In June 2011, police across Europe coordinated to carry out the largest anti-piracy operation the continent had ever seen. Their target was Kino.to and its affiliates, a huge illegal movie streaming operation with links to Spain, France and the Netherlands.
Ultimately several people went to jail and Kino.to disappeared, but it didn’t take long for replacement site Kinox.to to take up the slack. It’s been clear for some time that anti-piracy groups have had their eyes on the popular site and now action appears to have been taken.
Last week investigators acting on behalf of the Attorney General carried out raids in several regions of Germany looking for four main suspects.
A raid on a house in a village near to the northern city of Lübeck aimed to secure two brothers, aged 21 and 25 years-old. This pair, who reportedly live with their parents, are said to be the main operators of Kinox.to. According to Der Spiegel, the raid drew a blank.
In total, six homes and businesses were searched and arrest warrants were successfully executed in Neuss and Dusseldorf. Two individuals, said to key players, were detained.
According to prosecutor’s office spokesman Wolfgang Klein, a Berlin-based payment service used by the suspects was also raided to ensure their “tax liability” – a reported 1.3 million euros – is met.
In addition to commercial copyright infringement and tax evasion, the defendants are accused of a range of other crimes including fraud, extortion and arson.
Klein said the defendants had “made great efforts” to get rid of their competitors in the piracy market, utilizing verbal tactics and those of a more direct nature.
“They used all means and also carried out threats,” he said. “Sometimes even a car burst into flames.”
And from here the plot only thickens.
According to a letter sent by anti-piracy outfit GVU to its members, the people behind Kinox.to are also behind a string of other sites including streaming giant Movie4K.to. The ring of services is said to extend to pirate linking sites Boerse.sx and MyGully.com, and GVU even connects file-hosting services FreakShare.com and BitShare.com to the operation.
The prosecutor’s office says “lots of data” and “assets” were secured following the raids but at this point the location of the missing brothers remains unknown. Some reports suggest that they may have even left Germany a while back. Adding to the confusion, Lars Sobiraj at Tarnkappe says his sources suggest that the brothers in control of Kinox are in fact much older than 21 and 25.
Nevertheless, whether it was published by the brothers or someone else, an update has appeared on Kinox.to mocking GVU and thanking them for the attention.
“GVU: You make yourself more ridiculous than you are. But THANK YOU again for the extreme (priceless) advertising !!” the post reads.
And that’s one of the key points. Along with all of the other mentioned sites, Kinox.to and Movie4K remain operational. In fact, as far as we can see, not a single site is down.
Perhaps inevitably this has led to speculation that some kind of honey pot could be in operation, but according to lawyer Christian Solmecke, that seems unlikely.
“From my perspective, the users of kinox.to have committed no offense, because the pure consumption of streaming services is not illegal [in Germany]. This is certainly the case whenever any copy of the stream is produced on your own computer,” Solmecke says.
“In addition, the GVU – which here apparently launched the criminal complaint – is also known normally to tackle the problem at its root. This means that the company is going in against the big fish, which has been shown again with the current raids too.”