Plex is a multifunctional media server that allows users to easily organize all their entertainment in one place.
Whether it’s movies, music, TV-shows, or photos, Plex can organize and index, making the content ready to stream on a wide variety of supported devices.
The technology itself is content-neutral, which means that it can be used both legally and illegally. In this case illegally, due to the often copyright infringing content. Much like the Kodi platform, Plex seems to be rather popular among pirates.
There are a variety of places where access to “Plex shares” are being offered, sometimes in exchange for a small fee. Those who sign up can then stream from a library of movies and TV-shows that’s regularly updated by the owner.
While sharing a small Plex library privately with a few friends isn’t going to be noticed easily, things change when access to a treasure trove of pirated videos is offered in public places. This is what a Dutch Plex user learned the hard way.
Earlier this week the man in question informed fellow Plex users on Tweakers that he was approached by local anti-piracy group BREIN, which had become aware that he was running a Plex share with 5,700 movies and 10,000 TV-shows.
Since these were offered without permission, BREIN requested a €750 settlement plus an additional €500 for each day the share remained online. The user in question, who publicly stated that he downloaded the videos through Usenet and torrents sites, admitted his wrongdoing and swiftly complied.
This is the first time we’ve seen this type of settlement with the owner of a Plex share, but it may not be the last. According to BREIN Director Tim Kuik, his organization keeps an eye on all kinds of piracy-related activity, also on Plex.
“BREIN and its participants are alert on any kind of server being used to give unauthorized public access to content. In this matter we received information from a third party which enabled us to determine widespread infringement by the person in question,” Kuik informs TF.
Interestingly, the audience of the Plex server, as described by BREIN, differs quite a bit from the user’s own account.
The Plex user, who has removed his initial posting, said he shared with two friends and his parents. However, BREIN, which had an informant with access to the server, said the audience was substantially larger. In addition, it was being advertised in public places such as Discord and Reddit.
“The customer base consisted of visitors who – for a fee or not – were given access to the media server’s library to view films and/or series,” the anti-piracy group wrote in an announcement.
“Customers were also given the opportunity to submit requests for films and/or series that they would like to see, which were subsequently made available,” BREIN added.
BREIN’s statement is backed up by readers from Tweakers. In response to a news report, they posted links to Reddit posts that suggest that the user in question, or someone linked to this person, indeed offered his share with a much larger group. However, the user in question denied this.
Whether the owner had just a few users on the Plex share or many more is ultimately irrelevant. The person in question admitted to downloading the files through torrents and Usenet, which in itself is against the law.
The question remains how BREIN obtained the personal details that were used to send the registered letter.
According to the user, the address in the letter contained a typo he made in his PayPal account. He also used a different name with PayPal, which was mentioned in the letter as well. This suggests that BREIN somehow received this information via the payment provider, but this remains unconfirmed.
Plex doesn’t appear to be directly involved in the matter, as it generally informs users following copyright complaints, which hasn’t happened. We reached out to the company, which informed us that it respects user privacy as well as rightsholders’ rights.
“Our terms of service are very clear that we respect copyright holders’ rights and customers agree that they must have rights to the content in their libraries,” the company added.
Finally, BREIN itself stresses that there’s nothing wrong with using Plex, as long as people do so legally. That is, using it to access files for which they have obtained permission.
“It is permitted to use Plex with legally obtained material, as long as it’s for your own use,” the anti-piracy group notes.
Those who share thousands of movies and TV-shows and share these in public, on the other hand, risk being caught at one point or another.