Dozens of film studios are jointly suing six VPN providers. You should not only be responsible for infringement of copyrights by your customers, but also prevent it by blocking the network. The plaintiffs also demand that the operators log everything and that they be taken offline. In addition, there is the desire for triple damages and punitive damages.
This emerges from a lawsuit that the film studios brought in updated form in the US Federal District Court for Eastern Virginia on August 24th. The plaintiffs include rights holders of films such as Bodyguard, Rambo V, Dallas Buyers Club and Hitman 2. The defendants include the VPN providers Surfshark, VPN Unlimited, Express VPN, VPN Consumer Network and the German Zenguard GmbH (CyberGhost VPN) . heise online has contacted Zenguard for a comment.
Customers break the law, VPN operators should be liable
The 70-page lawsuit states that some customers of the VPN providers do not comply with applicable law. One accessed child porn, another posted malicious comments. Some users would use the VPNs to bypass geographic restrictions. This would allow them to watch films that are legally offered in another country.
Some users would make parts of film files accessible to third parties via VPN and bit torrent processes, which constitutes a copyright infringement. In addition, the plaintiffs refer to blog posts and advertising statements by VPN operators that explain or advertise the circumvention of geographic access restrictions, the non-blocking of bit torrent ports and the lack of logs. The lawsuit accuses two companies of incorrectly specifying the email address for abuse reports in the ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) IP address directory.
Legally, the plaintiffs claim seven variations of the law by the VPN provider, including direct copyright infringement, contribution to copyright infringement, indirect copyright infringement and infringement of the US federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), because they are their customers too Had instigated copyright infringement. Two companies accuse the plaintiffs of incorrectly specifying the email address for abuse reports in the ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) IP address directory. This interprets the lawsuit as fraud.
At the same time, the plaintiffs are making extensive claims. Those infrastructure providers from whom the VPN operators rent servers are not complained; however, they should be forced to shut down the VPNs. The VPN operators themselves are supposed to force the court to monitor their customers from now on, to record and store logs, to exclude customers after three uncontested copyright complaints within 72 hours, and to block access to “notorious piracy websites of foreign origin”.
All of this is only intended to reduce the copyright infringement on some films. In addition, there is the desire for compensation many times higher than the actual damage suffered from all relevant copyright infringements by VPN customers, which would add up to phantillions. The place of jurisdiction for Virginia is explained by the fact that the VPN providers use US payment systems, have registered their brand names with a US authority in Virginia, have customers in Virginia and in some cases also rent servers there. The lawsuit seeks a civil trial before a jury, which is possible in the United States.
The lawsuit is called Millennium Funding et al v. Surfshark et al and is pending in the US Federal District Court for Eastern Virginia under Ref. 1: 12-cv-00643.