Suspected ‘Pirate’ Wins Data Disclosure Battle Against Copyright Troll’s Law Firm

Suspected ‘Pirate’ Wins Data Disclosure Battle Against Copyright Troll’s Law Firm

For more than a decade, alleged file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees.

These so-called copyright-trolling efforts are fairly straightforward. Copyright holders obtain a list of ‘pirating’ IP-addresses and then request a subpoena from the court, compelling ISPs to hand over the associated customer data.

In recent years, several news reports have appeared on these cases in the US, UK, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and elsewhere. In Finland, they have been a common sight since 2013.

One of the outfits that spearheaded the practice locally is the Helsinki-based law firm Hedman Partners. Representing a variety of movie companies, it went after tens of thousands of alleged pirates, asking them to pay hundreds of euros in damages each.

One of the firm’s targets was a Ritva Puolakka, While she first appeared to be just another target, Puolakka was not intent on paying the 800 euros in damages the law firm requested. Quite the opposite, she went on the offensive.

Puolakka became an active opponent of the so-called “copyright trolling” practice. She denied any wrongdoing. On top of that, she went after the law firm requesting that it hands over any and all data it had on her, stating that it’s her right to have access to this under local privacy law.

The law film partly complied with this request but also held quite a bit of information back. Handing over all data could cause damage to the business relationship with the rightsholder, the argument was. This undisclosed information was technical evidence of the alleged infringement such as IP-address logs.

The law firm further pointed out that, because the woman had denied distributing films, the information might not apply to her but to someone else.

Puolakka was not satisfied with the limited disclosure and with backing from the data protection officer, she took the matter to the Administrative Court, which sided with her.

The Administrative Court ruled that the law firm didn’t properly justify the limited right of inspection. The law firm’s duty of professional secrecy is not a legitimate ground for restriction, and Puolakka’s right to control her data weighs stronger.

The Court concluded that, under the Personal Data Act, accused file-sharers are allowed to have access to all logging information related to their IP-address, regardless of whether someone else may have used the connection.

While this ruling doesn’t help any defendant to get rid of any settlement demands, it could lead to an administrative overload for the law firm. If tens of thousands of accused pirates request access to all IP-address logs, there’s a lot of paperwork to go through.

TorrentFreak spoke to Puolakka, who also takes part in the local MuroBBS community, which actively helps accused file-sharers. She told us that she’s happy with the outcome and hopes that it will help to frustrate the copyright-trolling efforts.

MuroBBS activist Hasturinpoika, meanwhile, encourages other victims to request their data from Hedman Partners. With the recent ruling and the EU’s new GDPR regulation, the law firm will have to comply.

“I would encourage to all those who have received letters from copyright trolls to use this decision to check out their information because now that GDPR in effect, there is possible to sanction the trolls more severely if they don’t obey with the new regulation,” Hasturinpoika tells us.

The Administrative Court’s decision can still be appealed at the Supreme Administrative Court. However, considering the recent history, Puolakka is not going to back away from her battle against copyright-trolling.

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China Shuts 361 Movie Piracy Sites, 57 Apps, and Arrests 251 Suspects

China Shuts 361 Movie Piracy Sites, 57 Apps, and Arrests 251 Suspects

China is well known for its piracy problems. The country is awash with counterfeit media but in recent years authorities there have displayed a new enthusiasm to deal with the issue.

That includes tackling online platforms that distribute or facilitate access to infringing movies, including torrent sites, steaming portals, and infringing apps.

During a press conference held on Monday, China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) said that during the week-long Spring Festival in February, authorities had conducted a major piracy crackdown targeting those involved in movie piracy.

The figures are impressive, to say the least. The MPS revealed that in the process of investigating 25 cases, police had shuttered 361 movie piracy sites, 57 apps. A total of 251 suspects were arrested.

Press conference (credit: NCAC.gov)

While the United States would like China to do more to protect international content, the press conference heard that following the release of local hit movies including Wandering Earth ($557m box office in two weeks), Flying Life, and Crazy Alien ($292m in 13 days), large-scale piracy of the titles became evident. This alarmed Chinese authorities who took immediate action.

“Concerned about the problem, the rapid deployment and deployment of local public security organs carried out a series of project investigations against…film infringement and piracy in the Spring Festival and quickly identified and resolutely destroyed the production source and online communication network of the HD pirated films,” the conference heard.

In one region alone, 59 suspects were arrested and more than 13,600 pieces of equipment were seized, including playback and encryption hardware and servers.

The ‘Twist Film’ app, which was blamed for the greatest illegal transmission of pirated films, was reportedly “destroyed”. It’s claimed the app had more than 100 million users and offered in excess of 150,000 films. Suspects were arrested in China and “overseas”.

The Ministry of Public Security said it deployed local authorities to Beijing and several other areas to “smash a number of pirated websites and apps” that had outstanding infringement issues, including the popular ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Film and TV Alliance’ apps.

Also among the site casualties was a 170,000-member platform called ‘BTBus’, a platform known as ‘Qiu Xia’, and ‘BT Movie Paradise’, a site that’s claimed to have had 3.7 million visitors every day. The full list is lengthy so the above is just a sample.

In comments to China’s National Copyright Administration, Wandering Earth producer Gong Geer said that after being released on February 5th, an illegal HD version appeared online on the 7th. This was immediately reported to the government and the response during the first week of the Spring Festival was described as “an anti-piracy war.”

“As a creator, we must believe that the relevant departments can support us in law and policy. The only thing we can do is to create works with all sincerity,” he said.

“No matter how much we are pirated, we believe that only the best works can attract the audience. As long as we do well, the audience will definitely go to the cinema to watch movies. This is a mutual trust between our filmmakers and the audience. I believe the audience will give us this opportunity.”

The next round of trade war negotiations between China and the United States begin today in Beijing. China’s handling of intellectual property issues are a particularly hot topic.

In March, the National Copyright Administration added US movies Green Room and Captain Marvel to a list of productions that should receive special protection, ordering online content providers not to host them and requiring online storage providers to prevent uploads. The US will want much more.

Last week, as first reported here on TF, Avengers: Endgame appeared online after being filmed in a Chinese cinema, two days before its official US release date. The copies that appeared certainly weren’t in high-quality HD but the illegal appearance of this huge production won’t have gone unnoticed.

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U.S. Places 36 Countries on Annual ‘Piracy Watchlist’

U.S. Places 36 Countries on Annual ‘Piracy Watchlist’

Every year the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) publishes its Special 301 Report highlighting countries that aren’t doing enough to protect US intellectual property rights.

The format remains the same as in previous years and lists three dozen countries that, for different reasons, threaten the intellectual property rights of US companies.

“The identification of the countries and IP-related market access barriers in the Report and of steps necessary to address those barriers are a critical component of the Administration’s aggressive efforts to defend Americans from harmful IP-related trade barriers,” USTR writes. 

The topics reported in the yearly overview are much broader than online piracy. They also cover counterfeiting and other IP related issues, including patents and protection of trade secrets. Our coverage is limited to piracy, however, which remains one of the key issues. 

The USTR highlights stream-ripping as a significant problem, as well as pirate IPTV services and “illicit streaming devices” in general. The latter are sold throughout the world but are often manufactured in China, which is listed on the USTR’s Priority Watch List. 

“Stakeholders continue to report rampant piracy through ISDs, including in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, the UAE, and Vietnam. China, in particular, is a manufacturing hub for these devices,” the USTR writes. 

Camcording piracy, where people record films at movie theaters, remains a significant problem as well. Russia, India, Mexico, and China are called out as frequent sources, but the problem applies to other countries as well. 

The USTR notes that countries including Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Taiwan do not effectively criminalize unauthorized camcording, and hopes that this will soon change. 

“The United States urges countries to adopt laws and enforcement practices
designed to prevent unauthorized camcording, such as laws that have been adopted in
Canada, Japan, and the Philippines,” the USTR writes.

Most of these observations and comments are not new. They are made year after year in some cases. Apparently, it’s a strategy that has some effect. For example, India recently updated is camcording legislation to allow a three-year prison sentence for those who get caught.

The full list of countries which lack proper IP protection totals 36. Eleven are listed on the most severe Priority Watch List with the rest placed on the regular Watch List.

The 301 watch lists

Canada has been downgraded from the Priority to the regular Watch List this year. The most important step forward taken by Canada, according to the US, is signing the provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which will extend the local copyright term to 70-years + life.

However, problems remain as well. Among other things, the US sees Canada’s copyright exception for educational purposes as a grave concern.

The United States remains deeply troubled by the ambiguous education-related exception added to the copyright law in 2012, which has significantly damaged the market for educational publishers and authors,” the office writes.

Switzerland also remains on the Watch List. While the country generally has strong intellectual property protection, the U.S. remains concerned about its online copyright protection and enforcement, as we’ve highlighted previously. This appears to be the only remaining barrier at this point.

If countries fail to address the issues the USTR has highlighted, the U.S. says it will take appropriate actions in response. No concrete measures are mentioned, but they can include enforcement actions under Section 301 of the Trade Act or pursuant to World Trade Organization rules, for example. 

A copy of USTR’s full 2019 Special 301 Report is available here (pdf).

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TVCatchup Goes Down and is Probably Gone For Good

TVCatchup Goes Down and is Probably Gone For Good

Back in 2007, a new online service appeared in the UK. Originally touted as a personal DVR service, TVCatchup quickly gained traction.

Later, however, TVCatchup became an almost live (there was a short delay) streaming service, offering many channels to the public, including those offered by the BBC, ITV, and other broadcasters.

But trouble was never far away for the popular service. Following a legal battle with broadcasters that stretched back more than seven years and traversed UK and EU Courts, in 2017 the European Court of Justice delivered a considerable blow.

The ECJ said that the platform, which claimed to operate legally when it streamed TV content broadcasted by ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, could not rely on legislation that was designed to assist in the development of cable infrastructure decades ago.

That meant that when TVCatchup streamed copyrighted content without permission, that amounted to an unlicensed communication to the public. However, a year earlier TVCatchup Limited had already been dissolved, as confirmed by an October 2016 filing at Companies House.

Many expected the service to immediately shut down but TVCatchup continued via its website and apps downloadable from Google Play and Apple’s App Store. That changed recently when the service appeared to drastically degrade with no announcement from those in charge.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Gone?

The TVCatchup website currently displays a “Whoops, looks like something went wrong” message but it can still be accessed by adding “8080” to its URL. However, anyone clicking any of the links will be disappointed, as no channels are forthcoming. The same goes for both Apple and Android apps.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Another concerned user

The Android app (here) is published by a company listed as Spaceshifting LLC. However, that entity was dissolved back in February 2018. The App Store variant (here) is published by Toyon Investments Ltd, a UK company formed in January 2017.

In December 2018, Toyon Investments was advised that “unless cause is shown to the contrary”, under the Companies Act 2006 it would be struck off the register of companies. On February 26, 2019, Toyon Investments was dissolved.

The last time TVCatchup corresponded with a customer on Twitter was on March 5, 2019. Since then it has posted one tweet, unrelated to the business.

According to traffic stats provided by SimilarWeb, until the end of March 2019 TVCatchup.com was receiving around two million hits a day. Given the current situation, that isn’t likely to persist for long. However, UK users won’t be left completely high and dry.

Between BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, TVPlayer and other legal streaming apps and services, TVCatchup can be replaced. That wasn’t the case when TVCatchup initially gained traction but times have certainly changed over the past decade.

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Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 04/22/19

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 04/22/19

This week we have four newcomers in our chart.

Avengers: Endgame is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the articles of the recent weekly movie download charts.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1 (…) Avengers: Endgame (HDCam) 9.1 / trailer
2 (…) What Men Want 4.7 / trailer
3 (1) Glass 6.9 / trailer
4 (2) Escape Room 6.4 / trailer
5 (…) Cold Pursuit 6.4 / trailer
6 (back) Captain Marvel (HDTS) 7.2 / trailer
7 (4) How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 7.8 / trailer
8 (5) Aquaman 7.7 / trailer
9 (…) The Prodigy 6.3 / trailer
10 (3) High Life 6.3 / trailer

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Exodus Forks Show That Open Source Kodi Add-ons Are Hard to Eradicate

Exodus Forks Show That Open Source Kodi Add-ons Are Hard to Eradicate

When the pirate streaming box hype reached new heights early 2017, the third-party Kodi add-on “Exodus” was at the center of the action.

Exodus was widely praised as one of the most useful add-ons to access streaming video. This included many pirated movies and TV-shows.

The open source software was maintained by “Lambda,” one of the most prolific developers in the community. However, this meant that when rightsholders started to tighten the screws, Exodus became one of the main targets.

It all started when the popular add-on repository TVAddons mysteriously disappeared. Since Exodus was distributed through the repository, many people experienced trouble updating it.

Initially, it was unknown what was going on with TVAddons but when the site returned more than a month later, it became clear that it was being sued by Bell Canada, TVA, Videotron, and Rogers. This complaint also listed Exodus, alongside 17 other add-ons.

Not much later, development of the Exodus add-on was discontinued. This meant that from one day to another, millions of users found out that their pirate streaming boxes had become useless. At least, in their more recent configuration.

It didn’t take long before others stepped up to fill this void. Interestingly, many of the Exodus alternatives were based on the original Exodus code, which was open source. Even today, nearly two years after the add-on was discontinued, its code lives on.

TVAddons recently published an overview of the various Exodus ‘forks’ that are still online today.

The top one appears to be the aptly named “Exodus Redux,” which is available through GitHub and maintained by a developer known as I-A-C.

However, there are many more add-ons based on the same code. This includes “Yoda,” “Exodus 8,” “Overeasy,” and “13Clowns,” to name a few. All of these allow users to stream video through an easy-to-use interface.

While the open source code is easy to fork, these add-ons can’t operate with complete impunity, of course. Several other Exodus based add-ons have already been discontinued, often following pressure from groups such as anti-piracy group ACE.

The Covenant add-on, developed by Team Colossus, threw in the towel after one of the main developers received a house visit, for example,. The Placenta add-on was discontinued following a cease and desist letter.

This begs the question: if new forks keep appearing, does it mean that rightsholders’ actions are futile?

According to TVAddons, which has banned these forks from its own platform, takedown efforts may help in the short term. However, when open source software is taken down, many alternate versions usually pop-up.

“The Rights holders efforts to destroy dual-use technologies seem to be effective in the very short-term. However, those enforcements only result in software and tools being spread out in a way that becomes uncontrollable in the long term, as we’ve seen with Kodi addons,” a TVAddons spokesperson told us.

In theory, this is indeed true. TVAddons listed just seven active Exodus forks, but there are many more out there. It’s a problem that’s hard to eradicate. 

However, the continued efforts from rightsholders to shut down these add-ons may have a more subtle effect. While hardcore pirates will always find a new fork, there’s also a group of people who will get frustrated by the repeated shutdowns, and give up eventually. 

If we take a look at the popularity of the Google search term “Kodi add-ons” we see that interest started to drop after the major enforcement efforts started. This may be a coincidence of course, but it could also be a sign of people giving up. 

Google searches for “Kodi add-ons”

It’s hard to deny that open source software can’t be easily eradicated, but the ease of access also play a role. 

We’ve also seen that with other popular open source applications, such as Popcorn Time. When one of the most popular forks was taken out following pressure from Hollywood, others remained available. Still, as time went on, interest began to wane. 

Similarly, when Limewire shut down years ago, the Frostwire fork remained available. However, this never reached the same audience as its predecessor. 

All in all, it’s safe to conclude that, while Exodus has left the scene a long time ago, its code still thrives. Whether the total audience is still as large as it once was, remains a question.

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75-Year-Old Can’t Sleep Following Accusations of Hardcore Porn Piracy

75-Year-Old Can’t Sleep Following Accusations of Hardcore Porn Piracy

The practice of copyright-trolling is now well-established in many countries around the world.

The companies involved often gather IP addresses from BitTorrent swarms, then via the courts, obtain identities of users from their ISPs.

What follows are threats to the account holder, warning that if he or she doesn’t pay a ‘fine’, then court action will follow. This, of course, is boosted with claims that if the process gets this far, things will get much more expensive.

In reality, however, copyright trolls rarely take cases to court and when they do, they tend to head for the hills when people put up a spirited fight. That was demonstrated again earlier this week when a troll targeted an IT specialist, then backed away after claiming his technical knowledge would allow him to cover up any infringement.

Considering the main evidence in most trolling cases is a simple IP address, captured way before the rightsholders even write to a defendant, it raises the question of whether even the trolls have faith that an IP address alone is enough to prosecute a case. Some courts certainly don’t.

Yet that evidence alone appears to form the basis of claims detailed in a letter received by a pensioner in Sweden during March 2019.

The 75-year-old man was told that his IP address (allocated by his ISP TeliaSonera) had been used to share the hardcore porn movie “The Creepers Family Part 7”, which was produced by Girlfriends Films and licensed to MIRCOM International, a company with a long history of involvement in similar cases.

The company doing the tracking was Media Protector International GmbH, which has been providing data for similar cases for more than a decade.

While there can be no doubt that many IP addresses caught in the dragnets of these companies were indeed used to download and share copyrighted content, innocents are regularly caught in the crossfire. The pensioner from Sweden says that’s the case with him.

He shared his story with Bahnhof, a Swedish ISP which acts as a competitor to TeliaSonera and one that offers a sympathetic ear to people targeted by copyright trolls.

“The infringement occurred on Friday February 2, 2018 at 6:43:17, that is, a time that I as a pensioner sleeps,” he told the ISP.

“I am 75 years old and I do not know much about technology, and I wonder if there is anything I can do or if I should just pay?”

This, of course, is exactly the strategy of copyright trolls. Whether their targets are guilty or innocent, they hope their strongly-worded letters will break the resolve of recipients and make them cave in, parting with cash to make the nightmare go away.

“I sleep poorly and feel great concern because of this, I just want it to stop. My wife wants to pay to get rid of the problem, but if we do will it just make things worse?” he added.

“I am afraid that the bills will continue to come from other agencies and companies, it seems to be a business idea that is better than selling movies. This can be my ruin.”

While the mainstream media has largely given up about worrying about those targeted by copyright trolls, history has shown us that cases against pensioners are rarely well received by the public or those in power.

Two years ago, for example, an 83-year-old grandmother from the UK went to the press after being accused of pirating the Robert Redford film The Company You Keep. That attracted the attention of her local member of parliament, who branded the practice “disgusting” and raised the matter with the government.

It is not known whether the woman ever paid up but given the negative publicity and outcry, it seems unlikely. The case certainly never went to court, which is common when those accused by copyright trolls fight back and/or tell their stories in the media and complain to politicians.

For Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung, not enough is being done to protect those wrongly targeted, with citizens currently left to fight for themselves.

“It’s a corrupt system promoting copyright trolls and legal firms that thrive on blackmail. Unfortunately, there is not enough political momentum to change the situation. It’s an ongoing scandal, and I believe that this affects the justice system as a whole,” Karlung told TorrentFreak.

“The only solution is to make this problem as visible as possible. People should also start asking their telecom operators why they save data for time spans of 24 months – Bahnhof only saves for 24 hours.”

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Victims of Prenda Law ‘Copyright Trolls’ Can Now Register for Restitution

Victims of Prenda Law ‘Copyright Trolls’ Can Now Register for Restitution

In an effort to turn piracy into profit, copyright holders have chased alleged BitTorrent pirates through courts all over the world.

This so-called copyright troll scheme was also used by the firm Prenda Law. However, the lawyers involved started to break the law themselves.

The firm was accused of all sorts of wrongdoing including identity theft, misrepresentation, and even deception. Most controversial was the shocking revelation that Prenda uploaded their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirated downloads.

This eventually caught the attention of the US Justice Department. In 2015 we first reported that two Pirate Bay co-founders had been questioned by Swedish police, acting on behalf of the FBI. The feds were interested in the honeypot evidence, to build a case against Prenda.

A year later the investigation was finished, resulting in a criminal indictment against Prenda attorneys Paul Hansmeier and John Steele. The US Government accused the two of various crimes, including money laundering, perjury, mail, and wire fraud.

Since then both defendants have both signed plea agreements. They now face years in prison. While it is by no means illegal to go after file-sharers, the Prenda attorneys crossed a line by repeatedly lying to or misleading the courts.

The US prosecutor recently recommended a 12.5-year prison sentence for Paul Hansmeier, who instructed his brother to upload torrents of videos he produced himself. In doing so he misled the court, as he made it appear as if the videos were from a third-party company.

In total, Prenda Law generated roughly $3,000,000 from the fraudulent copyright lawsuits they filed at courts throughout the United States.

Thus far very little has been said about the victims of the scheme but with the final sentencing coming up, this has changed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Minnesota is now allowing people who were targeted by the scheme to register for restitution.

“HANSMEIER and STEELE were charged and convicted of orchestrating a multi-million dollar fraud scheme in which they obtained payments from victims to settle sham pornography film copyright infringement lawsuits,” the Attorney’s Office writes.

“At the sentencing hearing, the Court may, but is not required to, order HANSMEIER and STEELE to pay restitution to the victims of their scheme.”

The list of potential victims includes everyone who paid a settlement to any of the related companies, including Steele Hansmeier Law, Prenda Law, Alpha Law, Anti-Piracy Group, AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13, Guava LLC, Livewire, and LW Systems.

The Attorney’s Office encourages all potential victims to fill out a form, so it can identify whether they were indeed defrauded by the defendants. The information provided will be shared with the court, but it won’t be available publicly.

The sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for June 4, before Judge Joan N. Ericksen in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here, it will be decided whether the two defendants must pay restitution, which is not a given.

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Premier League & Broadcasters Win Judgment in Landmark Pirate TV Box Case

Premier League & Broadcasters Win Judgment in Landmark Pirate TV Box Case

Piracy-configured set-top boxes are the latest in a long line of problems facing copyright holders and broadcasters.

When pre-loaded with custom software they become easily accessible yet formidable piracy tools, providing access to the latest movies, TV shows, live TV programming and live sports broadcasts.

While successful prosecutions have been possible in some regions under existing copyright law, there are plenty of countries that still require a test case. One of those was Singapore, a country that has reportedly become swamped with pirate devices.

In January 2018, it was reported that telecoms, broadcasting, and sporting giants SingTel, Starhub, Fox Networks Group and the Premier League, had teamed up to launch a pioneering private prosecution against those involved in the supply chain.

The complainant in the suit is Neil Gane, who works as General Manager at the Coalition Against Piracy. However, CAP is not involved in this case.

The legal action targeted set-top box distributor Synnex Trading and its client and wholesale goods retailer, An-Nahl. The rightsholders also named Synnex Trading director Jia Xiaofen and An-Nahl director Abdul Nagib as defendants in their private prosecution.

This week, more than a year after the case was filed, Abdul Nagib pleaded guilty to willfully infringing the rightsholders’ copyrights for commercial gain, with a second charge taken into consideration. He originally intended to fight the case.

According to CNA, the 58-year-old admitted to selling a single Android TV box and helping the buyer of that device to access unauthorized copies of copyrighted content, which included soccer matches provided by the Premier League.

In mitigation, Abdul Nagib’s lawyer Mr Srijit said that his client believed that the content offered through the devices, which came with an annual subscription, was licensed by pay TV and IPTV provider Astro Malaysia. He had immediately stopped offering the devices after he received a cease-and-desist notice in 2017.

While Abdul Nagib’s fine of just S$1,200 (US$883) is relatively small given the scale of punishments handed down in other jurisdictions, Mr Srijit said his client had already paid a heavy price after selling his home to finance his defense.

Despite the small fine, the case is also important since this is the first and only successful prosecution of a ‘pirate’ TV box seller in Singapore. However, it is not yet over as the case against Synnex Trading and director Jia Xiaofen is yet to be settled.

Jia allegedly offered to pay Abdul Nagib a small commission for every device sold and an additional fee when customers also purchased a copy of the popular Kodi media player. Abdul Nagib is now reportedly assisting in the prosecution of Jia.

Commenting on the plea and judgment, Louis Boswell, CEO Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA), said that progress against piracy needs to be a team effort.

“In order to combat the serious and growing problem of content theft, a holistic solution is required,” Boswell told TorrentFreak.

“If all stakeholders, government, content producers, distributors, industry associations and intermediaries work together, we believe serious progress in reducing video piracy can be achieved.”

While today’s guilty plea will prove useful to AVIA’s members and other rightsholders, the action is just one of the avenues available to combat piracy.

Last September, Singnet, Fox Networks Group, NGC Network Asia, Fox International Channels (US) Inc, and the Premier League obtained an injunction from the Singapore High Court which required several local ISPs to block access to popular ‘pirate’ apps.

In May 2018, ISPs blocked dozens of torrent and streaming platforms (including The Pirate Bay plus KickassTorrents and Solarmovie variants) following a successful application from the MPAA.

The Hollywood group later obtained a so-called ‘dynamic‘ blocking order which granted it the ability to block sites more efficiently should they attempt to circumvent the earlier order.

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US Govt Identifies Top Pirate Sites and Other ‘Notorious Markets’

US Govt Identifies Top Pirate Sites and Other ‘Notorious Markets’

ustrbIn its yearly “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets”, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) lists a few dozen websites said to be involved in piracy or counterfeiting.

The overview is largely based on input from industry groups including the RIAA and MPAA, who submitted their recommendations late last year.

The USTR stresses that the list isn’t exhaustive, nor is it meant to reflect legal violations. The goal of the review is to motivate owners and foreign Governments to take appropriate action and reduce piracy.

“In the absence of good faith efforts, responsible government authorities should investigate reports of piracy and counterfeiting in these and similar markets and pursue appropriate action against such markets and their owners and operators,” the USTR writes.

This year there appears to be a stronger focus on counterfeiting and offline markets than in previous years. There is also a focus on free trade zones, for example, mostly in relation to counterfeiting. However, pirate sites are also highlighted in the report.

First off, the Government reports that there have been some recent successes on the anti-piracy front.  The 123movies websites have been shut down following a criminal investigation in Vietnam and, more recently, the  FAB IPTV service was taken offline following a Europol-led raid.

Still, many piracy-related challenges remain. According to the USTR’s report, The Pirate Bay remains one of the primary offenders, despite some significant downtime issues.

“While The Pirate Bay websites have experienced periodic downtime over the past year, right holders continue to report high levels of infringing activities taking place on this platform,” the USTR writes.

“As one of the first BitTorrent indexing websites and one of its most vocal in openly promoting piracy, The Pirate Bay continues to be one of the most frequently visited websites in the world,” the report adds.

Other prominent torrent sites mentioned in the review are RuTorrent and RARBG. Interestingly, 1337x.to, which was included previously, no longer gets a mention.

The USTR has also included the stream ripping sites Flvto.biz and 2Conv.com, which are currently involved in a US court battle with several record labels. Another popular stream ripping site highlighted by the USTR is MP3juices.cc, and the music-related sites Mp3va.com and Newalbumreleases.net also get a mention.

The latest overview of notorious markets further lists a selection of game-related websites. Firestorm-Servers.com and Warmane.com, for example, which host unauthorized World of Warcraft servers with thousands of players.

Another game-related site is Mpgh.net, which offers a wide variety of hacks and cheats.

“Mpgh.net is an example of a site that provides “cheats” and reportedly offers several hundred thousand free cheats to over 4 million users. The site generates revenue through advertisements and by offering premium accounts, and Internet browsers reportedly detect and warn of malicious content on the site,” the USTR writes.

The malware angle is brought up more often by the USTR, which references various reports which found that pirate sites are often linked to the spreading of malicious content.

The USTR report continues with mentions of popular cyberlockers such as Openload, Uploaded, and Rapidgator. Streaming sites and apps such as Fmovies, TVPlus, and TVBrowser also make the list.

The pirate broadcaster BEOUTQ gets a mention as well, as do the academic pirate sources Sci-Hub and LibGen, as well as Russia’s social network VK.com. The latter keeps being mentioned, despite a long list of anti-piracy actions it has taken in recent years.

In addition to individual sites and services, the USTR notes that some hosting providers have also become problematic players. This includes so-called bulletproof hosters such as FlokiNET.

“FlokiNET is an example of the growing problem of hosting providers that do not respond to notices of infringement or warning letters that the provider is hosting and supporting known infringing websites,” USTR writes.

The USTR hopes that by highlighting these problematic sites and companies, their operators or local law enforcement will take action to prevent copyright infringing activity going forward.

A copy of USTR’s 2018 overview of notorious markets (published yesterday) is available here (pdf). The full list of highlighted online sites/service, including those focused on counterfeiting, is as follows:

-1Fichier.com
-BEOUTQ
-Bukalapak.com
-Carousell.com
-Chomikuj.pl
-DHgate.com
-Firestorm-Servers.com and Warmane.com
-FlokiNET
-Flvto.biz and 2Conv.com
-FMovies.is
-Hosting Concepts B.V.
-Indoxx1.com
-Kinogo.cc
-MP3juices.cc
-Mp3va.com
-Mpgh.net
-Newalbumreleases.net
-Openload.co
-Pelispedia.tv
-Pinduoduo.com
-Private Layer Hosted Sites (e.g. Torrentz2.eu)
-Rapidgator.net, Rutracker.org, and Seasonvar.eu
-RARBG.to
-Sci-Hub and LibGen
-Shopee.ph
-Taobao.com
-Thepiratebay.org
-Tokopedia.com
-Turbobit.net
-TVPlus, TVBrowser, and Kuaikan
-Uploaded.net
-Uptobox.com
-VK.com

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