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Wrongfully Accused ‘Pirate’ Wins $4,420 Judgment Against Movie Company

Around the world, file-sharers are regularly pressed to pay significant settlement fees, often backed up by pressure from a lawsuit.

These efforts, often characterized as “copyright trolling,” share a familiar pattern. Copyright holders acquire a subpoena to get the personal details of an alleged pirate and then contact the person with a settlement request.

This was also the case when Darren Brinkley was sued in a Utah federal court in 2017. In a complaint filed by Criminal Productions – known for the movie Criminal – he and 31 others were accused of illegally sharing a copy of the film.

Accused Pirate Fights Back

Brinkley denied these claims and rejected the settlement offer. Initially, the movie company maintained its claim, but after the accused pirate fought back, Criminal Productions let the case go.

The defendant, however, wasn’t prepared to walk away without getting his bills paid and submitted a motion to cover the legal fees. Brinkley’s attorneys argued that, while the filmmakers had no intention to litigate the “baseless suit,” their client was forced to run up significant costs.

“These tactics should at minimum require that Defendant Brinkley be made whole for Plaintiff’s filing of litigation it clearly had no intention of pursuing and that may have had no basis in the first instance. This is the very definition of ‘cut and run’ litigation,” they argued.

Brinkley’s attorneys calculated the total costs at $62,818.35 which they requested to be paid in full. A few days ago, District Court Judge David Nuffer ruled on the matter. While he agrees that the film company has to pay up, the final award is significantly lower.

Court Awards $4,420 in Attorneys’ Fees

Judge Nuffer granted a sum of $4,420 in attorneys’ fees and costs, which represents the costs that were incurred until December 22, 2017, plus the costs for the motion itself. According to the order, Brinkley “declined the opportunity to resolve the claims” without incurring further costs after that date.

This decision is in part based on repeated offers from Criminal Productions to ‘settle’ the matter without further costs, which Briskley denied.

Deterring ‘Copyright Troll’ Tactics

While the relatively low amount will likely come as a disappointment to the accused ‘pirate,’ the court did agree that the movie company should be deterred from avoiding discovery obligations by dropping out of lawsuits when they are challenged.

“As Brinkley argues, this avoidance of disclosure and discovery obligations is consistent with the typical litigation behavior of a ‘copyright troll’, who targets hundreds of defendants and offers quick settlements priced so that it is less expensive for the defendant to pay the settlement than to defend the claim,” the order reads.

The court didn’t rule on the accuracy of the defense allegations in this specific case. However, as a deterrent, Criminal Productions will have to pay part of the defendant’s costs.

“But Productions should be deterred from filing lawsuits in which it declines to provide evidence to a defendant, avoiding disclosure and discovery obligations, thus forcing defendants to incur defense costs even though the defendant will never have an opportunity to mount a defense because Productions is ready to dismiss when opposition arises,” Judge Nuffer notes.

A copy of Judge Nuffer’s order on the motion for attorneys’ fees is available here (pdf).

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

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Group Who Operated 20 Pirate ‘beIN’ Streaming Sites Found Guilty, Leader Jailed

The Association Against Audiovisual Piracy (ALPA) has been active in France since 1985.

The group is predominantly focused on protecting the rights of companies in the audiovisual and movie sectors and over the years has targeted everything from file-sharing forums through to torrent and movie/TV show streaming platforms.

In more recent years, ALPA has worked with companies in the broadcasting sector, targeting individuals who run apps and sites dedicated to live TV programming. That work included an investigation into the administrators of beinsport-streaming.com and several other related sites.

Criminal Complaint Against ‘Beinsport-Streaming’ Sites

ALPA and rightsholders Canal+ Group, beIN Sports and RMC Sports subsequently filed a joint complaint with the authorities in France against the sites. Following an investigation carried out by the Cybercrime Group of the Research Section of the National Gendarmerie of Rennes, the alleged founders and administrators of the sites were arrested in June 2018 under suspicion of intellectual property crimes.

At the time, it was estimated that during the six months preceding their closure, the sites were visited by around 500,000 users every month. The sites were said to generate revenue mainly via advertising which supported the streaming of sports programming and live events.

The rightsholders involved suggested that the crimes were so serious that the suspects could be imprisoned for up to 10 years for offenses including organized counterfeiting and aggravated money laundering.

Court Finds Five Individuals Guilty

Now, more than two years later, the matter has come to a close. According to Canal+, a court in Renne has found five people guilty of reproducing, communicating and distributing copyrighted content via the 20-site ‘beinsport-streaming’ ring.

The currently unnamed leader of the group received a 12-month prison sentence, with six months suspended. The fate of his accomplices is yet to be publicly announced.

In a statement, Céline Boyer, Content Protection Director of the Canal + Group, welcomed the verdict, noting that between 2014 and 2017, just nine of the most popular sites operated by the defendants generated 7.5 million visits to illicitly-streamed content.

“The Rennes decision reinforces the position of the Canal + Group as a player committed to the fight against piracy, an expanding and multifaceted scourge which has a daily impact on the entire sports ecosystem, from professional sport to amateur sport, as well as the media and pay-TV industry,” Boyer said.

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

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EU Court: YouTube Not Required to Share Email and IP-Addresses of Movie Pirates

YouTube’s millions of users upload staggering amounts of content to the site every day and while most of it doesn’t present any issues, some of that material inevitably infringes someone’s copyrights.

In 2013 and 2014, three YouTube users uploaded the movies Scary Movie 5 and Parker to the platform, something which caught the eye of Constantin Film, the exclusive rights holder for the titles in Germany. Since the illegal uploads had been viewed thousands of times, the movie company decided to enforce its rights.

Demands for Extended Personal Information Rejected By YouTube

In correspondence with YouTube and owner Google, Constantin Film demanded access to the personal details of the alleged infringers, including their email addresses, IP-addresses, and phone numbers. The companies denied the request and the matter went to court.

In the first instance, the case went to the Frankfurt District Court in Germany, which rejected the demands of Constantin Film. However, a higher court partly overruled the decision, ordering YouTube to hand over the email addresses of the users but not their IP addresses and phone numbers.

The ruling was acceptable to neither party and the matter was sent to Germany’s Federal Court of Justice. In order to make its decision, however, the Court made a referral to the EU Court of Justice, seeking clarification of the term “address” as laid out in Article 8 of the EU Copyright Directive.

Win for YouTube and Google

In a judgment handed down this morning, Europe’s highest court firmly sided with YouTube and Google and arguably, by extension, the individuals who uploaded the movies several years ago.

“In the judgment in Constantin Film Verleih (C-264/19), delivered on 9 July 2020, the Court ruled that, where a film is uploaded onto an online video platform without the copyright holder’s consent, Directive 2004/481 does not oblige the judicial authorities to order the operator of the video platform to provide the email address, IP address or telephone number of the user who uploaded the film concerned,” a summary provided by the Court reads.

“The directive, which provides for disclosure of the ‘addresses’ of persons who have infringed an intellectual property right, covers only the postal address.”

While the Court notes that the Copyright Directive does provide a mechanism for judicial authorities to order disclosure of personal information to rightsholders in order to settle intellectual property disputes, the term ‘address’ is specific to physical locations. The Court cites an individual’s “permanent address or habitual residence” and expressly excludes email addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses.

“That interpretation is, according to the Court, consistent with the purpose of the provision of Directive 2004/48 on the right to information,” the Court writes.

“In view of the minimum harmonization concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights in general, such harmonization is limited, according to that provision, to narrowly defined information. Furthermore, the aim of that provision is to reconcile compliance with various rights, inter alia the right of holders to information and the right of users to protection of personal data.”

Interestingly the EU Court says that obtaining additional information on users isn’t completely ruled out but such decisions are to be made by EU Member States after balancing various fundamental rights, including acting proportionately.

“The Court nevertheless stated that the Member States have the option to grant holders of intellectual property rights the right to receive fuller information, provided, however, that a fair balance is struck between the various fundamental rights involved and compliance with the other general principles of EU law, such as the principle of proportionality,” the Court adds

This final decision is in line with an opinion from Advocate General Saugmandsgaard Øe handed down earlier this year, which concluded that the term ‘address’ is restricted to a physical location.

“There is little doubt that, in everyday language, the concept of a person’s ‘address’, about which the referring court asks in particular, covers only the postal address, as YouTube and Google have rightly submitted,” Saugmandsgaard Øe wrote.

Following the clarification provided in today’s decision, the case will now head back to the German courts.

At the time of writing the full judgment is only available in German and French

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

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Amazon, Lee Child & John Grisham Sue ‘Kiss Library’ Pirate eBook Sites

Well over a decade ago, music platforms like AllofMP3 were a thorn in the side of record labels, selling tracks at cut-down prices without appropriate licensing in place.

Today, similar sites are available in many niches, eBooks included. It’s a growing problem that authors, publishers and distributors would like to reduce, in part via a lawsuit filed in a Washington court this week.

US Lawsuit Targets ‘Pirate’ Sites Under the ‘Kiss Library’ Brand

The complaint sees Amazon Content Services, publisher Penguin Random House and several authors including John Grisham and Lee Child, target a range of ‘pirate eBook sites operating under the Kiss Library brand.

The 19-page lawsuit lists several domains (Kissly.net, Wtffastspring.bid, Libly.net, Cheap-Library.com) that claim to offer a “premium selection” of books at “unbeatable prices”. The reason for this, the plaintiffs claim, is that they are “replete” with pirated eBooks.

“Through Kiss Library, Defendants engage in rampant and willful infringement of Plaintiffs’ intellectual property rights and divert potential customers to Defendants’ sites — where the Plaintiff Authors and Publishers do not receive any royalties for the sales — to purchase and download the unauthorized works,” the complaint reads.

The stated claim of the action is to “bring down” the sites and put them out of business. It names several individuals as defendants, including alleged Ukrainian nationals Rodion Vynnychenko and Artem Besshapochny, who are said to have created Kiss Library and actively participate in and profit from its activities.

Australian national Jack Brown is said to work as a software developer while also being listed as Kiss Library’s customer service representative. Together with an additional 10 ‘Doe defendants’, Brown is said to act in concert with Kiss Library’s creators to distribute the plaintiffs’ copyright works.

Background to Kiss Library’s Activities

According to the complaint, Kiss Library first appeared at KissLibrary.com back in June 2017 after being registered by Vynnychenko in Ukraine. However, due to what the plaintiffs describe as “increased negative reviews and assertions of piracy”, the defendants registered new ‘mirror’ sites including kisslibrary.net, kissly.net, wtffastspring.bid, libly.net, and cheaplibrary.com.

Libly.net, Kissly.net and Wtffastspring.bid purportedly operate out of Canada but the plaintiffs couldn’t find any matching registrations in the country. Cheap-library.com is said to operate out of Bulgaria but again, no registrations could be found. Attempts by plaintiffs to make contact via the supplied telephone numbers failed.

Distribution of Pirated Content, Non-Compliance Under the DMCA

“Defendants, through these and other known and unknown Kiss Library websites, engage in the rampant, illegal copying, display, and distribution of copyright-protected ebooks for their direct financial benefit, including works written by the Authors and exclusively published or distributed by the Publishers,” the complaint alleges.

All of the targeted domains claim to have official DMCA agents to handle takedown complaints but according to the plaintiffs, the Copyright Office has no record of any registrations. Furthermore, when the defendants processed copyright infringement claims and took down eBooks, they reappeared on the platforms shortly after.

“As a result of Defendants’ wrongful conduct, Defendants also damage and harm the Publishers in the form of losses to sales, prospective customers, goodwill from authors who exclusively publish with them, goodwill from customers who receive Defendants’ inferior ebook copies, and resources expended in discovering and combatting infringement, as well as disruption and harm to their distribution arrangements, brands, and prospective business relationships with authors and others,” it continues.

Copyright Infringement Claims

Alleging willful direct copyright infringement, the plaintiffs demand actual damages and profits of the infringers or statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed work. They further demand injunctive relief, including an order impounding all copies of the infringing materials.

Alleging vicarious and/or contributory copyright infringement in respect of offenses carried out by Kiss Library’s users, the plaintiffs demand actual damages and defendants’ profits attributable to the infringements, or statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed work and a similar injunction.

In addition, the lawsuit demands an order requiring Kiss Library’s domain names to be disabled or handed over to the plaintiffs and preventing any commercial entities doing business with the platform, including banks, credit card companies and payment providers, from doing so.

At the time of writing, all of the listed domains are either completely down or advising maintenance issues.

The complaint, filed by plaintiffs Amazon, Random House, Lee Child, Sylvia Day, John Grisham, C.J. Lyons, Doug Preston, Jim Rasenberger, T.J. Stiles, R.L Stine, Monique Troung, Scott Turow, Nicholas Weinstock and Stuart Woods, can be found here (pdf)

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

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The Pirate Bay: OVPN Responds to Movie Companies’ Court Injunction

Last month, movie companies Svensk Filmindustri and Nordisk Film, and anti-piracy partner Rights Alliance were handed an IP address by Cloudflare believed to be in use by The Pirate Bay.

Armed with this information they went to court in Sweden, obtaining an injunction targeting Obenetwork, claiming the ISP operated the IP address. It transpired the address was actually owned by VPN provider OVPN and the injunction was thrown out.

In response, the plaintiffs filed for a new injunction against OVPN, demanding that the provider hand over the information about its customer, which they believe to be The Pirate Bay. Last week, OVPN informed TF that they would fight the case and we can now provide some details on its initial position.

The injunction application is disputed by OVPN in its entirety but the company also homes in on specific aspects that it hopes will resolve the matter.

No-Logs to Hand Over, Specific IP Address No Longer in Use

Firstly, as a no-log provider, OVPN says that it does not have access to the information requested in the injunction, including the name and address of the customer who used its IP address, how long that customer used the service, or how much money was handed over.

While that’s straightforward enough, it’s alleged that the OVPN customer used the provider’s Public IPv4 add-on. That tool is covered by exactly the same no-logging policy but since in this case a static IP address is assigned to a specific customer, OVPN does have a limited ability to determine who is using it, but only at the time it’s in use. Once that use has expired, it has no ability to carry out retroactive checks.

“[W]e can not provide any information as to who had a specific Public IPv4 address at a specific date, as users are free to change Public IPv4 address at will, and another user might have been using that Public IPv4 address at that time,” the company explains.

To illustrate this restriction, OVPN told the court that anyone attempting to access The Pirate Bay using the IP address listed in the application would find that the website can’t be reached. Furthermore, anyone trying to ping the address would find that it’s completely unavailable. Since it’s not currently in use, OVPN can’t say who was using it.

The Electronic Communications Act

According to OVPN’s response to the injunction, the provision of a VPN service “does not constitute a notifiable activity” as referenced by Sweden’s Electronic Communications Act. As a result, VPN services are exempt from the data storage obligations of the legislation.

OVPN argues that VPN services operate over the top of an Internet connection like any other Internet-based service might. Citing the Tele2 case that went all the way to the European Court of Justice, the provider says that it does not provide an electronic communications service as described under the Act and is not subject to its storage obligations.

Precautionary Measures and Financial Damage

In their application (which was conducted without OVPN being aware of the procedure) the studios and Rights Alliance demanded financial penalties if OVPN did not provide the requested information plus penalties if they deleted any user information that could show who used the IP address at the specified time.

According to OVPN, the precautionary measures demanded by the applicants were not backed up by evidence showing exceptional circumstances, as required under case law. The company further rejects suggestions made in the application that it is somehow a bad actor for providing a privacy service.

“We wholeheartedly disagree with the Rights Alliance claims that we’re running a ‘disloyal service’ used to circumvent law enforcement. On the contrary, we have a wide range of different customers, such as journalists, lawyers, politicians, government agencies and consumers.

“To be perfectly clear: We do not, in any way, endorse or advocate using OVPN to commit crimes,” the company says.

In its response, OVPN told the court that as a provider of services designed to offer a high degree of confidentiality, any order granted on behalf of private parties requiring it not to destroy information (even if any was available) would put the entire company at risk of great financial damage.

Therefore, the claim that it would not “suffer any economic injury” as a result of precautionary measures is incorrect, the provider added.

Not a Party to Copyright Infringement, Standing Firm

Finally, OVPN informed the court that as a service provider, it is not a party to any of the infringements allegedly carried out by The Pirate Bay or its users. As a result, should the injunction be dismissed, it should be entitled to have its costs covered by the applicants.

“Our main goal is to protect people from hackers and avoid being monitored online,” an OVPN statement adds.

“We wholeheartedly believe that people have a right to communicate privately whether it is in a physical or a digital world. Communications online should be as private as a communication in a room between two people. We are standing firm.”

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

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YouTube Hit With Class Action Lawsuit Over Copyright Enforcement, Repeat Infringer Policy

For many years, Google-owned YouTube has been wrestling with the vast amounts of copyright-infringing content being uploaded by users to its platform.

The challenge is met by YouTube by taking down content for which copyright holders file a legitimate infringement complaint under the DMCA. It also operates a voluntary system known as Content ID, which allows larger rightsholders to settle disputes by either blocking contentious content automatically at the point of upload or monetizing it to generate revenue.

Content ID Should Be Available to All Copyright Holders

A class action lawsuit filed Thursday in a California court by Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider tears apart YouTube’s efforts. It claims that the video-sharing platform fails on a grand scale to protect “ordinary creators” who are “denied any meaningful opportunity to prevent YouTube’s public display of works that infringe their copyrights — no matter how many times their works have previously been pirated on the platform.”

The 44-page complaint leaves no stone unturned, slamming YouTube as a platform designed from the ground up to draw in users with the lure of a “vast library” of pirated content and incentivizing the posting of even more material. YouTube then reaps the rewards via advertising revenue and exploitation of personal data at the expense of copyright holders who never gave permission for their work to be uploaded.

The lawsuit further criticizes YouTube for not only preventing smaller artists from accessing its Content ID system but denouncing the fingerprinting system itself, describing it as a mechanism used by YouTube to prevent known infringing users from being terminated from the site under the repeat infringer requirements of the DMCA.

Content ID Allows YouTube to Avoid Terminating Repeat Infringers

“Content ID is not only unavailable to Plaintiffs and the Class, but it actually insulates
the vast majority of known and repeated copyright infringers from YouTube’s repeat infringer policy, thereby encouraging its users’ continuing upload of infringing content”, the complaint reads.

Highlighting Google’s claims that 98% of YouTube copyright issues are resolved with Content ID, the action turns this statement on its head, stating that what the company really means is that all but a fraction of copyright-infringing material is “entirely insulated” from its repeat infringer policy.

“This two-tiered system essentially trains YouTube’s billions of uploading users that there is essentially minimal risk to uploading to their hearts’ content,” it reads.

“And while YouTube’s Content ID partners are protected from these repeat infringers because their uploads will always be screened against the Content ID catalog before publication, Plaintiffs and the Class remain at risk of recurring infringement by these same repeat infringers.”

The complaint says this undermines YouTube’s repeat infringer policy, which mandates that users will be terminated when they accrue three active strikes in a 90 day period. Its claim to safe harbor protection is also nullified, the complaint adds, due to YouTube placing a limit on the number of takedown notices it will process and restricting access to “certain automated tools” designed to locate infringing content on the platform.

No Takedown / Staydown Mechanism

Turning to how YouTube has affected Schneider herself, the action lists a number of songs that have been posted to YouTube without her permission. She claims to have applied to be included in the Content ID system twice but was rejected, so must now “self-police” for infringement instead of enjoying the “automatic and preemptive blocking” afforded to larger rightsholders via Content ID.

Schneider is joined in the action by a British Virgin Islands company called Pirate Monitor Ltd, which reportedly obtained the rights back in January to several non-U.S. movies first published in Hungary. One of those works, titled Immigrants – Jóska menni Amerika, was registered with the US Copyright Office earlier this year.

All of the Pirate Monitor works have been previously uploaded to YouTube in violation of copyright and the company was also denied access to Content ID. Takedown notices were processed by YouTube but the company says that removal took several days, with titles being subsequently reposted by infringers.

“Put simply, copyright holders should not be forced to repeatedly demand that the same platform take down infringing uses of the same copyrighted work, while other rights holders are provided access to standard digital fingerprinting and blocking tools,” the complaint adds.

“By not allowing Plaintiffs to block the upload of infringing materials at the time of upload, Defendants force Plaintiffs and the Class into a time consuming, cumbersome, inaccurate, and flawed ‘manual’ process to enforce their copyrights, all to the benefit of Defendants’ money-making machine.”

No Respect for Copyright Management Information

The complaint also takes a deep dive into YouTube’s alleged misconduct in respect of Copyright Management Information (CMI), metadata that can be found in lawfully sold copyright works which can provide a means to discover who owns it, in YouTube’s case at the point of upload to its platform.

“YouTube neither encourages nor protects the original CMI metadata during the upload process, even though YouTube knows it exists and its value for protecting the rights of creators,” the plaintiffs write.

“Defendants have created a system that not only disregards, but eliminates or conceals, and/or encourages uploaders to eliminate or conceal, CMI from the video files published on the YouTube platform.”

YouTube Not Entitled to Safe Harbor Protection Under the DMCA

Due to its actions, YouTube cannot rely on the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, the complaint alleges. These include placing limits on the number of takedown notices it will process, preventing plaintiffs from properly enforcing their rights. When these limits are exceeded, the lawsuit states that rights holders risk losing access to YouTube’s infringement mitigation tools.

It further alleges that YouTube now requires some notice senders to identify what part of an allegedly-infringing work infringes their rights by supplying time stamps. While this is automated under Content ID, those outside the system find themselves with additional work.

“By conditioning these notification and takedown procedures on the provision of additional information — information not required under the DMCA — YouTube has violated the requirements of the DMCA and forfeited its safe harbor protections.”

The action further alleges that YouTube’s ‘three strikes in 90 days’ termination policy is deficient since when timed appropriately, it allows users to safely upload eight copyright infringing works in a year without being terminated.

“By erasing copyright strikes after 90 days, YouTube has not satisfied the safe harbor requirements of the DMCA and forfeited its safe harbor protections,” it adds.

Piling on the pressure, the complaint says that YouTube has constructive knowledge that repeat infringers are infringing works of the plaintiffs’ and class since these are being shielded from termination by the Content ID system which does not deliver ‘strikes’. It further adds that YouTube is profiting from infringements that it could control, another disqualifier from the safe harbor provisions.

Potentially Billions in Copyright Infringement Damages

In summary, the complaint alleges direct copyright infringement, inducement of copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, vicarious infringement, and removal of CMI, contrary to the Copyright Act. As a class action, many more rights holders could now pile on, with the potential for calculator-busting claims for damages.

The full complaint can be obtained here (pdf)

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

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The Pirate Bay: VPN Provider OVPN Hit With Court Injunction, Vows to Fight

Early June, movie companies Svensk Filmindustri and Nordisk Film, supported by anti-piracy partner Rights Alliance, obtained an IP address from Cloudflare which they hoped would lead to The Pirate Bay.

The parties subsequently went to court in Sweden and obtained an injunction compelling local ISP Obenetwork, to which the parties had linked the address, to hand over information about its dealings with the site.

It soon became clear that the IP address wasn’t operated by Obenetwork and had actually been allocated to Swedish VPN provider OVPN. As a result, the Stockholm District Court threw out the injunction but the movie companies weren’t done just yet.

New Court Injunction Targeting OVPN

Undeterred by this setback, the movie companies and Rights Alliance returned to court last week demanding that OVPN, on pain of financial penalties, should hand over customer information relating to the IP address including name and address, how long the service had been used for, and how much was paid for it.

“The defendant [OVPN] sells VPN services. A VPN service means that the traffic was tunneled off the original [IP address] via a VPN service and then out to the internet. This means that only the VPN service’s [IP-address] is publicly visible,” the application reviewed by TF reads.

Citing an earlier TF interview with OVPN, the applicants stated that they now believe the IP address does belong to the VPN provider and was in use by The Pirate Bay early June. Furthermore, in common with the matter against Obenetwork, the applicants asked the court to keep OVPN in the dark about the application. However, according to OVPN’s David Wibergh, that was unsuccessful.

Case is Already Public Knowledge, Secrecy Unjustified

“The Rights Alliance filed that we should not be involved, but the court overruled that decision and referenced that we were already made aware of the circumstances due to [TorrentFreak’s] article where I was quoted,” Wibergh informs TF.

“The Rights Alliance requested a penalty of 100,000 SEK if we did not provide the requested information, as well as a penalty of 100,000 SEK in case we delete any user information connected to who had the IP address at the specified time, i.e penalties connected to information that we don’t have.”

OVPN Will Fight the Injunction

As previously reported, OVPN states that its entire structure is built to ensure that no logs can be stored, with servers locked in cabinets and operated without hard drives. The studios are seeking names and addresses, the length of time the service was in use, and how much was paid for it.

However, while OVPN could in theory have a username it could hand over, there is no requirement for its customers to provide physical or email addresses, or pay with anything other than Bitcoin or cash.

“We are responding to the court order [Wednesday], as we were made aware of it [Monday] and were only given 48 hours to provide a response,” Wibergh informs TF.

“We have retained legal counsel and are contesting the injunction in court. As always, we are prepared to go the entire way to ensure our customers’ privacy and safety.”

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

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Amazon Sued For Copyright Infringement on Movies Including Austin Powers

When Amazon is mentioned in connection with copyright infringement lawsuits, it’s usually due to its involvement in the global anti-piracy coalition, Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

In those cases, Amazon is always on the offensive but in a lawsuit filed in a New York court, the company itself is being targeted for distributing copyrighted works for which it doesn’t hold a license.

The complaint was filed by Ralf Hartmann (RH), who previously acted as CEO for German film investor CP Medien. Around ten years ago, when CP Medien was being wound up, it was reported that Hartmann would continue working in the film industry through the CP Medien subsidiary Capella Films.

How that venture panned out isn’t clear but according to the lawsuit, Capella Films “assigned, transferred and sold” all of its interests in several films to Hartmann. The rights acquired by Hartmann included copyrights and exclusive reproduction and distribution rights. It’s alleged that these rights have been breached by Amazon after the company distributed copies of several movies to the public via its streaming service.

Amazon Streamed Unlicensed Movies in the US and Overseas

“Beginning in July 2017, Defendants, without obtaining either license or authorization from RH, made the motion pictures “Commander Hamilton” and “After the Rain” available for digital distribution either via streaming on demand, and/or for rent or sale on its Prime Video service in the United States,” the complaint reads.

It’s alleged that these two titles were rented and/or purchased at least hundreds of times by Prime Video subscribers.

Noting the worldwide reach of Amazon’s streaming service, the lawsuit claims that from July 2017, Amazon made the movies After the Rain, Commander Hamilton, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and Drop Dead Gorgeous available for digital distribution (either via streaming and/or rent from Prime Video) in overseas countries including the UK, Germany and Australia. These are estimated to have been sold or streamed “thousands of times”.

Hartmann says that since these titles were stored on Amazon’s servers in the United States and streamed to both local and overseas customers without a proper license, this constitutes breaches of the US Copyright Act. There appears to be a lack of clarity when it comes to the scale of the alleged infringement so Hartmann hopes to learn the scale of the alleged infringement through discovery.

Direct and Contributory Infringement in the United States

Alleging direct infringement in the United States, the lawsuit claims that “Commander Hamilton” and “After the Rain” were distributed willfully and intentionally in the country and as a result, Hartmann is entitled to statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work or actual damages and Amazon’s profits from infringement to be determined at trial.

Claiming acts of contributory copyright infringement in the United States, the lawsuit says that by “facilitating, managing or directing unauthorized distributions” of these two unlicensed movies, Amazon materially contributed to copyright infringements carried out by Prime Video subscribers via the Amazon.com website or the company’s streaming app.

“Each unlawful distribution of the Motion Pictures Commander Hamilton and After the Rain — whether by on demand stream, rental and/or sale — constitutes a separate act of contributory infringement for which Plaintiff is entitled to actual damages,” the lawsuit adds, noting that for each work it can claim maximum statutory damages of $150,000.

Infringement in the United States and Overseas

Hartmann’s third claim details alleged contributory copyright infringement in respect of movies streamed to foreign users from Amazon’s servers in the United States, for which $150,000 per work infringed is again claimed.

“Because copies of these four Motion Pictures – Commander Hamilton, After the Rain, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Drop Dead Gorgeous – were without RH’s license or authorization, hosted on Defendants’ servers based in the United States and then distributed from these servers to Prime Video subscribers in Foreign Countries, each such distribution…was a violation of the Copyright Act,” the claims states.

Vicarious Infringement in the US and Infringement Overseas

Claim four asserts that by failing to control the conduct of Amazon Digital, Amazon is vicariously liable for the direct copyright infringement of Amazon Digital by streaming the two movies in the US via the Prime Video service.

Noting that all of the movies listed in the third claim were hosted in the United States and streamed to customers overseas, Hartmann says he is also entitled to damages under the copyright laws of foreign countries.

Request For Judgment Against Amazon.com and Amazon Digital

In conclusion, the lawsuit seeks an order from the court that the defendants infringed the plaintiff’s copyrights and that since that infringement was willful, damages should be “increased and trebled”. Amazon is yet to file its response.

The complaint and can be found here (pdf)

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

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Court Excoriates ‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer and Adds $100,000 in Sanctions

Over the past several years, photographers have filed thousands of lawsuits against companies that allegedly use their work without permission.

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

We first spotted this emerging trend in 2016 and, at the time, Liebowitz told us that he was helping independent photographers to protect their rights. All too often, companies would take their work without paying.

“Copyright infringement is an ongoing issue. Companies are using other people’s hard work and profiting off of it. It is important for photographers and the creative community to unite and stand up for their rights and protect their work,” Liebowitz said.

Liebowitz’ misconduct and sanctions

Since then, a lot has happened. While copyright infringement remains a problem for photographers, Liebowitz has mainly made a name for himself through his controversial practices. Courts have sanctioned the attorney for various types of misconduct, reaching a new milestone late last week.

A scathing order issued by US District Court Judge Jesse M. Furman leaves little to the imagination, starting with some background information on Liebowitz’s young but troubled career.

The attorney passed the bar in 2015 and filed his first copyright case a few months later. Since 2017, he has filed numerous complaints. What stands out just as much, however, is the number of times courts have sanctioned him for misconduct.

“In that same period, he has earned another dubious distinction: He has become one of the most frequently sanctioned lawyers, if not the most frequently sanctioned lawyer, in the District,” Judge Furman writes.

Judge Furman order sanctions against Richard Liebowitz

The Judge notes that the attorney was repeatedly chastised and warned by courts, where other judges described him as “a copyright troll,” “a clear and present danger to the fair and efficient administration of justice,” and an “example of the worst kind of lawyering.”

Some of these descriptions also appear to apply to the present lawsuit, which again spiraled out of control.

Usherson v. Bandshell

The case in question was filed on behalf of photographer Arthur Usherson and accused Bandshell Artist Management of using one of his photos without permission. As the case progressed, however, the attorney’s questionable practices took center stage.

Liebowitz violated at least six court orders and repeatedly lied to the Court, even under oath. In addition, he falsely claimed that the photo’s copyright was registered when the lawsuit was filed, which turned out not to be true.

In a 54-page order (pdf), Judge Furman goes over each of these issues and ultimately reaches the conclusion that, given the attorney’s “deplorable record,” steps should be taken to suspend the attorney’s ability to file new cases.

Sanctions and a Potential Ban

This decision is ultimately up to the Grievance Committee of the court, which received a copy of the order. This could eventually lead to a ban on practicing in the Manhattan Federal Court, as Daily News notes.

However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no punishment. Judge Furman ordered Liebowitz and his law firm to pay sanctions totaling $103,517.49. On top of that, the attorney must send a copy of the opinion to all of his current clients.

This is not the first time the attorney has been sanctioned and whether this order will change anything remains to be seen. That said, given his track record, future cases will likely find themselves under a magnifying glass.

TorrentFreak reached out to Mr. Liebowitz for a comment on the order but we have yet to receive a response.

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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ISP Ordered to Hand Over Pirates’ Details After Cracked Software ‘Phoned Home’

Reports of movie companies tracking down alleged pirates in order to extract cash settlements are commonplace today.

After IP addresses are monitored in BitTorrent swarms, companies regularly obtain court orders requiring ISPs to hand over the personal details of alleged infringers, to whom they send correspondence threatening a lawsuit, unless they pay up of course.

On first view, a case in Australia seems to follow a similar pattern but the details reveal a more interesting set of circumstances.

In an application filed at the Federal Court in Australia, Siemens Industry Software Inc asked the Court to compel local ISP Telstra to reveal the identities and personal details of “20 potential infringing users” who used “cracked” versions of its software.

However, instead of tracking these alleged pirates in BitTorrent swarms, Siemens obtained evidence of their infringement directly from their computers.

Expensive Software With the Ability to “Phone Home”

The software in question, NX and Solid Edge, are extremely expensive CAD packages that come in individually licensed modules carrying price tags of up to AUS$60,000 (US$41,200) each, with bundles topping out at more than AUS$337,000 (US$231,000) according to Siemens’ application. What’s special in this case is that both pieces of software are able to “phone home”, providing the developer with evidence of infringement.

“In order to prevent and detect copyright infringement Siemens has developed and uses an ‘automatic reporting function’ or ARF, which it has embedded in each of the asserted software products. It cannot be removed or ‘switched off’ from the asserted software,” wrote Justice Burley in his order handed down last Friday.

The ARF is able to identify the specific computer on which unlicensed copies of software are used, information that is then transmitted back to Siemens when the computer running the software is connected to the Internet.

Siemens is on the lookout for “cracked” versions with their protection removed, examples of which can be found on The Pirate Bay, among other sites.

Siemens Solid Edge

“The primary method of copyright infringement about which Siemens is concerned is where the alleged infringer uses versions of the asserted software that have been ‘cracked’ or tampered with by a person or (more likely) a company who is licensed to use some, but not all of the asserted software. The cracking allows the infringer to have full access to all of the modules of the asserted software without having paid to licence them,” Justice Burley added.

How the ARF works was detailed to the Court in a confidential affidavit but there are claims that it is sometimes able to identify the person who cracked the software, the email address of the entity using the software, plus an IP address, in this case those allocated to Telstra customers.

“Material Reproduction” of the Software in Breach of Copyright

Considering that the ARF is part of the software in question and was able to communicate back to Siemens, the Court was convinced that a “material reproduction” of the software had probably taken place without a license, in breach of copyright. As a result, Telstra is now required to hand over the details of the subscribers associated with the IP addresses identified by Siemens.

In his order, Justice Burley seeks to ensure that any information obtained by Siemens is used appropriately, referencing the ultimately-failed Dallas Buyers Club case of 2015. Interestingly and perhaps of comfort to those who may have downloaded Siemens’ software purely for home use, the company has assured the Court that it will not pursue people who have not used the software commercially.

TorrentFreak was able to obtain ‘NFO’ text files that were released by cracking/piracy groups associated with the Siemens products in the case detailed above. While they contain detailed instructions on how to get the software running without paying, they appear to be oblivious to the existence of the ARF.

The Federal Court Order, which includes the IP addresses targeted by Siemens and a copy of the letter it intends to send alleged infringers, can be obtained here (pdf)

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