Plex is a Pirate’s Dream But Could Also Build Bridges to Legal Content

Plex is a Pirate’s Dream But Could Also Build Bridges to Legal Content

A little while back, Bijan Stephen over at The Verge published a well-received piece on the topic of Plex, the popular media server software. It’s well worth a read for those who aren’t already familiar with this incredibly sleek tool.

For those in need of a quick summary, Plex comes in two parts. A server component that does all the hard work behind the scenes on the host computer and a client, which can be typically run on a smart TV, Firestick-like device, tablet, phone or indeed another computer. The latter is used to access the former.

In brief (and from a video consumption perspective) people can dump all of their properly named movies and TV shows into a folder, adjust a few settings, wait a minute or three and have this uninspiring bleak landscape…

Before…

….transformed into something like this:

After…

Users of software like Popcorn Time or Showbox will probably wonder what all the fuss is about – but that’s only if they haven’t used Plex.

When properly configured (and it isn’t hard) its search and curation features blow Netflix’s out of the water. Search by genre, actor, director, running time – almost anything is possible. As a bonus, Plex has one of the most beautiful interfaces ever made for media consumption.

What Plex doesn’t have, when people first install it, is any movie or TV show content in its library – especially of the kind shown above. The company behind Plex is completely above board, providing a tool that’s no more responsible for piracy than Windows or Android. Nevertheless, plenty of users build their own self-hosted Netflix-beaters with Plex, sometimes with the help of others.

The article in The Verge explains how some Plex users solve this problem by teaming up with other Plex users to share their own libraries. It a system that operates in a manner not dissimilar to the way smaller BBS admins of yesteryear traded and obtained content for their own platforms.

As The Verge put it, “as streaming offerings become more expensive and convoluted, people are setting up their own smaller, more intimate platforms.” And indeed they are, but there’s more to this rodeo.

There is a side to Plex use (copyright holders and indeed Plex itself will argue ‘abuse’) that isn’t small at all. It doesn’t involve sharing any of your own content either, it’s a simple case of handing over a few dollars, euros, or pounds and suddenly everything is a click away.

If one knows where to look, so-called P4S (Plex For Share) services are available that make Netflix’s multi-billion dollar offering look like a second-class citizen. And after handing over the cash or requesting a free trial, users can be accessing huge – HUGE – libraries of content in a matter of minutes.

The smaller and cheaper shares (a few hundred movies and TV shows, a handful of simultaneous users) are probably being run on home connections. The bigger and more expensive ones are entirely more professional, offering thousands of video files to many concurrent users.

Just as an example, one particular service (for less than $10) per month, lists more than 11,000 movies in HD and above (including 4K) plus 2,000 TV shows. Others prefer to list content in terabytes, with more than 200TB not being particularly uncommon. These big boys utilize CDNs to ensure content is delivered seamlessly to subscribers, wherever they may be.

The big deal here isn’t just the volume of content available, it’s the nature and breadth. Given that professional P4S offers don’t have politics to deal with or business models to protect, the movies on offer range from old classics to the very latest blockbusters. And Friends will not be removed because somebody offered a better deal.

The world of Plex shares is nothing new and for those thinking that their existence should be kept under the radar, it’s already too late. Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN, which is affiliated with Hollywood studios, has already taken action against people offering these services to the public. The cat is well and truly out of the bag, it’s just a question of how far it will run.

But while Plex might be a pirate’s dream, the company is doing some very interesting things to ensure that rightsholders get in on the act. Late last month, Plex announced it had struck a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution to supply free, ad-supported movies and TV shows to Plex users.

The company reportedly has plans for its software to become a “one-stop-shop” for content and has grand plans to begin reselling subscription content in 2020 along with video on demand products. This opens up the possibility of introducing pirates to premium products in an interface they are already very familiar with.

While some will naturally object, this could be clever bridge-building in action. Big content companies would never try to tempt pirates by putting movies or TV shows on The Pirate Bay, for example, but Plex and the company behind it are so neutral, politics can be kept to a minimum. Let’s see how it plays out, things could get very interesting.

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Manga Publishers Sue Pirate Site “Hoshinoromi” in New York Court

Manga Publishers Sue Pirate Site “Hoshinoromi” in New York Court

The popularity of pirated comics represents a thorn in the side to many publishers. Manga publishers, in particular, are faced with a constant stream of infringing copies.

Over the past year, we have seen some enforcement actions on this front.

For example, the Japanese Government jumped in and created a special task force to investigate the pirate site Mangamura, which shut down last year. Since then, several operators and uploaders have been prosecuted.

However, when Mangamura went offline, many other sites were more than happy to take its place. This includes Hoshinoromi.org, which is particularly popular in Japan but does well outside its borders too.

Hoshinoromi positioned itself as a successor to Mangamura and managed to build a rather impressive library of content in just a few months. According to its own stats from late July, it has 93,000 volumes or books in its archive, good for millions of pages.

Faced with the rapid rise of the site, a group of some of Japan’s largest manga publishers is now taking legal action. In a complaint filed at a federal court in New York, Shueisha, Kadowaka, Kodansha, and Shogakukan, accuse the site of blatant copyright infringement.

“This case is about willful and massive infringement of the Publishers’ manga,” they write. “Hoshinoromi is a pirate website operating at www.hoshinoromi.org, which organizes, promotes, and distributes unauthorized copies of the Publishers’ manga on a massive scale.”

New York seems an odd choice as publishers are all from Japan and the website is also in Japanese. However, the companies note that Hoshinoromi uses a variety of US-based companies to conduct its business and hide the operators’ identities.

“Cloudflare caches infringing content from both Hoshinoromi.org and the backend server, zakayloader.org (previously, worldjobproject.org). Cloudflare provides a reverse proxy to mask the server locations and operators,” the publishers write.

Other US-based outfits used by the site are Twitter and Gab, the publishers explain, adding that the site itself is freely available to American visitors as well.

Hoshinoromi.org

Hoshinoromi allegedly used Twitter to advertise the site, making it clear that it was aware of the potential negative impact it has on legitimate sales.

“When the old Manga Village closed, sales of manga went up, so the new Manga Village was revived, and profits will lower again!!!! What countermeasures are you going to take this time??,” the site previously wrote (translated) on its now-suspended Twitter account.

The publishers add that, while the site is open about its pirating activities, it apparently doesn’t want other people to ‘steal’ from them. According to the complaint, it is actively blocking outsiders from ‘exploiting’ the site’s collection of pirated files.

“Hoshinoromi has gone to great lengths to block competitor pirates and investigators from copying images in bulk. The operators of the site have no problem stealing and profiting from the Publishers’ manga, but they implement countermeasures to ensure that others do not do the same to them,” the publishers complain.

With the lawsuit, the publishers hope to unveil the site’s operators and be compensated for the damages they have suffered. They list a total of 41 works, which means that the theoretical statutory damages amount runs in the millions.

While it’s not specifically mentioned, another goal of the lawsuit may be to urge or compel third-party intermediaries to take action. Cloudflare is specifically mentioned as a caching service, and the publishers make it clear that they would like to see all copies of their works removed from the company’s servers.

A copy of the complaint filed by Shueisha, Kadowaka, Kodansha, and Shogakukan is available here (pdf).

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Brazzers Wants Cloudflare to Identify YesPornPlease Uploaders

Brazzers Wants Cloudflare to Identify YesPornPlease Uploaders

Mindgeek owns some of the most recognizable porn brands on the Internet, including Montreal-based production company Brazzers.

In common with most content companies, piracy is a problem for Mindgeek and its subsidiary MG Premium Ltd. In August we reported how the company had used DMCA subpoenas in an effort to identify uploaders on many ‘tube’ sites. This month, MG Premium has returned for another bite at the cherry.

In a DMCA subpoena application filed in Washington, MG Premium complains that “Cloudflare’s websites” YesPornPlease.com, Share.io, and a related domain are carrying infringing content to which the company owns the copyrights.

“MG is the owner of numerous copyrighted audiovisual works. In the course of protecting its works, MG has determined that infringing copies of these works, posted at the direction of individual users and without authorization from MG, appear on Cloudflare, Inc.’s websites YesPornPlease.com, share.io, and ezcgwym5xp7ty.com,” the application reads.

“Such infringements have been ongoing and MG has issued DMCA notifications to Cloudflare, Inc.’s DMCA Agent. All notifications have met the requirements of 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A) by setting forth, inter alia, a representative list of the copyrighted works that have been infringed and the identification and location on Cloudflare’s website of the infringing material.

“MG now seeks to obtain a DMCA Subpoena to learn the identity of the individuals who are posting the infringing content,” MG Premium adds.

The suggestion that the sites listed above are Cloudflare’s is obviously contentious. However, there also appears to be a subtle but important error in the application for a subpoena.

While MG Premium is clear in requesting information relating to uploaders on sites including ‘share.io’, that domain appears to have been submitted in error. According to supporting documents, the company should probably be referring to vShare.io instead.

Nevertheless, the application to unmask the uploaders of thousands of pieces of Brazzers content to the sites in question is pretty comprehensive and dates back more than three years.

“For the period January 1, 2016 through the present, produce all documents and account records that identify the person(s) or entities that caused the infringement of the material described in the attached Exhibit B DMCA notifications to the DMCA Agent for Cloudflare, Inc. and/or who unlawfully uploaded MG Premium Ltd’s copyrighted works at the URLS listed in the notifications..,” the application reads.

The information requested includes but is not limited to, names, email addresses, IP addresses, user histories, posting histories, physical addresses and telephone numbers.

As pointed out when a similar application was filed by MG Premium in August, it remains unclear how much information Cloudflare holds on third party sites’ users and whether it’s in a position to hand much over.

The key related documents are available here and here (pdf)

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Rojadirecta Puts Up Defense But Can’t Escape ISP Blockade

Rojadirecta Puts Up Defense But Can’t Escape ISP Blockade

As one of the oldest and most prominent sports live-streaming portals, Rojadirecta is a thorn in the side of many international sports organizations.

The linking site is operated by a Spanish company and initially had a good track record when it came to legal battles.

Rojadirecta famously had its domain name returned after it was seized by the US Government years ago, and it has successfully fought off copyright holders in court.

More recently, however, the tide began to turn. This year alone, Internet providers in several countries, including Ecuador and Peru, have been ordered to block the site. Last Friday, a court in Denmark did the same.

The Danish case was handled by the local anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen, which worked in tandem with the Spanish Football League ‘La Liga‘. Earlier this year, they already managed to get blocking orders against nine other websites, but the court postponed a ruling on Rojadirecta.

The reason for the delay was unusual. Contrary to pretty much every other website, Rojadirecta put up a defense. Among other things, the site argued that it’s not actively involved in selecting streaming links, as this happens automatically, and that many links actually point to authorized content.

La Liga, however, countered that some of its content was definitely linked without permission, adding that Rojadirecta profits from facilitating copyright infringement. As such, it requested an injunction ordering local ISP Telenor to block the site.

Telenor, which is the actual defendant, in this case, didn’t present any arguments.

After reviewing the positions of La Liga and Rojadirecta, the court sided with the former. In its ruling late last week, the Court of Frederiksberg ordered Telenor to block the site. As is common in Denmark, this means that other ISPs will voluntarily follow suit.

RettighedsAlliancen CEO Maria Fredenslund is happy with the outcome. It confirms that the blocking process is effective, she says, even when a targeted site puts up a defense.

“Rojadirecta appeared in court and presented a defense but was convicted and blocked nonetheless – just like other illegal services. It stands to confirm that the blocking system works even if it is challenged, and of course we are very pleased with this,” Fredenslund says.

Rojadirecta, on the other hand, is disappointed. A spokesperson informs TorrentFreak that it respects the outcome of the court proceeding. However, it is not happy with how RettighedsAlliancen and La Liga are selling it to the public.

The site stresses that there is no ‘conviction’ of Rojadirecta. The case was a matter between the rightsholders and an ISP. The burden of proof in these cases is relatively low as the claimant only has to show that it’s likely that an infringement occurred, the site’s spokesperson notes.

“The court has thus in the case merely made the assessment that RettighedsAlliancen has proven it likely that there have been illegal links at Rojadirecta and that the formal requirements for issuing a blocking injunction against the ISP were considered fulfilled,” Rojadirecta tells us.

Rojadirecta further notes that it didn’t get much advance notice – Rettighedsalliancen informed the site little over a week before the hearing was scheduled.

While the streaming link site managed to have a postponement put in place, it never had the chance to participate in an oral hearing. Instead, Rojadirecta was directed to submit its defense on paper.

It’s clear that Rojadirecta is not pleased with the blockade and the site is still deliberating whether it will file an appeal.

Aside from facing yet another ISP blockade, the damage for Rojadirecta as a business is minimal. The site has a relatively small userbase in Denmark, and since it wasn’t a defendant in the lawsuit, there are no damages that have to be paid.

That could change if RettighedsAlliancen and La Liga file a case against the site directly, to decide whether it’s indeed operating illegally or not. We asked RettighedsAlliancen whether this was an option, but the group informed us that it has no comment on that for now.

Rojadirecta is clear though. If RettighedsAlliancen and La Liga want the conviction they already claim they have, they need to fight the case on its merits.

For now, however, the court found that there is enough ground to have Rojadirecta blocked in Denmark. According to local regulations the preliminary ruling will have to be followed up by a case of the merits. However, the targeted ISP may waive this, after which the order becomes permanent.

A copy of the order from the Court of Frederiksberg, obtained by TorrentFreak, is available here (pdf).

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Piracy App ‘CotoMovies’ Shuts Down, Apologizes, and Exposes Users

Piracy App ‘CotoMovies’ Shuts Down, Apologizes, and Exposes Users

Last week we reported that the third-party iOS app store TweakBox had removed several movie piracy apps following legal pressure.

One of the targeted apps was CotoMovies, a piece of software that provides unlimited access to pirated copies of movies and TV-shows, free of charge.

The legal pressure came from the makers of the action movie “Hellboy” and clearly had Tweakbox worried. However, they were not the only ones under the spotlight. Soon after our article was published CotoMovies announced that it would shut down.

Initially not much was known about the reason for this abrupt decision, although legal trouble seemed likely. Now, a few days later, we can indeed confirm that CotoMovies was urged to shut down by the makers of the films “Hellboy” and “Angel Has Fallen”.

A source close to the fire informs TorrentFreak that both parties negotiated a possible ‘settlement’. While we can’t confirm that any damages were paid, CotoMovies is now offering a public apology to the filmmakers on its homepage.

“I want to express my sincere regret to the owners of the motion pictures Hellboy and Angel Has Fallen as well as all rights holders for inducing and contributing to copyright infringements by my operation of the app CotoMovies,” the operator writes.

The CotoMovies operator notes that he or she learned from the “stressful legal experience” and now understands what damage movie piracy apps can cause. Going forward, the app’s creator promises not to infringe on any copyrights while urging the app’s users to do the same.

Needless to say, many users are disappointed to see their favorite app going offline. However, CotoMovies makes another statement that may be even more concerning. Apparently, the app’s creator agreed to transfer user data to the filmmakers.

“I now plan to fully respect intellectual property laws and strongly urge those who used my app to use legal apps to watch movies. To this end, I have agreed to transfer to counsel for the rights holders user data and communications under my possession and control so that they can enforce their valuable intellectual property,” CotoMovies writes.

The public apology and more

It’s not immediately clear what type of user data the app retained but the filmmakers plan to target some. The makers of “Hellboy” and “Angel Has Fallen” have previously targeted individual pirates in court, but they want to set an example with streamers as well.

TorrentFreak reached out to Kerry S. Culpepper, the attorney of the two movie companies to, find out more about their plans.

“I am happy that the app operator was willing to take responsibility for her/his actions, apologize and take this app down. This is something you don’t see too much of lately – people taking responsibility for their actions,” Culpepper said.

While the lawyer confirmed that they “more than likely” intend to go after CotoMovies users, Culpepper declined to comment on what type of data they have in their possession.

What’s crystal clear, however, is that the movie companies’ legal pressure tactic is paying off.

Jonathan Yunger, co-president of Millennium Media, which is the parent company of the movie companies that went after CotoMovies, is pleased with the progress they’ve made.

“Millennium greatly values their and other’s intellectual property.  Millennium cannot keep making new movies if people steal Millennium’s movies through apps like these,” Yunger informed TorrentFreak.

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Major US ISPs Refuse to Discuss Repeat Infringer Policies

Major US ISPs Refuse to Discuss Repeat Infringer Policies

Every single week, Internet users in the United States take to Reddit and other discussion forums seeking advice about copyright infringement notices.

Whether the claims against them are true is often hard to assess, but many speak of receiving notices from their ISP which state that a third-party has caught them torrenting something they shouldn’t – usually movies, TV shows, or music.

While any and all of them are able to speak directly to their ISP to find out what the notices are all about and what the consequences might be, many seem confused. Are they going to be sued, for example, or perhaps their Internet might get suspended or cut off completely?

Most advice dished out by fellow internet users is (and I’m paraphrasing), “Dumbass – use a VPN”, but while that comprehensively solves the problem, it doesn’t answer the big questions.

A common topic is how many notices a customer can receive from their ISP before things get serious. One might think this basic information would be easy to find but despite most major ISPs in the US stating that they don’t allow infringement and there could be consequences for receiving multiple complaints, more often than not their information pages aren’t specific.

So, in an effort to cut through all the jargon and put all the relevant information into one article, on August 27 we approached several of the major ISPs in the United States – Comcast, AT&T, Charter/Spectrum, Verizon, and CenturyLink – with a list of questions, detailed below;

  • Your company forwards copyright complaints from rightsholders, based on their claims. How many complaints can a subscriber have made against their account before some action is taken by you, beyond simply forwarding the notice to the subscriber?
  • What is the nature of that action, i.e requiring to confirm receipt of the notice, taking a copyright lesson, promising not to infringe again, etc?
  • Once this stage has been completed, how many more complaints against an account will trigger any subsequent action, i.e a more serious warning, warning that an account could be suspended etc?
  • At what point would a customer with multiple complaints against their account be considered a ‘repeat infringer’?
  • At what point could an account holder expect a temporary account suspension? At this point, how would that suspension be lifted?
  • At what point could an account holder expect a complete termination of his or her service?
  • In respect of points 5 and 6, is the number of complaints a deciding factor or does a subscriber’s negative or positive responses and actions in respect of your efforts to prevent infringement also play a part?
  • Are you able to confirm that accounts have been temporarily suspended for repeat infringement and if so, how many?
  • Are you able to confirm that accounts have been permanently shut down for repeat infringement and if so, how many?

We told the ISPs exactly why we were asking these questions and indicated that a response within seven days would guarantee their inclusion in this article. We extended the deadline to two weeks and beyond but not a single company listed above responded to any of our questions.

In fact, none even acknowledged receipt of our initial email, despite one ISP requiring us to send emails to at least three people involved in their media communications team. It seems fairly clear this potato is simply too hot to pick up.

That being said, we thought we should press on with at least trying to help subscribers.

There are usually very few valid excuses for receiving multiple copyright infringement complaints. Some do exist, of course, but not knowing the precise mechanism for being dealt with under various ISPs’ ‘repeat infringer’ rulesets only makes matters worse.

What we can do here is give relevant snippets/quotes from each ISP’s website and link to the page(s) in question, with a comment here and there. In no particular order:

AT&T: In accordance with the DMCA and other applicable laws, AT&T maintains a policy that provides for the termination of IP Services, under appropriate circumstances, if Customers are found to be a repeat infringer and/or if Customers’ IP Services are used repeatedly for infringement (the ‘Repeat Infringer Policy’). AT&T may terminate IP Services at any time with or without notice to Customers.

AT&T has no obligation to investigate possible copyright infringements with respect to materials transmitted by Customer or any other users of the IP Services. However, AT&T will process valid notifications of claimed infringement under the DMCA, and continued receipt of infringement notifications for Customer’s account will be used as a factor in determining whether Customer is a repeat infringer.

TF note on AT&T: We can find no “Repeat Infringer Policy”

CenturyLink: Company respects the intellectual property rights of others and is committed to complying with U.S. copyright laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (‘DMCA’). Company reserves the right to suspend or terminate, in appropriate circumstances, the service of users whose accounts are repeatedly implicated in allegations of copyright infringement involving the use of Company’s network.

TF note: We have no idea what constitutes “appropriate circumstances.”

Comcast/Xfinity: Any infringement of third party copyright rights violates the law. We reserve the right to treat any customer account for whom we receive multiple DMCA notifications from content owners as a repeat infringer.

We reserve the right to move a customer account to the next step of the policy upon receiving any number of DMCA notifications from content owners in a given month, or upon learning that the account holder is a repeat infringer.

You may receive an email alert to the preferred email address on your account or a letter to your home address. You may also receive an in-browser notification, a recorded message to your telephone number on file, a text message to your mobile telephone number on file, or another form of communication.

Triggering steps under this policy may result in the following: a persistent in-browser notification or other form of communication that requires you to log in to your account or call us; a temporary suspension of, or other interim measures applied to, your service; or the termination of your Xfinity Internet service as well as your other Xfinity services (other than Xfinity Mobile).

TF note on Comcast: The ‘repeat infringer’ policy is quite detailed and worth the long read.

Cox Communications: Cox encourages responsible internet use. Our internet use policy is consistent with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and allows us to take steps when we receive notifications of claimed infringement.

Repeated notifications of claimed violations on your account could lead to Internet service suspension or termination.

If you continue to receive copyright infringement notifications on your account, Cox suspends your Internet service. In the Customer Portal, you may reactivate your Internet service up to two times.

If your account continues to receive copyright infringement notifications, your Internet service is terminated.

TF note on Cox: The repeat infringer policy is worth a read and is quite specific in parts, less so in others.

Spectrum/Charter: TF initial note: The company doesn’t appear to have a dedicated ‘repeat infringer’ policy outside of its published “copyright violation” advice. While this is both detailed and helpful in many respects, it doesn’t give specifics on alleged ‘repeat infringers’.

After noting that “Charter may suspend or disconnect your service as a result of repeat copyright violations,” users are sent to its Acceptable Use Policy page, which reads in part as follows:

Spectrum reserves the right to investigate violations of this AUP, including the gathering of information from the Subscriber or other Users involved and the complaining party, if any, and the examination of material on Spectrum’s servers and network.

Spectrum prefers to advise Users of AUP violations and any necessary corrective action but, if Spectrum, in its sole discretion, determines that a User has violated the AUP, Spectrum will take any responsive action that is deemed appropriate without prior notification. Such action includes but is not limited to: temporary suspension of service, reduction of service resources, and termination of service.

Verizon: Pursuant to Section 512 of the DMCA, it is Verizon’s policy to terminate the account of repeat copyright infringers in appropriate circumstances.

TF note: This appears to be the shortest ‘repeat infringer’ policy of all the ISPs and is a good example of why we decided to ask all of the companies for their precise steps, so we could offer a little more detail to their customers.

Sorry, we failed, but there’s probably a good reason for that.

Summary: With several ISPs up to their necks in lawsuits filed by the RIAA alleging that they haven’t done enough to deal with “repeat infringers”, it’s perhaps no surprise that the companies ignored our requests for information.

That being said, it’s of interest that several appear to be acting in a particularly vague manner – perhaps they’re already worrying that they’ll be next on the music industry’s list.

In the meantime and in most cases, users will remain largely in the dark unless they do a lot of reading and research. And even that might not be enough.

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Nintendo Sues RomUniverse for Mass Copyright Infringement

Nintendo Sues RomUniverse for Mass Copyright Infringement

Last year Nintendo made headlines worldwide when it filed a lawsuit against the popular ROM sites LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co.

The legal action effectively shut the sites down with many other platorms voluntarily following suit.

Not all game pirate sites were shaken up by the legal action though. RomUniverse, a site that’s been around for a decade, saw its visitor numbers rise and announced that it would continue to offer Nintendo ROMs.

Fast forward a year and Nintendo is now taking RomUniverse to court. In a complaint filed at a federal court in California, the Japanese gaming giant accuses the site’s alleged operator, Matthew Storman, of “brazen” and “mass-scale” copyright and trademark infringement.

“The Website is among the most visited and notorious online hubs for pirated Nintendo video games. Through the Website, Defendants reproduce, distribute, monetize, and offer for download thousands of unauthorized copies of Nintendo’s video games,” the complaint reads.

Nintendo states that the site, which has 375,000 members, offers downloads for nearly every video game system it has ever produced.

The complaint specifically notes that “hundreds of thousands of copies” have been illegally downloaded through RomUniverse, including nearly 300,000 copies of pirated Nintendo Switch games and more than 500,000 copies of pirated Nintendo 3DS games.

Users of the site can download one file per week for free. Those who want more have to sign up for a paid membership. After an “upgrade” of $30, members are allowed to download as many files as they want. This includes games, but also ebooks and the latest Hollywood movies.

As said before, RomUniverse wasn’t impressed by the legal threats Nintendo issued against other sites last year. This didn’t go unnoticed to the game publisher, which specifically mentions the operator’s defiance in its complaint.

“In 2018, around the time that Nintendo successfully enforced its intellectual property rights against other infringing ROM websites, defendant Storman bragged that his Website would continue to offer Nintendo ROMs,” Nintendo writes.

Through the lawsuit, which also lists a count of unfair competition, Nintendo hopes to shut RomUniverse down. The company also requests statutory damages of $150,000 per infringing Nintendo game and up to $2,000,000 for each trademark infringement.

This means that, with dozens of copyrighted titles and trademarks on the record, theoretical damages are well over $100 million.

Finally, Nintendo further asks for a permanent injunction ordering the site and its operator(s) to stop their infringing activities while handing over their domain names to the game publisher.

Update: RomAdmin from RomUniverse informed us that he hasn’t received anything from Nintendo, no recent takedown notices either. The site does respond to takedown notices.

“We’ve always immediately taken down questionable material, per their take down notices,” RomAdmin told TorrentFreak.

A copy of Nintendo’s complaint against Matthew Storman and any “John Doe” accomplices, is available here (pdf).

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Popular Torrent Site MKVCage Faces Lawsuit and Goes Offline

Popular Torrent Site MKVCage Faces Lawsuit and Goes Offline

A group of movie companies has been very active in the US District Court for the District of Hawaii over the past several months.

Various copyright infringement lawsuits and DMCA subpoenas were filed against prominent players in the piracy ecosystem, ranging from Popcorn Time through YTS and Showbox.

Today, we can add another target to the growing list, the popular torrent uploader/group MKVCage.

MKVCage uploads its encodes across various torrent sites and has gathered a dedicated following over the past few years. The group also operates its own site at MKVCage.com, where the latest releases are also shared. However. over the past few days, this site has become unresponsive.

The downtime started soon after the makers of the movie “Hellboy” filed a complaint at a Hawaii federal court. The movie company believes that the site is run by a person named Muhammad Faizan, who stands accused of promoting and distributing pirated copies of their movie.

“Defendant Faizan operates an interactive website mkvcage.com and
previously mkvcage.fun which includes a library of torrent files for copyright protected motion pictures, including Plaintiff’s. The torrent files can be used by a BitTorrent client application to download and reproduce motion pictures for free and without license,” the complaint reads.

The filmmakers add that the defendant creates the torrent files that are made available on the website, including “Hellboy.2019.720p.HC.HDRip.x264-MkvCage.Com.mkv,” which are then distributed to the site’s users. The name of the site is often included in the title, to boost the site’s profile.

“Defendant Faizan sometimes includes words such as’MkvCage.com’ in the titles of the torrent files he creates in order to enhance his reputation for the quality of his torrent files and attract users to his interactive MKVCAGE website,” the complaint notes.

The movie company obtained the name of the site’s alleged operator from Namecheap, in response to a DMCA notice. The same person is also listed as the registrant for the domains mkvcage.com, mkvcage.ws, mkvcage.cc and mkvcage.me, and used PayPal to pay for at least one of those.

MKVcage in better times

At this point, it is unclear whether the current downtime is a direct result of the complaint that was filed. MKVCage’s latest upload at external websites, such as 1337x, was two days ago. We will update this article if more information becomes available.

In addition to MKVCage, the same lawsuit also targets the smaller torrent site iBit.uno and its unnamed operator. TorrentFreak reached out to iBit, but a representative of the site didn’t want to comment on the allegations.

The people behind both sites stand accused of contributory copyright infringement among other things, and Faizan also faces a count of direct copyright infringement.

The movie company requests compensation for the damage it suffered. It also request an injunction, so it can request third-party services such as hosting providers, ISPs, search engines, and domain registrars, to stop facilitating access to the sites.

The injunction request is quite broad and could affect a wide range of companies. At this point, however, it hasn’t been granted yet, so that can’t explain the current downtime.

A copy of the complaint from HB Productions (Hellboy) is available here (pdf)

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Nintendo Wins Blocking Injunction Against Four Piracy-Enabling Sites

Nintendo Wins Blocking Injunction Against Four Piracy-Enabling Sites

Every manufacturer of mass-market video gaming consoles has faced the possibility of piracy on their platforms.

The tools to prevent piracy usually come as a two-man team of hardware and software trickery (technological protection measures) but these are often defeated, later if not sooner.

Nintendo, in particular, has been struggling with piracy on its Switch console, facilitated by circumvention tools (particularly SX Pro and SX OS) promoted and made available to users via various websites.

In an effort to tame the threat, Nintendo went to the High Court of England and Wales, requesting an injunction that would prevent subscribers of several major ISPs from gaining access to the sites in question.

As is common in such cases, the ISPs themselves – Sky, BT, EE, TalkTalk, and Virgin Media – were the named defendants in the case. Nintendo (NCL) asked the Court to compel them to block team-xecutor.com, sx-xecutor.com (both operated by Team Xecutor) plus sxflashcart.com and xecuteros.com (previously stargate3ds.org).

Most ISP blocking in the UK is the result of copyright infringement proceedings but Nintendo’s opening drive against the above sites is that they use the company’s trademarks without permission.

Justice Arnold said that in his opinion it is “beyond dispute” that the sites use Nintendo’s marks in order to promote circumvention devices. He also agreed that the devices were made available to the public on the basis they would be used to provide access to infringing content, since they all mention piracy in promotional material.

“The injunction sought is necessary to prevent, or at least reduce, substantial damage to NCL. It appears that substantial sales of the circumvention devices have been made in the UK, that substantial quantities of pirated games have been downloaded in the UK and installed on Switches using the circumvention devices and that NCL has sustained significant losses as a result,” Justice Arnold writes.

“No alternative measures are realistically available to NCL since NCL has been unable to identity the operators of the Target Websites, who may well be abroad.”

The Judge further notes that cease and desist notices sent by Nintendo’s lawyers were ignored by the target sites while hosting providers, “to the extent they could be identified”, also took no action.

While noting that blocking can be easily circumvented, the Judge said that blocking can be effective in reducing traffic to the sites in question, acts as a deterrent, won’t be detrimental to the ISPs’ business, and is therefore a proportionate response to infringement.

The order handed down by Justice Arnold on Tuesday can be obtained here

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Cox Attacks ‘Proof’ in Piracy Liability Case, Requests Summary Judgment

Cox Attacks ‘Proof’ in Piracy Liability Case, Requests Summary Judgment

Last year Cox settled its piracy liability lawsuit with music rights company BMG.

The ink on this agreement was barely dry when the ISP faced a similar and additional complaint. This time, it was up against 53 music companies, including Capitol Records, Warner Bros, and Sony Music.

The rightsholders complained that Cox categorically failed to terminate repeat copyright infringers and that it substantially profited from this ongoing ‘piracy’ activity. All at the expense of the record labels and other rightsholders.

A year later, thousands of pages of legal paperwork have been processed and the case is gearing up to a trial. However, if it’s up to Cox, there is little left to discuss there because the music companies’ evidence is fatally flawed.

A few days ago, the ISP submitted a motion for summary judgment, requesting summary judgment on several key elements. Among other things, Cox argues that it’s not vicariously liable or directly liable for any copyright-infringing activity carried out by its users.

Cox’s arguments are in large part directed at the proof the music companies have. Or to be more specific, the lack thereof. The company points out that the infringement notices, which were sent on behalf of the RIAA, are far from solid. In addition, the ISP says it never received any proper notices for more of the allegedly-infringed works.

“Plaintiffs’ claims suffer from a fundamental and fatal flaw: a distinct paucity of proof. They simply cannot prove their case,” Cox writes.

“In short, Plaintiffs seek damages for works they cannot prove were infringed, based on notices that did not identify fully 80% of those works. Moreover, they have no evidence that Cox knew about the infringement, obtained any direct financial benefit from it, or had the practical ability to prevent it, such that it could be secondarily liable.”

Cox’s arguments can be quite technical at times, and some pages are completely redacted, but there are some interesting observations.

For example, the company argues that the file-sharing evidence from BitTorrent users can’t prove that any subscriber actually distributed the infringing files. The evidence, provided by BitTorrent tracking outfit MarkMonitor, only ‘shows’ the metadata of a file in possession of a subscriber, matches that of a copyrighted track.

“Here, Plaintiffs cannot prove ‘actual dissemination’ of any work to anyone—including their agent, MarkMonitor,” Cox notes.

Another issue Cox raises is that for many of the claimed infringements in the suit, Cox never received a single notice.

“Although Plaintiffs seek damages for alleged direct infringements of 7,057 sound recordings and 3,421 compositions, the RIAA Notices for recordings sent during the Claims Period contain only 1,998 unique Title and Artist combinations.”

Based on these and a variety of other arguments, the ISP requests summary judgment. This means that, if granted, these will no longer be contested at trial.

However, the pendulum, in this case, can swing the other way as well. The 53 music companies also filed a request for summary judgment. They ask the court to rule that Cox is contributory and vicariously liable for its pirating subscribers.

The companies wave away any concerns and say that Cox willingly kept pirates on board to increase its profits.

“[T]he record is clear that Cox had knowledge of its subscribers’ blatant infringement of Plaintiffs’ works and nonetheless assisted them with it. By consciously continuing to provide Internet service to known infringers, while ignoring its own copyright policies as written, Cox materially contributed to that infringing activity, and reaped substantial financial benefits as a result,” their request reads.

“Accordingly, summary judgment should be granted holding Cox liable for contributory infringement and vicarious infringement, and the Court should reject its frivolous defenses.”

Both sides’ arguments directly oppose each other and it will be up to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to determine if it grants any of the motions. If the Court grants neither motion, it will be up to a jury to decide during trial.

A copy of Cox’s motion for summary judgment is available here (pdf) and the music companies’ motion can be found here (pdf).

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