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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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 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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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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When it comes to the protection of intellectual property, China is often viewed as one of the world’s leading scofflaws. Everything is copied in the country, from designer watches to cars. Not even major landmarks can escape the replica treatment.

In more recent times, however, there have been signs that China might be at least warming to the idea that IP protection should be given more priority.

For example, every few months authorities announce a new crackdown on Internet piracy, such as the “Jian Wang 2016” program which shuttered 290 piracy websites in the final six months of last year.

Maintaining the same naming convention, this week China’s National Copyright Administration revealed the new “Jian Wang 2017” anti-piracy program. During a meeting in Beijing attended by other state bodies, copyright groups, rights organizations, and representatives from the news media, the administration detailed its latest plans.

The anti-piracy program will focus on protecting the copyrights of the film, television, and news industries in China. Infringing websites, e-commerce and cloud storage services, social networks, plus mobile Internet applications will all be put under the spotlight, with authorities investigating and prosecuting major cases.

The program, which will run for the next four months, has a mission to improve compliance in three key areas.

The first aims to assist the film and TV industries by cracking down on ‘pirate’ websites, the unlawful use of file-sharing software, plus “forum communities and other channels that supply infringing film and television works.”

Also on the cards is a blitz against users of the hugely popular social media and instant messaging app, WeChat.

Released in 2011, WeChat now has more than 930 million users, some of which use the platform to republish news articles without permission from creators. Chinese authorities want to reduce this activity, noting that too many articles are stripped from their sources and reproduced on personal blogs and similar platforms.

The second area for attention is the booming market for pirate apps. Chinese authorities say that cracked app stores and the software they provide are contributing to a huge rise in the unlawful spread of films, TV shows, music, news and other literature. Set-top boxes that utilize such apps will also be targeted in the crackdown.

Finally, there will be a “strengthening of copyright supervision” on large-scale e-commerce platforms that supply audio and video products, eBooks, and other publications. Cloud storage platforms will also be subjected to additional scrutiny, as these are often used to share copyright works without permission.

What kind of effect the program will have on overall copyrighted content availability will remain to be seen, but if previous patterns are maintained, the National Copyright Administration should reveal the results of its blitz in December.

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





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Apple is known to have a rigorous app-review policy.

Over the past several years, dozens of apps have been rejected from the App Store because they mention the word BitTorrent, for example.

The mere association with piracy is good enough to warrant a ban. This policy is now expanding to the privacy-sphere as well, at least in China.

It is no secret that the Chinese Government is preventing users from accessing certain sites and services. The so-called ‘Great Firewall’ works reasonably well, but can be circumvented through VPN services and other encryption tools.

These tools are a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities, which are now receiving help from Apple to limit their availability.

Over the past few hours, Apple has removed many of the most-used VPN applications from the Chinese app store. In a short email, VPN providers are informed that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.

Apple’s email to VPN providers

VPN providers and users are complaining bitterly about the rigorous action. However, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Over the past few months there have been various signals that the Chinese Government would crack down on non-authorized VPN providers.

In January, a notice published by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the government had launched a 14-month campaign to crack down on local ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

This essentially means that all VPN services have to be pre-approved by the Government if they want to operate there.

Earlier this month Bloomberg broke the news that China’s Government had ordered telecommunications carriers to block individuals’ access to VPNs. The Chinese Government denied that this was the case, but it’s clear that these services remain a high-profile target.

Thanks to Apple, China’s Government no longer has to worry about iOS users having easy access to the most popular VPN applications. Those users who search the local app store for “VPN” still see plenty of results, but, ironically, many of these applications are fake.

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





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There are plenty options for copyright holders to frustrate the operation of pirate sites, but one of the most effective is to attack their domain names.

The strategy has been deployed most famously against The Pirate Bay. Over the past couple of years, the site has lost more than a handful following copyright holder complaints.

While less public, hundreds of smaller sites have suffered the same fate. Sometimes these sites are clear infringers, but in other cases it’s less obvious. In these instances, a simple complaint can also be enough to have a domain name suspended.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge address this ‘copyright bullying’ problem in a newly published whitepaper. According to the digital rights groups, site owners should pick their domain names carefully, and go for a registry that shields website owners from this type of abuse.

“It turns out that not every top-level domain is created equal when it comes to protecting the domain holder’s rights. Depending on where you register your domain, a rival, troll, or officious regulator who doesn’t like what you’re doing with it could wrongly take it away,” the groups warn.

The whitepaper includes a detailed analysis of the policies of various domain name registries. For each, it lists the home country, under which conditions domain names are removed, and whether the WHOIS details of registrants are protected.

When it comes to “copyright bullies,” the digital rights groups highlight the MPAA’s voluntary agreements with the Radix and Donuts registries. The agreement allows the MPAA to report infringing sites directly to the registry. These can then be removed after a careful review but without a court order.

“Our whitepaper illustrates why remedies for copyright infringement on the Internet should not come from the domain name system, and in particular should not be wielded by commercial actors in an unaccountable process. Organizations such as the MPAA are not known for advancing a balanced approach to copyright enforcement,” the EFF explains.

While EFF and Public Knowledge don’t recommend any TLDs in particular, they do signal some that site owners may want to avoid. The Radix and Donuts domain names are obviously not the best choice, in this regard.

“To avoid having your website taken down by your domain registry in response to a copyright complaint, our whitepaper sets out a number of options, including registering in a domain whose registry requires a court order before it will take down a domain, or at the very least one that doesn’t have a special arrangement with the MPAA or another special interest for the streamlined takedown of domains,” the groups write.

Aside from the information gathered in the whitepaper, The Pirate Bay itself has also proven to be an excellent test case of which domain names are most resistant to copyright holder complaints.

In 2015, the notorious torrent site found out that exotic domain names are not always the best option after losing its .GS, .LA, .VG, .AM, .MN, and .GD TLDs in a matter of months. The good old .ORG is still up and running as of today, however, despite being operated by a United States-based registry.

EFF and Public knowledge’s full whitepaper is available here (pdf).

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





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After being spoken of in unfavorable terms by the United States Trade Representative in its Special 301 Reports, Italy achieved a sudden breakthrough in 2014.

“Italy’s removal from the Special 301 List reflects the significant steps the Government of Italy has taken to address the problem of online piracy, and the continued U.S. commitment to meaningful and sustained engagement with our critical partner Italy,” the USTR said in a special announcement.

This praise was in part due to the way Italy promised to deal with online piracy. Instead of legislating to make a piracy crackdown easier, the government handed AGCOM, the Italian Communications Regulatory Authority, the power to deal with infringement based on complaints filed by rightsholders.

Without any need for legal cases or court injunctions, at the end of March 2014, AGCOM was granted the power to have allegedly infringing content removed from sites and to have domains blocked at the ISP level.

Now, just over three years later, AGCOM has been granted even more power. Passed last week, Amendment 1.022 effectively gives AGCOM the power to order sites to not only take allegedly infringing content down but to keep it down permanently, all without intervention from the judiciary.

The decision has provoked a furious response from a body representing the country’s ISPs, which describes the “unconstitutional rules” as a way to protect the economic interests of right holders behind various creative works and live sporting events.

“This measure abolishes procedural safeguards for citizens, imposes interception obligations to Internet providers, and damages consumers by imposing technical measures that will result in increased costs,” the Italian Association of Internet Providers (AIIP) said in a statement.

According to AIIP, it is the judiciary that should have sole power over copyright infringement disputes in Italy. When other bodies such as AGCOM are given control over criminal issues, it represents a violation of both constitutional principles and EU law.

“Any rule that would require Internet Providers to filter and carry out preventive checks – as well as to remove content generated by users without a court order – is in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, Community legislation on electronic communications services, and case law of the European Court of Justice,” AIIP says.

The ISP body says that AGCOM now possesses discretionary powers that even magistrates do not have, which from a technical perspective includes monitoring, interception, and blocking of user activity, a position that amounts to “gigantic state censorship.”

Only time will tell how the situation pans out but it’s crystal clear that ISPs feel that unlike the views of the copyright industry, their concerns have not been taken into consideration.

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Kim Dotcom has made headlines in the press again over the past week, but not for his own alleged misconduct.

Instead, there is a renewed focus on the unlawful surveillance practices of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

During the months leading up to the raid, the GCSB carried out surveillance on Dotcom but failed to check his residency status. The outfit was not allowed to spy on its own residents and clearly crossed a line with its unlawful information gathering.

To find out what was collected, Dotcom asked the High Court for access to the surveilled information, but last week this request was denied. While this came as a disappointment, the court did reveal something else of interest.

As it turns out, the illegal spying on Dotcom didn’t stop on January 20, 2012, when Dotcom was arrested. Instead, it carried on for another two months, ending March 22, 2012.

Initially, some people thought that the High Court may have made a mistake in the timeline, but with pressure mounting, New Zealand police have now confirmed that this is not the case. The illegal spying did indeed continue for two more months.

“We’ve checked the file and can confirm that the dates you’ve highlighted were known to the Operation Grey team. They were considered as part of the investigation and decision-making about the outcome,” a police spokesman told NZ Herald.

While this is all news to the public, the police and others were well-aware of the additional spying. This raises a series of questions, which Megaupload’s founder would like to see answered.

“Does this mean that New Zealand Police knew that the GCSB affidavits were false? GCSB told the Courts under oath that the illegal spying ended two months earlier. Not in March but in January,” Dotcom says, commenting on the news.

The issue is more than a matter of oversight, Dotcom says, and he calls for a proper investigation where the people responsible will be held accountable.

“New Zealand Police investigated GCSB because of the illegal spying but nobody was ever charged with any crime. How is that possible if the Police knew that the GCSB lied to the New Zealand Courts? What else would we discover if we had a fair and open hearing instead of secret submissions in closed Court?

“The New Zealand Courts have been fooled by the GCSB and the Police. What’s next? What are the consequences?” Dotcom adds.

In recent years the Megaupload case has been a stumbling block for several politicians and the latest revelations have put Prime Minister Bill English under pressure. It’s clear that several high ranked officials would rather see Dotcom leave, but thus far the fiasco is more likely to help him stay.

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Despite being what courts have described as an “innocent bystander”, Google has found itself at the heart of a potentially damaging intellectual property case. Running since 2014, Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack saw Canadian entities battle over stolen intellectual property.

Equustek Solutions claimed that Google’s search results helped to send visitors to Datalink websites operated by the defendants (former Equustek employees) who were selling unlawful products. Google voluntarily removed links to the sites from its Google.ca (Canada) results but Equustek wanted more, and soon got it.

A court in British Columbia, the Court of Appeal, and then the Supreme Court of Canada all agreed that Google should remove links to the sites on a global basis, by definition beyond Canada’s borders.

When court rulings encroach on potentially opposing legal systems overseas, difficulties are bound to arise. Google raised concerns that the decision would conflict with U.S. law, but the Supreme Court described the issues as “theoretical” and left it up to the U.S. to solve the problem.

In response, Google filed for an injunction at the US District Court for Northern California this week, arguing that the Canadian decision violates important U.S. legislation.

“Google now turns to this Court, asking it to declare that the rights established by the First Amendment and the Communications Decency Act are not merely theoretical,” Google wrote.

“The Canadian order is repugnant to those rights, and the order violates principles of international comity, particularly since the Canadian plaintiffs never established any violation of their rights under U.S. law.

“Pursuant to well-established United States law, Google seeks a declaratory judgment that the Canadian court’s order cannot be enforced in the United States and an order enjoining that enforcement.”

According to Google, Internet search results are fully protected speech under the First Amendment, and because the Canadian decision is directed to a specific speaker (Google) and is content-specific, it must come under scrutiny.

Google insists that the websites to be censored are already a matter of public record and Equustek has not shown that it has no alternative remedies to hand other than to censor Google’s results outside of Canada.

“Equustek has not sought similar delisting injunctions against the world’s other search engines, such as Bing or Yahoo,” Google writes, noting that action hasn’t been taken against regular websites carrying links either.

Google also suggests that Equustek could have taken action against Datalink’s registrars and webhosts, which have the ability to delete the actual sites in question. With the websites gone the search de-indexing battle would be moot, but for reasons unknown, Equustek has chosen a different battle.

Describing the Canadian order as one of “convenience,” Google criticizes the effort to deal with a Canadian legal problem on a global basis, adding that “no one country should purport to control the global internet.”

In closing, Google asks the court to declare the Canadian Order unenforceable in the United States on the basis it violates the the First Amendment, the Communications Decency Act, and public policy surrounding enforceability of foreign judgments.

“The Canadian Order purports to place the Canadian court in the position of
supervising the law enforcement activities of a foreign sovereign nation (the United States) against the United States’ own citizens on American soil. Because the Canadian courts ignored principles of international comity, corrective action by this Court is required,” Google concludes.

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