By offering access to high quality movies and TV-shows, streaming site Flixtor.to has become the go-to destination for many pirates.
The site is particularly popular in the United States and Canada, which together are good for roughly half of the site’s 26 million monthly visits estimated by SimilarWeb.
This traffic hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hollywood and other major content creators. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), which counts Apple, Disney, HBO, Netflix and Sony among its members, has been trying hard to track down the site’s operators.
Multiple DMCA Subpoenas
In the summer of 2020, ACE obtained a subpoena that compelled Cloudflare to hand over information on the customer maintaining the Flixtor.to domain. A few months later, the Tonic domain name registry was required to do the same.
Neither of these efforts appears to have yielded the expected result as ACE obtained another DMCA subpoena last December, asking Cloudflare for information on the same Flixtor.to domain.
By now it’s clear that the Flixtor site is a high-profile target but, despite the legal efforts, it remains up and running today. This suggests that the requested information hasn’t proven useful but ACE is not giving up yet.
A few days ago the anti-piracy group obtained yet another DMCA subpoena against Cloudflare. While Flixtor is once again at the center, the targeted domain is different this time.
“We have determined that users of your system or network have infringed certain ACE Members’ Copyrighted Works through operating flixtor.org,” MPA’s content protection chief Jan van Voorn informs Cloudflare, on behalf of ACE.
Initially, we assumed that ACE was targeting one of the site’s many backup domains but that is not the case here. The .org domain doesn’t have any hyperlinks to infringing content. It simply documents all the streaming platform’s official domains.
Flixtor.org clarifies that it’s simply making a news statement protected under the First Amendment. In addition, it says that it is not affiliated with the other Flixtor domains. This is also corroborated by Flixtor.to, which informed us that they are not operating the .org site.
ACE clearly sees things differently. Through the MPA it requested a DMCA subpoena which was granted by a court clerk last week.
“Enclosed is a subpoena compliant with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The subpoena requires that you provide information concerning the individuals offering the flixtor.org website, which links to websites containing the infringing material…,” Van Voorn informs Cloudflare.
The statement above is technically correct. The Flixtor.org domain has ‘links’ to the Flixtor sites which in turn link to copyright-infringing material. However, these same non-hyperlinked domain names are also in ACE’s own subpoena request.
While Flixtor.org doesn’t hyperlink to the other Flixtor sites, there are clickable links in the other direction. All official Flixtor domains have a hyperlink to the .org site, presumably to help people keep track of future changes.
This isn’t the first time that ACE has targeted a “news” domain; it previously did the same with primewirestatus.org and onionplay.network.
As we highlighted in our previous coverage, it can be debated whether a domain that doesn’t contain any hyperlinks to infringing material is actually breaking the law. However, DMCA subpoenas are issued without oversight from a judge, so that wasn’t reviewed in detail here.