Amazon Sues Pirate Streaming Boxes, but Stocks ‘Piracy’ Tutorials?

Amazon and further associates of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment have declared ’war’ on pirate streaming devices and add-ons. While legal warnings are issued left and right, the Amazon store is ironically still catered with books that describe to newcomers how to install some of the same add-ons Amazon is tackling.

Previous summer saw the rise of a new anti-piracy scheme, which has Image result for streaming boxesalready garnered a few headlines.

A coalition of the big Hollywood studios, Amazon, Netflix and several other media houses teamed up, establishing the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

Their ultimate goal is defeating piracy, with pirate streaming bundles as the prime target.

In the months that ensued, various third-party Kodi add-on developers got threatening letters in the mail and topping that ACE filed lawsuits against three sellers of alleged pirate streaming boxes.

Their show of force hasn’t gone under the radar. It prompted some developers and vendors to back off or quit entirely. Simultaneously, fully-loaded boxes are now harder to obtain at ACE member Amazon, which has taken down tens of thousands of listings.

These boxes, which come with a built-in media player and also pirate add-ons, were not always that difficult to find though.

The truth is, Dragon Box, which Amazon and other members are suing was previously stocked on Amazon. This might be the reason why the company argued in its justification that it had “Amazon’s implied authorization to promote and sell the device.”

Apparently, these Dragon Boxes have now been removed from Amazon’s stock, but it’s still possible to find variously alleged piracy inducing items there today.

For starters, hundreds if not thousands of low-cost media players are there for sale. While they may be legal, Amazon member reviews show, sometimes with screenshots, ways they can be quickly set up to operate pirate add-ons.

Arguably, 24/7 moderation is required. After all, people may also purchase a PC on Amazon and suggest people to bookmark The Pirate Bay. Maybe we’re hairsplitting.

The widespread availability of “Kodi tutorials” is perhaps a bigger headache. While Kodi is legal, some of the books elaborately explain how to add “pirate” add-ons. The same devices Amazon is suing Tickbox, Set TV, and Dragon Box over.

A guide states referencing Set TV particularly “Do you want to install Area 51 IPTV or Set TV on your Kodi and Amazon Fire TV Stick or Fire TV?” Additionally saying “Do you want to install Supremacy, Dogs Bollock, Covenant, Genesis Reborn and Neptune Rising?”

Another book provides help on “How To Install Kodi And The Latest Downloads On Any Firestick” stating the add-on Exodus, among others. Exodus was famously featured as a “pirate” add-on by the MPA.

Other books are discussing how to install an extensive range of add-ons with a “pirate” reputation; Covenant included which is particularly stressed in the ACE lawsuits as a lousy actor.

As far as records go, none of these add-ons have been ruled illegal in court. But, it is evident that Amazon itself sees these as pirate devices.

It places Amazon in an awkward spot, as on the one hand, it is suing vendors who sell devices that come with the Covenant add-on, but on the other, it sells books that show people ways to set this up themselves.

Amazon has to sort itself out.

Sony Hands Out Precautionary World Cup Copyright Warnings

Sony Entertainment Network runs many TV channels, like Sony ESPN, which possess the rights to broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Sony has started sending out precautionary warnings to illegal streaming sites. The letter forewarns the unauthorized streaming of matches while threatening civil and criminal action.

In the past, an event like the fast-approaching FIFA World Cup wouldn’t have been notoriously affected by piracy. Image result for punctured football

Most people like to watch on the go, so services like BitTorrent that offer occurred content weren’t all that appealing.

Nowadays, however, there are hundreds of unlicensed platforms totally capable of transmitting live content, meaning that the World Cup is within the grasp of anyone with an average Internet connection.

Knowing this, anti-piracy companies are probably going to be working overtime during the World to make sure that live streams are taken down as soon as matches start. Whether they will be triumphant remains to be seen, but for the Sony Entertainment Network, the fight has already begun.

Sony in the current week has been sending out deterrent warnings to pirate sites via Indian anti-piracy firm Markscan. The company warns of grave consequences if sites don’t obey their warnings. Sony has claimed TV, radio, mobile, and broadband broadcasting rights to the World Cup in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Markscan letter reads “[Our] Client will be showing the matches live and content related to FIFA 2018 in various languages across the following channels comprising of Sony Entertainment Network which are designated to the official broadcasters of FIFA 2018.”

Markscan listed 10 channels that will be broadcasting content, with Sony ESPN included, a combined effort between the two companies in India.

It went on by saying “By way of the present caution notice issued to you, we caution you and your website, not to indulge in any broadcasting, rebroadcasting, making available for viewing and/or communicating to the public, the FIFA 2018 matches and any content associated thereof, without obtaining permission/authorization from our client.”

Markscan further said that the site in interrogation will be overseen for any acts of infringement and should any take place it shall be compelled to “initiate legal proceedings (civil and/or criminal) should you engage in violation of our Client’s rights despite the present notice.”

Owing to the sheer volume of legal services the World Cup will be made available on, it’s literally impossible to stop all unauthorized streams. In fact, due to the massive number of unlicensed sites around today, it’s probably going to be one of the most-pirated live sports tournaments of all time.

This means that despite the best preventive measures, any takedowns will prove a trivial amount.

 

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.

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.

 

MPAA Earnings Drop 20% as Movie Studios Rollback

The revenue generated by MPAA in the latest tax filing shows a decline after a few years of modest growth. The reason is lower membership fees paid by the major Hollywood studios. Additionally, the filing revealed MPAA’s former CEO Chris Dodd earned $3.4 million during his final year.

The MPAA has achieved many anti-piracy successes in recent years as a united front for Hollywood. Image result for mpaa

MPAA has worked tirelessly in the shutdowns of Popcorn Time, YIFY, isoHunt, Hotfile, Megaupload and several other platforms.

Less apparent but essential, the MPAA does use its influence to lobby lawmakers and simultaneously arranges and manages anti-piracy campaigns both in the United States and abroad.

All this work doesn’t come freely, and so the MPAA relies on six major movie studios to pay the bills. Revenues had stabilized over the past several years, but in its latest filing, there is a drop.

The total revenue stood at $57 million for the fiscal year 2016 down from $73 million according to an IRS filing. The Hollywood studios paid most of it through membership fees totaling $50 million. A 22% drop compared to the previous year.

Year ending it resulted in a significant loss of $8 million. That’s a lot of money, but the MPAA is still in safe hands as it has over $10 million in net assets and funds.

There is no explanation for the lower membership fees.

Most of the expenses are incurred through salaries with Chris Dodd, the former MPAA Chairman, and CEO the highest paid employee with over $3.4 million in total income, including a $275,000 bonus.

It was a compensation for Dodd’s last full year as CEO. Last year Charles Rivkin replaced him another political heavyweight, who previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Matters in the Obama administration.

10% of the entire salary budget was taken up by Dodd’s compensation. The remaining divided by MPAA’s other 196 employees. So the total workforce was 197 down from 224 a year earlier.

Moving on, it does charity work as well by donating to various research initiatives, including a recurring million dollar grant for Carnegie Mellon’s ‘Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics’ (IDEA), which deals with piracy related topics.

Copyright Alliance is another primary beneficiary. The group co-founded by the MPAA is a non-profit copyright holders representative, and it received $750,000 in support according to the latest filing.

The total grants budget is $3.1 million and comprises many smaller payments, similar to previous years. Lobbying budget totaled $3.6 million, and $5.3 million in legal fees.

Apart from revenues, the other aspects seem well taken care of.

Fully Loaded Kodi Box Sellers Get Massive Jail Sentences

A court in Wales has given heavy jail sentences to Michael Jarman and Natalie Forber, who ran a business selling fully-loaded Kodi boxes. They have pleaded guilty to operating a fraudulent business having sold more than 1,000 devices over a two year period. Jermain, 21 months sentence while Forber, a 16-month suspended sentence.Image result for kodi boxes

Kodi is perfectly legal, but when augmented with third-party add-ons it becomes a potent device, providing most of the content anyone could desire. The user can set up the system but for many, buying a so-called “fully-loaded” box from a seller is the more comfortable option.

As per local media, Jarman was arrested in January 2015 when police were called to a disturbance at Jarman and Forber’s home. Trading Standards officers launched an investigation after a large number of devices were spotted.

37-year-old Jarman pleaded guilty, but 36-year-old Forber initially denied the charges and was due to stand trial. Nevertheless, she later changed her mind and like Jarman, pleaded guilty to engaging in a fraudulent business.

They both attended a sentencing hearing before Judge Niclas Parry at Caernarfon Crown Court yesterday. Eryl Crump, the local reporter said the Court heard the couple had run their business for about two years, selling around 1,000 fully-loaded Kodi-enabled devices for £100 each via social media.

David Birrell, the prosecutor, said that the operation wasn’t too advanced, but it required Forber programming the devices as well as managing customer service. Forber’s claim of being forced into the scheme by Jarman was rejected by the prosecution.

They made £105,000 between February 2013 and January 2015, and that was transferred between bank accounts to launder the takings.

Forber, the mother mother-of-two broke up with Jarman following her arrest and is now back in work and studying at college.

Judge Niclas Parry while sentencing the pair described the offenses as a “relatively sophisticated fraud” carried out over a significant period and jailed Jarman for 21 months and Forber for 16 months, suspended for two years. Forber must also carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

They will also face a Proceeds of Crime investigation which could see them paying large sums to the state, should any assets be recoverable.