Europe just witnessed one of the largest piracy-related busts in history with the raid of the popular movie streaming portal Kino.to. More than a dozen people connected to the site were arrested after police officers in Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands raided several residential addresses and data centers. Kino.to hosted no illicit content itself, but indexed material stored on file-hosters and other streaming services.
Kino.to has been a thorn in the side for the movie industry for many years. The movie streaming portal is particularly popular in German-speaking countries, and with four million visitors a day it was among the 100 most-visited websites in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
This success ended abruptly a few hours ago. The site was pulled offline by a joint police operation involving officers from Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands. In Germany alone 250 officers assisted in the raids, assisted by 17 computer specialists.
Acting upon a warrant from the General Prosecutor in Dresden, police have arrested a total of 13 people thus far. A 14th person is still being hunted. The arrestees are suspected of involvement in a criminal organization with the purpose of committing professional copyright infringement.
Following the raids Kino.to has been effectively shut down and at the time of writing displays the following message:
“The domain of the site you are trying to access was closed on suspicion of forming a criminal organization to commit professional copyright infringement.”
“Several operators of KINO.TO were arrested.”
“Internet users who illegally pirated or distributed copies of films may be subjected to a criminal prosecution.”
Commenting on the raids the German Federation Against Copyright Theft (GVU) claims that Kino.to made “significant revenue” through a “parasitic business model.” GVU states that Kino.to was working closely with the sites that hosted the copyrighted films, and that they profited from commercial partnerships with these companies.
The Dresden prosecutor confirmed in a press release that Kino.to was making millions of euros in profits.
Although the site was most popular in German-speaking countries, it didn’t escape the eye of the MPAA either. A few months ago the MPAA listed Kino.to as one of the main “notorious markets” in their submission to the U.S. Government.
“This linking site specializes in illegally making available large amounts of copyrighted cinema films and TV series in German and other languages. There are currently over 300,000 infringing TV shows and over 66,000 infringing movies available,” the MPAA wrote at the time.
Last month an Austrian ISP was served with a preliminary injunction forcing it to block subscriber access to Kino.to following complaints from Verein für Anti-Piraterie der österreichischen Film und Videobranche (VAP) – the anti-piracy association of the Austrian film and video industry.