BREIN Goes After Developers of ‘Pirate’ Kodi Builds


A surge of cheap media players, which often use the open source Kodi software, has made it easy for people to stream video from the Internet directly to their TVs.

The media players themselves are perfectly legal, and the Kodi software is too, but when these are loaded with pirate add-ons, legal issues arise.

Earlier this year the European Court of Justice ruled that selling or using devices pre-configured to obtain copyright-infringing content is illegal. With this decision in hand, anti-piracy group BREIN has pressured dozens of vendors to halt their sales, but the action hasn’t stopped there.

Aside from going after sellers, BREIN is also targeting people who make “pirate” Kodi builds, which are prepackaged bundles of add-ons.

“We are also going after people who are involved in illegal builds, those with add-ons for unauthorized content,” BREIN director Tim Kuik confirmed to TorrentFreak without highlighting any specific targets.

Thus far, the group has focused on three ‘pirate’ builds and settled with ten people connected to them.

BREIN settlements generally include an agreement not to offer any infringing material in the future. This is also the case here. The developers face a penalty of 500 euros per infringing link per day.

Aside from the Filmspeler (Film Player) judgment of the EU Court of Justice, BREIN’s actions also use the Geenstijl ruling as a basis. This confirmed that merely linking to copyrighted works without permission can be seen as infringement, especially when it’s done with a profit motive.

In addition to targeting developers, BREIN previously announced that it had successfully halted the infringing activities of 200 sellers of ‘pirate’ media players.

Despite BREIN’s efforts, there are still plenty of infringing players, builds, and add-ons circulating in the wild, even on eBay. However, with pressure from various sides, it has become increasingly risky for the people involved, which is a dramatic change compared to a year ago.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.





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Kodi v17.4 final: Just a bunch of fixes


It has been a while since we released 17.3 release which fixed several issues. Now the time has come to do another named 17.4 where we tackled several more issues that were identified. Although we already moved on with development towards v18 we do take the time to fix issues for the current release when we can. 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:

  • Potentially fix crashing on Windows due to an issue in Python
  • Potentially fix crashing on Windows when enabling zeroconf
  • Fix sporadic crash on Windows when installing or updating add-ons 
  • Fix issue for users with reverse proxies attempting to forward websockets.
  • Fix possible issue if Linux distro uses system ffmpeg and cause black screen with 10-bit H.265
  • Properly throttle scraping music information online to prevent overloading the provider
  • Fix native keyboard on iOS 11
  • Fix potential crash on Android O loading App icons
  • Fix non showing Kodi banner on Android O
  • Fix potential crash on Android with certain keymaps
  • Fix wrong detection of VP6 and VP8 videocodec on Android
  • Update FFmpeg to 3.1.9
  • Set hard requirement to use FFmpeg 3.1.x only
  • Fix for Hangup when viewing recording and pressing next/previous
  • Fix merged scraped album type and label correctly with that derived from tags from music files
  • Fix possible crash on Linux when using ALSA
  • Save skin settings immediatly after they have changed instead of only on shutdown

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.

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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MPAA Wins Movie Piracy Case in China After Failed Anti-Piracy Deal


As one of China’s top 10 Internet companies, Xunlei is a massive operation with hundreds of millions of monthly users.

Among other file-sharing ventures, Xunlei operates ‘Thunder’, the world’s most popular torrent client. This and other almost inevitable copyright-related issues put the company on the radar of the MPAA.

With Xunlei pursuing an IPO in the United States in 2014, relationships with the MPAA began to thaw, resulting in the breakthrough signing of a Content Protection Agreement (CPA) requiring Xunlei to protect MPAA studio content including movies and TV shows.

But in October 2014, with things clearly not going to plan, the MPAA reported Xunlei to the U.S. government, complaining of rampant piracy on the service. In January 2015, the MPAA stepped up a gear and sued Xunlei for copyright infringement.

“For too long we have witnessed valuable creative content being taken and monetized without the permission of the copyright owner. That has to stop and stop now,” said MPAA Asia-Pacific chief Mike Ellis.

Now, more than two-and-a-half years later, the case has come to a close. Yesterday, the Shenzhen Nanshan District People’s Court found Xunlei Networking Technologies Co. guilty of copyright infringement.

The Court found that Xunlei made 28 movie titles (belonging to companies including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Disney and Warner Bros.) available to the public via its platforms without proper authorization, “in serious violation” of the movie group’s rights.

Xunlei was ordered to cease-and-desist and told to pay compensation of 1.4 million yuan ($210,368) plus the MPA’s litigation costs of $24,400. In its original complaint, the MPA demanded a public apology from Xunlei but it’s unclear whether that forms part of the ruling. The outcome was welcomed by the MPA.

“We are heartened that the court in Shenzhen has found in favor of strong copyright,” said MPAA Asia-Pacific chief Mike Ellis.

“The legitimate Chinese film and television industry has worked hard to provide audiences with a wide range of legal options for their audio-visual entertainment — a marketplace that has flourished because of the rights afforded to copyright owners under the law.”

How the MPAA and Xunlei move ahead from here is unclear. This case has taken more than two-and-a-half years to come to a conclusion so further litigation seems somewhat unlikely, if not unwieldy. Then there’s the question of the anti-piracy agreement signed in 2014 and whether that is still on the table.

As previously revealed, the agreement not only compelled Xunlei to use pre-emptive content filtering technology but also required the platform to terminate the accounts of people who attempt to infringe copyright in any way.

“[The] filter will identify each and every instance of a user attempting to infringe a studio work, by uploading or downloading,” an internal MPAA document revealed.

All that being said, the document also contained advice for the MPAA not to sue Xunlei, so at this point anything could happen.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.





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Court Cracks Down on ‘Future’ Pirate Mayweather-McGregor Streams


This weekend, the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. will go head-to-head with UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The fight is not just about prestige, but also about money. Some predict that the unusual matchup could pull in a staggering one billion dollars.

A significant portion of this will go to each of the fighters, but rightsholders such as Showtime benefit as well.

People who want to stream the event live over the Internet will have to cough up between $89.95 and $99.99. This will generate millions of dollars in revenue but the numbers would be even higher if it wasn’t so easy to stream the fight through pirate sites.

This is why Showtime took some of the most brazen pirate sites to court last week, demanding an injunction to stop the pirated streams before they even start. In its complaint, the cable TV provider listed 44 domain names which advertise the fight, urging the court to shut them down pre-emptively.

A few of the 44 targeted (sub)domains.

After reviewing the application, United States District Judge André Birotte Jr. approved the preliminary injunction, which forbids the site’s operators from offering infringing streams. The injunction stays in place until August 28, two days after the event.

While the order is a clear win for Showtime, it’s unclear how effective it will be. The sites in question are all believed to be connected to LiveStreamHDQ and its alleged operator “Kopa Mayweather,” who Showtime have battled before.

At the time of writing, the sites are all still online, although the language appears to have changed. Many now have articles explaining how the fight can be watched legally. Whether it remains that way has to be seen.

Updated ‘pirate’ site

Interestingly, the injunction doesn’t mention any domain name registrars or registries. When Showtime applied for similar measures in the past, the company specifically asked to take control of domain names, so these couldn’t be used for any infringing activity.

That said, the current order applies to the defendants and any others who are “in active concert or participation” with them, so this might be enough for domain registrars and other parties to take appropriate action.

Showtime also has the possibility to request updates to the injunction, if needed, but with only a few days to go this has to happen swiftly.

As mentioned earlier, this is not the first time that Showtime has gone after alleged pirates before they get a chance to commit an offense. The company launched similar cases for the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and Mayweather vs. Berto matchups in 2015.

While these efforts were successful in taking a few pirate sites down, there were plenty of unauthorized streams available when the events started. This time it’s not likely to be any different. With hundreds of live streaming sites and tools out there, piracy will remain undefeated.

A copy of the preliminary injunction is available here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.





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CROWDFUNDING TO HELP EASE THE FINANCIAL BURDEN OF LEE’S FAMILY

Most of you may already know him by his nickname, Wookie-L, part of the Wookie Wizard. Unfortunately Lee has passed away and the grief in the community is huge. But not only the KODI community is grieving (Lee was a part of the Wookie Team) but also his young family. In order to help ease the financial burden that a loss like this leaves behind, the Wookie Team has started a JustGiving page.

For those who would like to contribute to support his wife and son, please follow the link below. Any amount will help: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/wookie-wizard

Personally, I only had the pleasure to chat with him briefly after becoming a parent; we just exchanged some of the amazing feelings the parenthood brings. It’s hard to think that his family will not have him there, with them.

My most sincere condolences to his family,

Dimi

 

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The Windows App Store is Full of Pirate Streaming Apps


Over the past few years it has become much easier to stream movies and TV-shows over the Internet.

Legal streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon are booming. At the same time, however, there’s also a dark market of thousands of pirate streaming tools.

In recent months, Hollywood has directed many its anti-piracy efforts towards unauthorized Kodi-addons and several popular pirate streaming sites, which offer movies and TV-shows without permission. What seems to be largely ignored, however, is a “store” that hundreds of millions of people have access to; the Windows App Store.

When we were browsing through the “top free” apps in the Windows Store, our attention was drawn to several applications that promoted “free movies” including various Hollywood blockbusters such as “Wonder Woman,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and “The Mummy.”

Initially, we assumed that a pirate app may have slipped past Microsoft’s screening process. However, the ‘problem’ doesn’t appear to be isolated. There are dozens of similar apps in the official store that promise potential users free movies, most with rave reviews.

Some of the many pirate apps in the “trusted” store

Most of the applications work on multiple platforms including PC, mobile, and the Xbox. They are pretty easy to use and rely on the familiar grid-based streaming interface most sites and services use. Pick a movie or TV-show, click the play button, and off you go.

The sheer number of piracy apps in the Windows Store, using names such as “Free Movies HD,” “Free Movies Online 2020,” and “FreeFlix HQ,” came as a surprise to us. In particular, because the developers make no attempt to hide their activities, quite the opposite.

The app descriptions are littered with colorful language offering the latest Hollywood movies, and thousands of others, without charge. In addition, the apps display their capabilities in various screenshots, including those showing movies that are not yet available on legal streaming platforms.

Screenshot provided by the Windows app store

Making matters worse, the applications show advertising as well, including high-quality pre-roll ads. Some of these appear to be facilitated through Microsoft’s own Ad Monetization platform. Other apps offer paid versions or in-app purchases to monetize their service.

After hours of going through the pirate app offerings, it’s clear that Microsoft’s “trusted” Windows Store is ridden with unauthorized content. Thus far we have only mentioned video, but the issue also applies to pirated music in the form of dedicated streaming and download apps.

Earlier this year, Microsoft signed a landmark anti-piracy agreement with several major copyright holders, to address pirate search results in the Bing search engine. The above makes clear that search results in the Microsoft Store store may require some attention too.

TorrentFreak reached out to Microsoft, asking for a comment on our findings, but at the time of publication we haven’t yet heard back.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.





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TVAddons Decimated Without Trial, Here’s a View of the Damage


On June 2, a collection of Canadian telecoms giants including Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, filed a complaint in Federal Court against Montreal resident Adam Lackman, the man behind TVAddons.

They claimed that by developing, hosting, distributing or promoting Kodi add-ons, Lackman infringed their copyrights.

On June 9 the Federal Court handed down an interim injunction against Lackman which restrained him from various activities in respect of TVAddons. The process took place ex parte, meaning in secret, without Lackman being able to mount a defense.

The plaintiffs were also granted an Anton Piller order, a civil search warrant that granted access to Lackman’s premises and allowed him to be interrogated.

As previously reported, the plaintiffs abused the process and only later did a court recognize that the search was designed as both a fishing exercise and a means to take down TVAddons, in advance of any trial on the merits of the case.

In the meantime, with the process grinding through an early appeal, the plaintiffs’ aim of destroying TVAddons has been at least partially achieved. After prolonged downtime, Lackman recently brought the site back under a new URL, TVAddons.co. However, he informs TF that serious damage has been done to a project that previously enjoyed great momentum.

“Google is the most popular site on the internet. If Google was down for a day, you’d check back tomorrow. If it was down for a week, you’d check back a week later. If it was down for a month, maybe you’d try once in a while,” Lackman says.

“However, if Google was down for more than six months, would you return in a year from now? Probably not. And that’s Google, not a small community site like TVAddons.”

Some people are coming back to the site now, but in nowhere near the volumes it previously enjoyed. Here’s a traffic analysis for a typical day at TVAddons.ag before the takedown.

TVAddons.ag daily traffic, before the takedown

And here is how the traffic for TVAddons.co looked a few days ago, a little two weeks after its revival and ten weeks after the initial takedown.

<TVAddons.co traffic, after bringing the site back

Part of the problem is not being able to get in touch with former users. In addition to taking control of TVAddons’ domains, the legal process also deprived the site of its social media accounts.

For example, TVAddons’ original Twitter account is now dormant. It still has 141K followers but with its passwords in the hands of lawyers, Lackman has been forced to open a new account, TVAddonsco. However, he’s only been able to attract just over 8,000 followers.

Facebook tells a similar story. With no access to the old account (which had 174,229 likes), the new account facebook.com/tvaddonsco is stalling at around 1,600. The situations on YouTube and Instagram are just as bleak.

“They’ve completely muzzled us, there was never anything questionable on our social media, seizing it without actually winning a lawsuit against us is nothing less than censorship,” Lackman says.

“Since we never required user registration, we don’t have the ability to reach the majority of our users without having access to our old social media accounts and notification system, which doesn’t work without our domain name being active.”

Also seized were TVaddons’ Feedburner account, which was used to manage the site’s 100,000 RSS feed subscribers.

“It was in the same account as Google+ and YouTube so we lost that too. We could have easily used it to forward our RSS feed and keep all the subscribers otherwise,” Lackman adds.

This has left TVAddons having to do its best to spread the details of its new locations via social media and a contest that has thus far gained more than 87,000 entries and may be helping things along.

While it’s now common knowledge that many TVAddons-related domains and accounts were seized following the search, Lackman now reveals that other non-connected projects were affected too. Included were the social media pages of several unrelated businesses, the domain name of a hosting website that was around seven years old, and an entirely legal “cord-cutting” information resource.

“Since the cord-cutting phenomenon conflicts with their business interests, seizing that specific social media page effectively destroyed their direct competition,” Lackman says.

“The plaintiffs are trying to destroy their competition rather than innovating. TVAddons provided a lot of legitimate competition for them in terms of content for cordcutters, they’re trying to keep a grasp on the market at any cost.

“Their failure at innovating can be immediately demonstrated by the fact that the NFL recently canceled all broadcast contracts with Canadian TV operators, in favor of DAZN, a new legal sports streaming service that charges half the price they did, with way more content than their sports packages ever offered.”

But despite the setbacks, Lackman appears determined to continue not only with the resurrected TVAddons, but also the legal fight against the Canadian broadcasting giants intent on his destruction.

At the time of writing the site’s fundraiser has generated more than $27,000 in 15 days but TF understands that this might only be 5 to 10 percent of the final sum required when all bills are counted. It’s hoped that new methods of donating and assistance from friendly website operators might give the campaign an additional boost but in the meantime, Lackman is expressing gratitude for the efforts so far.

It’s hard to say whether TVAddons will once again reach the heights achieved at its peak but after taking years to build up a following, the odds are certainly stacked against it.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.





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Streaming Service iflix Buys Shows Based on Piracy Data


When major movie and TV companies discuss piracy they often mention the massive losses incurred as a result of unauthorized downloads and streams.

However, this unofficial market also offers a valuable pool of often publicly available data on the media consumption habits of a relatively young generation.

Many believe that piracy is in part a market signal showing copyright holders what consumers want. This makes piracy statistics key business intelligence, which some companies have started to realize.

Netflix, for example, previously said that their offering is partly based on what shows do well on BitTorrent networks and other pirate sites. In addition, the streaming service also uses piracy to figure out how much they can charge in a country. They are not alone.

Other major entertainment companies also keep a close eye on piracy, using this data to their advantage. This includes the Asia-based streaming portal iFlix, which recently secured $133 million in funding and boasts to have over five million users.

Iflix co-founder Patrick Grove says that his company actively uses piracy numbers to determine what content they acquire. The data reveal what is popular locally, and help to give viewers the TV-shows and movies they’re most interested in.

“We looked at piracy data in every market,” Grove informed CNBC’s Managing Asia, which doesn’t stop at looking at a few torrent download numbers.

Representatives from the Asian company actually went out on the streets to buy pirated DVDs from street vendors. In addition, iflix also received help from local Internet providers which shared a variety of streaming data.

TorrentFreak reached out to the streaming service to get more details about their data gathering techniques. One of the main partners to measure online piracy is the German company TECXIPIO, which is known to actively monitor BitTorrent traffic.

The company also maintains a close relationship with Internet providers that offer further insight, including streaming data, to determine which titles work best in each market.

While analyzing the different sets of data, the streaming service was surprised to see the diversity in different regions as well as the ever-changing consumer demand.

“Through looking at the Top 20 pirated DVDs in every market we are live in, we were surprised to find the amount of pirated K-drama content. In Ghana for example, the number one pirated title is K-drama series called ‘Legend of the Blue Sea’,” an iflix spokesperson told us.

Iflix believes that piracy data is superior to other market intelligence. Before rolling out its service in Saudi Arabia the company made a list of the 1,000 most popular shows and used that to its advantage.

While there is a lot of piracy in emerging markets, iflix doesn’t think that people are not willing to pay for entertainment. It just has to be available for a decent price, and that’s where they come in.

“We believe that people in emerging markets do not actively want to steal content, they do so because there is no better alternative,” the company informs us.

“As consumers become more connected, gaining access to information and cultural influences on a global scale, they want to be entertained at a world-class standard. We set out with the aim of offering an alternative that is better than piracy; by providing unlimited access to high-quality, world-class entertainment, all at the price of pirated DVD.”

There is no doubt that iflix is ambitious, and that it’s willing to employ some unusual tactics to grow its userbase. The company is quite optimistic about the future as well, judging from its co-founder’s prediction that it will welcome its billionth viewer in a few years.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.





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Rightscorp Bleeds Another Million, Borrows $200K From Customer BMG


Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp is one of the many companies trying to turn Internet piracy into profit. The company has a somewhat novel approach but has difficulty balancing the books.

Essentially, Rightscorp operates like other so-called copyright-trolling operations, in that it monitors alleged offenders on BitTorrent networks, tracks them to their ISPs, then attempts to extract a cash settlement. Rightscorp does this by sending DMCA notices with settlement agreements attached, in the hope that at-this-point-anonymous Internet users break cover in panic. This can lead to a $20 or $30 ‘fine’ or in some cases dozens of multiples of that.

But despite settling hundreds of thousands of these cases, profit has thus far proven elusive, with the company hemorrhaging millions in losses. The company has just filed its results for the first half of 2017 and they contain more bad news.

In the six months ended June 2017, revenues obtained from copyright settlements reached just $138,514, that’s 35% down on the $214,326 generated in the same period last year. However, the company did manage to book $148,332 in “consulting revenue” in the first half of this year, a business area that generated no revenue in 2016.

Overall then, total revenue for the six month period was $286,846 – up from $214,326 last year. While that’s a better picture in its own right, Rightscorp has a lot of costs attached to its business.

After paying out $69,257 to copyright holders and absorbing $1,190,696 in general and administrative costs, among other things, the company’s total operating expenses topped out at $1,296,127 for the first six months of the year.

To make a long story short, the company made a net loss of $1,068,422, which was more than the $995,265 loss it made last year and despite improved revenues. The company ended June with just $1,725 in cash.

“These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued,” the company’s latest statement reads.

This hanging-by-a-thread narrative has followed Rightscorp for the past few years but there’s information in the latest accounts which indicates how bad things were at the start of the year.

In January 2016, Rightscorp and several copyright holders, including Hollywood studio Warner Bros, agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over intimidating robo-calls that were made to alleged infringers. The defendants agreed to set aside $450,000 to cover the costs, and it appears that Rightscorp was liable for at least $200,000 of that.

Rightscorp hasn’t exactly been flush with cash, so it was interesting to read that its main consumer piracy settlement client, music publisher BMG, actually stepped in to pay off the class-action settlement.

“At December 31, 2016, the Company had accrued $200,000 related to the settlement of a class action complaint. On January 7, 2017, BMG Rights Management (US) LLC (“BMG”) advanced the Company $200,000, which was used to pay off the settlement. The advance from BMG is to be applied to future billings from the Company to BMG for consulting services,” Rightscorp’s filing reads.

With Rightscorp’s future BMG revenue now being gobbled up by what appears to be loan repayments, it becomes difficult to see how the anti-piracy outfit can make enough money to pay off the $200,000 debt. However, its filing notes that on July 21, 2017, the company issued “an aggregate of 10,000,000 shares of common stock to an investor for a purchase price of $200,000.” While that amount matches the BMG debt, the filing doesn’t reveal who the investor is.

The filing also reveals that on July 31, Rightscorp entered into two agreements to provide services “to a holder of multiple copyrights.” The copyright holder isn’t named, but the deal reveals that it’s in Rightscorp’s best interests to get immediate payment from people to whom it sends cash settlement demands.

“[Rightscorp] will receive 50% of all gross proceeds of any settlement revenue received by the Client from pre-lawsuit ‘advisory notices,’ and 37.5% of all gross proceeds received by the Client from ‘final warning’ notices sent immediately prior to a lawsuit,” the filing notes.

Also of interest is that Rightscorp has offered not to work with any of the copyright holders’ direct competitors, providing certain thresholds are met – $10,000 revenue in the first month to $100,000 after 12 months. But there’s more to the deal.

Rightscorp will also provide a number of services to this client including detecting and verifying copyright works on P2P networks, providing information about infringers, plus reporting, litigation support, and copyright protection advisory services.

For this, Rightscorp will earn $10,000 for the first three months, rising to $85,000 per month after 16 months, valuable revenue for a company fighting for its life.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.





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