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      Plex Cracks Down on Media Server ‘Hacks’

      news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 11:20 · 2 minutes

    plex logo Plex is a multifunctional media software and service that allows users to easily access all of their entertainment in one place.

    Whether movies, music, TV shows, or photos, Plex can organize and index, making the content ready to stream on a wide variety of supported devices.

    Plex can be used for curating home videos or enriching purchased media with metadata, for example, which can be stored on the media server. In addition, the company offers Plex Pass, a premium subscription that provides access to hundreds of live TV channels and more than 50,000 on-demand titles.

    Plex Pirates

    Lately, Plex has been working closely with some of the major content publishers to give provide access to licensed entertainment. At the same time, however, it is also battling a group of ‘pirates’ who abuse their system by publicly sharing libraries with infringing content.

    Last summer, Plex surprised users by actively blocking media servers hosted at large German company Hetzner. These were, purportedly, often used to share pirated material and an outright ban aimed to end this unauthorized activity.

    Plex also targeted a GitHub repository that allowed people to reshare Plex libraries that were not originally theirs. This workaround was used to share content with broader audiences than originally intended, without the owners’ permission.

    New Problem: Media Server Hack

    The ‘reshare’ repository was removed by GitHub, and it was removed from Docker soon after. While there are still copies of the code floating around today, Plex already has a new problem on its hands.

    A few days ago, anti-piracy outfit MarkScan sent a DMCA notice to GitHub on behalf of Plex. According to the takedown request, there are several repositories that contain code used to ‘hack’ Plex’s media server.

    “We have found that users on your platform are providing codes to hack Plex servers. Therefore, we request that you remove the below URLs from your website,” the takedown notices reads.

    dmca notice

    Free Pass and Godmode

    The notice isn’t particularly specific, but archived copies of the repositories, which have since been removed, explain more clearly what the code could do. For example, plexmediaserver_crack enabled “Godmode”, allowing people to use all features without a subscription.

    “Enables Godmode, unlocking all features on (hardware transcoding, intro/credit detection, HEVC transcoding, etc..) on Plex Media Server. Including Plex Pass features without a required subscription, and including early-access/development/Plex Ninja features.”

    server crack

    A companion repository titled ‘ plexpass_hook ‘ fools Plex into believing that a user has a paid Plex Pass subscription, making it possible to skip intros as well.

    While the code itself doesn’t appear to be copyright infringing, it might circumvent Plex’s technological protection measures, which violates the DMCA. In any case, GitHub didn’t hesitate, and the repositories were swiftly removed.

    github dmca

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

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      German ISPs Block Romslab Due to Widespread Game Piracy

      news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Yesterday - 18:22 · 2 minutes

    romslab Three years ago, German Internet providers agreed to voluntarily block the most egregious pirate sites.

    The ISPs teamed up with copyright holders and launched the “Clearing Body for Copyright on the Internet” ( CUII ), which is now responsible for handing down blocking ‘orders’.

    While CUII doesn’t rely on court judgments, there is some form of oversight. When copyright holders report a pirate site, a review committee first checks whether the domain is indeed linked to a website that structurally infringes copyrights.

    If a website overwhelmingly hosts or links to pirated material, the site can be nominated for a blocklist entry. This can apply to torrent sites, streaming portals, search engines and direct download hubs, as long as piracy is front and center.

    Romslab Blocked

    The voluntary system has not yet resulted in a massive blocking wave. Thus far, only nineteen sites have been blocked, with game download portal Romslab as the latest addition.

    In a decision that was published a few days ago, CUII concludes that Romslab is a structurally infringing website. The site, which offers links to pirated games and popular Nintendo emulators including Yuzu and Ryujinx, should be blocked.

    “The request for a recommendation to block the ROMSLAB website is justified. The website is a structural copyright infringing website (SUW). There is a clear infringement of copyright. The blocking is reasonable and proportionate,” CUII concludes.

    romslab

    This isn’t the first video game-related site that has made it onto the German blocklist; Nsw2u and NswGame were added previously.

    Romslab isn’t specifically targeted at a German audience. The site is most popular in Iraq and the United States. According to CUII, the site had 161,330 German ‘visitors’ between March and August last year, less than 1,000 per day.

    Mystery Applicant?

    CUII doesn’t mention the claiming party or the infringed game title by name. Instead, it writes that the game is “created by the game developers ***** and ***** and the composers of the music *****, *****, *****, *****, *****, *****, ***** and *****” .

    romslab cuii

    It doesn’t take much imagination to take an informed guess, however. The paperwork references article 15 of a foreign copyright law, quoting a ‘work for hire’ section that matches article 15 of Japan’s copyright law. That happens to be the home country of Nintendo.

    Added to the fact that the two previously blocked game sites specifically targeted Nintendo content, combined with Nintendo’s site-blocking efforts in other countries, the 135-year-old company would be our pick.

    Not the First Romslab Block

    There are more leads pointing to the Japanese gaming giant if we dig a bit deeper. Romslab was previously blocked in Italy, and a publication from the local telecoms watchdog AGCOM specifically mentions Nintendo as the rightsholder there.

    italy romslab

    Romslab.com is also blocked in Spain since last year. It’s not clear who requested that blockade, but Nintendo is a likely candidate. In Spain, Romslab’s sister site Repacklab.com was also blocked in February of this year.

    In addition to the site blocking efforts, Romslab also had its Twitter account , Facebook page , and Subreddit suspended or removed. The site’s Patreon is still online.

    With Romslab, the German site blocking list has now grown to nineteen entries, and we presume that more candidates are already in the pipeline.

    The websites listed for blocking in Germany since 2021 include: s.to, canna.to, nsw2u.com, newalbumreleases.net, bs.to, streamkiste.tv, kinox.to, cine.to, serienjunkies.org, taodung.com, israbox, jokerlivestream, serienfans.org, filmfans.org, buffstreams, sci-hub, NSWGame, Megakino and Romslab.

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

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      Piracy Shield 2: Just When IPTV Pirates Thought it Was Safe

      news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Yesterday - 06:41 · 3 minutes

    piracyshield-2 New law passed in Italy last year gave powerful football rightsholders and broadcasters a blank slate to implement a blocking system seen nowhere else in Europe.

    No laborious court processes, no judicial oversight, and unlike the ISPs compelled by law to implement their blocking instructions, no financial penalties for getting things wrong either. Whether these freedoms contributed towards the laundry list of errors, PR blunders, source code leaks, and resentment among some ISPs, is hard to quantify, but there appears to be no turning back.

    Piracy Shield Hype

    Less than four months since its February launch, it’s now clear that Piracy Shield isn’t the bleeding edge anti-piracy technology previously billed, and it hasn’t achieved the impossible as the public were led to believe. As conscripted partners, ISPs were effectively told to come up with their own software to interact with the system. That was on top of having to shoulder the responsibility of blocking the domains and IP addresses churned out by the system, while having no choice but to cover the costs.

    At least one critic with knowledge of the platform commented that a list sent by email would’ve been just as effective, a far cry from public statements suggesting an advanced black-box operation systematically taking pirate networks apart.

    When news surfaced last month that football league Serie A had taken legal action against Cloudflare – for allegedly undermining blocking, just weeks after Piracy Shield’s launch – that seems to have been a sign that things weren’t going to plan. A new report published by Calcio Finanza appears to cast doubt on whether the plan, whatever it was, attempted to cover even the most obvious basics.

    System Can’t Cope With Its Own Workload

    The report centers on comments made by the head of telecoms regulator AGCOM at the Serie A Festival last weekend. During the panel “The metaverse of piracy” Massimiliano Capitanio reportedly spoke about Piracy Shield and Italy’s system that requires ISPs to block pirate services within 30 minutes.

    In reality, the majority of blocking takes place outside match windows, but it appears that after just four months, the system still can’t cope. Capitanio said that since February this year, the number of ‘strings’ (domains / IP addresses) blocked is now double the number blocked in the previous 10 years.

    “From 2014/15 to 2024, 9 thousand strings were disabled, from February this year to May with Piracy Shield almost 18 thousand strings and internet addresses saturating the structures. The system holds from a legal and legislative point of view,” he explained.

    Blocking data is supposed to be made available to the public on AGCOM’s portal but thanks to Infotech Srl, which publishes official blocking data unofficially, the stats at the time of writing are displayed below. (Note: One blocking request (a ticket) can contain one or many domains/IP addresses. IP addresses blocked are listed as IPv4, fully qualified domains as FQDN)

    Yet the main problem doesn’t appear to be the number of domains and IP addresses in the system, it’s the number of ISPs now required to block by law.

    Better Late Than Never: Time to Upgrade

    As telecoms regulator, AGCOM knows that Italy has over 300 internet service providers, and that the new law requires all of them to block pirate services; that’s exactly what AGCOM and the sports rightsholders demanded when working to push the law through.

    The problem is Italy’s underlying blocking system; it was only designed to cope with a quarter of the country’s ISPs and after the law passed last year, nothing was done to prepare for the additional blocking.

    “[The blocking] infrastructure was designed to receive 60/70 operators, today it has 300. And the reporting is very heavy, we will see if it can be simplified,” Capitanio said.

    “There are two upgrades to be made,” the AGCOM chief continued. “An infrastructural one; this platform which has done its job very well until today suffers the weight of this mass of data. A report will be received on Wednesday 12th which will highlight how the process is going well, but that the amount of reporting is creating timeouts that are not sustainable.

    “Phase 2 will be implemented with a new platform by the end of the year, the current one will be expanded,” he added.

    Capitanio also touched on the issue of fining users of pirate services; penalties are currently expected to be in the region of 150 to 500 euros.

    “Is it annoying to fine the end user? Yes, but hitting platforms isn’t enough. If I put speed cameras in place you understand that there is a limit but, as of today, piracy is not understandable.”

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

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      Redfox Disappearance Puts a Spotlight on Defiant StreamFab

      news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 2 days ago - 16:25 · 3 minutes

    redfox More than a decade ago, decryption licensing outfit AACS began to crack down on DVD and Blu-Ray ripping software.

    Founded by Disney, Warner Bros, Intel, and Microsoft, among others , the licensing outfit put legal pressure on the makers of AnyDVD and DVDFab, which were the key players at the time.

    AACS eventually booked a legal victory against DVDFab in a US court, but that did little to stop the operation . Pressure on AnyDVD’s parent company Slysoft, meanwhile, did yield results as the software was taken down. That was only temporary, however, as some of AnyDVD developers restarted the business under a new name , RedFox.

    For the next eight years, the DVDFab and AnyDVD products managed to survive. With online streaming taking over, both outfits also launched new software to rip streaming content, in addition to old-fashioned discs.

    RedFox, for example, offered the AnyStream tool, which proved to be quite popular. Streaming platforms, including Netflix, worked hard to make these tools unusable, resulting in a seemingly endless cat-and-mouse decryption game.

    RedFox Disappears

    Without prior warning, the RedFox website suddenly ‘disappeared’ late last week. There is no sign that the software outfit ran into legal trouble, but some of its products have been rendered useless. This isn’t the first time that RedFox has suffered downtime, but after more than five days, many users fear the worst.

    Over the past few days, we have tried to find out what’s going on, but unfortunately, the RedFox team remains quiet. An email sent to our contact there never arrived, as the mail server is unreachable as well.

    There is no shortage of speculation online to explain the downtime. While we prefer not to entertain these theories, there are a few things worth highlighting.

    First, there is no evidence that the RedFox site was pulled offline by an external force. The site isn’t working because the domain name’s A records were removed on June 6, and the same is true for the MX records.

    As a result, browsers and email clients don’t know where to send requests.

    redfox dns

    It’s not clear who removed these records, but external interventions by domain registries and registrars are generally marked with ICANN codes, and we don’t see any here. Since this is a domain name configuration issue, there is no sign that there’s a hosting problem either.

    Without any signs of external interventions, there is not much to report on. For now, everyone except the RedFox team is in the dark, and time will tell whether the site will resurface or not.

    StreamFab Gains Users (and pressure)

    The RedFox trouble hasn’t gone unnoticed at the DVDFab/StreamFab team. Looking for an alternative stream ripping tool, AnyStream users are checking out the competition now, similar to what happened when Slyfoft shut down AnyDVD many years ago.

    This puts a new spotlight on DVDFab, which it probably doesn’t mind. The company has been around for more than 20 years now and seems unfazed by any legal pressure.

    After ignoring the initial court order in favor of AACS issued a decade ago, DVDFab continued to exist. The same can be said for the legal troubles.

    While StreamFab doesn’t appear to circumvent AACS’s Blu-Ray decryption, DVDFab and related tools do. In recent years, the legal battle continued at a federal court in New York, resulting in a massive damages verdict and a broad injunction a few months ago.

    Last summer, U.S. District Court Judge Vernon Broderick ruled in favor of AACS, ordering DVDFab and its presumed operator Lanny Chen to pay nearly $15 million in damages.

    dvdfab judgement

    In addition, the court ordered the operation to shut down. This injunction also required banks, domain registrars, and other intermediaries to cease working with the software company.

    StreamFab wasn’t specifically covered by the injunction but, since it’s linked to the same operators, it’s not immune to the broad injunction, which expands to hosting providers and payment services too.

    As a result of the injunction, DVDFab lost some of its domain names, including dvdfab.com which was put on ‘serverHold’ by the domain registry. However, other domains survived and the software company continues to operate to this day. That includes StreamFab.

    This lawsuit and the resulting injunction have nothing to do with RedFox’s recent troubles. There is no AACS lawsuit against RedFox that we know of. If anything, however, it indicates that it’s not easy to shut down a software company that’s determined to stay online.

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

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      Google “Profits From Pirated Textbooks” Publishers’ Lawsuit Claims

      news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 2 days ago - 06:51 · 6 minutes

    dmca-google-s1 After years of criticism from rightsholders, punctuated by incremental but significant adjustments to limit the appearance of pirated content in search results, Google is no longer continuously painted as siding with the enemy.

    Of course, Google has always argued it never did. The company’s search engine acts as an indexer of content, content placed on the internet by others, Google reminded frustrated rightsholders. In response to properly formatted DMCA notices, links to infringing content were systematically taken down but, in another reminder playing on repeat, Google advised that removing links does nothing to take infringing content offline.

    With tens of millions of search results now systematically wiped out before they even appear, anti-piracy groups such as BREIN seem happy with the direction the relationship with Google is heading. Yet, a lawsuit filed in New York last week by Cengage Learning, Macmillan Learning, Macmillan Holdings, LLC; Elsevier Inc., Elsevier B.V., and McGraw Hill LLC, paints an entirely different picture for the publishing industry.

    Pirate Site Promoter, Piracy Profiteer

    The opening salvo in the publishers’ lawsuit, which majors on violations of the Copyright Act, the Lanham Act, and New York’s General Business Law, details Google’s ‘systemic and pervasive advertising’ of infringing copies of their textbooks and other educational works.

    “For years, Google has knowingly facilitated and reaped profits from the sale of infringing works through pirate websites that Google promotes. The Publishers have reported infringement after infringement to Google, only to have those reports ignored,” the complaint begins.

    For background, the publishers claim that Google’s position as the dominant provider of digital advertising services earned the company $300 billion in revenue last year. They claim that the company’s advertising power is used to undermine publishers for the purpose of generating profit.

    Search and Shopping

    Turning to Google Search, the publishers note that in addition to providing organic search results, results also contain advertisements. These include ads that are part of Google’s Shopping platform containing both text and images, with the latter providing users with a “strong sense” of advertisers’ products, as per Google marketing.

    After clicking the ‘Shopping’ tab on the main search page, users are presented with more Shopping Ads, including sponsored ads where merchants pay Google based on the volume of clicks.

    “Of course, Google’s Shopping Ads for Infringing Works (‘Infringing Shopping Ads’) do not use photos of the pirates’ products; rather, they use unauthorized photos of the Publishers’ own textbooks, many of which display the Marks. Thus, with Infringing Shopping Ads, this ‘strong sense of the product’ that Google is giving is a bait-and-switch,” the complaint alleges.

    “The Pirate Sellers rely on Google Shopping Ads to advertise their Infringing Works and gain sales, and Google systematically and repeatedly creates Infringing Shopping Ads to ‘send’ consumers to Pirate Sellers’ websites (‘Pirate Sites’) to buy their infringing products.”

    No Indiscriminate Advertising

    At this point the publishers’ strategy begins to take shape. Drawing a reverse analogy to the Yellow Pages, where ads were allegedly printed as supplied and then disseminated “indiscriminately” to the public, Google’s role here is described as active. The company creates the ads and targets merchants’ products to the very users looking for those products, at a time it determines, the publishers claim.

    The significant allegation from the publishers in this respect is that Google ranks ‘Paid Ads’ by “advertiser bid and ad quality” which puts the publishers and their distributors up against the ‘Pirate Sellers.’ Also in the mix is Google’s assessment of “ad quality” which considers the relevance of the ad to the user’s search and Google’s evaluation of the website the ad points to, i.e a pirate site.

    “Google often ranks both Paid Ads and Free Ads for Infringing Works in close proximity to, or even ahead of, ads for the Publishers’ authentic textbooks,” the complaint alleges, adding the following:

    Google’s Infringing Shopping Ads are extremely effective at diverting would-be purchasers of the Publishers’ textbooks to buy Infringing Works instead of legitimate copies. When students seeking to purchase textbooks initiate searches for the Publishers’ textbooks on google.com, they see not just organic search results and ads for the Publishers’ legitimate textbooks, but also ads for pirated textbooks.

    Indeed, Infringing Shopping Ads make up a substantial portion of the Shopping Ads these users see, often outnumbering ads for authentic textbooks and often with preferable placement. Worse, Google’s advertisements reflect the Infringing Works’ artificially low prices. And the ads, which reproduce the Publishers’ own images of the textbooks without authorization, are often indistinguishable from legitimate ads.

    The publishers say that in most or all cases, Google’s ‘Infringing Shopping Ads’ include textbook cover images, which neither Google nor the Pirate Sellers have permission to use in connection with the promotion or sale of infringing books.

    Publishers Claim Google Should Know Products Are Illegal

    With names including “Cheapbok,” “Athena Line Store,” “Biz Ninjas,” “Nardab,” “Livyluxe,” and “Shop Hoth,” the publishers say that Google should’ve known who they were dealing with; even more so since the publishers included those names in their takedown notices.

    The publishers note that other red flags include extremely low pricing. This is due to the Pirate Sellers offering books in PDF format when “legitimate distributors rarely, if ever, sell their textbooks in PDF form.” That Google allegedly helps users to refine their searches by adding ‘pdf’ via a dedicated button, only makes matters worse, they add.

    The complaint then turns to Google’s claim that it verifies sellers’ identities. Google also verifies sellers’ authorized ownership of their sales websites and verifies their suitability to use Google ad services. The publishers’ turn these claims to their own advantage.

    They claim that verification means Google has the ability to communicate with sellers via email or verified phone numbers

    In cases where Google was advised that a seller was offering pirated content and Google users were still able to place orders after clicking an ad, “Google had the ability to stop the direct infringement entirely.”

    In the majority of cases where pirate sellers predominantly or exclusively use Google Ads to reach their customer base, terminating their accounts would’ve had a significant impact on future sales.

    “Google’s removal of Infringing Shopping Ads and termination of repeat infringers’ advertising privileges also would have a significant impact by eliminating or greatly curtailing the reproduction of Infringing Works by Google’s users when they make purchases on Pirate Sites promoted by Google,” the complaint adds.

    Lacking Response to Infringement Notices, Lawsuit Ensues

    The publishers claim that they began sending infringement notices to Google in June 2021, identifying pirate sellers, pirate sites, and Shopping ads advertising pirated works, but to no avail.

    “Indeed, despite receiving notice after notice, Google has continued to advertise specific Infringing Works sold by specific Pirate Sellers identified in the Publishers’ notices. Google has also continued to advertise Infringing Works for Pirate Sellers who have been the subject of repeated notices. Google did not terminate these repeat infringers’ Merchant Center accounts within a reasonable time, if at all.”

    The complaint also cites an aggravating factor; when the publishers sent follow-up notices for matters previously reported but not handled to their satisfaction, “Google threatened on multiple occasions to stop reviewing all the Publishers’ notices for up to six months,” the complaint alleges.

    Google’s response was due to duplicate requests; the company warned that if that happened three or more times on the same request, it would “consider that particular request to be manifestly unfounded” which could lead the company to “temporarily stop reviewing your requests for a period of up to 180 days.”

    The publishers claim that Google is contributorily liable for at least two forms of direct infringement, vicarious infringement, and trademark infringement for allowing the plaintiffs marks to be used in commerce in connection with infringing works. They also allege violations of New York General Business Law section 349(a) for engaging in materially deceptive and misleading practices.

    The publishers’ complaint can be found here (pdf)

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

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      Cheaper Prices Reduce Indirect Visits to Pirate Sites, Research Finds

      news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 3 days ago - 18:09 · 4 minutes

    coins pig Most people know all too well that downloading and sharing pirated content is against the law. Nonetheless, millions do so daily.

    There’s no denying that piracy affects legal sales to some degree. That said, piracy is a complicated phenomenon and the reported effects are not always straightforward.

    Instead of trying to quantify the prospected losses in yet another study, researchers from Georgia Tech, Chapman University, and Carnegie Mellon University, posed a different question.

    Do price reductions for legal content have an effect on piracy?

    Price and Piracy

    Various surveys have indicated that many people cite high costs as a prime reason to pirate, so it’s any area worth researching. Doing so elegantly is not easy, however, as researchers can’t simply ask sellers to change their pricing. Luckily, a natural experiment with help from updated EU tax regulations provided an opportunity.

    price piracy research

    In 2018, the European Union passed a directive that allowed member states to reduce the VAT on e-books, bringing it in line with the lower tax rate for physical books. This change was implemented by several countries in 2019, including Ireland, where e-book prices dropped 14%.

    The researchers used this natural variation to examine the effect on piracy. Specifically, they looked at visits to publishing related pirate sites in Ireland after this change was implemented, comparing it to the EU countries where prices remained unchanged in the same period.

    If cheaper prices matter, traffic to pirate sites should drop in Ireland. The 14% price decrease is relatively minimal, but the effect was indeed noticeable.

    Direct Pirate Site Visits Unchanged

    The researchers relied on pirate site ‘visits’ data from tracking company MUSO and, at first glance, there weren’t any major changes. The lower prices didn’t result in fewer direct visits to book pirate sites.

    “We find that direct eBook piracy is not affected by the decrease in the price of eBooks that resulted from lowered tax rates,” the researchers write.

    The term direct traffic applies to visitors who go to these pirate sites directly. For example, by typing the address into the browser directly or through a bookmark. These people are already familiar with the pirate sites, and price reductions don’t impact their habits.

    Fewer Indirect Pirate Site Visits

    In addition to direct visits, MUSO also records indirect traffic. This refers to visits coming from search engines such as Google, or from sites that link people to these pirate sites in other ways. These indirect visitors are impacted by price reductions, the research found.

    The data show that, compared to other countries, indirect visits to book pirate sites in Ireland decreased significantly as e-book prices were dropped.

    “[W]e find evidence that these price decreases reduced indirect eBook piracy visits by at least 27%, an effect that starts smaller and grows larger over time as indirect pirates become aware of the lower prices.”

    As mentioned, this effect became stronger as time passed. According to the researchers, it’s likely that it took some time for people to learn about the price drops, which would explain this gradually increasing reduction.

    Hardcore vs. Casual Pirates

    The researchers found that cheaper prices decrease indirect traffic to pirates sites, while direct visits are not affected. The researchers mention a few possible reasons for this distinction.

    Broadly speaking, direct pirates can be considered more hardcore. Piracy is ingrained in their system, they have their favorite sites, and small price reductions generally don’t impact their behavior.

    “Because pirates who navigate directly to piracy sites have already paid the fixed search and learning costs for piracy, the legal price is of little interest to them, nor are they likely to notice changes in this price since they do not search.

    “Indeed, for these pirates, there seems to be some truth to the adage ‘you cannot compete with free’,” the researchers add.

    Casual pirates who use search engines to find free books are easier to sway. Since they search, they are more likely to notice the price differences in the first place. The results of the study suggest that these ‘indirect’ pirates weigh both legal and illegal options, and are willing to pay if the price is right.

    Implications

    This is just a single study that has to be replicated by future research, also in other countries and across other content categories. That said, there are some provisional lessons to draw.

    The researchers suggest that casual pirates, who use search engines to visit pirate sites, may be the best group to target and convert. For example, by offering discount coupons to draw them to legal platforms.

    More hardcore pirates, who directly visit pirate sites, are not likely to be lured by cheaper offers. They will pirate if they get the chance.

    “Our results demonstrate the potential of using price to mitigate piracy, but they also highlight the challenges firms face in competing with piracy for experienced pirates,” the researchers conclude.

    The article will be published in a forthcoming edition of the peer-reviewed journal MIS Quarterly. An early copy is available on SSRN .

    Rajavi, Koushyar and Danaher, Brett and Newby, Jesse, Price, Piracy, and Search: Which Pirates Respond to Changes in the Legal Price? (February 01, 2024). MIS Quarterly (forthcoming).

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

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      Court Bans DoodStream’s Owners & Associates From Running The Site

      news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 5 days ago - 19:55 · 6 minutes

    doodstream In March 2024, the major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and Apple, teamed up in a lawsuit against popular cyberlocker platform DoodStream, previously labeled the leading global piracy threat.

    The U.S. entertainment companies had been filing takedown notices to prevent their copyright works being illegally shared among DoodStream’s tens of millions of users, and beyond that, many millions more. They claim the takedown notices were ineffective due to a system at DoodStream that generated replacement links to ensure content remained available.

    Since DoodStream is run from India, the site’s owners were sued in the Delhi High Court. In March, an injunction compelled the site to purge itself of all links to the plaintiffs’ content inside 24 hours. As detailed in part one of this article published yesterday , DoodStream didn’t remove the content in the allocated period and certainly didn’t shut down.

    Instead, it complained that the links to be removed were supplied in an inconvenient file format, and refused to disable various download links because that would ruin the site. In general, the injunction’s terms appeared to act as a starting point for negotiation, with DoodStream making it clear that it simply wouldn’t comply with certain requests.

    The Court’s assessment of DoodStream’s compliance thus far, and its decision based on those findings, could have a profound effect on DoodStream’s ability to conduct business.

    Infringing Content on DoodStream “Vast and Numerous”

    Compared with documents concerning earlier hearings, the order handed down by Justice Anish Dayal leaves the DoodStream defendants almost nowhere to go.

    “[T]he quantity of infringing content that Doodstream allows its users to upload, is vast and numerous. Further, not only does the site, in its current architecture, allow the user/uploader to either simply upload content, create a link and disseminate a link to that content, but also allows users to access infringing content on remote hosts and secure access to the same through the Doodstream website,” Justice Dayal begins.

    “Effectively, the site in its current architecture, is an aggregator or a library of unfiltered content, therefore, allowing users/uploaders to inevitably use the platform for disseminating infringing content.”

    Not Just Infringing Content, Illegal Content Too

    Also “funneled through” DoodStream, the Judge added, is adult pornographic content. The movie companies have no claim in their case related to that type of material, but nevertheless brought it to the attention of the Court. In India, the distribution of pornography is an imprisonable offense.

    “Not only is the site allowing the funneling and dissemination of content but also incentivizing the uploaders to place content which can be watched and seen by other users, and get money on a pay-per-view basis,” Justice Dayal continues.

    “For this, naturally, the response to the queries of concerned uploaders […] when their link was disabled, was that Doodstream had features on the website that allowed the generation of another link, or avoiding the DMCA radar.”

    DMCA Does Not Apply in India

    In his now-infamous 2004 letter to DreamWorks, The Pirate Bay’s Anakata politely pointed out that United States law applies in the United States, not in Europe or elsewhere. While arguably still true, it’s hard to run a site from any country without having some kind of contact with the U.S.

    However, since U.S. rightsholders are most likely to sue, compliance with the DMCA, for example, is viewed by some as a way to enjoy protection from liability as a passive intermediary might in the U.S. In DoodStream’s case, the gap between perception and reality was huge and as the Judge points out, the DMCA isn’t likely to help here.

    “The DMCA compliance, as adverted to by the defendants, may not come to their assistance for the reason that the DMCA is a regulation which is applicable in the United States of America. In India, we are governed by the Information Technology Act, 2000 [‘IT Act’] and the Rules made thereunder. Section 79 of the IT Act gives exemption from liability to intermediary in certain circumstances,” Justice Dayal writes.

    Exemption from Liability is Conditional

    In common with the U.S. equivalent, exemption from liability in India is not a given. If an intermediary observes the rules and operates with due diligence, that does go a long way to avoiding liability. If, on the other hand, an intermediary has “conspired, abetted, aided, or induced the commission” of an unlawful act or, as the Judge puts it, fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to infringing material, for the intermediary “that is vitiating.”

    The Judge notes that intermediaries must observe the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 , which expressly forbid the storage and distribution of content for which no rights have been obtained, or is pornographic in nature.

    For an intermediary to successfully limit liability via a defense of due diligence, under the rules it must have previously appointed an officer to oversee a ‘grievance redressal mechanism’. Since it appears that DoodStream has no mechanism and no officer, Section 79(2)(c) of the IT Act will not come to its rescue, the Judge suggests.

    “Moreover, the insulation, if any, is prone to be punctured due to their acts of inducement or abetment for users/uploaders to use Doodstream for uploading and disseminating infringing content.”

    Too Much Infringing Content to Remove Quickly Is Not a Defense

    As mentioned in yesterday’s article, DoodStream submitted that it wasn’t given enough time to remove infringing links, since the volume was just too great. Justice Dayal found the excuse uncompelling.

    “The defendants cannot have an excuse that a large amount of infringing content links made it practically impossible for them to fully comply with the orders of this Court,” the Judge notes.

    Recalling a similar case against Mixdrop, a broadly similar file-hosting service from which around 600,000 to 800,000 links were removed, the Judge quickly drew parallels to the case in hand. Here, 500,000 to 1,000,000 links represent infringement of the plaintiffs’ rights on a similarly large scale.

    With the Mixdrop matter for guidance, the Judge formulated his decision here along similar lines.

    DoodStream’s Operators Banned

    Having determined similarities between the DoodStream and MixDrop cases, Justice Dayal’s decision targets DoodStream owners Raja Durai and Sarvesh Chandran by restraining their ability to do business.

    In view of the above facts and circumstances, and considering that this Court is conscious and alert to the issue of piracy through rogue websites of infringing content, till the next date of hearing, directions are being passed in the following terms:

    a) Defendants nos. 5 and 6, and all those acting for/on their behalf, are restrained from directly or indirectly operating the website Doodstream.com, and domains which are listed as defendants nos. 1, 2, and 3 in the memo of parties..[..]

    Defendant no.5 and 6 and all those acting for/on their behalf are also restrained from using any other similar platform to make accessible content which is infringing of the plaintiffs’ proprietary rights and uploading, posting, screening, distributing, or making available to the public through/in any manner whatsoever, the cinematographic work/ content/ programme/ shows in relation to which the plaintiffs have copyright.

    In the event the content, rights, or access to the same from the Doodstream portfolio of websites is transferred to any third party and/or subsequently operated through a mirror/ redirected/alphanumerically varying website(s), the plaintiffs shall have a right to approach this Court for suitable directions along with documents to substantiate its claim.

    The next hearing is listed for September 18, 2024, but if DoodStream can show compliance in the interim, they can apply to modify Justice Dayal’s order. That’s unlikely to prove straightforward.

    Catch 22

    To show full compliance, the DoodStream platform will need to be modified to prevent reappearances of the plaintiffs’ content. Unfortunately, as per the text above, the site’s operators “and all those acting for/on their behalf, are restrained from directly or indirectly operating the website.”

    At the time of writing, DoodStream remains online either intentionally, or possibly because the injunction prevents the operators or anyone else shutting it down.

    That raises the question of what happens when movies and TV shows are illegally uploaded but nobody has permission to take them down. The reign of the autonomous website may have arrived early.

    All public filings in the case thus far are available here (pdf)

    doodstream-restrained

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

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      DoodStream’s ‘Proprietors’ Struggle to Comply With Hollywood Injunction

      news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 5 days ago - 19:52 · 7 minutes

    doodstream The USTR’s ‘notorious markets’ report is one of the more powerful tools available to rightsholders aiming to tackle infringement orchestrated from overseas.

    When Hollywood first submitted cyberlocker platform DoodStream for consideration in 2022, its framing was not dissimilar to that used to shape perceptions of Megaupload. Front and center, a cash incentive scheme that rewards DoodStream’s users based on the popularity of ‘their’ videos.

    Based on broadly the same copyright infringement-related allegations, a Paris court ordered French ISPs to block DoodStream in 2023. Late last year, the MPA’s Global General Counsel, Karyn Temple, personally informed a House Judiciary Subcommittee of the threat posed by DoodStream. That wasn’t intended to be taken lightly.

    Major Hollywood Studios, Netflix, Amazon, and Apple, Sue DoodStream

    In March this year, Hollywood’s movie and TV show giants filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against India-based DoodStream at the Delhi High Court

    A total of six defendants included the domains doodstream.com, doodstream.co, dood.stream and their underlying websites (defendants 1-3), plus a server (defendant 4) used by defendants 1 to 3, to allegedly facilitate storing and dissemination of infringing content. Defendants 5 and 6, neither of whom were identified in initial public court records, were described as the site’s operators.

    Our March report offers more detail but, in short, takedown notices filed at DoodStream were ineffective. When content was taken down, a system was in place to automatically generate a new working link. On that basis, and many more, the plaintiffs demanded total blocking of DoodStream or the imposition of new management to take over the site.

    DoodStream Somehow Makes a Counter-Offer

    After DoodStream promised to “exhaustively and completely” remove the plaintiffs’ content, and disable the system that renders takedowns pointless, the Delhi High Court’s March 18 order compelled DoodStream to remove all content owned by the plaintiffs within 24 hours. The site’s operators were further ordered to hire an accountant to disclose all revenue generated by the site, although that would be allowed more time.

    In the U.S. and Europe, the short window available to comply with the takedown requirements of the injunction would mean taking the site offline until the content had been removed. Alternatively, face being held in contempt of court.

    In documents filed at the High Court dated April 5, the plaintiffs reported non-compliance with the injunction. Not only was the infringing content still available on DoodStream, the link generating system was still in place too, violating the court’s orders.

    In documents filed at the High Court dated April 7, counsel for the defendants stated that, contrary to the plaintiffs’ claims, DoodStream had complied with the terms of the injunction and had “placed on record certain technical aspects relating to the allegations of the plaintiffs.”

    Settling Differences of Opinion

    Faced with apparently conflicting statements, the Court decided that the “technical aspects” referenced by the defendants needed to be understood. Handing the task to the Joint Registrar, to be assisted by the Director and Joint Director of the Delhi High Court’s IT department, they would understand the technicalities together.

    “This may require the plaintiffs and the defendants to show the [infringing] content on [DoodStream] to the Joint Registrar (and the IT Team),” the Court explained.

    While the idea of ordering the parties to conduct searches for pirated content in court seemed a little unconventional, the Court noted that the plaintiffs’ technical advisor would be in attendance to assist.

    For the defense, the technical representatives would be the actual operators of DoodStream, defendants No.5 and No.6 in the complaint. Or, as the court referred to them, the site’s ‘proprietors’, who were named in public court documents for the first time. To some in the Indian tech startup space, the names may look familiar.

    In an order dated April 22, the Court provided a progress update on events thus far.

    IT Department, Counsel for Plaintiffs and Defendants, Report Back

    In their report to the Court, “counsel for the plaintiff presented an elaborate list of around 1512 links which are still operative thus illegally leaking the copyrighted content of the plaintiff, despite the directions dated 18.03.2024.”

    The Court notes that the list was emailed to the director of the IT department, where a selection of “random links” were tested to see if they were live on DoodStream. The Court randomly tested six links and found that all, except one, were still live.

    Counsel for the defendants explained these links “were left out since more than 5 lakhs links [500,000] were shared initially [by the plaintiffs for deletion] and they [DoodStream] are trying their level best to comply with the list.”

    With the Court noting that the defendants must block all links supplied in future lists, the next update would be issued on April 25 – just 72 hours later.

    Progress At Last?

    The Court’s order dated April 25 contained positive news. Both parties agreed that all links that needed to be blocked, had indeed been blocked. Further positive news was reported in respect of the link generator tool.

    It was disabled early April, although there was disagreement on the date. The defendants said it couldn’t have been disabled any sooner “due to logistic and technical aspects” including “the cache memory and Cloudflare CDN.”

    Less positive news concerned the revenue accounting exercise ordered by the Court, which still hadn’t been carried out. Meanwhile, the studios suggested some additional changes to curb infringement.

    Publish Users’ Names Next to Their Uploads

    Counsel for the studios said that DoodStream should modify its code so that the names of users are published next to their uploads. DoodStream said that the proposal would be discussed with the technical team, as if coding was somehow the biggest barrier to implementing such a feature. Still, the studios had plenty of ideas where that came from.

    Since download links, embedded links, and embed codes facilitate sharing of content with others, disabling these features “would put a plug on the sharing of infringing content.” Or perhaps a suggestion from the Court’s IT department might be better received; DoodStream should start imitating YouTube.

    “They have stated that the ‘YouTube’ usually reviews the entire uploaded content in the background with the help of both the manual as well as the technical intervention whereby once the copyrighted content is identified, the uploader is informed to either take down the content immediately or its account would be blocked forever,” the Court added.

    In the Court’s opinion, this would be the “perfect model to be replicated in the present circumstances.” Whether those circumstances included a feasibility study wasn’t made clear, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Much as the 24-hour deadline was brushed aside, other conditions appeared open for negotiation too.

    Lawsuit or Business Meeting? And Who’s in Charge?

    In its order dated May 1, the Court provides an update on DoodStream’s responses to the requests made earlier by the most powerful movie and TV show studios in the world.

    Unfortunately, having considered the proposal to remove the ‘Download Link, embed link, embed code’ options, DoodStream concluded that removal wasn’t necessary.

    “Counsel for the [defendants] states that they would not be removing these features since, as per their understanding, none of those encourages re-uploading. The counsel for the plaintiff counters this submission by stating that these features do result in the dissemination of their copyrighted content.

    “Be that as it may,” the Court added, “the [defendants] have expressed their inability to remove these features.”

    The proposal to put the names of DoodStream users next to their uploads, “whereby the infringer(s) can be identified and prosecuted” by the studios, wasn’t popular either.

    “The counsel for the [defendants] states that such details cannot be provided, due to the lack of infrastructure and technical feasibility,” the Court’s assessment reads.

    And Just Like That, No Consensus on Anything

    In its order dated May 13, the Court considers DoodStream’s general compliance with the injunction issued March 18, weighing input from the studios and the defendants.

    The plaintiffs describe a climate of “serious non-compliance” alongside DoodStream’s refusal to remove all shareable links. Counsel said that “about 10 lakh” [~1 million] links had been communicated to the site for removal but “the architecture of the site consciously supports the preservation of the infringing content on Doodstream despite takedowns.”

    The site also pays infringers when videos they upload are viewed by others.

    Counsel for the defendants argues that DoodStream has always been compliant, even before the lawsuit, taking down or deleting content in response to complaints. Part of the problem since the lawsuit began is that plaintiffs kept sending takedowns in PDF format, and that meant they couldn’t be complied with.

    While it was confirmed that steps had been taken to implement an upload filter to protect “various” copyright holders, there was a more fundamental problem. The venue for suing DoodStream should not have been India, counsel explained.

    “While the defendants are based in Coimbatore, the hosting platform is in United States of America and therefore, the plaintiff have no reason to approach this Court in the first place.”

    As for the proposed culling of download links, that wasn’t going to happen.

    “Removing the tabs of ‘download link’, ’embed link’, and ’embed code’ by the defendants would end up in the website being completely bare and inept,” DoodStream added.

    The High Court’s brutal assessment on compliance, and what that could mean for DoodStream’s future, will appear here tomorrow

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

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      BREIN Pulled 610 Pirate Sites and Services Offline Last Year

      news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · 5 days ago - 08:20 · 4 minutes

    Supported by Hollywood and other content industries, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has a long and well-established track record.

    The group’s actions regularly make it into our headlines, but there is also a lot of work carried out behind the scenes.

    BREIN has just published its latest annual report, providing insights into the priorities of the organization and the progress being made. This was BREIN’s final year under the leadership of Tim Kuik , who recently handed his life’s work to the organization’s new director, Bastiaan van Ramshorst.

    610 ‘Shutdowns’

    Looking at the latest numbers, we see that the anti-piracy group has closed the books on a very productive year. In total, BREIN completed 615 investigations, which resulted in the shutdown of 610 illegal sites and services.

    These targets include 501 proxies and mirrors, 14 pirate streaming sites, 14 IPTV/VOD sellers, as well as 23 uploaders, scripters, and operators who were connected to various pirate sites.

    The remaining offenders include a wide variety of pirate sites and services such as Usenet indexers, pirate apps, cyberlockers, Facebook groups, stream-rippers, as well as old school open directories. These are typically quite small ‘operations’ but the takedowns still add up.

    BREIN also kept a close eye on advertisements for pirate services and other illegal offerings. A total of 3,739 advertisements were flagged and reported, a figure that has been relatively stable over the years.

    Google Takedowns & Site Blocking

    The same can’t be said for search engine removals. In 2023, BREIN helped to remove 132,455 links to pirate sites from third-party search engines such as Google. That’s down significantly from last year, further still when compared to years earlier.

    From an enforcement perspective, the decline is considered a positive. As reported previously, Google now delists entire domains from search results in countries where ISPs are required to block those platforms.

    This means that The Pirate Bay and many of its proxies and mirrors no longer show up in Google. The same applies to other blocked sites; following requests from BREIN, in 2023 Google completely delisted 256 domain names already blocked by ISPs in the Netherlands,

    “The ‘delisting’ […] is equivalent to millions of search results that can no longer be seen in the search engine and therefore no longer have to be reported by BREIN. On balance, the number of permanently deleted Google search results has increased to many tens of millions,” BREIN writes.

    The new delistings were in part the result of the Lookmovie and Flixtor blocking order that was obtained last year. With the previously blocked Pirate Bay, 1337x, LimeTorrents, YTS, RARBG, Kickasstorrents and EZTV, the total has now reached nine sites and hundreds of proxies.

    Next year, this will increase further, as a recent order added shadow libraries ‘Anna’s Archive’ and ‘LibGen’ to the Dutch blocklist.

    Knock Knock…

    The full annual report includes many more details and nuances. For example, BREIN also completed 41 settlement agreements, mostly with site operators or uploaders . Twelve of these were the result of ‘knock & talks’, where the alleged pirates received a home visit.

    BREIN tends to be fairly pragmatic with its settlement approach. The ultimate goal is to stop the infringements. Offenders typically have to agree to stop their activities, or face a hefty penalty if they continue.

    Ideally, the anti-piracy group would like offenders to cooperate, but that doesn’t always work as planned.

    Last year, BREIN used previously obtained information about a pirate script seller to identify several new uploaders and site owners. One of those individuals chose to settle for a higher fee, rather than expose the person who sold the script. Ultimately, however, the ‘protected’ scripter was caught.

    Finally, it’s worth mentioning a large criminal prosecution of an IPTV operation, where the originating complaint was filed by BREIN. This case, which is still pending, took down an entire datacenter and resulted in several arrests.

    These types of copyright-related criminal prosecutions are rare in the Netherlands, and this was the largest of its kind in the country.

    “Illegal IPTV is the most serious threat to legal offerings of movies, series, television and sports broadcasts. This case involves a criminal organization behind the large-scale sale of more than 1 million IPTV subscriptions in the Netherlands, among other countries,” BREIN writes.

    Finally, BREIN also had one of its largest ever setbacks last year. In a Usenet-related lawsuit, a provider that had already shut down years before ended up with a moral victory.

    After a legal battle of 14 years, the Dutch Supreme Court concluded that Usenet provider NSE was not liable for copyright infringement . The fact that NSE had a takedown procedure and no apparent knowledge of infringement, weighed in its favor, and BREIN was ordered to pay €65,000 in legal fees.

    A copy of BREIN’s latest annual report in available here, in Dutch

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