Torguard Settles Piracy Lawsuit, Agrees to Block Torrent Traffic on US Servers *TorrentFreak
Amid growing concerns about online privacy and security, VPN services have become increasingly popular in recent years.
Millions of people use VPNs to stay safe and prevent third parties from tracking their online activities. As with typical ISPs, a subsection of these subscribers may engage in hacking activities.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen copyright owners sue multiple ISPs, accusing them of failing to disconnect repeat copyright infringers. These lawsuits have expanded recently, with VPN providers and hosting providers being the main targets.
The lawsuits against the VPN are being brought by a group of independent movie companies that previously went after pirate sites and apps. They include the directors of films such as The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Dallas Buyers Club and London Has Fallen.
The filmmakers sued Torguard
In one such case, the filmmakers accused Torgarde to be involved in widespread copyright infringement. The company is said to have “encouraged” subscribers to use pirate sites while helping to cover up movie piracy.
“TorGuard knows and encourages its end users to use its VPN service to access The Pirate Bay and pirated content,” the complaint reads, pointing to a topic in the Torguard forums.
“When TorGuard end users have difficulty accessing Pirate Bay, official TorGuard moderators provide advice on how to fix their settings so that end users can freely pirate content,” the film companies added.
In response to this complaint, TorGuard asked a federal court in Florida to dismiss the case. Among other things, the VPN company argued that the film companies never sent any of their alleged copyright infringement and takedown notices to TorGuard’s designated DMCA agent.
Regulation and blocking of American torrents
The court has not yet ruled on this motion, nor is it necessary any longer. Earlier this month, the two sides agreed to end the legal dispute with a confidential settlement agreement.
There is no evidence that any money will change hands and both parties have agreed to cover their own costs. However, the settlement comes with a twist. As a ringing computer PointTorguard agrees to block BitTorrent traffic on US servers.
“Pursuant to a confidential settlement agreement, plaintiffs have requested and defendant has agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to block BitTorrent traffic on its servers in the United States using firewall technology,” a joint statement read. .
This is a far-reaching measure, as a broad blocking of BitTorrent will also affect legal traffic, which includes software updates from Twitter and Facebook. That said, people can still use BitTorrent on servers in other regions.
TorrentFreak contacted TorGuard and a spokesperson shared the company’s official comment, which was also posted on its own website a few minutes ago. The company confirms that it blocks torrent traffic on US servers, but that doesn’t change user privacy.
“TorGuard is under no obligation to log network usage data. Due to the nature of shared IP addresses and the hardware technicalities associated with building TorGuard’s network, it is impossible for us to do so,” writes VPN provider.
“We have a responsibility to provide uninterrupted, high-quality VPN and proxy services to our customer base as a whole while mitigating any related network abuse that may occur. This commitment to user privacy and service reliability is why we have taken steps to block Bittorrent traffic on servers in the United States.
TorGuard isn’t the first VPN service to agree to block BitTorrent traffic to settle a lawsuit brought by these movie companies. VPN Unlimited signed a similar deal a few weeks ago, and last year VPN.ht also agreed to block torrent traffic on US servers.
While the settlement effectively ends TorGuard’s legal dispute with the filmmakers, it could fuel the flames of another lawsuit that has been deemed over.
Last December, a federal court in Florida dismissed copyright infringement claims the filmmakers had filed against hosting company QuadraNet. The case was dismissed because Quadranet was unaware of any specific infringement and could not control or stop specific piracy activity.
The filmmakers were unhappy with this decision and asked the court to reconsider the order. They hope that, where permitted, they can properly substantiate their claims when sufficient evidence is gathered.
Additional evidence may come from TorGuard, which previously leased servers from QuadraNet. As part of the settlement, the VPN provider also signed a list of undisputed facts, where the hosting company figures prominently.
For example, film companies sent 97,640 notices to QuadraNet of suspected piracy activity on SOCKS5 IP addresses that were assigned to TorGuard. However, these were never forwarded to the VPN provider.
“Had Quadranet sent these notices to our DMCA agent, it would have been normal business practice for TorGuard to take immediate action to stop the piracy,” TorGuard says, adding, “Quadranet has never taken any disciplinary action against TorGuard in response. to these opinions”.
To our knowledge, the federal court in Florida has not yet ruled on this motion for reconsideration. Given the film companies’ track record, this probably won’t be the last we hear of it.
A copy of the joint stipulation, mentioning the dismissal and the intention to block, is available here (pdf)