Founded in 2009, LimeTorrents has been a familiar name in the torrent ecosystem for nearly a decade.

The site is regularly listed as one of the ten most-visited torrent sites on the Internet. However, as a prime source of pirated content, it has also seen plenty of trouble over the years.

During the site’s early days, music group IFPI seized its servers, for example, and a few years later the site’s operator got dragged into a lawsuit by Lionsgate over the Expendables 3 leak.

Despite these issues, the site remains alive and well. That said, running a torrent site isn’t exactly getting any easier.

Earlier this week LimeTorrents switched to a new domain,, with a new homepage. This is a direct response to the ISP blocking efforts around the world. In addition, the new domain should also get the site’s homepage back in Google’s search index.

“We changed our domain to .io because [the site is] blocked in many countries like India, UK, Australia, and also because our old homepage was removed from Google’s search index,” LimeTorrents’ operator tells TF.

The new version of the homepage no longer lists direct links to pirated material. This means that copyright holders have no reason to ask Google to remove it from the search index, as previously happened with the old version.

The new homepage

With this new look and domain, LimeTorrent hopes to set itself apart from the many copycats that have appeared. According to the operator, there are several “fake” LimeTorrents copies trying to steal traffic, only to generate revenue for themselves.

People who can’t use the official domains can use the official proxies,,, the site’s operator says, but he cautions users who choose other sites.

In addition to the torrent index, the operator also runs the torrent cache, which many other sites rely on. ITorrents hosts torrents without a search interface and is used by other torrent sites such as and the mobile version of The Pirate Bay.

LimeTorrents’ operator tells us that iTorrents currently stores over 20 million unique torrents and many more are added every day.

While this may sound positive, operating a torrent site certainly hasn’t become any easier. It gets harder and harder to make revenue, and income has dropped drastically since the early years.

“Earnings dropped around 60 to 70% because affiliate sites are no longer paying webmasters well. Popups and ads are not working either because of ad-blockers,” LimeTorrents’ operator says.

“We keep the sites running because we have some traffic. It’s covering the hosting costs and brings in some extra bucks for other expenses.”

It’s also become harder to find stable hosting, which is likely the result of increased enforcement. However, there is a threat from within the piracy ecosystem as well.

Ten years ago torrent sites were dominating the piracy landscape but today more and more traffic is flowing to streaming sites.

That being said, LimeTorrents’ operator says that people know where to come when they want to get content first, noting that many streaming sites use torrent portals as their source.

“People who know how to find things know where it comes first. If torrent sites die, streaming sites will also be hit hard because they can’t find content to upload to their sites, as torrent sites are their source,” the operator tells us.

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Anti-piracy firms often portray copyright infringers as thieves that must be stopped or eradicated.

However, the people at UK firm MUSO have a different take on the piracy problem. With funding from the local Government, they’re offering classic takedown tools, but the company prefers to frame piracy as an opportunity rather than a threat.

This became apparent once again when UK telecoms regulator OFCOM released new figures this week. According to the agency, online subscription services including Netflix and Amazon Prime have, for the first time, overtaken satellite and cable TV.

This shows once again that the Internet is transforming the way people consume media. Moving from linear viewing to an on-demand model is something many ‘torrenters’ already envisioned more than a decade ago.

It’s a landmark change that certainly shouldn’t be ignored. This is something Chris Anderson, MUSO’s Head of Film & TV, wholeheartedly agrees with, albeit with a major footnote.

“Technology has completely transformed the way people are able to watch TV and the days of being tied to a TV schedule are well and truly behind us, with streaming services now officially the preference for the majority of viewers,” he says.

“The word ‘officially’ is key – because what these figures from Ofcom don’t take into account is the many hundreds of thousands of people who are streaming TV in the UK through unlicensed services and sites.”

When piracy is taken into account, online streaming overtook traditional TV viewing a long time ago.

There’s a general idea that legitimate streaming services are driving people away from pirate sites. However, that’s a misperception. While more and more pirates have a Netflix subscription, piracy remains alive and well.

“The idea that services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have eradicated piracy is a fallacy. Our figures show that global piracy has increased year-on-year, in spite of the rise of streaming services. The UK had 4,776,616,717 total visits to film and TV piracy sites in 2017 alone,” Anderson says.

MUSO encourages UK broadcasters not to fixate on the competition from legitimate streaming services alone, but to consider the potential pirate audience as well.

“Piracy audiences are one of the great untapped pools of wealth – they have extremely high intent to access content but are often simply unable to. Finding ways to access this audience could be the secret bringing higher profits back to broadcasting,” the company adds.

Of course, MUSO doesn’t make these comments without having a stake in the matter. The company previously launched a piracy marketing platform, which helps content creators to connect with and convert pirates.

That said, it’s a refreshing message compared to the usual stream of legal threats, crime reports and malware warnings.

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So-called copyright trolling in the file-sharing space involves copyright holders claiming their rights have been infringed before heading to court to demand the identities of subscribers behind IP addresses.

Once these identities have been obtained, law firms affiliated with trolls write to the person whose name appears on the ISP bill in order to demand cash settlements to make supposed lawsuits go away. It’s a lucrative but extremely controversial practice.

This type of activity got underway in Finland during 2013, taking hold during 2014, with a notable escalation in 2015 and 2016.

Early 2017, local media sources reported that up to 60,000 people could be in line to receive cash demands from Helsinki-based law firm Hedman Partners, something which prompted the government to conduct an investigation (pdf) with help from the authorities.

Now, however, Hedman Partners have a related matter to deal with, one that’s seen a lawyer at the firm accused of misconduct due to the way some private Internet subscriber data was obtained from ISPs and subsequently handled.

According to the Finnish Bar Association, lawyer Joni Hatanmaa and Hedman Partners applied to the Market Court for access to data held by ISPs, to enable it to send settlement letters to Internet users. The Copyright Act allows rightsholders and their representatives to apply for this right on a case-by-case basis.

However, it appears that after applying to obtain personal information on behalf of one client, Hatanmaa and Hedman Partners then used that same information to identify subscribers who had allegedly infringed the rights of other clients also managed by the law firm.

This means that when an IP address appeared on lists of those sharing multiple clients’ copyright works, the law firm made only one application to obtain the alleged infringer’s personal details instead of starting a new disclosure process for each client.

When ISP subscriber data is handed over to a third-party, it is delivered on the basis that it will be used in a very narrow set of circumstances and certainly not for the benefit of many entertainment industry groups scouring the web for infringement.

This breach of copyright law, the Board found, was not in keeping with the standards expected by the Bar. But, according to Joni Hatanmaa himself, the problems actually arose due to different interpretations of the law.

“In this case, the Board of Supervisors considered that the application process should have been handled in a different way under copyright law,” he told Helsingin Sanomat.

“The decision has made it clear that the law has the potential for a wide range of interpretations.”

In any event, the lawyer says, the cases against infringers will continue. Plenty are still underway and the project continues to expand.

“If copyright infringement has been violated in peer-to-peer networks, those responsible are still liable. The remark was purely a matter of interpreting the law in the application process as to how the application should be made in order to give people full responsibility,” he said.

A second complaint against the law firm, in respect of wording in letters sent to alleged infringers, was also considered by the Board but was deemed to be low priority.

The decision of the Disciplinary Board is not yet final and can be taken to the Helsinki Court of Appeal. Meanwhile, it seems that the threat-letter model will continue. Ahto Apajalahti, a board member at digital rights group Electronic Frontier Finland, informs TF that a change in the law is required to bring ‘trolling’ to an end.

“The Ministry of Education and Culture doesn’t want to change the law. However, both the Ministry and the Market Court are uneasy about the vast scope of these activities. The peak year so far for these letters was 2016, when letters were sent to tens of thousands of people,” Apajalahti explains.

“This unease has been reflected in the decisions by the Market Court in 2017 and 2018 which established some limits. Basically it is now more difficult for Hedman Partners and others to get people’s contact information. They have to show more evidence than before and as a result they get far fewer contact details than they apply for.”

In a recent case, Hedman requested the identities behind 1,860 IP addresses but got only 30. Still, the company continues to send letters to those whose details were obtained in 2017 and 2016 so the company still has plenty to go at, regardless of the negative ruling from the Finnish Bar Association.

“This violation case where Hedman was reprimanded is mostly a technical matter and I don’t think it changes the situation at all. Hedman just have to change their working procedures a bit,” Apajalahti concludes.

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Emulators are handy tools for people who want to play games on platforms other than the usual console they’re intended for.

These are particularly useful for retro games and consoles, which are no longer sold, allowing users to enjoy the games they were hooked on decades ago.

However, many game publishers are less content with this practice. Nintendo, in particular, has repeatedly called out ROMS and emulator sites, both in and outside the United States.

This week, Nintendo took two of these sites to court. In a complaint filed at a federal court in Arizona, the game publisher sues and for copyright and trademark infringement.

Both sites are believed to be operated by Jacob Mathias and his Arizona company Mathias Designs LLC. They offer access to a wide variety of ROMs, including many Nintendo games.

“The LoveROMs and LoveRETRO websites are among the most open and notorious online hubs for pirated video games,” Nintendo writes in the complaint.

“Through the LoveROMs and LoveRETRO websites, Defendants reproduce, distribute, publicly perform and display a staggering number of unauthorized copies of Nintendo’s video games, all without Nintendo’s permission.”

In addition to the copyrighted games, the sites also distribute proprietary BIOS software, while using trademarked logos and characters, Nintendo notes.

While some ROMs sites may be hobby projects, Nintendo sees these two sites as professional operations that profit from its works.

“Defendants are not casual gamers but are instead sophisticated parties with extensive knowledge of Nintendo’s intellectual property and the video game industry more generally,” the company notes.

LoveROMS complaint

Through the lawsuit, which also lists a count of unfair competition, Nintendo hopes to shut both sites down. The company requests statutory damages of $150,000 per infringing Nintendo game and up to $2,000,000 for each trademark infringement.

This means that, with more than 140 copyrighted titles and 40 trademarks on the record, theoretical damages could go up to a staggering $100 million.

Nintendo further requests a permanent injunction ordering the sites to stop their infringing activities while handing over domain names to the game publisher. At the same time, Nintendo wants the operator of the sites to reveal the sources for the infringing ROMs.

The defendant has yet to respond publicly to the allegations and at the time of writing and both and remain online.

A copy of Nintendo’s complaint, obtained by TorrentFreak, is available here (pdf).

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Since their aim is to prevent people from copying titles and playing them for free, no anti-piracy technologies are popular with pirates.

Underlying this emotion is a kind of unofficial ‘hate-scale,’ in which the level of a dislike for a particular system increases proportionately to its success on the ground. Denuvo, one of the most prominent and difficult to crack anti-piracy technologies, is hated most of all.

Denuvo isn’t undefeatable, various groups and individuals have proven that. However, there are persistent claims, denied by its makers, that the technology not only slows down pirates but can also negatively affect the gaming experience of people who actually buy protected games.

The latest accusations come from Voksi, a cracker in his early twenties, who recently cracked the latest variant of the anti-tamper technology. Yesterday he released a cracked version of Sonic Mania Plus just a day after release and says SEGA did a poor job of implementing the system.

“SEGA rushed to implement the newest Denuvo in the new update of Sonic Mania and did a poor job of it, causing many issues and game slowdowns for legit users,” he informs TF while accusing SEGA of being “anti-consumer”.

Voksi describes the release as having “an insane amount of bloated Denuvo code,” compared to the previous version, “which can cause all kinds of issues if not handled properly.”

Those issues, Voksi says, are being reported by users on Steam’s Community forum, who bought the game yet are still experiencing problems. One report, in particular, caught Voksi’s eye.

“My game runs slow whenever I enter the Replays menu in time attack mode, and the time attack level select too for some reason, and it continues even after leaving both,” user ‘Crashed’ reports.

This problem with Sonic Mania Plus running slowly at this point in the game rang a bell with Voksi. TF asked him to explain what causes the problem and why it’s so serious.

“The issue is serious because it directly impacts legit users,” he says.

“This particular issue is that the game triggers Denuvo, but it doesn’t close the trigger properly. Denuvo keeps writing and writing into the game’s memory, causing additional stress to the game, which might be handled by a stronger CPU, but those who have a weaker CPU can experience massive slowdowns.”

Another Steam user, who complained that he couldn’t get past the game’s menu screen, also sounded familiar to Voksi. He says that he found Denuvo code affecting that part of the game when working on his crack.

“One person even couldn’t load the game. It stuck for him in the loading screen right before the menu, which is an anti-tamper trigger I’ve encountered while I was cracking the game, which did exactly the same thing as described. I don’t know what is the reason to trigger for this person on a legit copy, but nothing can surprise me anymore,” he says.

While Voksi isn’t sure why Denuvo is acting this way, the solution to the menu screen issue published on Stream forums points the finger at the anti-tamper technology. In a post by Aemony, people with the issue are advised to “remove the offline token for Denuvo”, something that reportedly worked for previous iterations of the game.

For both Denuvo and SEGA, the situation isn’t particularly good. Eight days ago and just two days after SEGA released Shining Resonance Refrain (also Denuvo-protected), Voksi released a cracked version of the game. He believes the quick turnaround on his part prompted SEGA to rush in to further protect Sonic Mania Plus but without doing the job properly.

“The truth is after my Shining Resonance Refrain crack that I did on day 1 (which also had the latest Denuvo), it seems that SEGA got scared. It tried to rush the implementation of an even more bloated variant of the latest Denuvo with all protection features and this is the result,” he says.

In common with all previous instances of claims that Denuvo affects legitimate players, it’s likely that those behind the technology will stay silent or insist there isn’t an issue. Nevertheless, long discussions on Steam not only suggest that Denuvo isn’t liked, but is also failing in its mission to protect games for even a short period of time.

Earlier this week new research revealed that due to their dislike of Denuvo, pirates are sabotaging reviews of Denuvo-protected games. While this could have some effect on sales, it will take legitimate buyers to vote with their wallets before anything is done about the problem.

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When PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) was first released last year, it became an instant hit.

This success earned the company hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, but according to PUBG, this could have been much more if others hadn’t copied their work.

The general theme of PUBG is now used by many games, which is a thorn in the side of the developer. To protect its financial interests, the company, therefore, decided to take the developer of two alleged spinoffs to court.

In April, PUBG filed a lawsuit against NetEase, the makers of ‘Rules of Survival’ and ‘Knives Out’, accusing it of copyright infringement.

A 155-page complaint documented a long summary of elements that PUBG believes are infringing on its copyrighted works. This includes buildings, landscapes, vehicles, weapons, clothing, the pre-play area, the shrinking gameplay area, and even the iconic “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” salute.

NetEase clearly disagrees with these accusations. In a new filing this week, the company asks the court to dismiss the entire case. It refutes PUBG’s accusations and stresses that “ideas” and “gameplay mechanics” have no copyright protection.

“This litigation is a shameless attempt by the PUBG Plaintiffs to monopolize the “battle royale” genre of video games and inhibit legitimate competition,” NetEase writes.

“Plaintiffs’ copyright claim is premised on alleged similarities in ideas, merger of ideas and expression, scenes a faire, and game rules and mechanics. Copyright does not protect any of these aspects of PUBG’s game.”

NetEase admits that its games fall into the same genre and share several similarities. However, the idea of displaying a “health bar” and other basic elements is not copyright infringement, the company argues.

“The idea of a ‘health’ status bar, as well as energy ‘boosts,’ and the ability of human characters to ‘stand, walk, run, take a prone position, crawl in a prone position or take a kneeling position’ in a combat situation, are all simply mechanics that flow from the idea of forcing players to kill each other,” the company notes.

PUBG itself has admittedly copied several real-world objects such as guns. In order to argue that NetEase expressions of these are virtually identical, and thus infringing, these real-world similarities have to be filtered out. According to NetEase, there’s no real claim left after that.

“As shown, PUBG’s gun has appropriated the design and configuration of the sight, barrel, grip, magazine, and numerous other features from a century-old gun design; once those elements are removed, there is no virtual identity.”

Infringing Thompson submachine gun?

In addition, NetEase also refuted PUBG’s claim to the iconic “Winner winner chicken dinner” salute, which is displayed to the winner of the game. Citing jurisprudence, it stresses that short phrases are not protectable elements, even when they are unique.

“The short phrase ‘Winner winner chicken dinner’ is therefore unprotectable,” NetEase argues.

Based on these and other arguments, NetEase concludes that PUBG’s copyright infringement, Lanham Act infringement, and unfair competition claims fall flat. The case should, therefore, be dismissed in its entirety, it notes.

A copy of NetEase’s motion to dismiss is available here (pdf).

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In 2011, Pirate Bay founders Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde launched Bayfiles, a new file-sharing venture.

Instead of relying on torrents, which had previously made TPB a huge success, Bayfiles allowed users to upload and download large files directly.

With its no-nonsense sharing approach, the site swiftly accumulated a steady user base. However, that ended when the site was abruptly pulled offline, following a raid in 2014. Bayfiles probably wasn’t the primary target, but the site never returned.

While most users had given up on Bayfiles, an anonymous group of ‘privacy-oriented’ people played with the idea of relaunching it. They missed the old Bayfiles and thought that it would be great to have it make a comeback. This idea became reality this week.

The new Bayfiles team informs TorrentFreak that it bought the domains and logotype from TPB co-founder Fredrik Neij, aka TiAMO. The price was a symbolic fee, covering a few years of domain registrations and a couple of beers for good measure.

Fast forward a few weeks and Bayfiles is back in action. The team says that it noticed a decrease in simple “one-click” file hosts in recent years, and hopes that Bayfiles will fill this gap.

All the old data are gone so the site and its potential users will have to start from scratch. There is no requirement to register an account and with a lenient retention policy, no download throttling, and an upload limit of 10GB per file, there are few restrictions.

The site is free to use by anyone, but those who create an account can use it to keep track of their files. The accounts come with 1TB storage. This is free for the first 30 days and after that it’s between 3.5 and 5 euro per month, depending on the length of the subscription.

“Registering an account is, of course, optional and only for you to keep track of your own files, and there are no download caps or speed limits for anonymous users,” the new Bayfiles team tells us.

“Ads tend to be annoying and that doesn’t rhyme with our principles of having a clean site, so we will try our best to keep the service afloat through the subscription model.”

The payments are all handled in cryptocurrencies. This is something the Bayfiles team learned from the past, as many payment processors have previously banned the site.

The goal is to make sharing as fast and easy as possible, and the built-in video and audio players certainly help with this. “Most browsers are capable of playing MP4, MP3, etc so we thought ‘why not’. If your browser supports it, it will play,” the Bayfiles team says.

Streaming a file from Bayfiles

Aside from a few small changes, Bayfiles hopes to keep its old vibe alive.

“The fast download speeds combined with the ‘Bay attitude’ Bayfiles got from the founders of TPB. I guess we share the same stance and attitude since we are from the same era when TPB got started.

“The site will continue with the values it had prior to the raid in 2014, and we’ll add features and improve the service as we collect feedback from our users,” the Bayfiles team notes.

While Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij is not involved in the new project, he doesn’t mind seeing the Bayfiles domain names being put to good use after a three-year ‘break.’

“The domain names were just gathering dust in my domain collection. Now people can at least use it for sharing,” Neij tells us.

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The name Flipkart probably doesn’t ring too many bells in the United States but if all goes to plan, one of the country’s major retailers will soon be a 77% owner.

Flipkart is India’s largest online retailer and according to a report published in 2017, it controls almost 40% of the entire market.

That prompted Walmart and Amazon to file bids for Flipkart, with the former coming out on top with a $16 billion offer for what CNN describes as “the most valuable startup in India.”

Like all successful online retailers, Flipkart offers a wide range of genuine and authentic products to its consumers. However, like rivals Amazon, it does have an issue with some sellers attempting to sell pirated and counterfeit products via its virtual shelves.

As can be seen in the image below, Flipkart offers PC games for sale, many at heavily discounted prices. However, those listed for “offline use only” raise alarm bells.

One particular listing for a PC game caught the eye of Vidit Sahni, a resident of New Delhi in India. While browsing Flipkart he came across an advert for EA’s FIFA 18, which was offered for the princely sum of 799 rupees – around US$11.66.

The listing highlights that the game has 50% off its retail price and potential buyers should hurry since there’s only a few left. However, a closer look shows that the seller probably has access to an unlimited supply.

“NOTE: THERE IS A CRACK ONLY NO DIGITAL CODE,” the tell-tale text on the bottom right corner of the listing warns.

“Before installation the game first off your internet and antivirus. 1. All CD file copy in your pc 2. Setup File Click 3. Install the game 4. Install finish and open the game and enjoy your game,” it adds in broken English.

The fact that Flipkart is openly selling pirated software prompted Vidit Sahni to contact the company using the ‘Post Your Question’ option listed next to the ‘Have doubts regarding this product?’ notice.

“Why is Flipkart selling pirated products,” Sahni asked the retailer. “The product description itself shows that the game is installed using a crack. Isn’t it a serious oversight? And this is not the only game.”

Flipkart customer support did eventually respond to Sahni’s concerns but the answer was not what he expected.

“We noticed that your question on JBD FIFA 18 EA SPORTS {Offline} PC Game does not fully conform to our internal guidelines. We request you to submit your question again as per our guidelines. We will review it and then make it live on Flipkart,” the company responded.

While it’s certainly possible that the company wanted the complaint filed in a different way, there’s no taking away from the clear message on the item. However, it was the reason given for the rejection that seems to have upset Sahni most.

“Reason for not-approving the question: Irrelevant question,” Flipkart advised.

“@flipkartsupport sucks!” Sahni wrote in response on Twitter.

“They shunned down my question on piracy of the product to them as ‘irrelevant’ Find the screenshot! Don’t buy from Flipkart! They promote Piracy!”

Flipkart does have a section of its site that’s dedicated to the protection of intellectual property rights. However, it’s targeted at entities whose rights have been infringed, meaning that companies like EA would need to file a complaint rather than members of the public like Sahni.

TorrentFreak contacted Flipkart who responded with an automated message saying that our query had been noted and would be answered within 24 hours.

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The Denuvo anti-piracy system has been a sworn enemy of many gaming pirates for years.

Early on, the anti-tampering system appeared to be unbreakable. While it’s getting cracked more easily nowadays, it’s still seen as a major roadblock.

Denuvo leaves the average game pirate powerless. While they wait for crackers to find a patch, there’s little they can do, aside from bickering and complaining perhaps, which is quite common and not without consequence.

According to new research published by Dr. Zike Cao of the Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management, game pirates are retaliating against Denuvo-protected games by posting fake negative ratings.

In a paper titled “Revenge after ‘Freebies’ Are Gone? Effects of Curbing Piracy on Online User Ratings” Cao researched the effect of Denuvo protection on user comments posted on the review site Metacritic. The results suggest that Denuvo protection leads to significantly lower ratings across the board.

The researcher compared reviews of protected PC games with non-Denuvo protected console versions of the same games, showing that the former get a significantly lower rating on average.

After ruling out several alternative explanations, including the suggestion that Denuvo hurts gameplay, he sees only one explanation for this finding.

“In summary, the results from multiple identification tests consistently point to one conclusion: The decreases in mean PC user ratings of Denuvo games are likely due to deliberate posting of extremely negative ratings from illegal gamers out of retaliation for being deprived of the opportunity to play free cracked games.”

“Moreover, those retaliating illegal gamers are more likely to write textual comments along with the extremely negative ratings, but they seem to write significantly shorter than genuine reviewers do,” Cao adds.

Denuvo vs non-Denuvo

The decrease in ratings is quite substantial. The estimates suggest that a Denuvo-protected game suffers, on average, a decrease of 0.5 to 0.9 points on a ten point scale. This difference is mostly driven by extremely negative reviews, where ‘users’ rate games with a 0 or 1.

This negative effect remains and is even more pronounced when reviews from professional critics (Metascores) are exactly the same for Denuvo-protected (PC) and unprotected (console) versions.

“Interestingly, the estimate using the 100 titles with identical Metascores across platforms indicates the effect of Denuvo adoption is notably larger,” Cao writes.

The paper suggests, following a battery of additional tests, that these ratings are purely driven by revenge. In other words, pirates who are frustrated by the fact that they can’t play the game for free because there’s no working crack available.

Dr. Cao notes that this is the first empirical evidence which reveals this revenge strategy. Going forward, this may be something both developers and review sites may want to pay close attention to.

“The findings thus offer digital-good providers a caveat to adopt advanced anti-piracy technologies to crack down on piracy in a hard way,” Cao writes.

“More importantly, the study documents, to my knowledge, the first piece of empirical evidence that online user-generated content can be significantly distorted by user sabotage out of revenge.”

The full copy of Dr. CAO’s paper is available here.

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Streaming pirate content directly to living rooms around the world has become huge business over the past few years, with many hundreds of operations selling various services to the public.

While the majority appears to do so with impunity, a growing number of UK providers are finding that their businesses attract the attention of rightsholders who are keen to send a message that they won’t be tolerated.

The latest case involves John Haggerty and wife Mary Josephine Gilfillan, who together ran Evolution Trading Company Limited, a business venture registered at their former home address.

Incorporated in December 2013 for the stated purpose of “wholesale of coffee, tea, cocoa and spices”, Evolution was used in connection with Haggerty’s business of selling Kodi-based set-top boxes, some of which were loaded with an illicit IPTV service.

“Stop paying for sky high satellite or cable bills. Never buy or rent another DVD again! With Stream Box you can view any movie from the very latest blockbuster to your all time favorites,” some of Haggerty’s original marketing reads.

“Watch any box set or TV Series ever made or ever will be made! Watch tons of sports and hundreds of other TV channels from all over the world ALL FOR FREE.

“We consider Stream Box the future of TV viewing, with Stream box connected to your broadband Internet and your HD TV you can stream any film or TV show ever shown – all totally free.”

Following an investigation by the Federation Against Copyright Theft, searches were carried out at various premises connected with Haggerty. Like many of these kinds of cases, it’s taken a very long time to come to court, but now it has, it’s ended badly for the pair.

According to prosecutors, the business ran from March 2013 to July 2015, during which time at least £764,000 was generated from the sale of set-top boxes, carried out from a shop and online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.

The court heard the devices would be sold for between £75 and £100 to the public and £400 to pubs, although searches reveal them changing hands for as little as £52. The IPTV service provided with some of the boxes,, was created by Haggerty and sold for £15 per month. The marketing image below shows that football fans were a major target.

According to prosecutors, the operation meant that broadcasters including Sky and BT Sport faced potential losses of £4m per year while using the devices in pubs exposed licensees to the risk of prosecution.

Chronicle Live reports that Haggerty had several passports in different names, and set up a company in Nevis to hide the true purpose of his business. Along with his wife, he also supplied the UK Immigration Service with false documents to sponsor an Egyptian national who was put in charge of the streaming service.

All things considered, 57-year-old Haggerty was jailed for five years and three months for conspiracy to defraud. His wife, 54, who the court accepted had played a minor role, was handed a two-year sentence suspended for two years and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.

“This was a very sophisticated fraud perpetrated primarily by you, John Haggerty,” said Judge Simon Batiste.

“You sold 8,000 set top boxes and started services including streaming services, you created an application to enable other devices to access the stream you created. In particular devices permitted users to view all Premier League matches and films, some of which hadn’t even been released in the cinema.”

The sentencing of the pair was welcomed by Premier League director of legal services, Kevin Plumb.

“This case demonstrates how seriously the courts are dealing with criminals involved in the supply of illicit streaming devices and services that provide illegal access to Premier League football and other popular content,” Plumb said.

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