Late last year, popular anime site AmimixPlay closed its doors, citing technical and motivational issues.
The decision was a massive disappointment to its loyal user base, which was good for an estimated 100 million monthly visits.
Following the site’s demise, several copycats popped up. A group of fans also created a new project to honor the original in a more respectful matter, while giving former users a new home; AnimixReplay.
This scenario has worked for other pirate sites and services in the past but it’s certainly not without risk. Visiting a pirate streaming site as a casual user is an entirely different ball game to running one, and the legal implications are not immediately obvious to everyone.
ACE Investigates AnimixReplay
The AnimixReplay team learned this lesson over the past few days. While they were building up their project, including a new app, the MPA-staffed Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) was gathering intelligence on the key people involved.
A few days ago, ACE boss Jan van Voorn requested two DMCA subpoenas from a California federal court. The first one targeted CDN provider Cloudflare, while the other was directed at the Tonic registry, which oversees all .to domain names.
The subpoenas listed a variety of suspected piracy portals, including kool.to, zoro.to, theflixer.tv and gogohd.pro. And indeed, the animixreplay.to domain made an appearance as well.
The goal of these DMCA subpoenas is to request the personal details of the domain operators from online intermediaries. This information is sometimes unusable as pirate sites can provide fake details, but with AnimixReplay, ACE hit the jackpot.
On Monday, AmimixReplay suddenly shut down “until further notice”, mentioning that they had received word from a lawyer. This lawyer, who mentioned prominent ACE backers including Disney, Netflix, and Warner Bros, urged them to cease their copyright infringing activity.
“You may be wondering whats happening? Well that’s because we got a Subpoena from Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros, and more all at once! So yeah thats a thing,” the announcement on Discord read.
At this point, the implications weren’t entirely clear to the AnimixReplay team. Lack of understanding was also apparent in a Reddit post, which suggested jail time was on the horizon.
The Real ACE
TorrentFreak reached out to Fryz from the AnimixReplay team yesterday, who confirmed that ACE had warned them and sent a copy of the Cloudflare subpoena. This seriously spooked the operators, but they still weren’t convinced.
After doing some research, the team initially thought that it could all be a prank, so they reached out to Cloudflare to get confirmation.
To learn more we reached out to ACE’s Jan van Voorn, who informed us that the warning salvo was very real. ACE was indeed behind the subpoenas and although Cloudflare hadn’t produced any information yet, the anti-piracy group had tracked down two US-based operators through other means.
“[W]hile waiting for subpoena responses, we continued our investigation, and we relatively quickly identified the 2 US-based operators (Kentucky and Ohio) of animixreplay.to and its related website fryz.site through OSINT analysis,” Van Voorn said.
“Our findings were confirmed via the voluntary cooperation of other intermediaries used by these websites,” he added.
The above suggests that the subpoenas certainly weren’t key in tracking down people connected to AnimixReplay. The alliance has more OSINT tricks and can rely on help from third-party intermediaries. While ACE doesn’t mention which ones, it’s possible that the ‘friendly‘ Radix registry assisted with providing more information on the .site domain.
For the AnimixReplay team, it doesn’t really matter ‘how’ they were tracked down. The potential legal consequences have presented a bigger worry. At this point, no lawsuit has been filed and based on ACE’s comments, that’s not on the horizon as long as the site remains offline.
“Should the websites be brought online again after this initial warning, either in their original or a rebranded form, we will be happy to have our attorneys reach out to them directly,” Van Voorn tells us.
Fryz and the rest of the AnimixReplay team received the message, loud and clear. Shortly after the confirmation, they announced that the project won’t come back online.
“This is a legal shutdown on the website, I’m confirming all docs are legit,” Fryz wrote, effectively calling the end of the project.