Google Flags Hundreds of Pirate Sites for ‘Abusive Experiences’

Google Flags Hundreds of Pirate Sites for ‘Abusive Experiences’

Online advertising can be quite a nuisance. Flashy and noisy banners, or intrusive pop-ups, are a thorn in the side of many Internet users.

These type of ads are particularly popular on pirate sites. Many users tackle this by installing an ad-blocker. People who don’t, often have to navigate through a maze of fake download buttons and other misleading ads.

Increasingly, Google is trying to hide such ads from the public. Not just on pirate sites, but everywhere they pop up. The company, which derives most of its income from adverts, is generally not a fan of ad-blocking. However, it does employ various blocking initiatives that target third-party advertisers.

Two years ago the company announced that its Chrome browser would start to automatically block ads that don’t adhere to the  Better Ads Standards, for example. This was implemented early last year in several locations, including the US and Europe.

In a separate effort, Google has also started to banish abusive experiences. In Chrome its begun warning users about various deceptive practices, such as fake download and play buttons, while blocking unwanted redirects which are prevalent on some pirate streaming sites.

This wasn’t enough though. Last December, Google upped the ante when it decided to block all ads on a curated selection of sites with persistent abusive experiences. This includes the aforementioned fake download buttons, but also ads that promote or link to unwanted software.

This is a big step, as sites that have all ads blocked will certainly notice a significant dip in revenue. Thus far, however, little was known about what sites are targeted by Google, or how many there are. That changed recently. 

The latest release of the Vivaldi browser, which is based on Chrome, also implemented this blocklist. This was announced in a blog post by its CEO  Jon von Tetzchner.

“We’ve improved security by blocking advertisements on sites with abusive ad practices,” he writes. “We want you to be safe while on the web, and worry less about who’s abusing you with dangerous ads.”

Google’s list of abusive sites is available through an API, but not accessible to the public. However, Vivaldi has access to it and maintains a copy on its servers, as highlighted by Techdows which highlighted it in a recent report.

We should stress that this list of “abusive” sites is separate from the list of sites that violate the “better ads” standard, which Chrome’s built-in ad-blocker uses.

A quick review of the list reveals that it’s dominated by pirate and porn sites. At the time of writing, there are a total of 7,059 sites on the list including hundreds of pirate sites such as thepiratebay.rocks, eztvtorrent.net, filmytorrents.com, gostream.nu, songsmp3.org, and watchonlinemovies.net.

The targeted pirate sites are mostly smaller proxy sites or copycats, often designed to generate revenue. Interestingly, there are also several Blogspot sites on the list, such as the pirate release blog 4howcracked.blogspot.com.  Blogspot is, of course, a blogging platform maintained by Google.

In addition, we noticed that many domains are no longer operational, such as tehmoviez.download, and various others redirect to new URLs, as 0123movies.io does. 

When we first saw the list the relatively popular torrent site TorrentDownloads.me was listed as an ‘abusive’ site as well. The operator confirmed this and told TorrentFreak that he noticed a decline in revenue when that happened.

“Revenue dropped a few months ago when they put us on the abusive list. That’s why we are thinking to move our domain to new TLDs. I will also send a request for Google to review the site again and hope they will unblock it now,” the operator said. 

Apparently, this worked, as the site was unlisted a few hours later. No surprise perhaps, as the site doesn’t display any ads at the moment, so we must wait and see if this holds when the ads are put back.

Another site owner, who prefers to remain anonymous, informed TorrentFreak that his site was listed previously, but that the issue was resolved after he removed what Google flagged as ‘abusive’ code.

With billions of sites on the Internet and just a few thousand on this list of abusive sites, the impact of this measure is relatively minimal. And even on sites that are listed, some ads are still coming through, such as on the adult site 007zeed.com and pirate site Stream-Island.su. 

While the measure may not be perfect, Google sees it as an attempt to keep the web safe. While that’s an honorable motive, there may be a self-serving element to it as well. 

As said before, Google doesn’t want people to install ad-blockers. So, if its own browser blocks flashy ads on sites by default and bans ads on abusive sites completely, fewer people may see the need for a separate ad-blocker.

As a result, Google’s revenues increase. 

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Bilibili Uses DMCA to Obtain Identities of Source Code Leakers From Github

Bilibili Uses DMCA to Obtain Identities of Source Code Leakers From Github

Credit: Bilibili

Little known in the West, Bilibili is a China-based video-sharing platform with a focus on anime, comics and games.

Users are able to upload videos to the NASDAQ-listed platform for others to add their own commentary and subtitles. According to data released by Bilibili in February, the service enjoys in excess of 92 million monthly users. Shortly after, however, the site suffered a setback.

A report in April indicated that someone had uploaded a large trove of data to Github, reportedly culled from Bilibili, including source code, user names and passwords. The company played down the leak, stating that the data was from an old version of the site and “defensive steps” had been taken to ensure user security wasn’t compromised.

However, Bilibili also promised to investigate the source of the leak and there are now clear signs that it is doing so in the United States, using copyright law.

Documents obtained by TorrentFreak show a China-based law firm writing to Github on April 23, 2019, a letter which appears to indicate the problem may be more serious than it first appeared.

“On April 22, 2019 (GMT-8), a Github user (user ID: “openbilibili”) published a post with the subject of “openbilibili/go-common” in the Github website, which contained the comprehensive and detailed information of Bilibili’s source code and other trade secrets/confidential information,” the letter reads.

At least one other Github user posted the same information shortly after, which resulted in additional users forking that data. Bilibili’s law firm said these infringing acts meant that the individuals responsible for them could be held accountable under both civil and criminal law.

The letter indicates that Github had already taken measures to disable access to some of the infringing content. However, Bilibili’s legal team wanted the platform to go further, by handing over “any and all personal information” it holds on the individuals in question, including IP and email addresses, telephone numbers, browsing history, plus upload and download records.

What happened next isn’t clear but it seems likely that Github refused to comply with Bilibili’s demands in the absence of a legal document compelling it to cooperate. That probably being the case, this week Bilibili requested a DMCA subpoena at a San Francisco federal court to unmask the Github users.

It is not yet clear whether Github has already handed over the personal details of the alleged infringers but Bilibili is talking tough. Earlier documentation suggests that the company was preparing a report so that police in Shangai could “stop, investigate and punish the suspected crime immediately.”

Given that the company has used the DMCA to obtain Github users’ identities, it will be interesting to see if it actually pursues a copyright claim in the US or whether the DMCA subpoena route is simply an easy way to get things started in other areas of law.

The documents referenced above can be found here 1,2,3,4 (pdf)

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‘Pirate’ IPTV Service Simply-TV Responds to DISH Lawsuit

‘Pirate’ IPTV Service Simply-TV Responds to DISH Lawsuit

In 2018, DISH Network and encryption partner NagraStar sued several individuals, companies and trusts collectively doing business as SETTV.

As part of its $20 per month IPTV package, SETTV offered numerous TV channels that had been obtained from DISH’s satellite service. These were subsequently retransmitted without authorization on the SETTV streaming service.

Last November, DISH’s lawsuit came to an end, with SETTV’s operators ordered by a Florida court to pay a settlement of $90 million in statutory damages. However, the fight against similar – if not identical services – was not over.

In March 2019, DISH and NagraStar filed another lawsuit in Florida, this time targeting several individuals and companies collectively doing business as Simply-TV, a $20 per month service which several users have described as having many similarities to SETTV.

“Defendants created a pirate streaming television service they have branded ‘Simply-TV’. Defendants sell Device Codes and Android TV Boxes designed to enable access to the Simply-TV pirate streaming service, which includes numerous television channels that were received without authorization from DISH’s satellite service and were subsequently retransmitted without authorization on the Simply-TV pirate streaming service,” the complaint reads.

DISH goes on to suggest that the business model cascades down, with Simply-TV’s operators working together with people who receive the company’s channels without permission and Simply-TV re-selling service to others. A so-called “Master Reseller Program” allowed resellers to resell the service, complete with their own branding and pricing structure.

DISH’s claims against those allegedly behind Simply-TV are made under the Federal Communications Act, specifically 47 U.S.C. § 605(a) and 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(4) which relate to illegal reception/retransmission and selling devices which facilitate access to DISH’s satellite programming.

While Simply-TV disappeared earlier this year, DISH requested a permanent injunction against the service and the supply of infringing devices. In addition to considerable damages, DISH also asked permission to take possession of and destroy all “devices, subscriptions, applications, and device codes, as well as all streaming devices, technologies, tools, software, products, components, or parts thereof” related to the service.

On March 20, 2019, the court issued a temporary restraining order but following a no-show by the defendants at an April 4, 2019 hearing, the court converted that order to a comprehensive preliminary injunction which not only covered Simply-TV, but all those in “active concert or participation with them” including affiliates and resellers.

At the end of May the alleged operators of Simply-TV, named as Peter Liberatore and Brandon Wells, filed a response to the DISH complaint. The pair, who are representing themselves, admitted that subscriptions to Simply-TV were sold through various websites.

They also admitted that some of the content provided by Simply-TV originated from DISH and acknowledged that the service had not obtained “explicit authorization” from the broadcast provider.

It was further admitted that Droid Technology LLC, a company allegedly founded by “some or all” of the defendants according to DISH, provided tools for consuming Simply-TV on various devices. It was also accepted that Droid used the previously-mentioned affiliate programs to attract business to Simply-TV.

How the case will progress from here is open to interpretation but if the SETTV judgment is any barometer, things could start to get pretty expensive.

The complaint can be viewed here, preliminary injunction here, response here (pdf)

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Video Piracy Rates Drop Sharply, But For How Long?

Video Piracy Rates Drop Sharply, But For How Long?

For many people, on-demand streaming services have become the standard for watching movies and TV-shows.

In many countries, the idea of ‘on-demand’ video was popularized by piracy. This was often the only way for people to watch what they want, whenever they liked. 

Over the past decade, the legal options have gradually improved. More content is available and people have plenty of options to stream the latest hit-series or Hollywood blockbusters. 

According to new consumer research by Ampere Analysis, this is one of the reasons why video piracy rates are dropping in several countries, including the United States, France, Spain, and Germany. 

The bar chart below shows the percentage of people who used one or more video piracy services in the previous month. Without exception, video piracy rates declined during the three year period from 2016 to 2019 in all countries that were polled. 

The drop was most pronounced in France, the United States, and the Netherlands where the number of people using piracy services in the past month was decreased by more than half. Spain also saw a sharp decline, from 12% to 7%.

Richard Broughton, Director at Ampere Analysis, links the changes to the increased availability of on-demand services, such as Netflix, which directly compete with piracy.

“On average, in markets where either catch-up or SVoD online video viewing has risen the most, piracy has experienced the biggest drop. With the growth in all-you-can-eat legal services, users no longer need to turn to illegitimate sources to get their viewing fix,” Broughton notes.

This is backed up by data. In Spain, for example, the use of legal SVoD and catch-up services grew by 47% while the number of people that use piracy services and sites dropped by 45%.

While this is positive news for entertainment companies, there is also reason for concern. Increasingly, the legal video streaming landscape is becoming more fragmented or siloed. This means that people have to pay for more services to see what they want.

These new restrictions could push people in the direction of pirate sites again. 

“The on-demand market is moving into a period of ‘siloization’ where producer and distributor brands go direct to the consumer, at the same time restricting the amount of content they license to third party services,” Broughton says.

“If the mainstream OTT players have less of the content users want to watch, when they want to watch it, there’s a genuine risk that usage of these SVoD and catch-up services could begin to slump, something the pirate operators will be quick to capitalize on.”

This isn’t just a hypothetical threat either. Most households have a limited budget for online entertainment, so consumers eventually have to choose which services they want. This is a problem that keeps getting worse, especially now that more services have ‘exclusive’ titles.

Recent research by piracy research firm MUSO revealed that 80.4% of UK consumers already feel that they’re already paying too much for content streaming. More than half of these said they were likely or very likely to use unlicensed platforms to search for content that’s not available to them.

These people are all willing to pay. However, in order to get everything they want, they are happy to complement their legal viewing with the occasional pirate download or stream.

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BMG Sues Hilton Hotels Over ‘Infringing’ YouTube & Facebook Promo Videos

BMG Sues Hilton Hotels Over ‘Infringing’ YouTube & Facebook Promo Videos

BMG Production Music, Inc. describes itself as a “production music house” engaged in the creation, marketing and delivery of custom music for use in media, including online adverts and promotional material.

Its US catalog currently lists close to 247,000 tracks “spanning all musical genres” for customers to license for use in their own audio/visual productions. A lawsuit filed in the United States yesterday claims that at least one major company isn’t playing by the rules.

The complaint, filed in a New York federal court, targets Hilton Worldwide Holdings (Hilton), the company behind the globally-famous hotel chain. BMG says that Hilton exploited several of BMG’s musical works without obtaining appropriate licensing and continued to infringe BMG’s copyrights even after being warned by the music company.

At issue are several of the company’s promotional videos posted to Hilton’s YouTube channels and Facebook pages, which allegedly used BMG’s copyrighted works as background music.

The music outfit claims that the track “Start Moving” was exploited in nine videos posted to YouTube and six posted to Facebook. The track “I’m On It” allegedly featured in one YouTube video. The track “Collar Popper Holiday Mix” is said to have appeared in seven videos on YouTube, with “Cookie Duster” appearing in one video on the same site. In total, more than 20 allegedly-infringing videos were posted to various URLs.

The content and allegedly-infringing video URLs

An aggravating factor, BMG says, is that Hilton failed to act despite being warned of the infringements. BMG agent TuneSat, LLC contacted Hilton to warn that its music was being used and asked the company to prove it had appropriate licensing or to resolve the matter.

According to the complaint, that bore no fruit. The videos remained online and the copyright infringement continued.

“Despite being notified that they were using BMG’s Copyrighted Music and/or Unregistered Music without authorization or license, and despite months of exchanges of correspondence with TuneSat, the Defendants ultimately began willfully and intentionally ignoring TuneSat’s correspondence and continued to use the Copyrighted Music and Unregistered Music without authorization or license from BMG,” the complaint reads.

While BMG says Hilton continued to infringe, checking each of the URLs listed in the complaint reveals that all of the content in question has now been taken down from both YouTube and Facebook. Nevertheless, BMG is demanding an injunction restraining Hilton Worldwide and all acting in concert with it from engaging in further acts of infringement.

The music company is also seeking compensation for direct copyright infringement from Hilton Worldwide via actual damages (it estimates in excess of $600,000) or in the alternative, $150,000 in damages for each infringed work due to Hilton’s “willful copyright infringement.”

However, BMG owns the copyright in the sound recording and composition for each infringed track so the company claims that Hilton is actually liable for $300,000 in damages for each song used without a license.

BMG repeats the same direct infringement claim against Hilton Domestic Operating Company, Inc and an as-yet-unnamed Hilton business entity, going to also claim damages from all defendants for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement.

The complaint can be found here (pdf)

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‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer Appeals 14 Year Prison Sentence

‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer Appeals 14 Year Prison Sentence

Two weeks ago U.S. District Judge Joan N. Ericksen sentenced Paul Hansmeier to 14 years in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release.

Hansmeier was a key player in the Prenda Law firm, which pursued cases against people who were suspected of downloading pirated porn videos via BitTorrent. 

Hansmeier and fellow attorney John Steele went a step further though. Among other things they lied to the courts, committed identity theft, and concocted a scheme to upload their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirated downloads.

Both attorneys pleaded guilty and Hansmeier was the first to be sentenced. However, he is not planning to let the matter go without a fight. This was already made clear in his plea agreement last year, where he reserved the right to appeal.

This week Hansmeier’s informed the court that he is indeed appealing to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The notice reveals that he is appealing both the sentence and conviction, challenging the reasonableness of the sentencing and the application of the sentencing guidelines.

From the appeal notice

Hansmeier initially hoped to be released pending his planned appeal. Before the sentencing, his attorney put in a request to make this happen, in an effort to keep him out of prison.

The U.S. prosecution objected and asked the court not to allow bail. Among other things, it argued that the Prenda attorney may be a flight risk, considering that he previously lied to courts, created sham entities in order to shield himself, and destroyed evidence when he was found out.

The court sided with the prosecution and denied the bail request. This means that Hansmeier will serve time while his appeal is ongoing. 

There was initially also some positive news for the Prenda attorney. Through his bankruptcy trustee, he was awarded a $75,000 settlement for restitution the lawyer previously paid against an accused file-sharer, while not being a named party. 

Hansmeier is not going to see any of that money though, as U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald swiftly put in a request to reserve the funds for the victims of the Prenda scheme.

“Hansmeier is set to receive a substantial amount of money and justice requires an order for its immediate payment towards the restitution he owes his victims,” MacDonald wrote.

The court agreed and this week ordered that the $75,000 should be reserved for potential victims. The court previously ordered that, in addition to the prison sentence, Hansmeier must pay his victims a total of $1.5 million in restitution.

For now, however, all eyes will be on the appeal. 

John Steele, the second defendant in the Prenda case, is scheduled to be sentenced in July. The U.S. prosecutor previously stated that Steele has been very cooperative following his arrest so has recommended an 8-10 year sentence.

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Retired Police Officer and ‘Copyright Troll’ Square Off in Court

Retired Police Officer and ‘Copyright Troll’ Square Off in Court

Strike 3 Holdings, one of the most active copyright trolls in the United States, has filed cases against thousands of alleged BitTorrent pirates in recent years.

While many of the defendants may indeed be guilty, quite a few of the accused Internet subscribers have done nothing wrong.

This is also what a John Doe, known by the IP-address 73.225.38.130, has repeatedly argued before a federal court in Seattle, Washington.

The defendant in question was sued by Strike 3 Holdings late 2017. In common with other defendants, the man was offered a settlement to let the case go, but instead, he went on the offensive.

As it turns out, the adult company picked a fight with a 70+-year-old retired police officer, who lawyered up to fight back.

Following some initial pushback in court, Strike 3 Holdings was ready to let the case go. The company filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss all claims in August, but the former policeman wasn’t willing to let them. At least, not without getting paid.

The defendant moved for a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, submitting a counterclaim accusing Strike 3 of abuse of process and “extortion through sham litigation.” Strike 3, for its part, moved for summary judgment asking the court to dismiss that counterclaim.

Over the past months, both parties have conducted discovery, hoping to bolster their positions ahead of a trial that’s scheduled for later this year.

The retired police officer, for example, has asked for a copy of the source code of Strike 3’s BitTorrent tracking software IPP. The court granted this request in part and allowed the defendant to issue a subpoena requesting a copy of the software’s source code. Thus far, however, that hasn’t happened.

This week the defendant, therefore, submitted a second motion, requesting a copy of the code. Or if that’s not an option, the court should exclude any evidence that’s based on it.

“It is not Doe’s burden to prove the software is forensically sound. That is Strike 3’s burden. At this point, Strike 3 is playing ‘hide the ball’. If Strike 3 does not comply with the Subpoena, then the IPP Code and any data relying upon it should be excluded as unreliable,” the motion to compel (pdf) reads.

In addition, the retired police officer also submitted a supplemental response to Strike 3’s motion for summary judgment. Among other things, his attorney points out that, instead of naming the defendant, Strike 3 went on a “fishing expedition” to find out who else could be the infringer.

The ‘initially’ accused alleged pirate points out that, based on the IPP software, Strike 3 can never prove that he downloaded a full copy of its works, accusing the company of abuse of process by going after third parties instead.

The defendant’s argument is that the complaint was unjustified and that Strike 3 knew this.

“Despite blatant and unequivocal allegations in their motion for early discovery that Doe is the infringer, and that full copies of Strike 3’s works were downloaded, Strike 3 knew that their investigator could never prove that Doe had downloaded entire films, and that they might not have the right defendant.

“Both of these facts are material to whether a court might find good cause for early discovery. Yet Strike 3 disclosed neither. Nor did Strike 3 disclose, contrary to their motion, that they intended to investigate third parties other than Doe. Strike 3’s conduct constitutes abuse of process,” the Doe defendant adds (pdf).

However, the adult content producer disagrees.

The third party, in this case, is the son of the retired police officer. According to Strike 3, this may be the person who downloaded its adult movie. At least, according to information it obtained during discovery, including a deposition of the son.

“Through the litigation process, Plaintiff has uncovered a substantial amount of evidence confirming the validity of its original Complaint and IPP’s system – evidence which Defendant has improperly sought to withhold from discovery,” Strike 3 argues (pdf).

The aforementioned passage comes from Strike 3’s motion to compel the defendant to allow one of his hard drives to be images and inspected. The hard drive in question was used by the son and taken out of a computer that was previously sold.

During the deposition, the son admitted that he used the computer, which had uTorrent installed on it, to access The Pirate Bay through which he downloaded adult content. This also happened during the time of the alleged copyright infringement.

According to Strike 3, this could be the “smoking gun” which shows that its original complaint, based on IPP’s evidence, was justified.

“The Son’s deposition testimony clearly makes this Hard Drive relevant and may, indeed, be the literal ‘smoking gun’ demonstrating that Plaintiff’s initial suit was entirely justified, and Defendant’ counterclaims are nothing less than a fraud upon the Court,” Strike 3 writes.

The various court filings and additional arguments make it clear that both sides are working hard to make this case go in their favor.

The court has yet to review the arguments and rule on the motions. After discovery is completed, the case is expected to go to trial. Both parties have indicated they prefer a bench trial, instead of a trial by jury.

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Confirmed: Supremacy Kodi Repo Was Indeed Targeted By Police

Confirmed: Supremacy Kodi Repo Was Indeed Targeted By Police

On June 13, 2019, the Covert Development and Disruption Team of the UK’s North West Regional Organised Crime Unit arrested an individual said to be responsible for an allegedly-infringing Kodi add-on.

The unit revealed that the 40-year-old man was detained in Winsford, Cheshire, following an investigation in cooperation with the Federation Against Copyright Theft. The add-on was unnamed but was reportedly configured to supply illegal online streams.

When TorrentFreak tried to fill in the gaps, considerable circumstantial evidence pointed to the likelihood that the arrested man was connected to the Supremacy add-on repository. Today we are in a position to confirm that belief following discussion with FACT director general Kieron Sharp.

Since there are limitations on what can be discussed when a case is ongoing, we asked Sharp why the matter had been referred to the authorities. There have been numerous instances of add-on developers in the UK being served with private cease-and-desist notices so why was this case different and why did it warrant an organized crime unit getting involved?

“This was a decision taken by FACT who advised rights holders such as PL [Premier League], Sky, BT Sport and VM [Virgin Media] that police action was the most proportionate response to the level of damage and harm that was being caused by these entities,” Sharp explains.

“Other industry groups have used different tactics which are reasonable in certain circumstances, but FACT have the partnerships in LEA’s [law enforcement agencies] to enable this type of action to be considered.”

Sharp says that when FACT presented its evidence to the police, they considered the case serious enough to take action, which resulted in the individual operating as ‘Supremacy’ being arrested.

FACT’s director general rejects the notion that handing a case over to the police is the easy option, insisting that a referral to the authorities requires that an investigation takes place to particular standards.

“To get any LEA to act in these matters requires a high level of evidence. Given the pressure on LEA resources and many other priorities, FACT are very careful in which cases they will approach LEA’s with and have many other strategies for disrupting illegal activity which are used constantly,” Sharp says.

In the wake of the arrest, several other Kodi add-on repositories shut down, presumably due to fears of similar action. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by FACT, with Sharp noting that several strategies to disrupt piracy are deployed with the results taken on board.

“[I]t would appear, from their own comments, that the action has panicked the others. This is not uncommon but more often seen after a criminal conviction. It shows that action needs to be taken and that it can have an impact on the piracy problem. There is no one solution so a range of tactics have to be tried and implemented and the outcomes monitored,” Sharp concludes.

There can be little doubt that the involvement of the police in the shutdown of a Kodi repository and associated add-ons is somewhat of a game-changer in the UK. Where once a sternly-worded letter may have been a warning sign, there is now a worrying precedent for those engaged in similar activity.

What the final charges will be in this case, if any, remain unclear. However, FACT has a history of pursuing convictions under the Fraud Act, which can carry harsher sentences than those actioned under copyright law.

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UFC: Online Platforms Should Proactively Prevent Streaming Piracy

UFC: Online Platforms Should Proactively Prevent Streaming Piracy

With millions of dedicated fans around the world, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events are extremely popular.

They are also relatively expensive and as a result, unauthorized broadcasts are thriving.

For most popular fight cards, dozens of dedicated pirate streams are queued up via unauthorized IPTV services, streaming torrents, and streaming sites, in the latter case often masked with an overlay of ads. At the same time, unauthorized rebroadcasts also appear on more traditional Internet platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

This is a thorn in the size of rightsholders, including the UFC, which dominates the MMA fighting scene. To tackle the problem the UFC has employed various anti-piracy strategies. Most recently, it contracted Stream Enforcement, a company that specializes in taking down pirated broadcasts.

In addition, the MMA promoter also involves itself in the lawmaking process. Just a few weeks ago, UFC General Counsel Riché McKnight, shared his anti-piracy vision with the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

One of the main goals for the UFC is to criminalize unauthorized streaming. Unlike downloading, streaming is currently categorized as a public performance instead of distribution, which is punishable as a misdemeanor, instead of a felony.

The Senators made note of this call, which was shared by another major sports outfit, the NBA. They also had some additional questions, however, which McKnight could answer on paper later, so it could be added to the record.

These answers, which were just published, show that the UFC is not satisfied with how some social media companies and other online services address the pirate streaming issue.

McKnight explains that the UFC has takedown tool arrangements with several social media companies, but adds that online platforms have neglected its requests to combat illegal streaming more effectively.

“We believe communication, coordination, and cooperation could be greatly improved. Our general experience is that those subject to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) use it as a floor and do the minimum required to be in compliance,” McKnight notes.

The UFC notes that Facebook recently bettered its communication and ‘slightly’ improved its takedown response but overall, more could be done. However, most online services appear to be reluctant to voluntarily do more than the law requires, which means that in order to trigger change, the law should change.

“Private, voluntary partnerships [with online platforms] are not sufficient to combat online piracy. Addressing this problem requires a new approach that includes a strong legal framework, a combination of private and public enforcement, and enhanced cooperation with our international partners,” McKnight writes.

Criminalizing streaming is a step forward, according to the UFC. However, that doesn’t affect the platforms that host these streams, as these are protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions.

According to the UFC’s General Counsel, Congress should consider other options as well. In particular, changes to the legal framework that will motivate social media companies and other online platforms to proactively prevent piracy.

“Congress should examine how best to properly incentivize platform providers to protect copyrighted online streaming content,” McKnight writes.

“Transitioning from a reactive ‘take down’ regime to a proactive ‘prevention’ regime would better protect and enhance a vibrant online ecosystem,” he adds.

McKnight specifically mentions policies to effectively ban repeat infringers, which is already part of the DMCA, but not always properly implemented.

While not specifically mentioned, the words “proactive” and “prevention” are reminiscent of the EU’s Article 17, which could potentially lead to upload filters.  The UFC doesn’t reference filters here, but other rightsholders have in the past.

Later this year, the US Copyright Office is expected to issue a report on the effectiveness of the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions. This will be based on input from a variety of stakeholders, some of which discussed filtering requirements.

The UFC hopes that the Copyright Office report will further help Congress to shape a more effective legal framework to tackle online streaming.

A copy of the written responses to the questions from the Senate Committee on the Judiciary is available here (pdf).

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The Pirate Bay Faces Massive ISP Blocks in Spain

The Pirate Bay Faces Massive ISP Blocks in Spain

While no longer the most visited ‘pirate’ site on the Internet, The Pirate Bay arguably remains the most recognizable brand. As a result, the platform has been at the center of dozens of legal processes around the world, each designed to make the platform less accessible to the public.

Aside from direct actions to take the site down, all of which have failed, the torrent index regularly finds itself listed in lawsuits and complaints which aim to force Internet service providers to block consumer access to the site.

Back in 2015, Spain was added to that expanding list when local ISP Vodafone admitted that following a government complaint, it had rendered the site’s main domain inaccessible.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Sport, procedures took place between June 2014 and November 2018 to block several associated domains, including those ending in .se, .org, .net, and .com. It now appears the government is attempting to finish the job.

Following a procedure initiated by rights holders represented by the Association of Intellectual Rights Management (AGEDI) and music group Promusicae (Productores de Música de España) and a subsequent request from the Commission of Intellectual Property (also known as the Anti-Piracy Commission) the central courts of the Contentious-Administrative Chamber of the National Court have authorized additional blocking.

The Ministry of Culture and Sport hasn’t detailed the precise targets but describes them as more than 60 additional domains/sites that are allegedly linked to the notorious torrent site. The site itself isn’t believed to operate that many alternative domains so it’s likely they’re proxies, mirrors and clones that utilize The Pirate Bay’s familiar branding.

“This massive blocking of web pages that, under the brand ThePirateBay, were illegally using the rights of our artists and creators, has an exemplary value for us because it shows that even with the greatest pirates who try repeatedly to circumvent the mechanisms of defense of copyright, the system of the Anti-Piracy Commission works,” says Adriana Moscoso del Prado, general director of Cultural Industries and Cooperation at the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

The government department says the order requires local Internet service providers to block subscriber access to the domains within 72 hours of being notified of the court order. Notifications were sent out yesterday meaning that ISPs should have blockades in place well before the end of the week. It is not yet clear which ISPs have been notified.

The Ministry of Culture notes that the Anti-Piracy Commission has to date targeted 479 sites but the overwhelming majority (92.69%) have removed infringing content once they’ve been officially notified. The Pirate Bay never removes any infringing content so faced with that intransigence, the authorities targeted it with judicial blocking orders, including the one handed down yesterday.

Following a complaint by several Hollywood studios, a similar order was handed down just a few days ago targeting Spanish-language sites Exvagos1.com, Seriesdanko.to, Seriespapaya.com, Cinecalidad.to , Repelis.live, Pelispedia.tv, Cliver.tv, Descagasdd.com and Pepecine.me.

Earlier this year, a local court ordered the country’s largest Internet service providers to begin blocking seven torrent sites including 1337x and LimeTorrents.

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