Court Orders Telegram To Disclose Personal Details of Pirating Users

The High Court in Delhi ordered Telegram to share the personal details of copyright-infringing users with rightsholders. The messaging app refused to do so, citing privacy concerns and freedom of speech, but the court waved away these defenses, ordering the company to comply with Indian law. TorrentFreak reports: Telegram doesn’t permit copyright infringement and generally takes swift action in response. This includes the removal of channels that are dedicated to piracy. For some copyright holders that’s not enough, as new ‘pirate’ channels generally surface soon after. To effectively protect their content, rightsholders want to know who runs these channels. This allows them to take action against the actual infringers and make sure that they stop pirating. This argument is the basis of an infringement lawsuit filed in 2020.

The case in question was filed by Ms. Neetu Singh and KD Campus. The former is the author of various books, courses, and lectures, for which the latter runs coaching centers. Both rightsholders have repeatedly complained to Telegram about channels that shared pirated content. In most cases, Telegram took these down, but the service refused to identify the infringers. As such, the rightsholders asked the court to intervene. The legal battle culminated in the Delhi High Court this week via an order compelling Telegram to identify several copyright-infringing users. This includes handing over phone numbers, IP addresses, and email addresses.

The order was issued despite fierce opposition. One of Telegram’s main defenses was that the user data is stored in Singapore, which prohibits the decryption of personal information under local privacy law. The Court disagrees with this argument, as the ongoing infringing activity is related to Indian works and will likely be tied to Indian users. And even if the data is stored elsewhere, it could be accessed from India. Disclosing the personal information would not be a violation of Singapore’s privacy law either, the High Court adds, pointing out that there is an exception if personal details are needed for investigation or proceedings.

Telegram also brought up the Indian constitution, which protects people’s privacy, as well as the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, that defense was unsuccessful too. Finally, Telegram argued that it is not required to disclose the details of its users because the service merely acts as an intermediary. Again, the Court disagrees. Simply taking infringing channels offline isn’t good enough in this situation, since infringers can simply launch new ones, as if nothing had happened.

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Pirate Site Blocking Is Making Its Way Into Free Trade Agreements

The new free trade agreement between Australia and the UK includes a site blocking paragraph. The text requires the countries to provide injunctive relief to require ISPs to prevent subscribers from accessing pirate sites. While this doesn’t change much for the two countries, rightsholders are already eying similar requirements for trade deals with other nations. TorrentFreak reports: The inclusion of a blocking paragraph in the copyright chapter of the trade deal was high on the agenda of various copyright holder groups. Following a series of hearings and consultations, both countries settled on the following text:

1. Each Party shall provide that its civil judicial authorities have the authority to grant an injunction against an ISP within its territory, ordering the ISP to take action to block access to a specific online location, in cases where:
(a) that online location is located outside the territory of that Party; and

(b) the services of the ISP are used by a third party to infringe copyright or related rights in the territory of that Party.

2. For greater certainty, nothing in this Article precludes a Party from providing that its judicial authorities may grant an injunction to take action to block access to online locations used to infringe intellectual property rights in circumstances other than those specified in paragraph 1.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Alliance for Intellectual Property, which represents rightsholder organizations such as the MPA, BPI, and the Premier League. The group repeatedly urged the UK Government to include site-blocking powers in the agreement. In a recent submission to the UK Government, the Alliance once again stresses the importance of site blocking, while also hinting at broadening the current anti-piracy toolbox. “It has become a hugely valuable tool in the armory of rights holders looking to protect their IP. It is vital that the UK Government ensures the preservation of the no-fault injunctive relief regime,” the Alliance writes. “We would also encourage the opening of dialogue, wherever possible, to share experience around UK practices and to encourage faster, more efficient website blocking procedures, whether through civil, criminal, administrative or voluntary means.”

The site-blocking language is already included in the latest trade deal draft but the Alliance is also looking ahead at future agreements with other countries. In this context, the blocking paragraph will send a clear message. “We would therefore urge the UK Government to include reference to the site blocking legislation in the FTA with Australia as it will send an important message to future countries that we might chose [sic] to negotiate trade agreements with.” The Alliance for Intellectual Property doesn’t mention any other countries by name. However, it specifically references a report from the U.S. Copyright Office where site blocking was mentioned as a potential future anti-piracy option. In the same report, the Copyright Office also stressed that further research would be required on the effect and impact of a U.S. site-blocking scheme, but the idea wasn’t dismissed outright.

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ACE Shuts Down Massive Pirate Site After Locating Owner In Remote Peru

As part of its global anti-piracy mission, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) has been trying to shut down Pelisplushd.net, a massive pirate streaming site with roughly 70 million visits per month. After tracking down its operator in the remote countryside of Peru, the anti-piracy group says the site is no more. TorrentFreak reports: In a statement published Wednesday, ACE officially announced that it was behind the closure of Pelisplushd.net. The anti-piracy group labeled the platform the second-largest Spanish-language ‘rogue website’ in the entire Latin American region with 383.5 million visits in the past six months and nearly 75 million visits in February 2022. In Mexico alone, the site had more visitors than hbomax.com, disneyplus.com and primevideo.com, a clear problem for those platforms which are all ACE members.

“This is a huge win for the ACE team based in Latin America as we work to protect the legitimate digital ecosystem throughout the region,” said Jan van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection for the Motion Picture Association. “The successful action against the operator of Pelisplushd.net was only made possible because of evidence that we gathered from previous operations conducted in other countries in Latin America. “This speaks volumes about ACE’s ability to crack current cases utilizing years of past gathered intelligence and highlights the global, strategic approach that determines our actions around the world.”

The operator of Pelisplushd is yet to be named but ACE reveals that after a positive identification, the anti-piracy group tracked him down to the “remote countryside of Peru.” That took place in March and soon after, ACE says the operator agreed to turn over his domains. As far as we can tell the main domain at Pelisplushd.net is not yet completely in ACE/MPA hands but a full transfer will probably take place later.

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TorGuard Settles Piracy Lawsuit, Agrees To Block Torrent Traffic On US Servers

TorGuard has settled a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by several movie companies last year. The VPN provider stood accused of failing to take action against subscribers who were pirating films. As part of the settlement, TorGuard agrees to block BitTorrent traffic on U.S. servers; however, it stresses that user privacy is in no way affected by this decision. TorrentFreak reports: “Pursuant to a confidential settlement agreement, Plaintiffs have requested, and Defendant has agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to block BitTorrent traffic on its servers in the United States using firewall technology,” a joint statement reads. This is quite a far-reaching measure as a broad BitTorrent blockade will also affect legal traffic, which includes software updates from Twitter and Facebook. That said, people can still use BitTorrent on servers in other regions. […]

The company confirms that it’s blocking torrent traffic on U.S. servers, but that doesn’t change anything for the privacy of users. “TorGuard has not been forced to log network usage data. Due to the nature of shared IP’s and related hardware technicalities of how TorGuard’s network was built it is impossible for us to do so,” the VPN provider writes. “We have a responsibility to provide high quality uninterrupted VPN and proxy services to our client base at large while mitigating any related network abuse that should arise. This commitment to user privacy and service reliability is the reason we have taken measures to block Bittorrent traffic on servers within the United States.”

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Russia Mulls Legalizing Software Piracy As It’s Cut Off From Western Tech

With sanctions against Russia starting to bite, the Kremlin is mulling ways to keep businesses and the government running. The latest is a creative twist on state asset seizures, only instead of the government taking over an oil refinery, for example, Russia is considering legalizing software piracy. Ars Technica reports: Russian law already allows for the government to authorize — “without consent of the patent holder” — the use of any intellectual property “in case of emergency related to ensuring the defense and security of the state.” The government hasn’t taken that step yet, but it may soon, according to a report from Russian business newspaper Kommersant, spotted and translated by Kyle Mitchell, an attorney who specializes in technology law. It’s yet another sign of a Cyber Curtain that’s increasingly separating Russia from the West.

The plan would create “a compulsory licensing mechanism for software, databases, and technology for integrated microcircuits,” the Kommersant said. It would only apply to companies from countries that have imposed sanctions. While the article doesn’t name names, many large Western firms — some of which would be likely targets — have drastically scaled back business in Russia. So far, Microsoft has suspended sales of new products and services in Russia, Apple has stopped selling devices, and Samsung has stopped selling both devices and chips. Presumably, any move by the Kremlin to “seize” IP would exempt Chinese companies, which are reportedly considering how to press their advantage. Smartphone-makers Xiaomi and Honor stand to gain, as do Chinese automakers. Still, any gains aren’t guaranteed since doing business in Russia has become riddled with problems, spanning everything from logistics to finance.

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TVAddons’ Adam Lackman Admits TV Show Piracy, Agrees To Pay $19.5 Million

In 2017, Bell Canada, TVA, Videotron, and Rogers teamed up in a lawsuit against the operator of TVAddons, the largest repository of Kodi add-ons. The legal action proved extremely controversial but now, after many twists and turns, the matter is now over. As part of a consent judgment (PDF), TVAddons’ founder [Adam Lackman] has admitted liability and agreed to pay a cool US$19.5 million in damages. TorrentFreak reports: In a letter dated February 18, 2022, the media companies and Lackman told the Federal Court that they had resolved their differences by agreeing to a consent judgment. That was reviewed and issued by Justice Rochester, who laid out the agreed terms in her judgment handed down February 22, 2022. Lackman admits to communicating TV shows owned by the plaintiffs to the public, including by directly or indirectly participating in the “development, hosting, distribution or promotion of Kodi add-ons that provide users with unauthorized access” to the plaintiffs’ TV shows, contrary to sections 3(1)(f) and 27(1) of the Copyright Act. The TVAddons founder further admits that he made the TV shows available to the public in a manner that provided access “from a place and at a time individually chosen by them” and induced and authorized users of the infringing add-ons to “initiate acts of infringement of the Plaintiffs’ right to communicate the Plaintiffs Programs to the public by telecommunication,” again by developing, hosting, distributing or promoting Kodi add-ons.

The Federal Court issued a permanent injunction to restrain Lackman (and anyone acting with him, under his authority, or in association) from communicating the plaintiffs’ content to the public in any way, including via the development or distribution of infringing add-ons such as the ‘FreeTelly’ and ‘Indigo’ tools. The terms of the injunction are lengthy and comprehensive, leaving no doubt that TVAddons and all related tools and services are now dead, with Lackman unable to do anything remotely similar in the future.

“THIS COURT ORDERS the Defendant Mr. Lackman to pay the Plaintiffs the amount of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) in the form of a lump sum for damages, profits, punitive and exemplary damages, and costs,” Justice Rochester writes. The judgment is in Canadian dollars but for reference, that’s currently around US$19.5 million. The judgment also authorizes the bailiffs and independent supervising solicitor (with the assistance of computer forensics experts) to transfer the evidence obtained during the search of June 2017 to the media companies. Exactly what data was seized is currently unclear but it is likely to be sensitive, particularly if the trove includes user data and/or information about Kodi add-on developers. Finally, it appears the media companies will also be taking control of “login credentials, accounts, domains, subdomains and servers” in order to bring this years-long battle to a conclusion. Adam Lackman announced his relief on Twitter, noting that “It wasn’t the outcome I had hoped for, but an outcome nonetheless.”

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Streaming TV Shows on Twitch Attracts DMCAs and the TV Industry’s Eye of Sauron

The Washington Post reports that three of the world’s most prominent live-streaming stars “received notifications of copyright infringement after broadcasting TV shows to their millions-strong fanbases on Twitch.”

“The days that followed produced copious amounts of Twitch’s most common byproduct, online drama, but also focused attention on the murky and legally complicated question of what constitutes fair use of copyright materials such as TV shows and movies….”

In 2007 Viacom sued YouTube for copyright infringement. Though the court ultimately ruled in favor of YouTube, the suit paved the way for the “Content ID” system, which automatically identifies copyright content and aggressively polices the platform. While software that can scan Twitch already exists, Twitch has yet to create its own automated system, and it does not appear to be in the process of doing so, according to industry figures with knowledge of Twitch’s operations who weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Such an outcome becomes more likely, however, if advertisers start withdrawing from the platform for fear of being associated with risky content, something that’s already beginning to happen on Twitch according to Devin Nash, chief marketing officer of content creator-focused talent agency Novo…

The “react content” trend often hinges on broadcasting copyright material, like popular movies or TV shows, a practice which skirts the outer edges of platform rules. Earlier this month, Viacom and the History Channel/A&E (which is owned by Hearst and Disney) issued copyright claims — also known as Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown requests — to specific streamers…. The DMCA-centric discourse left streamers and viewers on Twitch with ample drama but no clear answer as to whether one of the platform’s go-to trends merely faces a few bumps in the road or an asteroid-sized extinction event. “Nothing could happen, or everything could happen,” Cassell added. “And it rests on the decisions of a handful of media rights holders….”

Some streamers, such as Piker and Felix “xQc” Lengyel, both of whom started reacting to clips from sites like YouTube long before the current react meta began, argue reaction content should be permitted since Twitch is essentially built on copyright infringement. Streaming a video game is technically a DMCA-able offense. The video game industry, however, has decided to allow the practice because the free publicity and resulting sales tend to outweigh any potential downsides. But television is a different beast, with its economics rooted in broadcast rights rather than individual unit sales….

This awkward and unceasing dance around the topic has been fueled in part by the fact that Twitch is incentivized to maintain its ignorance of copyright infractions taking place on their platform…. But the silence has added stress to streamers whose livelihoods could be impacted by decisions around the current DMCA practices….
The Post also spoke to game/esports/entertainment lawyer David Philip Graham, who believes copyright law itself is due for an overhaul. “Much of our current copyright regime isn’t really about authors’ rights or promoting the progress of science and useful arts, but about big businesses looking for easier routes to profitability,” Graham said.

He proposes shortening copyright term lengths — and also expanding permissions for derivative works.

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Is ‘The NFT Bay’ Just a Giant Hoax?

Recently Australian developer Geoffrey Huntley announced they’d created a 20-terabyte archive of all NFTs on the Ethereum and Solana blockchains.
But one NFT startup company now says they tried downloading the archive — and discovered most of it was zeroes.

Many of the articles are careful to point out “we have not verified the contents of the torrent,” because of course they couldn’t. A 20TB torrent would take several days to download, necessitating a pretty beefy internet connection and more disk space to store than most people have at their disposal. We at ClubNFT fired up a massive AWS instance with 40TB of EBS disk space to attempt to download this, with a cost estimate of $10k-20k over the next month, as we saw this torrent as potentially an easy way to pre-seed our NFT storage efforts — not many people have these resources to devote to a single news story.

Fortunately, we can save you the trouble of downloading the entire torrent — all you need is about 10GB. Download the first 10GB of the torrent, plus the last block, and you can fill in all the rest with zeroes. In other words, it’s empty; and no, Geoff did not actually download all the NFTs. Ironically, Geoff has archived all of the media articles about this and linked them on TheNFTBay’s site, presumably to preserve an immutable record of the spread and success of his campaign — kinda like an NFT…

We were hoping this was real… [I]t is actually rather complicated to correctly download and secure the media for even a single NFT, nevermind trying to do it for every NFT ever made. This is why we were initially skeptical of Geoff’s statements. But even if he had actually downloaded all the NFT media and made it available as a torrent, this would not have solved the problem… a torrent containing all the NFTs does nothing to actually make those NFTs available via IPFS, which is the network they must be present on in order for the NFTs to be visible on marketplaces and galleries….
[A]nd this is a bit in the weeds: in order to reupload an NFT’s media to IPFS, you need more than just the media itself. In order to restore a file to IPFS so it can continue to be located by the original link embedded in the NFT, you must know exactly the settings used when that file was originally uploaded, and potentially even the exact version of the IPFS software used for the upload.

For these reasons and more, ClubNFT is working hard on an actual solution to ensure that everybody’s NFTs can be safely secured by the collectors themselves. We look forward to providing more educational resources on these and other topics, and welcome the attention that others, like Geoff, bring to these important issues.
Their article was shared by Slashdot reader long-time Slashdot reader GradiusCVK (who is one of ClubNFT’s three founders). I’d wondered suspiciously if ClubNFT was a hoax, but if this PR Newswire press release is legit, they’ve raised $3 million in seed funding. (And that does include an investment from Drapen Dragon, co-founded by Tim Draper which shows up on CrunchBase). The International Business Times has also covered ClubNFT, identifying it as a startup whose mission statement is “to build the next generation of NFT solutions to help collectors discover, protect, and share digital assets.”

Co-founder and CEO Jason Bailey said these next-generation tools are in their “discovery” phase, and one of the first set of tools that is designed to provide a backup solution for NFTs will roll out early next year. Speaking to International Business Times, Bailey said, “We are looking at early 2022 to roll out the backup solution. But between now and then we should be feeding (1,500 beta testers) valuable information about their wallets.” Bailey says while doing the beta testing, he realized that there are loopholes in the NFT storage systems and only 40% of the NFTs were actually pointing to the IPFS, while 40% of them were at risk — pointing to private servers.

Here is the problem explained: NFTs are basically a collection of metadata, that define the underlying property that is owned. Just like in the world of internet documents, links point to the art and any details about it that are being stored. But links can break, or die. Many NFTs use a system called InterPlanetary File System, or IPFS, which let you find a piece of content as long as it is hosted somewhere on the IPFS network. Unlike in the world of internet domains, you don’t need to own the domain to really make sure the data is safe. Explaining the problem which the backup tool will address, Bailey said, “When you upload an image to IPFS, it creates a cryptographic hash. And if someone ever stops paying to store that image on IPFS, as long as you have the original image, you can always restore it. That’s why we’re giving people the right to download the image…. [W]e’re going to start with this protection tool solution that will allow people to click a button and download all the assets associated with their NFT collection and their wallet in the exact format that they would need it in to restore it back up to IPFS, should it ever disappear. And we’re not going to charge any money for that.”

The idea, he said, is that collectors should not have to trust any company; rather they can use ClubNFT’s tool, whenever it becomes available, to download the files locally… “One of the things that we’re doing early around that discovery process, we’re building out a tool that looks in your wallet and can see who you collect, and then go a level deeper and see who they collect,” Bailey said. Bailey said that the rest of the tools will process after gathering lessons based on user feedback on the first set of solutions. He, however, seemed positive that the talks of the next set of tools will begin in the Spring of next year as the company has laid a “general roadmap.”

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