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Kodi-Addon Developer Launches Fundraiser to Fight “Copyright Bullies”


Earlier this year, American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network targeted two well-known players in the third-party Kodi add-on ecosystem.

In a complaint filed in a federal court in Texas, add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were accused of copyright infringement. As a result, both are facing up to $150,000 for each offense.

While the case was filed in Texas, neither of the defendants live there, or even in the United States. The owner and operator of TVAddons is Adam Lackman, who resides in Montreal, Canada. ZemTV’s developer Shahjahan Durrani is even further away in London, UK.

Over the past few months, Lackman has spoken out in public on several occasions, but little was known about the man behind ZemTV. Today, however, he also decided to open up, asking for support in his legal battle against the Dish Network.

Shahjahan Durrani, Shani for short, doesn’t hide the fact that he was the driving force behind the Kodi-addons ZemTV, LiveStreamsPro, and F4MProxy. While the developer has never set foot in Texas, he is willing to defend himself. Problem is, he lacks the funds to do so.

“I’ve never been to Texas in my life, I’m from London, England,” Shani explains. “Somehow a normal chap like me is expected to defend himself against a billion dollar media giant. I don’t have the money to fight this on my own, and hope my friends will help support my fight against the expansion of copyright liability.”

Shani’s fundraiser went live a few hours ago and the first donations are now starting to come in. He has set a target of $8,500 set for his defense fund so there is still a long way to go.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Shani explains that he got into Kodi addon development to broaden his coding skills and learn Python. ZemTV was a tool to watch recorded shows from zemtv.com, which he always assumed were perfectly legal, on his Apple TV. Then, he decided to help others to do the same.

“The reason why I published the addon was that I saw it as a community helping each other out, and this was my way to give back. I never received any money from anybody and I wanted to keep it pure and free,” Shani tells us.

ZemTV was a passive service, simply scraping content from a third party source, he explains. The addon provided an interface but did not host or control any allegedly infringing content directly.

“I had no involvement nor control over any of the websites or content sources that were allegedly accessible through ZemTV. I did not host nor take part in the sharing of any form of streaming media. As an open source developer, I should not be held liable for the potential abuse of my code,” the developer stresses.

Dish Network sees things differently, of course. In its complaint, the company accused Shani of illegally retransmitting their copyright protected channels while asking for donations to maintain the project.

The case is perhaps not as straightforward as either side presents it. However, it is in the best interests of the general public that both sides are properly heard. This is the first case against a Kodi-addon developer and the outcome will set an important precedent.

“This lawsuit is part of a targeted effort to destroy the Kodi addon community. The fight is rigged against the little guy, they are trying to make something illegal that shouldn’t be illegal. They tried to do it with the VCR, and now years and years later they are trying to do it with Kodi.

“Since I am the only addon developer to date who is actually fighting the wrath of big media bullies, it is crucial that I win my case,” Shani adds.

Going forward, the ZemTV developer believes that copyright holders are better off going after the content providers directly. If the sources are down, any problematic addons will also stop working. Rightholders can even work with addon developers and use addons to find infringing content providers.

“I think the copyright holders should target the sources, it’s as simple as that,” Shani tells us.

The fundraiser campaign is now public on Generosity.com. At the time of writing the ticker sits at $50, so there is still a long way to go before the developer can organize a proper defense.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons





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Kodi Addon Dev Says “Show of Force” Will Be Met With Defiance


For many years, the members of the MPAA have flexed their muscles all around the globe, working to prevent people from engaging in online piracy. If the last 17 years ‘progress’ is anything to go by, it’s a war that will go on indefinitely.

With Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner on board, the MPAA has historically relied on sheer power to intimidate opponents. That has certainly worked in many large piracy cases but for many peripheral smaller-scale pirates, their presence is largely ignored.

This week, however, several players in the Kodi scene discovered that these giants – and more besides – have the ability to literally turn up at their front door. As reported Thursday, UK-based Kodi addon developer The_Alpha received a hand-delivered cease-and-desist letter from all of the above, accompanied by new faces Netflix, Amazon and Sky TV.

These companies are part of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a massive and recently-formed anti-piracy coalition comprised of 30 global entertainment brands. TorrentFreak reached out to The_Alpha for his thoughts on coming under such a dazzling spotlight but perhaps understandably he didn’t want to comment.

The leader of the Ares Project was willing to go on the record, however, after he too received a hand-delivered threat during the week. His decision was to immediately comply and shutdown but TF is informed that others might not be so willing to follow suit.

A Kodi addon developer living in the UK who spoke to us on condition of anonymity told us that most people operating in the scene expected some kind of trouble – just not on this scale.

“Did you see the [company logos] across the top of Alpha’s letter? That’s some serious shit right there. The film companies are no surprise but Amazon delivers my groceries so I don’t expect this shit from them,” he said.

When the ACE partnership was formed earlier this year, it seemed pretty clear that the main drive was towards the pooling of anti-piracy resources to be more effective and efficient. However, it can’t have escaped ACE that such a broad and powerful alliance could also have a profound psychological effect on its adversaries.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re turning up mob-handed to put the shits up people like Alpha and the rest of us,” the developer said. “It’s hardly a fair dust-up is it? What have we got to fight back with, a giro [state benefits]? It’s a show of force, ‘look how important we are’!”

Interestingly, however, the dev told us that it isn’t necessarily the size of the coalition that has him most concerned. What caught his eye was the inclusion of two influential UK-based companies in the alliance.

“Having Sly [a local derogatory nickname for Sky TV] and the Premier League on the letter makes it much more serious to me than seeing Warner or whatever,” he commented.

“I don’t get involved in footie but Sly is everywhere round here and I think it’s something the Brit dev scene might take notice of, even if most say ‘fuck it’ and carry on anyway.”

When questioned whether that’s likely, our source said that while ACE might be able to tackle some of the bigger targets like Ares Project or Colossus, they fundamentally misunderstand how the Kodi scene works.

“If you want a good example of a scattered pirate scene, I give you Kodi. They can bomb the base or whatever but nobody lives there,” he explained.

“There’s some older blokes like me who can do without the stress but a lot of younger coders, builders and YouTubers who thrive on it. They’re used to running around council estates with real-life problems. A faffy letter from some toff in a suit means literally nothing. Like I said, all they have to lose is a giro.”

Whether this is just bravado will remain to be seen, but our earlier discussions with others in the scene indicate a particular weakness in the UK, with many players vulnerable to being found after failing to hide their identities in the past. To a point, our source agrees that this is a problem.

“People are saying that Alpha was found after trying to raise some charity money related to his disabled son but I don’t know for sure and nor does anybody else. What strikes me is that none of us really thought things would get this on top here because all you ever hear about is America this, Canada that, whatever. Does this means that more of us are getting done in England? You tell me,” he said.

Only time will tell but stamping out the pirate Kodi scene is going to be hard work.

Within hours of several projects disappearing Wednesday and Thursday, YouTube and myriad blogs were being flooded with guides detailing immediate replacements. This ad-hoc network of enthusiasts makes the exchange of information happen at an alarming rate and it’s hard to see how any company – no matter how powerful – will ever be able to keep up.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons





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Original Torrentz Domain Names Listed For Sale


Last year, the torrent ecosystem lost two of its biggest sites. First KickassTorrents was taken down following a criminal investigation by the FBI, resulting in indictments against the operators.

A few days later, Torrentz.eu decided to close its doors as well, albeit voluntarily. Without prior warning, all torrent listings were removed from the meta-search engine, which was the third largest torrent site at the time.

The site’s operator kept the website online, but instead of offering links to the usual torrents, its users were left with the following message: “Torrentz will always love you. Farewell.”

Today, more than a year later, not much has changed. Torrentz is still online but the torrent search engine is still not functional. This role was taken over by an unrelated site carrying the name Torrentz2, which has millions of daily visitors itself now.

However, according to a message posted on the original Torrentz site, things may change in the near future. The original Torrentz domain names, including Torrentz.eu, Torrentz.com and Torrentz.in, are for listed sale.

Torrentz for sale

Considering the history of the site and the fact that it still has quite a bit of traffic, this may pique the interest of some online entrepreneurs.

For sentimental Torrentz fans, a sale can go both ways. It could either be used for a new torrent related venture, or someone could scoop it up just to fill it with ads, or even worse.

One thing potential buyers have to be aware of is that the site is still blocked in several countries, including the UK. This, despite the fact that it hasn’t carried any links to infringing content for over a year.

TorrentFreak reached out to the owner of Torrentz to find out why he decided to sell the site now. At the time of writing we haven’t heard back yet, but it’s clear that he’s ready to move on.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons





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“The Commercial Usenet Stinks on All Sides,” Anti-Piracy Boss Says


Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has targeted pirates of all shapes and sizes over the past several years.

It’s also one of the few groups keeping a close eye on Usenet piracy. Although Usenet and associated piracy are a few decades old already and relatively old-fashioned, the area still has millions of frequent users. This hasn’t escaped the attention of law enforcement.

Last week police in Germany launched one of the largest anti-piracy operations in recent history. Houses of dozens of suspects connected to Usenet forums were searched, with at least 1,000 gigabytes of data and numerous computers seized for evidence.

In their efforts, German authorities received help from international colleagues in the Netherlands, Spain, San Marino, Switzerland and Canada. Rightfully so, according to BREIN boss Tim Kuik, who describes Usenet as a refuge for pirates.

“Usenet was originally for text only. People were able to ask questions and exchange information via newsgroups. After it became possible to store video and music as Usenet text messages, it became a refuge for illegal copies of everything. That’s where the revenue model is based on today,” Kuik says.

BREIN states that uploaders, Usenet forums, and Usenet resellers all work in tandem. Resellers provide free accounts to popular uploaders, for example, which generates more traffic and demand for subscriptions. That’s how resellers and providers earn their money.

The same resellers also advertise on popular Usenet forums where links to pirated files are shared, suggesting that they specifically target these users. For example, one of the resellers targeted by BREIN in the past, was sponsoring one of the sites that were raided last week, BREIN notes.

Last year BREIN signed settlements with several Usenet uploaders. This was in part facilitated by a court order, directing Usenet provider Eweka to identify a former subscriber who supposedly shared infringing material.

Following this verdict, several Dutch Usenet servers were taken over by a San Marino company. But, according to BREIN this company can also be ordered to share customer information if needed.

“It is not unthinkable that this construction has been called into existence by Usenet companies who find themselves in hot water,” Kuik says.

According to BREIN it’s clear. Large parts of Usenet have turned into a playground for pirates and people who profit from copyright infringement. This all happens while the legitimate rightsholders don’t see a penny.

“For a long time, there’s been a certain smell to the commercial Usenet,” Kuik says. “It’s stinking on all sides.”

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons





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Pirate Site Owner Found Guilty, But He Can Keep The Profits


Traditionally, Sweden has been rather tough on people who operate file-sharing sites, with The Pirate Bay case as the prime example.

In 2009, four people connected to the torrent site were found guilty of assisting copyright infringement. They all received stiff prison sentences and millions of dollars in fines.

The guilty sentence was upheld in an appeal. While the prison terms of Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström were reduced to eight, ten and four months respectively, the fines swelled to $6.5 million.

This week another torrent related filesharing case concluded in Sweden, but with an entirely different outcome. IDG reports that the 47-year-old operator of Filmfix was sentenced to 120 hours of community service.

Filmfix.se offered community-curated links to a wide variety of pirated content hosted by external sources, including torrent sites. The operator charged users 10 Swedish Krona per month to access the service, which is little over a dollar at the current exchange rate.

With thousands of users, Filmfix provided a decent income. The site was active for more than six years and between April 2012 and October 2013 alone it generated over $88,000 in revenue. Interestingly, the court decided that the operator can keep this money.

Filmfix

While the District Court convicted the man for facilitating copyright infringement, there was no direct link between the subscription payments and pirated downloads. The paying members also had access to other unrelated features, such as the forums and chat.

Henrik Pontén, head of the local Rights Alliance, which reported the site to the police, stated that copyright holders have not demanded any damages. They may, however, launch a separate civil lawsuit in the future.

The man’s partner, who was suspected of helping out and owned the company where Filmfix’s money went to, was acquitted entirely by the District Court.

The 120-hours of community service stands in stark contrast to the prison sentences and millions of dollars in fines in The Pirate Bay case, despite there being quite a few similarities. Both relied on content uploaded by third parties and didn’t host any infringing files directly.

The lower sentence may in part be due to a fresh Supreme Court ruling in Sweden. In the case against an operator of the now-defunct private torrent tracker Swepirate, the Court recently ruled that prison sentences should not automatically be presumed in file-sharing cases.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons





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Ares Kodi Project Calls it Quits After Hollywood Cease & Desist


This week has been particularly bad for those involved in the Kodi addon scene. Following cease-and-desist notices from the MPA-led anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, several addon developers and repositories shut down.

With Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner, Netflix, Amazon and Sky TV all lined up for war, the third-party developers had little choice but to quit. One of those affected was the leader of the hugely popular Ares Project, which quietly disappeared mid-week.

The Ares Wizard was an extremely popular and important piece of software which allowed people to switch Kodi builds, install third-party addons, install popular repositories, change system settings, and carry out backups. It’s installed on huge numbers of machines worldwide but it will soon fall into disrepair.

The mighty Ares Wizard in action

“[This week] I was subject to a hand-delivered notice to cease-and-desist from MPA & ACE,” Ares Project leader Tekto informs TorrentFreak.

“Given the notice, we obviously shut down the repo and wizard as requested.”

The news that Ares Project is done and never coming back will be a huge blow to the community. The project just celebrated its second birthday and has grown exponentially since it first arrived on the scene.

“Ares Project started in Oct 2015. Originally it was to be a tool to setup up the video cache on Kodi correctly. However, many ideas were thrown into the pot and it became a wee bit more; such as a wizard to install community provided builds, common addons and few other tweaks and options,” Tekto says.

“For my own part I started blogging earlier that year as part of a longer-term goal to be self-funding. I always disliked seeing begging bowls out to support ‘server’ costs, many of which were cheap £5-10 per month servers that were used to gain £100s in donations.

“The blog, via affiliate links and ads, could and would provide the funds to cover our hosting costs without resorting to begging for money every weekend.”

Intrigued by this first wave of actions by ACE in Europe, TorrentFreak asked for a copy of the MPA/ACE cease-and-desist notice but unfortunately, Tekto flat-out refused. All he would tell us is that he’d agreed not to give out any copies or screenshots and that he was adhering to that 100%.

That only leaves speculation as to what grounds the MPA/ACE cited for closing the project but to be fair, it doesn’t take much thought to find a direct comparison. Earlier this year, in the BREIN v Filmspeler case, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes amounted to illegally communicating copyrighted content to the public.

With that in mind, it doesn’t take much of a leap to see how this ruling could also apply to someone distributing “fully-loaded” Kodi software builds or addons via a website. It had previously been considered a legal gray area, of course, and it was in that space that the Ares team believed it operated. After all, it took ECJ clarification for local courts in the Netherlands to be satisfied with the legal position.

“There was never any question that what we were doing was illegal. We didn’t and never have hosted any content, we always prevented discussions about illegal paid services, and never sold any devices, pre-loaded or otherwise. That used to be enough to occupy the ‘gray’ area which meant we were safe to develop our applications. That changed in 2017 as we were to discover,” Tekto notes.

Up until this week and apparently oblivious to how the earlier ECJ ruling might affect their operation, things had been going extremely well for Ares. In mid-2016, the group moved to its own support forum that attracted 100,000 signed-up members and 300,000 visitors every month.

“This was quite an achievement in terms of viral marketing but ultimately this would become part of our downfall,” Tekto says.

“The recent innovation of the ‘basket driven’ Ares Portal system seems to have triggered the legal move to shut the project down completely. This simple system gave access to hundreds of add-ons. The system removed the need for builds, blogs and YouTubers – you just shopped on the site for addons and then installed them to your device with a simple 6 digit code.”

While Ares and Tekto still didn’t believe they were doing anything illegal (addons were linked, not hosted) it is now pretty clear to them that the previous gray area has been well and truly closed, at least as far as the MPA/ACE alliance is concerned. And with that in mind, the show is over. Done. Finished.

“We are not criminals or malicious hackers, we weren’t even careful about hiding our identities. You couldn’t meet a more ordinary bunch of folks in truth,” he says.

“There was never any question we would close our doors if what we were doing crossed any boundaries of legality. So with the notice served on us, we are closing our doors and removing all our websites and applications. It’s a sad day in many ways, but nobody wants to be facing court or a potential custodial sentence, for what is essentially a hobby.”

Finally, Tekto says that others like him might want to consider their positions carefully, before they too get a knock at the door. In the meantime, he gives thanks to the project’s supporters, who have remained loyal over the past two years.

“It just leaves me to thank our users for their support and step away from the Kodi scene,” he concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons





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Center For Justice Wants Court to Unveil Copyright Trolling Secrets


Mass-piracy lawsuits have been plaguing the U.S. for years, targeting hundreds of thousands of alleged downloaders.

While the numbers are massive, there are only a few so-called “copyright trolling” operations running the show.

These are copyright holders, working together with lawyers and piracy tracking firms, trying to extract cash settlements from alleged subscribers.

Getting a settlement is also what the makers of the “Elf-Man” movie tried when they targeted Ryan Lamberson of Spokane Valley, Washington. Unlike most defendants, however, Lamberson put up a fight, questioning the validity of the evidence. After the filmmaker pulled out, the accused pirate ended up winning $100,000 in attorney fees.

All this happened three years ago but it appears that there might be more trouble in store for Elf-Man and related companies.

The Washington non-profit organization Center for Justice (CFJ) recently filed a motion to intervene in the case. The group, which aims to protect “the wider community from abuse by the moneyed few,” has asked the court to unseal several documents that could reveal more about how these copyright trolls operate.

The non-profit asks the court to open up several filings to the public that may reveal how film companies, investigators, and lawyers coordinated an illegal settlement factory.

“The CFJ’s position is simple: if foreign data collectors and local lawyers are feeding on the subpoena power of federal courts to extract settlements from innocent people, then the public deserves to know.

“What makes this case so important is that, based on the unsealed exhibits and declarations, it appears that a German operation is providing the ‘investigators’ and ‘experts’ that claim to identify infringing activities, but its investigators apparently have a direct financial interest and the ‘software’ is questionable at best,” CFJ adds.

Another problem mentioned by the non-profit organization is that not all defense lawyers are familiar with these ‘trolling’ cases. They sometimes need dozens of hours to research them, which costs the defendant more than the cash settlement deal offered by the copyright holder.

As a result, paying off the trolls may seem like the most logical and safe option to the accused, even when they are innocent.

CFJ hopes that the sealed documents will help to expose the copyright trolls’ “mushrooming” enterprise, not just in this particular case, but also in many similar cases where people are pressured into settling.

“The entire lawsuit may have been a sham. Which is where CFJ comes in. Money and information remain the most significant hurdles for those being named as defendants in lawsuits like this one who receive threatening settlement letters like the one Mr. Lamberson received.

“CFJ’s goal is to level the playing field and reduce the plaintiffs’ informational advantage. The common-law right of access to judicial records is especially important where, as here, the copyright ‘trolling’ risks infecting the judicial system,” the non-profit adds.

The recent filings were spotted by SJD from Fight Copyright Trolls, who rightfully notes that we still have to see whether the documents will be made public, or not. If they are indeed unsealed, it may trigger a response from other accused pirates, perhaps even a class action suit.

—–

Center For Justice’s full motion to intervene is available here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons





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Cracking Group 3DM Loses Piracy Case Against Game Maker


While most cracking groups operate under a veil of secrecy, China-based 3DM is not shy to come out in public.

The group’s leader, known as Bird Sister, has commented on various gaming and piracy related issues in the past.

She also spoke out when her own group was sued by the Japanese game manufacturer Koei Tecmo last year. The company accused 3DM of pirating several of its titles, including Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

However, Bird Sister instead wondered why the company should be able to profit from a work inspired by a 3rd-century novel from China.

“…why does a Japanese company, Koei have the copyright of this game when the game is obviously a derivation from the book “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” written by Chen Shou. I think Chinese gaming companies should try taking back the copyright,” she said.

Bird Sister

birdsister

The novel in question has long since been in the public domain so there’s nothing stopping Koei Tecmo from using it, as Kotaku points out. The game, however, is a copyrighted work and 3DM’s actions were seen as clear copyright infringement by a Chinese court.

In a press release, Koei Tecmo announces that it has won its lawsuit against the cracking group.

The court ordered 3DM to stop distributing the infringing games and awarded a total of 1.62 million Yuan ($245,000) in piracy damages and legal fees.

While computer games are cracked and pirated on a daily basis, those responsible for it are rarely held accountable. This makes the case against 3DM rather unique. And it may not be the last if it’s up to the game manufacturer.

“We will continue to respond rigorously to infringements of our copyrights and trademark rights, both in domestic and overseas markets, while also developing satisfying games that many users can enjoy,” said the company, commenting on the ruling.

While the lawsuit may help to steer the cracking group away from pirating Koei Tecmo games, it can’t undo any earlier releases. Court order or not, past 3DM releases, including Romance of the Three Kingdoms titles, are still widely available through third-party sites.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons





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Kodi v17.6 final: The very last


We are happy and sad at same time to announce that this will be the last v17.6 release. When we say very last this of course only means for the v17 “Krypton” series as we are steadily heading towards the new v18 series called “Leia”. For about a year already our developers have been working on the upcoming v18 release and have been backporting all fixes we deemed safe enough to v17 series. However with all good things there has to come a time to say enough is enough and that moment has come. From our point of view “Krypton” has been a great release and our group has spend a lot of time improving it since it’s initial release on 5 February 2017. It has also been one of the series where we did things a bit different with continues nightly versions for testing and quite a lot point releases with only minor fixes just because we could.

We are certainly excited about our upcoming v18 on which we will start reporting at regular basis quite soon but until that time here’s the v17.6 “Krypton” version for daily use. We recommend every one to upgrade to this version once it’s available for their platform to have the best experience possible. If you want to know what has changed you can browse the list below.

Fixes done in this release:

  • Fix possible crash in crontroller dialog
  • Update standard scrapers to lastest version available on release
  • Fix possible connection issues with internal webserver
  • Fix crash when peripheral joystick add-on is disabled

What else is new?

In the bugfix releases we never include any new features. They are as feature complete as the initial version with the difference is they contain stability and usability fixes. If you are curious you can read up on all the v17 changes here: Kodi v17.0 “Krypton”

Where can I download Kodi?

As alway you can find the official builds on our download page. Then click on the platform of choice and select the build you need. You can install these build just on top of your current Kodi installation without doing a reinstall or cleanup as we do a full migration if needed. All you add-ons or installed skin will keep working.

For Android devices not connected to Play Store you can install the following add-on from our repo (listed under programs) which will make the upgrading easier stright from the Kodi interface: Kodi Android Installer

Apparel, donations or getting involved

Getting involved is quite easy. We encourage you to report problems with these builds on our forum first and after that, if asked, submit bugs on Trac (following this guide: How to submit a bug report). Do note that we need detailed information so we can investigate the issue. We also appreciate providing support in our Forums where you can. You can of course also follow or help promote Kodi on all available social networks. Read more on the get involved page. We are always happy to receive a donation by which you show your support and appreciation, and t-shirts and Raspberry Pi cases may still be found on the sidebar for purchase. All donations and other income goes towards the XBMC foundation and are typically used for travel to attend conferences, any necessary paperwork and legal fees, purchasing necessary hardware and licenses for developers and hopefully the yearly XBMC Foundation Developers Conference.





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Judge Puts Brakes on Piracy Cases, Doubts Evidence Against Deceased Man


In recent years, file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.

These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in the United States for more than half a decade, and still are.

While copyright holders should be able to take legitimate piracy claims to court, there are some who resort to dodgy tactics to extract money from alleged pirates. The evidence isn’t exactly rock-solid either, which results in plenty of innocent targets.

A prime candidate for the latter category is a man who was sued by Venice PI, a copyright holder of the film “Once Upon a Time in Venice.” He was sued not once, but twice. That’s not the problem though. What stood out is that defendant is no longer alive.

The man’s wife informed a federal court in Seattle that he passed away recently, at the respectable age of 91. While age doesn’t prove innocence, the widow also mentioned that her husband suffered from dementia and was both mentally and physically incapable of operating a computer at the time of the alleged offense.

These circumstances raised doubt with US District Court Judge Thomas Zilly, who brought them up in a recent order (citations omitted).

“In two different cases, plaintiff sued the same, now deceased, defendant, namely Wilbur Miller. Mr. Miller’s widow submitted a declaration indicating that, for about five years prior to his death at the age of 91, Mr. Miller suffered from dementia and was both mentally and physically incapable of operating a computer,” the Judge writes.

The Judge notes that the IP-address tracking tools used by the copyright holder might not be as accurate as is required. In addition, he adds that the company can’t simply launch a “fishing expedition” based on the IP-address alone.

“The fact that Mr. Miller’s Internet Protocol (‘IP’) address was nevertheless identified as part of two different BitTorrent ‘swarms’ raises significant doubts about the accuracy of whatever IP-address tracking method plaintiff is using.

“Moreover, plaintiff may not, based solely on IP addresses, launch a fishing expedition aimed at coercing individuals into either admitting to copyright infringement or pointing a finger at family members, friends, tenants, or neighbors. Plaintiff must demonstrate the plausibility of their claims before discovery will be permitted,” Judge Zilly adds.

From the order

Since the copyright holder has only provided an IP-address as evidence, the plausibility of the copyright infringement claims is not properly demonstrated. This means that the holder was not allowed to conduct discovery, which includes discussions with defendants.

The court, therefore, ordered Venice PI to cease all communication with defendants effective immediately, until further notice. This order applies to a dozen cases which are now effectively on hold.

The copyright holder has been given 28 days to provide more information on several issues related to the evidence gathering. This offer of proof should be supported by a declaration of an expert in the field.

The Judge wants to know if an IP-address can be spoofed or faked by a BitTorrent tracker, and if so, how likely this is. In addition, he questions if the material that was tracked (possible only part of a download) is actually playable. And finally, the Judge asks what other evidence Venice PI has against each defendant, aside from the IP-address.

“In the absence of a timely filed offer of proof, plaintiff’s claims will be dismissed with prejudice and without costs, and these cases will be closed,” Judge Zilly warns.

The harsh order was noticed by copyright troll skeptic FCT, who notes that Venice PI will have a hard time providing the requested proof.

Venice and other “copyright trolls” use the German company Maverickeye to track BitTorrent pirates on a broad scale. They are also active with their settlement demands in various other countries, most recently in Sweden.

If the provided proof is not sufficient in the court’s opinion, it will be hard for them and other rightsholders to continue their practices in the Washington district.

The full order is available here (pdf).

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