Court Denies Entry of Default Motion Against Torrent Site YTS, Cautions Attorney
Ernesto · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Wednesday, 6 November, 2019 - 20:10 · 2 minutes
Court Orders ‘Ethical’ Torrent Giant TNTVillage to Stop Piracy Activity
Andy · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Wednesday, 6 November, 2019 - 06:49 · 2 minutes
MPA Wants Pirated Content Removed Proactively, Just Like Hate Speech
Ernesto · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Monday, 4 November, 2019 - 19:57 · 3 minutes
Huge Anti-Piracy Operation in Brazil Targets Hundreds of Websites & Apps
Andy · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Monday, 4 November, 2019 - 10:02 · 2 minutes
- Warrant executed against a 33-year-old for the unlicensed distribution of TV signals (no arrest)
- Warrant executed against an individual suspected of “stealing” a TV operator’s signals. Computer seized but no arrest
- A 63-year-old man was arrested in São Paulo under suspicion of operating a website that broadcast TV channels in return for a US$7.50 per month subscription fee
RIAA Targets Music Hosting Service Wi.to, But Leaves Pirated Files Untouched
Ernesto · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Sunday, 3 November, 2019 - 12:18 · 3 minutes
‘Demonoid’ Moves Away From .to Domain to Distance Itself From Scam Site
Ernesto · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Saturday, 2 November, 2019 - 19:17 · 3 minutes
Anti-Piracy Outfit “Works With ISPs” to Monitor Pirate Consumption
Andy · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Sunday, 22 September, 2019 - 11:52 · 4 minutes
House Judiciary Committee Doesn’t Want ‘DMCA-Style’ Safe Harbor in Trade Agreements
Ernesto · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Saturday, 21 September, 2019 - 20:33 · 3 minutes
Popular torrent site YTS has become the target of three different copyright infringement lawsuits in the U.S. this year.
The most recent one was filed by HB Productions , the makers of the movie Hellboy, owned by parent company Millennium Funding.
The complaint in question lists a “John Doe” as the defendant who supposedly operates YTS. However, HB Productions believes that a person named Senthil Vijay Segaran and the company Techmodo Limited are involved.
The latter two were recently ‘summoned’ to respond to the complaint but neither did. This prompted the Hellboy makers to request an ‘ entry of default ‘ against YTS.
If granted, this would open the door to default judgment where the movie company can request damages, without any defense from the opposing party. In this case, however, it didn’t get that far.
In a recently issued order, Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield denied the motion. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the defendants to be officially named, which didn’t happen in this case, the Judge points out.
“As a practical matter, it is impossible to serve a summons and complaint on an anonymous defendant. The Ninth Circuit therefore disfavors the use of doe defendants, and Plaintiff’s tactics highlight the problems in proceeding with doe defendants,” Judge Mansfield writes.
This means that the movie company can’t submit a motion for default judgment yet. As such, it can’t demand damages or request a permanent injunction to target the site’s domain registrar. And that wasn’t all.
A few days after the denial, Judge Mansfield cautioned HB Production’s attorney, Kerry Culpepper, noting that the court doesn’t permit him to summon persons or entities who are not named defendants.
“It is improper for Plaintiff to attempt to effect service on a person or entity Plaintiff believes to be a doe defendant without properly amending its complaint to identify the doe defendant by name. It is equally improper for Mr. Culpepper to direct summonses to persons and/or entities who are not named defendants in an action,” the Judge notes.
As a result, the proofs of service for these summonses were stricken from the record. The same is true in two other related cases, which center around YTS as well.
In one of these cases, filed by Millennium Funding and several related movie outfits, Culpepper filed an amended complaint last week, naming three defendants, including Senthil Vijay Segaran and the company Techmodo Limited. In the two other cases, no amended complaint has been filed thus far.
With three separate and similar cases, the movie companies will likely push for some kind of compensation. Whether that’s through a default judgment, a trial, or a private settlement has yet to be seen. In any case, YTS is under pressure.
Anticipating possible domain issues, YTS previously moved from YTS.am to YTS.lt , where it is still operating from today. For now, it will likely continue to do so.
By their very nature, it is rare for torrent sites to stay online for more than a few years.
While there are a few notable exceptions that have bucked the trend, most come and go, having wilted under significant legal or financial pressures.
After being founded in 2005, TNTVillage, which for years was Italy’s most popular torrent site, was one of the unusual ones. Hated by local anti-piracy groups but loved by fans, the site aimed to draw attention to restrictive copyright law but also attempted to act ethically by not releasing new content quickly after release.
In September 2018, the site was targeted by a lawsuit with site owner Luigi Di Liberto revealing that his home had been searched by authorities. Now, according to the Italian Publishers Association and anti-piracy group FAPAV, the Court of Milan has “ordered the cessation of TNT Village’s file sharing activities, fully endorsing the rights holders’ requests.”
According to the groups, TNTVillage made available more than 134,000 titles available to the public, including movies, TV shows, anime, software, and books.
“It is a great result,” says Ricardo Franco Levi, President of the Italian Publishers Association (AIE)
“The court fully accepts our position. One million users, through the activity and structure of TNT Village, have illegally and massively shared contents of publishers protected by Copyright: there is nothing ethical about behavior contrary to the law and damaging the rights as these.
“Was this the most famous pirate house on the Italian web? We will do everything to counter not only this but all alternative forms of piracy.”
While the ruling is a considerable win for the groups after all these years campaigning against TNTVillage, there will be no simultaneous shutdown of Italy’s largest torrent site. In fact, the site itself stole the groups’ thunder in September, when an announcement revealed it would shut itself down.
“Unfortunately due to [owner] Di Liberto’s decision, not attributable to our will and with extreme regret, we inform you that the site and the forum are closed,” the announcement read.
However, given the anti-copyright stance of the site’s now-former operator, the site’s parting shot is of particular interest. Instead of deleting everything and disappearing into the shadows, the announcement added a file for download, noting that “if you are a geek, you may be interested in downloading THIS.”
The file bears the hallmarks of a site dump, which interested parties may be able to use to resurrect the infamous but now-defunct torrent platform. This hasn’t gone unnoticed to FAPAV, which is promising action if problems arise.
While celebrating the legal victory and noting the importance of continuing the fight against piracy, FAPAV General Secretary Federico Bagnoli Rossi warns that anti-piracy groups will be on the lookout for anyone seeking to clone the platform.
“In the meantime, our Federation together with AIE is continuing to verify that the portal database is not repurposed on other sites. Otherwise we will evaluate whether to proceed by legal means also against new possible platforms,” Rossi says.
“We are pleased with how this activity is progressing and we will certainly not lower our guard.”
The entertainment industries are becoming increasingly frustrated by major Internet platforms that are, in their view, not doing enough to tackle online piracy.
While legitimate user-generated content platforms respond to takedown requests, which they are legally required to, most don’t go any further. This, despite repeated calls from industry groups for help.
Over the past several years, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) has made some progress, partnering with several intermediaries, including payment providers and advertising companies. However, it has struggled to persuade major user-generated platforms and social media sites to be more proactive.
This frustration is fueled by more recent developments which have seen these same platforms take voluntary action against hate speech, fake news, violence, and other offensive content that populates social media timelines.
Twitter, for example, took action against more than half a million accounts over “hateful content” during the first half of the year, helped by ‘artificial intelligence’. YouTube and Facebook also report that they are doing more to proactively detect hate speech, while other online services are taking voluntary action as well.
The MPA has followed this trend. The group recently brought the topic up during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on “Fostering a Healthier Internet to Protect Consumers.” The hearing dealt with an ongoing examination of Section 230 of the Communications Act.
Section 230 shields online services from liability. However, Congress also intended it to encourage these platforms to take reasonable steps to deter undesirable behavior. While Section 230 doesn’t apply to copyright, the MPA’s SVP and Senior Counsel, Neil Fried, chimed in with a written testimony for the record.
Fried notes that the liability protections are similar to those of the DMCA, where copyright is at the center. Also, the complaint that Internet services are not doing enough to prevent harmful content from spreading, is similar to the MPA’s complaint that they do too little to prevent copyright infringement.
The MPA’s General Senior Vice President highlights these hate-speech enforcement efforts and acknowledges there are complex issues to address – especially with subjects that are not by definition illegal in law, since free speech is a great good.
“A few companies have recently developed systems to proactively identify posts promoting hate and violence, and have invoked their terms of service to terminate accounts of those engaged in such activity, although not before wrestling with concerns over the impact on expression,” Fried writes.
However, that’s not much of a problem when it comes to copyright, the MPA believes.
“If online intermediaries and user-generated content platforms can proactively identify such content and terminate service in these cases, surely they can terminate service and take other effective action in cases of clearly illegal conduct, which present brighter lines and don’t raise the same speech concerns,” Fried adds.
Fried suggests that online services should use the same tools they employ to detect hate speech and other harmful content to proactively remove pirated content too. Copyright infringement is prohibited in the terms of services of these companies, so they would have room to do so.
While Fried is right that copyright infringement is more clearly defined than harmful content, dealing with it proactively is not without challenges. Unlike harmful content, some people may have the right to post some copyrighted content, while others do not. And fair use is hard to capture by an algorithm as well.
The MPA nonetheless hopes that online platforms will cooperate. In addition, it wants to see if current liability exemptions can be overhauled, using legislation to motivate Internet companies to do more.
This was also made clear to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And while possible legal fixes are being considered, the US should not include such liability provisions into new trade agreements, the MPA’s SVP notes.
“In the meantime, as Congress reexamines online liability limitations, the United States should refrain from including such limitations in future trade agreements, which runs the risk of freezing the current framework in place,” Fried writes.
This follows an earlier recommendation from the House Judiciary Committee. Last month the Committee urged lawmakers not to include DMCA-style safe harbors in trade agreements while alternatives are being discussed.
A copy of Neil Fried’s statement before the House Committee on Energy & Commerce is available here (pdf) .
Authorities in Brazil have periodically attempted to disrupt piracy in the region, including actions such as ‘ Operation Copyright ‘ that targeted a large private torrent site in January.
Last Friday, however, it became clear that a much more ambitious operation had begun. Codenamed ‘Operation 404’ after the HTTP error of the same name, the action was announced by Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security.
During an early press conference detailing progress thus far, the Secretariat of Integrated Operations (Seopi) revealed that “136 websites and 100 applications” had already been suspended alongside the execution of 30 search and seizure warrants.
“After four months of investigation, it can be said that the action is a milestone for piracy in the country, which causes various damages to society,” said Alesandro Barreto, coordinator of Seopi’s Cyber Operations Laboratory.
“I don’t know of another operation that has blocked so many apps and websites in one day. This is a very clear message and that the judicial police, through the integrated operation with Seopi, will act against this crime that cannot be tolerated.”
The authorities did not release the names of any websites or applications targeted nor specifically detail what “suspension” means in the context of any specific case. Suspensions can take many forms, from serious ones (raids and equipment confiscations, for example) through to ones that have a more limited long-term impact, such as blocking or domain seizures.
Details are fairly scarce but TF learned that a site known locally as Megacine announced that it had decided to close down following the operation. A notice now displayed on the football-focused site Futemax indicates that it is being blocked but is still online.
The Ministry of Justice states that at least in some instances it had worked with authorities in France, the United States and Canada to suspend domains, arrange “de-indexing from search engines” while suspending profile pages on social networks.
The operation is said to be receiving support from local anti-piracy groups including ANCINE (National Film Agency) and the National Council for the Fight Against Piracy (CNCP). Additionally, the US Embassy in Brazil, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the US Department of Justice have reportedly played roles.
While the early figures presented (136 websites and 100 applications suspended) were already significant, local media reports suggest that the number is increasing fairly rapidly.
Globo reports that 210 sites involved in the unlawful distribution of movies, TV shows and live TV have been targeted, in addition to the initial 100 apps that provide access to “illegal content streaming”.
Penalties for operating piracy sites or services in Brazil can reach four years in prison, more if other criminal aspects such as money laundering are involved.
According to the Ministry of Justice, up to 20 million households in Brazil access pirated content via the Internet but many citizens are said to have a poor understanding of which services are legitimate and which ones are not.
This year the RIAA has discovered DMCA subpoenas as a useful enforcement tool against alleged pirate sites.
The music industry group has repeatedly obtained these subpoenas against Cloudflare, ordering the CDN provider to hand over the personal details of its customers.
The latest target is Wi.to , a file-hosting site that specializes in music. In fact, that’s the only content that can be shared on the platform. However, like any user-generated content platform, people abuse it by sharing pirated files as well.
This didn’t sit well with the RIAA which, armed with three URLs of infringing music as evidence, sent a subpoena to Cloudflare. The music group specifically asked for the physical address, IP address, e-mail address, payment information, account updates, and other info of the customer connected to Wi.to.
This is the same boilerplate language we’ve seen in similar requests that were made in the past, which Cloudflare generally complies with. While the RIAA doesn’t specify what it intends to do with the information, it will generally be used to enforce the copyrights of its members.
To hear the other side of the story we reached out to the operator of Wi.to, Sergey, who resides in Estonia. He was informed about the RIAA’s subpoena last week but doesn’t feel directly threatened.
“We are not criminals,” Sergey says.
“Wi.to is a service that makes it easy to publish music files DJs have created themselves. It’s true that the service is sometimes abused. But that’s something the users do. Also, services like Soundcloud or Dropbox are abused as well.”
Sergey says that, as an Estonian, the DMCA doesn’t apply to him, however, the site does process abuse complaints . In response to these notices, infringing files are regularly removed.
This is where things get interesting. The RIAA subpoena identifies three of these infringing music tracks. However, when we checked these URLs we found out that all three files are still online, including this Harleys in Hawaii track by Katy Perry.
According to Sergey, the RIAA never asked for these files to be removed.
“The RIAA hasn’t even contacted me and it looks to me like they’re acting arbitrarily. They deliberately want to get everything out of the way they can’t make money from,” Sergey tells us.
Wi.to’s operator believes that the RIAA is overreacting. If they see any infringing files they should file an abuse complaint instead of going to court to request personal details through a third party company, while keeping the infringing files unaddressed.
To Cloudflare, the RIAA wrote that any disclosed information will only be used to protect the copyrights of its members. However, sending an abuse complaint seems to be a more direct and effective way to do so.
Intriguingly, the RIAA has asked Google to remove these three URLs from its search engine. However, these requests were pointless, for now, as the tracks were not indexed by the search engine.
TorrentFreak reached out to the RIAA to find out what the purpose of the DMCA subpoenas is, but the organization prefers not to comment. Thus far, these efforts have had mixed results , but Wi.to isn’t planning to change its course.
As outsiders, we can’t judge how Wi.to processes its abuse complaints. We did notice, however, that the site has a “pendejo” link in the footer, pointing to the Narcos theme song by Rodrigo Amarante, without permission.
According to Sergey, this was a birthday present for one of his colleagues, which will be removed in due course or sooner, if an abuse notice comes in.
A copy of RIAA’s subpoena to Cloudflare is available here (pdf) .
For many old-school torrent users, Demonoid is a familiar name. The site was founded sixteen years ago, which made it one of the oldest BitTorrent sites around.
However, last year things changed when Deimos, the site’s founder, went missing. After months of uncertainty and downtime, it became clear that the site wasn’t coming back this time. Deimos is believed to have passed away in a tragic accident, marking the end of an era .
As time went on it became obvious that Demonoid would not return in its original state. However, many of the site’s staffers and users were eager to build a new home. Not so much to replace the old Demonoid, but more as a tribute, and to keep the name alive.
This vision came to fruition a few months ago when Dnoid.to, a Demonoid successor, was launched. The new site has the same look and feel as the old site, but started over with a completely new user database.
The new site doesn’t operate a tracker either. Instead, the most important goal of the site was to bring the old community back together.
“Demonoid always had a special spot in people’s hearts. Keeping a memento of it without letting others ruin it by making copycats and phishing sites from it is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to him and keeping his legacy alive,” Demonoid staffer ‘phaze1G’ told us at the time.
In the weeks that followed the site’s new userbase slowly started to grow but it also became apparent that the domain name choice was far from ideal.
The .to domain is also used by another site, Demonoid.to, which is a well-known scam site. Instead of offering torrents, Demonoid.to urges people to download a binary client. The client download URL redirects to an affiliate link for a paid Usenet service.
Because of the dnoid.to / demonoid.to confusion, many users ended up at the wrong site. According to phaze1G, more than 800 emails with complaints about this issue were received in recent weeks.
This volume wasn’t something the staff could ignore. As such, the team registered a new domain name, Demonoid.is , which is the new home from now on. For the time being, visitors to the old domain will be automatically redirected.
“The Tonic registry is not as reliable as it used to be with their redacted whois. They are handing over owner details, even following DMCA complaints, as we were told by some people from other sites,” phaze1G says.
Indeed, as we have covered previously, the Tonic registry does comply with DMCA subpoenas from US Courts, but that’s something it has always done. The change here may be that DMCA subpoenas are more often used as an enforcement tool nowadays.
With the fresh domain name, the ‘new’ Demonoid hopes to avoid any confusion and other domain troubles. Meanwhile, it will continue to keep the site going, something that went relatively well over the past weeks.
“The site itself is doing fine. It’s not oversaturated, which is our goal. Many former users returned and lots of newcomers are stopping by too,” phaze1G notes.
“We are trying to keep a moderated size of visitors, so the infrastructure doesn’t include more cost as the revenue from ads is not enough to cover the costs itself,” he adds.
While Demonoid remains a big name that for many is surrounded by nostalgia, it’s a small player in the larger ecosystem today. With roughly half a million monthly visits, according to SimilarWeb, it pales in comparison to the larger torrent sites.
For as long as peer-to-peer (P2P) networks such as BitTorrent have existed, anti-piracy companies have been monitoring the activities of those who use them.
This is to be expected. Not only do the companies have a vested interest in keeping an eye on what’s going on, by their very nature P2P networks are open and easily trackable.
The rise of streaming piracy – computer servers streaming video directly to end-users – has presented a new problem, however. Unlike P2P systems, there’s no easy way for an anti-piracy company to get in between the user and the server to see what’s going on. Only ISPs can see that data, which is why a recent interview caught our eye.
Friend MTS (FMTS) is an anti-piracy company based in Birmingham, UK. They’re perhaps best known for their live IPTV blocking work carried out on behalf of the Premier League, for which they have to partner to a greater or lesser extent with ISPs in the UK. FMTS tells them which servers to block, and the ISPs carry out it, broadly speaking.
However, in a recent interview, Simon Hanna of FMTS spoke about a different type of collaboration with ISPs, one that has the potential to raise eyebrows among privacy advocates, especially those who hoped all of their Internet traffic would remain completely their business.
Quite soon into the interview, Hanna correctly points out that broad availability of pirated content online tends to give an indication of how popular particular content is but isn’t always a great indicator of how much is actually being consumed.
“Consumption is a much more valuable indicator than pure availability of content and consumption has always been very difficult to monitor. People often throw numbers out but they are guesswork at best and we don’t really put a lot of faith in the numbers that have been made available in the past,” Hanna said.
With this in mind, FMTS say they have developed a system that allows them to work with content owners and ISPs to form a greater understanding of the consumption of media from online ‘pirate’ sources. The company does this by first tracking the servers down from where the content is being streamed and handing this information to the ISPs.
“We can see through our monitoring activities the range of servers that are available globally delivering this pirate content and we can provide that information to an ISP who are monitoring the flows of data requests in and out of the networks all day long,” Hanna explained.
“They can use these lists of IP addresses to really focus on consumption of content from those servers by the broadband subscribers within the ISP network and that will then give information around the scale of the problem.”Image credit: FMTS
That’s probably a bit of a “wow” moment for many Internet subscribers who believed that once their traffic entered their ISP’s network it wouldn’t be closely monitored until it left to access a BitTorrent swarm, for example.
If FMTS’ statement is what it seems, some ISPs might be following their customers’ broadband usage habits a little bit more intimately than previously thought.
On the plus side, at least as far as individual subscribers are concerned, FMTS say they don’t look at or care about “the individuals themselves”. They’re not looking for any personally identifiable information and are just trying to get a handle on the volume of content being consumed.
Whether dual broadband/TV supplying companies are more interested in this data remains open to question, however.
“Because inevitably, if a large proportion of the ISP’s broadband subscribers are actually consuming content, they are not paying for the associated operator’s TV services,” Hanna added.
In many cases, of course, the broadband provider/ISP is also a supplier of TV content to the same customers – Sky, Virgin Media, and BT in the UK, for example. There’s no claim that these ISPs are indeed teaming up with FMTS in this project but any and all might be interested in the information it reportedly makes available.
“We work with content owners to basically go out and find pirate sources of the content. We can then real-time update these lists, feed this information into the ISPs and the ISPs can then use this information to generate the reporting real-time but with the flow monitoring, more in-depth reports of three-months plus worth of data, to actually get a real picture of consumption habits, both of TV channels but also specific events and pieces of content,” Hanna revealed.
FMTS says that monitoring consumption is important because it allows action previously taken to reduce availability to be measured at the end where it really matters.
“If you can then reduce the availability, then inevitably you should be able to reduce the consumption but you keep monitoring to observe that you do actually have this effect. If you can reduce the availability and reduce the consumption, chances are you would expect you would then preserve and reinforce your pay-TV revenues,” Hanna concluded.
The full interview, which covers many aspects of anti-piracy activity, from general enforcement to fingerprinting and watermarking, can be viewed here .
When President Clinton signed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) into law in 1998, its goal was to ready copyright law for the digital age.
The law introduced safe harbors for Internet services (DMCA Section 512 ), meaning that they can’t be held liable for their pirating users as long as they properly process takedown notices and deal with repeat infringers.
Today the four-letter acronym is known around the world and the United States appears keen to export it in future trade agreements. Most recently, a DMCA-style provision was added to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement ( USMCA ), which covers a wide variety of trade issues including copyright-related topics.
While this would have been welcomed by rightsholders twenty years ago, the situation looks quite different today. The music industry, in particular, believes that the DMCA is obsolete, dysfunctional, and even harmful . For these reasons, major industry groups would like to see it replaced with something ‘better.’
When the first draft of the USMCA was published, the RIAA made this clear in no uncertain terms. “Modern trade treaties should advance the policy priority of encouraging more accountability on public platforms, not less,” RIAA President Mitch Glazier said.
The issue was crucial enough to be specifically mentioned in the RIAA’s lobbying disclosures at the U.S. House and Senate. This may have had an effect, as this week the concerns were picked up by the House Judiciary Committee.
In a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the Judiciary Committee points out that Section 512 of the DMCA is widely debated and that “some” have called on Congress to update it.
The Committee notes that the U.S. Government conducted an in-depth review over the past years of which the results are expected soon. This may in part be impacted by the European Union’s new Copyright Directive which hints at potential upload filters and increases in liability for online service providers.
“The U.S. Copyright Office is expected to produce a report on Section 512 around the end of this year, the result of a multi-year process that started in 2015. Moreover, the European Union has recently issued a copyright directive that includes reforms to its analogous safe harbor for online platforms, which may have an impact on the U.S. domestic policy debate,” the letter reads.
The Judiciary Committee doesn’t take a position in this debate but it stresses that adding the widely contested safe harbor language to the USMCA and other trade agreements, would not be wise at this point.
“[W]e find it problematic for the United States to export language mirroring this provision while such serious policy discussions are ongoing,” the letter, signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Ranking Member Doug Collins reads.
“For that reason, we do not believe a provision requiring parties to adopt a Section 512-style safe harbor system of the type mandated by Article 20.89 should continue to be included in future trade agreements,” the letter adds.
The Committee urges the USTR to take the matter seriously and consider the possible changes that are coming. This largely reflects the position of several major copyright industry groups, including the RIAA.
If the language is indeed removed or changed it will be a major setback for Internet services and various digital rights groups. This includes the Re:Create Coalition , which welcomed the inclusion of these protections last year.
A copy of the letter sent by the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary to the USTR is available here (pdf) .