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  1. The MPAA has a three-pronged approach to combating piracy. It pursues voluntary agreements with third-party intermediaries, engages in civil action against key pirate players, and encourages the feds to criminally prosecute copyright infringers. According to a recent testimony, the MPAA has recently asked U.S. law enforcement to go after several pirate streaming operations. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has been battling online piracy for years, but the problem remains. Roughly a decade ago torrent sites were the main threat. In recent years that switched, first to cyberlockers, and then to online streaming. While the MPAA has pursued civil lawsuits against pirate sites and services throughout the world, it believes that more progress can be made through criminal prosecutions. In a recent testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, MPAA’s Senior Counsel Neil Fried explains that these criminal cases have a much broader impact, using the Megaupload case as an example. “Although the U.S. government does not take many such actions, those they do can have a greater deterrent effect than civil suits because criminal cases bring more attention, along with the possibility of jail time for convicted culprits,” Fried notes. “Indeed, a 2012 U.S. action against Megaupload—then the largest piracy ‘cyberlocker,’ accounting for 4 percent of all internet traffic—increased lawful digital sales by 6.5 to 8.5 percent for three major studios in 12 countries,” he adds, citing an academic study from an MPAA funded research group. Hollywood’s anti-piracy outfit hopes that the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) will continue to investigate piracy cases. In order to facilitate this, the MPAA says it has already reported several unnamed piracy streaming operations, hoping for a similar effect. “The MPAA has pending a number of criminal referrals to DOJ regarding streaming piracy operations, with the goal of replicating a comparable uptick in legitimate consumption,” Fried notes. These referrals have not been made public, but it’s clear that the MPAA would like to see some streaming-related criminal prosecutions. This could be streaming sites, but also illegal IPTV services, or companies that sell pirate streaming boxes. The MPAA has fed law enforcement with information leading to piracy-related indictments on several previous occasions. The anti-piracy group triggered the criminal prosecution of members of the BitTorrent release group IMAGiNE, as well as the Megaupload and KickassTorrents cases. The latter two cases are still on hold, pending the outcome of extradition requests in New Zealand and Poland respectively. Considering the slow progress in these cases, it could be that the DoJ is not too eager to take on another online piracy case just yet. The MPAA’s criminal referrals are part of its three-pronged approach to combating online piracy. This further involves voluntary anti-piracy initiatives with third-party services, as well as civil lawsuits against copyright-infringing sites and services. The voluntary initiatives include agreements with domain name registrars, advertisers, payment processors, which are encouraged to cut their ties with known pirate sites. On the civil action side, the MPAA’s activity has recently been coordinated through the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE). This group has filed civil cases against streaming box vendors and IPTV services, and also conducts “knock and talks,” targeting pirate add-on developers. In recent years there haven’t been any criminal cases against streaming piracy outfits. The MPAA, however, urges lawmakers to ensure that the feds expand their horizons and pursue cases against these streaming piracy operations. “Our hope is that Congress will encourage DOJ to move forward with those cases,” Fried notes in the testimony. The full testimony from the MPAA’s Neil Fried, was submitted for hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce (pdf) and the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation (pdf). VIEW: Original Article.
  2. An IPTV provider offering thousands of movies and around 600 live TV channels has been shut down following action by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment. As One Step TV's subscribers complain on the service's Facebook page, its domain now redirects to ACE after being taken over by the MPAA. In 2015, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a new initiative designed to target existing and developing piracy operations on a global scale, announced its launch. Headed up by the studios of the MPAA plus Netflix and Amazon, more than 30 international media now complete its ranks, including the likes of BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada, MGM, and Village Roadshow, to name just a few. In addition to targeting Kodi add-ons and their developers, ACE has made unlicensed IPTV services one of its priorities. This morning we can report that the anti-piracy giant has claimed another scalp. In the grand scheme, OneStepTV.com appears to have been a relative newcomer. Archives suggest that the service launched in 2018 and grew to offer around 600 TV channels and 20,000 pieces of VOD content (such as movies), for $25 per month or less. No credit checks… While many of One Step TV’s customers appeared to have enjoyed the service, a few weeks ago problems appear to have become evident to subscribers looking to renew their package. A post on Facebook dated April 25, 2019, signaled payment processing issues, one of the most common signs that a platform might be in trouble. “We have been subscribers for awhile now and like your service very much. We are a little confused and concerned as recently we were told that customers cannot renew their subscriptions anymore,” the post reads. “Is your business going away, or do you anticipate fixing the payment issue in the near future? We really would like to continue doing business with you.” A few days later, more serious issues hit the streaming service. With its payment processing suspended, the platform itself disappeared. One Step TV – gone One Step TV’s public social media posts don’t give any explanation for the outage but yesterday an ominous change to the service’s homepage gave the clearest indication yet of what may have transpired. Instead of One Step TV’s sales pitch, visitors to OneStepTV.com are now presented with a message from the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment. Five seconds later the page redirects to the Alliance’s homepage. Five seconds before redirect While a page and redirect like this are very easy to fake (pirate sites frequently display similar pages as April Fool pranks), this one is very different. Not only does the domain redirect to the Alliance’s website as promised, changes to One Step TV’s domain records confirm that the domain has been taken over. Seized by the MPAA As the image above shows, the domain is now in the hands of the MPAA and has probably been that way since yesterday morning. The site itself is hosted by Amazon, a founding member of ACE. All the pieces of the puzzle together strongly suggest that in this format at least, One Step TV is done. It’s not clear if a lawsuit is involved but as far as we can see, none have been filed recently by ACE’s lead members. While it’s difficult to say for sure, this closure bears the hallmarks of a cease-and-desist and subsequent settlement agreement. Given ACE’s reluctance to talk about such agreements, it seems unlikely there will be a detailed public statement. VIEW: Original Article.
  3. US Govt. Seizes Millions in Cash & Crypto in Movie Piracy Case The United States Government has seized millions in cash and cryptocurrency as part of a movie and TV show piracy investigation carried out by Homeland Security Investigations and the MPAA. PayPal appears to have played an early key role by providing information on two subscription-based 'pirate' sites. From there, the rabbit hole deepened. Significant legal action against alleged operators of pirate sites have traditionally been carried out with great fanfare. However, a case underway in federal court in Oregon is a very different beast, particularly given its scale and form. The case filed in the district court May 6, 2019, reveals the United States government seeking forfeiture of around $4 million dollars worth of cash and cryptocurrency seized on the basis that the owner of the property was involved in a conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and money laundering. The investigation reportedly began in October 2013 when Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents received information from PayPal concerning two websites, Noobroom.com and Noobroom7.com, that allowed subscribers to stream movies and TV shows. HSI reported these sites to the MPAA which conducted an investigation, concluding that the sites and associated domains Noobroom and Noobroom9 distributed works in breach of its members’ copyrights. Revenue was reportedly generated by subscriptions processed through Stripe and via adverts placed by a company called Lanista Concepts. In July 2014, the MPAA sent a cease-and-desist notice to Noobroom. Five days later a covert Noobroom user account operated by the Hollywood group received a message advising users that their accounts had been moved to a new website at SuperChillin.com. After downloading movies from SuperChillin, the MPAA was able to link an IP address to an individual identified as Talon White. The suspect was subsequently linked to two additional sites – movietv.co and Sit2Play.com – which were deemed to be near identical copies of each other. The registrant of Sit2Play was listed as Talon White and an associated email address was determined as belonging to him. HSI’s investigation continued from 2016 to November 2018 when search and seizure warrants were executed. A declaration by Keith Druffel, a Special Agent of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, reads as follows; “Based on financial records obtained during the investigation, I determined that White received substantial revenue from the above-listed websites,” Druffel writes. “In 2018, he was averaging revenue over $500,000 per month. In 2017, White received over $2.2 million. In 2016, White received over $1 million in revenue, and in 2014 and 2015, White received on average about $400,000 a year in revenue.” According to Druffel, subscribers of the sites paid via PayPal or Stripe, payments that were deposited into bank accounts controlled by White. Information provided by Stripe matched White’s personal information and the account was labeled as “Selling stock tip subscriptions via email.” The IRS claims there is no evidence of any such sales. 78,985 payments of $9.99 were received into the Stripe account between October 2015 and December 2016, amounting to $789,060. A further 7,611 payments of $25.49 ($194,004.39) and 5,348 payments of $44.99 ($240,606.52) made a grand total of $1,223,671.24. “The above-listed amounts correspond to the listed subscription costs on Sit2Play and Movietv. Therefore, I believe the payments received by Stripe are the subscription fees for the websites,” Druffel adds. Further analysis of transactions on White’s Stripe account dated between October 2017 and September 2018 revealed a further 396,843 payments of between $9.99 and $44.99 to a value of $6,373,816.57. “The above listed amounts correspond to the cost of subscriptions to the websites and represent proceeds from the violation of 18 USC § 2319, Criminal Copyright Infringement,” the statement reads. The investigation found that through August 2018, more than $3m was transferred from the Stripe account to a Wells Fargo account in White’s name and a JP Morgan Chase account held in the name of Viral Sensations, Inc. (VSI), a Nevada entity. White is alleged to have opened three checking accounts in the name of VSI, over which he had sole signature authority. Through August 31, 2019, one VSI account received payments of more than $5.9 million. The accounts were linked to White and subscriptions from the pirate sites. Funds from one of the Chase accounts were used to buy $1m in cryptocurrency through virtual currency exchange Coinbase. On November 13, 2018, Mustafa Kasubhai, United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Oregon, approved a search and seizure warrant authorizing a search of White’s residence and seizure of various assets. The warrant was executed two days later, yielding the following; $2,457,790.72 seized from JPMorgan Chase Bank account #1 $1,266,650.00 seized from JPMorgan Chase Bank account #2 $1,383.68 seized from JPMorgan Chase Bank account #3 $200,653.71 seized from JPMorgan Chase Bank account #4 $32,921.00 seized in US currency (cash) $1,940.77 seized in US currency (Stripe account) 31.53810677 in BTC (Coinbase account) 1,022.39066800 in ETH (Coinbase account) 5.74017141 in BCH (Coinbase account) “ have probable cause to believe, and I do believe, that White and others known and unknown were involved in a conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1957 and 2319 from at least 2013 through November 2018,” Druffel’s statement adds. On May 7, 2019, District Judge Anna J. Brown issued an order to the IRS to hold the assets until further notice. “You are hereby commanded to arrest and take into your possession until further order of the Court, defendants, in rem, Assorted Funds,” the Judge wrote. From a copyright infringement perspective, this case is pretty unusual. Most civil and criminal cases against pirate sites and their operators involve detailed descriptions of their workings along with finely-tuned claims of various types of infringement. But the focus here appears to be a financial one, for now at least. A report from Koin.com suggests that the man hasn’t been charged with a crime yet. In an effort to find ou more, TF approached White’s lawyer Rain Minns. At the time of publication we were yet to receive a response. Source
  4. This week, pirate IPTV hit the headlines again with the mysterious shutdown of Vader, one of the most visible brands on the Internet. The murkiness of the aftermath is not only telling, but also underlines that pirate services do not play by conventional rules, in any way, shape, or form. And that's the main reason why people use them. Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, CBS All Access, fuboTV, DAZN, NowTV, the forthcoming Disney+, cable TV, terrestrial TV, satellite, cinema. How long is this list? Nowhere near long enough if you want to come close to matching what’s currently being offered by premium pirate IPTV services. If any of the important ‘pirate’ IPTV providers flicked a magic switch and suddenly became legal overnight, all of the above would struggle to keep their heads above water. Add another dozen legal services to the list, and the statement would still stand. The range of content offered by ‘pirate’ IPTV services demolishes that offered by all of the world’s key providers combined. And many do it for between $5 and $25 per month – because they don’t have to worry about the costs of making it. It usually takes a couple of minutes to sign up and that content is available on a wide range of devices, from phones through to smart TVs. Almost any device, wherever people like. How it should be. The public wants what the public gets, at least when they sail the IPTV high seas. Until it all goes to shit in an instant, of course. This week, Vader – one of the most recognized ‘pirate’ IPTV services – suddenly disappeared, taking not only the subscriptions of users with them but also money handed over by resellers of the service. Communication with what are effectively creditors was scrappy at best, quite incredible at worst. After declaring that there had been “no choice but to close down Vader”, supposed facts about the closure were widely circulated by various parties, sometimes accompanied by documents and quotes to back up often-conflicting claims. Depending on which version one believes, if any, Vader was raided, sued, told to enter into a settlement agreement with ACE (the huge anti-piracy coalition founded by the MPAA, Netflix and Amazon), or had simply taken everyone’s money and headed for the hills. Or perhaps a combination of the above. Or none. The ‘running’ theory gained traction following a statement from Vader which asked people to “take the financial losses we are all going to take, as resellers and direct sellers”, i.e please don’t ask for your money back. That was further compounded by another statement in which the service asked for donations to fund its legal defense and to help pay back people who doggedly asked for a refund. Now, if Vader was “raided” as some pretty detailed missives have claimed this week, would it still have control over its customer list and bank accounts, in order to make these refunds happen? That doesn’t seem likely, but stranger things have happened. If it was being sued it probably would, but there’s no evidence of that either. While there appears to be no public record of Vader getting served, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the subject of legal action, won’t be in the future, or doesn’t need a big cash injection. For example, if ACE has really offered the service the opportunity to settle, Vader will be given a set of demands. If they do not comply, then legal action might follow. We have proof that ACE, among other things, demanded cooperation as part of previous settlement agreements with other entities. That meant promising to hand over information on others in the ecosystem. But would ACE really offer such a giant service the opportunity to take the easy route when it has chosen to sue the likes of TickBox, Dragon Box, and SETTV? To find out, within hours of Vader’s shutdown TorrentFreak contacted ACE directly and asked them to confirm or deny that the MPAA (which now conducts its anti-piracy activities through ACE) was involved in the shutdown of Vader. We were told that the ACE coalition was working on a statement. Perfect. Four days later we had received nothing, so we prompted the anti-piracy group for a response. We were told that our request hadn’t been forgotten and that it was hoped it could get a statement to us this week. Perhaps needless to say, we haven’t received anything. This is, of course, interesting in itself. If ACE wasn’t involved in the closure of Vader, then a simple response to clarify that fact would have been simple and could have been done in two letters – NO. However, if ACE was involved, that would make any statement much more complex. If some kind of deal is indeed being thrashed out, we know that previous agreements sent out by ACE contained clauses that recipients can’t talk about the settlement to anyone but their lawyers. Vader clearly doesn’t want to talk about much in public and, at least for now, neither does ACE. Draw your own conclusions. However, the fact that ACE hasn’t made a statement to confirm or deny might also be advantageous, intentional or otherwise, from an anti-piracy perspective. Whether ACE is involved in this debacle or not, the complete lack of clarity surrounding this entire situation only serves to undermine trust in pirate IPTV providers. Granted, a public lawsuit would achieve similar goals, but right now the lack of information looks bad on Vader, not on ACE. In fact, if they aren’t involved, this is a free lunch for ACE and a big minus for Vader and by extension, pirate IPTV. And this brings us to the point. Pirate IPTV services do not operate like legitimate companies such as Netflix. When people give Netflix their hard earned cash they can be pretty sure that they’ll get what they pay for but should the company be unable to fulfill its obligations, a very clear public statement will be made. It certainly won’t shut down with zero notice, with no proper explanation, and begin asking for donations to dig it out of a hole. But come on, does anyone really expect an entity in this niche to operate any differently? The main reason why anyone chooses to do business with a pirate IPTV provider (whether that’s Vader or any other) is because they don’t play by “the rules”. It’s because they thumb their noses at authority. It’s because they solve the problems of having dozens of subscription packages. It’s because they offer great value for money. People want all this with no drawbacks? Think again. Fulfilling all of these demands flat-out requires them to be unorthodox. It requires them to be ambiguous. It requires them to act illegally and it requires them to save their own asses when the sheriff comes to town. Anyone who thinks it should play out differently should stick to buying bridges. The truth about ‘pirate’ TV services is simple. You pay your money, you take a chance. People should approach IPTV subscriptions expecting to lose their money – that’s why month-to-month packages are often recommended to those with an aversion to losing cash. People should not be surprised when such services go down temporarily or indeed permanently without notice. And they should presume that they’ll buffer at times but be happy when they don’t. Expectations should be set low by default to avoid disappointment. ‘Pirate’ IPTV services are a gamble, pure and simple. The odds are usually stacked in the user’s favor so their popularity is unlikely to wane in the near future. That says a lot about the service they mostly deliver. But make no mistake, there are no guarantees in this game. There’s a whole new generation of pirates entering this market on both sides, supply and demand, whose motivations – one way or another – is to either make or save money. In the end, it is that balancing act that will tip the scales of success for providers and users alike. Vader may be gone for now but there are still plenty of options around. As soon as its demise was announced, many suppliers went into overdrive to pick up the slack. How many customers will now choose to stay away is anyone’s guess but with bargains on offer, there probably won’t be any shortage of money changing hands. Just don’t expect anyone to be particularly upfront about what’s really going on, whether that’s the providers, resellers, or anti-piracy groups. There’s way too much at stake to unmuddy the waters just because some people want answers. The truth is always the first casualty of any war and this one is no different. VIEW: Original Article.
  5. The MPAA report is chock-full of interesting figures about a changing industry. In its annual Theatrical Home Entertainment Market Environment report, the Motion Picture Association of America described an immensely sharp drop-off of physical media sales over the past five years. According to the data, which was obtained from DEG and IHS Markit, global sales of video disc formats (which in this context means DVD, Blu-ray, and UltraHD Blu-ray) were $25.2 billion in 2014 but only $13.1 in 2018. That's a drop in the ballpark of 50 percent. Don't expect 8K Blu-rays or other emerging quality-focused formats to turn the tide, either. Market data published by Forbes showed that the aging, low-definition DVD format still accounts for 57.9 percent of physical media sales, and 4K Blu-rays are only 5.3 percent. Samsung introduced the very first UltraHD (that's the industry certification for 4K discs) Blu-ray in 2015 but told the press it was stopping manufacture of Blu-ray players in the US this year—and not just 4K ones, either. Chinese OEM Oppo made a similar announcement last year, though Sony and Panasonic continue to make dedicated Blu-ray players. Also, Microsoft and Sony's game consoles still play Blu-rays. With drops that sharp, you'd expect apocalyptic financials for companies making and distributing movies. However, while there are certainly losers in this trend, the overall industry actually grew over the same period. Home entertainment spending grew 16 percent in 2018 thanks to surges in consumer spending on digital video services from players like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. The global number of subscriptions to online streaming services grew 27 percent to 613.3 million in 2018, surpassing cable subscriptions (at 556 million) for the first time ever. However, cable still drives more overall revenue than streaming—it was the highest revenue platform in 2018, with $118 billion globally. Subscriptions are expected to grow significantly over the next couple of years, as major players like Disney, Apple, and WarnerMedia introduce new streaming services to compete with existing players like HBO and Netflix. The report covers the video content industry broadly, and it also found that movie theater revenues were up very slightly last year and that 75 percent of US and Canadian consumers went to see at least one movie at a theater in 2018. You can view the MPAA's full report for more details like breakdowns by film, gender, race, rating, and so on. Source
  6. The latest MPAA tax filing shows that the revenue generated by the anti-piracy group has fallen after a few years of modest growth. The decrease is the result of lower membership fees paid by the major Hollywood studios, which resulted in a significant loss. The filing further reveals that the MPAA's former CEO Chris Doss earned $3.4 million during his final year. As a united front for Hollywood, the MPAA has booked many anti-piracy successes in recent years. Through its involvement in the shutdowns of Popcorn Time, YIFY, isoHunt, Hotfile, Megaupload and several other platforms, the organization has worked hard to get results. Less visibly but at least as important, the MPAA uses its influence to lobby lawmakers, while orchestrating and managing anti-piracy campaigns both in the United States and abroad. All this work doesn’t come for free, obviously. To pay the bills the MPAA relies on six major movie studios for financial support. Over the past several years, these revenues had stabilized, but according to its latest tax filing, they are dropping now. The IRS filing, covering the fiscal year 2016, puts total revenue at $57 million, down from $73 million. The Hollywood studios paid the bulk of this sum through membership fees which total $50 million. That’s a 22% reduction compared to a year earlier. At the end of the year, this resulted in a significant loss of $8 million. While that’s a lot of money, the MPAA is not in imminent danger, as the organization still has over $10 million in net assets and funds. We haven’t seen any explanation for the lower membership fees. It could be more permanent, but it may also be an agreed decision, as there’s enough money in the bank. Going over the numbers, we see that salaries make up a large chunk of the expenses. Chris Dodd, the former MPAA Chairman and CEO, was the highest paid employee with a total income of more than $3.4 million, including a $275,000 bonus. This compensation was for Dodd’s last full year as CEO. He was replaced by Charles Rivkin last year, another political heavyweight, who previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs in the Obama administration. Dodd’s compensation took up nearly 10% of the entire salary budget. The rest is divided over the MPAA’s other 196 employees. This brings the total workforce to 197, which is down as well, from 224 employees a year earlier. Moving on, it’s always interesting to see where the MPAA’s grants and other types of funding go to. As reported previously, the group donates handsomely to various research initiatives. This includes a recurring million dollar grant for Carnegie Mellon’s ‘Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics’ (IDEA), which focuses on piracy related topics. Another major beneficiary is the Copyright Alliance, a non-profit that represents copyright holders large and small on a variety of issues. The group was co-founded by the MPAA and received $750,000 in support according to the latest filing. The total grants budget is $3.1 million and includes many smaller payments, which is not that different from previous years. Other large cost items are the lobbying budget, which totaled $3.6 million, and $5.3 million in legal fees. Aside from the big dip in revenues, there are no real outliers in the filing. — A copy of the MPAA’s latest form 990 is available here (pdf). Source
  7. Several major ISPs have blocked dozens of pirate torrent and streaming platforms following orders from the Singapore High Court. The action, which covers platforms including The Pirate Bay plus KickassTorrents and Solarmovie variants, follows a successful application from the MPAA, which accuses the platforms of flagrant copyright infringement. Under increasing pressure from copyright holders, in 2014 Singapore passed amendments to copyright law that allow ISPs to block ‘pirate’ sites. “The prevalence of online piracy in Singapore turns customers away from legitimate content and adversely affects Singapore’s creative sector,” said then Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah. “It can also undermine our reputation as a society that respects the protection of intellectual property.” After the amendments took effect in December 2014, there was a considerable pause before any websites were targeted. However, in September 2016, at the request of the MPA(A), Solarmovie.ph became the first website ordered to be blocked under Singapore’s amended Copyright Act. The High Court subsequently ordering several major ISPs to disable access to the site. A new wave of blocks announced this morning are the country’s most significant so far, with dozens of ‘pirate’ sites targeted following a successful application by the MPAA earlier this year. In total, 53 sites across 154 domains – including those operated by The Pirate Bay plus KickassTorrents and Solarmovie variants – have been rendered inaccessible by ISPs including Singtel, StarHub, M1, MyRepublic and ViewQwest. “In Singapore, these sites are responsible for a major portion of copyright infringement of films and television shows,” an MPAA spokesman told The Straits Times (paywall). “This action by rights owners is necessary to protect the creative industry, enabling creators to create and keep their jobs, protect their works, and ensure the continued provision of high-quality content to audiences.” Before granting a blocking injunction, the High Court must satisfy itself that the proposed online locations meet the threshold of being “flagrantly infringing”. This means that a site like YouTube, which carries a lot of infringing content but is not dedicated to infringement, would not ordinarily get caught up in the dragnet. Sites considered for blocking must have a primary purpose to infringe, a threshold that is tipped in copyright holders’ favor when the sites’ operators display a lack of respect for copyright law and have already had their domains blocked in other jurisdictions. The Court also weighs a number of additional factors including whether blocking would place an unacceptable burden on the shoulders of ISPs, whether the blocking demand is technically possible, and whether it will be effective. In common with other regions such as the UK and Australia, for example, sites targeted for blocking must be informed of the applications made against them, to ensure they’re given a chance to defend themselves in court. No fully-fledged ‘pirate’ site has ever defended a blocking application in Singapore or indeed any jurisdiction in the world. Finally, should any measures be taken by ‘pirate’ sites to evade an ISP blockade, copyright holders can apply to the Singapore High Court to amend the blocking order. This is similar to the Australian model where each application must be heard on its merits, rather than the UK model where a more streamlined approach is taken. According to a recent report by Motion Picture Association Canada, at least 42 countries are now obligated to block infringing sites. In Europe alone, 1,800 sites and 5,300 domains have been rendered inaccessible, with Portugal, Italy, the UK, and Denmark leading the way. In Canada, where copyright holders are lobbying hard for a site-blocking regime of their own, there’s pressure to avoid the “uncertain, slow and expensive” route of going through the courts. Source
  8. With a record international box office of over $40 billion behind him, MPAA chief Charles Rivkin has told movie exhibitors at CinemaCon that keeping a lid on unauthorized sites is one of his group's main goals. Describing the tackling of piracy as a "top priority", Rivkin framed the ACE anti-piracy coalition as a powerful group ensuring that movie makers maintain control and reap the rewards for their hard work. After several high-profile years at the helm of the movie industry’s most powerful lobbying group, last year saw the departure of Chris Dodd from the role of Chairman and CEO at the MPAA. The former Senator, who earned more than $3.5m a year championing the causes of the major Hollywood studios since 2011, was immediately replaced by another political heavyweight. Charles Rivkin, who took up his new role September 5, 2017, previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs in the Obama administration. With an underperforming domestic box office year behind him fortunately overshadowed by massive successes globally, this week he spoke before US movie exhibitors for the first time at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. “Globally, we hit a record high of $40.6 billion at the box office. Domestically, our $11.1 billion box office was slightly down from the 2016 record. But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade,” Rivkin said. “But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade.” Rivkin, who spent time as President and CEO of The Jim Henson Company, told those in attendance that he shares a deep passion for the movie industry and looks forward optimistically to the future, a future in which content is secured from those who intend on sharing it for free. “Making sure our creative works are valued and protected is one of the most important things we can do to keep that industry heartbeat strong. At the Henson Company, and WildBrain, I learned just how much intellectual property affects everyone. Our entire business model depended on our ability to license Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the Muppets and distribute them across the globe,” Rivkin said. “I understand, on a visceral level, how important copyright is to any creative business and in particular our country’s small and medium enterprises – which are the backbone of the American economy. As Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, I guarantee you that fighting piracy in all forms remains our top priority.” That tackling piracy is high on the MPAA’s agenda won’t comes as a surprise but at least in terms of the numbers of headlines plastered over the media, high-profile anti-piracy action has been somewhat lacking in recent years. With lawsuits against torrent sites seemingly a thing of the past and a faltering Megaupload case that will conclude who-knows-when, the MPAA has taken a broader view, seeking partnerships with sometimes rival content creators and distributors, each with a shared desire to curtail illicit media. “One of the ways that we’re already doing that is through the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment – or ACE as we call it,” Rivkin said. “This is a coalition of 30 leading global content creators, including the MPAA’s six member studios as well as Netflix, and Amazon. We work together as a powerful team to ensure our stories are seen as they were intended to be, and that their creators are rewarded for their hard work.” Announced in June 2017, ACE has become a united anti-piracy powerhouse for a huge range of entertainment industry groups, encompassing the likes of CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, Bell Canada, CBS, Hulu, Lionsgate, Foxtel and Village Roadshow, to name a few. The coalition was announced by former MPAA Chief Chris Dodd and now, with serious financial input from all companies involved, appears to be picking its fights carefully, focusing on the growing problem of streaming piracy centered around misuse of Kodi and similar platforms. From threatening relatively small-time producers and distributors of third-party addons and builds (1,2,3), ACE is also attempting to make its mark among the profiteers. The group now has several lawsuits underway in the United States against people selling piracy-enabled IPTV boxes including Tickbox, Dragon Box, and during the last week, Set TV. With these important cases pending, Rivkin offered assurances that his organization remains committed to anti-piracy enforcement and he thanked exhibitors for their efforts to prevent people quickly running away with copies of the latest releases. “I am grateful to all of you for recognizing what is at stake, and for working with us to protect creativity, such as fighting the use of illegal camcorders in theaters,” he said. “Protecting our creativity isn’t only a fundamental right. It’s an economic necessity, for us and all creative economies. Film and television are among the most valuable – and most impactful – exports we have. Thus far at least, Rivkin has a noticeably less aggressive tone on piracy than his predecessor Chris Dodd but it’s unlikely that will be mistaken for weakness among pirates, nor should it. The MPAA isn’t known for going soft on pirates and it certainly won’t be changing course anytime soon. torrentfreak
  9. A few years ago the MPAA launched its movie search engine WhereToWatch, offering viewers a database of legal alternatives to piracy. While the site worked as advertised, the movie industry group decided to quietly shut it down, stating that there are plenty of other search options available today. During the fall of 2014, Hollywood launched WhereToWatch, its very own search engine for movies and TV-shows. The site enabled people to check if and where the latest entertainment was available, hoping to steer U.S. visitors away from pirate sites. Aside from the usual critics, the launch received a ton of favorable press. This was soon followed up by another release highlighting some of the positive responses and praise from the press. “The initiative marks a further attempt by the MPAA to combat rampant online piracy by reminding consumers of legal means to watch movies and TV shows,” the LA Times wrote, for example. Over the past several years, the site hasn’t appeared in the news much, but it did help thousands of people find legal sources for the latest entertainment. However, those who try to access it today will notice that WhereToWatch has been abandoned, quietly. The MPAA pulled the plug on the service a few months ago. And where the mainstream media covered its launch in detail, the shutdown received zero mentions. So why did the site fold? According to MPAA Vice President of Corporate Communications, Chris Ortman, it was no longer needed as there are many similar search engines out there. “Given the many search options commercially available today, which can be found on the MPAA website, WheretoWatch.com was discontinued at the conclusion of 2017,” Ortman informs TF. “There are more than 140 lawful online platforms in the United States for accessing film and television content, and more than 460 around the world,” he adds. The MPAA lists several of these alternative search engines on its new website. The old WhereToWatch domain now forwards to the MPAA’s online magazine ‘The Credits,’ which features behind-the-scenes stories and industry profiles. While the MPAA is right that there are alternative search engines, many of these were already available when WhereToWatch launched. In fact, the site used the services of the competing service GoWatchIt for its search results. Perhaps the lack of interest from the U.S. public played a role as well. The site never really took off and according to traffic estimates from SimilarWeb and Alexa, most of the visitors came from Iran, where the site was unusable due to a geo-block. After searching long and hard we were able to track down a former WhereToWatch user on Reddit. This person just started to get into the service and was disappointed to see it go. “So, does anyone know of better places or simply other places where this information lives in an easily accessible place?” he or she asked. One person responded by recommending Icefilms.info, a pirate site. This is a response the MPAA would cringe at, but luckily, most people mentioned justwatch.com as the best alternative. torrentfreak
  10. The MPAA's former VP of Worldwide Internet Enforcement says that the industry narrative on piracy is no longer based on trying to get people to act ethically. Hemanshu Nigam says the discussion today is based around the dangers that pirate sites can pose to those who visit them. Few listened before, will they listen now? Over the years there have been almost endless attempts to stop people from accessing copyright-infringing content online. Campaigns have come and gone and almost two decades later the battle is still ongoing. Early on, when panic enveloped the music industry, the campaigns centered around people getting sued. Grabbing music online for free could be costly, the industry warned, while parading the heads of a few victims on pikes for the world to see. Periodically, however, the aim has been to appeal to the public’s better nature. The idea is that people essentially want to do the ‘right thing’, so once they understand that largely hard-working Americans are losing their livelihoods, people will stop downloading from The Pirate Bay. For some, this probably had the desired effect but millions of people are still getting their fixes for free, so the job isn’t finished yet. In more recent years, notably since the MPAA and RIAA had their eyes blacked in the wake of SOPA, the tone has shifted. In addition to educating the public, torrent and streaming sites are increasingly being painted as enemies of the public they claim to serve. Several studies, largely carried out on behalf of the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), have claimed that pirate sites are hotbeds of malware, baiting consumers in with tasty pirate booty only to offload trojans, viruses, and God-knows-what. These reports have been ostensibly published as independent public interest documents but this week an advisor to the DCA suggested a deeper interest for the industry. Hemanshu Nigam is a former federal prosecutor, ex-Chief Security Officer for News Corp and Fox Interactive Media, and former VP Worldwide Internet Enforcement at the MPAA. In an interview with Deadline this week, he spoke about alleged links between pirate sites and malware distributors. He also indicated that warning people about the dangers of pirate sites has become Hollywood’s latest anti-piracy strategy. “The industry narrative has changed. When I was at the MPAA, we would tell people that stealing content is wrong and young people would say, yeah, whatever, you guys make a lot of money, too bad,” he told the publication. “It has gone from an ethical discussion to a dangerous one. Now, your parents’ bank account can be raided, your teenage daughter can be spied on in her bedroom and extorted with the footage, or your computer can be locked up along with everything in it and held for ransom.” Nigam’s stance isn’t really a surprise since he’s currently working for the Digital Citizens Alliance as an advisor. In turn, the Alliance is at least partly financed by the MPAA. There’s no suggestion whatsoever that Nigam is involved in any propaganda effort, but recent signs suggest that the DCA’s work in malware awareness is more about directing people away from pirate sites than protecting them from the alleged dangers within. That being said and despite the bias, it’s still worth giving experts like Nigam an opportunity to speak. Largely thanks to industry efforts with brands, pirate sites are increasingly being forced to display lower-tier ads, which can be problematic. On top, some sites’ policies mean they don’t deserve any visitors at all. In the Deadline piece, however, Nigam alleges that hackers have previously reached out to pirate websites offering $200 to $5000 per day “depending on the size of the pirate website” to have the site infect users with malware. If true, that’s a serious situation and people who would ordinarily use ‘pirate’ sites would definitely appreciate the details. For example, to which sites did hackers make this offer and, crucially, which sites turned down the offer and which ones accepted? It’s important to remember that pirates are just another type of consumer and they would boycott sites in a heartbeat if they discovered they’d been paid to infect them with malware. But, as usual, the claims are extremely light in detail. Instead, there’s simply a blanket warning to stay away from all unauthorized sites, which isn’t particularly helpful. In some cases, of course, operational security will prevent some details coming to light but without these, people who don’t get infected on a ‘pirate’ site (the vast majority) simply won’t believe the allegations. As the author of the Deadline piece pointed out, it’s a bit like Reefer Madness all over again. The point here is that without hard independent evidence to back up these claims, with reports listing sites alongside the malware they’ve supposed to have spread and when, few people will respond to perceived scaremongering. Free content trumps a few distant worries almost every time, whether that involves malware or the threat of a lawsuit. It’ll be up to the DCA and their MPAA paymasters to consider whether the approach is working but thus far, not even having government heavyweights on board has helped. Earlier this year the DCA launched a video campaign, enrolling 15 attorney generals to publish their own anti-piracy PSAs on YouTube. Thus far, interest has been minimal, to say the least. At the time of writing the 15 PSAs have 3,986 views in total, with 2,441 of those contributed by a single video contributed by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. Despite the relative success, even that got slammed with 2 upvotes and 127 downvotes. A few of the other videos have a couple of hundred views each but more than half have less than 70. Perhaps most worryingly for the DCA, apart from the Schimel PSA, none have any upvotes at all, only down. It’s unclear who the viewers were but it seems reasonable to conclude they weren’t entertained. The bottom line is nobody likes malware or having their banking details stolen but yet again, people who claim to have the public interest at heart aren’t actually making a difference on the ground. It could be argued that groups advocating online safety should be publishing guides on how to stay protected on the Internet period, not merely advising people to stay away from certain sites. But of course, that wouldn’t achieve the goals of the MPAA Digital Citizens Alliance. Source
  11. Megaupload's legal team has asked the federal court of Virginia to place the cases filed by the music and movie companies on hold till April next year. The request comes after the extradition hearings of Kim Dotcom and his colleagues were postponed in New Zealand. Well over two years have passed since Megaupload was shutdown, but there is still little progress in the criminal proceedings against its founders. The United States want New Zealand to extradite Kim Dotcom and his colleagues but this process has been delayed several times already. Earlier this month the extradition hearing was postponed again until February next year. In addition to the U.S. Government, Megaupload and Kim Dotcom were also sued by the major record labels and Hollywood’s top movie studios a few months ago. Fearing that these cases might influence the criminal case, Megaupload’s legal team successfully obtained a freeze on them until this summer, when the extradition hearing was originally scheduled for. Now that this has been delayed until next year, Megaupload wants to place the MPAA and RIAA cases on hold until April 2015. In a new motion for a stay, the lawyers ask the court to freeze both civil cases because the accused may otherwise be forced to implicate themselves, which would violate their rights. “The individual Defendants still face extradition, and therefore still have an interest in preserving the Fifth Amendment rights that arise from the prosecution of the Criminal Action,” the motion reads. There’s also a more practical concern. Since the U.S. Government refuses to provide access to the raided servers, it may be difficult to access evidence that’s crucial to build a proper defense. “Relevant evidence that is electronically stored on servers, which would be needed to defend the civil cases, is not reasonably accessible. As a result of the Criminal Action, the Megaupload cloud-storage servers have been taken offline and are housed in a locked third-party warehouse in Virginia,” Megaupload’s lawyers write. “The Department of Justice has opposed Megaupload’s efforts to gain access to those servers and data. Standard civil e-discovery protocols would typically include accessing and “mirroring” the original servers so that the resultant copies may used to analyze the data contained therein. At present, that cannot be done,” they add. If the court grants the request then it will take another year before there’s any progress in the civil cases against Megaupload. The movie and music studios didn’t object to the previous freezing request, but they may be running out of patience soon. Source: TorrentFreak
  12. GitHub has just removed the repositories of several popular Popcorn Time applications. The action was taken in response to a takedown request sent by the MPAA. Whether this will do anything to stop people from using the "Netflix for pirates" has yet to be seen. The Popcorn Time phenomenon is one of the biggest piracy stories of the year thus far. The software became an instant hit by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming in an easy to use Netflix-style interface. Needless to say this has been a thorn in the side for Hollywood. Today the MPAA decided to deploy countermeasures by filing requests with development platform GitHub to take down several Popcorn Time related repositories. “We are writing to notify you of, and request your assistance in addressing the extensive copyright infringement of motion pictures and television shows that is occurring by virtue of the operation and further development of the GitHub projects Popcorn Time, and Time4Popcorn,” the MPAA writes in its takedown notice. GitHub swiftly complied and starting a few hours ago the repositories were absent from the website, leaving the following note. Popcorn Time removed In its takedown notice the MPAA specifically targets the “popcorn-official” and the “time4popcorn” projects, but it also urges GitHub to remove all related forks. “By this notification, we are asking for your immediate assistance in stopping your users’ unauthorized activity. Specifically, we request that you remove or disable access to the infringing Projects’ repositories and all related forks,” MPAA writes. Interestingly, the MPAA doesn’t mention the original Popcorn Time repository, which remains intact. To prove the infringing nature of Popcorn Time the takedown notice was accompanied by several screenshots of the user interface, as well as several pirated copies of Hollywood movies playing. While the takedown notices may hinder the development of the software, at least temporarily, the websites of the forks remain online. This means that the applications themselves are still available for download. Earlier this week the team behind the Time4Popcorn fork informed us that they have gathered millions of users over the past several months, and that the application is being downloaded tens of thousands of times per day. Whether the MPAA also has plans to target the Popcorn Time fork websites remains to be seen. Source: TorrentFreak
  13. The MPAA has asked Google to remove a Reddit community from its search results over piracy concerns. The movie industry group lists the "FullLengthFilms" subreddit in a recent takedown request, alongside several notorious pirate sites. Thus far Google has refused to take the page down, and Reddit hasn't taken any action either. Every week copyright holders send millions of DMCA takedown notices to Google, hoping to make pirated movies and music harder to find. Not all copyright holders take the same approach. Where the RIAA targets millions of infringing URLs per month, the MPAA only sends out a handful of notices. Instead of using dragnet scripts to take down everything that links to infringing copies, the movie industry group specifically targets homepages of ‘rogue’ sites and other high impact targets. In the latest DMCA notice, sent last week, Reddit ended up on the list. Like many other user-generated content sites, Reddit has plenty of links to copyright infringing material. In fact, there are several sub-communities that are dedicated to finding and publishing lists to pirated material. The subreddit r/fulllengthfilms is a good example. Here, users are encouraged to post links to their favorite movies, preferably from legal sources. However, pretty much all links point to streams of pirated films including “Gravity” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The MPAA is not happy with this growing list of movies. In their most recent takedown notice they ask Google to remove the entire subreddit from its search engine, because it contains a link to a camcorded copy of “Edge of Tomorrow.” MPAA’s takedown request Interestingly, Google has declined to action the MPAA’s takedown request. It’s not clear why the search giant refused to take it down, but one of the reasons may be that the MPAA did not limit their request to the “Edge of Tomorrow” posting. Instead, the movie industry group targeted the entire subreddit. These broad takedown requests are not uncommon as most of the MPAA’s takedown notices contain homepages of download portals or streaming sites. In some cases the infringing work listed in the takedown request no longer appears on these homepages, and the MPAA often fails to list the internal page it’s supposed to link to. With this strategy the MPAA has managed to remove the homepages of several popular sites from Google’s search results, including KickassTorrents. But Google doesn’t always comply. For the most recent DMCA notice it refused to take down most links, including the Reddit one. It’s still unclear whether the MPAA also sent a takedown notice to Reddit. TorrentFreak asked Reddit for a comment on the news but we have yet to receive a response. At the time of writing the FullLengthFilms subreddit and the “Edge of Tomorrow” posting remain online. Source: TorrentFreak
  14. The MPAA is inviting academics to pitch research proposals that aim to provide insight into the copyright challenges faced by the movie industry in the digital age. Researchers are being offered a $20,000 grant for projects that address various piracy related topics, including the impact of copyright law and the effectiveness of DMCA takedown notices. Late last year a study from European researchers revealed that the Megaupload shutdown had a negative effect on the box office revenues of smaller films. The researchers suggested that the decrease in sales may be the result of a drop in word-of-mouth promotion from pirates, which affects smaller movies more since they have less advertising budget. The MPAA wasn’t happy with the media coverage the study generated and went on the defensive citing two Carnegie Mellon University studies to show that piracy harms sales. Interestingly, it failed to disclose that those findings came from research that was supported by a $100,000 grant from the MPAA. While we trust that the research is solid, the above shows that academic research plays an important role in the MPAA’s lobbying efforts. For this reason, the Hollywood group has recently started a grants program, hoping to enlist more academics to conduct copyright-related research. The MPAA is now accepting research proposals on a series of predefined topics. They include the impact of copyright law on innovation and the effectiveness of DMCA takedown notices. The best applications will be awarded a $20,000 grant. “We want to enlist the help of academics from around the world to provide new insight on a range of issues facing the content industry in the digital age,” says MPAA CEO and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd. According to the MPAA boss, academic researchers can contribute to understanding the changes the industry faces by providing unbiased insights. “We need more and better research regarding the evolving role of copyright in society. The academic community can provide unbiased observations, data analysis, historical context and important revelations about how these changes are impacting the film industry and other IP-reliant sectors,” Dodd notes. The MPAA clearly sees academic research as an important tool in their efforts to ensure that copyright protections remain in place, or are strengthened if needed. This outreach to academics may in part be fueled by what their ‘opponents’ are doing. Google, for example, is heavily supporting academic research on copyright-related projects in part to further their own interests. Both sides clearly steer researchers by giving them precise directions on the grounds they want covered. It’s now up to the academics to make sure that they don’t become pawns in a much bigger fight, and that their research is conducted and results presented in an objective manner. Source: TorrentFreak
  15. This week, MPAA chief and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd praised pirate site blockades as an important anti-piracy measure. Speaking at the IP Summit in London, Dodd said that ISP blockades are one of the most effective tools available. Does this mean that Hollywood will try to get these blacklists in place on its home turf? This week many key figures in the copyright protection and enforcement industries gathered for the International IP Enforcement Summit, organized by the UK Government. One of the main topics of discussion was Internet piracy, and how to prevent people from accessing and sharing copyrighted works without permission. Website blocking is one of the anti-piracy tools that was mentioned frequently . In recent years the UK has become a leader on this front, with the High Court ordering local ISPs to block access to dozens of popular file-sharing sites, including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents. MPAA chief Chris Dodd, who delivered a speech at the Summit, applauded the UK approach. The former U.S. Senator believes that these restrictions are helping to decrease the piracy problem. “Here in the United Kingdom, the balanced and proportionate use of civil procedures has made tremendous progress in tackling infringing websites. To date, access to over 40 pirate sites focused on infringing copyright for commercial gain, have been blocked,” Dodd said. According to Dodd these blockades have proven to be one of the most effective anti-piracy measures in the world, made possible by a provision in local copyright law. “In particular, Section 97A of the Copyright Act allowing courts to issue injunctions against service providers who know their services are being utilized for infringing purposes, has been one of the most effective tools anywhere in the world,” Dodd says. Despite the MPAA’s faith in website blockades, which is not shared by everyone, the movie group has never attempted to ask a U.S. court for a similar injunction. This is surprising since nearly all the sites that are blocked in the UK have far more users from the United States. TorrentFreak asked the MPAA to explain this lack of action, but we have yet to hear back from them. Previously we spoke to an insider who admitted that these type of ISP blockades are harder to get in place under United States law, which is one of the reasons why the copyright holders haven’t tried this yet. The issue became even more complicated after the copyright holders’ push for SOPA failed early 2012. In part, SOPA was designed to give copyright holders a shortcut to request injunctions against pirate sites. Putting the law aside, the MPAA has made it clear that it’s keen on maintaining good relationships with the Internet providers. ISPs and copyright holders are taking part in a voluntary agreement to “alert” pirates, which will undoubtedly be harmed if additional blocking demands appear on the table. For now, it seems that the MPAA and other industry groups will continue to press for more voluntary deals in the U.S. Interestingly, Dodd specifically calls for a cooperation with search engines to indirectly block pirate sites, instead of asking for a more direct blockade from ISPs. “If we convince these search engines to join our efforts to shut down illegal sites, it would be a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to protect creators,” he said. Thus far Google and other search engines have refused to remove pirate sites from their search indexes. Also, one has to wonder how effective that would be. Thus far Google has removed more than two million pages from The Pirate Bay, but the site’s traffic continues to expand regardless. But then again, even an ISP blockade is easy to circumvent, and perhaps not as effective as the MPAA claims. Source: TorrentFreak
  16. A United States District Court Judge has just granted Kim Dotcom's request to put the MPAA and RIAA civil actions against him on hold . The reprieve, which will last seven weeks, expressly allows the entertainment companies the freedom to freeze Dotcom's assets anywhere in the world if that is deemed necessary. Back in April, the MPAA’s Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Universal, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. filed a brand new lawsuit in a Virginia District Court. Targeting Kim Dotcom and his associates Mathias Ortmann and Bram Van Der Kolk, the civil case aimed to recover millions in damages said to have been caused by the now-defunct Megaupload file-storage site. The case filed by the MPAA was quickly followed by another initiated by the RIAA, with both following the pattern set by a U.S. Government criminal case already underway against Dotcom and colleagues in the United States. To avoid their clients incriminating themselves ahead of the criminal case, Megaupload’s legal team later asked a U.S. court to freeze the civil cases filed by the MPAA and RIAA. Yesterday, United States District Judge Liam O’Grady granted that Motion to Stay. However, the plaintiffs were successful in their request to have a number of conditions attached to the decision, each designed to give them freedom to embark on further legal action should they feel that’s appropriate. Firstly, Judge O’Grady’s order does not disallow the plaintiffs from effecting service on any other defendant who has not already been served. They are also free to amend their complaint as they see fit. Unsurprisingly, the thorny issue of Kim Dotcom’s assets, currently frozen by the New Zealand government pending an appeal, was also addressed. “If the New Zealand Government loses the appeal, the assets will be unfrozen, and there is a significant risk that they will then be immediately dissipated,” the studios explained in a filing last month. That concern was dealt with by Judge O’Grady in yesterday’s order by granting the studios freedom to go after Dotcom’s assets wherever they see fit. “Plaintiffs may institute and pursue any action in the United States or a foreign jurisdiction to preserve Defendants’ assets in the event that such action becomes necessary,” the Judge wrote. “The Court finds that each of Plaintiffs’ proposed conditions are reasonable under the circumstances of this case because of the possibility that Defendants’ assets abroad may become unfrozen.” As a result the case is now frozen until August 1, 2014, seven weeks from today. The same decision was made in respect of the civil case filed against Megaupload by the RIAA. Source: TorrentFreak
  17. The MPAA is concerned that innovation in the film industry will be ruined if consumers get the right to resell movies and other media purchased online. Responding to discussions in a congressional hearing this week, the MPAA warns that this move would limit consumer choices and kill innovation. This week the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing on the issue of “digital resales.” In other words, whether consumers should be allowed to sell digital videos, music files and software they purchased previously. Proponents of the rights to resell digital goods want the First Sale Doctrine to apply in the digital domain as well. However, this argument is meeting fierce resistance from the entertainment industries who see this right as a threat to their online business models. For example, the record labels previously pointed out that MP3s are simply too good to resell, as they don’t deteriorate in quality. Responding to the hearing in Washington, the MPAA also voiced its critique of the plans. According to the movie studios digital resales would hamper innovation, increase prices and decrease the availability of online film. In their view it would undo most of the innovation the Internet brought. “Critics say the movie and television industry was slow to embrace the Internet. But ironically, now that online video is ubiquitous, some of these same critics are trying to reverse time and drag the creative community—along with audiences—back into the pre-Internet era,” MPAA’s Neil Fried notes. The ability to resell movies bought on the Internet has the potential to create a huge secondary market. This would make it much cheaper for consumers to access media, and the MPAA believes therefore that content creators will be wary of making it available in the first place. “A new government mandate requiring creators to allow reselling of licensed Internet content would undermine incentives to create, reduce consumer choices, and deter innovation,” Fried argues. “Forcing creators to allow resale of Internet content they license would either require creators to substantially raise prices or discourage them from offering flexible, Internet-based models in the first place,” he adds. The MPAA believes that those who want to own movies and resell them should stick to the offline world. The physical ownership model doesn’t translate to the online world, which is better off with a licensing scheme that restricts resales. “This is a relatively new marketplace. Government intervention now, seeking to force the content community to return to a 1908 construct built around physical ownership, will only short-circuit the experimentation and innovation that is going on all around us,” Fried says. Of course there are also many people who object to the arguments of the copyright holders. John Ossenmacher, CEO of the MP3-reselling platform ReDigi, gave a testimony during the congressional hearing where he laid out a variety of counterarguments. According to Ossenmacher the content owners are trying to change consumer rights that have been in place for more than hundred years, only to guarantee maximum profit for themselves. “The First Sale doctrine is premised on a simple concept – you bought it, you own it – and it has never concerned itself with a specific format or technology, nor with the condition of the goods being resold. It establishes the commonsense principle that the creator deserves to be paid once, and then the owners, and subsequent owners, have the right to resell that good, to donate it or to give it away,” Ossenmacher said in his testimony. “It is not an extreme position to advocate that ‘you bought it, you own it.’ It is a logical, conservative position that adheres to the long-standing principles of law. It applies in every other type of good; it should apply here as well,” he added. It will be interesting to see how this debate plays out in the months to come. One thing is for certain, we haven’t heard the last of it yet. Source: TorrentFreak
  18. The company behind the world's most popular torrent client has struck an anti-piracy deal with the MPAA. Xunlei, a company backed by Google, will implement a content recognition system, ensure that MPAA content is properly licensed, and educate users on the effects of online copyright infringement. While BitTorrent Inc.’s uTorrent and Mainline products grab most of the headlines, neither are the world’s most popular torrent client. That honor falls to the Chinese-operated Xunlei or ‘Thunder’ software. As far back as 2009 the world’s leading BitTorrent trackers reported that Xunlei users accounted for more than 104 million unique users. Currently the client has an estimated 142 million users. Considering the software’s reach the news today that client owner Shenzhen Xunlei Networking Technologies has done an anti-piracy deal with the MPAA is received with some interest, not least since Xunlei is the 12th largest Internet company in China. The anti-piracy agreement The Content Protection Agreement (CPA) will see Shenzhen Xunlei actively protect MPAA content including movies and TV shows. Among other measures, the landmark deal will see Xunlei implement a video recognition system to ensure that all MPAA content being made available via Xunlei is properly licensed. The Chinese company, which is in part backed by Google, has also agreed to educate its users on the effects of online piracy and where to obtain officially licensed copies of MPAA works. Xunlei operates a number of online ventures, including a streaming service with 136 million monthly users, so it seems logical that the deal will encompass its entire portfolio. Clearly an agreement without ‘teeth’ across all products wouldn’t be good for either Xunlei or the MPAA. The big question now, however, is what pushed the companies together. The answer, as always, is money. MPAA hindered Xunlei’s IPO Early 2011 Xunlei announced plans to go public with a listing on NASDAQ, the largest U.S stock market. But by November the whole thing had been canceled, with a poor economic climate held to blame. However, in the background the issue of copyright infringement was burning away. According to reports in Chinese media, in April 2013 the MPAA demanded that Xunlei install a software plug-in to block its copyrighted content from appearing online. However, Xunlei was only prepared to install it into a video player, not their other software. Talks collapsed, legal action loomed, and the IPO dream was shattered. Clearly the company would need to regroup and consider its options. Improving its image for a second run In March 2014 Xunlei hosted the Chinese Internet Copyright Protection Action Plan conference. A former employee of the company who spoke on condition of anonymity said Xunlei did this to improve its image and put its infringement issues behind it. “You must make a clean break with the pirates,” he told local media. Just under two weeks ago came the clearest signs yet that Xunlei was ready to move towards that goal. On May 23rd Xunlei Ltd filed a registration with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO of its U.S. dollar shares. The offering price was proposed at a maximum of $100 million under the symbol ‘XNET’. But while doing a deal with the MPAA might stop Hollywood hindering Xunlei’s IPO again, the company’s filing makes worrying reading for potential investors. Risky business “Even if we comply with all of our obligations under the content protection agreement, the implementation of content protection measures may affect our users’ experience or otherwise make our services and products less competitive than those of our competitors, which could in turn materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations,” the company writes. “In the event that the content protection agreement is terminated or we are otherwise deemed not to be fully compliant with its material terms, the content providers may initiate a lawsuit or other proceeding against us, including for any past claims that they might otherwise have made prior to entering into the agreement. In addition, other third party content providers may still initiate lawsuits or other proceedings against us.” A lack of compliance with the most basic of U.S. copyright protections raises yet another red flag. “We do not currently satisfy all of the statutory requirements of any DMCA safe harbor. If we are ever held to be subject to United States copyright law, that could increase our risk of direct or indirect copyright liability for our resource discovery, acceleration or other services,” Xunlei explains. Despite the concerns, others are prepared to put up big money. Last month Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi pumped $310 million into Xunlei boosting its share of the company to around 27%. With a fresh tagline of “more than just downloads,” Xunlei will be hoping for an exciting future in the United States – without the MPAA on its back. Source: TorrentFreak
  19. The MPAA is urging lawmakers to protect young Americans from the "numerous hazards on pirate sites." The movie industry group believes that young people may not be aware of the risks they face when visiting these sites and hopes that Senators will be able to address this cyber threat appropriately. One of the rising anti-piracy complaints of entertainment industry companies is how so-called ‘pirate’ sites are funded by advertising, both from legitimate and illegitimate advertisers. Last month, for example, a report backed by the entertainment industries claimed that 90 percent of the top pirate sites link to malware or other unwanted software. In addition, two-thirds of the websites were said to link to credit card scams. Helped by these numbers, copyright holders and anti-piracy groups are now framing torrent sites, streaming hubs and cyberlockers as a cyber threat. This presents them with a new angle to urge lawmakers to target these sites and services. Last week the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations organized a hearing on the “hidden hazards” of online adverting. For the MPAA, this offered an ideal opportunity to chime in with their piracy angle. “As the Senators consider steps to address the safety and security of online advertisements, we hope they will also examine the extensive growth of these hazards on sites that offer infringing movies, television shows and other creative content,” MPAA writes. The MPAA notes that several recent reports pointed out how these pirate sites are rife with malicious ads and urges lawmakers to take steps to address the issue. Not for Hollywood’s financial benefit, but to protect Americans from malware and scams. “As the Subcommittee considers steps to address the safety and security of online advertisements, we urge the members to examine these reports and others which detail the numerous hazards on pirate sites,” MPAA notes. “Unfortunately, these illicit sites continue to attract large numbers of Americans, especially young people who might not be aware of the harms they could easily encounter,” they add. So there we have it. The MPAA, who are generally speaking not too concerned about the well-being of people who “steal” their work, are now asking Senators to take them under their protection. Apparently, the MPAA don’t want pirates to catch viruses or run into credit card scams. A humbly presented goal, but of course it’s just another obfuscated attempt to disconnect ‘pirate’ sites from their revenue streams. Considering the recent push against advertising networks, including the London Police pirate site blacklist, this won’t be the last we’ve heard of this. Source: TorrentFreak
  20. Megaupload's legal team has asked the federal court of Virginia to freeze the cases filed by the movie and music industries last month. According to Dotcom's lawyers, this is needed pending the criminal case against the defendants, in order to protect their Fifth Amendment rights. Following in the footsteps of the U.S. Government, this month the major record labels and Hollywood’s top movie studios filed lawsuits against Megaupload, Kim Dotcom, and his colleagues. The respective cases are strikingly similar and all built on the same evidence. The RIAA and MPAA repeat many of the claims that were laid out in the criminal case, and each demand millions of dollars in damages. However, the fact that the suits all deal with the same issue is a problem according to Megaupload’s legal team. If the civil cases brought by the movie and music industries move ahead, this may directly influence the position of Dotcom and his colleagues in the criminal case. In a motion for a stay, the lawyers ask the court to freeze both civil cases pending the criminal proceedings. They argue that the accused may otherwise be forced to implicate themselves, which would violate their rights. “A stay is warranted here to avoid burdening the Fifth Amendment rights of the individual defendants,” Megaupload’s lawyers write. “During pleading, discovery, and trial, these individual defendants cannot be forced to risk implicating themselves in the crimes alleged in the Criminal Action in order to provide a defense to Megaupload in the civil case,” they add. The lawyers ask to freeze the cases until August 1, when the two-week extradition hearing in New Zealand has reached its conclusion. Megaupload previously requested the same in their civil case against Microhits, with success. If the criminal case continues after the extradition hearing, the lawyers will most likely ask to extend the stay. According to Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken the criminal case may be over sooner than later. TorrentFreak previously spoke to Rothken who believes that these RIAA and MPAA cases might show that the entertainment industries and the U.S. Government have little faith in the criminal proceedings. In any case, Megaupload’s legal troubles, civil or criminal, are expected to drag on for years. Source: TorrentFreak
  21. Mega.co.nz, the cloud storage company founded by Kim Dotcom, has seen the number of uploads triple in the past six months. Mega users now upload a total of half a billion files per month. According to Kim Dotcom, the MPAA and RIAA deserve some credit for the unprecedented growth. Acting on a lead from the entertainment industry, the U.S. Government shut down Megaupload early 2012. Exactly a year later Kim Dotcom made a comeback with a new file-storage venture. Together with several old colleagues and new investors, Mega was launched. The new service, which has a heavy focus on privacy and security, has expanded ever since. This morning Dotcom posted an image showing how user uploads have increased more than 300% over the past six months. The graph doesn’t specify the scale, but the New Zealand-based entrepreneur told TF that the service now processes over half a billion uploads per month. That’s more than 10,000 files per minute…. “We are experiencing massive growth. We can’t add new servers and bandwidth fast enough,” Dotcom tells us. According to Mega’s founder there are several factors that have contributed to the increasing interest in the service. Ironically, Dotcom believes that the same people who destroyed Megaupload are now partly responsible for the success of Mega. “There are several growth factors. People spend more time at the computer due to the cold weather, the lawsuits by MPAA and RIAA which advertised Mega, and the ongoing advertising from the dumbest ever U.S. Department of Justice case,” Dotcom says. “Some users get pleasure from the fact that the US government and Hollywood hate Mega’s success and that I continue to expose them. The more people use Mega the more powerful our defense becomes. So, why wouldn’t Mega grow like crazy?” he adds. The continuing debate about the NSA’s mass-surveillance is also likely to have helped Mega. Unlike other popular cloud hosting services, Mega encrypts all stored files so they can’t be snooped on. Similarly, the fact that former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined Dropbox may have also had an impact according to Dotcom. During the months to come Mega will work on their recently announced IPO, which the company hopes to complete next year. In addition, the cloud hosting service will roll out many new features, all focused on counter surveillance. “The people of the Internet love us. And we haven’t even launched our encrypted communication suite yet. That’s like a point-to-point encrypted Skype on steroids, running in your browser,” Dotcom tells us, teasing Mega’s upcoming tools. With the ongoing legal battle against the U.S. Government and civil cases against the MPAA and RIAA, Mega is guaranteed a regular place in the spotlight. In any case, we certainly haven’t heard the last of Dotcom and his team yet. Source: TorrentFreak
  22. Following the announcement that the MPAA had filed a lawsuit against Megaupload and Kim Dotcom, the movie studios' General Counsel Steven Fabrizio made several appearances in the media. Most memorable was an interview with Radio New Zealand, where he was surprised to hear Kim Dotcom on the other end of the line. Earlier this week the MPAA filed a lawsuit against Megaupload, Kim Dotcom and two former employees of the defunct file-storage service. In their complaint the movie studios repeat many of the claims that were laid out in the criminal case while demanding millions of dollars in damages. But according to Dotcom the lawsuit is just a desperate attempt at an asset-grab by the MPAA because the criminal case against Megaupload is going to fail. “The criminal case is failing. There will be no extradition. They are now trying to get at our seized assets with civil forfeitures. It’s a move of desperation,” Dotcom tells TF. MPAA General Counsel Steven Fabrizio disagrees, and has told his side of the story to many news outlets this week. Dotcom and Fabrizio are usually not heard at the same time, but in a rare interview with Radio New Zealand the two bumped heads. Fabrizio was seemingly under the impression that he was doing a solo interview, but that changed when the reporter informed him that Dotcom was listening in on a second line. When she asked the MPAA lawyer whether he wanted to discuss the case with Dotcom there was a brief silence, but he eventually agreed. http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/ntn/ntn-20140410-0948-hollywood_studios_launch_law_suit_against_kim_dotcom-048.mp3 First MPAA’s General Counsel had the opportunity to explain what Megaupload did wrong and why. In line with their complaint, Fabrizio described the file-storage site as a business that was set up to facilitate and encourage copyright infringement. “Megaupload was never a cloud storage service to begin with,” Fabrizio noted. “From its birth to its death, it was a service that was designed to profit from copyright infringement, and in fact, it did profit handsomely from copyright infringement.” “The proof of the pudding that it was not a storage service, is that almost 98 percent of the people who used Megaupload were not premium users. If you weren’t a premium user, and your content wasn’t downloaded frequently enough, then Megaupload would delete it,” he added. Dotcom, who in private refers to the MPAA’s counsel as “Fabricatio,” because he is “script writing and ‘fabricating’ Hollywood’s science fiction lawsuits”, later refuted the claim that Megaupload deleted files uploaded by free users. “That is a blatant lie,” Dotcom said. “We have not purged any files from Megaupload for many years. If you were a non-premium user and you had an account with us that was free, your files would not be deleted.” Fabrizio’s second argument was that Megaupload offered a rewards program which encouraged people to share large video files. Again, Dotcom contested this claim by pointing out that people only got paid for files smaller than 100 megabytes. Megaupload’s founder conceded that users could circumvent the limits by uploading split archives, but he stressed that the restriction was specifically put in place to discourage copyright infringement. The third allegation Fabrizio made was that Megaupload employees had private conversations where they allegedly discussed the “pirate” status of their work. “Internally they referred to themselves as modern pirates. Some of the employees and some of the co-defendants actually uploaded infringing popular movies themselves, so that they could be downloaded by others,” the MPAA’s top lawyer noted. Again, Dotcom disagreed and explained that the “pirates” the employee referred to were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. “Yeah, well that’s complete nonsense, right. One of our employees who was admin staff and a developer has chatted with our CTO and he watched a documentary called Pirates of Silicon Valley. That was a movie about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and how they stole the ideas from each other,” Dotcom said. “He then made this remark to [the CTO] saying we are modern-day pirates, comparing himself to the attitude those guys had, simply because they were copying from each other and we were copying from our competitors and vice versa,” he added. Responding to the reporter’s question on why he wouldn’t go to the U.S. voluntarily to stand trial, Dotcom said that he offered to do so, but only on the condition that he would get access to his funds as well as bail, which the Department of Justice refused. The reporter then switched back to Fabrizio, who didn’t seem to believe much of what Dotcom was saying. “Mr. Dotcom can talk all he wants about his excuses, but the reality is that you can say anything you want if you’re not constrained by the truth of the facts that you’re saying,” Fabrizio said. Of course, the same also applies to the MPAA and Mr. Fabrizio… The interview is an intriguing face-off, and the first time ever that the MPAA and Dotcom have gone head-to-head. It probably wont be the last time either, although the venue will very much depend on how the criminal proceedings and the civil case progress. Source: TorrentFreak
  23. New data revealed by the MPAA shows that frequent moviegoers own more smartphones and other technological devices. The MPAA notes that the movie industry should therefore explore fresh options to use these devices to drive new visitors to theaters. At the same time, however, the movie group is warning theater owners over the piracy-enabling capabilities of smartphones. The MPAA just released their latest box-office statistics. Despite the continuing threat of online piracy the numbers once again show an increase in revenue worldwide, up to a record-breaking $35.9 billion in 2013. In addition to the revenue increase, the movie group emphasizes the importance of new technology in expanding its audience. The MPAA stresses that frequent moviegoers are also technology fanatics, with nearly three-quarters owning at least four new devices. Smartphones are particularly popular among movie fans, and the MPAA notes that the movie industry can do more to use this technology to boost theater attendance even further. “We need to keep exploring fresh ways of leveraging our new technology to drive traffic to your theaters,” MPAA CEO Chris Dodd said at The Colosseum inside Caesar’s Palace where the findings were presented. “We can embrace technology, and use it to complement our offerings….A smartphone can make more content available, but it will never be able to surpass the shared experience that you deliver to every person who sits in your theaters,” he added. Moviegoers own more tech devices (source: mpaa.org) With the release of these statistics the MPAA wants to show that technology is not just a threat to the movie industry, but also an opportunity. While this is certainly true, the statements are not without conflict. Using smartphones to drive more people to the movies also presents a problem, as the MPAA doesn’t want them to be used inside the theater. The MPAA has previously published a set of anti-piracy practices movie theater owners should adhere to. This includes a very skeptical stance against any device that can be used to capture video, including smartphones. “The MPAA recommends that theaters adopt a Zero Tolerance policy that prohibits the video or audio recording and the taking of photographs of any portion of a movie,” MPAA states. “Theater managers should immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they suspect prohibited activity is taking place. Do not assume that a cell phone or digital camera is being used to take still photographs and not a full-length video recording,” the group adds. Past anecdotes show that theaters take these recommendations very seriously. A few years ago a girl was arrested for recording a 20 second clip from the movie Transformers on her phone, and more recently a Google Glass wearer was handed over to the authorities, without recording anything. The above is a classical example of the dual role technology plays for the entertainment industries. Nearly every new invention poses both threats and opportunities, and the challenge is to find the right balance between them. Source: TorrentFreak
  24. The MPAA has updated its anti-piracy guidelines for movie theaters, providing tips and tricks on how to catch “camming” pirates on the spot. Among other things the movie group wants theaters to forbid the use of mobile phone cameras, and be vigilant of suspect cup holders and cameras built into eyeglass frames. To increase motivation, theater employees who bust a movie thief can look forward to a $500 reward. To prevent movie piracy, theaters nowadays are becoming more secure than some airports. During pre-release screenings and premieres employees are often equipped with night-vision goggles and instructed to closely monitor movie goers. In some cases members of the public are instructed to hand over all recording-capable devices including phones, or even their candy. While these measures are not always appreciated by the average movie goer they appear to have had some effect, as so-called “CAM” releases are becoming more rare. Perhaps motivated by this success, the MPAA has now updated its “Best Practices to Prevent Film Theft” guide for movie theaters. In the revised guide the MPAA has stripped the billions of dollars in claimed losses that were included previously, but stresses that illegal camcording remains a significant problem. The movie industry group therefore advises theater owners to strictly prohibit the use of equipment that can record audio, video, or even take photographs. “The MPAA recommends that theaters adopt a Zero Tolerance policy that prohibits the video or audio recording and the taking of photographs of any portion of a movie,” MPAA states. The best practices now also clarify that when a suspect individual is spotted, theater employees should take immediate action. Even when in doubt, the local police should be notified as soon as possible. “Theater managers should immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they suspect prohibited activity is taking place. Do not assume that a cell phone or digital camera is being used to take still photographs and not a full-length video recording.” “Let the proper authorities determine what laws may have been violated and what enforcement action should be taken.” The MPAA further stresses that all possible recording equipment locations in the theater should be considered, including cup holders. In addition, employees should be alert on possible concealed recording equipment, as often seen in the movies. “Movie thieves are very ingenious when it comes to concealing cameras. It may be as simple as placing a coat or hat over the camera, or as innovative as a specially designed concealment device (e.g., a small camera built into eyeglass frames or a camera built into the lid of a beverage container).” While it’s not a new recommendation, the MPAA also notes that movie theater employees must be wary of co-workers who invite friends into the theater, as these may be up to no good. “Does one member of your staff frequently have ‘friends’ joining them at the theater at odd times? Look for non-employees coming or going out of the projectionist’s booth or those arriving at odd hours claiming to be ‘friends’ of an employee or manager,” MPAA writes. The MPAA adds that even third-party security firms should be carefully vetted before they are hired for a job, as there may be rogue agents embedded in these teams. While all forms of camcording are a problem for the movie industry, the most stringent security procedures should be applied for pre-release screenings. For these events, theater owners are advised to post signs in- and outside the theater explaining that people who record movies “will be prosecuted.” Pre-release screenings are also events where night vision binoculars should be used to inspect movie-goers. In addition, “low light security measures” may also have to be deployed to augment security. The MPAA doesn’t explain what these measures entail, but they were not mentioned in the previous guide. “If your theater maintains night vision devices or low light binoculars, please employ these during the screening in the darkened auditorium,” MPAA writes. “In the event that MPAA Investigators have been requested to augment the theater security for the event, additional low light security measures may be implemented.” Finally, movie theater employees can score themselves a $500 reward for catching a movie pirate. This Take Action! Reward was introduced a decade ago and is meant to motivate personnel to be more vigilant. How many of these movie pirate bounties have been claimed since is unknown. The latest version of MPAA’s “Best Practices to Prevent Film Theft” is available here, including an application for the Take Action! Reward. Source: TorrentFreak
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