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.

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.

Phone Store Employee Sued For Promoting ‘Pirate’ App Showbox

Two Movie Studios with films ‘Mechanic: Resurrection’ and ‘A Family Man’ respectively have sued an employee of a Hawaiian phone store. The woman accused is alleged to have recommended the ‘pirate’ application Showbox to a customer, and hence the movie makers are demanding damages in federal court for contributory copyright infringement.

It’s nothing new, select companies have targeted thousands of alleged pirates to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal consequences. But the twist in this particular story is that the employee allegedly promoted and installed the ‘pirate’ application Showbox on a customer’s device.

The studios ME2 Productions and Headhunter, own the rights to the movies ‘Mechanic: Resurrection‘ and ‘A Family Man‘ respectively.

Showbox is one of the favorite movie and TV-show streaming application capable of streaming torrents and works on a wide variety of devices.

In a charge filed at the US District Court of Hawaii, the studios accused Taylor Wolf of promoting Showbox and its infringing uses at the Verizon-branded phone store Victra where she works.

“The Defendant promoted the software application Show Box to said members of the general public, including Kazzandra Pokini,” the charge reads, further stating that Wolf installed the Showbox app on the customer’s tablet so that she could watch pirated content.

Excerpts From the Complaint

“Defendant knew that the Show Box app would cause Kazzandra Pokini to make copies of copyrighted content in violation of copyright laws of the United States,” the complaint adds.

This case is unique in the sense that it is not your traditional lawsuit case where the companies go after the user.

Both studios are experienced when it comes to piracy lawsuit. ME2 is linked to Millennium Films and Headhunter is an affiliate of Voltage Pictures.

Like most cases, the copyright holders demand a preliminary injunction to stop Wolf from engaging in any infringing activities, as well as statutory damages, which theoretically can go up to $150,000 per pirated film, but are usually settled for a fraction of that.

BPI Calls for Piracy Crackdown Under New UK Internet ‘Clean-Up’ Laws

This week, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, stated new measures would be taken to clean up the ‘Wild West’ elements of the Internet.  Music group BPI responded by saying says the government should use the opportunity to tackle piracy with advanced site-blocking measures, repeat infringer policies, and new responsibilities for service providers.Image result for bpi

The UK Government has for the past several years expressed a strong desire to “clean up” the Internet.

There has been an intense emphasis on making the Internet safer for children, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This week, the Government responded to the Internet Safety Strategy green paper, stating unequivocally that more needs to be done to tackle “online harm”

Considering every six out of ten people face “online harm”, the government while working with social media companies to protect users had seen positive results but the overall outlook has been below par.

For this reason, the Government will introduce new legislation, albeit with the assistance of technology companies, children’s charities and other stakeholders.

The Government has cleared that it wishes to tackle “the full range” of online harms, even though the emphasis is being placed on cyberbullying and online child exploitation. This move has been warmly received by UK music group BPI and thereby requesting the Government to introduce new measures to tackle Internet piracy.

BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor in a statement issued this week welcomed the move towards legislative change and urged the Government to encompass the music industry and beyond.

The BPI has published four initial requests.

  • Establish a new fast-track process for blocking unauthorized sites.
  • Compel online platforms to stop content from being re-posted after it’s been taken down while removing the accounts of repeat infringers.
  • Fines for “online operators” who do not give “transparent contact and ownership information.”
  • Pass laws for a new “duty of care” for online mediators and platforms.

To be published later this, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Home Office will work on a White Paper to pass laws to tackle “online harms”. The BPI and similar entities will hope that the Government will also do the same.

 

Despite US Criticism, Ukraine Cybercrime Chief Gets Few Piracy Complaints

The previous year the MPAA, RIAA and other groups asked the U.S. Government to impose sanctions on Ukraine accusing them of failing to fight against online piracy. The European Commission also warned Ukraine of damaging its relations with the EU. However, Ukraine’s head of cyber-police unit said complaints received by him are few in number and are actually going down.

Ukraine over the past decade has played host to some of the world’s largest pirate sites.Image result for skull enter keyboard

The Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents, ExtraTorrent, Demonoid and many other streaming portals have taken advantage of laws more favorable than those in the US and EU.

For this reason, Ukraine has been heavily criticized for not doing enough to combat piracy, but when placed under pressure, it does take action.

Over the years Ukraine has launched irregular actions against pirate sites and has taken steps to tighten up copyright law.

The Law on State Support of Cinematography came into effect April 2017 which gave copyright owners new tools to combat infringement.

The IIPA asked the U.S. government to suspend or withdraw Ukraine’s trade benefits until the online piracy situation improves.

But despite the criticism, Sergey Demedyuk, Ukraine cyber police chief says that while his department is committed to tackling piracy, it can only do so when complaints are filed with him.

“Yes, we are engaged in piracy very closely. The problem is that piracy is a crime of private accusation. So here we deal with them only in cases where we are contacted,” Demedyuk said in an Interfax interview.

Demedyuk does not know why complaints are going down but has claimed his unit takes action when asked to do so.

In the meantime, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has maintained Ukraine’s position on the Priority Watchlist.

Law Enforcement Officers Strike Pirate IPTV Operation

Over 150 law enforcement officers in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Spain have coordinated to dismantle a sizeable pirate IPTV operation. TV channel sources were targeted across different locations. Out of 49 suspects, five were arrested and taken into custody.

The rise of set-top box streaming has led to regular actions against pirate IPTV operations.Image result for iptv

Around 150 officers of the Provincial Command of the Guardia di Finanza (GdF) coordinated by the public prosecutor’s office in Rome carried out a targeted action on a significant unauthorized IPTV provider.

In Italy, Operation Spinoff made more than 50 searches in 20 provinces of 11 regions. Five people were caught. Switzerland, Germany and Spain – the Polizei Basel-Landschaft, the Kriminal Polizei and the Policia Nacional coordinated to execute warrants.

Image result for guardia di finanza roma iptv

“Through technical and ‘in-the-field’ investigations and the meticulous reconstruction of financial flows, carried out mainly through prepaid credit cards or payment web platforms, investigators have reconstructed the activity of a pyramid-like criminal structure dedicated to the illegal decryption and diffusion of pay-per-view television content through the Internet,” the GdF said in a statement.

Italian authorities report that IPTV core operation was sourcing of original content and channels.

IPTV sold to the public packages consisting of channels for 15 to 20 euros monthly in the form of an IPTV subscription.

The IPTV operation between the 49 individuals approximately generated one million euros. Out of five Italian citizens, four were taken into custody and one placed under house arrest.

Hardware

Everyone is under investigation, from the sources who decrypted the signals to the sellers and re-sellers of the content to end users.

Deadpool Pirated Copy Uploader Pleads Guilty

A 22-year-old Californian man has pleaded guilty to uploading Deadpool’s pirated copy to Facebook. It was shared shortly after the movie premiered, where it was viewed 6,386,456 times. Following an FBI investigation last year, the man was charged with the crime and faces a one-year prison sentence. Image result for facebook

Daily, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook to share photos videos and other things.

People post a lot of things on Facebook, but a pirated copy of Deadpool is one you should not.

Early 2016, a week after Deadpool premiered in theaters Trevor Franklin from Fresno, California uploaded a pirated copy on Facebook.

He downloaded it from file-sharing site Putlocker.is and uploaded it to his Facebook account.

The post was bound to go viral with over six million viewers, but it also meant Twentieth Century Fox and the feds were made known.

The FBI initiated a full-scale investigation which ultimately led to an indictment and the arrest of Franklin last summer.

Trevor Franklin has now signed a plea agreement with the government admitting to sharing the pirated film on Facebook. For this, the authorities will recommend a sentence reduction.

Franklin stated in the legal paperwork, signed by both sides that he knew what he was doing.

Excerpts from the plea agreement

When the incident happened in 2016, several people had warned him of the risk of uploading it on social media due to copyright infringements.

It’s still unclear why the US government decided to pursue this particular case. It could just be a case of setting an example.

According to the plea agreement, Franklin will be sentenced for a Class A crime. It could result in a maximum one-year prison sentence, followed by probation or a supervised release, as well as a fine of $100,000. He has forgone his right to a trial by jury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

53 Pirate Sites Blocked in Singapore

Singapore ISPs have blocked 53 pirate websites after a successful application by the MPAA, which accused the sites of blatant copyright infringement.

In 2014 Singapore passed amendments to copyright law that grant ISPs to block ‘pirate’ sites after mounting pressure from copyright holders.

The amendments came into effect in December 2014, but it was not until later that websites were targeted. In September 2016 following MPAA request, Solarmovie.ph became the first site ordered to be blocked under Singapore’s amended Copyright Act.

Owing to a successful application by the MPAA earlier this year, yesterday 53 sites across 154 domains have been blocked by ISPs rendering them inaccessible.

“In Singapore, these sites are responsible for a major portion of copyright infringement of films and television shows,” an MPAA spokesperson told The Straits Times (paywall).

The High Court, however, cannot grant a block injunction on any site without first proving the site is “flagrantly infringing”. YouTube is an example of non-blatant infringement.

The judgment should be tipped in copyright holders’ favor for sites to be considered for blocking.

There are also additional factors the Court takes into consideration when deciding to block a site like ISPs burden, technical feasibility, and its effectiveness.

In line with regions such as the UK and Australia, sites targeted for blocking needs to be informed of the case made against them, to make sure they’re given a chance to defend themselves in court. Not a single fully-fledged ‘pirate’ site has ever defended itself against a blocking application anywhere in the world.

Finally, copyright holders can apply for amendment of blocking order to the Singapore High Court should ‘pirate’ sites try to evade an ISP blockade. It is similar to the Australian model where each case must be heard on its merits, unlike the UK model which is more streamlined.

Recent Reports by Motion Picture Association Canada states at least 42 countries have obligations to block infringing sites. Just in Europe, 1,800 websites and 5,300 domains have been rendered inaccessible, with Portugal, Italy, the UK, and Denmark leading the way.

Copyright holders in Canada are lobbying hard for a site-blocking regime as they want to the “uncertain, slow and expensive” way of going through the courts.

ISP Telenor Will Voluntarily Block The Pirate Bay in Sweden

Telenor, an ISP will block The Pirate Bay in Sweden voluntarily. It is a result of the consolidation with Bredbandsbolaget; a Telenor owned ISP that was previously tasked with blocking The Pirate Bay.

In 2014, Nordisk Film, Swedish Film Industry, Sony Music, Universal Music, and Warner Music filed a case against Bredbandsbolaget, one of Sweden’s biggest ISPs.

The ISP did not back down.

The company stated that it refuses to block The Pirate Bay.

The parties met in court in February 2015. Bredbandsbolaget argued that ISPs just like postal service should not be held responsible for content exchange.

TV companies SVT, TV4 Group, MTG TV, SBS Discovery and C More, teamed up with the IFPI alongside Paramount, Disney, Warner, and Sony in the case.

The Stockholm District Court in November 2015 decided in favor of Bredbandsbolaget.

Bredbandsbolaget blocked The Pirate Bay in March 2017 but pledged to fight on.

It seemed to have affected Telenor, the parent company of Bredbandsbolaget, as The Pirate Bay will be blocked by Telenor too.

The reason could be because the two brands will now merge into one entity even though Bredbandsbolaget was acquired by Telenor back in 2005.

Before the merger, Bredbandsbolaget’s 600,000 broadband customers were denied access to The Pirate Bay, now 700,000 of Telenor’s customers will likely face the same fate.

The company said they are merging both the brands.

Anyway, it’s a wise move because at EU level the legal basis for web-blocking on copyright infringement grounds was firmly established last year.

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies On BitTorrent This Week – 21/05/2018

The 10 most downloaded movies this week on BitTorrent – 21/05/2018 are here. The top three for this week is ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’, followed by ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, and ‘Deadpool 2’ rounds in the top three.

There are two newcomers this week.

The most downloaded movie this week is Pacific Rim: Uprising.

Every movie in the list given below is Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDRip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

THIS WEEK’S MOST DOWNLOADED MOVIES ARE:

Movie Rank Rank Last Week Movie Name IMDb Rating/Trailer
1 N/A Pacific Rim: Uprising 5.8/Trailer
2 (2) Avengers: Infinity War (HDCam) 9.1/Trailer
3 N/A Deadpool 2 (HDTS) 8.3/Trailer
4 (1) Black Panther 7.9/Trailer
5 (7) Red Sparrow 6.7/Trailer
6 (3) Game Night 7.3/Trailer
7 (4) Ready Player One 7.8/Trailer
8 (6) 12 Strong 6.8/Trailer
9 (8) Den of Thieves 7.0/Trailer
10 (9) Thor: Ragnarok 7.9/Trailer