ESET Tries to Scare People Away From Using Torrents


Any company in the security game can be expected to play up threats among its customer base in order to get sales.

Sellers of CCTV equipment, for example, would have us believe that criminals don’t want to be photographed and will often go elsewhere in the face of that. Car alarm companies warn us that since X thousand cars are stolen every minute, an expensive Immobilizer is an anti-theft must.

Of course, they’re absolutely right to point these things out. People want to know about these offline risks since they affect our quality of life. The same can be said of those that occur in the online world too.

We ARE all at risk of horrible malware that will trash our computers and steal our banking information so we should all be running adequate protection. That being said, how many times do our anti-virus programs actually trap a piece of nasty-ware in a year? Once? Twice? Ten times? Almost never?

The truth is we all need to be informed but it should be done in a measured way. That’s why an article just published by security firm ESET on the subject of torrents strikes a couple of bad chords, particularly with people who like torrents. It’s titled “Why you should view torrents as a threat” and predictably proceeds to outline why.

“Despite their popularity among users, torrents are very risky ‘business’,” it begins.

“Apart from the obvious legal trouble you could face for violating the copyright of musicians, filmmakers or software developers, there are security issues linked to downloading them that could put you or your computer in the crosshairs of the black hats.”

Aside from the use of the phrase “very risky” (‘some risk’ is a better description), there’s probably very little to complain about in this opening shot. However, things soon go downhill.

“Merely downloading the newest version of BitTorrent clients – software necessary for any user who wants to download or seed files from this ‘ecosystem’ – could infect your machine and irreversibly damage your files,” ESET writes.

Following that scary statement, some readers will have already vowed never to use a torrent again and moved on without reading any more, but the details are really important.

To support its claim, ESET points to two incidents in 2016 (which to its great credit the company actually discovered) which involved the Transmission torrent client. Both involved deliberate third-party infection and in the latter hackers attacked Transmission’s servers and embedded malware in its OSX client before distribution to the public.

No doubt these were both miserable incidents (to which the Transmission team quickly responded) but to characterize this as a torrent client problem seems somewhat unfair.

People intent on spreading viruses and malware do not discriminate and will happily infect ANY piece of computer software they can. Sadly, many non-technical people reading the ESET post won’t read beyond the claim that installing torrent clients can “infect your machine and irreversibly damage your files.”

That’s a huge disservice to the hundreds of millions of torrent client installations that have taken place over a decade and a half and were absolutely trouble free. On a similar basis, we could argue that installing Windows is the main initial problem for people getting viruses from the Internet. It’s true but it’s also not the full picture.

Finally, the piece goes on to detail other incidents over the years where torrents have been found to contain malware. The several cases highlighted by ESET are both real and pretty unpleasant for victims but the important thing to note here is torrent users are no different to any other online user, no matter how they use the Internet.

People who download files from the Internet, from ALL untrusted sources, are putting themselves at risk of getting a virus or other malware. Whether that content is obtained from a website or a P2P network, the risks are ever-present and only a foolish person would do so without decent security software (such as ESET’s) protecting them.

The take home point here is to be aware of security risks and put them into perspective. It’s hard to put a percentage on these things but of the hundreds of millions of torrent and torrent client downloads that have taken place since their inception 15 years ago, the overwhelming majority have been absolutely fine.

Security situations do arise and we need to be aware of them, but presenting things in a way that spreads unnecessary concern in a particular sector isn’t necessary to sell products.

The AV-TEST Institute registers around 390,000 new malicious programs every day that don’t involve torrents, plenty for any anti-virus firm to deal with.

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





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Court Won’t Drop Case Against Alleged KickassTorrents Owner


kickasstorrents_500x500Last summer, Polish law enforcement officers arrested Artem Vaulin, the alleged founder of KickassTorrents.

Polish authorities acted on a criminal complaint from the US Government, which accused Vaulin of criminal copyright infringement and money laundering.

While Vaulin is still awaiting the final decision in his extradition process in Poland, his US counsel tried to have the entire case thrown out with a motion to dismiss submitted to the Illinois District Court late last year.

One of the fundamental flaws of the case, according to the defense, is that torrent files themselves are not copyrighted content. In addition, they argued that any secondary copyright infringement claims would fail as these are non-existent under criminal law.

After a series of hearings and a long wait afterwards, US District Judge John Z. Lee has now issued his verdict (pdf).

In a 28-page memorandum and order, the motion to dismiss was denied on various grounds.

The court doesn’t contest that torrent files themselves are not protected content under copyright law. However, this argument ignores the fact that the files are used to download copyrighted material, the order reads.

“This argument, however, misunderstands the indictment. The indictment is not concerned with the mere downloading or distribution of torrent files,” Judge Lee writes.

“Granted, the indictment describes these files and charges Vaulin with operating a website dedicated to hosting and distributing them. But the protected content alleged to have been infringed in the indictment is a number of movies and other copyright protected media that users of Vaulin’s network purportedly downloaded and distributed..,” he adds.

In addition, the defense’s argument that secondary copyright infringement claims are non-existent under criminal law doesn’t hold either, according to the Judge’s decision.

Vaulin’s defense noted that the Government’s theory could expose other search engines, such as Google, to criminal liability. While this is theoretically possible, the court sees distinct differences and doesn’t aim to rule on all search engines in general.

“For present purposes, though, the Court need not decide whether and when a search engine operator might engage in conduct sufficient to constitute aiding and abetting criminal copyright infringement. The issue here is whether 18 U.S.C. § 2 applies to 17 U.S.C. § 506. The Court is persuaded that it does,” Judge Lee writes.

Based on these and other conclusions, the motion to dismiss was denied. This means that the case will move forward. The next step will be to see how the Polish court rules on the extradition request.

Vaulin’s lead counsel Ira Rothken is disappointed with the outcome. He stresses that while courts commonly construe indictments in a light most favorable to the government, it went too far in this case.

“Currently a person merely ‘making available’ a file on a network in California wouldn’t even be committing a civil copyright infringement under the ruling in Napster but under today’s ruling that same person doing it in Illinois could be criminally prosecuted by the United States,” Rothken informs TorrentFreak.

“If federal judges disagree on the state of the federal copyright law then people shouldn’t be criminally prosecuted absent clarification by Congress,” he adds.

The defense team is still considering the best options for appeal, and whether they want to go down that road. However, Rothken hopes that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will address the issue in the future.

“We hope one day that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will undo this ruling and the chilling effect it will have on internet search engines, user generated content sites, and millions of netizens globally,” Rothken notes.

For now, however, Vaulin’s legal team will likely shift its focus to preventing his extradition to the United States.

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





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Former Vuze Developers Launch BiglyBT, a ‘New’ Open Source Torrent Client


Back in the summer of 2003 a group of developers debuted a new torrent client, which they called Azureus.

BitTorrent itself was still a relatively new technology at the time and users were eager to find new tools to transfer their files. The feature-rich Azureus client, which later rebranded to Vuze, delivered just that.

In recent years, however, things have gone relatively quiet, up to a point where Vuze development appears to have stalled completely. Perhaps not surprising, as two of the core developers, parg and TuxPaper, have left the project and moved on to something new.

“We are no longer involved in Vuze or Azureus Software, Inc. We can not speak to what their intentions are with the development of their product,” they inform us.

The developers, who were also part of the original Azureus team, are not saying farewell to their code though. While they are no longer working on Vuze, the pair have started a new Azureus branch, one they will actively maintain.

“We have invested such a large amount of our lives in the endeavor that we feel the need to keep the open source project active, for both our and our users’ enjoyment!” parg and TuxPaper tell us.

BiglyBT, as they have named their new client, will continue where Vuze development stalled. In addition to optimizing the code and releasing new features, BiglyBT is determined to keep the open source project alive, without any commercial interests.

“Our main goals for BiglyBT is to keep it ad-free and open source, and to continue to develop it into an even better torrent client. We also hope that a community will form again around the product.”

BiglyBT main window (large)

People who try the new client will notice that it’s indeed very similar to Vuze, but without the ads and some other ‘cluttering’ features, such as DVD-burning.

While BiglyBT looks and operates in a similar manner to Vuze, in the future the developers will work on a new set of features, a new style, and various other changes that will set it apart from its older brother.

“Our first release is mostly a name change, but we have removed some of the things that we know users don’t particularly want or use, such as the content network, games promotions, DVD burning, the huge ad in the corner of the app, and the offers in the installer.”

While Vuze appears to have downsized its development efforts, BiglyBT promises to go full steam ahead. The new client will also stay true to the Open Source nature. Previously, some people complained that Vuze included proprietary code, resulting in more restrictive license terms. BiglyBT is purely GPL, and will remain so.

The client is currently available on all major desktop platforms, including Windows, MacOS and Linux. An open source Android app, forked from Vuze remote, will follow in a few weeks.

BiglyBT should appeal to a wide range of users, especially the more seasoned torrent user who wants a client they can configure to their liking.

“Our target users are people who love to delve into the world of torrenting. People who like to tinker and watch torrents do their thing. Hoarders who like to seed, automate, categorize and contribute back to the torrenting community,” the developers note.

People who are interested in giving BiglyBT a spin can download the latest version from the official site. The application is free and won’t install any other applications or adware. Instead, it’s solely supported by donations from the public.

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





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Piracy Brings a New Young Audience to Def Leppard, Guitarist Says


For decades the debate over piracy has raged, with bands and their recording industry paymasters on one side and large swathes of the public on the other. Throughout, however, there have been those prepared to recognize that things aren’t necessarily black and white.

Over the years, many people have argued that access to free music has helped them broaden their musical horizons, dabbling in new genres and discovering new bands. This, they argue, would have been a prohibitively expensive proposition if purchases were forced on a trial and error basis.

Of course, many labels and bands believe that piracy amounts to theft, but some are prepared to put their heads above the parapet with an opinion that doesn’t necessarily tow the party line.

Formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England, rock band Def Leppard have sold more than 100 million records worldwide and have two RIAA diamond certificated albums to their name. But unlike Metallica who have sold a total of 116 million records and were famous for destroying Napster, Def Leppard’s attitude to piracy is entirely more friendly.

In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell has been describing why he believes piracy has its upsides, particularly for enduring bands that are still trying to broaden their horizons.

“The way the band works is quite extraordinary. In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fueled by younger people coming to the shows,” Campbell said.

“We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”

Def Leppard celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, and the fact that they’re still releasing music and attracting a new audience is a real achievement for a band whose original fans only had access to vinyl and cassette tapes. But Campbell says the band isn’t negatively affected by new technology, nor people using it to obtain their content for free.

“You know, people bemoan the fact that you can’t sell records anymore, but for a band like Def Leppard at least, there is a silver lining in the fact that our music is reaching a whole new audience, and that audience is excited to hear it, and they’re coming to the shows. It’s been fantastic,” he said.

While packing out events is every band’s dream, Campbell believes that the enthusiasm these fresh fans bring to the shows is actually helping the band to improve.

“There’s a whole new energy around Leppard, in fact. I think we’re playing better than we ever have. Which you’d like to think anyway. They always say that musicians, unlike athletes, you’re supposed to get better.

“I’m not sure that anyone other than the band really notices, but I notice it and I know that the other guys do too. When I play ‘Rock of Ages’ for the 3,000,000 time, it’s not the song that excites me, it’s the energy from the audience. That’s what really lifts our performance. When you’ve got a more youthful audience coming to your shows, it only goes in one direction,” he concludes.

The thought of hundreds or even thousands of enthusiastic young pirates energizing an aging Def Leppard to the band’s delight is a real novelty. However, with so many channels for music consumption available today, are these new followers necessarily pirates?

One only has to visit Def Leppard’s official YouTube channel to see that despite being born in the late fifties and early sixties, the band are still regularly posting new content to keep fans up to date. So, given the consumption habits of young people these days, YouTube seems a more likely driver of new fans than torrents, for example.

That being said, Def Leppard are still humming along nicely on The Pirate Bay. The site lists a couple of hundred torrents, some uploaded more recently, some many years ago, including full albums, videos, and even entire discographies.

Arrr, we be Def Leppaaaaaard

Interestingly, Campbell hasn’t changed his public opinion on piracy for more than a decade. Back in 2007 he was saying similar things, and in 2011 he admitted that there were plenty of “kids out there” with the entire Def Leppard collection on their iPods.

“I am pretty sure they didn’t all pay for it. But, maybe those same kids will buy a ticket and come to a concert,” he said.

“We do not expect to sell a lot of records, we are just thankful to have people listening to our music. That is more important than having people pay for it. It will monetize itself later down the line.”

With sites like YouTube perhaps driving more traffic to bands like Def Leppard than pure piracy these days (and even diverting people away from piracy itself), it’s interesting to note that there’s still controversy around people getting paid for music.

With torrent sites slowly dropping off the record labels’ hitlists, one is much more likely to hear them criticizing YouTube itself for not giving the industry a fair deal.

Still, bands like Def Leppard seem happy, so it’s not all bad news.

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





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Font Maker Sues Universal Music Over ‘Pirated’ The Vamps Logo


Piracy comes in all shapes and sizes. While record labels regularly see themselves as victims, they can sometimes cross the line as well.

According to HypeForType, which designs, creates, and licenses various custom fonts, this is exactly what record label Universal Music Group did.

The font maker has filed a lawsuit accusing the major label of using its “Nanami Rounded” and “Ebisu Bold” fonts without permission.

The lawsuit centers around fonts used for the logo and merchandise of the popular British band The Vamps. According to a complaint, filed in a New York federal court, Universal failed to obtain a proper license for its use, so they are essentially using pirated fonts.

According to the complaint, designer Stuart Hardie did purchase a basic license in 2013. However, Universal itself hasn’t bought the additional and required license upgrade to use the Nanami Rounded or Ebisu Bold Font Software on a commercial scale.

“Plaintiff requires a license upgrade (‘Special Font License’) for use of its typeface font software in commercial, for-profit usage including, inter alia, on goods for sale,” the complaint reads.

“Upon information and belief, Defendant has used and/or caused others to use unauthorized copies of the Font Software in the creation of The Vamps goods for sale, including, inter alia, clothing, accessories, DVDs, and CDs,” it adds.

HypeForType says that unauthorized use of its font has caused the company significant damages, which it wants to recoup. In addition, the font maker claims any gains and profits Universal made using its fonts.

“At present, the amount of such damages, gains, profits, and advantages cannot be fully ascertained by Plaintiff but are believed to be not less than $1,251,235 together with prejudgment interest and reasonable costs and fees or Statutory Damages under Copyright Law, whichever is greater.”

On top of the damages, HypeForType also requests an injunction preventing Universal, and thus The Vamps, from using the fonts without a proper license. They also want all existing materials, including merchandise, to be destroyed.

While it seems unlikely that The Vamps will stop using their existing logo anytime soon, a substantial settlement might be warranted, if the copyright infringement claims hold up in court. But then again, that’s only fair when you’re ‘stealing’ someone’s work.

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A copy of HypeForType’s complaint is available here (pdf).

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





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Dutch Film Distributor to Target BitTorrent Users For Cash ‘Fines’


For many carefree years, Dutch Internet users were allowed to download copyrighted content, provided it was for their own personal use. In 2014, however, the European Court of Justice ruled that the country’s “piracy levy” to compensate rightsholders was unlawful. An immediate downloading ban followed.

That action took place more than three years ago but as recently reported by Dutch anti-piracy BREIN, the country still has an appetite for unauthorized content consumption. Some of that takes place with the assistance of torrent sites but for the most part, file-sharers have had little to worry about.

That could all be about to change with the news that local film distributor Dutch Filmworks (DFW) has announced its intention to monitor torrent site users and collect data on their online activities. The news comes via the Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens), which needs to be formally advised in order for the data collection to go ahead.

DFW’s plans are outlined in a detailed application (Dutch, pdf) dated July 2017. It explains that DFW wishes to combat “the unlawful dissemination of copyright protected works” in order to protect their own interests, and this involves collecting data on Dutch individuals without their knowledge or permission.

“DFW intends to collect data from people who exchange files over the Internet through BitTorrent networks. The data processing consists of capturing proof of exchange of files via IP addresses for the purpose of researching involvement of these users in the distribution or reproduction of copyrighted works,” it reads.

DFW will employ an external German-based tracking company to monitor alleged pirates which will “automatically participate in swarms in which works from DFW are being shared.” Data collected from non-Dutch users will be stripped and discarded but information about local pirates will be retained and processed for further action.

However, in order for DFW to connect an IP address with an individual, the company will have to approach Internet service providers to obtain subscriber information including names and addresses. DFW says that if ISPs won’t cooperate voluntarily, it will be forced to take its case to court. Given past experience, that will probably have to happen.

In March 2016, anti-piracy outfit BREIN obtained permission from the Dutch Data Protection Authority to collect similar data on alleged BitTorrent users, aiming to change attitudes among pirates with fines and legal action.

Several ISPs, most prominently Ziggo, announced that they would not voluntarily cooperate with BREIN and that personal information would only be handed over if BREIN took them to court. It’s logical to presume that Dutch Filmworks will receive the same treatment.

Should the company be successful, however, it has had detailed a stepped plan. First, the alleged pirate will receive a warning and DFW will aim to reach “an amicable settlement” for the breach. If one cannot be reached, further legal action could be taken, up to and including prosecution and claims for damages.

The whole scheme certainly sounds like a classic “copyright trolling” operation in the making but only time will tell which end of the spectrum this project will fall. When asked by NU.nl whether DFW would actually be seeking cash from alleged pirates, it declined to comment.

“This is the first step in this process. We’re going to see what we’re going to do after 25 August,” a spokesperson said.

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





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TVAddons Returns, But in Ugly War With Canadian Telcos Over Kodi Addons


After Dish Network filed a lawsuit against TVAddons in Texas, several high-profile Kodi addons took the decision to shut down. Soon after, TVAddons itself went offline.

In the weeks that followed, several TVAddons-related domains were signed over (1,2) to a Canadian law firm, a mysterious situation that didn’t dovetail well with the US-based legal action.

TorrentFreak can now reveal that the shutdown of TVAddons had nothing to do with the US action and everything to do with a separate lawsuit filed in Canada.

The complaint against TVAddons

Two months ago 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.

The 18-page complaint details the plaintiffs’ case against Lackman, claiming that he communicated copyrighted TV shows including Game of Thrones, Prison Break, The Big Bang Theory, America’s Got Talent, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and dozens more, to the public in breach of copyright.

The key claim is that Lackman achieved this by developing, hosting, distributing or promoting Kodi add-ons.

Adam Lackman, the man behind TVAddons (@adam.lackman on Instagram)

A total of 18 major add-ons are detailed in the complaint including 1Channel, Exodus, Phoenix, Stream All The Sources, SportsDevil, cCloudTV and Alluc, to name a few. Also under the spotlight is the ‘FreeTelly’ custom Kodi build distributed by TVAddons alongside its Kodi configuration tool, Indigo.

“[The defendant] has made the [TV shows] available to the public by telecommunication in a way that allows members of the public to have access to them from a place and at a time individually chosen by them…consequently infringing the Plaintiffs’ copyright…in contravention of sections 2.4(1.1), 3(1)(f) and 27(1) of the Copyright Act,” the complaint reads.

The complaint alleges that Lackman “induced and/or authorized users” of the FreeTelly and Indigo tools to carry out infringement by his handling and promotion of infringing add-ons, including through TVAddons.ag and Offshoregit.com, in contravention of sections 3(1)(f) and 27(1) of the Copyright Act.

“Approximately 40 million unique users located around the world are actively using Infringing Addons hosted by TVAddons every month, and approximately 900,000 Canadian households use Infringing Add-ons to access television content. The amount of users of Infringing add-ons hosted TVAddons is constantly increasing,” the complaint adds.

To limit the harm allegedly caused by TVAddons, the complaint asked for interim, interlocutory, and permanent injunctions restraining Lackman and associates from developing, promoting or distributing any of the allegedly infringing add-ons or software. On top, the plaintiffs requested punitive and exemplary damages, plus costs.

The interim injunction and Anton Piller Order

Following the filing of the complaint, on June 9 the Federal Court handed down a time-limited 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 Court also authorized a bailiff and computer forensics experts to take control of Internet domains including TVAddons.ag and Offshoregit.com plus social media and hosting provider accounts for a period of 14 days. These were transferred to Daniel Drapeau at DrapeauLex, an independent court-appointed supervising counsel.

The order also contained an Anton Piller order, a civil search warrant that grants plaintiffs no-notice permission to enter a defendant’s premises in order to secure and copy evidence to support their case, before it can be destroyed or tampered with.

The order covered not only data related to the TVAddons platform, such as operating and financial details, revenues, and banking information, but everything in Lackman’s possession.

The Court ordered the telecoms companies to inform Lackman that the case against him is a civil proceeding and that he could deny entry to his property if he wished. However, that option would put him in breach of the order and would place him at risk of being fined or even imprisoned. Catch 22 springs to mind.

The Court did, however, put limits on the number of people that could be present during the execution of the Anton Piller order (ostensibly to avoid intimidation) and ordered the plaintiffs to deposit CAD$50,000 with the Court, in case the order was improperly executed. That decision would later prove an important one.

The search and interrogation of TVAddons’ operator

On June 12, the order was executed and Lackman’s premises were searched for more than 16 hours. For nine hours he was interrogated and effectively denied his right to remain silent since non-cooperation with an Anton Piller order amounts to contempt of court. The Court’s stated aim of not intimidating Lackman failed.

The TVAddons operator informs TorrentFreak that he heard a disturbance in the hallway outside and spotted several men hiding on the other side of the door. Fearing for his life, Lackman called the police and when they arrived he opened the door. At this point, the police were told by those in attendance to leave, despite Lackman’s protests.

Once inside, Lackman was told he had an hour to find a lawyer, but couldn’t use any electronic device to get one. Throughout the entire day, Lackman says he was reminded by the plaintiffs’ lawyer that he could be held in contempt of court and jailed, even though he was always cooperating.

“I had to sit there and not leave their sight. I was denied access to medication,” Lackman told TorrentFreak. “I had a doctor’s appointment I was forced to miss. I wasn’t even allowed to call and cancel.”

In papers later filed with the court by Lackman’s team, the Anton Piller order was described as a “bombe atomique” since TVAddons had never been served with so much as a copyright takedown notice in advance of this action.

The Anton Piller controversy

Anton Piller orders are only valid when passing a three-step test: when there is a strong prima facie case against the respondent, the damage – potential or actual – is serious for the applicant, and when there is a real possibility that evidence could be destroyed.

For Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, serious problems emerged on at least two of these points after the execution of the order.

For example, TVAddons carried more than 1,500 add-ons yet only 1% of those add-ons were considered to be infringing, a tiny number in the overall picture. Then there was the not insignificant problem with the exchange that took place during the hearing to obtain the order, during which Lackman was not present.

Clearly, the securing of existing evidence wasn’t the number one priority.

Plaintiffs: We want to destroy TVAddons

And the problems continued.

No right to remain silent, no right to consult a lawyer

The Anton Piller search should have been carried out between 8am and 8pm but actually carried on until midnight. As previously mentioned, Adam Lackman was effectively denied his right to remain silent and was forbidden from getting advice from his lawyer.

None of this sat well with the Honourable B. Richard Bell during a subsequent Federal Court hearing to consider the execution of the Anton Piller order.

“It is important to note that the Defendant was not permitted to refuse to answer questions under fear of contempt proceedings, and his counsel was not permitted to clarify the answers to questions. I conclude unhesitatingly that the Defendant was subjected to an examination for discovery without any of the protections normally afforded to litigants in such circumstances,” the Judge said.

“Here, I would add that the ‘questions’ were not really questions at all. They took the form of orders or directions. For example, the Defendant was told to ‘provide to the bailiff’ or ‘disclose to the Plaintiffs’ solicitors’.”

Evidence preservation? More like a fishing trip

But shockingly, the interrogation of Lackman went much, much further. TorrentFreak understands that the TVAddons operator was given a list of 30 names of people that might be operating sites or services similar to TVAddons. He was then ordered to provide all of the information he had on those individuals.

Of course, people tend to guard their online identities so it’s possible that the information provided by Lackman will be of limited use, but Judge Bell was not happy that the Anton Piller order was abused by the plaintiffs in this way.

“I conclude that those questions, posed by Plaintiffs’ counsel, were solely made in furtherance of their investigation and constituted a hunt for further evidence, as opposed to the preservation of then existing evidence,” he wrote in a June 29 order.

But he was only just getting started.

Plaintiffs unlawfully tried to destroy TVAddons before trial

The Judge went on to note that from their own mouths, the Anton Piller order was purposely designed by the plaintiffs to completely shut down TVAddons, despite the fact that only a tiny proportion of the add-ons available on the site were allegedly used to infringe copyright.

“I am of the view that [the order’s] true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the Defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defense to the claim made against him, and to provide an opportunity for discovery of the Defendant in circumstances where none of the procedural safeguards of our civil justice system could be engaged,” Judge Bell wrote.

As noted, plaintiffs must also have a “strong prima facie case” to obtain an Anton Piller order but Judge Bell says he’s not convinced that one exists. Instead, he praised the “forthright manner” of Lackman, who successfully compared the ability of Kodi addons to find content in the same way as Google search can.

So why the big turn around?

Judge Bell said that while the prima facie case may have appeared strong before the judge who heard the matter ex parte (without Lackman being present to defend himself), the subsequent adversarial hearing undermined it, to the point that it no longer met the threshold.

As a result of these failings, Judge Bell declared the Anton Piller order unlawful. Things didn’t improve for the plaintiffs on the injunction front either.

The Judge said that he believes that Lackman has “an arguable case” that he is not violating the Copyright Act by merely providing addons and that TVAddons is his only source of income. So, if an injunction to close the site was granted, the litigation would effectively be over, since the plaintiffs already admitted that their aim was to neutralize the platform.

If the platform was neutralized, Lackman could no longer earn money from the site, which would harm his ability to mount a defense.

“In considering the balance of convenience, I also repeat that the plaintiffs admit that the vast majority of add-ons are non-infringing. Whether the remaining approximately 1% are infringing is very much up for debate. For these reasons, I find the balance of convenience favors the defendant, and no interlocutory injunction will be issued,” the Judge declared.

With the Anton Piller order declared unlawful and no interlocutory injunction (one effective until the final determination of the case) handed down, things were about to get worse for the telecoms companies.

They had paid CAD$50,000 to the court in security in case things went wrong with the Anton Piller order, so TVAddons was entitled to compensation from that amount. That would be helpful, since at this point TVAddons had already run up CAD$75,000 in legal expenses.

On top, the Judge told independent counsel to give everything seized during the Anton Piller search back to Lackman.

The order to return items previously seized

But things were far from over. Within days, the telecoms companies took the decision to the Court of Appeal, asking for a stay of execution (a delay in carrying out a court order) to retain possession of items seized, including physical property, domains, and social media accounts.

Mid-July the appeal was granted and certain confidentiality clauses affecting independent counsel (including Daniel Drapeau, who holds the TVAddons’ domains) were ordered to be continued. However, considering the problems with the execution of the Anton Piller order, Bell Canada, TVA, Videotron and Rogers et al, were ordered to submit an additional security bond of CAD$140,000, on top of the CAD$50,000 already deposited.

So the battle continues, and continue it will

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Adam Lackman says that he has no choice but to fight the telcoms companies since not doing so would result in a loss by default judgment. Interestingly, both he and one of the judges involved in the case thus far believe he has an arguable case.

Lackman says that his activities are protected under the Canadian Copyright Act, specifically subparagraph 2.4(1)(b) which states as follows:

A person whose only act in respect of the communication of a work or other subject-matter to the public consists of providing the means of telecommunication necessary for another person to so communicate the work or other subject-matter does not communicate that work or other subject-matter to the public;

Of course, finding out whether that’s indeed the case will be a costly endeavor.

“It all comes down to whether we will have the financial resources necessary to mount our defense and go to trial. We won’t have ad revenue coming in, since losing our domain names means that we’ll lose the majority of our traffic for quite some time into the future,” Lackman told TF in a statement.

“We’re hoping that others will be as concerned as us about big companies manipulating the law in order to shut down what they see as competition. We desperately need help in financially supporting our legal defense, we cannot do it alone.

“We’ve run up a legal bill of over $100,000 to date. We’re David, and they are four Goliaths with practically unlimited resources. If we lose, it will mean that new case law is made, case law that could mean increased censorship of the internet.”

In the hope of getting support, TVAddons has launched a fundraiser campaign and in the meantime, a new version of the site is back on a new domain, TVAddons.co.

Given TVAddons’ line of defense, the nature of both the platform and Kodi addons, and the fact that there has already been a serious abuse of process during evidence preservation, this is now one of the most interesting and potentially influential copyright cases underway anywhere today.

TVAddons is being represented by Éva Richard , Hilal Ayoubi and Karim Renno in Canada, plus Erin Russell and Jason Sweet in the United States.

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





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BitTorrent Users Form The World’s Largest Criminal Enterprise, Lawyer Says


As the sharing of copyrighted material on the Internet continues, so do the waves of lawsuits which claim compensation for alleged damage caused.

Run by so-called ‘copyright trolls’, these legal efforts are often painted as the only way for rightsholders to send a tough message to deter infringement. In reality, however, these schemes are often the basis for a separate revenue stream, one in which file-sharers are forced to pay large cash sums to make supposed jury trials disappear.

Courts around the United States are becoming familiar with these ‘settlement factories’ and sometimes choose to make life more difficult for the trolls. With this potential for friction, the language deployed in lawsuits is often amped up to paint copyright holders as fighting for their very existence. Meanwhile, alleged infringers are described as hardened criminals intent on wreaking havoc on the entertainment industries.

While this polarization is nothing new, a court filing spotted by the troll-fighters over at Fight Copyright Trolls sees the demonization of file-sharers amped up to eleven – and then some.

The case, which is being heard in a district court in Nevada, features LHF Productions, the outfit behind action movie London Has Fallen. It targets five people who allegedly shared the work using BitTorrent and failed to respond to the company’s requests to settle.

“[N]one of the Defendants referenced herein have made any effort to answer or otherwise respond to the Plaintiff’s allegations. In light of the Defendants’ apparent failure to take any action with respect to the present lawsuit, the Plaintiff is left with no choice but to seek a default judgment,” the motion reads.

In the absence of any defense, LHF Productions asks the court to grant default judgments of $15,000 per defendant, which amounts to $75,000 overall, a decent sum for what amounts to five downloads. LHF Productions notes that it could’ve demanded $150,000 from each individual but feels that a more modest sum would be sufficient to “deter future infringement.”

However, when reading the description of the defendants provided by LHF, one could be forgiven for thinking that they’re actually heinous criminals hell-bent on worldwide destruction.

“The Defendants are participants in a global piracy ring composed of one hundred fifty million members – a ring that threatens to tear down fundamental structures of intellectual property,” the lawsuit reads.

While there are indeed 150 million users of BitTorrent, this characterization that they’re all involved in a single “piracy ring” is both misleading and inaccurate.

BitTorrent swarms are separate entities, so the correct way of describing the defendants would be limited to their action for the movie London Has Fallen. Instead, they’re painted as being involved in a global conspiracy with more members than the populations of the United Kingdom, Canada, and Spain combined.

It seems that the introduction of more drama into these infringement lawsuits is becoming necessary as more courts become wise to the activities of trolls, not least organizations being branded criminal themselves, such as the now defunct Prenda Law.

Perhaps with this in mind, LHF Productions tries to convince the court that far from being small-time file-sharers, people downloading their movie online are actually part of something extremely big, a crime wave so huge that nothing like it has ever been witnessed.

“While the actions of each individual participant may seem innocuous, their collective action amounts to one of the largest criminal enterprises ever seen on earth,” LHF says of the defendants.

“[I]f this pervasive culture of piracy is allowed to continue undeterred, it threatens to undo centuries of intellectual property law and unravel a core pillar of our economy. After all, the right to intellectual property was something so fundamental, so essential, to our nation’s founding, that our founding father’s found it necessary to include in the first article of the Constitution.”

If the apocalyptic scenario painted by LHF in its lawsuit (pdf) is to be believed, recouping a mere $15,000 from each defendant begins to sound like a bargain. Certainly, the movie outfit will be hoping the judge sees it that way too.

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





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Russia Bans ‘Uncensored’ VPNs, Proxies and Tor


Russia has swiftly become a world leader when it comes to website blocking. Tens of thousands of websites are blocked in the country on copyright infringement and a wide range of other grounds.

However, as is often the case, not all citizens willingly subject themselves to these type of restrictions. On the contrary, many use proxies or anonymizing services such as VPNs and TOR to gain access.

In recent months, the Russian Government has worked on legislation to crack down on these circumvention tools as well, and local media report that President Vladimir Putin has now signed the proposed bill into law.

Under the new law, local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor will keep a list of banned domains while identifying sites, services, and software that provide access to them. Rozcomnadzor will then try to contact the operators of the services, urging them to ban the blocked websites, or face the same fate.

The FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be tasked with monitoring offenses, which they will then refer to the telecoms watchdog.

In addition to targeting the circumvention sites, services, and their hosts, the bill targets search engines as well.

Search engines will be required to remove links to blocked resources from their results, as these would encourage people to access prohibited material. Search engines that fail to comply with the new requirements face a $12,400 penalty per breach.

Local search giant Yandex previously spoke out against the far-reaching requirements, describing them as unnecessary.

“We believe that the laying of responsibilities on search engines is superfluous,” a Yandex spokesperson said.

“Even if the reference to a [banned] resource does appear in search results, it does not mean that by clicking on it the user will get access, if it was already blocked by ISPs or in any other ways,” the company added.

The new legislation has not been without controversy. Earlier this month many Russians protested the plans, but this had little effect on the final vote. In the Duma, the bill was approved by 373 deputies. Only two voted against the plans, and another and two abstained.

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





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GSOC 2017 Update – Shader Support


Now that we’re 2/3rds finished with GSOC 2017, I’ve invited our intrepid student developers to spend some time writing about how their projects are going so far. For those of you out of the loop, the three projects this year are implementing shader support in Retroplayer, upgrading Kodi to Python3 for add-ons, and getting Kodi to natively support Wayland in Linuxland.  

We’ll start with Nick’s update on Shader Support, and release the other updates throughout the week.

Shader Support – Vel0cityX

My initial proposal was about implementing shader support in RetroPlayer as well as a variety of default shaders to go with it.

However, quite early on, it was suggested to me that I try something more ambitious and implement the same spec that libretro shaders use. This spec essentially introduces shader “preset” files; configuration files which allow for multi-pass shader configurations to achieve advanced filtering, without manually copying and pasting shader code all over the place. They have other features too, but this is their core funtionality and reason of existance. The biggest advantage of implementing this would be that the are already many many shaders that support this format, both for OpenGL (ES), and Direct3D.

So, I changed my proposal accordingly and began research.

To give a bit of background, it is important to mention that RetroPlayer doesn’t have its own renderer; it never did. All of its rendering is entirely reliant on VideoPlayer (the backend and renderer used when playing any kind of video). Thus, it was clear since the beginning that I would need to get around this problem one way or the other.

June

The first month I was really busy with university exams, so unfortunately my time spent on this was less than I’d like.

I had never worked on Kodi before, so initially my time was spent creating a development environment ready (I faced lots of problems on that front), as well as getting acquainted with some of the relevant parts of the codebase.

At the start of June, I booted up RetroPlayer for the first time and instantly noticed something that I didn’t quite like: the scaling. Apparently the Windows renderer didn’t support nearest neighbor scaling, so, the first (productive) thing I did was implement nearest neighbor video scaling for Windows. Maybe not directrly related to my proposal, but it made me familiar with a part of the code base I would really need to know the ins and outs of, for the weeks to come.

Towards the middle of June and start of July, I started working on a new renderer for RetroPlayer, based on VideoPlayer.

July

After that, I needed to get shader presets to load and after a bit of discussion with Garrett, I decided to go with a binary add-on, which would use RetroArch’s implementation of .cgp parsing.

The start and middle of July was spent on diving in the crazy world of binary add-on development, making a new binary add-on type, building a basic API for it and getting it to work from inside Kodi. There’s still work to be done on that front, but all the framework is setup now and it works.

There are about 6 layers of abstraction between the add-on and what Kodi sees (!), so unfortunately changing the API is quite tedious (depending on how many layers change).

It was needed though as RetroArch’s parsing code wasn’t compatible with Kodi’s licence.

After getting this to work, Fernet’s changes to VideoPlayer upstream caused my renderer to be quite useless and in need of a rewrite.

I wasn’t gonna spend more time on this, since my proposal was already enough work as it is, so I decided to go with a different approach instead.

Without getting too technical, with the new approach RetroPlayer is still dependent on VideoPlayer, but less so.

Still, this won’t be mergeable upstream, since people will want RetroPlayer to finally get its own renderer.

Doing it in a better way (but still quite messy) would require me to remake the renderer by copying VP again, so I’d rather focus on getting a minimum viable product first before diving in to that.

If there is time, I will work towards that, but getting an MVP is my top priority at the moment.

The Future

I have started working on the core part of my proposal since the past week or so.

By “core” part, I mean getting shaders to actually renderer.

This of course involved diving deep into graphics, Direct3D 11 in particular.

The latest issue I faced had to do with the fact that all libretro shaders that I thought would compile happily with Direct3D, didn’t.

Without getting too much into the details, these shaders were written in a slightly different shader language (Cg) than the one D3D uses (HLSL).

I could probably wrap up the backend and implement a bunch of pre-set shaders myself for users to use and call it a day, but I didn’t want the whole shader preset thing to die, especially given its benefits and the effort I’ve already put into it.

So, I emailed libretro’s main developer and we discussed for a while, he then invited me to their IRC channel and we came to the following conclusions:

  1. Both projects would greatly benefit by porting these shaders to Direct3D. Cg is very much legacy software at this point and they would like to get rid of their Cg shader code.
  2. There are around 600 shaders that need porting, which are used in different combination by around 500 shader presets. That’s a lot of work for me to do in a month, in addition to the actual rendering backend for D3D and OGL. So, they agreed to aid in with the porting of the shaders. This could only increase libretro’s popularity after all, so both projects benefit.

On the backend side, I’m making quick progress, but it’s quite a lot of work, so I’m not sure how much of the spec I’ll be able to implement in time, especially since, like I mentioned, D3D11 and OpenGL (ES) require different implementations.

Thankfully many shaders don’t use very advanced features of the spec, so they will be compatible. Of course, I will try to implement as much of it I can if not all of it, to make use of as many pre-existing shaders as possible.

If I didn’t face so many unexpected issues (and I hadn’t lost almost a month due to exams) things might’ve been different, but what can you do; these things happen.

All in all, I’m hopeful for August. No doubt it will get quite intense since it’s the final stretch, but I’m ready for it!

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