In the early days of file-sharing, many of those involved couldn’t believe that music could be downloaded for free. Today, many pirates not only expect more, they demand more, and get it too.
As a result, and when everything goes to plan, many of today’s piracy apps are indistinguishable from their legal counterparts. They are as easy to install and feature similar graphical interfaces, with all the latest movies and TV shows a couple of taps away.
Such is their prevalence, apps offering less are easily ignored. The most successful pirate apps offer access to superior content libraries than those available on legal services, without charging a penny. Hollywood, Netflix, and almost every other player in the streaming market would love to shut them all down, but that’s more easily said than done.
ACE/MPA Take Closer Interest
With finite resources, anti-piracy groups usually concentrate on higher-profile apps with larger audiences. This suggests a direct link between the success of an app and the chances of it being shut down. Piracy apps TeaTV, BeeTV and CyberFlix are clearly popular enough to warrant some extra attention.
Jan van Voorn is the Executive Vice President & Chief of Global Content Protection at the Motion Picture Association. He’s also head of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the anti-piracy coalition that has shut down more pirate services in five years than most people knew existed.
Documents filed at a California court earlier this month are the first public sign that TeaTV and BeeTV are on the ACE radar. Signed by van Voorne, the DMCA subpoena application targets Cloudflare and requires the company to hand over whatever information it holds on the alleged infringers identified by ACE.
The subpoena requires Cloudflare to hand over the following: Information sufficient to identify the alleged infringers of the motion pictures described in the attached notification letter. This would include the individuals’ names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account history.
The deadline to hand over that information is today, November 25, 2022, so it’s likely that Cloudflare has already complied. Whether Cloudflare had anything useful to hand over is unknown, but from the last five years of ACE operations, we know that DMCA subpoenas are only the start and the group never gives up.
MPA/ACE Target Github Repos
Exactly a week after the DMCA subpoena application, the Motion Picture Association sent a pair of takedown notices to Github – one targeting TeaTV and the other CyberFlix TV, a popular piracy app with similar functionality.
Representing Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal City Studios, Warner Bros., Disney and Netflix Studios, LLC, the MPA described both apps as engaged in “massive infringement of copyrighted motion pictures and television shows” with infringement their “predominant use and purpose.”
The MPA also provided a document (Exhibit A) containing a “representative list of infringements” occurring via both apps. Those aren’t published by Github but it appears that the MPA wanted to present a clear case of infringement so that Github could see for itself that the apps needed to be taken down.
TeaTV is no stranger to publicity having hit the headlines following a high-profile article published by CNBC in Canada.
The situation for CyberFlix is also precarious. The app is reported to be a clone of Terrarium TV, which shut down in 2018 under legal pressure, widely attributed to ACE.
In 2021, the domain Cyberflix.app ended up in the hands of the MPA. No official announcement followed but seeing the CyberFlix app grow in popularity was always likely to result in a follow up from ACE.
Whether ACE was responsible for another recent shutdown is unclear. The developer of Cinema HD reportedly stopped pushing updates to the popular streaming app after facing “legal issues”, a not-uncommon event since ACE appeared on the scene.
Whether the same fate awaits TeaTV, BeeTV, and CyberFlix, remains to be seen but life in the spotlight has never been easy for piracy services. The only solution is to remain unsuccessful but that’s never been much of an attraction.
Court documents & DMCA notices can be found here (1,2,3,4,5)