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  3. SET TV, which stands accused of selling pirate IPTV subscriptions, has stopped responding in the lawsuit filed against the company by several Hollywood studios, Amazon, and Netflix. The company's lawyer has also withdrawn from the case due to a lack of payments and the company is now in default, facing hefty damages. Last year the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the global anti-piracy alliance featuring several Hollywood studios, Amazon, Netflix, and other entertainment companies, sued Florida-based SET Broadcast, LLC. The company offered a popular software-based IPTV service and also sold pre-loaded set-top boxes. While it was marketed as a legal service, according to the ACE members, Set TV’ssoftware was little more than a pirate tool, allowing buyers to stream copyright-infringing content. “Defendants market and sell subscriptions to ‘Setvnow,’ a software application that Defendants urge their customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted motion pictures and television shows,” the complaint read. The ACE members were not the only rightsholders that complained. June last year Dish Network tagged on with another copyright infringement lawsuit against the company, and soon after, the IPTV service went offline. This was a blow to SET TV’s more than 180,000 subscribers and the company itself was hit hard as well. Last November it reached a settlement with Dish, agreeing to pay more than $90 million in damages and sign over its domain name. The case against ACE is not over yet though. Over the past months, it moved into the discovery phase and the copyright holders requested to depose owner SET TV owner Jason Labossiere and its employee Nelson Johnson, who are both listed as defendants. However, both parties failed to respond, as did SET TV as a company. Meanwhile, the relationship with their attorney Joseph Shapiro also went south. Outstanding invoices were left unpaid which prompted Shapiro to withdraw from the case. “Defendants have not paid invoices for attorney fees for more than five months and are unwilling to make any payment at this time or to commit to any payment plan,” the court was informed. “Additionally, relations between Defendants and Mr. Shapiro have degraded such that it is no longer feasible for Mr. Shapiro to represent Defendants in this case.” In April the court agreed to remove the attorney from the case, instructing SET TV to find new counsel. Despite this clear instruction from the court, none of the defendants responded. This left the ACE members with few other options than to request an entry of defaultagainst Set Broadcast. This was entered by a court clerk a few days ago, and if the company remains dark, it will likely lose the case. Now that the company is in default the copyright holders will likely submit a motion for a default judgment, proposing what they believe is an appropriate damages amount. This will likely amount to millions of dollars. Considering the earlier $90 million settlement with Dish, it’s doubtful that there is any money left to take.
  4. The mysterious blocking efforts of popular file-hosting service Zippyshare continue to expand. After UK and German users were 'forbidden' from accessing the site, Spanish visitors are now getting the same treatment. The operators of the site, meanwhile, remain silent. Founded in 2006, file-hosting service Zippyshare has been around for well over a decade. The sharing hub, with an estimated 100 million users, is listed among the 500 most-visited sites on the Internet. However, in recent months Zippyshare began selectively closing its doors in several regions. In March we reported that UK visitors had been blocked, and a few weeks later German visitors got the same treatment. Instead of being welcomed by the regular homepage, they see a “forbidden” error in their browser, suggesting that the operators have specifically banned these regions. Forbidden! This month Zippyshare’s mysterious blocking efforts expanded to Spain. Visitors from Southern European countries, or anyone who accesses the site from a Spanish IP-address, can no longer access the site. The error message doesn’t explain what’s going on which has resulted in some simply presuming that the site has shut down, voluntarily or not. That’s certainly not the case though. Dead? Others believe Zippyshare is blocked or banned in Spain, noting that it can still be accessed through a French VPN server. Banned? While that’s closer to the truth, the site isn’t being blocked by ISPs. On the contrary, it appears that Zippyshare is responsible for the blocking here. For some reason, people from the UK, Germany, and Spain are no longer welcome. We tried to get a comment from the site’s operators this week but have yet to receive a response. Our previous inquiries also remained unanswered. One likely explanation is that Zippyshare took this step after some kind of legal pressure. It wouldn’t be the first time that a website has done this. Previously, several stream-rippers also blocked UK traffic, presumably over similar concerns. While we’re not aware of any concrete legal issues, the RIAA did report Zippyshare as a ‘notorious’ pirate site to the US Trade Representative late last year. That said, the site remains freely available in the US. Whatever the reason for or source of the localized blockade is, people can always find a workaround. The site can still be accessed through a VPN, as long as it’s not from a server in one of the blocked countries.
  5. The RIAA appears to be stepping up its campaign against sites offering features to rip content from YouTube. The music industry group has obtained permission from the court to force Cloudflare to unmask the operators of at least 14 new platforms, a handful of which appear to be straightforward pirate sites. For some time, the world’s leading record labels have complained that YouTube doesn’t pay the going rate for musical content streamed to its users. However, when consumers use so-called YouTube-ripping sites to obtain content, it’s claimed that the position worsens. By obtaining music in this fashion, users are able to keep local libraries which further deplete YouTube hits and by extension, revenue generated by the labels. To plug this hole, the RIAA is working to identify the operators of leading YouTube-ripping platforms. Via DMCA subpoenas, the industry group has been forcing CDN service Cloudflare and domain registries such as NameCheap to hand over the personal details of the people behind these tools. Two new DMCA subpoenas, obtained by the RIAA in recent days, reveal an apparent escalation in this activity. Mainly targeting Cloudflare but in one instance also NameCheap, the RIAA demands private information relating to several sites. 10Convert.com With around two million visitors per month (SimilarWeb stats), this platform has a prime focus on YouTube-ripping. The majority of its traffic comes from Brazil (69%), with the United States accounting for a little over 2% of its users. Amoyshare.com Enjoying around 4.6m visits per month with most of its visitors coming from the United States (15%), this platform’s focus is offering downloadable tools that enable users to grab videos and music from a wide range of platforms. However, Amoyshare also offers “AnyUTube”, an online converter which is the element the RIAA is complaining about. Anything2MP3.cc This site, which enjoys a relatively low 300,000 visits per month, appears to be dual-use. While it is possible to download content from YouTube, Anything2MP3 also offers users the ability to convert their own audio files in the browser. IMP3Juices.com With around six million visits per month, this platform is one of the more popular ones targeted by the RIAA. Around 12.5% of the site’s traffic comes from Italy, with the US following behind with just under 10%. The site functions like a ‘pirate’ download portal, with users able to search for artists and download tracks. However, the RIAA provides a URL which reveals that the site also has a YouTube to MP4 conversion feature. Indeed, it seems possible that much of the site’s content is obtained from YouTube. BigConverter.com Down at the time of writing, possibly as a result of the subpoena, this site offered downloading functionality for a range of sites, from YouTube and Facebook through to Twitter, Vimeo, Vevo, Instagram, Dailymotion, Metacafe, VK, AOL, GoogleDrive and Soundcloud. YouTubeMP4.to Enjoying around 7.7 million visits per month, YouTubeMP4.to is a straightforward YouTube video downloader. Almost 23% of its traffic comes from the United States with the UK just behind at close to 11%. QDownloader.net This platform has perhaps the most comprehensive offering of those targeted. It claims to be able to download content from 800 sites, of which YouTube is just one. With more than 12 million visits per month, it’s not difficult to see why QDownloader has made it onto the RIAA’s hit list. GenYouTube.net Another big one, this multi-site downloader platform attracts around seven million visits per month. The majority of its traffic comes from India (14%), with the United States following behind with around 12%. Break.TV For reasons that aren’t immediately clear, YouTube and SoundCloud downloader Break.TV has lost a lot of its monthly traffic since late 2018. From a high edging towards three million visits per month, it now enjoys just over 1.6 million. Interestingly the site says it must only be used to obtain Creative Commons licensed material. MP3XD.com In common with IMP3Juices.com, MP3XD.com appears to be focused on offering pirate MP3 downloads rather than straightforward ripping services. However, its content does appear to have been culled from YouTube. Given that it defaults to Spanish, it seems to target Latin America. Indeed, with close to 10 million visits per month, almost a third hail from Mexico, with Venezuela and Argentina following behind. DL-YouTube-MP3.net This platform is a straightforward YouTube-ripping site, offering downloads of both video and audio content. It is one of the lower-trafficked sites on the list, with around 870,000 visits per month with most of its traffic (38%) coming from France. ConvertBox.net With around 150,000 visits, ConvertBox is the smallest platform targeted by the RIAA in this batch. It offers conversion features for YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and SoundCloud via its website and mobile apps. Around a fifth of its traffic comes from France. Downloaders.io Another multi-downloader, Downloaders.io offers tools to rip content from a number of platforms, YouTube included. It’s traffic has been up and down since the start of the year but has averaged around 200K visits per month. Close to 30% of traffic hails from the United States. Hexupload.net A relative newcomer, this site doesn’t appear to fit into the ripping or general pirate site niche. Down at the time of writing, this 270,000 visit per month platform appears to have acted as a file upload site, from which users could generate revenue per download. Cloudflare and NameCheap will now be required to hand over the personal details they have on the users behind all of these sites. As usual, that will include names, addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and more. It isn’t clear what the RIAA has planned for these platforms but since the request was made by the group’s Vice-President Online Piracy, it doesn’t take much imagination to come up with a few ideas. This latest move by the RIAA follows similar action against several other sites detailed in our earlier reports (1,2,3). The RIAA’s letters to Cloudflare and NameCheap can be found here and here.
  6. Leading Kodi add-on resource TVAddons has gone through some rough times in recent years. The site's founder was sued in the US and Canada, but despite the legal pressure, it remains online today. While some expected the 'cleaned up' addon repository to languish, it still 'serves' millions of people per month. Dedicated streaming set-top boxes, many of which are running on Kodi, have become increasingly popular over the past several years. The Kodi software itself is perfectly legal, but many third-party add-ons complement it to offer access to pirated movies, TV-shows, and live-streaming. These ‘pirate’ add-ons can be found on a variety of sites and resources. Some are blatantly offering infringing content, but it’s not always clear what’s permitted and what’s not. TVAddons, a popular repository of third-party Kodi add-ons, learned this the hard way. Previously the site used to offer many problematic add-ons. This lead to lawsuits in both the US and Canada, after which the company cleaned up its site and tightened its policies. When the site returned, during the summer of 2017, it had to start from scratch. Since some of the most popular add-ons were removed, many people thought, or even hoped, that the comeback would be destined to fail. However, this is not the case. New statistics released by TVAddons show that its repository is still widely used. “There are many groups that wish to see TV ADDONS die. They include Hollywood, copyright bullies, preloaded box sellers, paid IPTV sellers, Kodi ‘blogs,’ and probably cyber-lockers too. They’d be free to continue their profit-seeking, without us getting in the way,” TVAddons says. “Unfortunately for the haters, we aren’t going anywhere. We continue to grow, maintaining a healthy number of daily active users.” The site revealed its most recent ‘visitor’ statistics for May. These are not site visits, but the number of connections that ping TVAddons servers by using its add-ons. Last month, TVAddons received up to 1.76 million unique calls to its update server per day, and over 14 million for the entire month. This means that every 24 hours, roughly one-and-a-half million ‘Kodi boxes’ with their add-ons are online, checking for updates. TVAddons repo stats for May 2019 These numbers are indeed quite significant. However, what TVAddons doesn’t mention is that they are down quite a bit compared to a few years ago, before the legal trouble started. During September 2016, TVAddons had roughly 24.7 million users a month and a rough average of 5.6 million per day. This shows that daily usage has dropped significantly. The number of website visits also shows a downward trend, although that’s never been very high. According to the TVAddons team, this is in part due to the removal of the old add-on library. “We lost website ranking when we upgraded our site, because our old add-on library is down which had over 800 pages in it. We have the new and hugely upgraded version almost ready to go public,” TVAddons informs TorrentFreak. It is clear, however, that TVAddons isn’t done yet. Since the legal trouble started it has settled its U.S. lawsuit with Dish. However, the Canadian lawsuit through which the repository lost its old domain, remains ongoing. That lawsuit is not a threat to the current site, according to TVAddons. The suit in question targets TVAddons’ founder Adam Lackman who has since distanced himself from the Kodi-addon repository. “There’s no update on the Canadian lawsuit yet, but it’s really Adam Lackman’s personal problem at this point. We continue to support him as much as we possibly can, but his lawsuit has no bearing on our community,” TVAddons says. While there are no official figures available, the interest in Kodi, in general, appears to be waning. Traffic to the official Kodi site is dropping and the number of Kodi searches on Google is on a downward spiral too.
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