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      Nintendo Wins US-Wide Injunction Against Seller of RCM Loader ‘Piracy’ Device

      Andy Maxwell · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Friday, 16 April, 2021 - 20:19 · 4 minutes

    RCM Loader Nintendo is currently engaged in a war of attrition against individuals and groups who help people to pirate and play unlicensed Switch games.

    Products and individuals involved with the infamous Team-Xecutor became targets last summer and alongside, Nintendo has been chipping away at other sellers of similar circumvention devices.

    Lawsuit Filed Against Amazon Vendor

    Last November, Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Le Hoang Minh, an Amazon vendor doing business under the name ‘Winmart’. According to the gaming giant, the trader was selling RCM Loader, a Switch device marketed as a plug-and-play solution for injecting payload files to allow booting into custom firmware (CFW), including Team-Xecutor’s SX OS.

    “Once this circumvention has occurred, the unauthorized CFW modifies the authorized Nintendo Switch operating system, thereby allowing users to obtain and play virtually any pirated game made for the Nintendo Switch. All of this happens without authorization or compensation to Nintendo or to any authorized game publishers,” the company explained.

    Le Hoang Minh, who according to Nintendo is a resident of Vietnam, was sent a DMCA notice by Nintendo via Amazon, citing the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. As a result, a specific listing was taken down by Amazon but the defendant subsequently filed a counternotice stating that Nintendo had made an error. As a result, the listing was restored.

    In its lawsuit, Amazon claimed that Le Hoang Minh was not only a seller of RCM Loader devices but also the manufacturer too, going on to demand the maximum statutory damages available under the DMCA and a broad injunction preventing any future sales. Nintendo also demanded relief for the defendant’s alleged abuse of the DMCA’s counternotification system.

    Defendant Fails to Respond, Nintendo Moves For Default

    In a motion for default judgment filed this week, Nintendo says that it filed its lawsuit in response to the defendant’s counternotice, in order to keep the Amazon listing down. However, the defendant failed to respond to the lawsuit or enter into discussions with Nintendo.

    As a result, Nintendo demanded a default judgment on each of its claims, arguing that since the defendant is in Vietnam, only a ruling from a US court would allow it to prevent sales of RCM Loader taking place in the United States.

    To promote what Nintendo describes as “an efficient resolution” of the matter, the gaming giant reduced its damages claims to just $2,500 for all actions carried out by the defendant in breach of the anti-trafficking provisions of the DMCA.

    “This request for a $2,500 award is intended to be very conservative and does not reflect anything close to the full amount of damages Nintendo could reasonably seek from Defendant,” the company writes.

    “Nintendo could…credibly seek a separate award for every device Defendant sold — almost certainly many devices, given that Defendant’s RCM Loader device was available online for many months. However, rather than attempt to quantify Defendant’s total sales, Nintendo seeks to facilitate an efficient resolution of this case through entry of judgment awarding damages for a single § 1201 violation.”

    Nintendo also informed the court that it had incurred considerable costs pursuing the case but was not seeking to have those reimbursed. However, the company still demanded a judgment in its favor in respect of the DMCA violations, the misrepresentations made by the defendant in his DMCA counternotice, and the request for a permanent injunction.

    Court Sides With Nintendo

    After considering Nintendo’s motion for default, the court ruled that should be granted. In a final judgment issued Thursday, the court laid down the terms.

    A permanent injunction was granted against Le Hoang Minh and all other individuals and entities acting in concert, restraining all from circumventing or assisting in circumventing any technological security measures that effectively control access to Nintendo’s copyrighted works.

    The same are also restrained from manufacturing, offering for sale, distributing, exporting or otherwise trafficking into the United States “any and all products, services, devices, components or parts thereof” that are designed or produced for circumventing security measures in Nintendo’s consoles, products and protected works.

    Turning to RCM Loader and any product with identical function, the court restrained the defendant from carrying out sales, distribution, imports and/or shipping to any person or entity in the United States. Le Hoang Minh is also banned from indirectly infringing, facilitating, encouraging, promoting or inducing the infringement of Nintendo’s copyrights, whether in existence now or in the future.

    In an effort to prevent sales on platforms such as Amazon, the defendant was restrained from offering RCM Loader or any similar product for sale or distribution. Any seller or online marketplace who receives notice of the order must also “immediately cease and permanently refrain” from offering any such products in the United States.

    The court also authorized Nintendo to seize and destroy all circumvention devices and software that violate its copyrights or exclusive licenses. It further granted the $2,500 in statutory damages requested by Nintendo and reminded the defendant that any violation of the order may be punishable as contempt of court.

    Nintendo’s Motion for Default Judgment can be found here (pdf)

    The Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction can be found here (pdf)

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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      ‘Pirate’ Law Firm Pressured Cooperative Housing Project to Settle Porn ‘Lawsuit’

      Andy Maxwell · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Tuesday, 13 April, 2021 - 18:21 · 6 minutes

    copyright troll When copyright trolls scour BitTorrent swarms looking for IP addresses, they have absolutely no idea who sits behind them.

    ISPs can eventually be forced to hand over the subscribers’ personal details but even then there’s no solid proof of who carried out the infringement, if there was one. Cases tend to get decided on the balance of probabilities, meaning that an individual in a single-occupancy household finds themselves in a much more tenuous position and under pressure to settle.

    But what happens when there are multiple occupants or even multiple households with many, many potential infringers? In Denmark, it appears, the response from copyright trolls remains the same: We don’t care who infringed: Pay us.

    Law Firms’ Reputations Destroyed

    Aggressive copyright-trolling has developed into a worldwide scandal over the past 15 years, with numerous lawyers finding themselves suspended and even imprisoned for their behavior. But even now, law firms wander into the fire nonetheless, with Denmark’s Njord Law just the latest example.

    After accusing thousands of Danes of illegally sharing movies using BitTorrent, Scandinavian law firm Njord Law approached many for cash settlements despite their clients not holding the copyrights to the content in question. As a result, a partner in the firm and the firm itself have been charged with serious fraud offenses dating back to April 2017.

    As that case develops in the background, those targeted with questionable settlement demands are stepping forward with stories that only reinforce what observers have known for some time: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

    Copyright Trolls Target Cooperative Housing Association

    The whole idea of copyright enforcement is to find the actual infringer and force them to compensate the rightsholder for their actions. For copyright trolls, however, finding the actual infringer doesn’t seem as important as finding someone who will simply take responsibility and pay, even if they aren’t guilty of anything.

    This notion is underlined by a case reported by Berlingske ( paywall ), involving 37-year-old Christie Bak, who in 2019 was chairman of the board of a cooperative housing association in Copenhagen.

    The association received correspondence from Njord Law, who alleged that the association’s Internet connection had been used to download and share a porn film. To settle this matter the law firm wanted a payment of DKK 7,500 (around US$1,200) with the suggestion that things could get much more expensive if the matter went to court.

    The association contacted the law firm, informing them that they had no idea about any porn downloads so were considering employing a lawyer to deal with the matter. This, of course, would cost the association money, something copyright trolls are only too aware of.

    Balancing The Books

    At this point in a copyright troll matter, both parties are led into their own set of calculations. Most law firms don’t want to take cases to court since early settlements are far more lucrative and less hassle. On the other hand, they are well aware that if their target lawyers up, they might not get anything. So, at this point, many copyright trolls attempt to make it more attractive to settle and less attractive to mount a defense. This case was no different.

    After the housing association indicated it could fight back, Njord Law made a counteroffer of DKK 4,000 (around US$640) to make the matter go away, an amount getting dangerously close to the cost of hiring a lawyer to send a couple of “back off” letters.

    Counteroffer Made The Association Suspicious

    Christie Bak informs Berlingske that the rapid reduction of the amount being demanded raised her suspicions. If Njord Law were originally prepared to go to court with the evidence they had, why were they now offering to settle for much less?

    “Was it because they had a thin case? Did they think it would be nice if they could just get some money out of us? It seemed strange,” she says.

    Discussing the matter with members of the cooperative’s board, Bak says it was made clear that if someone had been responsible for the sharing of the movie, they could just come forward and the association would’ve simply paid the settlement “in good conscience”. In the event, no one in the entire association knew anything about the alleged infringement.

    Housing Project Has Shared Internet, No Infringer Identified

    Unable to identify who (if anyone) had carried out the alleged infringement, Njord Law was informed that it could’ve been anyone, including various holidaymakers who also had access to the association’s Internet connection. This prompted the initial reduction to DKK 4,000 but that amount was rejected by the association.

    In this case, knowledge was power. The association wrote back to Njord and informed the law firm that they were aware that Njord’s file-sharing cases were floundering in the courts, with three cases in particular already having been rejected. They also informed Njord that the evidence of its copyright troll partners was also being questioned in the media.

    “The only thing we saw was some paper with some [IP address] numbers on it. There was no letter or explanation. It also did not appear where they got the numbers from. How could we be sure that it was not something they had manipulated? There was no guarantee of authenticity on it. It was just a lot of print,” Bak informs Berlingske.

    Njord Law Reduces Settlement Amount Yet Again

    Following this response, Njord – having previously stated the strength of its case – quickly dropped its demands to DKK 2,500 (US$400) – an amount that would be gobbled up by a lawyer in a matter of minutes, should the association choose to defend itself in a lawsuit.

    In the event, the board did the calculations and took the decision to pay Njord off, a decision that Bak says she now regrets.

    Journalist Freja Marquardt contacted Njord Law with a request to comment on the matter, including previous correspondence with the law firm suggesting that lawsuits aren’t filed against entities offering Internet in “open access conditions”.

    No Comment – Legal Ethics

    Njord lawyer Lars Lokdam told Marquardt that due to the company fully complying with the rules of legal ethics, it was impossible for him to talk about the case since the settlement was private. On the related matters, including not filing lawsuits against those who enter into dialogue or have widely accessible Internet, he refused to answer any questions.

    What appears clear, however, is that at least in some instances (and certainly in this case), companies like Njord Law and their copyright troll partners have little interest in targeting the actual infringer. What they want is someone – anyone – to pay up and when they do, it is mission accomplished.

    The big question then is whether legal ethics stretch to having innocent parties pay for the alleged crimes of others, particularly when there may not have been a legal basis to demand a settlement or bring a case in the first place.

    During the course of its live criminal investigation against Njord Law, these questions and more could be answered by the State Prosecutor for Serious Economic Crime (SØIK), which currently believes the law firm defrauded Danes out of at least 7.5 million kroner (US$1.22 million).

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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      MSCHF’s ‘Exclusive’ Pirate Bay and Megaupload Email Addresses Sold Out Quickly

      Ernesto Van der Sar · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Tuesday, 13 April, 2021 - 09:34 · 2 minutes

    tpb mail There’s a market for pretty much everything today and ‘collectables’ are hot.

    The non-fungible token (NFT) rage shows that people are willing to pay thousands or even millions of dollars for a digital gimmick, which may or may not retain its value.


    This eagerness to pay doesn’t necessarily match with the typical audience of pirate sites. However, the Brooklyn-based art group MSCHF shows that some people are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for ‘exclusive’ piracy-branded goods.

    MSCHF made quite a name for itself in recent months. We previously highlighted their AlltheStreams.fm site , which streamed Netflix, Disney+, HBO Go content without permission. That project was shut down soon after. More recently, it ran into legal issues when Nike complained about the ‘Satan Shoes’ collection.

    All this attention has pretty much guaranteed that there will be plenty of eyeballs on every new project the group ‘drops,’ which became clear again yesterday.

    Exclusive Pirate Bay and Megaupload Emails

    A few hours ago MSCHF announced its “ Email Capsule Collection ,” offering limited edition email addresses that come shipped on a CD with a commemorative card and some stickers.

    The group offered 50 sets for five different domains using popular Internet brands such as The Pirate Bay and Megaupload.

    megaupload MSCHF email

    The addresses use .biz gTLDs including Piratebay.biz and Megaupload.biz and have absolutely nothing to do with the original sites. The same is true for the 4Chan, Heaven’s Gate, and Angelfire addresses that were on offer.

    Sold Out

    Still, that didn’t stop people from rushing in to buy the addresses for $250 apiece. In no time, the entire Capsule Collection was sold out, including the five box sets, which went for $1,200 each.

    It’s pretty clear that this latest drop is yet another massive success. According to MSCHF, that’s for a good reason, as the email addresses allow buyers to show their identity by associating themselves with popular web icons.

    “In a less centralized web, where website usage patterns are meaningfully distinct, your activity is your identity,” MSCHF writes, while adding that it’s a fashion statement as well.

    “Fashion is lots of things: an identity signifier, a wealth signifier. Online, exclusivity is a status signifier” the group notes, adding that “It shapes how people see you and how you see yourself.”

    Limited Exclusivity?

    This justification may make sense for some, but it’s likely that many buyers are mostly driven by hype. The ‘fashion’ part may be more about exclusivity than The Pirate Bay or Megaupload. In any case, it’s all good .biz.

    It’s worth mentioning that people who bought one of the addresses don’t own them for life. In the fine print, we read that buyers “can use for two years before requiring renewal.”

    For those who missed out, we have a tip. There are still plenty of Pirate Bay domains that can be registered for a few dollars so you can show off your identity. Our favorites are thepiratebay.legal, thepiratebay.ninja and thepiratebay.ceo. But those come without any stickers, of course.

    If anything, the latest MSCHF drop shows that with the right marketing and hype, people are willing to pay for pretty much anything. Well, not anything . Paying for seven separate video streaming subscriptions is still a bit much for most. Just ask The Pirate Bay.

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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      Court Orders Paypal to Freeze VPN Company’s Funds in Piracy Case

      Ernesto Van der Sar · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Monday, 12 April, 2021 - 09:21 · 3 minutes

    paypal-bars Hawaiian attorney Kerry Culpepper has made a habit of putting pressure on key players in the piracy ecosystem.

    Representing the makers of films such as “Hunter Killer,” “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” and “London Has Fallen,” he’s gone after individual file-sharers, apps such as Popcorn Time and Showbox, and pirate sites including YTS.

    Most recently, Culpepper and his clients expanded their reach to VPN services. Last month, they filed lawsuits against LiquidVPN and VPN.ht, accusing the companies of promoting and facilitating online piracy .

    VPN.ht and Popcorn Time Lawsuit

    Generally speaking, VPN providers are neutral services. However, these VPNs allegedly crossed a line by explicitly encouraging people to use the service for unauthorized activity. VPN.ht, for example, advised people to use the piracy app Popcorn Time with a VPN “to avoid getting in trouble.”

    These allegations have yet to be backed up in court but, before VPN.ht responded to the complaint, the movie studios moved for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to freeze the company’s PayPal funds.

    The rightsholders believe that this measure is warranted as VPN.ht’s alleged operator, Mohamed Amine Faouani, previously dissolved another company after it came under fire in a Canadian Popcorn Time lawsuit . They believe that the same could happen with “Wicked Technology,” which currently owns the VPN service.

    Freezing PayPal Funds

    In an order released late last week, Virginia District Court Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. agrees that this is indeed likely. As such, he granted the motion to freeze VPN.ht’s PayPal funds.

    The court concludes that jurisdiction is appropriate and mentions that Popcorn Time poses a significant threat to the copyright holders. And without a restraining order, VPN.ht could indeed move its PayPal funds outside of the court’s reach.

    “Plaintiffs would be irreparably harmed absent a TRO because Defendants would have the incentive and capacity to transfer their assets from any account within the United States, depriving Plaintiffs of the ability to obtain monetary relief,” Judge Alston Jr. writes.

    No Harm?

    According to the court, there is a strong likelihood that the movie companies will win this case anyway, which weighs in favor of granting the request. At the same time, the VPN provider isn’t really harmed by this decision, the order notes.

    “Defendants are unlikely to suffer any cognizable harm from the TRO as they will merely be prevented from profiting from past infringement and moving their funds beyond the reach of the Court.”

    While the court suggests otherwise, seizing the assets of a company can seriously impede its operation. That said, PayPal is just one of the payment options used by the VPN and several other alternatives remain available.

    Discovery and Locked Domain Name

    In addition to freezing the PayPal funds, the court also allows the movie companies to request further information from PayPal, Cloudfare and GitHub. This could help to find out more about VPN.ht’s operation as well as the Popcorntime.app software, which is part of the same lawsuit.

    Finally, the court also signed off on a request to order Google or its reseller to lock the Popcorntime.app domain name, so that it can’t be transferred outside of the court’s reach.

    At the time of writing VPN.ht remains online and the operator has yet to respond in court. The pressure on Popcorntime.app appears to have paid off, however, as the domain now redirects to a “goodbye” message on Medium.

    Meanwhile, the movie companies have just requested yet another temporary restraining order, this time keeping it away from public view. However, it is likely that the copyright holders want to freeze additional funds or assets.

    A copy of the order issued by Virginia District Court Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. is available here (pdf)

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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      Nigerian ‘Scam Artist’ Used Apple, Amazon and Tidal to Cash in on Pirated Music

      Ernesto Van der Sar · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Saturday, 10 April, 2021 - 11:20 · 3 minutes

    wisekid Legal streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music have been the music industry’s most effective weapon against piracy.

    Many people don’t even bother ripping or downloading albums of tracks nowadays. The legal alternatives are just more convenient.

    Despite this success, legal streaming platforms have their challenges as well. For years, artists have complained about low payouts. And to make things worse, ‘pirates’ are starting to abuse legal services as well now.

    Pirated Music on Legal Streaming Services

    A few weeks ago we reported that the RIAA was sending DMCA takedown notices that targeted Spotify, Deezer, Amazon, and various other legal music outlets . Apparently, some artists were using the works of others without permission.

    At the time we weren’t sure if this was intentional or a mere licensing dispute. The RIAA didn’t respond to our questions on the matter. However, this week we spotted yet another takedown notice and, this time, there is more of a backstory.

    On Wednesday the RIAA sent a takedown notice to Google identifying several infringing URLs on the legal streaming service Tidal. The links point to tracks that were published by Nigerian artist Wisekid but, according to the takedown request, they are from the local music star Wizkid .

    Wisekid Rips Off Wizkid

    Looking more closely at the matter, we quickly noticed that Wisekid appeared to have uploaded an entire album from Wizkid, passing it off as his own.

    The album in question, titled “Lasgidi Made” is the same as Wizkid’s “Made in Lagos,” but the track order and titles have been changed, apparently to make the similarity less obvious.

    wisekid amazon

    This ‘pirated’ album made its way onto popular music services including Apple Music, Amazon, and Tidal, and reportedly generated substantial revenue for the scam artist.

    Millions of Streams

    Apparently, Wisekid was quite proud of his accomplishments as he posted a screenshot on Twitter showing off that he had millions of streams and more than a thousand digital sales on Apple’s service. This is when things started to go downhill.

    wisekid revenue

    Several commenters on social media noticed the similarities between Wizkid and Wisekid, accusing the latter of running a scam and ripping off a hard-working musician.

    Wisekid, however, claimed to be innocent. Instead, he indirectly blamed his distribution company “Freeme Digital” for being responsible. Or in his own words (edited for readability);

    “I don’t know who did that. I just accessed my apple artist name I saw streams. I just wanted to get people to check me out nothing more,” he wrote.

    “Freeme Digital is the company that distributes all my songs. I’m just an upcoming artist and I know nothing about this. Please, I am not the one distributing Wizkid’s album on apple music.”

    Deny and Delete

    Soon after, the news was picked up by the Nigerian press while Wisekid removed his Twitter profile. Around the same time, the distribution company responded to the controversy, denying any involvement.

    While Freeme Digital indeed worked with Wisekid, the company said that the ‘Lasgidi Made’ album was not distributed via their platform. The company also decided to cut its ties with the artist.

    “We will be deleting the rest of Wisekid’s content on our platform and we have informed our legal team to immediately commence investigation on the issue and prosecute the matter to the full extent of the law.”

    Removing Pirated music (and More)

    Meanwhile, Wizkid’s management said it was working hard to take down the illegal uploads across all digital platforms. The RIAA helped out as well, which brings us back to the takedown notice we spotted on Wednesday.

    In addition to the RIAA, UK-based industry group BPI also sent a takedown notice identifying Wisekid’s infringing upload. Sadly, this notice also flagged several news reports as copyright infringement, but that’s a different rabbit hole.

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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      France’s New Strategy For Tackling Online Piracy Presented in New Bill

      Andy Maxwell · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Friday, 9 April, 2021 - 07:09 · 2 minutes

    Pirate Key For more than a decade, French anti-piracy agency Hadopi had made headlines in its quest to reduce illicit sharing on peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent.

    France became a pioneer of the so-called “graduated response” system back in 2010, with Hadopi chasing down persistent copyright infringers with threats to disconnect them from the Internet. Since then, however, many aspects of the piracy scene have changed and France believes that change is needed to better tackle today’s threats.

    Bill Presented to Council of Ministers

    This week, France’s Council of Ministers was presented with a new bill that aims to more tightly regulate and protect access to cultural works in the digital age.

    “Much awaited by cultural and audiovisual professionals, this text provides concrete answers to three major challenges in the field of audiovisual communication in the digital age: the protection of rights, the organization of our regulation, and the defense of public access to French cinematographic and audiovisual works which constitute our heritage,” a statement from the Ministry of Culture reads.

    The bill’s aims are split into three broad sections, two of which deal with piracy matters – the protection of creators’ rights and the modernization of regulation.

    Protection of Creators’ Rights

    A key aim of the bill is to make it much harder for sites that profit commercially from the distribution of infringing content to operate freely. Under the current system, much focus had been placed on French Internet users using P2P networks to share content but with a shift towards other technologies, France sees a need to upgrade its toolbox.

    “This bill thus strengthens the means of combating counterfeiting on the internet against streaming, direct download or indexing/linking websites, which profit from the posting of works in violation of the rights of creators,” the Ministry says.

    In particular, the bill will see the creation of a centralized “ blacklisting ” system for blocking pirate sites, restricting their appearances in search engines, and preventing them from generating revenue from advertising, for example.

    The bill also aims to establish a system to combat “mirrors”, sites that help to facilitate access to platforms blocked as part of earlier enforcement actions. In addition, France wants to create a new mechanism to deal with piracy of live sporting events, one that is able to cope with the urgency associated with preventing access in real-time.

    Modernization of Regulation

    In 2019, France’s Ministry of Culture revealed early plans to create a powerful authority capable of regulating both audiovisual and digital communications by merging Hadopi with the country’s electronic media regulator. Those plans are moving ahead.

    “To implement these new innovative and ambitious anti-piracy tools, the bill creates a new regulator, marking both the desire to move up a gear in the fight against pirate sites and to include this action in a broader policy of regulation of online content,” the Ministry notes.

    The plan is to merge Hadopi with the Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA) to create the Audiovisual and Digital Communication Regulatory Authority (ARCOM), an agency with greater powers and jurisdiction over the entire field of audiovisual content, “whether that is to fight piracy, protect minors or defend the public against online disinformation and hatred.”

    The bill will now be discussed by the French Parliament.

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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      Cloudflare Doubts DMCA Takedown Company’s Fake Employee and Special Bots

      Ernesto Van der Sar · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Thursday, 8 April, 2021 - 20:42 · 4 minutes

    cloudflare logo Popular CDN and DDoS protection service Cloudflare has come under a lot of pressure from copyright holders in recent years.

    The company offers its services to millions of sites, some of which offer access to copyright-infringing material.

    Cloudflare prefers to remain a neutral service provider and doesn’t terminate clients based on DMCA notices. Instead, it forwards these to its customers, only taking action when it receives a court order.

    Repeat Infringer Lawsuit

    This stance is not appreciated by all rightsholders and in 2018 the service was taken to court over the issue. The case wasn’t filed by major entertainment companies, but by two manufacturers and wholesalers of wedding dresses. Not a typical “piracy” lawsuit, but it’s a copyright case that could have broad implications.

    In a complaint filed at a federal court in California , Mon Cheri Bridals and Maggie Sottero Designs argued that even after multiple warnings, Cloudflare fails to terminate sites operated by counterfeit vendors. This makes Cloudflare liable for the associated copyright infringements, they said.

    Cloudflare disagreed and both sides are now conducting discovery to collect evidence for an eventual trial. Among other things, the wedding dress manufacturers were asked to hand over detailed sales records. In addition, the CDN provider is also interested in the companies’ DMCA takedown partner XMLShop LLC.

    Cloudflare Wants DMCA Takedown Evidence

    Over the past few months, Cloudflare has tried to get further information on how XMLShop, which is also known as Counterfeit Technology , collects evidence for its takedown notices.

    These takedowns play a central role in the lawsuit and XMLShop and its employees could provide crucial information. Thus far, however, Cloudflare hasn’t been able to get what it wants.

    To resolve this issue, Cloudflare submitted a motion asking the court to compel the DMCA takedown company to comply with its requests for information. According to their filing, the company may be holding back important evidence.

    “Plaintiffs and XMLShop, who use the same counsel, appear to be using XMLShop’s status strategically as a ‘non-party’ to conceal relevant documents from Cloudflare. The Court should reject their gamesmanship,” Cloudflare informed the court.

    After serving two subpoenas, the takedown company only produced one document, Cloudflare notes. Meanwhile, the publicly available information on the company is highly confusing or even misleading.

    Who Works at XMLShop?

    For example, Cloudflare would like to question XMLShop’s employees, but the company hasn’t handed over an employee directory or payroll log that would reveal who works at the company.

    “XMLShop has not been forthright about its operations, leaving Cloudflare in the dark as to who else may be a witness with relevant knowledge,” Cloudflare writes.

    According to XMLShop’s attorney, the company only has one employee named Suren Ter-Saakov, but this claim is contradicted by its own website and Linkedin.

    “XMLShop’s own public statements contradict its counsel’s statement. Its website boasts ‘a big team of professionals working in three offices, located in Ukraine, the United States, and Dominican Republic.

    “And a LinkedIn profile for an individual named Blair Hearnsberger represents that she or he is the CEO at Counterfeit Technology,” Cloudflare adds.

    Fake Profile

    According to the takedown company’s attorney, this profile is fake and Blair Hearnsberger does not actually exist, but Cloudflare is not convinced. Therefore, it hopes that the court will compel XMLShop to verify who works at the company and in what roles.

    In addition to finding information on possible employees, Cloudflare also requests further information on the software that Counterfeit Technology used to find infringing content.

    Special Takedown Bots?

    The wedding dress manufacturers claimed that their takedown partner “scours the internet with special bots designed to locate and identify the unauthorized use” but it’s unclear how this technology works.

    Cloudflare would like to assess the software to see how accurate it is, especially since the company states that it spends only 10 seconds sending notifications of claimed infringement to all traffic sources.

    “Its use — and the reliability — of that technology is at least relevant to the predicate allegations of direct infringement it asserts. It is also relevant to Cloudflare’s contention that it never received any notifications of claimed infringement from Counterfeit Technology that were valid,” Cloudflare writes.

    The CDN provider asked the court to compel XMLShop to produce the subpoenaed documents. In addition, XMLShop should be held in contempt for failing to obey the subpoena and ordered to pay the legal costs Cloudflare incurred to submit the motion.

    This week, XMLShop responded to the request stating that it has already produced everything it could. It views the remaining requests as incredibly broad, since these ask for “sensitive” trade secret information. It is now up to the court to make a final decision.

    A copy of Cloudflare’s memorandum in support of its motion to compel XLMshop to comply with the subpoena is available here (pdf).

    . XMLShop’s response can be found here (pdf).

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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      Movie Companies Sue VPN Provider for ‘Encouraging’ and ‘Facilitating’ Piracy (Updated)

      Ernesto Van der Sar · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Thursday, 4 March, 2021 - 13:45 · 5 minutes

    liquidvpn A group of connected movie production outfits, including Voltage Pictures and Millennium Funding, has pursued legal action against key piracy players in recent years.

    The makers of films such as “Hunter Killer,” “Automata,” and “I Feel Pretty,” went after individual file-sharers, apps such as Popcorn Time and Showbox, and pirate sites including YTS.

    This week, the movie companies expanded their efforts by going after a man and company associated with the VPN provider “LiquidVPN.”

    Movie Companies Sue VPN Provider

    Technically, VPNs are neutral services, much like regular ISPs. In most cases, this means they are not liable for the activities of their users. However, the movie companies argue that that logic doesn’t apply to LiquidVPN.

    The complaint lists Michigan resident David Cox and his company SMR Hosting as the defendants. They allegedly operated LiquidVPN until early 2019, after which it was sold to the Puerto Rican company 1701 Management.

    In addition to these ‘LiquidVPN defendants,’ as they are referred to, the complaint also lists 100 ‘Does’ who used the VPN service while downloading pirated films.

    Update: The same movie companies have now filed a separate lawsuit (pdf) against 1701 Management and its sole shareholder Charles Muszynsky, which they say is the current owner of LiquidVPN. The allegations and demands virtually identical to the ones against the “LiquidVPN defendants,” which are detailed below.

    In recent years we have seen several lawsuits against ISPs but, as far as we know, this is the first time a (former) VPN provider has been sued for copyright infringement in the US. The nature of the business is not the main concern, however.

    According to the movie companies, the LiquidVPN defendants went further than simply offering a VPN service. They allegedly promoted and encouraged copyright infringement as well.

    “Promoting Piracy”

    “The LiquidVPN Defendants actively promote their LiquidVPN service for the purpose of movie piracy, including of infringing Plaintiffs’ Works,” they write.

    These are serious allegations that are discussed in a lengthy court filing, with a myriad of arguments. Some are stronger than others, but the overall theme is that the VPN specifically appealed to a pirate audience.

    For example, with regard to the piracy app Popcorn Time, LiquidVPN started stating that their VPN service could help avoid prison sentences and settlements.

    “The LiquidVPN Defendants state their LiquidVPN service can be used to “Watch Popcorn Time without being detected by your ISP and P2P tracking software,” the complaint reads

    “The LiquidVPN Defendants further state, ‘Experience everything Popcorn Time has to offer in the United States and the UK. Except the risks’, ‘Stream Content Anonymously. Why bother risking complaints from your ISP, settlement demands, threats and jail time for streaming your favorite TV show’.”

    The complaint mentions a variety of other examples where the defendants directly or indirectly referenced copyright infringing activity. This includes a screenshot of Popcorn Time which shows the Millennium film Survivor.


    In another example, it mentions that streaming media with Popcorn Time can result in a jail sentence, which can supposedly be avoided with a VPN.

    “Avoid Jail Time”

    “The LiquidVPN Defendants even blatantly promote their service to be used to stream copyright law [sic] in violation of criminal laws and encourage their users to do so,” the movie companies write in the complaint.

    fun times pop

    The reasoning is that these public statements ‘encouraged’ the “John Doe” defendants to use LiquidVPN to pirate movies. While the complaint only lists one IP-address, this could have been used by multiple users.

    No Safe Harbor

    In the US, online service providers can invoke safe harbor protections under certain conditions. However, the movie companies argue that this doesn’t apply to the LiquidVPN defendants, as they failed to terminate repeat infringers despite ample notification.

    In addition, the company never had a registered DMCA agent, which is another requirement under the DMCA. On the contrary, LiquidVPN described itself as a DMCA-free zone.

    “The LiquidVPN Defendants even promote the fact that their LiquidVPN is a ‘DMCA Free Zone’ as a positive aspect that makes them stand out from competing VPN providers.”

    best for torrenting

    All in all, the movie companies accuse the defendants of contributory and vicarious copyright infringement, as well as various violations of the DMCA. As compensation, the filmmakers demand damages, which can go up to $150,000 per pirated title.

    At this point, it’s worth repeating that the defendants – Mr. Cox and SMR Hosting – no longer operate LiquidVPN. This means that the accusations apply to past activities. Whether the movie companies will also sue the present owner is unknown. (update, as mentioned above, the alleged current owner 1701 Management is sued in a separate case)

    Site Blocking and Port Blocking

    This is particularly relevant when we look at the relief that’s requested. In addition to the damages, the movie companies also want the LiquidVPN defendants to take other actions. This includes terminating repeat infringers and blocking websites.

    Specifically, they request an order requiring the defendants to “block subscribers from accessing notorious piracy websites,” to “block ports 6881-6889” which are often used for torrent traffic, and to adopt a policy that “provides for the prompt termination of subscribers that engage in repeat infringements.”

    The list of sites to be blocked spans all sites that are covered in the USTR’s notorious markets report. This includes classic pirate sites such as YTS and The Pirate Bay, but also foreign e-commerce platforms such as Amazon.co.uk and Snapdeal.com, as well as the social media site VK.com.

    It’s unclear to us how the defendants can comply if they no longer have control over LiquidVPN. However, it’s possible that SMR Hosting still works with the VPN company in some shape or form.

    Needless to say, these allegations and requests are quite broad and have yet to be proven in court. It is just one side of the story and the defendants can share their position in court during the weeks to come.

    Yesterday, the LiquidVPN website was offline for a few hours but it has come back since. TorrentFreak reached out to a contact who was involved with LiquidVPN at the relevant time but we have yet to hear back.


    A copy of the complaint, filed by Millennium Funding, Hunter Killer Productions and Voltage Holdings at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is available here (pdf)

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

    • chevron_right

      ICANN Refuses to Accredit Pirate Bay Founder Peter Sunde Due to His ‘Background’

      Ernesto Van der Sar · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Wednesday, 3 March, 2021 - 20:53 · 4 minutes

    ICANNt Peter Sunde was one of the key people behind The Pirate Bay in the early years, a role for which he was eventually convicted in Sweden .

    While Sunde cut his ties with the notorious torrent site many years ago, he remains an active and vocal personality on the Internet.

    In recent years Sunde has focused on several other projects. His links to the domain registration service Njalla and the Ipredator VPN are well known, and he also hosted the documentary series “ Activisten ” on Finnish television.

    Sunde’s Domain Name Business

    Sunde is also involved with the domain registrar Sarek , which caters to technology enthusiasts and people who are interested in a fair and balanced Internet, promising low prices for domain registrations

    As a business, everything was going well for Sarek. The company made several deals with domain registries to offer cheap domains but there is one element that’s missing. To resell the most popular domains, including .com and .org, it has to be accredited by ICANN .

    ICANN is the main oversight body for the Internet’s global domain name system. Among other things, it develops policies for accredited registrars to prevent abuse and illegal use of domain names. Without this accreditation, reselling several popular domains simply isn’t an option.

    ICANN Denies Accreditation

    Sunde and the Sarek team hoped to overcome this hurdle and started the ICANN accreditation process in 2019. After a long period of waiting, the organization recently informed Sunde that his application was denied.

    Needless to say, Sunde was disappointed with the decision and he took his frustration to Twitter a few days ago . Initially, he assumed that the application was denied because ICANN concluded that he ‘lied’ about his background.

    The accreditation form requires applicants to tick a box if they have been convicted for fraud or something similar. Sunde didn’t tick this box, as he was convicted for criminal copyright infringement. This ‘error’ was swiftly noticed by ICANN, which is also uneasy with other parts of the Pirate Bay founder’s history.

    Ticking Boxes

    “After the background check I get a reply that I’ve checked the wrong boxes,” Sunde wrote. “Not only that, but they’re also upset I was wanted by Interpol.”

    The Twitter thread didn’t go unnoticed by ICANN who contacted Sunde over the phone to offer clarification. As it turns out, the ‘wrong box’ issue isn’t the main problem, as he explains in a follow-up Twitter thread.

    “I got some sort of semi-excuse regarding their claim that I lied on my application. They also said that they agreed it wasn’t fraud or similar really. So both of the points they made regarding the denial were not really the reason,” Sunde clarifies.

    ICANN is Not Comfortable With Sunde

    Over the phone, ICANN explained that the matter was discussed internally. This unnamed group of people concluded that the organization is ‘not comfortable’ doing business with him.

    “They basically admitted that they don’t like me. They’ve banned me for nothing else than my political views. This is typical discrimination. Considering I have no one to appeal to except them, it’s concerning, since they control the actual fucking center of the internet.”

    ICANN hasn’t commented publicly on the matter and the organization didn’t immediately respond to our request for further information. However, Sunde tells us that his ‘background’ is obviously the reason for the denial. And copyright plays a role in this as well.

    “They said it outright in the phone call, it’s me they don’t feel comfortable with. They said they take Intellectual Property rights so seriously that I can’t join,” Sunde tells us.

    Making matters worse, ICANN will also keep the registration fee, so this whole ordeal is costing money as well.

    What’s the Real Issue?

    While Sunde understands that there are people who don’t agree with his views on certain things, that shouldn’t be a problem here. After all, ICANN is heavily regulated and it could easily revoke accreditation should its policies be violated.

    Without an on-the-record statement from ICANN, we can only speculate on what ‘background issues’ the organization is concerned with. There are a few to choose from.

    Needless to say, The Pirate Bay has caused ICANN quite a few headaches. Over the years copyright industry groups such as the MPA and RIAA have repeatedly asked ICANN to step in and ban these domains.

    Thus far, ICANN has always said that it doesn’t want to ‘police the Internet’ and that courts can deal with this issue. However, the pressure from rightsholders may indirectly play a role here.

    Sunde may have upset ICANN in other ways as well. Roughly a decade ago, he promoted a P2P-based DNS system to compete with ICANN’s root-server and bypass its control over the Internet.

    Notorious Market?

    And then there’s the privacy-oriented domain registration service Njalla, where Sunde is involved as well. Njalla is a legitimate company that helps people maintain their privacy, but copyright holders don’t like it, as it frustrates their enforcement efforts.

    Just a few months ago, several rightsholder groups nominated Njalla for the US Trade Representative annual overview of “ notorious markets ,” which may have factored into ICANN’s decision as well.

    Whatever the reason, Sunde is clearly disappointed and he has already filed a complaint at ICANN. In addition, he reached out to digital and human rights groups to see if there are more options to appeal.

    “I’m talking with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and ARTICLE 19 right now,” Sunde tells us. “And I’ve left a complaint with the ICANN complaints team, but that will likely lead to nothing.”

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.