Filmmakers Sue VPN for Promoting Piracy and Advertising on YTS *TorrentFreak
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A film company group is suing VPN provider VeePN in federal court in Virginia. The VPN service is accused of various forms of copyright infringement. Among other things, they claim that VeePN “promotes” the use of pirate sites and Popcorn Time, while its services were advertised on the popular torrent site YTS.mx.
Over the past year, a group of independent film companies have filed a series of lawsuits against VPN providers.
The makers of films such as “I Feel Pretty” and “Dallas Buyers Club” accuse these services of condoning piracy or actively promoting it.
Several of these lawsuits ended in settlements, where certain VPN services agreed to block notorious pirate sites or BitTorrent traffic on US-based servers. Needless to say, these cases can have serious repercussions for the companies involved.
Film Companies Sue VeePN
In a new lawsuit filed in federal court in Virginia, several film companies, including Voltage Holdings and Screen Media Ventures, identify VPN provider VeePN as their next target. According to the filmmakers, VeePN actively promotes piracy, using it as a PR opportunity.
While not all VPN services are bad apples, VeePN reportedly uses fear of hackers getting caught as a marketing strategy.
“[S]Some unscrupulous VPN providers have taken advantage of this widely known risk by promoting their VPN services as essential tools for hackers. These VPN providers insist in advertisements that they delete their end users’ access log records so that their identity is never disclosed to copyright holders or law enforcement.
Emboldened by these promises that their identities will never be disclosed, end users use VPN services to engage in widespread movie piracy while openly bragging about their piracy and outrageous criminal conduct such as illegal piracy and theft. “, add the filmmakers.
Along with the filmmakers, Hawaiian company 42 Ventures is also among the plaintiffs. This company is operated by anti-piracy lawyer Kerry Culpepper and owns the trademarks “Popcorn Time”, “YTS” and “RARBG”, which VeePN has also allegedly misused.
Popcorn Time VPN
The complaint summarizes a long list of charges. He also reveals that the company was not targeted by chance, it seems to have been triggered by another lawsuit; the one against VPN.ht which presented itself as the Popcorn Time VPN.
Last year, VPN.ht distanced itself from the popular hacking app after it ran into legal issues. Soon after, VeePN began promoting itself in connection with the Popcorn Time brand, according to the lawsuit.
“Just 3 months after VPN.HT ended its involvement with Popcorn Time, VeePN began marketing itself as “Popcorn Time VPN” and operating under a similar profitable scheme to profit from the fear of prolific pirates from getting caught.”
The complaint lists various examples including one blog post on the VeePN website where it recommends using a VPN in combination with Popcorn Time to avoid trouble.
“Downloading and sharing files via torrent is a violation of copyright law. It means you can be punished by law. That’s why you need a Popcorn Time VPN. In this way, you hide your IP address and reduce the risk of endangerment.
“Advertising on YTS.mx”
The problems don’t end there, VeePN is also accused of actively advertising its services on YTS.mx, the most popular torrent site on the internet.
“VeePN goes one step further and even promotes its VPN service on notorious piracy website YTS as an essential tool for downloading copies of plaintiffs’ movies without ‘…getting[ting] fined by lawsuit!” the plaintiffs wrote.
The complaint notes that VeePN has an affiliate agreement with YTS, which promotes the VPN and gets paid for each referral. VeePN benefits from this partnership by attracting more users on board.
Whether VeePN actively sought out YTS as a partner is not immediately clear from the evidence provided. Nevertheless, the plaintiffs are convinced that the company is actively targeting hackers and profiting from them.
To curb the hacking activity of VeePN users, movie companies sent hundreds or thousands of DMCA notices to its hosting company DataCamp. However, this did little to stop counterfeiting activity.
Millions in copyright and trademark damages
In addition to the various copyright infringement claims, VeePN is also accused of DMCA violations and trademark infringement. These are filed by 42 Ventures, which claims that VeePN used its YTS, RARBG and Popcorn Time trademarks without permission.
“VeePN has advertised and offered its wares and services for sale using the 42 marks with the intent to mislead, deceive or confuse consumers as to the origin of its wares and to trade on the reputation and goodwill of the plaintiff 42,” the complaint states.
In addition to stopping the infringing activity, the plaintiffs are also demanding compensation. In total, the rights holders are seeking $6 million in trademark damages and $3.9 million in copyright damages, bringing the total to nearly $10 million.
A copy of the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, is available here (pdf)