In recent months there has been a notable increase in publicised anti-piracy actions against services offering manga content. Publishers have pressured a range of sites, hoping to shut down or at least make life more difficult for these hugely popular platforms.

Among the targets was MandaDex, a so-called ‘scanlation’ platform that offers scanned and translated manga publications to an audience underserved by publishers offering restricted foreign language output. The site first reported domain issues and then revealed that its donation processing mechanism had also come under fire, a popular strategy among certain anti-piracy groups.

In the wake of our report, TorrentFreak spoke with an individual in charge of server administration for several scanlation groups including Mangazuki.co, MangaSushi.net, and LHTranslation.net. At least two of these sites process around three million requests per day, according to traffic reports shared with TF.

The source shared information that shows aggressive correspondence received from anti-piracy company RemoveYourMedia, including threats to target a PayPal account and instructions to either remove content or face being “disappeared” from search engines.

“We initially dismissed these emails as being spam, or most likely just some extortion scheme. However, the PayPal account that was listed publicly for donations has been taken down by a DMCA claim from VIZ,” our source revealed.

Documents sent by PayPal and reviewed by TF reveal the payment processor warning the LHT scanlation platform that it had received complaints from VIZ Media LLC and that certain actions needed to be taken, including the deletion of many URLs, in order to comply with PayPal’s acceptable use policy. The necessary action was taken and the PayPal account was restored. The groups also took the decision to remove all VIZ Media content from their sites.

Publisher VIZ Media has been at war with manga sites for many years and it was this publisher that recently targeted MangaDex, among others. However, the takedown demands against scanlation sites aren’t always cut and dried and in many cases don’t meet the accepted standards in respect of the DMCA.

“The stuff [LHTranslation] was hosting wasn’t a direct copy of VIZ’s work. In fact, it was a fan translation, and we had never received a proper DMCA takedown request. We’re quite certain extortion doesn’t count as a valid DMCA complaint,” our source added.

In broad terms, these scanlation platforms say they have to deal with three types of people filing complaints. The first group is labeled “DMCA trolls” and described as people who don’t hold any rights or licenses but file DMCA takedowns regardless.

“We’ve had those emails fly past every once in a while, with poorly worded ‘demands’ as well. Because we receive them every once in a while, we kind of assumed the email [threat sent on behalf of VIZ Media] was among them,” the server admin said.

Interestingly, the second category – genuine copyright holders who send proper DMCA notices – apparently aren’t an issue. There are no objections to these claims, content is taken down and users are directed to where the original material can be purchased instead.

However, those in the final category appear to be the greatest irritant, both in volume terms and the nature of the claims.

“The third kind, and sadly the one we see the most, are those that take our translations and file a claim on our content. Essentially if torrent leeches were to file complaints after leeching the content,” our source complained.

Faced with such issues, the server admin says that the groups he deals with have all moved to so-called ‘bulletproof’ hosting, not because they want to ignore the DMCA but to avoid the DMCA being abused as a weapon. In fact, the groups don’t appear averse to working with license holders to reach the goal of delivering manga to the public in English so it can be enjoyed by currently underserved fans.

All in all, however, it’s a time-consuming process.

After the raw manga images are obtained by the scanlation groups, members are tasked with translating the comics into English while others tidy up the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese text. Further fine-tuning then takes place including re-drawing some pages, applying proper fonts, and putting pages through a final editing process. After a quality control procedure, content is then released on the scanlation sites.

“After we’ve released a chapter on our own site, other people take our releases and re-upload them to aggregator sites, like MangaDex, spreading them to the wider masses,” our source revealed.

“Both our goal, and that of MangaDex in this process isn’t to make money, however. Most of this work is done free of charge. We’re all doing this because we simply love reading mangas and want to bring these series to the West. So other people can enjoy them and in the hope that English publishers see the demand for a certain series and pick them up for official translation.

“This is also why we always tell our readers to support the official releases and creators. And the reason why MangaDex points to the buy pages of both the official English prints and in some cases the Japanese prints. Because of all this, we often don’t see ourselves as pirates, but just as fans, as our goal is to simply make series accessible to others,” the source concluded.

If we take these claims on face value, there appears to be a fairly straightforward way to make progress and counter the perceived scanlation ‘threat’. By making translated content available officially, these groups would not only be out of a ‘job’ but manga could also reach a wider audience, presumably alongside increased revenue.

That sounds a little more progressive than shouty emails and having PayPal accounts shut down.

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Earlier this week we reported that the number of leaked screeners was on the rise again after an all-time low last year.

Over the past 24-hours, this number went up significantly with six new leaks bringing the total to 16.

A pirated screener dump of this magnitude in such a short timeframe is something we haven’t seen before.

What’s also new is that the release group ‘TOPKEK’ is one of the driving forces. Although TOPKEK is not new to releasing pirated movies, they haven’t gotten involved in leaking screeners in the past.

The most prominent release is ‘1917,’ which won the Golden Globe for best film and received ten Academy Award nominations earlier this week. A screener copy of the movie was released by both TOPKEK and Hive-CM8.

It’s likely that both groups obtained their screener copy from a separate source. The file sizes of the releases vary and, according to reports from users, the quality is not the same either.

In their release notes, Hive-CM8 mentions that the movie has already generated enough revenue for it to be released in the open. “Gross is doing ok, so it’s ready to go,” the group writes.

From the leaked screener

1917

Both TOPKEK and Hive-CM8 also released a copy of the biographical drama ‘Richard Jewell,’ another contender for the Oscars.

The other four screeners that leaked all came from TOPKEK. These include ‘A hidden Life,’ ‘Color Out of Space,’ Dark Waters,’ and ‘Queen and Slim.’ The latter comes with the unusual ‘QuerySCR’ tag which suggests that the source of the screener copy may not be known.

The Dark Waters release also stands out. It’s tagged as a 1080p release and is 33.7 gigabytes in size, considerably larger than the rest.

Seeing this many leaks in the span of a few hours is quite unique. As far as we know, it has never happened before. This certainly makes it newsworthy and may also draw the attention of Hollywood and law enforcement.

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Last year, Nintendo filed a lawsuit against the game download portal RomUniverse.

The website, which also allows users to download movies and books, was accused of massive copyright infringement, including that relating to many Nintendo titles.

“The Website contains and offers to the public an immense library of unauthorized copies of video games, primarily Nintendo video games designed for nearly every video game system Nintendo has ever produced,” the complaint read.

The game company argued that the site’s users downloaded hundreds of thousands of copyrighted works. RomUniverse profited from these infringements by offering premium accounts that allow users to download as many games as they want, Nintendo further alleged.

Despite these harsh allegations the site’s operator, California resident Matthew Storman, wasn’t giving up. He decided to defend himself in court and responded to Nintendo’s claims last October through a detailed motion to dismiss.

Storman didn’t deny that he is involved in the operation of RomUniverse. However, he sees himself as a Service Provider, who is not part of the ‘forum’ itself. On the contrary, the admin argued that he’s protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions.

Nintendo disregarded this defense as improper, untimely, and wholly inadequate. In a detailed response, the game company requested the court to deny Storman’s motion to dismiss the case.

After considering the arguments from both sides, US District Court Judge Consuelo B. Marshall has sided with Nintendo. In a ruling released yesterday, she denies the various arguments presented by Storman.

RomUniverse’s operator wanted the case dismissed based on failure to state a claim, lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, insufficient service of process, and failure to join a party. None of these arguments convinced the court.

Storman, for example, argued that Nintendo is not the owner of previously purchased games because consumers have the right to sell, destroy, or give them away. The Judge didn’t address this in detail but concluded that Nintendo’s copyright registrations are sufficient at this stage.

Many of the defenses were linked to Storman’s notion that he is shielded by the DMCA’s safe harbor protections. Nintendo previously said that a motion to dismiss isn’t the proper stage to invoke this defense and the court agrees.

‘The Court cannot determine whether the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions apply to Defendant at this stage because there is no evidence before the Court regarding whether Defendant is a service provider who satisfies the statutory requirements for protection pursuant to the DMCA’s safe harbors,” Judge Marshall writes.

Even if Storman has the right to safe harbor under the DMCA, that wouldn’t make the trademark infringement and unfair competition claims go away.

“Even assuming the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions apply to Defendant, those safe harbors would not protect Defendant from liability as to Plaintiff’s trademark infringement and unfair competition claims,” Judge Marshall adds.

All in all, the court denied RomUniverse’s motion to dismiss. Judge Marshall further requests the site’s operator to file a formal response to the complaint, which is due in two weeks. Whether Storman will continue this fight on his own or will retain an attorney is unknown.

A copy of US District Court Judge Consuelo B. Marshall’s order is available here (pdf).

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Kim Dotcom’s under-development file-sharing project K.im received a setback recently when its K.im domain fell into third-party hands.

As reported here on TF last Sunday, communication issues with the registry led to the domain expiring and it was quickly snapped up by Bulgarian expired domain specialist Kalin Karakehayov.

“[T]he domain k.im was registered by me, Kalin Karakehayov for personal use while it was in an available status. I intend to put nice, non-commercial stuff there like my Google awareness campaign,” Karakehayov informed TF.

Kim Dotcom, on the other hand, was less pleased with the acquisition. Describing Karakehayov as a “domain squatter”, he told us that a dispute was underway to reclaim the domain since “fraudulent behavior” had been displayed by its new owner. Having a trademark for the term ‘K.im’ would work in the project’s favor, he predicted.

Now, just a few days later, the K.im project has cause to celebrate. Documents shared with TorrentFreak by Kim Dotcom reveal that following a dispute process filed with the Isle of Man registry in charge of the domain, it has been ordered to be returned to the company behind the K.im project.

To get to this stage hasn’t been straightforward, however. The decision reviewed by TF reveals that the ‘Listed Correspondent’ for the K.im domain wasn’t initially Kalin Karakehayov himself but a third-party identified only as Max Guerin.

This individual reportedly entered into ‘negotiations’ with BitCache, the company behind the K.im project, to return the domain and during a December 9, 2019 conference call, set a price of $100,000 to sell it back. During a Telegram conversation a day later, the price was reportedly switched to $50,000 upfront followed by payments of $5,000 per month or the same value in BitCache stock.

Whether the K.im project had any real intention of buying the domain back is unclear but ultimately its operating companies decided to file a complaint to have the domain returned.

As part of the process, the .im registry contacted “Listed Correspondent” Max Guerin but received no response. However, on January 6, 2020, Kalin Karakehayov (since designated as the ‘Actual Correspondent’) provided evidence that he is the owner of the domain.

“The Actual Respondent states that the Listed Correspondent is not the proper party to the dispute and that he has had no personal contact with the Listed Correspondent in any shape or form,” the decision notes.

Karakehayov told the registry that the domain was registered for his personal, non-commercial use “with the idea to benefit humanity” and was not intended to breach K.im’s trademarks. In the end, however, the registry determined that the domain should be returned to BitCache’s holding company on the basis that the registration after expiry had been abusive.

“I conclude that the Domain Name k.im should be transferred to the Complainant immediately upon the expiry of the appeal period,” the registry’s designated official writes.

That appeal period is 10 days from January 15, 2020, and according to Karakehayov, he intends to put it to use by contesting the decision.

“[The decision] does not seem fair to me and I intend to appeal it,” Karakehayov informs TorrentFreak.

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In August 2019, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) announced that eight men had been indicted by a grand jury for conspiring to violate criminal copyright law by running “two of the largest unauthorized streaming services in the United States.”

All of the defendants – Kristopher Lee Dallmann, Darryl Julius Polo, Douglas M. Courson, Felipe Garcia, Jared Edward Jaurequi, Peter H. Huber, Yoany Vaillant, and Luis Angel Villarino – were charged with running Jetflix, a subscription-based streaming service that reportedly carried more than 183,200 TV episodes.

Darryl Julius Polo, a former Jetflicks programmer, was additionally accused of launching and running iStreamitAll, a service carrying 18,479 TV episodes and 10,980 movies.

On December 12, 2019, Polo pleaded guilty to various copyright infringement and money laundering charges. The next day, former Jetflicks programmer Luis Angel Villarino pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

The remaining six defendants were set to go on trial during December 2019 but following acknowledgment by the court that the case is unusually complex, it was pushed back to February 2020. Due to fresh developments in the investigation, however, the trial will now be pushed back to the summer.

According to court documents filed by the US Government in December 2019, it was already in possession of a significant amount of discovery data (around 88 gigabytes) but following a March 2018 request under the US-Canada Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), law enforcement agencies in Canada had seized a great deal more.

It took around 21 months but on December 16, 2019, the data was finally handed over to the Department of Justice. The volume of evidence is reportedly “enormous” and includes reports from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, subscriber information documents, a list of tickets and messages pertaining to subscribers, plus five forensic images of computers located at OVH, a hosting provider in Canada.

Those five images are said to contain “well over” 2.3 million files which together total around 2.72 terabytes of data. The FBI reportedly took the evidence to the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section’s Cybercrime Lab in December 2019 which found information relating to Jetflicks, iStreamitAll and related services including SmackDownOnYou, Sincity Sports Cards, BlockBustersTV, Cardvision TV, and other entities and persons connected with the case.

An estimated 186,000 emails were also discovered, some with Excel and Word attachments. According to the US Government, the overall trove is so extensive it’s 30 times larger than the discovery provided to the defendants to date. So, given the scale of the task ahead, the US Government advised a Virginia court that all parties would be best served by a further trial delay.

“In our view, given that neither the government nor the defense has reviewed the data we just received from Canada, all parties would benefit from a continuance,” the filing reads.

“The government needs to understand the nature of this new evidence for purposes of our case, and we believe that defense counsel has an obligation to their clients to review this new evidence too.”

In closing, the Government requested that the trial be shifted to June 22, 2020. This delay was initially opposed by defendants Peter Huber and Yoany Vaillant but an agreement was later reached. As a result, in an order signed this week by District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, the trial was rescheduled for July 14, 2020.

The information provided by Canadian authorities may yet boost the US Government’s case against the Jetflicks defendants but its lawyers didn’t waste the opportunity to take a shot at Canada’s alleged poor conduct when it comes to dealing with pirate sites.

“The Court may wonder why Jetflicks and iStreamItAll — which were both based in the United States — used a hosting provider in Canada for their operations,” a footnote reads.

“According to the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which represents over 3,200 U.S. companies producing and distributing materials protected by copyright laws throughout the world, among those engaged in piracy, Canada has had a ‘long-standing reputation as a safe haven for some of the most massive and flagrant Internet sites dedicated to the online theft of copyright material’.”

While the same footnote also states that Canada “has made some progress” in recent years, it’s obvious that hosting Jetflicks in Canada didn’t save its operators from prosecution or from having their data seized and handed to US authorities.

The related court filings can be found here and here (pdf)

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Five years ago, Popcorn Time was widely embraced by pirates, thanks to its ability to stream torrent files through a user-friendly interface.

This rapid rise raised concern among many movie industry companies, who worked hard to contain the threat by going after several forks and their developers.

This resulted in the shutdown of several projects including Popcorntime.dk. The site offered information on Popcorn time and its availability but didn’t host any software itself. Nevertheless, it still found itself subjected to rightsholders’ complaints.

The matter piqued the interest of Danish law enforcement which eventually resulted in a criminal investigation. In August 2015, Danish police arrested the alleged operator and Popcorntime.dk was subsequently shut down and placed under the control of the state prosecutor.

The case was highly unusual because the domain in question didn’t host the Popcorn Time software. Instead, the site offered instructions, information, news articles, as well as links to sites where the application was available.

PopcornTime.dk as it appeared in 2015

In most cases this issue would have blown over, especially since the site had a relatively small number of users. However, the Danish investigation triggered a criminal prosecution, with the operator facing a potential prison sentence.

In 2018, this resulted in a conditional 6-month prison sentence for the man behind PopcornTime.dk. The court ruled that spreading information about the controversial movie streaming service warranted liability for contributory copyright infringement.

The defendant disagreed and appealed the case at the High Court, which later handed down a similar verdict. In a final attempt to have the ruling reversed, the site operator went to the Danish Supreme Court, which announced its verdict yesterday.

The Supreme Court confirmed the decisions of the High Court and District Court, ruling that the operator of Popcorntime.dk is indeed liable for contributory infringements via Popcorn Time.

In his defense, the operator argued that the previous rulings restricted his right to freedom of expression and information, which would violate Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, the Supreme Court disagreed. Instead, it ruled that the site was specifically designed to target potential Popcorn Time users who received concrete instructions on how to use the software. This is a criminal offense, even in the absence of concrete infringements by users, the Court found.

The Court thereby assumed that “a large number of users of [the operator’s] website have downloaded and used the Popcorn Time program and that use of the software, as a general rule, involved copyright infringement.”

The Court upheld the 6-month conditional prison sentence. The site operator, who is now in his 40s, was further sentenced to 120 hours of community service and more than $67,000 in ad revenue was confiscated.

Local anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen (Rights Alliance) is pleased with the outcome. According to the organization, this ruling is the first of its kind when it comes to criminal contributory copyright infringements.

“The judgment is, as far as we know, the first of its kind in the EU on the legal basis of criminal contributory copyright infringements,” Rights Alliance Director Maria Fredenslund informs TorrentFreak.

“So it confirms that the marketing and recommendations on the websites are in fact contributory infringements, even though they are not related to any particular copyright infringement, but rather to the infringements related to the Popcorn Time service in general.”

The Supreme Court ruling could have far-reaching consequences for other websites that provide information about piracy services. While the nature and purpose of the site still play a role, operators can’t simply hide behind the fact that they don’t host an infringing application on their server.

A copy of the Supreme Court verdict (in Danish) is available here (pdf)

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Yesterday the contenders for the 2020 Oscars were announced.

‘Joker’ emerged as the main favorite with eleven nominations, closely followed by ‘1917’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ with ten each.

While Hollywood was buzzing with excitement over the news, a screener copy of another Oscar favorite – ‘Little Women’ – began spreading across pirate sites.

Pirated screeners are nothing new. Every year copies of popular films that are solely intended for private awards screenings end up in public. These releases are typically well secured, but release groups such as EVO and Hive-CM8 find their way around the protections.

One trend that we observed over recent years, however, is that fewer screener leaks were being posted online. Back in 2007, 29 screeners of nominees (81%) had leaked when the winners were announced. In 2019, this number was down to seven (23%).

Last year was an all-time low, which appeared to be good news for Hollywood. However, the downward trend hasn’t continued. During the current season, ten screener copies have already made their way onto pirate sites, of which eight received an Oscar nomination.

With several weeks still to go until the awards ceremony, this number will likely go up. To give an indication, in both 2018 and 2019 three pirated screeners came out after mid-January.

It’s worth noting though that the number of screener leaks itself doesn’t say much about security or enforcement efforts. In fact, the changing movie industry, where online streaming platforms are gaining dominance, could be the prime reason for a decline in these leaks.

Screeners are generally only released if there is no higher quality leak out already. Since pirated WEBRips and WEB-DLs generally come out soon after a movie premieres on a streaming service, screeners are less relevant.

To give an example, ‘The Irishman’ was widely available on pirate sites just hours after it premiered on Netflix. This trend is also what we see in the data from pirate screener watcher Andy Baio.

Of all the major Oscar contenders, only four are not yet available in high-quality formats on pirate sites. These are ‘1917,’ ‘Just Mercy,’ ‘Richard Jewell,’ and ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’.

As in previous years, release group Hive-CM8 is responsible for the bulk of the leaked screeners. And if we believe their latest release notes, they are not done yet. The group is openly calling for sources who have access to more screeners, including the latest Star Wars film.

A complete list of the screeners that have leaked thus far:

– Uncut Gems (12/16/2019) by EVO
– Portrait of a Lady on Fire (12/16/2019) by EVO
– Jojo Rabbit (12/21/2019) by Hive-CM8
– A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (12/23/2019) by Hive-CM8
– Knives Out (12/25/2019) by Hive-CM8
– Ford v Ferrari (12/29/2019) by Hive-CM8
– Frozen 2 (01/02/2019) by Hive-CM8
– Harriet (01/04/2019) by Hive-CM8
– Bombshell (01/09/2019) by Hive-CM8
– Little Woman (01/13/2019) by Hive-CM8

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Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, better known as Rajinikanth, is a superstar of Indian cinema, having been active in the industry for decades.

During his time on the silver screen, piracy has been running rampant across India but even he will have been taken by surprise following the events of the past few days.

Rajinikanth’s latest movie, action thriller Darbar, was released theatrically on January 9, 2020, quickly recovering around 75% of its costs during its first weekend alone.

However, on January 12, just three days after its official release, local cable channel Saranya TV took the decision to broadcast a pirated copy of the movie, as illustrated in the image below obtained by Galatta.com.

In common with many local movies, infamous torrent site TamilRockers reportedly leaked Darbar online shortly after its release but subsequent ‘pirate’ broadcasting on cable TV is unusual, particularly during a theatrical window. This has caused outrage at Lyca Productions, the production company behind the movie, which responded by filing a complaint with local police.

“The movie has been receiving good response from the public and it is running successfully in all centers all over the world, in the meantime we are astounded and distressed to know, that the movie was telecasted illegally in a local TV Channel called Saranya TV at Madurai on 12.01.2020 evening,” a statement from Lyca reads.

“Having come to know this, we have officially filed a complaint against the said local TV Channel at The Commissioner Office, Law & Order, Madurai.”

According to the local distributor for the movie, police were swift to act against the operators of Saranya TV. After initial reports that the channel had been closed and its operators had gone on the run, it now appears arrests have been made.

“It is true that the offenders have been arrested, but FIR [First information report] is yet to be registered as the investigation is still in progress,” a statement obtained by Behindwoods reads.

“It appears that they have used 2-3 relay points for broadcasting the film. While a computer system [has] already been seized, the police are now in the process of probing and confiscating other types of equipment, including CPUs, relay hubs and other systems that they were using to telecast the movie.”

In addition to the action against the cable TV company, a Galatta source reports that after the movie was widely shared on Whatsapp, a complaint was filed by Lyca in that direction too.

No official announcement on that front has been made by Lyca but an anti-piracy company is working on its behalf to prevent piracy on the messenger application.

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Online piracy is an issue that affects many industries and indie game development is certainly no exception.

Some developers see piracy as an evil that needs to be rooted out as soon as possible. However, others are more open to some of the motivations behind it and are willing to experiment.

Game developer Shota Bobokhidze, aka ‘ShotX,’ falls in the latter category. The indie developer from Tiblisi, Georgia, runs his one-man company ShotX Studio which just released a new shooter game titled ‘Danger Gazers.’

The release is available on Steam where it currently sells at $9.99. While that’s not an extremely steep price, ShotX realizes the average game fan may not have the financial means to try out all the new titles that come out every month.

This prompted the developer to release a special edition targeting the pirate community. It’s something he already planned to do with the game Kontrakt in 2018, but that idea was canned after The Pirate Bay kept returning server errors.

This time he was more successful. Late last week the torrent made its way onto The Pirate Bay, carrying a special message from the creator.

“This is the latest DRM-free version of Danger Gazers (1.1.0), there’s no catch here, no Steam only features, just the fully functional game,” ShotX writes on The Pirate Bay.

The game can be downloaded for free, no strings attached. The developer’s only request is that people consider buying it if they like what they see, or to support the project in any other way. The same message was later repeated on Reddit where ShotX highlighted his release.

Ironically, the developer’s first post on Reddit was removed, presumably because the moderators assumed it was a pirated version. However, that’s certainly not the case.

This is not the first time that a game developer has plugged his work on a pirate site, but it remains a rarity. To find out more about ShotX’s motivations, we decided to reach out for some additional comments.

The developer informs us that he is all too familiar with piracy. He grew up in a situation where piracy was often the only option to get new software. Today he also sees the other side of the story, as he relies on sales to make a living. However, he still understands that not everyone can easily buy his work.

“The decision to release a torrent came along with the memories of my time spent with pirated software,” ShotX says.

“I remember that I didn’t feel any guilt at all as there was simply no other choice for me at that moment, moreover, had I known that there were other options I could have supported developers with, I’d have done all I could without a second thought.”

Releasing the game on The Pirate Bay allows people to try it out for free. This comes with the added advantage of free exposure, which is welcome too, as it’s becoming harder and harder for new games to get noticed.

ShotX says that this certainly wasn’t a planned PR campaign. He just wanted to get the word out and give the free torrent a chance. That said, he does believe that piracy can have a positive exposure impact, which was also the case here.

“It wouldn’t have been effective if it was a planned PR move to get people to buy the product. It was just a kind act that I was lucky enough to get noticed. I’m sure it would have been apparent if it wasn’t so,” he says.

ShotX’s approach worked well. The Reddit post promoting the official torrent reached a broad audience. This resulted in a lot of free downloads but also motivated people to buy the game and spread the word.

“The response so far was amazing,” ShotX says. While he didn’t expect anything in return, the free release actually resulted in a significant revenue boost.

“There was a noticeable boost in sales, some kind individuals even donated twice as much and most importantly all the rest supported me in their own ways by sharing my game and respecting my decision,” the developer adds.

The developer didn’t promote the torrent on his social media or on his official site, as he specifically wanted to reach out to the pirate community. Given the results, this was quite successful.

This shows that some ‘pirates’ are definitely willing to pay under the rights conditions but it doesn’t mean that this is easily repeatable. If all indie developers started releasing torrents it would no longer be something special and could become harder to get noticed once again.

In this case, however, it clearly paid off.

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There are dozens of apps available online today that act as straightforward players of IPTV streams. These usually cause no copyright infringement issues for their operators as they come with no pre-loaded content.

While many can be configured with a premium subscription so that infringing content can be received at the direction of users, others blur the lines by attempting to aggregate links to streams that exist in open form on the Internet.

One of these players was known as UlangoTV. Previously available via Google Play, Amazon, CNET, and many other third-party download sites, variants of the UlangoTV app acted as a search engine for live IPTV streams, which were color-coded to provide additional information.

“Every day thousands of new stream URLs are found, analyzed and classified,” the publisher’s description on CNET reads.

“For the safety of users and for the protection of the content owners, the search results are flagged with color codes: Yellow streams have been known to us for more than 6 months. Typically these ‘official’ streams are without license problems. All registered users can see these streams freely. Blue streams have been known to us for more than 6 weeks. Also these are usually ‘official’ streams without license problems.”

However, as acknowledged by its publisher, not all streams made available in the app could be considered trouble-free.

“Magenta streams are usually short-lived and have only been known to us recently. These streams are likely to originate from unlicensed sources,” the developer noted.

This type of link aggregation teeters fairly close to the edge of legality but with UlangoTV+, a premium and premium plus subscription option offered by the same developer, broadcasters may have considered the line had been crossed.

“So in this app UlangoTV+ we introduced a new option called Premium Plus, which is only available to a few users who want to pay a premium price and now receive handpicked streams with tightly controlled connectivity,” the marketing added.

With no user shortage for the popular app, during October last year an unexpected message appeared on UlangoTV’s Twitter account which indicated that the project had come to an end.

The tweet gave no clear indication of the reason behind the decision to close but now, several months later, we have the strongest message yet that legal threats from entertainment industry groups played a key role.

Users who visit the Ulango.TV domain today get an all-too-familiar message that due to claims of copyright infringement, the site and associated app have been shut down by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

After the usual countdown timer expires, visitors are redirected to the ACE anti-piracy portal. There is no mention there of the shutdown which tends to suggest that a relatively peaceful agreement was reached with the app’s developer, which would’ve included shutting down and handing over the Ulango domain.

Indeed, domain records show that Ulango.tv is now owned by the Motion Picture Association, which adds to a growing list of dozens of domains taken over as part of the Alliance’s ongoing anti-piracy activities.

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





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