Four Brits Sentenced to Multiyear Jail Terms for Illegally Streaming Hollywood Movies

Four British men have been sentenced a combined 4.5 years jail time for operating a website that afforded users illegal access to Hollywood movies, including Lionsgate U.K.’s The Expendables 3, before they were available in theatres.

Prosecutors say the group – which included Steven Pegram (40), Mark Rollin (37), Paul Taylor (54), and Alan Stephenson (42) — defrauded Lionsgate, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and other studios of more than $11 million in combined box office revenue, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Specifically, the group hacked Lionsgate’s U.K. server in 2014 through a third-party cloud-based content management service, accessing The Expendables 3 DVD screener and other content and then posting the title on their file-sharing website, TheFoundry.name.

Lionsgate estimates it lost about $2 million on the scheme. Other hacked titles included Warner Bros.’ Godzilla and 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past — the two movies suffering more than $5 million in lost revenue.

“These defendants set up and ran a site which allowed users to download films for free via BitTorrent, including the Expendables 3 before its release in the cinema,”Leigh Webber, with the specialist fraud division of the U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service, said in a statement.“All of them had a clear knowledge of what the site was used for and were well aware they were breaching the copyright of the production companies.”

The Expendables 3, the last installment in Sylvester Stallone’s ensemble action franchise, resulted in numerous litigation settlements between Lionsgate and pirate sites, including Hulkfile, Played.to, LimeTorrents, Dotsemper and Swankshare.

FTC Issues Netflix Phishing Scam Alert

The Federal Trade Commission has issued an alert to Netflix subscribers about an online phishing scam that attempts to extract personal information from unsuspecting subs, among other issues.

Phishing is when someone uses fake emails or texts to get users to share valuable personal information — such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, login IDs and passwords.

The FTC said scammers can use the personal information to steal money, identity, or both. They also use phishing emails to get access to an unsuspecting user’s computer or network. Clicking on a link can install ransomwareor other programs that can lock users out of their data.

Indeed, scammers often use familiar company names or pretend to be someone consumers know. Police in Ohio shared a Netflix screenshot of a phishing email designed to steal personal information. The email claims the user’s account is on hold because Netflix is “having some trouble with your current billing information” and invites the user to click on a link to update their payment method.

The FTC warns Netflix subs that If they have concerns about an email from the service, they should contact the company directly.

While some phishing emails look completely legit, bad grammar and spelling typically underscore phishing. Other clues include misspelled names, or you don’t even have an account with the company. In the Netflix example, the scammer used the British spelling of “center” (Centre) and used the greeting, “Hi Dear.” Listing only an international phone number for a U.S.-based company is also suspicious.

Netflix said subscribers unsure about emails from the service can access additional information at Netflix.com/security as well as contacting the customer service.

“We take the security of our members’ accounts seriously and Netflix employs numerous proactive measures to detect fraudulent activity to keep the Netflix service and our members’ accounts secure,” a rep said in a statement. “Unfortunately, scams are common on the internet and target popular brands such as Netflix and other companies with large customer bases to lure users into giving out personal information.”

The FTC said consumers concerned about possible phishing should forward the emails to spam@uce.gov (an address used by the FTC) and to reportphishing@apwg.org (an address used by the Anti-Phishing Working Group, which includes ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions, and law enforcement agencies). You can also report phishing to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Also, let the company or person that was impersonated know about the phishing scheme. For Netflix, forward the message to phishing@netflix.com.

MPAA Boss Calls on Internet Platforms to Improve Digital Ecosystem

Taking a step away from issues involving online piracy of movies and TV shows, Charles Rivkin, CEO of the Motion Pictures Association of America, told an industry gathering that more proactive measures are needed to combat online election meddling, hate speech — and piracy.

Speaking Aug. 20 at the Tech Policy Institute’s Aspen Forum in Colorado, Rivkin said public policies that shaped the early days of the Internet are insufficient for today’s challenges and actually promote a lack of accountability by the platforms such as Amazon and Google that dominate the Web.

With the MPAA celebrating the 50thanniversary of its movie rating system, Rivkin said the milestone underscores the reality that such system is run by a private entity, not the government.

“Accountability and interdependence must be at the foundation of an Internet that continues to support free speech, expression, commerce, creativity, and innovation,” Rivkin said. “Online platforms must do more to mitigate the harms they are enabling, and we must work collaboratively to address them.”

The executive called for a “national conversation” about how Hollywood and the tech industry can return the Web to its original promise: a place for vibrant but civil discourse – “not one where false reports are retweeted thousands of times around the world before the truth has a chance to log on.”

“We live in an AI world that is still operating on an AOL policy framework,” Rivkin said. “There was a vision for the Internet, and this is not it. It’s time to realign our expectations and the incentives that will help us meet them.”

He said online platforms should voluntarily increase their efforts to curb abuse of their services. Rivkin said Congress could “recalibrate the online immunities” to mandate more proactive measures as a condition of those protections.

“I am asking for the recognition that accountability and interdependence must always be at the foundation of an Internet that supports free speech, expression, commerce, creativity and innovation,” he said. “Online platforms must do more to mitigate the harms they are enabling, and we must work collaboratively to address them.”