Anti-Piracy Group Sues Torrent Site Webhost for Damages

Hollywood-backed anti-piracy outfit BREIN is going after a former hosting provider of SumoTorrent and demanding compensation for the damages caused by the torrent site. Hosting provider XS Networks previously refused to take the site offline or reveal the identity of the owners unless it was presented with a court order. XS Networks' lawyer Steven Kroesbergen accuses BREIN of deliberately destroying the company to intimidate other hosting providers.

Every year Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN claims to shut down a few hundred torrent sites, but SumoTorrent has never been among them.

Back in 2007 BREIN managed to kick the torrent site out of the Netherlands where it was hosted by Leaseweb, but it continued to operate from Canada. Later, SumoTorrent returned to the Netherlands at XS Networks, again attracting the attention of BREIN.

Hoping to take the site quickly offline, the anti-piracy group asked XS Networks to shut it down and hand over the personal details of the owner. XS Networks refused and said it would only respond to a court order.

The provider and SumoTorrent eventually agreed to voluntarily hand over some personal details, but not before the torrent site had moved to a new host in the Ukraine. To make matters worse for BREIN, the personal details on record at the hosting provider turned out to be false. So SumoTorrent escaped again, and according to BREIN the Dutch hosting provider is to blame.

The anti-piracy group has taken the matter to court and is demanding damages from XS Networks. BREIN argues that the provider acted negligently when it refused to take the site down when asked to do so. Aside from thousands of euros in legal costs, BREIN also wants the provider to pay for the infringing content that was downloaded via SumoTorrent.

During a hearing at a The Hague court yesterday the group demanded 20,000 euros to compensate for the legal expenses incurred to date, plus added damages for yet-to-be-calculated copyright infringements.

BREIN further said that it suspects XS Networks of holding back information that could identify the SumoTorrent owner, a claim the hosting company denies. XS Networks did say during the hearing that it would hand over a relevant bank statement to the anti-piracy group.

BREIN’s lawyer noted that their purpose is to deal with sites such as SumoTorrent, but XS Networks’ lawyer Steven Kroesbergen sees things differently. He thinks BREIN’s plan was to deliberately destroy XS Networks through expensive legal proceedings, so they can intimidate other hosting companies in the same manner.

The Court now has to decide whether the provider can indeed be held liable for infringements that occurred through a torrent site they hosted. This will be an important verdict – a loss for XS Networks means that other Dutch hosting providers will face serious liability issues.

For XS Networks it is already too late. The company pulled the plug earlier this year and left the following statement:

“In our opinion there is nothing illegal about the websites that were hosted with XS Networks and we are thankful for the warm messages from other webhosters and appreciation of our clients.”

“The web is all about innovation and changing the rules. Change which some industries are fighting for years, by throwing money out of the window on law-suits instead of a new business model.”

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