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    ACE Seizes Domains Of Large Sports Streaming Pirate Sites

    news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Yesterday - 08:14 · 2 minutes

yalla There is no denying that the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment ( ACE ) has been rather successful over the past few years.

The anti-piracy group, which represents prominent rightsholders such as Apple, the BBC, Canal+, Disney, Sky, Netflix, and Warner Bros, systematically hunts down key piracy players.

ACE is well connected with law enforcement around the world and continues to expand its user base. Last week, two new rightsholders from Asia were added to the roster and last month sports broadcaster beIN joined the group .

Crackdown on Egyptian Sports Streaming Sites

The partnership with beIN is already proving fruitful. A few days ago four major sports streaming sites, including Yalla-Shoot-7sry.com, yalla-shoot.us, and Yallashoot-news.com, were taken offline after infringing beIN’s rights.

The sites in question had a combined 4.8 million ‘users’ in May and were particularly popular in Egypt. ACE and beIN received help from 60 Egyptian police officers as well as the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The police action resulted in three arrests and the seizures of several domain names, which are now controlled by ACE. Instead of live sports, visitors to these sites will now see an ACE banner, informing them that their favorite streaming portal is no longer available due to copyright infringement.

ace down

Research by TorrentFreak revealed that several other sports streaming domains have also been taken over by ACE. These include Goal-cairo.net, Yalla-shoot.club, and Yalla-live.us.

ACE and beIN Celebrate

Both ACE and beIN are pleased with the results of the operation. Commenting on the takedowns, ACE’s global content protection chief Jan van Voorn praises the broad cooperation.

“Working together, we have the network, the resources and the expertise needed to tackle the serious threat piracy poses to media companies all over the world and to protect the legal marketplace for content creators,” Van Voorn notes.

A beIN spokesperson shares this sentiment and considers last week’s action a major success that will help to protect rightsholders worldwide.

“Actions like those undertaken by Egyptian law enforcement agencies are a huge victory. In concert with ACE, we collectively have the means to support takedowns of this nature throughout the region, and will continue to do so to protect the leagues, fellow broadcasters and the entire sporting ecosystem.”

Largest Sports Streaming Sites are Still Online

There is no denying that the takedown efforts had a significant impact. However, that doesn’t mean that the sports streaming problem in Egypt has been solved. In fact, the largest “Yalla-Shoot” sites still remain online.

At the time of writing, Yalla-shoot.io, Yalla-shoot.com and Yalla-shoot-new.com are still accessible. Together, these sites have a combined 20 million ‘users’ which is four times as many as the domains that were seized.

There’s no doubt that ACE and beIN have these domains on their radar. The question is whether they can track down the operators or convince domain registries and registrars to take action.

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

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    Football Piracy: Premier League Granted Extension to ISP Blocking Order

    news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 5 days ago - 10:05 · 2 minutes

PL-Lion-e1562310432434.png Over the past several years, The Football Association Premier League has been working hard to combat the availability of illegal match streams broadcast over the Internet.

Pirate IPTV services, web-based streaming sites, and a smörgåsbord of infringing apps all create issues for the world’s most famous football league. From a practical standpoint, it’s impossible to shut them all down. Instead, the Premier League employs a strategy to make it appear they’ve been shut down in the hope it will achieve a similar result.

Working closely with UK-based anti-piracy company Friend MTS, the Premier League uses a number of interesting techniques to detect where pirate streams are coming from and then passes this data to internet service providers so they can implement blocking.

Given the interference in ISP subscriber communications, this cannot be done on a whim so Premier League obtains legal authority first. In the case of Ireland, the process is dealt with at the Commercial Court (part of the High Court) and this week the Premier League was granted permission to block illegal streams during the 2022/23 season.

Injunction Extension Awarded Under Copyright Act 2000

The blocking injunction for the forthcoming season targets Eircom/eir, Virgin Media, Sky Ireland/Sky Subscriber Services and Vodafone. It’s an extension of an injunction first handed down in 2019 and over time has been tweaked to maximize blocking efficiency.

According to the Premier League, evidence provided by Sky shows that existing blocking measures are indeed an effective deterrent.

The Irish Times reports that Sky subscriber numbers (Sky has Premier League broadcasting rights) have increased since 2019 and while this isn’t solely attributable to blocking, there has been an increase over the past three years.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald agreed that an extension to the injunction was justified so that the Premier League could continue to protect its rights during the forthcoming season.

Premier League’s Three Years of Pressure in Ireland

After winning its first ISP blocking injunction at the High Court in London during 2017, a year later the Premier League sought to expand its program into Ireland.

In 2019, Ireland’s Commercial Court gave the Premier League a green light to compel Eircom, Sky, Virgin and Vodafone to block pirate streams until June 30, 2020.

Just under a year later, Premier League won an extension to that injunction to tackle piracy during the 2020/21 season.

Following the now established pattern, in 2021 another year of blocking permission was granted, this time on an enhanced basis , using measures that given their secrecy are not available for public consumption.

Reports do not indicate that the current extension for 2022/23 grants the Premier League any additional powers but at least for the time being, the football league appears satisfied that the terms of the injunction meets its needs.

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

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    ACE Anti-Piracy Alliance Expands Into Asia to Disrupt Illegal Streaming

    news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 6 days ago - 09:30 · 2 minutes

ace-shutdown-2022 In the summer of 2017, a large coalition of major entertainment industry companies announced a new phase in the war against piracy.

With a focus on web-based illegal streaming, pirate IPTV, and associated apps, the Alliance of Creativity and Entertainment embarked on a mission to protect its members rights.

Through the MPA, Hollywood studios including Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, and MGM teamed with streaming giants Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu. Content-creating broadcasters Sky and BBC were also in the mix but ACE had even bigger plans.

At launch in 2017, ACE had 30 members but with steady growth over the past few years and the addition of two new members this week, the anti-piracy coalition now boasts 39 member companies, all of them determined to disrupt illegal streaming piracy.

ACE Adds First Two Asia-Based Companies

Hong Kong-based video streaming platform Viu is available in seven Asian markets including Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar. Operating ad-supported and premium tiers, Via also produces original content under its ‘Viu Original’ branding.

True Visions is Thailand’s leader cable satellite TV provider and in 2020 teamed with the MPA to shut down three pirate streaming sites. More recently it worked with ACE to shut down We-Play , one of the largest piracy portals in Thailand.

Both are now members of the ACE coalition, swelling its ranks to 39 companie.

MPA/ACE Chief Welcomes New Members

Charles Rivkin, Chairman of ACE and the Motion Picture Association, says the addition of Viu and True Visions is the beginning of an ACE expansion to include local media companies from key markets around the world.

“By growing ACE’s footprint throughout the APAC region, we are building new relationships with local law enforcement authorities and other key partners in our ongoing effort to shut down piracy operations around the world,” Rivkin says.

“These new members further strengthen ACE’s global reach and collective approach to disrupting a piracy ecosystem that harms the creative economy worldwide.”

Sompan Charumilinda, Executive Vice Chairman of True Visions, believes that joining ACE will allow his company to tackle piracy more effectively and improve its reputation overseas.

“We want to support Thai people, as they compete in a globalized marketplace, by protecting their work with strong intellectual property rights stewardship,” he says.

“We are pleased to be the first member of ACE based in Thailand and look forward to helping drive important actions in this market that will improve the piracy landscape and pave the way for a brighter future.”

Janice Lee, CEO of Viu, notes that one of her company’s goals is to encourage users of piracy sites to move to legal services like Viu. The disruption services offered by ACE will help Viu to achieve that.

“As one of the leading video-on-demand services offering premium Asian content, we recognize the need to address the piracy that is widespread in our markets,” Lee says.

“We are committed to ensuring that consumers move from illegal piracy sites to legal options like Viu by providing an unparalleled viewer experience and investing in the creative ecosystem.”

These two new members of ACE mark the coalition’s official expansion into Asia. In April 2022 , ACE also broke new ground with the addition of sports broadcaster beIN SPORTS and a promise to disrupt piracy of live sporting events. More sports rightsholders are expected to join ACE in the coming months.

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

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    Piracy Domains Seized By US Because Verisign & GoDaddy Are American

    news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 7 days ago - 16:01 · 6 minutes

Department of Justice Last week, Brazilian law enforcement agencies announced a new wave of Operation 404 .

The anti-piracy initiative began in 2019 and with the assistance of law enforcement agencies in the United States and United Kingdom, Brazilian authorities claim to have put hundreds of websites and apps out of action via blocking and domain seizures.

Department of Justice Announces Seizures

Following last week’s announcement by the Government of Brazil, the US Department of Justice released additional information on Monday. It confirmed that as part of ongoing efforts by the Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to combat copyright infringement, six website domains had been seized.

As the seizure banner now displayed on those domains shows, the official seals of IPR Center, Department of Justice, and Homeland Security Investigations are followed by that of Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security, indicating the seizures were carried out to assist the Brazilian government.

The six domains – all unquestionably linked to music piracy – read as follows: Corourbanos.com, Corourbano.com, Pautamp3.com, SIMP3.com, Flowactivo.co and Mp3Teca.ws . Things get more interesting when drilling down into how the domains were seized and on what basis. But there are other questions too.

Affidavit in Support of Seizure Warrant

On June 14, 2022, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (ICE) filed an HSI Special Agent affidavit at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. It details why there is probable cause to seize the six domains by citing alleged criminal copyright infringement offenses.

The affidavit states that in April 2022, HSI received information from Brazil-based anti-piracy company Ltahub , which acts as a representative of Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group, and Interscope Records in Latin America & the Caribbean.

Also in April, HSI received additional information from IFPI which, in common with its member labels, confirmed that the domains were being used to distribute copyrighted music without authorization. The Special Agent confirmed that infringing music could be downloaded in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The Infringing Domains

Given the evidence in the affidavit, there is no doubt that the domains engage in mass copyright infringement.

Corourbanos.com and Corourbano.com are linked, with the former servicing an estimated 1.1 million visitors per month but the latter, just 72K. Pautamp3.com has an estimated monthly audience of 680,000 visits, SIMP3.com an estimated 1.8 million, Flowactivo.co around 1.6 million (more on that later), and Mp3Teca.ws roughly 1.4 million.

Given that pre-release piracy is considered one of the most damaging forms of infringement by the recording industry, it’s worth highlighting that Corourbanos.com and SIMP3.com are directly accused of making music available in advance of commercial release. As per the affidavit, all of the pirate music site domains easily meet the standard for criminal copyright infringement.

Domain Seizures

After showing that the domains are involved in criminality as per US law, the HSI Special Agent states that a criminal seizure warrant is justified on the basis that if the domain owners were convicted, the domains would be subject to forfeiture.

While there is nothing in the affidavit (or subsequent IFPI and DoJ press releases) to indicate that the owners of the domains are being prosecuted, seizing their domains at this stage immediately puts their platforms out of action. And as it turns out, seizing them wasn’t difficult at all since they all have connections to the United States, one way or another.

Corourbanos.com, Corourbano.com Pautamp3.com, and SIMP3.com, all utilize the ‘.com’ top-level domain. The registry for ‘.com’ is VeriSign, conveniently located in Reston, Virginia, meaning that these domains could be seized at the highest level.

Verisign was required to direct the domains to two specified name servers (ns1.seizedservers.com and ns2.seizedservers.com) and prevent any further modification or transfer, pending completion of forfeiture proceedings. The registry was also ordered to notify US-based domain registrars GoDaddy and Namecheap of the seizures so they could make the necessary administrative changes.

The seizures of Flowactivo.co and Mp3Teca.ws were executed differently since their domain registries are located outside United States jurisdiction. The registry for ‘.co’ is in Bogotá, Colombia, and the registry for ‘.ws’ is in Samoa.

These jurisdiction issues were easily overcome by ignoring these overseas registries altogether. Dropping down a level, HSI/ICE targeted the domains’ registrar instead. Located in Scottsdale, Arizona, GoDaddy LLC was given the same name server and modification prevention instructions as Verisign, which provided a functionally similar end result.

Domains Seized For Brazil. Interesting

The HSI/ICE affidavit filed in Virginia makes no mention of cooperation with the Brazilian authorities or indeed Operation 404, of which the seizures were a part. This is where the seizures start to make less sense, at least considering their presentation by both US and Brazilian authorities.

Corourbanos.com enjoyed around 1.1 million visits per month, confirmed by data provided by SimilarWeb. However, the same data shows that the overwhelming majority of visitors were from Peru (50%), Dominican Republic (12.4%), and Chile (9.4%). Just 6.4% came from the United States with Mexico coming in below 3%.

Corourbano.com had just 76,000 visitors per month with just over 89% coming from Peru. Less than 6% came from Spain, with the Dominican Republic and Guatemala following with 3% and 2% respectively. In short, these two domains presented in Spanish were of little interest to Brazilians who, in the main, speak Portuguese.

Pautamp3.com continues a similar pattern. Presented in Spanish (around 4% of Brazil’s population are speakers), around 27% of its visitors are predictably from Spain, 17% from Argentina, 11% from Mexico, 6% from Chile and 5.5% hail from Ecuador. Whichever way the traffic is cut, the share from Brazil and the United States is negligible.

SIMP3.com is also presented in Spanish and is most popular in Spain (30%), through to Mexico, Argentina, Peru, and Colombia (6%). Again, interest in Brazil is negligible.

Flowactivo.co is also in Spanish but bucks the trend with 37% of its visitors coming from the US, followed by Spain, Italy and Venezuela. However, the site’s traffic is much smaller than the 1.6 million visits per month cited in the affidavit. Over the past three months the platform had just 130K visits per month according to SimilarWeb data.

Traffic claims for Mp3Teca.ws also seem inflated. The affidavit claims 1.4 million visits per month but SimilarWeb disagrees stating between 800K and a million visits per month over the last three months. And again, the site isn’t remotely popular in Brazil or the United States. Most traffic comes from Venezuela (20%) followed by Dominican Republic, Spain, Mexico and Ecuador (7%).

Conclusion

From the small sample of data it’s difficult to draw solid conclusions but it’s certainly interesting that of six domain seizures carried out by the United States, ostensibly to assist a Brazilian anti-piracy operation, none are of notable interest to pirates in Brazil. On the other hand, the recording industry outside Brazil (especially in Spanish-speaking countries) will benefit but quite why that had to be achieved through the US and Brazil is another question.

An answer may partially lie in Brazil being under continued US scrutiny for not doing enough to combat piracy. It’s on the USTR’s Special 301 Watch List ( pdf ) for failing to combat IPTV piracy , for example, and interestingly the latest phase of Operation 404 prominently featured seized streaming devices .

The other big takeaway is that if pirate sites use a domain that either has its registry or registrar in the United States, it can be taken away in an instant. That raises the question of the hundreds of pirate sites that have more traffic than even the most popular of these six seized domains, yet somehow remain completely untargeted by similar US seizures.

The seizure documents can be found here and here (pdf)

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

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    Pirate Site Blocking Expands to Kenya with Landmark Court Order

    news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 7 days ago - 10:54 · 3 minutes

kenya Over the years, copyright holders have tried a multitude of measures to curb online piracy, with varying levels of success.

Site blocking has emerged as one of the preferred solutions. While blocking measures are not bulletproof, the general idea is that they pose a large enough hurdle for casual pirates to choose legal options instead.

Courts in dozens of countries around the world have issued blocking orders. The first blockades were set up in Europe but countries in Asia and the Americas followed soon after. Africa has lagged behind a bit, but that’s starting to change as well.

Kenya’s High Court Issues Pirate Site Blocking Order

A few days ago, the High Court of Kenya approved a permanent injunction that requires local ISPs including Safaricom and Jamii Telecom to block dozens of illegal sports streaming sites.

The list of sites includes 44 names and includes Cricfree, Firstsrowsports, Rojadirecta, Totalsportek, and Yalla-shoot. An overview of all the sites is included at the bottom of this article.

The case originally started in 2019, when MultiChoice Kenya sent takedown notices to the providers, hoping they would block the sports streaming sites. When that didn’t happen, the broadcaster took the matter to court.

Last week, Justice Wilfrida Okwany concluded that the ISPs are indeed legally obliged to take action. When a rightsholder sends a valid takedown request, Internet providers can’t simply ignore it, as happened in this case.

This is the first blocking order in Kenya, which is based on a 2019 revision of the country’s copyright law. The revised law allows rightsholders to issue takedown requests to ISPs. While Internet providers can’t “remove” third-party sites, they can block them, the Court confirmed.

The ruling comes as a disappointment to the ISPs. They previously backed a plan to have the Copyright Act amendment repealed. This proposal was eventually withdrawn from Parliament, in part because the US Government stepped in.

“Landmark Ruling”

MultiChoice Kenya’s Managing Director, Nancy Matimu, is pleased with the outcome which she describes as an important milestone in the fight against piracy in Africa.

“We have been fighting for years to ensure that there are legal copyright protections, and that those protections are enforced. The court has reaffirmed the stance of the law that copyright must be protected.”

Matimu hopes that Kenya’s site blocking order will be an inspiration for other African countries. If others follow suit, it will send a positive signal to international rightsholders.

“This is a landmark ruling. With this verdict, Kenya is saying that any business looking to invest in Kenya can rest assured that their intellectual property will be protected.”

‘More Can be Done’

Indeed, international copyright holders will be pleased to see that site blocking has officially arrived in Kenya. However, there are still plenty of other items on their wishlist.

Last week, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which includes the MPA and RIAA, shared a list of shortcomings in Kenya’s copyright and enforcement framework with the US Government.

Among other things, IIPA would like to see Kenya implement a repeat infringer policy to terminate the accounts of persistent pirates. In addition, the copyright term should expand to the life of the author, plus an additional 70 years.

The full list of 44 blocked sites is as follows.

1. Totalsportek
2. ronaldo7
3. stream-cr7
4. ripple
5. vipleague
6. livesoccertv
7. livesport
8. soccer-live stream
9. LiveTV
10. vipbox live
11. sportnews
12. jokerlivestream
13. Cricfree
14. Fullmatchesandshows
15. Vipboxtv
16. liveharleyquinnwidge
17. Messistream
18. Yalla-shoot
19. HD streams
20. Cdn livetvcdn
21. Firstsrowsports
22. Livefootballol
23. Miradetodo
24. Livestream
25. Tvball7
26. Skytivi
27. Freeintertv
28. Vipstand
29. Extremotvplay
30. Stream2watch
31. Oeb
32. Ishunter
33. Myfeed2all
34. Barcelona stream
35. sport stream
36. Cricfree
37. Indiostv
38. Sport365 live
39. Kora-online TV
40. Stream woop
41. Sportzonline
42. Sportv
43. Rojadirecta
44. Cricsports

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

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    Takedown Notice Wipes Game Boy Advance Emulator From GitHub

    news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Friday, 24 June - 20:59 · 2 minutes

gba mario Playing games using browser-based emulators is a niche pastime of some of the most dedicated gamers.

For Game Boy Advance fans there are a few websites that offer this option, albeit without permission from Nintendo.

While emulators that utilize all of their own code don’t break the law, they can face legal issues when packaged with pirated ROMs and distributed to the public. Nintendo is not happy with this activity and has cracked down on it on several occasions.

Nintendo’s Emulator Crackdown

In 2015, the Japanese gaming giant already asked GitHub to remove a Game Boy Advance repository, hosted by the user “jsemu.” This worked out initially but soon after GitHub took action, copies started to appear. This included one shared by the user “jsemu3”, which Nintendo took down in 2018.

Since then many passionate Nintendo fans have found their way to yet another alternative game collection. Again, it was uploaded by a user with a familiar-sounding name; jsemu2.

This site , hosted by GitHub, has been online for a few years but this week visitors were welcomed by a 404 error. The error doesn’t mention the reason for the removal but we tracked down a DMCA notice that provides an explanation.

ESA Steps In

The takedown request was sent by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents Nintendo and other videogame companies. According to ESA, the site in question infringes on the copyrights and trademarks of its members.

“Our review of the Website indicates that it is has been marketing or otherwise making available products and/or services that infringe on ESA Members’ copyrights and trademarks,” the notice reads.

esa takedown

It appears that this is the third time that ESA has targeted this site. In its takedown request, the Association mentions that two earlier attempts failed, as GitHub requested “additional notice.”

“We are hopeful that this revised notice contains the necessary information to cause removal of the infringing uses of ESA Members’ intellectual property,” ESA writes. And indeed, this one was sufficient.

ESA’s takedown request lists the main URL where all the games were stored and also points to 75 of the ‘launchers’ directly. The site itself actually listed 98 games, but those that aren’t specifically mentioned have been removed as well.

Persistent Problem

Whether this will solve the problem completely seems doubtful. As history has shown, new copies are bound to pop up. In fact, nostalgic gamers can easily find alternatives, even on GitHub.

Finally, it is worth noting that the code for the Game Boy Emulator itself, without the pre-loaded games, is open source and still hosted elsewhere on GitHub . Nintendo doesn’t appear to have an issue with it, or it has no legal grounds to take action, as it has been online for over a decade now.

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

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    Brazil’s Targets ‘Metaverse’ Piracy in Latest “Operation 404” Crackdown

    news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Thursday, 23 June - 20:59 · 2 minutes

404 In the fall of 2019, Brazilian law enforcement agencies conducted a large anti-piracy campaign codenamed ‘Operation 404,’ referring to the well-known HTTP error code.

With help from law enforcement in the United States and the United Kingdom, the authorities took down more than a hundred sites and apps, while several suspects were arrested.

In the following years, several new waves of anti-piracy action followed. Under the banner “Operation 404.2” and “ Operation 404.3 ” law enforcement authorities blocked or seized the domain names of hundreds of pirate sites and streaming apps.

Operation 404.4

This week, Brazil’s Ministry of Justice announced the fourth wave of Operation 404. With 30 search and seizure warrants in hand, law enforcement officials blocked or seized the domains of 226 websites, 461 piracy apps, and 15 social media accounts.

404

The authorities don’t mention any of the targets by name. However, they stress that the apps alone had generated more than 10 million downloads. According to IFPI , these apps were all dedicated to music.

The Civil Police carried out its operations in 11 states and ten people were arrested. Those who are convicted face a prison sentence of between two and four years plus a hefty fine.

As in previous years, Brazil received support from international anti-piracy groups and law enforcement. They include the U.S. Department of Justice, the UK Intellectual Property Office, and City of London Police.

Metaverse Raid?

The Ministry of Justice further reports that this is the first time that ‘Operation 404’ partially ‘took place in the metaverse.’ This is an interesting statement as the metaverse is still mostly a concept, one that’s not yet clearly defined.

The authorities don’t explain how or where they entered the metaverse, but a press release notes that four channels with illegal broadcasts were shut down. In addition, 90 pirated videos were deactivated.

According to Alessandro Barreto, the coordinator of the Cybercrime group of the Secretariat of Integrated Operations ( Seopi ), criminals created maps and events in the metaverse, where they invited interested parties to video platforms.

While not confirmed, it could simply be that people used platforms such as Roblox to advertise pirated services, as we have seen in a recent ‘metaverse’ piracy crackdown in Italy. That would be a quite broad use of the term metaverse.

Whether any future crackdowns will take place in the metaverse has yet to be seen. However, the authorities stress that they are continually on the lookout for new types of piracy.

“Our fight against piracy is ongoing. We are increasingly specializing in curbing these practices and identifying new crimes”, Seopi’s Alessandro Barreto says.

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

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    DMCA Subpoena to Unmask Twitter User Hits Fair Use & Constitutional Roadblock

    news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Thursday, 23 June - 06:34 · 8 minutes

censored Around October 2020 a Twitter user called ‘ MrMoneyBags ‘ began posting critical messages targeting billionaires.

Brian Sheth, the former President of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity fund based in Austin, Texas, received special attention. MrMoneyBags posted six tweets accompanied by photos, with added commentary relating to Sheth’s wealth and his alleged lifestyle.

“Brian Sheth has upgraded in his personal life. The only thing better than having a wife … is having a hot young girlfriend,” said MrMoneyBags, referencing a photo of a woman in a bikini and high heels.

Other tweets continued along the same lines, sometimes hinting at an extramarital affair between the woman and Sheth. Soon after and in mysterious circumstances, copyright law entered the equation.

DMCA Takedowns Followed by DMCA Subpoena

On October 29, 2020, a business entity called Bayside Advisory LLC contacted Twitter stating that since it owns the copyrights in the six photos, they should be taken down under the DMCA. Twitter later fulfilled its obligations under copyright law by removing them but Bayside was only just getting started.

After the DMCA takedowns were sent to Twitter, Bayside registered copyrights in the photos, went to court, and obtained a DMCA subpoena requiring Twitter to hand over information sufficient to identify MrMoneyBags, thereby removing their anonymity.

Twitter objected to the subpoena, arguing that disclosure would undermine its user’s First Amendment rights. The company also expressed concern that via the DMCA subpoena, copyright law was being used to suppress criticism or rumors of extramarital affairs.

Furthermore, Twitter said that Bayside was in no position to claim copyright infringement to obtain the details of the alleged infringer (MrMoneyBags). Since the speech attached to the photographs constituted fair use, there was no infringer to identify.

Twitter’s motion to quash the subpoena was met with opposition from Bayside. In response Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu issued an order offering MrMoneyBags an opportunity to anonymously file evidence in support of Twitter and to argue that the photos were used on a fair use basis. The court received no response.

The Judge noted that the lack of a “well-developed record” in the case meant that a finding of non-infringement based on fair use wasn’t possible without evidence from MrMoneyBags. As a result, Bayside’s motion to compel was granted in late 2021 but Twitter objected and declined to hand over MrMoneyBags’ details.

Twitter Moves to Overturn Magistrate’s Order

In January 2022, the case was reassigned to District Judge Vince Chhabria and within weeks the Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU Foundation of Northern California filed an amicus brief , arguing that the magistrate’s ruling “sidestepped the First Amendment” when it focused solely on whether MrMoneyBags’ tweets made fair use of the photos.

“Narrowing the inquiry to focus exclusively on whether copyright infringement occurred incorrectly allows the nature of the claim to drive the analysis, rather than the nature of the speech at issue,” the brief noted.

Noting that the tweets appeared to be “noncommercial, transformative, critical commentary — classic fair uses,” the brief argued that even if Bayside had a viable infringement claim, it could not show that unmasking the Twitter user was truly necessary to advance its interests, and that those interests outweighed the harm that would result.

Public Citizen later submitted a brief that supported Twitter and similar platforms to defend the First Amendment rights of their users ( pdf ) .

A brief submitted by the Copyright Alliance was mainly concerned with keeping a tight rein on existing practices for dealing with copyright infringement disputes. One part noted that MrMoneyBags could have taken “the simple step” of submitting a DMCA counter-notice if they believed their use of the photos was fair ( pdf ) .

Of course, that would’ve meant MrMoneyBags’s real name and address being handed to Bayside months earlier. It would’ve have negated the need for this entire case, which was clearly aimed at protecting his identity from the shadowy Bayside entity and whoever is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

As it later turned out, Bayside’s dubious nature played a major role in tainting its own case.

Judge Chhabria Sides With Twitter

In an order handed down this week, Judge Chhabria first challenges Bayside’s assertion that a provision in the DMCA subpoena process divests the court of authority to consider the merits of a copyright claim (or issues of First Amendment privilege) when faced with a motion to compel or quash a DMCA subpoena.

“Bayside’s reading of the DMCA raises serious constitutional concerns. After all, it is not enough to say that a speaker could assert their right to anonymity after their identity has been revealed; at that point, the damage will have been done. Fortunately, the statute does not compel (or permit) this result,” Judge Chhabria writes.

A recipient of a DMCA subpoena may move to quash it on the basis that the subpoena would require disclosure of material protected by the First Amendment, his order clarifies.

“Bayside next argues that, to the extent MoneyBags has any First Amendment interest in this case, it is wholly accounted for through copyright’s fair use analysis, which allows the public to use copyrighted works in certain circumstances without facing liability,” the Judge continues.

“But while it may be true that the fair use analysis wholly encompasses free expression concerns in some cases, that is not true in all cases — and it is not true in a case like this. That is because it is possible for a speaker’s interest in anonymity to extend beyond the alleged infringement.”

Addressing Bayside’s assertion that MrMoneyBags’ absence from the case dooms Twitter’s motion, the Judge disagrees. His appearance would’ve been helpful but wasn’t absolutely necessary since Twitter’s interest in the dispute aligns with his – both have an interest in MrMoneyBags’ ability to speak his mind on the Twitter platform without facing retaliation.

Hiring a lawyer to litigate a copyright claim can be very expensive too, so out of concern, a speaker may opt to stop speaking rather than assert their right to do so anonymously.

“Indeed, there is some evidence that this is what happened here: MoneyBags has not tweeted since Twitter was ordered to notify him of this dispute.”

Two-Step Test and Fair Use

For a litigant to unmask the identity of an anonymous internet user in this type of case, the party seeking the disclosure must first demonstrate a prima facie case on the merits of its underlying claim. The second step sees the court balancing the need for such discovery against the First Amendment interest at stake.

According to the Judge, Bayside’s underlying claim – that of copyright infringement – fails when subjected to the four factors of fair use.

1) At the time the photos were used, MrMoneyBags’ Twitter account had a small following with just a handful of likes, retweets or comments, something that rules out commercial use. MrMoneyBags’ use of the photos alongside his own biting commentary and criticism led to a transformative use that reflected his “apparent distaste for the lifestyle and moral compass of one-percenters,” the order notes.

2) As to the nature of the copyrighted works, the Judge assessed some as the kind of material people might post to Facebook or Instagram. Others were more artistic, with elements such as lighting, positioning and wardrobe giving the appearance of intentional selection.

Unfortunately, Bayside provided no evidence about the photographs themselves, including where they were taken, by whom, the photographic subjects involved, or whether there was actually any attempt by the photographer to influence the creative process. As a result, the Judge finds this factor to be “largely inconclusive.”

3) On the amount of the copyrighted content used, in the context of a photograph that “is not meaningfully divisible”, the Judge finds the third factor ‘neutral’.

4) When considering the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work, the Judge says that determining market harm is difficult when a use is transformative and non-commercial. Bayside claimed that it licenses photos for commercial exploitation but the Judge didn’t buy that, especially since the company offered no evidence to show market harm.

Taking all of these factors into account, Bayside has not demonstrated a prima facie case of copyright infringement. Even if it had, the Judge says that the subpoena would still need to be quashed since the balance of equities tilts in favor of MrMoneyBags and his right to remain anonymous.

“Unmasking MoneyBags thus risks exposing him to ‘economic or official retaliation’ by Sheth or his associates,” the Judge writes, before diving down the Bayside rabbit hole.

The Bayside Mystery ‘Makes a Difference’

According to the order, the Court is not assured that Bayside has no connection to Brian Sheth. Bayside was not formed until the month the tweets were posted and the entity had never registered any copyrights until the registration of the six photographs.

That there is no publicly available information about Bayside’s principals, staff, physical location, formation or purposes, and that the entity declined to present additional evidence or information that might help the court, seems to have sounded alarm bells.

Indeed, the Judge concludes by handing a win to Twitter (and by extension MrMoneyBags) and quashing the DMCA subpoena, with a barbed comment aimed at a shadowy entity that values anonymity, as long as it’s theirs.

“Bayside’s choice not to supplement the record makes it quite easy to balance MoneyBags’s interest in preserving his anonymity against Bayside’s alleged interest in protecting its apparent copyrights,” Judge Chhabria writes.

“On this record, even if Bayside had made a prima facie showing of copyright infringement, the Court would quash the subpoena in a heartbeat.”

Documents for the entire legal saga can be found here

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