Monthly Archives: September 2019

IPTV Providers Reject Claims of Links to Drugs, Weapons, People Trafficking

For as long as piracy and counterfeiting have existed, there have been claims that groups engaged in the practices have links to other, more serious crimes.

Over the past couple of decades the claims have persisted but even the most serious legal cases (ones for which people have been jailed for many years) have failed to turn up evidence that people running pirate sites, services, and similar platforms are connected to even more serious crimes.

This week, however, following news from FACT that it had targeted numerous IPTV sellers and providers in the UK, Lesley Donovan – the National Coordinator for the multi-agency Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) – repeated similar claims.

Referencing even the smaller players – those who re-sell access to larger IPTV providers – Donovan said that they are contributing to what many people consider to be some of the most serious crimes.

“This type of activity is also often a cog in a larger criminal machine, often ultimately funding drugs, weapons and people trafficking,” Donovan said.

Clearly, most members of the general public wouldn’t want to feel that they’re funding drug supply, helping to encourage the flow of weapons, or contributing to the suffering of those trafficked illegally across or even within borders.

However, these claims are rarely (if ever) backed up with references to cases where people can see evidence of that happening for themselves in Internet cases. And with the word “often” being used twice in the GAIN statement, one might be forgiven for thinking it’s commonplace.

Several weeks ago, while in discussion with the operator of an IPTV service based in Europe, this very topic raised its head. Our contact, while acknowledging that what goes on the IPTV space isn’t exactly legal, bemoaned claims that links to wider crime are rampant.

“The truth is that most IPTV services that I know of only do IPTV. The other half have normal jobs that they do day in, day out,” he explained.

Indeed, TF is informed from several sources that IT professionals, both former and current (and particularly those in the networking space), have close interests in supplying IPTV services to the public. “A natural progression and salary supplement,” is how one described it recently.

Interestingly, one provider spoke of how supplying IPTV to the public has actually become an alternative option for those who may have become involved in other types of crime. Nevertheless, gun-running and people trafficking aren’t part of the equation.

“I’m not saying they are whiter than white but they certainly aren’t some mobster gangsters involved in human trafficking,” he said.

Another thing that seems to have irritated IPTV suppliers is the claim by anti-piracy groups that members of the public open themselves up to being stolen from when they deal with ‘pirate’ IPTV providers.

It’s often claimed that handing over personal information along with payment details can result in people being deprived of their cash through ancillary fraudulent transactions. But again, this is something rarely reported in public by any alleged victims, or backed up by evidence from law enforcement.

“Nobody is forced to give real details when signing up [to an IPTV service]. In fact we don’t care what name or address you put as we aren’t going verify the information,” one source told TF.

“We use third-party gateways for payment such as PayPal or Stripe and so on, so none of us ever see card details [enabling us to] commit fraud.”

Of course, it could also be argued that in common with the thus-far unsubstantiated claims that IPTV providers are involved in more serious crime, the claims of these providers are also without supporting evidence.

Nevertheless, they seem keen to distance themselves from the claims and in the main, approached us first to dispel the narrative they’re involved in anything other than the supply of illegal streams.

In the interim, it will be for the public to decide who to believe and a court case showing otherwise to run its course and reveal if such connections are both real and substantiated. Until then, the business will remain in the shadows, with both claims and counterclaims up for debate.

Finally, we spoke to one lower-tier reseller and asked him about the recent involvement of organized crime units and whether “organized crime” was an accurate description of his reseller sideline.

“I’ve got about 250 customers,” he told TF. “It’s too many for me really and if it is crime it’s VERY disorganized. So no.”

Alliance For Creativity Now Effectively Controls Vader’s IPTV Domains

This May, the popular Vader Streams ‘pirate’ IPTV service was suddenly shut down.

From the very beginning of the disruption, it was fairly clear that the service was in special difficulties, probably related to legal action.

For months there has been speculation but last week it was finally confirmed that the global anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment was behind the shutdown. According to the MPAA, a leading force in the group, Vader Streams is now liable to pay $10 million in damages.

According to ACE, as part of the surrender package, Vader must also “cede administrative control” over its entire “piracy infrastructure”. The full list of assets that Vader can hand over to ACE members isn’t clear but for months now TF has been monitoring two domains that we know were directly connected to Vader.

At the time of the shutdown, Minihosts.org – a site where users could directly signup to the Vader service – was pointing to a server in the Netherlands. It has been stubbornly pointing to the same Netherlands-based IP address ever since. The same can also be said about the more obviously-named Vaders.tv, pictured below.

vaders iptv matchcenter

In advance to the announcement last week, any changes to these domains could’ve given an early indication of confirmed legal action, including who was behind it. This time around, however, the Alliance for Creativity waited for their official announcement before making any changes.

Now, however, both domains are now displaying the familiar ACE anti-piracy message shown below, before diverting to the Alliance’s official web portal, which details some, but not all, of its actions against other ‘pirate’ video services.

When compared to previous domain ‘seizures’, however, this one looks slightly different. In other cases, several of which we’ve detailed before, the MPAA itself has taken over the domains, a fact that has been made clear via WHOIS lookups that show that the Hollywood group is the new owner.

This time, however, both domains currently have their ownership details hidden by privacy-protection service Privacy Protect LLC. The reason for this is currently unclear but given that domains now redirect to ACE and are also using the MPAA’s nameservers, it seems fairly obvious the handover of former Vader assets is well underway.

The service previously promised that it would protect user data with the statement, “We’re going to make sure, no Email, IP, account + reseller name goes to the wrong hands. Everything will be wiped clean and that’s all.”

While that may very well have happened as promised, we also know that ACE used a secret court process and effectively ambushed one or more Vader operators/staff armed with an Anton Piller order, a civil search warrant that granted them no-notice permission to enter premises to secure and copy evidence before it could be destroyed or tampered with.

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 08/26/19

This week we have one newcomer in our chart.

Men in Black: International is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the articles of the recent weekly movie download charts.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1 (…) Men in Black: International 5.6 / trailer
2 (9) John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum 7.8 / trailer
3 (1) Aladdin 7.3 / trailer
4 (3) Avengers: Endgame 8.7 / trailer
5 (2) Godzilla: King of the Monsters 6.5 / trailer
6 (5) The Secret Life of Pets 2 6.5 / trailer
7 (6) Rocketman 7.6 / trailer
8 (8) Ma 5.8 / trailer
9 (4) The Hustle 5.3 / trailer
10 (back) Avengers: Endgame 8.6 / trailer

Movie Company Sues Hawaiian ISP Over ‘Repeatedly Pirating’ Hotel

The “repeat infringer” issue is a hot topic in US Courts that has resulted in several lawsuits already.

Under the DMCA, companies are required to implement a reasonable policy to deal with frequent offenders. Those who don’t, risk being held liable.

Thus far we have seen lawsuits targeting ISPs including Cox Communications, Charter, and Grande Communications. These companies were all sued by music industry companies and most cases remain ongoing.

In Hawaii, a new ISP was targeted a few days ago, this time by a movie outfit. In a complaint filed at a Hawaiian federal court, Bodyguard Productions accuses Internet provider Pacific DirectConnect of failing to terminate a repeat infringer.

The movie outfit, which is the copyright holder of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” is a familiar player in US courts. The company has previously sued many individual BitTorrent pirates. With the latest lawsuit, it breaks from this trend by going after the Internet provider itself.

Pacific DirectConnect is not a typical consumer ISP. It mainly targets hotels and resorts in Hawaii, offering integrated network solutions including Internet access. According to the complaint, one of these clients is Aston Waikiki Sunset, a large hotel in Honolulu.

According to the movie company, one of the hotel’s IP-addresses was repeatedly caught pirating. The ISP was made aware of this, both directly and through notices that were sent to its own bandwidth supplier, but apparently failed to take any meaningful action in response.

“Despite multiple notifications of infringements from Plaintiff, Hawaiian Telcom and third parties, Defendant has failed and steadfastly refused to terminate the account of subscriber Aston,” the complaint reads.

“Said infringements would have been stopped if Defendant merely terminated subscriber Aston’s service,” the movie company adds.

Bodyguard Productions argues that the ISP purposely failed to terminate the account of the Hawaiian hotel, despite knowing that it was a repeat
infringer. As such, the company is liable for the copyright infringements of its ‘subscriber.’

Through the lawsuit, the movie company requests an injunction requiring the ISP to terminate the account of the hotel. It accuses the company of both contributory and direct copyright infringement, asking the court to grant “any and all other relief” that’s appropriate in this case.

According to the complaint, Pacific DirectConnect is not protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor because it willingly failed to terminate the alleged repeat infringer. In addition, the ISP doesn’t have a registered DMCA agent, which is a requirement to enjoy safe harbor protection.

As far as we know, this is the first time that an ISP has been sued for providing Internet services to a hotel. This sets the case apart from the other repeat infringer cases that mostly deal with ordinary consumer providers.

Needless to say, the lawsuit has the potential to create another shockwave in the industry. If an Internet provider can indeed be liable for servicing hotels, resorts, or other large companies that have hundreds of users themselves, it will have to be much more careful.

The complaint doesn’t mention whether Bodyguard Productions reached out to the resort directly to address the repeat infringer issue.

A copy of the complaint filed by Bodyguard Productions against Pacific DirectConnect is available here (pdf).

Foxtel Obtains First ‘Dynamic’ Injunction Against Torrent, Streaming & Proxy Sites

Section 115a of Australia’s Copyright Act, which provides a mechanism for rightsholders to have ‘pirate’ sites blocked by ISPs, was long campaigned for as an essential tool to fight online infringement.

Since it came into force it has been used on a number of occasions, with the Federal Court handing down orders to restrict access to hundreds of sites said to provide access to entertainment content without permission from the rightsholders.

Back in June, media giant Foxtel filed a new statement of claim, the details of which were obtained by TorrentFreak from a third-party source. It revealed that the company was targeting 35 torrent, streaming and related proxy site domains for blocking by dozens of ISPs (full site list below).

This was the first time that a rightsholder had targeted proxy sites in Australia. A change in the law during 2018 allowed sites that have a “primary effect” of facilitating access to infringing content to be blocked, along with more direct sources such as regular pirate sites.

Following a case management hearing that took place in July, a hearing this morning resulted in Justice Nicholas handing down an injunction ordering 52 ISPs including TPG, Telstra, Optus, Vocus, Vodafone, plus their subsidiaries, to take “reasonable steps” to block the “online locations”.

A unique aspect of this application was that Foxtel had asked permission to add new domains and URLs to its orders, ones that in future might facilitate access to already-blocked sites, without having to return to court to detail them specifically.

Under legislative amendments put in place last year (Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018)), these kinds of “dynamic orders” are permissible, but only when the Internet service providers listed in the application don’t file an objection.

According to ComputerWorld, the hearing this morning had Foxtel counsel stating that it wasn’t seeking to block fresh additional “online locations”, but only proxy and mirror-type sites those that spring up to facilitate access to already blocked sites.

However, Foxtel acknowledged that getting all of the respondent ISPs to agree to such supplementary blocking raised issues since TPG tends not to respond to any of the blocking injunctions it’s named in. That meant that formal agreement between all ISPs might be difficult to obtain.

With Justice Nicholas’ permission, Foxtel said it would amend its proposed orders to include a provision allowing an ISP to positively deny that a proxy, mirror, or similar facilitating site, provides access to a blocked site. This would likely overcome that particular stumbling block, the Judge agreed.

The associated court documents can be found here and here (pdf)

The list of domains to be blocked by ISPs in 15 days are as follows:

Sharemovies.net, seriesonline8.co, seriesonline8.com, movie4u.live, movie4u.cc, movie4u.co, seehd.uno, seehd.biz, streamdreams.org, streamdreams.me, streamdreams.co, streamdreams.online, streamdreams.video, stream-dreams.com, moviesonline.mx, wsmmirror.info, watchsomuch.info, watchsomuch.com, seventorrentsmirror.info, seventorrentsproxy.com, 7tmirror.info, torrentken.site, skytorrents.lol, unblocked.lol, unblocked.is, unblocked.ms, unblocked.win, unblocked.gdn, unblocked.vet, unblocked,sh, unblocked.mx, unblockall.org, unblocker.cc, unblock.win, myunblock.com