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.

EU Advocate General: Right to Private Life Shouldn’t Obstruct Copyright Enforcement

In the EU, rights to private and family life are respected. However, EU Advocate General Szpunar in his new publication has made it clear that people cannot misuse their powers. They cannot share copyrighted content without permission from the copyright holders.

On May 8, 2010, German citizen Michael Strotzer was operating an Internet connection from where an audiobook was made obtainable on a peer-to-peer network.Image result for copyright eu

Bastei Lubbe AG, a German company, owned the copyrights to that content and had not granted Strotzer permission to share it online. Therefore, on October 28, 2010, Bastei Lübbe lettered to Strotzer with a demand for him to cease infringing their copyrights.

But, when the letter did not work, Bastei Lübbe took Strotzer to court in Germany to be compensated for the alleged damages caused.

Strotzer denied the copyright infringement claims by saying that his home network was secure and he wasn’t the one who did it. Additionally, he stated that his parents had access to his system.

But, neither did they have the audiobook on their computer nor use file-sharing networks. Furthermore, he said that their computer had been shut down at the time when the audiobook was shared online.

The court dismissed the case by saying that that the copyright infringement could not be directly attributed to Strotzer since his parents could also have shared the audiobook. Answering back, Bastei Lübbe filed an appeal with the Regional Court of First Instance in Munich.

The Court felt Michael Strotzer was responsible for the infringement as no third party involvement was evident from his statement.

The law of the case, however, made it complicated. Previously, the Federal Court ruled that the copyright holder should prove the infringement. It also said that the Internet connection owner is the likely committer if no-one was using at the time of the violation.

On that note, the connection owner should reveal the identity of those people who used it if he is not the one.

But, under Article 7 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which safeguards the right to respect for a citizen’s private and family life, it was argued that the owner of the connection is not required to give more information if a family member has had access to his network.

Keeping this in mind, the Munich court referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for guidance. Advocate General Szpunar published his opinion on June 6 in 21 different languages (except English) but thanks to lawyer Eleonora Rosati, there are findings.

But, if national law foresees such beliefs to ensure the protection of copyright, this shall be applied logically to guarantee effective copyright protection.

Meaning, if a country (in this case Germany) has national that lower the burdens of proof to help protect copyright law (something which is not mandatory under EU law), it does not necessarily mean that rightsholders cannot enforce their rights even if it conflicts with the right to respect for private family life.

When cases are taken to the CJEU, the judgment and future decisions of the Court often contain language which aims to balance what are usually seen as conflicting rights. In this case, it’s opined that the right to family life should not be used as an excuse to avoid liability in a matter where the rights of another party have been infringed.

The opinion of the Advocate General is not final, but the CJEU typically takes such advice.

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.

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.

 

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

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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.

 

FBI Takes Control of Russian Botnet

The FBI took control of a massive botnet believed to have been run by hackers working for the Kremlin. The Malware, known as VPNFilter, was found by researchers working at CISCO Talos. VPNFilter grants hackers to hijack routers turning them into a malicious VPN network used by hackers to mask their actual IP address during subsequent attacks.

According to a report released on 23 May, the payload has been in the wild since 2016 at the very least. It is suspected to have infected around 500,000 machines covering 54 countries. Talos stated that the intricacy of the modular malware system likely means it was a state-sponsored attack.

FBI agents have stated that the threat actor is probably Sofacy – a collective hacking run by the Kremlin that has been notorious under a multitude of names over the past five years like APT28, Sednit, Fancy Bears, Pawn Storm, Grizzly Steppe, STRONTIUM, and Tsar Team. Affidavit Excerpt:

“The Sofacy group is a cyber-espionage group believed to have originated from Russia. Likely operating since 2007, the group is known to typically target government, military, security organizations, and other targets of intelligence value.”

Image result for fancy bears

VPNFilter uses a multi-stage attack vector similar to other router based exploits. Once it accesses a victim’s router, it communicates with a Command and Control (CnC) server to download additional payloads.

The secondary stage of the exploit grants the hackers to intercept traffic, steal data, perform file collection, and execute commands. There is also the possibility that additional payloads may have been delivered infecting network devices attached to the router.

Image result for fbi

FBI Takes Control

After months of monitoring the situation, security researchers working with the FBI were successful in pinpointing the domain name used by the advanced hackers.

In an affidavit filed on 23 May, it has been revealed that agents were on it since August when they were willingly given access to an infected router by a Pittsburgh resident.

When news of the infection became public, the FBI acted swiftly to get a warrant from a Pennsylvania judge to take control of the toKnowAll.com domain.

With CnC domain under FBI control, consumers around the world have been asked to reboot their device so that it can phone home. It will help the feds have a clear view of exactly how many devices were affected around the world. The FBI stated that it intends to make a list of all infected IP addresses in order to contact ISPs, private, and public sector partners, to clean up after the global infection – ahead of the setup of a new malicious CnC server to reestablish the botnet.

 

 

Legal Blackmail: Zero Cases Conducted Versus Alleged Pirates in Sweden

Since 2017, tens of thousands of alleged file-sharers in Sweden have got threatening messages demanding cash settlements to make a theorized lawsuit go away. But an investigation by Sweden’s SVT failed to bring forward a single instance where a claim led to a conviction for so-called copyright trolls. A professor of law at Stockholm University termed it “Legal blackmail.”

Until recently, Sweden had managed to stay afloat from copyright trolls which have wilted several European for more than ten years. Image result for trollsign

Sweden had avoided the similar fate of its European partners until two years ago.

In September 2016 a self-proclaimed organization called Spridningskollen (Distribution Check) headed up by law firm Gothia Law said it would begin targeting the public.

The letters were described as “speeding tickets” for pirates meaning it would only target the guilty. But, a massive backlash and a couple of months later Spridningskollen was gone without a single collection letter being sent out.

That was the calm before the storm.

In February 2017, Danish law firm Njord Law launched a new troll operation targeting the subscribers of several ISPs, including Telia, Tele2, and Bredbandsbolaget. Court documents disclosed the harvesting by the law firm’s partners who were determined to link thousands of IP addresses with real-life people.

Njord Law was permitted by the court to acquire the identities of citizens behind 25,000 IP addresses hopefully to get cash settlements of around US$550. But that’s not all.

Repeatedly, the trolls headed back to court to get more IDs. SVT’s new investigation has revealed the feared copyright troll invasion of Sweden has indeed gained momentum.

SVT revealed that since 2017 Swedish Internet service providers have given personal details of more than 50,000 IP addresses to law firms representing copyright trolls and their partners. Njord Law alone will have sent out 35,000 letters by this year’s end to Swede’s whose IP addresses have been flagged as allegedly infringing copyright.

Let’s assume the trolls get $300 per letter, very quickly they could be earning $15,000,000 in revenues.

But, nothing is that simple.

In 2017, Njord Law received a 60% response for its letters meaning ever fewer settlements if at all.

Despite all the copyright trolls tough-talking, SVT’s investigation revealed that taking people to court and winning a case when they have refused to pay has never happened.

SVT while going through the records held by Patent and Market Court and also the District Courts dating back five years did not find a single case of a troll taking a citizen to court and winning an argument.

Whether Njord Law carries through with its threats, remain to be seen, but if people keep paying up, then this practice will continue and escalate. The trolls have come a long way to give up now.

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.