Court Orders Hosting Provider to Stop Pirate Premier League Streams 2In many parts of the world football, or soccer as some would call it, is the number one spectator sport.

The English Premier League, widely regarded as one the top competitions, draws hundreds of millions of viewers per year. Many of these pay for access to the matches, but there’s also a massive circuit of unauthorized streams.

The Football Association Premier League (FAPL) has been clamping down on these pirate sources for years. In the UK, for example, it obtained a unique High Court injunction last year, which requires local Internet providers to block streams as they go live.

In addition, the organization has also filed legal action against a hosting provider through which several live sports streaming sites are operating. The case in question was filed in the Netherlands where Ecatel LTD, a UK company, operated several servers.

According to the complaint, Ecatel hosted sites such as cast247.tv, streamlive.to and iguide.to, which allowed visitors to watch live Premier League streams without paying.

As the streaming platforms themselves were not responsive to takedown requests, the Premier League demanded action from their hosting provider. Specifically, they wanted the company to disconnect live streams on their end, by null-routing the servers of the offending customer.

This week the Court of The Hague issued its judgment, which is a clear win for the football association.

The Court ruled that, after the hosting company receives a takedown notice from FAPL or one of its agents, Ecatel must disconnect pirate Premier League streams within 30 minutes.

“[The Court] recommends that, after 24 hours of service of this judgment, Ecatel cease and discontinue any service used by third parties to infringe the copyright to FAPL by promptly but no later than 30 minutes after receipt of a request to that end,” the verdict reads.

The ban can be lifted after the game has ended, making it a temporary measure similar to the UK Internet provider blockades. If Ecatel fails to comply, it faces a penalty of €5,000 for each illegal stream, to a maximum of € 1,500,000.

While the order is good news for the Premier League, it will be hard to enforce, since Ecatel LTD was dissolved last year. Another hosting company called Novogara was previously linked with Ecatel and is still active, but that is not mentioned in the court order.

This means that the order will mostly be valuable as a precedent. Especially since it goes against an earlier order from 2015, which Emerce pointed out. This warrants a closer look at how the Court reached its decision.

In its defense, Ecatel had argued that an obligation to disconnect customers based on a takedown notice would be disproportionate and violate its entrepreneurial freedoms. The latter is protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The Court, however, highlights that there is a clash between the entrepreneurial rights of Ecatel and the copyrights of FAPL in this case. This requires the Court to weigh these rights to see which prevails over the other.

According to the verdict, the measures Ecatel would have to take to comply are not overly costly. The company already null-routed customers who failed to pay, so the technical capabilities are there.

Ecatel also argued that disconnecting a server could affect legal content that’s provided by its customers. However, according to the Court, Ecatel is partly to blame for this, as it does business with customers who seemingly don’t have a proper takedown process themselves. This is something the company could have included in their contracts.

As a result, the Court put the copyrights of FAPL above the entrepreneurial freedom rights of the hosting provider.

The second right that has to be weighed is the public’s right to freedom of expression and information. While the Court rules that this right is limited by the measures, it argues that the rights of copyright holders weigh stronger.

“Admittedly, this freedom [of expression and information] is restricted, but according to the order, this will only apply for the duration of the offending streams. Furthermore, as said, this will only take place if the stream has not already been blocked in another way,” the Court writes.

If any legal content is affected by the measures then the offending streaming platform itself will experience more pressure from users to deal with the problem, and offer a suitable takedown procedure to prevent similar problems in the future, the Court notes.

TorrentFreak reached out to FAPL and Ecatel’s lawyers for a comment on the verdict but at the time of writing we haven’t heard back.

The verdict appears to be a powerful precedent for copyright holders. Kim Kuik, director of local anti-piracy group BREIN, is pleased with the outcome. While BREIN was not involved in this lawsuit, it previously sued Ecatel in another case.

“It is a good precedent. An intermediary like Ecatel has its accountability and must have an effective notice and take down procedure,” Kuik tells TorrentFreak.

“Too bad it wasn’t also against the people behind Ecatel, who now can continue using another vehicle. The judge thinks this verdict serves a warning to them. Time will tell if that is so.”

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Pirate Bay Founder’s Domain Service “Mocks” NY Times Legal Threats 7Back in the day, The Pirate Bay was famous for its amusing responses to legal threats. Instead of complying with takedown notices, it sent witty responses to embarrass the senders.

Today the notorious torrent site gives copyright holders the silent treatment, but the good-old Pirate Bay spirit still lives on elsewhere.

Earlier today the anonymous domain registration service Njalla, which happens to be a venture of TPB co-founder Peter Sunde, posted a series of noteworthy responses it sent to The New York Times’ (NYT) legal department.

The newspaper warned the registration service about one of its customers, paywallnews.com, which offers the news service’s content without permission. Since this is a violation of The Times’ copyrights, according to the paper, Njalla should take action or face legal consequences.

NYT: Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately provide us with contact information — including email addresses — for both the actual owner of the paywallnew.com website, and for the hosting provider on which the paywallnew.com website is located.

If we have not heard from you within three (3) business days of receipt of this letter, we will have no choice but to pursue all available legal remedies.

Njalla is no stranger to threats of this kind but were somewhat offended by the harsh language, it seems. The company, therefore, decided to inform the NYT that there are more friendly ways to reach out.

Njalla: Thanks for that lovely e-mail. It’s always good to communicate with people that in their first e-mail use words as “we demand”, “pursue all available legal remedies” and so forth. I’d like to start out with some free (as in no cost) advice: please update your boiler threat letters to actually try what most people try first: being nice. It’s not expensive (actually the opposite) and actually it works much better than your method (source: a few tens of thousands years of human development that would not have been as efficient with threats as it would have been with cooperation).

In addition, Njalla also included a request of its own. They kindly asked (no demand) the newspaper’s legal department for proof that they are who they say they are. You can never be too cautious, after all.

Njalla: Now, back to the questions you sent us. We’re not sure who you are, so in order to move further we’d like to see a copy of your ID card, as well as a notarised power of attorney showing that you are actually representing the people you’re claiming to do.

This had the desired effect, for Njalla at least. The NYT replied with an apology for the tough language that was used, noting that they usually deal with companies that employ people who are used to reading legal documents.

The newspaper did, however, submit a notarized letter signed by the company’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, and once again asked for details on the Njalla customer.

NYT: Once again, as I mention above, the referenced website is stealing large amounts of New York Times content. If you click on this link: http://www.paywallnews.com/sites/nytimes

As this abuse — aside from being an egregious infringement of The Times’s copyright — breaches your own Terms of Service, I hope you will be able to see your way to helping me to put a stop to this practice by providing me with the name and contact information for the owner of paywallnews.com and for the ISP on which it is hosted.

This is when things started to get really interesting. Founded by someone with an extensive background in “sharing,” Njalla clearly has a different definition of stealing than the NYT’s legal department.

The reply, which is worth reading in full along with the rest of the communication, makes this quite clear.

Njalla: Stealing content seem quite harsh of this website though, didn’t know that they did that! Is there anyway you can get the stolen items back though? You should either go to the police and request them to help you get the stolen items back. Or maybe talk to your insurance company, they might help to compensate you for the loss. But a helpful idea; if they’ve stolen something and then put copies of that on a website that you can freely access, I would suggest just copying it, so that both of you have the same things. That’s a great thing with the digital world, everyone can have copies of things. I am surprised they stole something when they could just have copied it. I’m guessing it’s some older individuals that don’t know the possibilities of modern day technology to make copies.

It’s obvious that the domain registration service makes a clear distinction between copying and stealing.

Piracy vs. Theft

Pirate Bay Founder’s Domain Service “Mocks” NY Times Legal Threats 8

In addition, Njalla contests that the site is problematic at all, noting that this might be a “cultural difference.”

Njalla spotted something even more worrying though. The NYT claims that the site in question violates its terms of service. Specifically, they reference the section that prohibits sites from spreading content that is illegal according to local law.

Is the NYT perhaps spreading illegal content itself, Njalla questions?

Njalla: Deborah, I was quite shocked and appalled that you referred to this part of our ToS. It made me actually not visit the website in question even though you’ve linked it now a few times. You’re admitting to spreading illegal content at your newspaper, for profit, is that correct?

We’re quite big proponents of freedom of speech, let me assure you of that, but we also have limits. If you spread illegal content, and our customers stole that illegal content and are now handing out free copies of that, that’s a huge issue for us. Since it would be illegal for us to get those copies if they’re illegal, I’m asking you what type of content it is?

As an attachment to the reply, Njalla also sent back a “notarized” letter of their own, by simply copying the NYT letter and sticking their own logo on it, to show how easily these can be fabricated.

TorrentFreak reached out to Sunde who informed us that they never heard from The New York Times after the last reply. As a domain registrant, Njalla is not obliged to comply with takedown requests, he explains.

“If they need help from us on copyright issues, they’re totally missing what we’re doing, and that they should look somewhere else anyhow. But I think most domain services gets tons of these threat emails, and a lot of them think they’re responsible because they don’t have access to legal help and just shut customers down.

“That’s what a lot of our customers say at least, since they migrated from a shitty service which doesn’t know their own business,” Sunde adds.

The NYT is not completely without options though. If they take the case to court in Sweden and win an injunction against paywallnews.com, Njalla will comply. The same is true if a customer really violates the terms of service.

Meanwhile, paywallnews.com remains online.

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Movie Industry Hides Anti-Piracy Messages in ‘Pirate’ Subtitles 13Anti-piracy campaigns come in all shapes and sizes, from oppressive and scary to the optimistically educational. It is rare for any to be labeled ‘brilliant’ but a campaign just revealed in Belgium hits really close to the mark.

According to an announcement by the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA), Belgian Federation of Cinemas, together with film producers and distributors, cinemas and directors, a brand new campaign has been targeting those who download content from illegal sources. It is particularly innovative and manages to hit pirates in a way they can’t easily avoid.

Working on the premise that many locals download English language movies and then augment them with local language subtitles, a fiendish plot was hatched. Instead of a generic preaching video on YouTube or elsewhere, the movie companies decided to ‘infect’ pirate subtitles with messages of their own.

“Suddenly the story gets a surprising turn. With a playful wink it suddenly seems as if Samuel L. Jackson in The Hitman’s Bodyguard directly appeals to the illegal viewer and says that you should not download,” the group explains.

Samuel is watching…..

>Movie Industry Hides Anti-Piracy Messages in ‘Pirate’ Subtitles 14

“I do not need any research to see that these are bad subtitles,” Jackson informs the viewer.

In another scene with Ryan Reynolds, Jackson notes that illegal downloading can have a negative effect on a person.

Don’t download…..

Don’t download…..Movie Industry Hides Anti-Piracy Messages in ‘Pirate’ Subtitles 15

“And you wanted to become a policeman, until you started downloading,” he says.

The movie groups say that they also planted edited subtitles in The Bridge, with police officers in the show noting they’re on the trail of illegal downloaders. The movies Logan Lucky and The Foreigner got similar treatment.

It’s not clear on which sites these modified subtitles were distributed but according to the companies involved, they’ve been downloaded 10,000 times already.

“The viewer not only feels caught but immediately realizes that you do not necessarily get a real quality product through illegal sources,” the companies say.

The campaign is the work of advertising agency TBWA, which appropriately bills itself as the Disruption Company.

“We are not a traditional ad agency network — we are a radically open creative collective. We look at what everyone else is doing and strive to do something completely new,” the company says.

Coincidentally, the company refers to its staff as pirates who rewrite rules and have ideas to take on “conventionally-steered ships.”

“As creative director of communication agency TBWA, protecting creative work is very important to us,” says TBWA Creative Director Gert Pauwels. “That is precisely why we came up with the subtle prank to work together with the sector to tackle illegal downloading.”

Although framed as a joke, one which may even raise a wry smile and a nod of respect from some pirates, there’s an underlying serious message from the companies involved.

“Maybe many think that everything is possible on the internet and that downloading will remain without consequences,” says Pieter Swaelens, Managing Director of BEA. “That is not the case. Here too, many jobs are being challenged in Belgium and we have to tackle this behavior.”

It’s also worth noting that while this campaign is both innovative and light-hearted, at least one of the companies involved is also a supporter of much tougher action.

Dutch Filmworks recently obtained permission from the Dutch Data Authority to begin monitoring pirates. Once it has their IP addresses it will attempt to make contact, offering a cash settlement agreement to make a potential lawsuit disappear.

“We are pleased with the extra attention to the problem of downloading from illegal sources,” says René van Turnhout, COO Dutch FilmWorks. “Too many jobs in our sector have been lost. Moreover, piracy endangers the creativity and quality of the legal offer.”

“I’d better watch legally … that’s true”

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The EU is Working On Its Own Piracy Watch-List 21Earlier this month, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) released an updated version of its “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets,” ostensibly identifying some of the worst IP-offenders worldwide.

The annual list overview helps to guide the U.S. Government’s position towards foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement.

The most recent version featured traditional pirate sites such as The Pirate Bay, Rapidgator, and Gostream, but also the Russian social network VK and China-based marketplaces Alibaba and Taobao.com.

Since the list only identifies foreign sites, American services are never included. However, this restriction doesn’t apply in Europe, where the European Commission announced this week that it’s working on its own piracy watch list.

“The European Commission – on the basis of input from the stakeholders – after thorough verification of the received information – intends to publish a so called ‘Counterfeit and Piracy Watch-List’ in 2018, which will be updated regularly,” the EU’s call for submissions reads.

The EU watch list will operate in a similar fashion to the US equivalent and will be used to encourage site operators and foreign governments to take action.

“The list will identify and describe the most problematic marketplaces – with special focus on online marketplaces – in order to encourage their operators and owners as well as the responsible local authorities and governments to take the necessary actions and measures to reduce the availability of IPR infringing goods or services.”

In recent years various copyright holder groups have repeatedly complained about a lack of anti-piracy initiatives from companies such as Google and Cloudflare, so it will be interesting to see if these will be mentioned.

The same is true for online marketplaces. Responding to the US list last week, Alibaba also highlighted that several American companies suffer the same piracy and counterfeiting problems as they do, without being reprimanded.

“What about Amazon, eBay and others? USTR has no basis for comparison, because it does not ask for similar data from U.S. companies,” Alibaba noted in a rebuttal.

The EU watch list is clearly inspired by the US counterpart. It shows striking similarities with the US version of the watch list and some of the language appears to be copied (or pirated) word for word.

The EU writes, for example, that their list “will not mean to reflect findings of legal violations, nor will it reflect the European Union’s analysis of the general intellectual property rights protection and enforcement climate in the country or countries concerned.”

Just a few days earlier the USTR noted that its list “does not make findings of legal violations. Nor does it reflect the U.S. Government’s analysis of the general IP protection and enforcement climate in the countries connected with the listed markets.”

The above means that, despite branding foreign services as notorious offenders, these are mere allegations. No hard proof is to be expected in the report, nor will the EU research the matter on its own.

If the US example is followed, the watch list will be mostly an overview of copyright holder complaints, signed by the authorities. The latter is not without controversy, as China says it doubts the objectivity of USTR’s report for this very reason.

Copyright holders and other interested parties are invited to submit their contributions and comments by 31 March 2018, and the final list is expected to be released later in the year.

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NAFTA Negotiations Heat Up Copyright “Safe Harbor” Clash 26The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was negotiated more than 25 years ago.

Over the past quarter-century trade has changed drastically, especially online, so the United States is now planning to modernize the international deal.

One of the topics that has received a lot of interest from various experts and stakeholders are safe harbors. In the US, Internet services are shielded from copyright infringement liability under the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, but in Mexico and Canada, that’s not the case.

The latest round of NAFTA renegotiations are currently taking place in Montreal and this is heating up the debate once again. Several legal scholars and advocacy groups believe that such US-style safe harbor provisions are essential for Internet services to operate freely on the Internet.

A group of more than fifty Internet law experts and organizations made this clear in a letter sent to the negotiators this week, urging them to make safe harbors part of the new deal.

“When NAFTA was negotiated, the Internet was an obscure electronic network. Since then, the Internet has become a significant — and essential — part of our societies and our economies,” the letter reads.

“To acknowledge this, if a modernized NAFTA contains a digital trade chapter, it should contain protections for online intermediaries from liability for third party online content, similar to the United States’ ‘Section 230’.”

The safe harbors in the Communications Decency Act and the DMCA ensure that services which deal with user-generated content, including Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia, are shielded from liability.

This immunity makes it easier for new user-generated services to launch, without the fear of expensive lawsuits, the argument goes.

However, not everyone sees it this way. In a letter cited by Variety, a group of 37 industry groups urges U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate ‘strong’ safe harbor protections. Strong, in this case, means that simply responding to takedown notices is not always enough.

“If these anti-IP voices succeed, they will turn long-standing trade policy, with creativity and innovation at its core, on its head by transforming our trade agreements into blueprints for how to evade liability for IP theft,” they write.

The MPAA and RIAA, which also signed the letter, previously stressed that the current US safe harbors are not working. These industry groups believe that services such as YouTube exploit their safe harbor immunity and profit from it.

The RIAA, therefore, wants any negotiated safe harbor provisions in NAFTA to be flexible in the event that the DMCA is tightened up in response to the ongoing safe harbor rules study.

So, what should a content industry-approved safe harbor look like then?

The music industry group says that these should only be available to passive platforms that are not actively engaged in communicating and do not generate any revenue from pirated content. This would exclude YouTube and many other Internet services.

While it’s clear that the ideas of both camps are hard to unite, there’s still the question of whether there will be a new and improved NAFTA version at all. President Trump has previously threatened to terminate the agreement.

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NAFTA Negotiations Heat Up Copyright “Safe Harbor” Clash 27 NAFTA Negotiations Heat Up Copyright “Safe Harbor” Clash 28

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Hollywood Says Only Site-Blocking Left to Beat Piracy in New Zealand 31The Motion Picture Distributors’ Association (MPDA) is a non-profit organisation which represents major international film studios in New Zealand.

With companies including Fox, Sony, Paramount, Roadshow, Disney, and Universal on the books, the MPDA sings from the same sheet as the MPAA and MPA. It also hopes to achieve in New Zealand what its counterparts have achieved in Europe and Australia but cannot on home soil – mass pirate site blocking.

In a release heralding the New Zealand screen industry’s annual contribution of around NZ$1.05 billion to GDP and NZ$706 million to exports, MPDA Managing Director Matthew Cheetham says that despite the successes, serious challenges lie ahead.

“When we have the illegal file sharing site the Pirate Bay as New Zealand’s 19th most popular site in New Zealand, it is clear that legitimate movie and TV distribution channels face challenges,” Cheetham says.

MPDA members in New ZealandHollywood Says Only Site-Blocking Left to Beat Piracy in New Zealand 32

In common with movie bosses in many regions, Cheetham is hoping that the legal system will rise to the challenge and assist distributors to tackle the piracy problem. In New Zealand, that might yet require a change in the law but given recent changes in Australia, that doesn’t seem like a distant proposition.

Last December, the New Zealand government announced an overhaul of the country’s copyright laws. A review of the Copyright Act 1994 was announced by the previous government and is now scheduled to go ahead this year. The government has already indicated a willingness to consider amendments to the Act in order to meet the objectives of New Zealand’s copyright regime.

“In New Zealand, piracy is almost an accepted thing, because no one’s really doing anything about it, because no one actually can do anything about it,” Cheetham said last month.

It’s quite unusual for Hollywood’s representatives to say nothing can be done about piracy. However, there was a small ray of hope this morning when Cheetham said that there is actually one option left.

“There’s nothing we can do in New Zealand apart from site blocking,” Cheetham said.

So, as the MPDA appears to pin its hopes on legislative change, other players in the entertainment industry are testing the legal system as it stands today.

Last September, Sky TV began a pioneering ‘pirate’ site-blocking challenge in the New Zealand High Court, applying for an injunction against several local ISPs to prevent their subscribers from accessing several pirate sites.

The boss of Vocus, one of the ISP groups targeted, responded angrily, describing Sky’s efforts as “dinosaur behavior” and something one would expect in North Korea, not in New Zealand.

“It isn’t our job to police the Internet and it sure as hell isn’t SKY’s either, all sites should be equal and open,” General Manager Taryn Hamilton said.

The response from ISPs suggests that even when the matter of site-blocking is discussed as part of the Copyright Act review, introducing specific legislation may not be smooth sailing. In that respect, all eyes will turn to the Sky process, to see if some precedent can be set there.

Finally, another familiar problem continues to raise its head down under. So-called “Kodi boxes” – the now generic phrase often used to describe set-top devices configured for piracy – are also on the content industries’ radar.

There are a couple of cases still pending against sellers, including one in which a budding entrepreneur sent out marketing letters claiming that his service was better than Sky’s offering. For seller Krish Reddy, this didn’t turn out well as the company responded with a NZ$1m lawsuit.

Generally, however, both content industries and consumers are having a good time in New Zealand but the MPDA’s Cheetham says that taking on pirates is never easy.

“It’s been called the golden age of television and a lot of premium movies have been released in the last 12 or 18 months. Content providers and distributors have really upped their game in the last five or 10 years to meet what people want but it’s very difficult to compete with free,” Cheetham concludes.

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Hollywood Says Only Site-Blocking Left to Beat Piracy in New Zealand 33 Hollywood Says Only Site-Blocking Left to Beat Piracy in New Zealand 34

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Planned Piracy Upload Filters are ‘Censorship Machines,’ MEPs Warn 37Through a series of new proposals, the European Commission is working hard to modernize EU copyright law. Among other things, it will require online services to do more to fight piracy.

These proposals have not been without controversy. Article 13 of the proposed Copyright Directive, for example, has been widely criticized as it would require online services to monitor and filter uploaded content.

This means that online services, which deal with large volumes of user-uploaded content, must use fingerprinting or other detection mechanisms – similar to YouTube’s Content-ID system – to block copyright infringing files.

The Commission believes that more stringent control is needed to support copyright holders. However, many legal scholars, digital activists, and members of the public worry that they will violate the rights of regular Internet users.

In the European Parliament, there is fierce opposition as well. Today, six Members of Parliament (MEPs) from across the political spectrum released a new campaign video warning their fellow colleagues and the public at large.

The MEPs warn that such upload filters would act as “censorship machines,” something they’ve made clear to the Council’s working group on intellectual property, where the controversial proposal was discussed today.

“Imagine if every time you opened your mouth, computers controlled by big companies would check what you were about to say, and have the power to prevent you from saying it,” Greens/EFA MEP Julia Reda says.

“A new legal proposal would make this a reality when it comes to expressing yourself online: Every clip and every photo would have to be pre-screened by some automated ‘robocop’ before it could be uploaded and seen online,” ALDE MEP Marietje Schaake adds.

Stop censorship machines!

Schaake notes that she has dealt with the consequences of upload filters herself. When she uploaded a recording of a political speech to YouTube, the site took it down without explanation. Until this day, the MEP still doesn’t know on what grounds it was removed.

These broad upload filters are completely disproportionate and a danger for freedom of speech, the MEPs warn. The automated systems make mistakes and can’t properly detect whether something’s fair use, for example.

Another problem is that the measures will be relatively costly for smaller companies ,which puts them at a competitive disadvantage. “Only the biggest platforms can afford them – European competitors and small businesses will struggle,” ECR MEP Dan Dalton says.

The plans can still be stopped, the MEPs say. They are currently scheduled for a vote in the Legal Affairs Committee at the end of March, and the video encourages members of the public to raise their voices.

“Speak out …while you can still do so unfiltered!” S&D MEP Catherine Stihler says.

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Planned Piracy Upload Filters are ‘Censorship Machines,’ MEPs Warn 38 Planned Piracy Upload Filters are ‘Censorship Machines,’ MEPs Warn 39

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LibreELEC 8.2.3 is released to change our embedded pastebin provider from sprunge.us (RIP) to ix.io (working) so users can continue to submit logs to the forums through a URL without copy/pasting text or direct uploading log files. This is our preferred way to receive and read your log files so if you are not familiar with using the paste function please read this wiki article to find out how. The 8.2.3 release also solves an issue with continuity errors on USB DVB adaptors that has been troubling some 8.2 users for some time; kudos to user @jahutchi for tracking down the problem kernel commit….

LibreELEC (Krypton) 8.2.3 MR 42

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Copyright Trolls Obtained Details of 200,000 Finnish Internet Users 44Fifteen years ago, the RIAA was contacting alleged file-sharers in the United States, demanding cash payments to make supposed lawsuits go away. In the years that followed, dozens of companies followed in their footsteps – not as a deterrent – but as a way to turn piracy into profit.

The practice is now widespread, not just in the United States, but also in Europe where few major countries have avoided the clutches of trolls. Germany has been hit particularly hard, with millions of cases. The UK has also seen tens of thousands of individuals targeted since 2006 although more recently the trolls there have been in retreat. The same cannot be said about Finland, however.

From a relatively late start in 2013, trolls have been stepping up their game in leaps and bounds but the true scale of developments in this Scandinavian country will probably come as a surprise to even the most seasoned of troll-watchers.

According to data compiled by NGO activist Ritva Puolakka, the business in Finland has grown to epidemic proportions. In fact, between 2013 and 2017 the Market Court (which deals with Intellectual Property matters, among other things) has ordered local Internet service providers to hand over the details of almost 200,000 Finnish Internet subscribers.

Published on the Ministry of Education and Culture website (via mikrobitti.fi) the data (pdf) reveals hundreds of processes against major Finnish ISPs.

Notably, every single case has been directed at a core group of three providers – Elisa, TeliaSonera and DNA – while customers of other ISPs seem to have been completely overlooked. Exactly why isn’t clear but in other jurisdictions it’s proven more cost-effective to hone a process with a small number of ISPs, rather than spread out to those with fewer customers.

Only one legal process is listed for 2013 but that demanded the identities of people behind 50 IP addresses. In 2014 there was a 14-fold increase in processes and the number of IP addresses targeted grew to 1,387.

For 2015, a total of 117 processes are listed, demanding the identities of people behind 37,468 IP addresses. In 2016 the trolls really upped their game. A total of 131 processes demanded the details of individuals behind 98,966 IP addresses. For last year, 79 processes are on the books, which in total amounted to 60,681 potential defendants in settlement cases.

In total, between 2013 and 2017 the Market Court ordered the ISPs to hand over the personal details of people behind a staggering 198,552 IP addresses. While it should be noted that each might not lead to a unique individual, the number is huge when one considers the potential returns if everyone pays up hundreds of euros to make supposed court cases go away.

But despite the significant scale, it will probably come as no surprise that very few companies are involved. Troll operations tend to be fairly centralized, often using the same base services to track and collect evidence against alleged pirates.

In the order they entered the settlement business in Finland the companies involved are: LFP Video Group LLC, International Content Holding B.V., Dallas Buyers Club LLC, Crystalis Entertainment UG, Scanbox Entertainment A/S, Fairway Film Alliance LLC, Copyright Collections Ltd, Mircom International Content Management, Interallip LLP, and Oy Atlantic Film Finland Ab.

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Copyright Trolls Obtained Details of 200,000 Finnish Internet Users 45 Copyright Trolls Obtained Details of 200,000 Finnish Internet Users 46

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China Seriously Doubts Objectivity of US ‘Pirate Site’ List 49Late last week, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) released an updated version of its “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets,” identifying some of the worst IP-offenders worldwide.

The overview is largely based on input from major copyright holders and related industry groups. While the US Government admits that it doesn’t make any judgments, the list carries a lot of weight and can hurt the image of companies that are singled out.

For some of the ‘classic’ pirate sites such as The Pirate Bay, this doesn’t really matter. On the contrary, they may see it as a badge of honor. However, for billion-dollar businesses such as Alibaba and VK, it’s a different story.

They are not at risk of being the target of a criminal prosecution, as some classic pirate sites are, but the listing will make them a hot topic on the political agenda.

Interestingly, it seems that not all countries are happy with seeing some of their top companies being singled out. When China’s commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng was confronted with the fact that Alibaba and its Taobao.com site were listed, he made some noteworthy observations.

“In the report, the U.S. frequently discusses the relevant Chinese businesses with the words like ‘reportedly,’ ‘according to authoritative sources’ and the like,” Feng told the local press.

In its report, the US Government stressed that Alibaba should do more to combat counterfeiting and piracy on Taobao.com and other platforms, but China’s officials don’t seem convinced.

“It lacked conclusive evidence and had no relevant figures to back up its points. We have no choice but to express our doubts about the objectivity and reliability of the department that issued the report,” Feng added.

China’s commerce ministry has a point. The USTR report is compiled from comments that are provided by copyright holders. These are not thoroughly vetted, as far as we know, which doesn’t seem very objective.

Even more concerning, copyright holders often cite the USTR’s notorious markets list in legal and lobbying efforts, even though they are in essence their own findings in a rewritten form. While that may be very convenient, it can also be misleading.

Alibaba itself went a step further than the commerce ministry and noted that the company is being used as a “scapegoat” in a geopolitical game. In a detailed ten-page rebuttal, the marketplace responded to the allegations point by point.

“As a result of the rise of trade protectionism, Alibaba has been turned into a scapegoat by the USTR to win points in a highly-politicized environment and their actions should be recognized for what they are,” the company commented.

“The USTR’s actions made it clear that the Notorious Markets List, which only targets non-US marketplaces, is not about intellectual property protection, but just another instrument to achieve the US Government’s geopolitical objectives.”

Critique on the USTR’s Special 301 reports, which the Notorious Markets lists are part of, is not new. Earlier this year Canada’s Government described the process as flawed as it’s mainly driven by one-sided copyright industry claims.

“Canada does not recognize the validity of the Special 301 and considers the process and the Report to be flawed,” a Government memo read.

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

China Seriously Doubts Objectivity of US ‘Pirate Site’ List 50 China Seriously Doubts Objectivity of US ‘Pirate Site’ List 51

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