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Record industry’s latest stream-ripping lawsuit dismissed in US court

By | Published on Thursday 24 January 2019

Internet

The music industry’s ongoing legal battle with its top piracy gripe of the moment has suffered a setback after a US judge said his court didn’t have jurisdiction over the operator of two stream-ripping sites based in Russia. As a result, the man behind FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com has successfully had the lawsuit filed against him by the Recording Industry Association Of America dismissed.

Tofig Kurbanov called for the RIAA’s lawsuit to be dismissed on jurisdiction grounds last October. He argued that his two sites – which allow users to turn streams into permanent MP3 downloads – were entirely managed from Russia and that less than 6% of his users are from the US. Therefore, he reckoned, any copyright action shouldn’t be pursued through a court in Virginia, USA.

For its part, the RIAA argued that 31 million Americans have used the sites more than 96 million times, with 542,000 users in Virginia alone. The record industry trade group also reckoned that, at various points, FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com had used US-based servers, domain registrars and advertising networks.

However, judge Claude M Hilton has now concurred with Kurbanov that the Virginian courts do not have jurisdiction in this case. The defendant had not specifically set out to target American users and, the judge said, because the sites are ad-funded and require no sign-up by those looking to stream-rip, they didn’t have commercial relationships with users in the US.

Although the RIAA is yet to respond to the ruling, it will be disappointed with the judge’s conclusions. While Americans may make up a small portion of the total number of users on FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com, a significant number of people in America are nevertheless using the sites to make unlicensed copies of streams. And piracy sites are also commonly ad-funded and therefore require no formal sign-up on the part of those looking for pirated content.

The ruling could also make others operating stream-ripping sites more bullish when targeted with legal action – or threats of legal action – by the music industry. Many stream-ripping sites insist that they aren’t actually liable for copyright infringement, using the classic argument that their services have legitimate as well as illegitimate uses. But ever since the US record industry successfully forced top stream-ripping site YouTube-MP3 off the internet, we’ve seen a number of similar services shutdown when targeted with threats of litigation.

The decision is also likely to heighten calls in the US for web-blocking to be introduced there as an anti-piracy tactic. Web-blocking, where courts order internet service providers to block access to copyright infringing sites, usually begins with jurisdiction issues. Which is to say, it’s a way for copyright owners to restrict usage of piracy sites in their home countries where those sites are based in other places where it is hard to sue.

Efforts to introduce web-blocking in the US in 2012 proved very controversial indeed and American law-makers pretty much dropped the whole idea as a result. Though more recently both music and movie industry lobbyists have started to call for some sort of web-blocking Stateside, noting that a flurry of web-blocks in countries like the UK have not resulted in the censorship of legitimate websites, as some critics of web-blocking claimed could happen.



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