Kodi Add-on Developer Forfeits Piracy Defense for Lack of Funds

Shani, the brains behind the popular Kodi add-on ZemTV, has told his lawyer to stop defending him. The reason is the London-based developer’s lack of funds to fight the legal battle versus Dish Networks in a US court. The likely result is that the broadcast provider will win a default judgment.

The previous year, American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network targeted two notable players in the third-party Kodi add-on ecosystem. Image result for zemtv

In a complaint filed in a federal court in Texas, the broadcast provider accused both ZemTV and TVAddons of copyright infringement, with both facing up to $150,000 for each offense.

TVAddons operator Adam Lackman responded to the allegations last week, but ZemTV’s developer ‘Shani’ declined.

Shani, short for Shahjahan Durrani never denied that he was the brains behind the Kodi-addons ZemTV, LiveStreamsPro, and F4MProxy. He initially intended to put up a defense, but financial constraints meant it was an uphill task.

Shani launched a fundraiser last autumn to crowdsource the legal battle. He was able to raise close to £1,000, but the legal costs already exceeded even before the case got fully underway.

It left him in a dilemma, either find the funds or give up the case.

Shani told his lawyer Erin Russel to stop all activity on the case and to take no further steps on his behalf.

The lawyer informed the court of this decision backend of last week and withdrew from the case.

This implies that the lawsuit is heading towards a default judgment and in fact, Dish has already moved for an entry of default.

Dish’s motion reads “To date, Durrani has not filed an answer or other responsive pleading or requested additional time to do so.” “Accordingly, the Clerk should enter a default against Durrani.”

Shani still hopes that Dish will drop all charges. The developer said he never operated copyright-infringing streams, nor has he ever made money from his add-ons.

ZemTV, similar to many other add-ons just offered the interface making it possible to watch third-party streams on the Kodi platform. Infringement or not, the developer notes that notwithstanding the lawsuit, these third-party streams are still online.

“The irony of all this mess is that those servers and apps are still functional and working while I am dealing with this illogical case,” Shani concludes.

Dish will likely demand judgment of thousands of dollars in damages should the Texas District Court enter the default. However, damage recoup is unlikely because Shani lives in the UK and at the same time has no assets in the US.

Movie Studios Sue Founder & Distributors of Worldwide Pirate App Showbox

A sizable coalition of independent movie studios, including the makers of Dallas Buyers Club, filed a lawsuit against the alleged ‘founder’ and several distributors of the popular movie streaming application Showbox. In their complaint, they term the Android application as a pirate tool that’s used to mislead the public.

For years now companies have focused their anti-piracy efforts on pirate sites, including torrent and streaming portals. Image result for showbox

In recent times, these efforts have expanded to streaming boxes, with the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) targeting several sellers of such devices.

Last week, the coalition targeted well known Android-based app Showbox.

Showbox does not grab headlines, but the tool is used by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. It enables users to watch movies and TV shows via torrents and direct sources, all through a Netflix-style interface.

They include the alleged founder and developer ‘Andrew Crow,’ Showboxappdownload.co founder ‘Mark Willow,’ and the people behind Showboxappdownload.com and Showbox.en.uptodown.com/android.

Additionally, the complaint also targets the persons who made the application available on Rawapk.com/showbox-apk-download/, a repository of APK files.

The complaint reads “Plaintiffs bring this action to stop the massive piracy of their motion pictures brought on by the software application Show Box app.”

“The Defendants misleadingly promote the Show Box app as a legitimate means for viewing content to the public, who eagerly install the Show Box app to watch copyright-protected content, thereby leading to profit for the Defendants.”

This lawsuit is similar to the phone store employee case where it relies on input from an alleged user of the application. In the current situation that’s Hawaiian resident James Sosa.

Sosa testifies “I visited the website showboxappdownload.com and followed the instructions on the website to download the Show Box app to my Dell tablet.”

“The language on the site led me to believe that I could use the Show Box app to watch free movies legally.”

From the Complaint

The movie studios stated that Showbox is a pirate tool, plain and simple.

The studios wrote, “Defendants promote the use of the Show Box app user for overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, infringing purposes, and that is how the users use the Show Box app.”

All defendants stand accused of contributory copyright infringement. The studios are requesting the court for substantial or legal damages to reimburse their losses, as well as temporary, preliminary and permanent ruling to stop the allegedly infringing activities.

Additionally, the studios also request an order denying internet search engines, hosting companies, domain-name registrars, and domain name registries to give access to the allegedly infringing domain names and websites.

While previously the movie studios were engaged in so-called copyright trolling lawsuits, the Showbox related cases show that they are now going after the people who promote, develop, and distribute a popular streaming app.

Hollywood Teams Up to Widen Swedish Pirate Bay Blockade

Several major Hollywood studios including Disney, Universal Studios, and Warner Bros, have teamed up with Swedish movie business to widen the local Pirate Bay blockade. Together they want Telia, Sweden’s largest ISP, to block The Pirate Bay, Dreamfilm, Nyafilmer, and Fmovies, as soon as possible.

The previous year, Swedish Patent and Market Court of Appeal ordered local Internet provider Bredbandsbolaget to block The Pirate Bay and streaming site Swefilmer.

The rogue torrent site blocked on its home turf was seen as a victory, but it only covered a subsection of Swedish Internet subscribers.

This week, a coalition of major film companies hopes to widen the scope. The Swedish Film Industry, Nordisk Film, Disney Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, Warner Bros. and many other companies are dragging Internet provider Telia to court.

The lawsuit filed on Monday and documented by Ny Teknik requested Sweden’s largest Internet provider to block access to a selection of pirate sites. They include The Pirate Bay, Dreamfilm, Nyafilmer, and Fmovies, as well as many related proxies and mirror sites.

“Telia currently provides its subscribers with unrestricted access to these illegal services, thereby enabling these illegal services to utilize Telia’s Internet service to infringe the rights of rights-holders and others,” the complaint reads.

The movie companies reckon that Telia has a market share of roughly 36% of all Swedish Internet subscribers. Additionally, they’ve said the ISP has the tools to block these infringing sites, which would be both proportional and practical, in line with EU regulation.

This isn’t the first blocking lawsuit in Sweden, but the movie companies are using a different approach this time.

It is similar to Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN’s approach last year in the Netherlands where the complaint asks for a preliminary ruling, so the blockades can be implemented before the case is fully litigated.

The movie companies request the blocking of the pirate services as a whole and not just the domains that are in use now.

They argue that without this option “the rights holders will have to burden the legal system with repeated blocking requests if and when the operators behind the illegal services change domain names.”

Telia has not responded yet at the time of writing. Last year when copyright holders asked Telia to block The Pirate Bay, it had replied that it would only do so after a court order.

 

Russia Wants Apple to Remove Telegram from its App Store

Putin’s government is pressuring Apple to remove Telegram from its App Store as part of their continued effort to curb the use of the popular encrypted messenger.

Russia’s telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor has threatened Apple – warning that if it does not remove Telegram, the App Store itself could be blocked throughout Russia.

The threats come in between revelations that Telegram’s use in Russia remains high despite Putin’s attempts to block it. The blockade is in place because of Telegram founder Pavel Durov’s refusal to give Putin encryption keys that would allow Putin to snoop on communications.

Kremlin reports ISIS uses Telegram to plan attacks. This is a fact that sparked the widespread use of Telegram in Russia in the first place.

Telegram lost its recent court appeal but refuses to hand over the encryption keys, claiming it doesn’t have them.

Block or Be Blocked

Image result for telegram

Roskomnadzor wants Telegram removed from the App Store and also has requested Apple to stop serving Russian Telegram users push notifications. The document reads: “To avoid possible actions by Roskomnadzor to disrupt the functioning of the above services, Apple, Inc. we ask you to inform us in the shortest possible time about further actions of the Company aimed at solving these problem issues.”

So despite Kremlin’s efforts, it appears that many Russians are still using VPNs and Telegram.

Until now, Putin’s government has blocked IP addresses used by Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services in efforts to shut down Telegram. Now, Roskomnadzor has Apple in its sights.

Why the Commotion?

Image result for target

Putin has insisted that he wants access to Telegram messages for national security, but the general perception is that he wants to snoop on political opponents and dissidents as it is believed that opponents often use Telegram to communicate.

News recently broke about French authorities charging a suspect with scheming a terror attack. In that incident, Paris police cited messages sent with Telegram as evidence in the case. This has led to security experts questioning whether French authorities have a Telegram backdoor (or access to the keys directly from Telegram or via UK intelligence/14 Eyes).

If that is true, then one can’t help but wonder whether Durov is secretly working with British, French, and perhaps other government agencies, which would mean there is more to Russia’s Telegram blockade than meets the eye.

What’s Next?

Russia has given Apple a one-month ultimatum.

Russia also blocked another 50 VPN services in May to further restrict Telegram use.

FCC Seeks Amazon & Ebay Help to Eliminate Pirate Media Box Sales

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly has requested the heads of Amazon and eBay to eliminate sales of pirate media boxes which illegally display the FCC compliance logo. Lettered to Devin Wenig and Jeff Bezos, O’Reilly seeks the complete removal of such devices, noting that their fraudulent labeling is worsened by the effect they have on the entertainment industries.

Over the years, anyone looking for piracy-configured set-top box could hop onto Amazon or eBay. Search terms like “Kodi” or “fully-loaded” were ushered with page after page of Android-type boxes, each ready for illegal plug-and-play entertainment consumption following delivery.Image result for amazon

Even though the problem remains on both platforms, one is less likely to find an infringing device then say 12 to 24 months ago. Amazon & eBay have tightened the screws on sellers of such devices with mounting pressure from entertainment industry groups. Now, they’ve both received requests to stem sales from an entirely different group.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s letter to eBay CEO Devin Wenig and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first spotted by Ars calls on these platforms to take action against piracy-configured boxes that fail to comply with FCC equipment authorization requirements or wrongly display FCC logos, contrary to United States law.

O’Rielly’s letter reads “Disturbingly, some rogue set-top box manufacturers and distributors are exploiting the FCC’s trusted logo by fraudulently placing it on devices that have not been approved via the Commission’s equipment authorization process.”

“Specifically, nine set-top box distributors were referred to the FCC in October for enabling the unlawful streaming of copyrighted material, seven of which displayed the FCC logo, although there was no record of such compliance.”

O’Reilly admits copyright infringement aspects fall outside the jurisdiction of the FCC, but said it is still troubling knowing many of these devices are used to stream infringing content, “exacerbating the theft of billions of dollars in American innovation and creativity.”

As stated above, both Amazon and eBay have taken steps to minimize sales of pirate boxes on their respective platforms on copyright infringement grounds, and O’Reilly duly noted that. But, he says devices continue to be sold to members of the public who may believe they are legal since they’re available for sale from legitimate companies.

“For these reasons, I am seeking your further cooperation in assisting the FCC in taking steps to eliminate the non-FCC compliant devices or devices that fraudulently bear the FCC logo,” the Commissioner writes (pdf).

“Moreover, if your company is made aware by the Commission, with supporting evidence, that a particular device is using a fraudulent FCC label or has not been appropriately certified and labeled with a valid FCC logo, I respectfully request that you commit to swiftly removing these products from your sites.”

If the request is implemented, then O’Reilly would like both platforms to hand over information of offending manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers.

Amazon quickly responded to the FCC. In a letter published by Ars, Amazon’s Public Policy Vice President Brian Huseman assured O’Reilly that the company is dedicated to tackling rogue devices on copyright-infringement grounds and also when there is fraudulent use of the FCC’s logos.

Huseman said dealing with the problem is a top priority by pointing out that Amazon is a vital member of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) – a group that has been taking legal action against sellers of infringing streaming devices (ISDs) and those who assemble infringing add-ons for Kodi-type systems.

Huseman wrote, “Our goal is to prevent the sale of ISDs anywhere, as we seek to protect our customers from the risks posed by these devices, in addition to our interest in protecting Amazon Studios content.”

In 2017, Amazon became the first online marketplace to ban the sale of streaming media players that promote or facilitate piracy. To thwart the sale of these devices, they proactively scan product listings for signs of potentially infringing products, and also invest heavily in sophisticated, automated real-time tools to review a variety of data sources and signals to identify duplicate goods.

“These automated tools are supplemented by human reviewers that conduct manual investigations. When we suspect infringement, we take immediate action to remove suspected listings, and we also take enforcement action against sellers’ entire accounts when appropriate.”

Huseman revealed that since the implementation of a proactive policy against such devices, “tens of thousands” of listings have been blocked from Amazon. Also, civil actions like making criminal referrals to law enforcement as part of ACE.

Huseman concludes “As noted in your letter, we would also appreciate the opportunity to collaborate further with the FCC to remove non-compliant devices that improperly use the FCC logo or falsely claim FCC certification. If any FCC non-compliant devices are identified, we seek to work with you to ensure they are not offered for sale.”

Ghostery GDPR Email Blunder

Ever since EU’s new General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) came into effect, GDPR Hall of Shame has named and shamed many companies. It’s a website dedicated to the greatest GDPR blunders to date, and its pages feature hilarious mistakes aplenty.

Ghostery takes the cake for the biggest GDPR email blunder. The error showcases just how quickly even the best of firms can completely screw up while trying to comply with GDPR.

Blooper

 

Ghostery is a privacy-centric browser extension that monitors for trackers while users visit sites using their browser. Digital privacy advocates generally appreciate them. But, in this instance, Ghostery shot itself in the foot landing it on GDPR hot water.

Image result for oops

The embarrassing error was not the email itself, but the carbon copy of over 500 users’ email addresses into each instance of the email. The email itself was completely safe: “We at Ghostery hold ourselves to a high standard when it comes to users’ privacy, and have implemented measures to reinforce security and ensure compliance with all aspects of this new legislation.”

The outcome? Each Ghostery user was provided with 499 fellow users’ email addresses. Private information that is now classified as personal data” by the EU’s new GDPR legislation.

Twitter Complaints

Ghostery users took to Twitter to complain about the howler. A user with the twitter handle @andrewrstine, sarcastically commented:

Another user, @sebastianwaters, Twitted in disbelief:
“Wtf, did @Ghostery really just send out their #GDPR email with users‘ email address visible to everyone?! #GDPRfail”.

Public Apology

Following public outcry, Ghostery published a blog post apologizing for its horrible mistake.

So, what was the reason behind the error in judgment?

As per the firm, it recently decided to “stop using a third-party email automation platform”. The concept was to “be more secure” by managing “user account emails in our system, so we could fully monitor and control data practices surrounding them.”

Users Forgiving Too Easily?

Image result for forgiving

Luckily for Ghostery, it seems like most users accepted the apology. Gizmodo revealed that most of the Ghostery users it contacted said they would continue to use the anti-tracking extension. Unfortunately, for some, it is a sign that the firm is not adequately equipped to protect their data.

All in all, one has to be critical of Ghostery as anyway there are better anti-tracking tools on the market like Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger.

In Compliance with GDPR, Ghostery will need to report the data leak to the European Commission.

 

 

PUBG Sues Fortnite on Grounds of Copyright Infringement

PUBG and Fortnite are two trendsetting games at the moment. While both share some similarities, they managed to coexist and stay out of each other harm’s way. Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore as PUBG has dragged Epic Games to court in South Korea over alleged copyright infringement.

PUBG and Epic Games, two gaming giants, are going head to head in court.Image result for pubg

PUBG filed a lawsuit in South Korea earlier this year, accusing Epic of copying “Fortnite” from “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (PUBG)

A PUBG official told the Korea Times “We filed the suit to protect our copyright in January.” In hopes of stopping the alleged infringement, the company asked for an injunction at the Seoul Central District Court last Friday.

The report presents no details on the alleged infringements, but the lawsuit probably alleges Epic Games of copying specific Fortnite elements from PUBG.

PUBG had last year already hinted at a lawsuit accusing Fortnite of being very similar. So this new lawsuit should not come as a surprise.

While a lawsuit is currently brewing between these two gaming giants, they both have accused developers and users of other games of infringing their companies’ rights.

Epic Games has filed numerous copyright infringement lawsuits against cheaters over the past several months. PUBG has done the same as they recently filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the developer of the mobile games “Rules of Survival” and “Knives Out,” accusing them of copying particular elements from PUBG.

Additionally, PUBG cheaters get chased as earlier this month Chinese authorities informed that fifteen people had been arrested in connection with PUBG cheating.

The company commented on the news saying “We take cheating extremely seriously. Developing, selling, promoting, or using unauthorized hacking/cheating programs isn’t just unfair for others playing PUBG — in many places, it’s also against the law.”

Suing Epic Games over Fortnite is a game changer. With millions of players, it is a big fish to target.

Even if PUBG wins the lawsuit it will not spell the end of Fortnite as the game could probably survive with alterations or they both could agree to some settlement, in or out of court.

Hong Kong Customs Arrest Retailers Selling Pirate Streaming Devices

Hong Kong Customs on May 25 and 26 implemented a series of raids against four retail stores suspected of selling “fully loaded” set-top boxes which gave unauthorized access to movies and TV shows. On the grounds of copyright infringement, seven men and one woman were arrested and charged. Officials have warned that offenders could go to prison for a maximum of four years.

As Internet-capable set-top boxes enter homes around the world, authorities appear powerless to come up with a notable response to the ever-increasing threat.Image result for fully loaded set-top boxes

Usually, these often Android-based devices are entirely legal. But, when configured with the specialist software they become piracy powerhouses giving access to contents with copyrights.

Most of these devices come from Asia, particularly China, but it’s pretty unusual to hear of action implemented in that part of the world. Well, this week’s announcement from Hong Kong customs changed that rhetoric as a series of raids was conducted in the areas of Sham Shui Po and Wan Chai.

After conducting a thorough investigation with the help of copyright holders, Customs and Excise officers on May 25 and 26 launched Operation Trojan Horse, performing a series of raids on four outlets selling suspected piracy-configured set-top boxes.

The operation resulted in the successful arrest of seven men and one woman aged between 18 and 45, comprising of four shop owners and four salespeople. Around 354 suspected ‘pirate’ boxes were captured with an estimated market value of HK$320,000 (US$40,700).

Authorities statement reads “In the past few months, the department has stepped up inspections of hotspots for TV set-top boxes.”

“We have discovered that some shops have sold suspected illegal set-top boxes that bypass the copyright protection measures imposed by copyright holders of pay television programs allowing people to watch pay television programs for free.”

A few of the devices captured by Hong Kong customs

Image result for full loaded boxes seized by hong kong customs

In a recent press conference, a representative from the Customs Copyright and Trademark Investigations (Action) Division said that in the build-up to the World Cup in 2018, measures against copyright infringement will be bolstered both on and online.

The announcement was appreciated by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia’s (CASBAA) Coalition Against Piracy, which is supported by industry heavyweights including Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, Astro, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, TV5MONDE, Viacom International, and others.

General Manager Neil Gane said, “We commend the great work of Hong Kong Customs in clamping down on syndicates who profit from the sale of Illicit Streaming Devices.”

“The prevalence of ISDs in Hong Kong and across South East Asia is staggering. The criminals who sell ISDs, as well as those who operate the ISD networks and pirate sites, are profiting from the hard work of talented creators, seriously damaging the legitimate content ecosystem as well as exposing consumers to dangerous malware.”

A study done by Sycamore Research found that pirates aren’t easily deterred by malware warnings.

Still, there are risks for individuals selling piracy configured devices.

Recent cases like the ones in the UK have shown that heavy jail sentences can be meted out to offenders while over in the United States, lawsuits filed by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) have the capacity to land offenders in jail.

While rarely reported, offenders in Hong Kong also face stiff sentences for this kind of infringement including massive fines and imprisonment of up to four years.

 

ISP Wants US Marshals to Aid Piracy Tracking Firm

Internet provider Grande Communications is seeking help from U.S. Marshals to aid piracy tracking company IP-Echelon. In line with the RIAA lawsuit, Grande Communications wants to know more about a scam where IP-Echelon’s name was misused by scammers to extract payments. The piracy tracking company has thus far been unreachable.Image result for us marshals

Two years ago it was revealed that scammers were abusing the DMCA to extract cash payments from innocent Internet subscribers.

Scammers used IP-Echelon’s and several major copyright holders names to demand settlements for allegedly pirated content.

There haven’t been any reports since, but it seems Internet provider Grande Communications is interested in the matter as it also prepares for its piracy liability case against the RIAA.

IP-Echelon competitor Rightscorp sent DMCA notices, and that is where the case lies. Grande Communications is eager to hear from IP-Echelon to get to the core of the issue as it also received the scam emails.

“Grande has also received IP-Echelon infringement notices, which include both authenticated, PGP-signed infringement notices from IP-Echelon, as well as fake, non-PGP-signed notices which falsely claim to be from IP-Echelon,” Grande told the court at the backend of the previous week.

The ISPs interest in IP-Echelon is understandable. But, it has found it somewhat challenging to get in touch with the company that has offices in the US and Australia.

Grande employed a private process server to serve the subpoena at IP-Echelon’s Los Angeles office, but these attempts failed more than once. The ISP’s legal team also tried via telephone and email to no avail.

Grande felt compelled to ask the court for help and wants the U.S. Marshals to get involved so that it can track down and aid IP-Echelon.

If the Marshals get involved then inevitably IP-Echelon can be tracked down.

Whether information from IP-Echelon is going to help Grande’s case is still unclear, but that’s something for the future.

 

How Impactful is The UK Piracy Blockade?

UK Internet users are familiar with website blocking as many pirate sites including The Pirate Bay are not accessible due to court orders. But it does not necessarily mean that piracy has been uprooted because looking at the most visited websites in the UK suggests that much is there to be done.

One of entertainment industries’ favorite anti-piracy tools is website blocking.

Over the years the number of blocked URLs in the UK has grown to well over 1,000, including many popular torrents, streaming, and direct download sites.

The Pirate Bay is by far the biggest target. Along with the main site, many proxy sites and proxy linking sites are blacklisted and blocked by major ISPs. The aim is to prevent access to these known torrent sites, but it’s never that easy.

According to Alexa, a traffic monitoring company which is often cited by copyright holders, Pirateproxy.sh tops the piracy sites list and is the 115th most visited site in the UK overall.

This does not mean that blockades do not affect at all; it just portrays that there is still a lot to be done.

For example, Pirateproxy.sh is part of the ‘Unblocked’ team which operates a series of proxies and proxy indexes. It has been actively providing and launching new domains for people.

According to the operator: “Although the blocks have had the intended effect of blocking popular file-sharing sites, I don’t believe they are effective since users have access to many workarounds to access these sites.”
“For any given blocked site, there will be countless proxy sites available with new domains constantly being created.”

Similar to regular takedown notices and domain control, ISP blockades have also become repetitive and futile.

Listed below are ten of the most pirated sites in the UK:

*They are subject to change

Site

Alexa Rank Type

Original Site Blocked?

Pirateproxy.sh

115 Torrent proxy

No

Openload.co

194 Cyberlocker

Yes

0123movies.com

215 Streaming

Yes

Rutracker.org

222 Torrents

No

Unblocked.mx

227 Proxy links

Yes

Piratebays.be

255 Torrent proxy

No

Kissanime.ru

310 Streaming

No

Thepiratebay.org

319 Torrents

Yes

Solarmoviez.ru

327 Streaming

No

Proxybay.bz           338      Proxy links                     No