Judge recommends $150,000 piracy judgment against operator of Torrent site *TorrentFreak
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The makers of the film “Hellboy” have won their first victory in federal court in Hawaii. After a three-year legal battle, Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield is now recommending a $150,000 default judgment against the foreign operator of former torrent site MKVCage.
Until a few years ago, MKVCage was a popular torrent portal that also uploaded its torrents to other sites.
It ended abruptly when the makers of the superhero movie “Hellboy” sued the site operator in the summer of 2019.
Film company HB Productions has accused the site and its Pakistani operator Muhammad Faizan of promoting and distributing pirated copies of the film, hoping this would put an end to the business. And indeed he did.
The lawsuit had an almost immediate effect as the torrent site became inaccessible shortly after the case was made public. At the same time, MKVCage also stopped pushing torrents to other sites. This meant that part of the plan had succeeded but HB Productions also wanted financial compensation.
Damages and Jurisdiction Battle
As Faizan failed to appear in court, the movie company’s attorney, Kerry Culpepper, requested a default judgment. Initially, the filmmakers sought $270,000 in damages for copyright infringement. This figure was based on the number of alleged infringements multiplied by the retail price of the Blu-ray.
The court was unconvinced by this calculation, and the film company later amended its claim to $150,000, which is the maximum statutory damages for copyright infringement for a single work.
Despite this change, Judge Mansfield was still not satisfied. He wondered if the accused, who had not presented a defence, could really be prosecuted in America. In 2020, the default judgment was dismissed based on the argument that a US court lacks jurisdiction over the Pakistani defendant.
The filmmakers were unhappy with this result and filed an amended lawsuit, hoping to correct the flaws in their claims. Initially, this renewed effort appeared to fail as Judge Mansfield consistently found the evidence provided insufficient. Last month, however, US District Court Judge John Michael Seabright came to a different conclusion.
According to the court, the Internet has transformed the way foreign defendants interact with the United States. In this case, the defendant used servers based in the United States from a remote location, which is sufficient to incur liability.
Judge recommends $150,000 in damages
With that decision in hand, the case was sent back to the magistrate judge who now recommends granting the default judgment of $150,000 as all the factors weigh in favor of the filmmakers. This includes the alleged damages, which are substantial.
“The Court finds that the amount of money involved is significant relative to the cost of continued litigation, particularly given the defendant’s location outside the United States and the plaintiff’s alleged actual damages totaling $270,902 $.58.
“The statutory damages sought by Plaintiff are appropriate and reflect the seriousness of Defendant’s willful infringement of Plaintiff’s copyrighted work,” Judge Mansfield added.
This means that a default judgment against the MKVCage operator is warranted but a separate assessment of the extent of damages is still required.
Here, Judge Mansfield also agrees that the maximum award of statutory damages is appropriate. These damages are intended to compensate the filmmakers, but also to punish the defendant.
Willful copyright infringement
The judge agrees that the offenses were intentional. Among other things, the site operator initially moved the site to a new domain when the lawsuit was filed.
“When the defendant received notification of this lawsuit, the defendant created a new website, ‘mkvcage.nl’, hosted by a completely different service […] so that the defendant can continue its infringing activities. »
Taken together, this means it is appropriate to award $150,000 in damages.
“The Court finds that an award of maximum damages under the Copyright Act is appropriate to deter and punish the defendant’s conduct and to compensate the plaintiff,” added Justice Manfield.
There is also a small disappointment in the recommendations as not all requested costs and fees have been granted. Nonetheless, the proposed award of $150,000 in damages is still a big win.
This means that after repeated back and forth, the film company can get most of what they asked for. The court has yet to adopt the magistrate’s recommendations, but the biggest hurdles have been cleared.
A copy of the full findings and recommendations, issued by Magistrate Judge Manfield, is available here (pdf)
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