MPAA Studios Taking on Large-Scale Piracy Ring in New York Court

A February lawsuit has just been unsealed.
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Users looking for pirated films to stream may have noticed that several high-volume sites are no longer available. That's because the major Hollywood studios launched a legal battle last month and the court agreed to shut them down for the time being.

The MPAA member studios sued the operators of PubFilm/PidTV in February, asking the court for a temporary restraining order to shut down what it described as a ring of six interconnected large-scale piracy sites. The suit was initially sealed, but was made public on Friday.

Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Universal, Disney, Paramount and Viacom are named as plaintiffs in the suit for direct and secondary copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition. They're seeking statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement plus restitution of the sites' profits. So, depending on how many instances of infringement are discovered, the damages in this case could be astronomical.

The studios claim the sites had more than 8 million visitors each month, nearly half of which were linked to IP addresses in the U.S. The sites offer on-demand streaming and downloading of films that are currently in theaters and television shows that are in first-run release. The sites are believed to be operated in Vietnam.

"Defendants’ entire business amounts to nothing more than a blatant, large-scale copyright infringement operation, undertaken to maximize ill-gotten profits while evading the enforcement efforts of copyright owners," states the complaint. "Plaintiffs bring this action to put an end to Defendants’ ongoing, massive violation of Plaintiffs’ rights and to recover damages therefrom."

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero issued the TRO on Feb. 7 and later granted a preliminary injunction that aims to prevent the defendants from hosting, linking to, distributing, reproducing or otherwise exploiting any of the plaintiffs' works. Marrero also barred defendants from transferring the registration of their domain names, from destroying any files, business records or documents relating to the sites and from "assisting, aiding or abetting any other person or business entity" in pirating the works. 

The court also ordered GoDaddy, VeriSign and Enom to disable the six domain names and prevent their transfer — without giving any warning to or communicating with the defendants.

The MPAA sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement on Friday: "The ring of large-scale piracy sites known as PubFilm/PidTV distributed vast numbers of stolen movies and television shows for streaming and downloading — all for the financial benefit of its operators without paying a dime to those who worked so hard to make them. By seeking legal orders to stop these illegal commercial enterprises, we are protecting the hard work of the millions of people who contribute to the American creative economy.”

In a Thursday letter to the judge, attorney Kenneth Doroshow says his clients were not opposed to the case being unsealed — in part because Torrent Freak on Sunday published an online report that the defendants are advertising a new website in light of PubFilm's shutter.

The studios are also represented by Lori Day of Jenner & Block and Karen Thorland of the MPAA.