Pirate video streaming sites are booming. Their relative ease of use through on-demand viewing makes them a viable alternative to P2P file-sharing, which traditionally dominated the piracy arena.

The popular movie streaming sites GoMovies, formerly known as 123movies, is one of the most-used streaming sites. While it’s built a steady userbase of millions of users over the past year, the site’s home keeps changing.

The latest move came this week. Going forward, the site will be active from GoStream.is, operating from the Icelandic gostream.is domain name.

While the site hasn’t officially commented on the reason for the move, on Twitter a site representative mentioned a Google ‘penalty’ as the main driver behind the recent change.

Penalized

When we looked at the issue more closely, we found that it’s not so much a penalty, but rather a response to a DMCA takedown request.

Earlier this week the site’s homepage was removed from Google’s search engine following a takedown notice from Warner Bros. This made it harder for users to find the site through Google, as various knockoffs were ranked higher in the search results for the “Gomovies” keyword.

In addition to relocating to a new domain name, the site has also changed the look of its homepage. Instead of a page filled with the most popular movies and TV-shows, it now lists a basic search box.

New GoMovies homepage

The homepage change is likely a response to Google’s search engine removal as well. The previous GoMovies domain was targeted by Warner Bros. because it listed a link to a pirated movie, but such links are no longer present on the new homepage.

That said, users who prefer the old look can still access it with a single click, which is prominently mentioned on the site.

Despite the domain name change, the GoMovies brand hasn’t changed. The logo and all other references to the site’s name remain intact. Confusingly, people who search for GoMovies on Google still won’t see the Gostream.is URL in the top results, but perhaps that will change in the future.

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





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Of all the early founders of The Pirate Bay, it is Peter Sunde who has remained most obviously in the public eye. Now distanced from the site, Sunde has styled himself as a public speaker and entrepreneur.

Earlier this year the Swede (who is of both Norwegian and Finnish ancestry) sold his second most famous project Flattr to the parent company of Adblock Plus. Now, however, he has another digital baby to nurture, and this one is quite interesting.

Like many countries, Sweden operates a public early warning system. Popularly known as ‘Hesa Fredrik’, it consists of extremely loud outdoor sirens accompanied by radio and television messages.

The sirens can be activated in specific areas of the country wherever the problems exist. Fire, floods, gas leaks, threats to the water system, terrorist attacks or even war could trigger the alarm.

Just recently the ‘Hesa Fredrik’ alarm was sounded in Sweden, yet there was no planned test and no emergency. The public didn’t know that though and as people struggled to find information, authority websites crashed under the strain. The earliest news report indicating that it was a false alarm appeared behind a news site’s paywall. The national police site published no information.

The false alarm

Although Sunde heard the sirens, it was an earlier incident that motivated him to find a better solution. Speaking with Swedish site Breakit, Sunde says he got the idea during the Västmanland wildfire, which burned for six weeks straight in 2014 and became the largest fire in Sweden for 40 years.

“I got the idea during Västmanland fire. It took several days before text messages were sent to everyone in the area but by then it was already out of control. I thought that was so very bad when it is so easy to build something better,” Sunde said.

Sunde’s solution is the Hesa Fredrika app, which is currently under development by himself and several former members of the Flattr team.

“The goal is for everyone to download the app and then forget about it,” Sunde says.

When one thinks about the problem Sunde is trying to solve (i.e. the lack of decent and timely information in a crisis) today’s mobile phones provide the perfect solution. Not only do most people have one (or are near someone who does), they provide the perfect platform to deliver immediately deliver emergency services advice to people in a precise location.

“It is not enough for a small text to appear in the corner of the screen. I want to build something that makes the phone vibrate and sound so that you notice it properly,” Sunde told Breakit.

But while such an app could genuinely save lives in the event of a frankly rare event, Sunde has bigger ideas for the software that could extend its usefulness significantly.

Users will also be invited to add information about themselves, such as their doctor’s name or if they are a blood donor. The app user could then be messaged if there was an urgent need for a particular match. But while the app will be rolled out soon, it won’t be rushed.

“Since it is extremely important to the quality of the messages, we want as many partnerships as possible before we launch something,” Sunde says, adding that in true Pirate Bay style, it will be completely free for everyone.

“So it will remain forever,” he says. “My philosophy is such that I do not want people to pay for things that can save their lives.”

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





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In recent years, file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.

These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in the United States for more than half a decade, and still are.

Malibu Media, the Los Angeles-based company behind the ‘X-Art’ adult movies, is behind many of these cases. The company has filed thousands of lawsuits in recent years, targeting Internet subscribers whose accounts were allegedly used to share Malibu’s films via BitTorrent.

When the accused pirates don’t want to settle, Malibu generally ramps up the pressure. This is also what happened to Jenna Howard, a 29-year-old consultant from Houston, Texas.

When Howard protested her innocence and refused to pay the proposed settlement for downloading 15 pirated videos, the adult company came back with two spreadsheets of additional downloads that were linked to her IP-address.

This tactic isn’t new. Copyright trolls regularly provide lists of other downloads, of content they don’t own, to show that the defendant is a prolific downloader. However, in this case, the list is unusually long.

The spreadsheets provided by Malibu Media suggest that Ms. Howard’s connection was used to download fifty-four thousand torrents in recent years.

The downloads in question are all over the map, literally, with titles ranging from “100MB Woman Ass Pictures,” through “этот неловкий момент,” to “육룡이 나르샤” and “La casa di Topolino.”

A small selection of the alleged downloads

According to a recent filing by Ms. Howard’s attorneys, the spreadsheets are part of Malibu’s intimidation tactics.

“Malibu also produced two spreadsheets that suggest Ms. Howard made over fifty-four thousand downloads consisting of an estimated 27 terabytes of data over a four-year period, which is an average of 31 items every day for the last four years, and literally hundreds of items on certain days, including for example downloads of movies in the hundreds and in languages that Ms. Howard does not even speak.”

“This leads to only two possible conclusions: first, either Ms. Howard’s network was hacked, or second, Malibu’s research is wrong,” Ms. Howard’s attorneys write.

They stress, however, that there is no credible evidence to suggest that their client is responsible for downloading all these files. They point out that their client was even accused of downloading dozens of files from her home connection while she was on her honeymoon.

“The spreadsheets also show that Ms. Howard downloaded 31 items on her wedding day, and somehow managed to download an average of 22 items at her home IP address each day of her international honeymoon when she was overseas in the Bahamas,” the filing reads.

The attorneys believe that the adult company has gone too far and ask the court to deny further discovery requests targeted at her Internet provider AT&T, including information about her download activity.

“Malibu’s shoddy research simply does not support the implication that Ms. Howard illegally downloaded the pornographic movies that are the subject of this suit, as well as an additional 54,000 other, unrelated, downloads,” the attorneys write.

“The supposed overlap between the downloads and Ms. Howard’s interests is also not credible. Malibu peddles smut as a commercial enterprise, and is trying to strong-arm a settlement from Ms. Howard while threatening to link Ms. Howard as a purveyor of its pornographic product.”

Malibu’s efforts are a textbook case of discovery abuse, the defense argues. They hope that the court agrees with this assessment and denies the request.

The full request for a protective order is available here (pdf), with help from FCT.

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





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For many years, Perfect 10 went about its business of publishing images of women in print and on the Internet. At some point along the way, however, the company decided that threatening to sue online service providers was more profitable.

Claiming copyright infringement, Perfect 10 took on a number of giants including Google, Amazon, Mastercard, and Visa, not to mention hosting providers such as LeaseWeb and OVH.

With court papers revealing that Perfect 10 owner Norman Zada worked 365 days a year on litigation and that the company acquired copyrights for use in lawsuits, it’s no surprise that around two dozen of Perfect 10’s lawsuits ended in cash settlements and defaults.

With dollar signs in mind, Perfect 10 went after another pretty big fish in 2011. The publisher claimed that Usenet provider Giganews was responsible when its users uploaded Perfect 10 images to the newsgroups. Things did not go well.

In November 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California found that Giganews was not liable for the infringing activities of its users. Perfect 10 was ordered to pay Giganews $5.6m in attorney’s fees and costs. Perfect 10 lost again at the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

But even with all of these victories under its belt, Giganews just can’t catch a break.

The company is clearly owed millions but Perfect 10 is refusing to pay up. As a result, this week Giganews filed yet another suit, accusing Perfect 10 and Norman Zada of fraud aimed at depriving Giganews of the amounts laid out by the court.

The claims center around an alleged conspiracy in which Perfect 10 transferred its funds and assets to Zada.

“As of now (over two years since the judgment), Perfect 10 has not voluntarily paid any amount of the judgment,” the complaint begins.

“Instead, Perfect 10, through the unlawful acts of Zada and in conspiracy with him, has intentionally avoided satisfaction of the judgment through a series of fraudulent transfers of Perfect 10’s corporate assets to Zada’s personal possession.”

Giganews says these “illegal and fraudulent” transfers began back in 2014, when Perfect 10 began to realize that the fight against the Usenet provider was going bad.

For example, on November 20, 2014, around six days after the court granted summary judgment in favor of Giganews, Perfect 10 transferred $850,000 to Zada’s personal account. The Perfect 10 owner later told a Judgment Debtor’s Examination that the transfer was made due to the summary judgment orders, a statement that amounts to a confession of fraud, Giganews says.

“We had a settlement of $1.1 million in, I believe, June. I was entitled to that money,” Zada told the hearing. “And after the summary judgment orders were issued, I did not see any point in keeping more cash than we needed in the account.”

Giganews says that Perfect 10 transferred at least $1.75m in cash to Zada.

Then, within weeks of the court ordering Perfect 10 to pay $5.6m in attorneys fees and costs, Giganews says that Zada “fraudulently transferred substantially all
of Perfect 10’s physical assets” to himself for an amount that did not represent their true value.

Those assets included a car, furniture, and computer servers. When Zada was questioned why the transfers took place, he admitted that “it would have been
totally disruptive to have those [assets] seized” in satisfaction of the judgment. Indeed, the complaint alleges that the assets never moved physical location.

Perhaps surprisingly given the judgment, Giganews alleges that Zada continues to run Perfect 10’s business in much the same way as he did before. The company even has copyright infringement litigation underway against AOL in Germany, despite having few assets.

This is made possible, Giganews says, by Perfect 10 calling on assets it previously transferred to Zada. When required by the company, Zada simply “gives” them back.

In summary, Giganews says these transfers display the “badges of fraud” that indicate attempts to “hinder, delay or defraud” creditors, while leaving Perfect 10 practically insolvent.

“As a consequence, Plaintiffs are entitled to a judgment against Defendants, and each of them, in the sum of the unlawfully transferred amounts of at least $1,750,000, or in an amount to be proven at trial, together with interest on that amount at the legal rate of 10% per annum from and after March 24, 2015,” the complaint reads.

But the claim doesn’t stop there. Giganews asks the court to prevent Perfect 10 from transferring any more cash or assets out of Perfect 10 to Zada or anyone acting in concert with him or on his behalf. This is rounded off with a claim for punitive and exemplary damages of $20m to be considered during a jury trial.

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





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Today, millions of people are protesting the FCC’s plan to repeal the net neutrality rules that were put in place by the former Obama administration.

In this “Battle for the Net,” they are joined by many prominent groups and companies, including Amazon, BitTorrent, Dropbox, Netflix, and even Pornhub.

Under the present net neutrality rules, there’s a clear standard that prevents ISPs from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of “lawful” traffic. In addition, they allow Internet providers to be regulated as carriers under Title II.

If the current net neutrality rules disappear, some fear that throttling and ‘fast lanes’ for some services will become commonplace.

Historically, there is a strong link to between net neutrality and online piracy. The throttling concerns were first brought to the forefront in 2007 when Comcast started to slow down both legal and unauthorized BitTorrent traffic, in an affort to ease the load on its network.

When we uncovered this atypical practice, it ignited the first broad discussion on net neutrality. This became the setup for the FCC’s Open Internet Order which was released three years later.

For its part, the Open Internet Order formed the foundation of the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted in 2015. The big change compared to the earlier rules was that ISPs can be regulated as carriers under Title II.

While pirates may have helped to get the ball rolling, they’re no longer a player in the current net neutrality debate. Under the current rules, ISPs are allowed to block any unlawful traffic, including copyright infringing content.

In fact, in the net neutrality order the FCC has listed the following rule:

“Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity.”

The FCC reasons that copyright infringement hurts the US economy, so Internet providers are free to take appropriate measures against this type of traffic. This includes the voluntary censoring of pirate sites, something the MPAA and RIAA are currently lobbying for.

“For example, the no-blocking rule should not be invoked to protect copyright infringement, which has adverse consequences for the economy, nor should it protect child pornography. We reiterate that our rules do not alter the copyright laws and are not intended to prohibit or discourage voluntary practices undertaken to address or mitigate the occurrence of copyright infringement,” the FCC explains.

That gives ISPs plenty of leeway. ISPs could still block access to The Pirate Bay and other alleged pirate sites as a voluntary anti-piracy measure, for example. And throttling BitTorrent traffic across the board is also an option, as long as it’s framed as reasonable network management.

The worrying part is that ISPs themselves can decide what traffic or sites are unlawful. This could potentially lead to overblocking. Currently, there is no indication that any will, but the net neutrality rules do not preventing these companies from doing so.

This glaring “copyright loophole” doesn’t mean that the net neutrality rules are irrelevant. They’re certainly not perfect, but there are many aspects that benefit the public and companies alike.

What should be clear though clear though, is that the fight for net neutrality is no longer a pirate’s fight.

While the current protest is reminiscent of the massive “Internet blackout” revolt against the SOPA anti-piracy law five years ago, where many pirate sites joined in as well, you won’t see many of these sites calling for net neutrality today. Not out of personal interest, at least.

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





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Over the past twelve months, the sale of ‘pirate’ set-top devices in the UK has reached epidemic proportions.

Augmented Kodi setups are now the talk of both the Internet and the street, with unauthorized streaming sources now commonplace in British homes.

Many of these devices, which are often Android-based, were sold through platforms such as eBay and Amazon. Buyers have been spoilt for choice, with every hardware format and software configuration just a few clicks and a quick delivery away. However, at the end of March, things appeared to change.

As first reported by TF, Amazon updated its terms and conditions to effectively ban any devices capable of, or even suggesting, infringing purposes.

“Products offered for sale on Amazon should not promote, suggest the facilitation of, or actively enable the infringement of or unauthorized access to digital media or other protected content,” the policy reads.

“Any streaming media player or other device that violates this policy is prohibited from sale on Amazon.”

Then, a couple of weeks later, UK tabloid The Sun published an article with the headline “eBay follows Amazon’s lead and issues total ban on Kodi box which lets Brits stream sports and films for free.”

The breathless tone of the headline was nothing new but the content came as a bit of a surprise. The article claimed that eBay had decided to “wipe any Kodi boxes claiming to be ‘fully loaded’ (with access to illegal streams) from its site.”

Given eBay’s traditional stance, that it is not responsible for potentially infringing listings until advised of their existence by authorized rightsholders or their representatives, it seemed unlikely that the company was about to embark on a sudden spring cleaning session.

Indeed, comments from an eBay spokesperson suggested that in respect of business policy, little had changed.

“We run several initiatives designed to combat the infringement of intellectual property rights, including the Verified Rights Owner Program (VeRO),” the spokesperson said.

“We work with the police and regulators to ensure that all listings on eBay comply with the law. There are blocks in place to prevent the listing of illegal items, but we also constantly monitor our marketplace. Anyone found to be knowingly selling items that don’t comply with the law will be investigated and could face account restrictions or suspension.”

Today, that announcement is exactly three months old and from even a cursory search of the platform, ‘pirate’ Kodi and similar setups are still a huge problem. In fact, if one wants to purchase a device, it’s not only just as easy as before, but prices appear to have fallen too.

“Kodi Box” search on eBay UK, first result

Indeed, no matter which searches one uses, whether that refers to the software installations (Kodi, Showbox, etc) or terms like “fully loaded”, all roads point to either infringing devices or devices which strongly suggest in their descriptions that infringement is the aim.

But while some might point to eBay as the problem here (in much the same way that rightsholders quickly level blame at Google), there seems to be a fairly straightforward solution to the problem. In fact, eBay mentioned it themselves, three months ago.

eBay’s Verified Rights Owner Program (VeRO) enables rightsholders and their representatives to have infringing eBay listings taken down if they contain infringing logos or other IP, or advertise items that infringe intellectual property rights.

Once an infringing listing is found, rightsholders can manually submit a Notice of Claimed Infringement (NOCI) in the first instance and via a dedicated tool thereafter. If the complaint is upheld by eBay the listing will be removed, and if sellers are guilty of multiple offenses, their accounts could be suspended or even closed.

Given the large number of infringing listings still present on the site, one might think that the big rightsholders aren’t making use of the NOCI system, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. eBay actually publishes a huge list of participating companies on its site and all the big ones are there.

The MPAA has its own page, for example, as do companies like Versace, who are worried about counterfeiting.

But being more UK specific, since that’s where most of the “Kodi” complaints originate, we can also see that the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) has its own VeRO account, as does key partner the English Premier League.

Given that both eBay, Amazon and even Facebook have been criticized for allowing sales of ‘pirate’ boxes on their platforms, it seems unusual that despite the grand announcements, devices are still so prolific and easy to find.

Whether a full three months hasn’t been long enough for rightsholders to file appropriate complaints is unknown, but it would probably be preferable to go down that route first, before threatening the man in the street with a criminal prosecution.

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





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A cat playing a game of whack-a-mole, a goat hitching a ride on the back of donkey, and a flying squirrel that’s eaten too much.

Besides being animals, they have something else in common. They’re all stars in viral videos.

With millions of views these lucky clips draw a lot of eyeballs. This is good news for the creators, who can monetize the views. And mainstream news sites and tabloids like them as well, since ithey can add some amusement to their online publications.

The problem, however, is that quite a few websites don’t pay for the viral content they put up. In some cases, they assume that videos can be shared freely, while others ignore the copyright issue on purpose.

According to a complaint submitted to a US District Court late last week,
popular British tabloid Daily Mail is guilty of the latter. The lawsuit was filed by Rumble, a company that manages the rights of hundreds of thousands of viral videos.

Rumble informs the court that it’s representing small creators who often don’t have the means to put up a fight against companies that ‘steal’ their content.

“By themselves, these individual content creators cannot effectively police and enforce their copyrights against those infringers who use their videos without approval, authorization or paying anything,” Rumble writes.

“These serial infringers can and do make very large sums of money using these copyright-protected videos without ever paying one penny to the content-creator,” the company adds.

Initially, Rumble and the Daily Mail had a license agreement to use the videos on their website. However, according to the complaint, the British tabloid continued to publish them after the license expired.

When the infringing usage continued, Rumble retained legal counsel to solve the matter, but that didn’t help either. This eventually culminated in legal action.

“Rumble asserts that the infringement here is of the most bold and bald-faced kind, exhibiting an utter disrespect for the copyrights of others,” the complaint reads.

“That [the infringment] is ‘willful’ in the factual and legal sense of the word is beyond dispute, such that the ultimate damages to be awarded will be reasonably and justifiably enhanced, including an award of Rumble’s attorneys fees as well.”

Rumble expects that Daily Mail will claim that they were not aware of the infringing activities so cautions the court not to fall for these type of excuses. The video platform stresses that turning a blind eye to the copyrights of others is part of the tabloid’s playbook, and plans to prove this at trial.

With dozens of videos listed in the legal paperwork, the potential piracy damages requested by the company are around $10,000,000. In addition, Rumble asks for an injunction to stop the infringing activity as soon as possible.

While Rumble prides itself for sticking up for the small guy, as the main rightsholder it has a direct financial interest in the case, of course.

“As per our standard agreement with creators, Rumble will share 60% of Net Earnings awarded from any legal action associated with those creators’ video represented by Rumble,” a company spokesperson informed TorrentFreak.

A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf).

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





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Back in the summer of 2003 when torrenting was still in its infancy, a new torrent client hit the web promising big things.

Taking the Latin name of the blue poison dart frog and deploying a logo depicting its image, the Azureus client aimed to carve out a niche in what would become a market of several hundred million users.

Written in Java and available on Windows, Linux, OSX, and Android, Azureus (latterly ‘Vuze’) always managed to divide the community. Heralded by many as a feature-rich powerhouse that left no stone unturned, others saw the client as bloated when compared to the more streamlined uTorrent.

All that being said, Vuze knew its place in the market and on the bells-and-whistles front, it always delivered. Its features included swarm-merging, built-in search, DVD-burning capabilities, and device integration. It felt like Vuze was always offering something new.

Indeed, for the past several years and like clockwork, every month new additions and fixes have been deployed to Vuze. Since at least 2012 and up to early 2017, not a single month passed without Vuze being tuned up or improved in some manner via beta or full versions. Now, however, all of that seems to have ground to a halt.

The last full release of Vuze (v5.7.5.0) containing plenty of tweaks and fixes was released on February 28 this year. It followed the previous full release by roughly three months, a pattern its developers have kept up for some time with earlier versions. As expected, the Vuze 5.7.5.1 beta versions followed but on April 10, everything stopped.

It’s now three whole months since Vuze the last beta release, which may not sound like a long time unless one considers the history. Vuze has been actively developed for 14 years and its developers have posted communications on their devblog archives every single month, at least as far back as July 2012. Since then – nothing.

Back in May, a user on Vuze forums noted that none of Vuze’s featured content (such as TED Talks) could be downloaded, while another reported that the client’s anti-virus definitions weren’t updating. Given past scheduling, a new version of the client should have been released about a month ago. Nothing appeared.

To illustrate, this is a screenshot of the Vuze source code repository, which shows the number of code changes committed since 2012. The drastic drop-off in April 2017 (12 commits) versus dozens to even hundreds in preceding months is punctuated by zero commits for the past three months.

<The past five years commits at Vuze

Of course, even avid developers have offline lives, and it’s certainly possible that an unusual set of outside circumstances have conspired to give the impression that development has stopped. However, posting a note to the Vuze blog or Vuze forum shouldn’t be too difficult, so people are naturally worried about the future.

TorrentFreak has reached out to the respected developer identified by Vuze forum users as the most likely to respond to questions. At the time of publication, we had received no response.

As mentioned earlier, torrent users have a love/hate relationship with Vuze and Azureus but there is no mistaking this clients’ massive contribution to the torrent landscape. Millions will be hoping that the current radio silence is nothing sinister but until that confirmation is received, the concerns will continue.

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





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This week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Alien Covenant is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1 (7) Alien Covenant (Subbed HDrip) 6.7 / trailer
2 (…) Ghost In a Shell 6.8 / trailer
3 (1) Kong: Skull Island 6.9 / trailer
4 (…) Despicable Me 3 (HDTS) 6.7 / trailer
5 (2) Wonder Woman (Subbed HDrip) 8.2 / trailer
6 (3) King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 7.2 / trailer
7 (4) The Fate of the Furious 6.7 / trailer
8 (…) Transformers: The Last Knight (TC/HDTS) 5.3 / trailer
9 (5) The Mummy 2017 (HDTS) 5.8 / trailer
10 (6) The Boss Baby 6.5 / trailer

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





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With the issue of piracy-enabled set-top boxes still making the headlines, the English Premier League (EPL) has emerged as the most likely organization to prosecute sellers of infringing boxes in the UK.

However, last month the Federation Against Copyright Theft, who provide anti-piracy services for the EPL, revealed that mere users of boxes (such as those containing augmented Kodi setups) could be targeted for prosecution sometime in the future.

As noted in our earlier coverage, people who merely stream pirated content into their own homes are difficult to track online. They pose much greater challenges than BitTorrent users, for example, who can lead investigators straight to their door. But for FACT chief executive Kieron Sharp, there are opportunities to find people via non-technical means.

“When we’re working with the police against a company that’s selling IPTV boxes or illicit streaming devices on a large scale, they have records of who they’ve sold them to,” Sharp said.

The suggestion here is that box sellers’ customer lists contain the personal details of people who obtain Premier League and other content for free so, once identified, could be open to prosecution.

With conventional thinking under copyright law, prosecuting a set-top box/Kodi user for streaming content to his own home is a bit of a daunting prospect, not to mention an expensive one. Copyright cases are notoriously complicated and an individual putting up a spirited defense could cause problems for the prosecution. The inevitable light sentence wouldn’t provide much of a deterrent either.

With all that in mind, it appears that FACT is more interested in prosecuting under other legislation.

During an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Chris Warburton this week, Sharp said that people streaming into their own homes are committing a criminal offense, i.e., something that could interest the police and attract a fine or custodial sentence.

“The law has always been the case that people who are doing something illegal, streaming in their own homes, through these devices, are committing a crime. What’s happened recently is that’s been clarified by an EU judge in one case and by a civil judge in another,” Sharp said.

The EU case was BREIN v Filmspeler, which in part determined that people who stream content from an illegal source do so in breach of copyright law. The judge in the civil case was Justice Arnold, who in a UK Premier League blocking case reached the same conclusion.

While it’s now fairly clear that streaming pirate content in the EU is indeed illegal, is a civil wrong, and can be dealt with by suing someone, it’s not immediately clear how that turns into a criminal offense. It wasn’t clear in the interview either, so Warburton pressed Sharp again.

“What is the bit of the law that you are breaking when you’re streaming, how are you committing a criminal act?” he asked Sharp.

“There are various pieces of legislation,” the FACT chief said. “The one we’ve been looking at is under the Fraud Act which would say you are committing a fraud by streaming these football matches through to your television, watching them at home, and not paying for the license to do so.”

At this point, everything begins to slot into place.

For the past several years through several high-profile Internet piracy cases, FACT has shied away from prosecutions under copyright law. Each time it has opted for offenses under the Fraud Act 2006, partly because longer sentences were available at the time, i.e., up to 10 years in prison.

However, earlier this year FACT’s lawyer revealed that prosecutions under the Fraud Act can be easier for a jury to understand than those actioned under copyright law.

With this wealth of experience in mind, it’s easy to see why FACT would take this route in set-top box cases, especially when fraud legislation is relatively easy to digest.

Possession etc. of articles for use in frauds

“A person is guilty of an offense if he has in his possession or under his control any article for use in the course of or in connection with any fraud,” the Fraud Act reads.

To clarify, an ‘article’ includes “any program or data held in electronic form,” which is perfect for infringing Kodi addons etc.

Given the above, it seems that if the Court can be convinced that the person knowingly possessed a pirate set-top box programmed for fraudulent purposes, there could, in theory, be a successful prosecution resulting in a prison sentence and/or a fine.

Obtaining services dishonestly

“A person is guilty of an offense under this section if he obtains services for himself or another….by a dishonest act, and….he [knowingly] obtains them without any payment having been made for or in respect of them or without payment having been made in full,” the relevant section of the Act reads.

There are probably other angles to this under the Fraud Act but these seem to fit so well that others might not be needed. But how likely is it that someone could be prosecuted in this manner?

Sharp reiterated to the BBC that FACT could get the identities of box buyers as part of investigations into sellers, and as part of that “would see what the situation is” with their customers.

“It may well be that in the future, somebody who is an end-user may well get prosecuted,” he said.

But while the possibilities are there, Sharp really didn’t seem that keen to commit to the hounding of stream consumers in the future, and certainly not now. FACT’s strategy appears to be grounded in getting the word out that people are breaking the law.

“[People] think they can get away with it and that’s an important message from our perspective, that they must understand that they are committing offenses, apart from all the other issues of why they should be paying for the legal product. This is something that should be of concern to them, that they are committing offenses,” Sharp said.

The big question that remains is whether FACT and the English Premier League would ever take a case against a regular end-user to court. History tells us that this is fairly unlikely, but if any case did end up in court, it would definitely be hand-picked for best results.

For example, someone who bought a box from eBay would probably be of no real interest, but someone who had extended email exchanges with a seller, during which they discussed in detail how to pirate English Premier League games specifically, would provide a more useful test subject.

And then, when there are two people involved (the knowingly infringing buyer and the seller, who would also be prosecuted) that also raises the question of whether there had been an element of conspiracy.

Overall though, what people probably want to know is whether lots of people are going to get prosecuted for fraud and the answer to that is almost certainly ‘no.’ Prosecutions against the little guy are resource hungry, expensive, offer little return, and tend to generate negative publicity if they’re perceived as vindictive.

A single highly publicized case is a possible outcome if FACT and the EPL got really desperate, but there’s no guarantee that the Crown Prosecution Service would allow the case to go ahead.

“Prosecutors should guard against the criminal law being used as a debt collection agency or to protect the commercial interests of companies and organizations,” recent CPS advice reads.

“However, prosecutors should also remain alert to the fact that such organizations can become the focus of serious and organized criminal offending.”

FACT could, of course, conduct a private prosecution, which they have done several times in the past. But that is a risk too, so it seems likely that education efforts will come first, to try and slow things down.

“Our desire has always been that sports fans, football fans, would pay for the commercial package, they would pay a fee to watch and that is still our position,” Sharp told the BBC.

“But working with our clients and members such as the Premier League and Sky and BT Sports, we have to consider all the options available to us, to put a bit of a brake on this problem because it’s growing all the time.”

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





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