Paradox

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  1. 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 The company's lawyer has also withdrawn from the case due to a lack of payments and the company is now in default, facing hefty damages.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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Publishing giant Shogakukan has obtained a DMCA subpoena compelling YouTube to hand over the personal details of several alleged manga pirates, including their names, addresses, IP logs, and financial information. However, significant details in the subpoena could have even broader consequences. Users of YouTube upload millions of pieces of content to the platform every month, much of it without incident or irritation to third-parties. However, there are those who upload copyright content, most of it music and videos, that infringe on the rights of the original owners. When that happens, copyright holders can file claims with YouTube to have the content removed, via the platform’s Content ID system or by filing a manual claim. Users are generally aware that these complaints have the potential to lead to a ‘strike’ against their accounts but a publishing giant in Japan seems to want to take things much further. Founded in 1922, Shogakukan Inc. is one of Japan’s largest publishers offering more than 60 magazines, 8,000 books, and 13,000 manga titles (comics/graphic novels), to name a few. It’s also part owner of Viz Media, the largest publisher of comic books and graphic novels in the United States. Shogakukan’s manga publications are often pirated in digital formats (PDF documents, for example) but they also get uploaded to YouTube. These take the form of videos, often set to music, featuring static views of the pages of each title, timed for easy reading. YouTube users who uploaded the company’s content in this fashion now need to look over their shoulders. On May 24, lawyers acting for Shogakukan requested a DMCA subpoena at a California district court to help it identify several YouTube channel operators who allegedly uploaded images of the company’s content. DMCA subpoenas are not reviewed by a judge and only require a signature from a court clerk. As a result, Shogakukan may shortly be in receipt of some very sensitive information, at least according to its letter to YouTube. In addition to requiring YouTube to disable access to the infringing works as listed by the publisher, the Google-owned video platform must also hand over the personal details of several channel operators identified as LNDA, Kile Russo, Anime FightClub, and Optimistic Neko, among others. The subpoena requires YouTube to hand over information it holds on the alleged infringers “from the time of user registration with any and all of the Infringer’s Accounts”, including names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, IP address logs, account and credit card numbers and the names of financial institutions connected to them. According to the subpoena, the information above shall be obtained “from any and all sources” including YouTube accounts, Google AdSense accounts, “or any other service accounts(s) registered with or linked to the infringer’s account” with YouTube. Interestingly, however, the term “infringer” appears to apply to a broader range of YouTube users than just the handful of individuals listed in the subpoena. The letter contains a list of Shogakukan works and then states that, in addition to the named channels/users, YouTube must hand over the details of “any other users registered with www.youtube.com who uploaded and/or posted any Infringing Work specified under the column entitled as “Infringing Work” in Exhibit A.” Exhibit A (DMCA subpoena to YouTube) Given the broad nature of the subpoena, it seems that YouTube is not only being asked to provide targeted information but is also required to work pro-actively by searching for the content in question and then handing over the personal details of anyone who may have uploaded it. While the DMCA subpoena process may be quick, a judge’s experience might have proven valuable in this case, given its potential scope. The subpoena and associated documents can be found here (1,2)
  6. A new reported agreement between the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice brings the threat of antitrust action a bit closer to reality. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appears before a Senate hearing about privacy and election meddling on Capitol Hill on April 11, 2018.David Butow / for NBC News file June 3, 2019, 12:33 PM EDT / Source: CNBC.com By Lauren Feiner, CNBC and Sara Salinas, CNBC Shares of leading tech giants slid Monday on reports that antitrust regulators are taking steps that could lead to greater oversight. Shares of Amazon fell more than 4 percent Monday following a Washington Post report that the top U.S. antitrust enforcement agencies have a new agreement over tech oversight. The drop shaved about $35 billion from its market cap, bringing it to $839 billion. Shares of Facebook were down Monday morning, but slid even further after The Wall Street Journal reported that the FTC will be able to examine the effect of Facebook’s practices on digital competition. View image on Twitter 104 people are talking about this Twitter Ads info and privacy The stock closed the day down 7.5 percent following the report, shaving more than $33 billion from its market cap and bringing it to about $472 billion. Facebook is already under investigation by the FTC over its handling of user data and has said it is expecting a fine of up to $5 billion. Shares of Google parent company Alphabet finished the day down more than 6 percent after The Wall Street Journalreported the Justice Department is readying an antitrust investigation. The stock lost about $47 billion from its market cap, bringing it to around $721 billion. Apple also declined on Monday after Reuters reported the Justice Department has been given jurisdiction to probe the company’s practices as part of a broad review into potential anti-competitive behavior among big tech companies. The stock dropped about 1 percent following the report, after trading higher earlier in the day. Apple and CEO Tim Cook are presenting updates to the company’s central software at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Antitrust regulation has remained a distant threat in recent years as scandals like Cambridge Analytica brought the scale of tech power into focus for the public. In the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, “break up big tech” has become a rallying cry for some, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. But a new reported agreement between the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice brings that threat a bit closer to reality. The FTC will take the lead on oversight of Amazon, which the DOJ will have greater jurisdiction over Google, according to the Post. The FTC previously closed an investigation of Google without taking action, but now the DOJ will take another look into Google’s practices in search and other areas, according to the Journal. Lauren Feiner, CNBC Sara Salinas, CNBC
  7. A veteran uploader of cracked software to sites like The Pirate Bay and 1337x says that nine years of uploads have resulted in millions of downloads. 'Thumper' began on TPB in April 2010, later achieving 'Trusted Uploader" status. The motivation? "Sharing is Caring," she insists. Probably not Thumper Every week, millions of pirates head off to popular torrent sites for their software fix. Whether they’re looking for the latest operating systems, graphics tools, or DVD/Blu-ray burning software, most things are available for free download. What most people never question is why these tools are available for free and indeed, who puts them online. Today we can put a little meat on those bones. We recently spoke with Thumper, aka ThumperTM, one of the longest-standing uploaders on public torrent sites like The Pirate Bay and 1337x. But this isn’t just any uploader. Thumper is responsible for almost 1,000 torrent uploads over the past nine years, leading to millions of downloads across the Internet. Thumper identifies as female (impossible to confirm, but we’ll proceed on that basis) and sports the profile picture as seen top right. It’s an image used by many Internet users so probably isn’t an accurate depiction. Thumper also claims to be from Switzerland but in this game, such ‘facts’ should be taken with a pinch of salt alongside a knowingly obvious nod to security. What cannot be denied, however, is the popularity of Thumper’s torrents. If we take her Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2016 release as an example, that has received more than 801,000 downloads on 1337x alone. 801,864 downloads on 1337x alone “This torrent has been download a few million times from all sites, because Office is one of the must-have programs for most of us,” Thumper informs TF. Of course, not all torrents are this popular but Thumper’s history goes back around 14 years, when torrents weren’t even a priority for her. Things began on so-called “one-click” hosting sites in 2005, with a progression to torrents in 2007. “I started uploading torrents at H33t, Demonoid, 1337x, ThePirateBay, and RARBG. Then I started my own site in 2010 (ThumperDC.com and TechTools.NET). Now all of those sites redirect to our legit Windows forum, TheWindowsForum.com,” she explains. Over the past 12 years, Thumper’s torrents (mainly Windows software uploads) have spread far and wide. She has been uploading on The Pirate Bay since April 2010 and on that site alone has a confirmed 946 torrents, as the private user panel screenshot below shows. 946 torrents at the time of writing The Pirate Bay is obviously a very high-profile site but Thumper is a bit of a celebrity elsewhere too. More than nine years ago she joined 1337x and for the last eight has been a trusted moderator there. In the interim, Thumper was also an uploader at the now-defunct original KickassTorrents, but still continues over at that platform’s namesake, KATCR. Uploading and seeding so many torrents is a big undertaking, especially over a large number of years. There’s also a bit of a stigma attached to software uploads because unlike movies and TV shows, they have the potential to contain a virus or malware. However, since reputations can be gone in a flash if an uploader lets something nefarious slip through the net, Thumper says that precautions are carried out in advance. Most uploaded software is obtained from friendly crackers (people who remove copy protection) before being run through a virtual machine and then scanned for viruses. Only then is it uploaded. This perhaps contributed to Thumper earning a “green skull” from The Pirate Bay team around 2011, which is a small logo next to a user name which informs potential downloaders that while releases aren’t guaranteed to be flawless, they are more trusted than others without. This is particularly important when one considers that people sometimes try to masquerade as Thumper in order to gain traction. We independently confirmed her status on one of the torrent sites she uploads to but most people don’t have that luxury so should proceed with caution when seeing her ‘brand’ online. “The Pirate Bay has a ton of fake uploads lately, even some of them are infected and uploaded by other users with our tag ‘Windows app name v1.0 [ThumperDC] or [TechTools] or [TheWindowsForum]’, for example,” Thumper explains. “1337x has other rules for new uploaders, you must apply for uploader status, then we review and decide if x_User is legit. People should always use torrent sites which are safe: 1337x, TPB, KATCR, RARBG, or TorrentGalaxy. And make sure to download from trusted uploaders.” Finally, one of the biggest questions is why someone like Thumper keeps releasing torrent after torrent, year after year. What’s in it for her? Each release does contain links to her own site (which now specializes in discussions and technical support for Windows software), so there’s obviously some benefit there. However, she insists that this isn’t the main motivation. “Sharing is caring,” she concludes, citing the years-old ‘pirate’ mantra.
  8. Popular file-hosting site RapidVideo has often been characterized as a piracy haven, something its operator fiercely denies. In line with this stance, the site has now started to ban visitors from what it sees as real pirate sites. To avoid liability and as preparation for Europe's stricter copyright legislation, its operator says. RapidVideo is a popular file-hosting site that specializes in hosting videos. Similar to other file-hosting services, it can be used for good and bad. The bad, in this case, is uploading pirated videos. Whether the site’s operators want it or not, that’s what many of RapidVideo’s users are indeed doing. A few months ago this resulted in a scathing report from Hollywood’s MPAA, which branded the site as a “notorious” piracy haven. The U.S. Trade Representative didn’t adopt this recommendation in its yearly overview. Whether RapidVideo’s outspoken response had anything to do with it is unknown. However, the video hosting site has recently taken several measures which are are not typical for a “notorious” site. In April we reported that RapidVideo had shut down its pay-per-view rewards program, which was one of the MPAA’s main complaints. This week the video hosting service went a step further, by banning referrals from popular pirate video indexing sites. The site’s operator informs TorrentFreak that referrals from the German sites Kinox.to , Streamkiste.tv , Filmpalast.to and Movie4k.to are now actively blocked. Instead of the requested videos, users now see the following message, translated from German. “I’m sorry! This portal is temporarily not available based on a copyright protection claim. Unfortunately, this content is not available in your region.” Blocked The message is shown to all visitors from these four video indexing sites. They are shown based on the referring URL but, if these fail, RapidVideo is also considering adding IP-address blockades in the future. RapidVideo took the drastic measure because it’s particularly concerned about the German legal concept of ‘Störerhaftung’ (‘interferer liability’). This means that a third party can be held responsible for someone else’s infringements, even when it played no intentional part. Add in Europe’s proposed Article 17, previously known as Article 13, and you get a volatile mix of potential copyright problems. “Article 13 is coming within a few months to 2 years, so the control has to become tougher, because ‘Interferer liability’ and ‘Article 13’ together are a bad combination,” RapidVideo’s operator tells us. RapidVideo’s operator stresses that there could be more blockades like this when Article 17 is implemented throughout the European Union member states. It is worth noting that the four targeted sites are all blocked by the German ISP Vodafone as well. This is also what RapidVideo mentioned to Tarnkappe as an additional motivation. A video hosting service such as RapidVideo blocking ‘pirate’ sites is quite a game changer, to say the least. In the case of Kinox.to it appears to have had some effect already, as the site has removed all links to RapidVideo. Movie4K seems to have taken another approach. When we tried to access a RapidVideo link from the site it went through an anonymous referrer service, which worked just fine. But that’s the thing with blockades, there’s always a way around them.