VPN hosting company settles copyright lawsuit by blocking pirate sites * TorrentFreak

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Hosting provider Sharktech has settled a copyright lawsuit filed by several movie companies. The service has been accused of failing to take action against VPN providers, some of whom have been pirating movies. As part of the settlement, Sharktech agreed to block leading pirate sites, including “Pirate Bay”, “YTS” and “RARBG”.

Web hosts are generally seen as neutral intermediaries, but some copyright owners believe that these companies should take more responsibility.

This liability for online services is a hot topic on the political agenda and is also at the center of several lawsuits in US courts.

Lawsuits target VPN hack

In recent months, a group of independent film companies have filed a series of lawsuits against VPN providers and their hosting companies. Directors of films such as “Hunter Killer” and “Dallas Buyers Club” accuse these services of turning a blind eye to piracy.

One of the targeted companies is cloud hosting provider Sharktech, which has several VPN providers among its customers. According to rights holders, the hosting provider indirectly contributed to the counterfeiting activities of VPN subscribers.

Film companies alerted Sharktech to this pirating activity through various notices of copyright infringement, which were said to have had little impact.

“Sharktech has failed to terminate the subscribers or accounts associated with these IP addresses or to take meaningful action in response to these notices,” read the complaint from the film companies.

Sharktech’s motion to dismiss

The hosting company responded to this complaint. In July, she filed a motion to dismiss for lack of declaration. The dossier described the filmmakers as “opportunistic litigants” who rely on “unsubstantiated” theories of responsibility.

Sharktech countered that it was at least three steps shorter than the real hackers. The company is simply offering a service to VPN providers who, in turn, have customers who may or may not be counterfeit.

“The plaintiffs’ theory amounts to requiring that a commercial airline that provides FedEx with additional cargo space be required to terminate FedEx as a customer because some individual FedEx customers may use FedEx services for illegal purposes.” , explained Sharktech.

Settlement reached

While it is clear that the two sides have a totally different point of view on the matter, settlement negotiations have started behind the scenes. Last month, they told the court that a deal was being finalized.

This week, the film companies and Sharktech filed a stipulation to dismiss the case. The two parties have agreed to a confidential settlement agreement. This means that the exact details remain unknown except for one crucial point.

In the initial complaint, the filmmakers asked Sharktech to block access to several popular pirate sites available through its network. According to legal documents, the hosting company agreed to do this.

Block pirate sites

Specifically, Sharktech will use commercially reasonable tools to block the IP addresses of several pirate sites, including Pirate Bay, YTS, RARBG, and 1337x.

“Pursuant to 17 USC 512 (j) (B) (ii) and a confidential settlement agreement, the plaintiffs requested and defendant Sharktech agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to block the following alleged pirating websites located in outside the United States, by blocking their associated and currently known IP addresses: “

(1) “YTS” (yts.mx; yts.movie)
(2) “PirateBay” (https://pirate-bay-proxy.org/eng/; piratebay.org)
(3) “RarBg” (https://rarbg.to/)
(4) “1337x” (https://www.1337x.tw/; https://www.1377x.is/).

sharktech dismiss

Needless to say, this is a big step when you consider that blocking pirate sites is not common in the United States.

However, there are things that stand out. Legal documents mention pirate-bay-proxy.org and piratebay.org, while the official domain thepiratebay.org is not included. The same goes for 1337x, whose primary domain is not listed.

Collateral damages

The above does not mean that blocking efforts will have a limited effect. On the contrary, many domains are accessible through shared IP addresses offered by Cloudflare. This opens the door to collateral damage.

For example, YTS.mx resolves to the IP address 104.31.16.120, which it shares with hundreds of other “pirate” domains such as IPTorrents.ru, Flixtor.to, Putlockers.fm, and Kickass1.to. With a simple IP address blocking, these domains will also be blocked.

Moreover, it is not only domain names linked to “piracy” that are at risk. The targeted YTS.movie domain uses a shared Cloudflare IP address that is linked to over 2,000 other domains. The majority of these domains have nothing to do with hacking.

For example, YTS.movie uses the same IP address as Stechfordmobility.co.uk, a company that sells stairlifts and mobility equipment in the UK.

It wouldn’t be the first time that shared IP addresses have resulted in overblocking. The same has happened a few times in the past and Cloudflare has already stepped in to limit this collateral damage.

TorrentFreak has reached out to Sharktech for further information on how the company plans to enforce the lock-up agreement. At the time of publication, we have yet to hear back.

With the settlement agreement, all claims against the hosting provider are dropped. The same does not apply to the VPN provider PIA and several Doe defendants who are the subject of the same complaint.

A copy of the stipulation to dismiss the claims against the defendant Sharktech is available here (pdf)


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