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Court freezes VPN’s PayPal and Alipay monies in response to copyright infringement litigation

By | Published on Monday 25 July 2022

A US court has issued a temporary restraining order that demands that payment processing companies PayPal and Alipay freeze the assets of the VPN provider VeePN, which is accused by a number of film producers of being liable for copyright infringement.

Virtual private networks are increasingly in the spotlight when music and movie companies are seeking to tackle online piracy.

That’s partly because VPNs can be used to circumvent web-blocks put in place by internet service providers, which means that when copyright owners force ISPs to block access to infringing websites, VPNs can provide an easy way for those ISPs’ customers to circumvent the blockades.

For the film industry, VPNs are also annoying because they make it easy to circumvent the geo-blocking of content that is still quite common when it comes to TV programmes and movies. Indeed, some VPNs overtly promote their services by telling users that they can help them access content not currently available in their home country.

As for VeePN, the movie companies that recently sued this particular VPN argue that it is even more blatant when it comes to promoting piracy – and to promoting its services to people seeking to access outright piracy platforms.

The lawsuit stated: “[Some] VPN providers emphasise in advertisements that they delete their end users’ log access records so their identities will never be disclosed to copyright owners or law enforcement. Emboldened by these promises that their identities will never be disclosed, end users use the VPN services to engage in widespread movie piracy while openly boasting of their piracy and outrageous criminal conduct such as illegal hacking and theft”.

Insisting that VeePN is one of these unscrupulous VPN providers, the lawsuit added that, after earlier litigation by the same film producers forced another service called VPN.HT to stop actively promoting itself as a way for people to hide their use of movie piracy platform Popcorn Time, “VeePN began promoting itself as ‘Popcorn Time VPN’ and operating under a similar profitable scheme to take advantage of prolific pirates’ fear of getting caught”.

Not only that, but “VeePN takes it a step further and even promotes its VPN service on the notorious piracy website YTS as an essential tool to download copies of plaintiffs’ movies without ‘getting fined by legal action!’”

It was these marketing communications – openly selling the VPN’s services as a way to cover up piracy – that recently convinced US judge Anthony Trenga to issue an injunction ordering PayPal and Alipay to freeze monies they have processed on behalf of VeePN.

According to Torrentfreak, the injunction was issued ‘ex parte’, so without the defence being represented, because of concerns raised by the plaintiffs that VeePN would look to move any monies sitting with PayPal and Alipay if it was aware the court order was incoming.