidence

This April, companies owned by Columbia, Amazon, Disney, Paramount, Warner, and Universal, sued ‘pirate’ IPTV service Nitro TV.

Filed in a California district court, the lawsuit accuses Alejandro Galindo, the supposed operator of Nitro TV, plus an additional 20 ‘Doe’ defendants, of massive copyright infringement.

While clearly referencing the service’s provision of live unlicensed TV channels, the suit focuses on Nitro’s VOD offering. i.e on-demand movies and TV shows plus the now-common 24/7 channels which continuously loop popular TV shows.

The lawsuit, potentially worth multiple millions in damages, quickly progressed and in May the entertainment companies obtained a preliminary court injunction to shut Nitro TV down. Since then the case has progressed, but not in the direction the plaintiffs might have hoped.

Galindo “Destroyed and Hid Evidence” During Discovery Process

In a motion filed this week, the plaintiffs – which form part of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment – slam Galindo for his failure to cooperate with the discovery process, including hiding and destroying evidence while lying to conceal his alleged role in Nitro TV. They also accuse him of breaching the court injunction.

According to the motion, Galindo freely admits that he sold Nitro subscriptions to consumers but denies being the operator of the service. The entertainment companies say this is nonsense, adding that Galindo hasn’t “produced a single document or identified any of his partners or affiliates in his initial disclosures or verified interrogatory responses.”

According to Galindo, his business was run exclusively through messaging service Telegram which was configured to “self-destruct” messages after they were read. The movie and TV show companies aren’t buying that either.

Significant Financial and Electronic Trails

The motion notes that for Nitro TV to operate, that must involve the buying and selling of subscriptions and reseller credits. This results in a documented financial trail, regardless of whether Galindo was at the top of Nitro or acted somewhere lower in the reseller pyramid. Running such a business leaves an electronic trail, and it appears the plaintiffs have several inside tracks.

As an example, the entertainment companies identify a Richard Horsten as someone who worked with Galindo. The pair communicated via email, not just via “self-destructed” Telegram messages. The plaintiffs say that Galindo failed to identify Horsten in his interrogatory responses, including the fact that he paid him tens of thousands of dollars using an account in his wife’s name.

The plaintiffs also state that even after being put on notice of the action against him, Galindo continued to use Telegram for Nitro-related business while still allowing messages to “self-destruct”. He also deleted emails from his Gmail account. This, they claim, runs afoul of the requirement to preserve evidence as required by the court.

Violations of the Preliminary Injunction

After the court handed down its order early May, it’s alleged that Galindo failed to shut Nitro TV down. Then, when the plaintiffs tried to have the domain names of the Nitro service disabled as per the court’s instructions, they discovered that NitroIPTV.com and TekkHosting.com had been transferred away from Namecheap and Domain.com, which kept the service live.

In a response through his counsel, Galindo said that he couldn’t shut the service down because he was just a reseller. However, no evidence was presented to support that argument so the entertainment companies continued to obtain evidence on their own.

Mounting Evidence Supporting Plaintiffs’ Claims

After serving a subpoena on Google, they discovered that 1,500 emails had been deleted after Galindo was served on April 3, 2020. Email headers in some of those emails revealed communication with Horsten while hundreds of others were sent and received “from a number of different providers of services that facilitate the operation and sale of IPTV service.”

It was discovered that hundreds of others involved communication with payment processing company MoonClerk, which is alleged to have supported the reseller network for the Nitro TV service. Also deleted were 20+ emails related to Coinbase communications.

“[T]he very existence of many of these emails undermines Defendant’s claim that he is ‘just a reseller,’ as only operators, and not those who were merely selling subscriptions to end user subscribers, would need to communicate with many of these service providers (e.g., Xtream Codes, WHMCS),” the motion reads.

Server company FDCServers also confirmed it had an account under the name Martha Galindo, believed to be the defendant’s mother, using Alejandro Galindo’s email address.

On top, PayPal confirmed that payments of more than $30,000 had been paid to Horsten in the name of Anna Galindo, Alejandro Galindo’s wife. An unnamed third-party “involved in Nitro” said that more than $40,000 had been paid to that party through Anna Galindo, Martha Galindo, and an email associated with TekkHosting.

Plaintiffs Request Orders to Prevent Destruction of Evidence and More

Given the lack of confidence in Galindo’s cooperation thus far, the movie and TV show companies are now demanding orders requiring evidence preservation, forensic imaging of all of the defendant’s electronic devices, and an order requiring Google to “deliver and divulge” the contents of his Gmail account covering the period January 2015 to July 2020.

The motion and proposed orders can be found here (1,2,3,4 pdf)

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

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Texas Man Faces $2.1 Million Damages Claim for Selling Pirate Boxes on Facebook

ABS-CBN is the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines, but it’s very active in US courts as well.

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

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

Some pirate box sellers take extreme measures to conceal their identities. In this case, however, the defendant was easily identified through an undercover operation led by investigator Kevin Reyes.

Undercover Operation

Reyes, who works for the Philippine media company, tracked down a Facebook profile promoting pirate streaming boxes that appeared to give unauthorized access to ABS-CBN content. To see if this was indeed the case, he contacted the seller and placed an order.

Instead of going through an official storefront, Reyes placed his order via Facebook Messenger where the defendant allegedly shared his real name.

“Reyes began communicating that day with ‘Ann Ong’ on Facebook Messenger to purchase a Pirate Box. ‘Ann Ong’ – who, as discussed below, later identified himself to be [Defendant] ‘Anthony Brown’ – said that a Pirate Box was available for $150 with free shipping, and that it could be shipped to Reyes in Los Angeles, California.”

The name was not the only detail that came out. Brown, chatting as “Ann Ong,” also shared the name and address of his company, which matched the information tied to his PayPal address.

Investigator is Offered a Cut

The defendant further mentioned that he works with a distributor from Kuwait and programs the boxes so they can be used to pirate content. And as a kicker, the undercover investigator was offered a piece of the action if he was interested in referring new clients.

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

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

ABS-CBN Requests Default Judgment

In a motion submitted this week, the defendant admitted running a widespread illegal operation. Several Facebook profiles were used to sell pirate boxes and the company used a dedicated website as well.

The media company accused the Texas man of “illegally promoting and selling ‘Smart’ TV boxes that have been designed or modified to circumvent ABS-CBN’s encryption technology” which allows customers to “unlawfully intercept and access ABS-CBN’s copyrighted programming.”

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

$2.1 Million in Damages

The motion for a default judgment lists four trademark violations, for which ABS-CBN requests $500,000 in damages each. On top of that, it requests $100,000 for a violation of the Communications Act, bringing the total to $2.1 million.

“[T]he amounts requested are reasonable under the facts presented,” the motion reads, adding that this will help to achieve the intended goals of “compensation, punishment, and deterrence.”

In addition to monetary damages, the company also requests a permanent injunction to prevent Brown from selling pirate devices in the future.

The court has yet to rule on the motion. Without a defense from Brown, however, it is likely that the media company will indeed come out as the winner in this case.

For ABS-CBN a success will be welcome. The company currently finds itself in rough waters in its home country after the government declined to renew its franchise license. As a result, Philippines’ biggest broadcaster was forced to go off the air.

A copy of ABS-CBN’s motion for a default judgment against Anthony Brown is available here (pdf)

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

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OMI IN A HELLCAT: FBI Collecting Terabytes of Piracy Evidence From Foreign Countries

Last November, Bill Omar Carrasquillo, better known by his online handle ‘OMI IN A HELLCAT’, revealed that he’d been subjected to a massive raid by the FBI.

Some of his followers, who had admired his pirate IPTV service Gears Reloaded and his extraordinary fleet of luxury cars, doubted the claims were real and were actually some kind of publicity stunt. As time passed and evidence built, however, the possibility that this was an elaborate hoax designed to generate social media clicks quickly began to fade.

No Stunt, No Hoax, The Raid Happened

In December 2019, Carrasquillo presented new evidence showing that $5.2m had been liberated from one of his bank accounts on the day of the raid. CCTV footage showed dozens of federal officers, some armed, arriving at one of his addresses, with another 30 targeting one of Carrasquillo’s properties in Philadelphia.

Subsequent photos showed a prized Lamborghini being taken away on a trailer. A list of cars including a Lamborghini Huracan, an Aventador, and an Urus, a couple of Bentleys, an Audi R8, plus a mind-boggling range of other performance vehicles and motorcycles began appearing in government documents.

This was no absolutely no hoax but questions remained. Where was the case against Carrasquillo and why wasn’t the investigation against him being made public? Moreover, why hasn’t he been indicted nine months later?

What we know from Carrasquillo himself is that his problems are linked to the Gears IPTV service and (perhaps related) unpaid taxes. This February he said he was hoping to settle his case with the IRS but at the time of writing, that doesn’t appear to have happened, not least since the investigation against him is still ongoing.

Investigation into Carrasquillo and Gears Still Ongoing

Court documents obtained by TorrentFreak show the United States Government seeking an extension of time in respect of the massive haul of property seized from Carrasquillo last year. They reveal that not one but two federal search and seizure warrants were obtained last year to target Carrasquillo’s properties on November 21 (as previously reported) and December 16, an event that appears to have gone under the radar.

The document acknowledges the massive seizure of property (full list below) and then notes that actions last year were part of a much bigger operation.

“The search and seizure is part of a larger, ongoing federal investigation,” the filing reads.

According to the US Government, around January 17, 2020, the FBI sent Carrasquillo notices advising him that they intended to forfeit the assets. On February 19, 2020, he wrote back through counsel demanding that the property was returned.

In forfeiture cases, the US Government is required to obtain an indictment listing the property, file a civil complaint, or obtain an extension of time, in this case before May 19, 2020. However, the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in the works, something which allowed the Government more time to conduct its investigation.

Court Filings Suggest Work Still To Be Done, Big Plans For Carrasquillo

“The government is continuing to collect and review evidence regarding the seizure of the Seized Assets. That collection and review has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic in several ways. First, because no grand jury has sat in this district since early March 2020, the government has been unable to collect witness testimony,” the US Government filing reads.

“Second, certain evidence, including dozens of hard drives containing terabytes of information stored on servers belonging to the targets of the investigation, is being collected from foreign countries, including Canada, by way of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties.

“Even after receipt of the evidence, the government will require substantial time to review and analyze the voluminous responsive data. Third, witness interviews and analysis of evidence has been delayed because of the COVID-19 precautions,” it adds.

All things considered, a district court in Pennsylvania was happy to grant the Government the time it needs to move the case forward.

“The time period within which the government must obtain an indictment or file a complaint in this matter with regard to the claim filed by Bill Omar Carrasquillo is extended to October 16, 2020,” the Court’s order reads.

The US Government filing and subsequent order can be found here (pdf).

The seized assets listed for forfeiture are as follows:

1. 2019 Jeep Wrangler, VIN# 1C4HJXEG6KW570874;
2. 2018 Dodge Commercial ProMaster 2500 159″ W.B. High Roof, VIN# 3C6TRVDG7JE148833;
3. 2020 Lamborghini Huracan, VIN # ZHWUF4ZF9LLA12725;
4. 2019 Suzuki Motorcycle, VIN # JS1SK44A0K7101007;
5. 2019 Chevrolet Camaro, VIN # 1G1FH1R79K0108119;
6. 2018 Dodge Durango, VIN # 1C4SDJGJ4JC416019;
7. 2019 Suzuki DRZ400 Motorcycle, VIN # JS1SK44A3K7100952
8. 2019 Yamaha 700R 4-Wheel Off Road Vehicle, VIN # 5Y4AM8631KA104297;
9. 2020 Jeep Gladiator, VIN# 1C6JJTBG2LL101726;
10. 2019 Dodge Challenger, VIN # 2C3CDZL9XKH591151;
11. 2018 Suzuki DRZ400 Motorcycle, VIN # JS1SK44A9J2102474;
12. 2017 Ford F350, VIN # 1FT8W3DT9HED56274;
13. $20,020.00 U.S. Currency seized on November 20, 2019, from 3412 North Hope St., Philadelphia, PA;
14. 2019 Can-Am Ryker, VIN # 3JB2FEG49KJ002752;
15. 2019 Audi A7, VIN# WAUS2AF24KN105368;
16. $1,190.00 U.S. Currency seized on November 20, 2019, from 1407 Lorimer Avenue,
Huntingdon Valley, PA;
17. $20,850.00 U.S. Currency seized from a 2020 Bentley Continental VIN: SCBCG2ZG1LC074750 registered to and in possession of Bill Omar Carrasquillo;
18. $80,000 U.S. Currency seized from a 2018 Mercedes Benz AMG VIN: WDD7X8KB9KA001903 registered to Claudio Roman, Jr. and in possession of Bill Omar Carrasquillo;
19. 2018 KTM 1290 Super Duke Motorcycle, VIN# VBKV39400JM987624;
20. 2019 Ford Mustang, VIN# 1FA6P8TH2K5180423;
21. 2019 Acura NSX, VIN# 19UNC1B0XKY000173;
22. 2015 Lamborghini Huracan, VIN # ZHWUC1ZF4FLA02602;
23. 2019 Lamborghini Aventador, VIN # ZHWUV4ZD0KLA07980;
24. 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee, VIN # 1C4RJFN91JC405394;
25. 2019 Mercedes Benz GLE Class Utility AMG Sports Coupe, VIN #4JGED6EB4KA139824;
26. 2020 Toyota Supra, VIN # WZ1DB4C05LW022111;
27. Bentley Continental GT / SuperSport Coupe, VIN # SCBCG2ZG1LC074750;
28. Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk 4WD 6.2L V8 Supercharged, VIN # 1C4RJFN93JC224779;
29. 2016 Ford Mustang, VIN # 1FA6P8CF0G5319034;
30. 2016 Dodge Charger, VIN # 2C3CDXL9XGH312311;
31. 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe, VIN # 1GNSKDEC8HR228971;
32. 2019 Honda Civic, VIN # SHHFK8G70KU200613;
33. 1996 Chevrolet Caprice, VIN #1G1BL52P0TR122129;
34. 2020 BMW M8, VIN #WBSAE0C00LBM08405
35. 2019 Chevrolet Corvette, VIN #1G1YY2D77K5104515;
36. 2019 Dodge Ram, VIN #1C6SRFHT8KN533937;
37. Backdraft Roadster Coupe, VIN #AE9BMAAH3H1MT1025;
38. 2016 Dodge Challenger, VIN #2C3CDZC91GH113370;
39. Mercedes Benz GT63C4S, VIN #WDD7X8KB9KA001903;
40. Dodge Grand Caravan SE, VIN #2C4RDGBG5KR751876;
41. 2018 Polaris Outlaw, VIN #RF3YAK05XJT065024;
42. 2019 Polaris Ranger XP with Plow, VIN #4XARRW990K8546570;
43. 2019 Yamaha 50 Child’s Motorcycle, VIN #LBPCA0230K0013324;
44. 2020 Yamaha PW50, VIN #JYA3PT136LA028317;
45. 2018 KTM 690 Duke, VIN #VBKLDV401JM714429;
46. 2019 Yamaha Raptor ATV, VIN #RF3AB1131KT004006;
47. 2019 Honda 110 Motorcycle, VIN #LALJE024XK3101900;
48. 2019 Polaris RZR ATV, VIN #RF3YAV171KT029290;
49. 2019 Honda TRX ATV, VIN #1HFTE2733K4801310;
50. 2019 Honda 110 Motorcycle, VIN #LALJE0245K3102145;
51. 2019 KTM 790 Duke, VIN #VBKTU6406KM739334;
52. 2019 KTM 390 Duke Motorcycle, VIN #MD2JPJ401KC216497;
53. 2019 KTM 390 Duke Motorcycle, VIN #MD2JPJ402KC206710;
54. 2018 Honda CTX700N Motorcycle, VIN #JH2RC6840JK300174;
55. 2019 Honda Rebel 500 Motorcycle, VIN #MLHPC5605K5201678;
56. 2018 Honda Rebel 500 Motorcycle, VIN #MLHPC5601J5100071;
57. 2019 KTM 790 Motorcycle, VIN #VBKTR3409KM765748;
58. 2019 Honda CRF450L Motorcycle, VIN #JH2PD1115KK002373;
59. 2019 Yamaha YZ125 Motorcycle, VIN #JYACE16C6KA039562;
60. 2019 Lamborghini URUS 2019, VIN #ZPBUA1ZL9KLA01398;
61. 2020 Audi R8, VIN #WUAEEAFX1L7900342;
62. Net Proceeds of $6,000.00 from sale of 2018 Yamaha Raptor 700 seized on December 17, 2019

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

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Hollywood, Netflix & Amazon Sue IPTV Provider Crystal Clear Media

Members of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy coalition featuring Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, are targeting a large IPTV provider via the US courts.

Filed yesterday by Disney, Paramount, Amazon, Warner, Universal, Netflix, Columbia and StudioCanal, the lawsuit names TTKN Enterprises, LLC, better known online as IPTV service Crystal Clear Media (CCM). It further names Todd and Tori Smith of Florida as defendants and identifies the pair as the owners of TTKN and operators of CCM.

Massive and Ongoing Infringement

“Defendants own and operate the Crystal Clear Media service, an infringing streaming service that sells — directly and through an expanding network of resellers — unauthorized access to copyrighted movies and television programs through thousands of live and title-curated television channels (Internet Protocol television (‘IPTV’)) and video-on-demand (‘VOD’) offerings,” the complaint reads.

“Defendants’ title-curated channels stream the Copyrighted Works in packaged offerings that are not available through legitimate services. These offerings include, among many others, 24/7 marathons of Disney’s movie Frozen II and Warner Bros.’s Harry Potter movie collection, newly-released movies including Paramount’s Like a Boss and Columbia Picture’s Bad Boys for Life, and enormously popular television series such as Universal’s Mr. Robot.”

The plaintiffs describe the defendants’ ongoing infringement as willful, noting that they have engaged in “concerted efforts” to conceal their roles while profiting from their “blatantly infringing service”, offered from websites including mediahosting.one, crystalcleariptv.com, ccmedia.one, ccbilling.org, cciptv.us, ccreborn.one, ccultimate.one, superstreamz.com, and webplayer.us.

The comprehensive VOD service offered by CCM appears to be central to the complaint. It’s alleged that the defendants knew that offering VOD was a major security risk but went ahead anyway.

Warning Signs About VOD Were Ignored

In May 2019, TorrentFreak published an article revealing that the Vaders IPTV service had been taken offline. The complaint states that after this news broke, the defendants issued an urgent announcement, stating they would “BE ELIMINATING VOD, CATCHUP SERVICES, AND TV SERIES…IN LIGHT OF RECENT EVENTS.”

However, the lawsuit says that despite noting the problems experienced by Vaders, VOD was still offered by CCM.

“Defendants did not stop their VOD offering. Instead, Defendants continue to sell subscriptions to their VOD service for $10 a month under the false label of ‘Virtual Reality Gaming…Addon.’ The Virtual Reality Gaming label is a deliberate effort to hide what Defendants are really providing,” the entertainment companies state.

“Extensive and Expanding” Reseller Network

In common with many similar operations, CCM allegedly reaches its customer base by running a network of resellers who bulk buy “credits” from CCM. These are converted into subscriber login credentials when sold to customers looking to watch IPTV.

“Defendants’ reseller program plays a pivotal role in their infringing enterprise. Defendants’ resellers market and promote CCM as a substitute for authorized and licensed distributors,” the lawsuit notes.

“If left unchecked, Defendants’ infringing conduct will continue to grow. Defendants’ network of resellers and subscribers will continue to expand, and with it the infringement of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works will grow exponentially.”

Copyright Infringement Claims

Alleging willful direct copyright infringement, the plaintiffs demand the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work and an injunction preventing the ongoing infringement.

In the event that the defendants claim that third-parties are directly violating the plaintiffs’ rights, the lawsuit alleges contributory copyright infringement, since the defendants have “actual knowledge” that infringement is taking place in respect of the content being offered. Again, the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per work are demanded.

The same sum is requested due to CCM inducing others by “encouraging, and promoting the use of CCM” for copyright infringement.

In addition to preliminary and permanent injunctions to effectively shut down the CCM service, the entertainment companies request that all resellers are prevented from offering its products to the public. They also want the platform’s domain names and an eventual trial by jury.

The complaint is available here (pdf)

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

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Stop Selling Pirate IPTV Packages or Pay €10,000 Per Day, Court Rules

BREIN is the leading Dutch anti-piracy outfit, tackling piracy of movies, TV shows, and a range of other infringing content.

In recent years and in common with its overseas counterparts, BREIN has been working to slow down the spread of pirate IPTV. In 2019, it reportedly curtailed the activities of around two dozen sellers but even after intense legal pressure, which in some cases involved cash settlements, at least one decided to continue their work.

The individual targeted by BREIN initially sold piracy-configured set-top boxes but later moved on to selling pirate IPTV subscriptions offering access to live TV, movies and TV shows. Following legal action by BREIN in 2019, a court ordered the defendant to cease-and-desist. Among other things, he paid BREIN a 40,000 euro (US$45,346) settlement.

Allegations of Repeat Infringement Contrary to Settlement

Subsequent inquiries carried out by BREIN last year suggested that the individual was already circumventing the requirement not to sell IPTV, by offering packages through two websites in the name of a third-party. After the third-party’s identity was discovered, the websites were taken down. However, two more websites appeared, this time in the name of an individual in Marbella, Spain. BREIN believed that the original defendant was behind the websites.

Returning to court, BREIN again demanded that the individual stop providing links or other means enabling people to access infringing content.

The individual fought back on a handful of points, including that BREIN had only presented a generic case of alleged offending, but none were entertained by the court in Utrecht. He also did not deny that the second pair of websites sold access to pirate IPTV packages. The big question, however, was whether he was the person operating them from behind the scenes.

Evidence Showing Continued Sale of IPTV Packages

BREIN provided evidence suggesting that he was, revealing that payments were carried out via a PayPal account using an email address admittedly registered by the defendant. Also, a YouTube account ostensibly operated by the defendant’s girlfriend carried an identical video to one published on one of the IPTV sales websites. The videos both contained a reference to a ProtonMail email address used to sell packages.

BREIN was further able to cross-reference details on Facebook pages which linked the defendant to the websites and a domain pointing to the same IP address as one of the websites. Also, the mobile number allegedly in use by the ‘person’ in Spain had a Dutch country code, leading the court to conclude that this individual probably didn’t exist.

The defendant denied owning the websites and denied being involved in the Facebook pages. That being said, he did admit to opening a PayPal account using his girlfriend’s email address for use by the individual allegedly in Spain. He denied being involved in the payments to the account, however.

Defendant is Offending Again, Court Rules

Despite these claims, the court came to the conclusion that it was “sufficiently plausible” that the defendant was behind the two websites and had been directly involved in the sale of pirate IPTV subscriptions which breached the rights of companies represented by BREIN.

As a result, the court handed down a judgment requiring the defendant to immediately stop offering “hyperlinks providing access to the illegal offer of protected works” or face a penalty of 10,000 euros per day up to a maximum of 500,000 euros.

While BREIN’s claims in respect of the initial two websites were rejected due to a lack of urgency (both had closed down a while back), those pertaining to the more recent pair were upheld by the court. The defendant must now hand over information detailing all parties involved in the supply of the IPTV packages plus their purchase price and generated profit.

Failure to provide the information within 14 days will incur penalties of 1,000 euros per day, to a maximum of 100,000 euros. The defendant must also pay BREIN’s legal costs of just under 7,400 euros.

The court’s decision can be downloaded here (pdf)

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